Hey y’all, it’s Tuesday.
Not too much happens on Tuesday. It’s not Monday, the beginning of the work week. It’s not Wednesday, the middle of the week. It’s sort of an awkward day, that middle-child of every week that may go unnoticed.
Today, Tuesday, I notice you.
AAAAAAAANYWAY…This is the first chapter in my Blog Serial, “Banager’s Lights.” (That’s a hard G.) Disclaimer: I honestly don’t know where this story will go, save for a few details-in-between. I have an idea of some of the main characters, but they’re not fully formed. So, you could say this is a shot-in-the-dark, with high stakes: Running the risk of public humiliation if I don’t do a good job!
Public humiliation…that’s a good segue into this week’s episode. Let’s get started!
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Chapter 1. Public Confessions Day
There it was, as massive as a mammoth, as ugly as a merivather’s front claw, as lively as a grajim, as foreboding as the cliffs of Serajkes, and as useful as…well, nobody knew how useful it actually was. Because nobody knew how to use it. And nobody knew what it was.
But it would be getting ahead of the story to explain right now. No, the story really began earlier that day, in the town square of Kark.
The wind ran a swift course through the long main street, rolling pebbles on its way through. The sky was a incadescent glow of ominous clouds, rumbling silently overhead on their way to the Noren Sea. The sun pressed down through the clouds, trying its best to warm the hearts of the Westians gathered in the town square, waiting for someone…anyone…to confess to the grand mystery: Did Mr. Komenk really steal Miss Fazar’s mammoth?
Azen pulled his fur-lined hood over his blond hair, suspiciously examining the faces all around him, who in turn glared suspiciously at each other. That was the trouble with this outpost: Too much distrust going around. And for good reason, too. Belongings disappeared left and right, never to turn up again. Lately, a mammoth had gone missing and was found a mile away, on a different farm. Of course, all accusations would be denied—there was almost nobody in Kark who would confess to something as heinous as mammoth-pinching. And least of all…
Least of all who?
Nobody was coming into the open.
And that was really the nature of this day, Public Confessions Day. Nobody confessed, ever, except for a few rare occasions. Azen could tell that today would not be one of those rare occasions. No, most of the time, Public Confessions Day was more of a Public Accusations Day. Everyone would gather in silence, around the fire pit sparkling with dying embers, and would wait for someone to say something. It was usually one of the old women who started in on the assumptions.
Today was no different.
Widow Kraf thrust a finger in Mr. Komenk’s direction. “I saw it,” she started loudly, inserting long, dramatic pauses in between her fragmented sentences. “With my own eyes. Both of them. Mr. Komenk…slipping a rope around the beast’s neck…leading him away, in the direction…of his HOUSE!”
Those who didn’t want to believe her kