The Urge to Wander

Re: The Urge to Wander

Postby Duquesne » Tue Aug 13, 2019 4:43 am

Fire the guards, she tells him. The girl is already too good.

The man does appreciate that Gloria has found humor in this parental plight, but his own good humor on the subject is slow to emerge despite the easy smile he wears.

There have been these dreams of standing on the shore of an ocean, observing its retreating waters with wonder and doubt. Yet when those green waters fold into a hulking mass barreling down, so terror and vulnerability leave him frozen and unable to run.

Her words of advice are absorbed like a sponge, at the same time they thrust him out of illusion and into an uncomfortable state of transparency. Herein, he is aware of the many mistakes he has already made. Rules inconsistent with personality, a heavier hand applied when a gentler one was needed. Rapport gone uncultivated.

Gloria’s wisdom shares space with a knot of tension building in his gut and he has no voice for these things, save what is spoken by the way he claws short dark hair forward and pulls his palm down over his face, covering the mouth in a pinch of thumb and fingers. He needed to change his mind, scrap his blueprints and start over with a simpler design. If it did not work for Adeline, he would start over again.

But the man has asked for diversion and Gloria supplies it.

The Meetinghouse undergoes finish work. The Council is scattered. Changes, if necessary, will be made.

While he listens to her describe her purpose for the printing press, and also the state of affairs in Myrken Wood’s political corridors, the architect’s gaze is forward and involved with the changing colors and shadows beyond the slouching entryway of the farmhouse. Yet he sees these things without focusing them; awareness without thoughtful inspection. Rather, the object of his thought is the faceted matter she has presented. Make this place safe for your daughter, and mine.

For what seems minutes, he occupies this silence, still and wordless. A behavior Ariane Emory had endured for years, ever patient with his retreat into internal states and ever willing to re-engage once he had emerged with a voice restored. So much strain he had selfishly inflicted on her.

Such selfishness, such self-mindedness.

Stricken, he breaks the silence. “What can I do to help.”
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Re: The Urge to Wander

Postby Rance » Tue Aug 13, 2019 5:33 am

What could he do to help?

Up flicked a finger.

"A moment—"

She rose, and in a rustle of kirtle and hem, disappeared into the darkness. Her boots knocked a rhythm on the stairs. While down in the dark, she spoke loudly enough for her voice to filter up through the floorboards. "Where did it go," she muttered, before saying: "I have no natural mind for bureaucracy, nor an understanding of the laws, Proctor. But what I know is that we are absent the old minds that normally inhabit such roles. Ah — there."

She emerged upstairs once again, holding pinched between her thumb and forefinger the object of her desire. The clay pipe still burned, cool and red. She blew on the cup to awaken the heat, then drew in breath through its long stem. She offered the pipe. "A vice," she admitted, "to distract me from other vices. Better coltsfoot than poppy."

Then Gloria sat beside him. Not across from him, not beneath him. Five years ago, the young woman who took that seat might have had a storm in her mind, a wild struggle of what to do about this admiration of a man — matters of confusion, of unfamiliar feelings, of propriety and expectation, what to do, what to say, what one must feel and not feel.

"I wish I knew what questions to ask, or how to proceed. Mine is — is a regrettable blindness. I only see what has transpired in the past: a hunger for power, desperate attempts at control, and the few deciding the direction of the many. I wish to avoid it all; I wish it to be fair, and good, and — and I would be a godsdamned fool to say I was not afraid of inadvertently rebuilding Myrken Wood's council or leadership into a reflection of its recent past.

"I fright. Of the future. Of conflict. Of sustainability."

A breath wheezed from her oft-broken nose.

"Do you miss her, too?" she asked, perhaps regrettably.

She was not talking about Adeline.
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Re: The Urge to Wander

Postby Duquesne » Tue Aug 13, 2019 9:03 am

The man’s eyes would follow her into the darkness, but with her descent into the basement it must be his hearing that attends her search of a thing.

Her search and her voice together—he listens.

And draws his knees up again, tempting boot and belt leather to creak in subtle ways from the change. When she returns, he has resumed his earlier posture with arms bent on the knees. Hands hang relaxed at the wrists, the handsome cut of his coat-sleeves allows for no cuffs but a simple flare over the tops of his hands. And beneath, where his palms—or one of them—is visible, the firelight illumines the pale measure of those many scars he carries there. Always palpable to him, a reminder of the ways in which malice is transmitted through commandment. From the top down.

In his desert, perhaps in hers also, it is considered an offense to refuse a pipe offering. With the edge of his mouth in the makings of a solemn smile, the man accepts while his friend sits on the floor beside him. The aroma of the smoke lures, its ghostly tendrils reminding him of older days.

Much older days and dying lungs.

Undisturbed smoke drifts in slim coils, while what he has puffed is disturbed, diffuse and pale. He passes the pipe to her, having not far to reach now that she sits close.

“Knowing what you do not want,” he says, quiet in tone, “this is where one begins when the path forward is unclear.” Eyes have grown darker here, pupils widened in his search of her face through the pipe smoke. The fingers of a hand pull against their own palm, studying his scars with method as if insight was inscribed in them. In some sense, without words, this is true.

High above in a corner of the thatch, he listens to the near-inaudible squeaking of infant mice; beyond, in the gloom of evening, the rush and ping of bats in hunting flight. How to begin to repair a damaged Myrken? How to rebuild from the cinders of such chaos? The man adjusts his arms on up-drawn knees so that one hand might grip the opposite wrist. Where this action pulls on his sleeve, tapered points of sun-faded ink show themselves beneath the edge of his cuff. Relics buried in skin. “If I were to give you direction,” he begins, thoughtful of voice and even grim about the eyes; these are not words he speaks lightly, “it would be this: Cultivate support from trustworthy figures in the community, locals who understand their own landscape and their own neighbors and who can serve as representatives.

“Yet before you choose to do anything at all, talk to the people—not the privileged so much as the destitute, the sick, the men, women and children who support industry here, who live here, work here and have endured. Learn from them, learn their needs and wants, learn what they do not want. The people are the cornerstones of what you build, but too will they be the four walls and the roof overhead.

“Later, with their aid, detail a set of values that will guide future decisions and put it in writing.” He begins a smile. “With signatures.” Signing one’s name should still carry weight in this place. He hoped, at least. Ink and paper were material, yet what they could represent, the solemn meaning and power they could uphold in the minds of regular folk made them essential when forming new agreements. New records.

A simple signature could be the origin of a momentous future.

But Gloria asked him a thing, with a tone that differs. Eyes that had lowered to study the shadows under the circle of his arms rise now, return to her. A close, close watch they perform while the green of their irises appears to swirl as if touched with a spoon. Do you miss her, too? His pulse lifts and his eyes lower, not into the shadows between his knees and dirty boots as before but outward into the room, to some indistinct measure of floor. And he is silent for four or five or ten breaths.

"Deeply," he whispers over a crackle of fire. "I miss her deeply."
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Re: The Urge to Wander

Postby Rance » Tue Aug 13, 2019 9:46 am

The comfort of it all was this:

(And she listened as Gloria Wynsee rarely listened, in silence and at a soldier's attention, watching not just his eyes as he spoke, but his lips, the angles of his cheeks, the tip of his nose, to see the life in him—)

Sylvius Duquesne's advice, hardly unique in this case — one should not reinvent logical machines — became a balm to the wild and overworked legions of doubt in her mind. Cultivate. Talk. Learn. Write. Four absolutes. A wealth of knowledge from books, experience, and scholarship condensed in the way that only Duquesne managed: information as gift, and never wrapped in condescension. When she listened — truly listened — her dull, Sun-pale eyes blinked in rapid bursts, as if each closure was a shutter behind which necessary information was to be kept, stored, and protected.

She too found herself drawn to the scars that festooned his hands. Rid of the gloves, the skin shone so much brighter, like gold under the stare of a field of stars. "Know what they do not want," Gloria repeated. "What we do not want." A pause. "Recently, I was accused of — of refusing to dream. Yet I wonder why wanting a safeguarded land, bordered by allies and founded on fair law, where — where children may thrive without being lost—"

It came, suddenly, and unexpected. The thought. Eleven dead children.

A breath.

"I wonder why this is not considered a worthwhile dream."

Then, their silence. For she asked a question which was perhaps beyond her understanding, and trusted he wouldn't diminish beneath its weight. In his gaze, she saw a hint of some other phantom: either an old Duquesne, or one she had not yet met, like a flickering after-image burned into the gems of his eyes.

What does he feel? And Glour'eya, could you even fathom it?

"She will return, Proctor. In time. And only the time ahead of you will matter, then. I have that hope."

The pipe flared again.

"Does it hurt?"
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Re: The Urge to Wander

Postby Duquesne » Tue Aug 13, 2019 11:30 am

In the dream, it is not an ocean and wave of water but one of glass; leagues of sand put to astronomical temperatures, roaring overland in one colossal molten green swell of liquid glass. Even as his eyes sift the changing gloom of this broken farmhouse, the architect can see it, hear it from memory. Desert sands scorched into a terrifying spectacle, glittering beneath distant suns. Tens of thousands are running.

His draws a breath. “What we do not want,” he echoes her, again. We, he must remind himself, because he is here now. He is part of this world, not separate. Not an island.

He leans back against the stone behind him, arms straightening with the movement, leaving wrists balanced on his knees, hands loose. Eyes are caught by the dust on the floorboards. The planks had begun to cup long ago and the wood had dried from the outside in, shrinking. A bit of breeze whispers through pitiful walls, stirring a cluster of a bird’s gray under-feathers. He watches one flutter into a gap between boards, trembling there.

She will return. In time.

“It is not only worthwhile, it is essential,” he says, with the glass wave’s roar a terrible noise in the ear of his memory. He looks at her; the green rouse of color has not left his irises. Not yet. “Your accuser may not understand your mind, for you have a wondrous capacity for dreams. Yet you are not confused by the shroud of illusions they sometimes make, as your dreams have weight in reality. Dreams that can be reality, that can be made physical, are the stronger order.” A smile moves here, very briefly self-conscious and accompanied by some humor in the throat. “It is what I think.”

The man closes his eyes here and lowers his head into the pull of one hand, dragging at his wild black hair as if the motion might release something, let something loose. And as he lowers that hand and leans his head back against the cool stone behind, he pushes a calm breath slowly from his mouth. Only the time ahead will matter, then.

Eyes are closed neither for fatigue nor distress, but only for listening without the distraction of eyesight. What can he hear? but a great barrage of sounds all around them. The subtle crinkle of the burn in her pipe, the bubbling and rush of water behind and to the left of the house. The breeze is in the trees, in the sweeping meadows. Too many to number or describe. The world is alive, perhaps the most alive at night.

But this is not some survey of fancy he executes—it is surveillance. A murmur from the throat, “Does what hurt?”
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Re: The Urge to Wander

Postby Rance » Wed Aug 14, 2019 2:21 am

Maybe before, she was too young to see it in him. Too inexperienced on the uneasy waves of life to see them crashing relentlessly on and inside others. Yet, a controlled burn was still a burn, and the heat rolled off him in ripples of tension and tightness. Sylvius Duquesne, a man of absolute poise and cool conviction, could have fooled the rest of the world.

Does what hurt?

"That silent thing inside you," she said. "The burden, and all its trappings, and all the...friends it brings along with it."

But even now, after five years, he could not fool her. Not in this moment. Whether hers were lessons taught by the fighting pits — seeing the intent in a man's gaze before it grew into thought and action — or the inexplicable afflictions of sensitivity afforded by the instincts of parenthood. He was a fallen needle, and she, the ear that heard its clatter beneath the din of laughter and music and chaos.

Students were expected to read, and read voraciously.

What came, too, was a literacy in the poise, the presence, and posture of the beloved teacher.

Two pistons of smoke came from her nostrils, then rolled over the ridges of her lips and between the gaps in her teeth. Then, done with the pipe, she beat it against the underside of her boot. "Politics serve for fine conversation over good tea, when sitting in gardens, on verandas, or in taverns. I invite those discussions: let those times be all-consumed by the frivolity of government, rule, and philosophy. Teach me and guide me — but only when the time is right, Proctor.

"But now," she continued, watching him with Jernoah's hot-sands intensity — and was it any wonder why she blinked so much when listening? For when speaking, she never blinked, never looked away. "Now seems a cruel time for them, when you matter far more."

The hand reached out. Hovered over his. Dared a lone, one-finger touch to the scars.

Those were not the wounds that concerned her. They were age-old; they were him.

Soft, then. Words so quiet, accent vanished. Barely but breath.

"What did you bring with you, my friend — and does it hurt you still?"
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Re: The Urge to Wander

Postby Duquesne » Wed Aug 14, 2019 10:13 am

When at last they open, the eyes are already focused. Quickened by her first phrase of response.

And his gaze is direct and unswerving. Pupils seem fathomless, dark pools from which one might never emerge.

She will not wilt beneath its pressures. Not Gloria.

But a shape of growing pride is at work in his aspect. If ever he might influence her for good, it would be this—it would be in terms of observation. Gloria Wynsee has acquired it; whether by his influence or not, she has it now. The subtle motion at the edges of his mouth may be a smile not yet made, a teacher's pride, yes. But a smile shall be for a lighter moment than this.

For what she has observed and what she has asked are particular matters.

With the presence of smoke yet lingering in the atmosphere between them, the man evaluates her—evaluates himself. Memory moves behind his eyes, reams of information, details, places, people—it seems like epochs to him—and through all of it he sifts, wondering what is best to share and what is best left to silence, at least for now.

She dare touch a single fingertip to his scars, though they are not the object of her interest. Still, in response, he opens both hands and lets the firelight cross them that she might see unobstructed. Many, many thin lines parallel and overlapping, scar etched upon scar. A methodical work performed over weeks, so that some began to heal even as others were carved.

Slow and fruitless torture with a surgeon’s slim tools, targeting bundles of nerve endings in the hands, in a man whose awareness of touch is unnaturally acute.

Yet the scars are indeed secondary. It is the hands, dangerous hands that carry importance. Ariane Emory knew.

Ariane Emory had seen and felt. But even she had not seen what and how; had not seen the extent. Perhaps it was best that she had not, though she herself might passionately disagree. To Gloria, he would say and soon that knowledge was not always in one’s best interests; that to know too much was among the greatest burdens a human life could endure.

A prison of responsibility.

As he searches for first words, green irises are poignantly colored, more so now, with pupils discreetly fluctuating in thought and study and—something else. A controlled burn, yes; a predator’s patience. Something else besides these. Under her fingertip, she might detect the solid drum of his pulse. She might detect the tiniest of hairs on her fingers and hand respond as they would in the presence of static. A once-seamstress too familiar with the behavior of fabrics will know the feeling of it.

Her accent had vanished for the lightness of her voice. His seems to thicken when he whispers, “Its consequence hurts; it does not in itself. Not as it once had.”

His other hand is allowed to relax, to return to its former posture on his thigh. This one, however, remains open to her examination for however long scars interest her. The man accesses breath in his way, virtually soundless and cautious with it, as if it too were glass so thin it might shatter, and the sigh that emerges after is measured in its release.

“I cannot tell you all, not yet. It is not for lack of confidence in you—I assure you you have my trust. Rather, I—” a pause, while his mouth tries its words. And then, “Your safety is of utmost importance. This is why.”

The intensity of his gaze is steadfast; sincere.

“I need you to understand,” his voice a whisper, “what I share with you is technological in nature regardless of how it seems. Nothing more, nothing less.” As he closes his hand firmly around her own, every single hair of her arm will stand on end. “A thing that must remain in the realm of secrets. Do you agree?”
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Re: The Urge to Wander

Postby Rance » Thu Aug 15, 2019 3:06 am

Its consequence hurts.

Its. An undefined variable. One could insert whatever suitable and yet nebulous word in its place. Love. Ambition. Desire. Impulse. All would be true. And all would be true in his — or her — circumstances. Here, Gloria analyzed the angles, length, patterns of the scars the way one might attend their criticism to embroidery-work. Her instincts of delicacy had not left her. Long. Continuous. Performed over an extent of time. Experimental in nature.

Intentional.

And it was on the flank of that lone thought, which jabbed into her analyses' defenses, that she felt the tiny hum, a pre-echo shared from him to her, leaping from his flesh to hers over what might as well have been a vast and endless distance. Tha-thum, tha-thum, his pulse. Carried on a thin, invisible thread of snap-quick, blink-quick connection that reminded her of—

—fine fabric, drawn apart between the fingers...

...the growl in the teeth of the world, just before a storm—

"I trust your judgment," she said (barely remembered saying, so alive were the hollow cones of her teeth with this strange vibration). "Insofar as the preservation of my safety does not decrease your own. We have come too far to internalize danger, or relegate it to the depths of silence." His hand clasped hers, and the whispers beneath his flesh seemed to crawl into her own. Underneath her sleeve, coarse black hairs shot to a soldier's attention; underneath her bonnet, the coils of her thick, black-and-ash hair surged against their fisted knots. Wanting nothing more than to break free. To stand on end.

Water sprang to the surface of her eyes.

Technological in nature...

(Let go, said the Glour'eya of five years past.)

Rush with ferocity and excitement like a headlong stonebear at an offered secret, and the vessel that held it would break: excitement for knowledge begot an excitement to share it. Meanwhile, hesitate too greatly, and trust itself eroded like a hole at the bottom of a burlap sack.

So Gloria Wynsee, harboring her own secrets, waited two breaths, and then five. Watching him. Hard-shouldered.

(No, said the Gloria of now, to that shadow in her mind.)

"I agree. Sylvius," she said suddenly, on the hinge of a breath. "I require nothing from you that you do not wish to give. Know it. And before it, know this—"

The hand, even under the strain of the music of foreign and peculiar energy, so subtle and minute, tightened in its grip.

"I missed you."
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Re: The Urge to Wander

Postby Duquesne » Thu Aug 15, 2019 9:41 am

“We have come too far,” he murmurs, “to fall once more under the rule of silence.“ It is agreement and promise, together. Her safety—theirs, and not simply theirs but everyone’s.

He had come to learn that suffering alone and in silence was not equal to valor; it was not noble. He wished for that understanding earlier, but he would not exchange his history for another, not on his worst day. Without it, he would not be himself; he could not be here now.

Hard-shouldered, she is. Water glistens like glass over her eyes.

And the man watches the rhythms of reaction in those eyes, and hears them in her breath. The Syl Duquesne of years past would not have shared this. He would not have dared show himself like this.

“I know this,” rasp and accent together make his whisper thick. Few used his full name; most did not know it to begin with. “And I will not forget.” When her hand tightens ahead of her latter words, and when she speaks those words, the smile he had formerly reserved emerges. Begins first in the structure of his eyes, then turns its influence into the edges of his mouth.

Even fewer expressed a feeling of being without, of missing him. Only a handful, only a precious few could he speak similar words to. Gloria is numbered among them.

Gloria, who accepted his challenge and sustains it even still. “I missed you,” he tells her, after some indefinite span and in something well below a whisper, trim with quiet emotion.

Time has become slippery, pacing forward—always, inexorably moving forward—and yet has seemed to possess no measure here. One cannot say any amount of passing time is evident; one cannot count the seconds or minutes. A whole night’s duration may pass without notice.

But the architect manipulates this illusion—or, perhaps, this strange reality—when he moves. Without compromising the mutual grip of their hands, he adjusts the way he sits, cross-legged and facing her more fully now. His grip loosens somewhat and encourages hers to do the same, that he might turn her hand gently upward, exposing her palm to light and eye-sight.

And with his hand under hers in support, without interruption in the delicate, energetic flow of current, it is here that his attention finally lowers. For from an inside pocket of his coat he fishes a large old-mint coin, yellow and imperfectly round. The bust of an elegant woman on one side, a leaping horse and rider on the other, with foreign lettering skirting the circumference of each face of it.

“Watch,” he whispers, inviting to her observe. Not merely experience, but observe. Balancing the coin on the bend of his fingers, he flips it into the air with some force from his thumb. The coin sings in its rise and more quietly in its fall, flashing its rich color with every quick rotation. It must fall into her hand. It seems as if it will.

And does not.

Instead it meets resistance, stops short of her skin by two inches and bobs there like a buoyant thing dropped in water. Still spinning, wobbling on its axis—with nothing but air, it seems, to support it.

Without lifting his head from its thoughtful forward lean, the man looks at her. Something beyond words tempts his mouth, but words are what emerge. Whispered and fixed with a rare texture of wonderment.

“Curious—isn’t it?”
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Re: The Urge to Wander

Postby Rance » Fri Aug 16, 2019 12:26 am

Had they been smaller, they might have been confused for children, what, with how they sat across from one another, and so near, and their attention so pin-pointed upon this: a foreign coin, innocuous and by itself almost worthless. With how they shared soft but honest vulnerabilities (Had anyone ever missed her, she wondered, until now?). With how their secrets were their own.

What transpired next — the coin leaping, but not landing; the coin ceasing in its fall and defying every law of reality to which it was subject — turned the tumult of thoughts in her brain to complete silence.

Time has become slippery...always, inexorably moving forward—

It should fall.

It ought to have fallen.

It did not fall.

Gloria Wynsee had grown used to peculiarity. She had seen power leap from open palms and poised fingers, knew women who'd peeled back the folds of private thoughts and opened them like loaves of bread; theirs was an existence rife with oddity. Yet, so simple was this coin's defiance, that her spine froze cold and her cheeks grew instantly hot. Curious—isn’t it? Did he know the methods by which it occurred? Did he control it, slice it free of its natural restraints? Had he done this? Her gaze broke away from the coin, up to his face, searching. Not with accusation, but for cue and guidance: was she to be surprised? Or appalled? Was it best to demonstrate excitement or horror? Which of them did he express?

Sylvius Duquesne, as always, exuded calm. Poise. Unflappable, experimental curiosity. Like the child who touched flame simply to know its heat.

He knew no fear. So she knew no fear.

"Explain," said the woman — a girl again. She had no language, even from her books, to question this. But she puffed out her cheeks and blew upon the coin, as if trying to divert it. "An object falls because there is—" How did Gaskel, in The Life Physic express it? "—because there is no resistance meeting it from without or within. Is this correct?" Her throat spasmed, swallowing. "But there is resistance, else it would fall until it met my hand, or beyond."

Unseen resistance, then? The thrum? The current?

"Equal resistance. This is equal," she verbalized, because she would stop at nothing to please her instructor. "Enough to cease the natural fall, but not enough to deflect or — or redirect it."

Down, then. Looking to his hand. Up his arm. Then to his face again. A dollop of black sweat gleamed on her nose.

"What do you mean, Proctor, by technological?"
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Re: The Urge to Wander

Postby Duquesne » Sat Aug 17, 2019 5:47 am

Explain.

But she has delivered herself quickly to the rule underlying what she sees without a word from him. The appearance of pride renews itself, quietly in the way his eyes become slightly hooded by lids. A smile follows unbidden. “Good,” he says in confirmation. “Very good.”

And a murmur of humor from the throat, because she blows on the coin to disrupt its suspension and revives its spin, though erratically. It is mesmerizing to observe this. His eyes, having darkened with approval and humor, appear entranced by the coin’s gleaming circumvolution. The fire does its work well, brightening that yellow-gold color and reflecting it with each graceful turn.

“By technological, I denote invention. Something designed and made.” Dark eyes lift to hers again and the beat of silence that accompanies his gaze is meditative. “Not a force of magick in any way or form, but something engineered with rigorous method, by people.

“The distinction is essential, especially in this place.” Especially in this place, too often exploited by forces beyond regular human capacity and control. Myrken Wood did not need another resident superpower; Myrken Wood needed normalcy, an era of very ordinary peace and prosperity. “For this reason it remains secret lest some assume I am more or less than what I am, which is simply human and altogether mortal."

The manner in which he says this has implication. He had endured diverse prejudice on account of this before and felt no shred of desire to experience it again. Never again. The set of his mouth has changed, if even subtly, and his eyes lower to the coin. Without further disruption, its momentum has declined and it leans lazily until it does not move at all.

The coin, once suspended, drops onto her palm as he gently loosens his fingers and withdraws his hand from beneath hers. “It was given without instruction, thus I understand it very little. When I begin to feel I have gained ground, I observe something new that turns hypothesis on its head.”

Again, he occupies a measure of silence while ideas revolve behind the eyes. He pushes the thumb of his right hand over the scars of his left palm, once and then again. “The principles or laws that define our physical dimension in its most fundamental state are… bizarre, to say the least. Few common-sense explanations based on what we know of our physical experience are adequate in describing its values.

“I suspect,” he adds, carefully and with solemn measure, looking up at her in the midst, “the search for answers will be lifelong.” For a thing written, or coded, into the very core of the body’s composition is not a thing easily altered or removed. The man abandoned hope of extracting it some time ago. “And I must treat it with caution—” but he struggles to complete the sentence. Remembering.

See now, the burden and its friends lurking like ghosts in his demeanor. But lest it draw him—and her—into solemn discourse, the man begins a smile that cleanses uncertainty from the moment. "Nevertheless, research on its behalf has become a source of endless fascination."
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Re: The Urge to Wander

Postby Rance » Sun Aug 18, 2019 1:48 pm

"Invention," said Gloria, when all was said and done; invention, a word spoken with some kind of experimental weight. Measuring, by virtue of its very utterance, her perspective of it.

...engineered by rigorous method, by people.

The coin, after falling, might as well have been a reliquary. Her fingers — minus the fourth, where but a stud of a half-knuckle remained — closed like a woven seam around the coin. He spoke with so much ease, the declarative and deductive poise of a man relating features, qualities, fact. Very good. He praised her; she had done very good, and from no one else would she have more warmly received that praise and knit it to firmly into herself.

So why, when she finally looked at him and away from the coin, did her eyes take on moisture like warm glass? Heat, an affliction of lightness in her brown cheeks, flooded her skin.

"Invention?" Questioning him. Questioning it. Looking very suddenly ready to burst. Speaking so softly, so deeply from her stomach, that her words bore a layer of phlegm, and she pieced her way through them with care accompanied by gesticulation. Up, down, up, down, her hand, carrying itself over troughs and peaks akin to her confusion. "Am I to wonder, too, of its curious nature? I want to. I fear magic only for what I do not understand of it, and science just as equally. But there is — is something else, and I cannot blink it, and confess myself—"

The set of her mouth tightened.

"I confess myself angry. Not at you—" How could he dissect it, this knowledge, with such distance and ease? These matters of himself? Did he feel, whether nor or ever, the way she suddenly did: so filled with bloated fury that she could hardly keep herself still, that her lone fist ground itself down into the moldering floorboards as if it wanted nothing more than to crush that shilling between her skin and bones.

"This is not invention," said Gloria Wynsee. "To have this done to you by other hands against your will, to be engineered and composed, whatever its application, is not invention." The word began either losing its power, or doubling in it — she could not tell.

She wanted to protect him. She edged nearer to him, like he might simply vanish, or disappear, him and his scars.

"It is cruelty."
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Re: The Urge to Wander

Postby Duquesne » Mon Aug 19, 2019 1:08 pm

This is not invention.

Into the sensitive aperture of his hearing, he listens to the rhythms in her voice and heartbeat and breath, the way it sounds when her fist, gold coin still inside, grinds into the weathered floorboards beneath.

And he is transfixed by her emotion, its mode and emergence in the measure of her words, her action, the way her cheeks grow pale with the impress of heat. Dark eyes watch; they see, together with the mind behind them. But what manner of thoughts unfold beyond the utter composure of his expression? What deep feeling occurs there, yet fails to appear as hers does?

This is not invention, she tells him, and he will not tell her when it began and by whom; cannot say by whose order the first etchings began. Those words do not yet exist, must be for a different hour, but the memories are here, whispers of decades past. Different ghosts, but the same nevertheless. He should be angry as she is, as Ariane was.

Why isn’t he?

Gloria edges closer, a protective effort he recognizes, and it is here that his attention falters and finds its way downward into the shadows below their almost-touching knees. “Yes,” he murmurs. A pause. “Yes,” again, but he whispers it now, almost too lightly to be heard. Hands lower and relax until palms are overturned, scars gone from sight and not because he needed to hide them from either her or himself.

It is cruelty. Yet he wondered, given who had done this and why, if it was cruel after all? Cruel to him, cruel to the child he once was. And yet... he had done good, he had saved lives. Did this not make it valuable?

Yes.

And no. It was—it is cruelty.

For what seems an age, the man gazes at the floor between them, touched as it is by low-cast rays of firelight. Warm colors, warm shadows, orange and red and yellow. Colors that attract sensitive eyes. But his gaze seems to touch something beyond that surface, as if he saw what lies below those boards—a printing press without its cover, or the stones of the floor there, or the very depths of soil and bedrock far below. There where the seep of groundwater is the sole movement, the sole source of life.

And when he stirs again, it is with a breath in through the mouth and hands that reach to take her hand and, gently, the forearm whose hand is now lost. Fingers tighten lightly in their hold. “I want—

“I want to be in this life without suffering, or very little of it.” He lifts his eyes to hers. “My life tells me I am mad to think it possible.” A pause, a breath. "It is possible, isn't it? To live with this thing and be—" the word sticks in his throat.
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Re: The Urge to Wander

Postby Rance » Tue Aug 20, 2019 2:00 am

"And be—" Quiet, this, as if they balanced together upon a needle's tip, "—safe? Whole? Fulfilled?" A breath. "Satisfied? Driven? Happy?

"Yes." Watch me; look at my eyes; do not look elsewhere. "Yes, a thousand times, yes, Sylvius. Nameless, that — that you believe you cannot be any of those things, let alone all of them, is the truest cruelty done to you." He grasped the blunted ledge of her handless forearm, and she lent him her steadiness and strength. Solidity and sturdiness had always been a particular gift of hers, a latent power and weight like that of a polished stone, but now — especially now — she refused to allow it to falter.

The woman's gaze softened. Her smile sprang forth. Her words became a quick and feverish hum, muttering out so quickly for fear he might fill the space in his mind with his own inner noise.

"It is possible. I have seen it. With me, in the throes of our studies and learning, when — when there were books and philosophies and nothing else. In your love for Ariane, however confusing or haunting it may sometimes be. It is possible. I have seen it," Gloria repeated. "Her name is Adeline. If no such proof makes itself known, then remember her. For all those questions — is it possible, to live with this thing and be, and be, and be? — you have already lived the answers. And for those you do not have, and that I do not have, we explore until we uncover them.

"We build not to obscure them, but to accommodate them. And this thing of yours. Like good architects. You see?"

We. She poured herself into the word, each time she spoke it.

The fire snapped. Its glow had not faded. Its fuel had been too kind.

"Lay down your head," Gloria said, softly. "Let me show you something."
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Re: The Urge to Wander

Postby Duquesne » Wed Aug 21, 2019 3:04 am

He cannot in fact look elsewhere, studies her transfixed. So quickly had these words come to her, these states of being so elusive—so impossibly elusive. For them both, perhaps.

And she tells him unequivocally, yes, but tells him something else also. A thing that jars him, so that he must blink and breathe deeply against the sudden increase in the rate of his pulse.

… the truest cruelty done to you.

Not once at any time in these last years had this notion come to him. Not once had he imagined that the states of being so transient in his experience were the very heart of this trouble, the truest cruelty, the greatest offense.

Awareness of such transgression burns, because it has implications, because in the man’s present state of mind the finger points not elsewhere but directly at him. It is enough to fracture his otherwise composed expression and aspects of a grimace emerge instead.

If not for her softened eyes and new smile and quickly spoken evidence, he would no doubt have begun to dwell overmuch on what he cannot alter: the past. The past, at every turn rising up to undermine his present, his future.

You have already lived the answers, she tells him, and her examples interrupt the dark fog that threatens him on all sides. Gloria, Adeline, Ariane—family. Each of them wellsprings of a better life. Each of them like bedrock.

Finally, when she describes what they will do, like good architects, he smiles. These were terms he could wrap himself around—build to accommodate a preexisting structure, which is this thing and all its consequence. He smiles and breathes humor and drags a hand over his face as if he might pull away a suffocating mask.

She need not ask him twice to lay his head down, for gravity had begun to seem especially forceful, grinding him down like Gloria had ground her fist moments ago. Stretched out from his former posture, the man lies back on the floorboards, careless of the dirt and the draft, half on his blanket and half off. His head finds cushion in the pack he had dropped beside the hearth earlier.

Sleep for an age, his body screamed. But now was not yet time for that. The man breathes in deeply and exhales, steady and slow. “Show me,” he murmurs, ready for whatever thing she’d have him see.
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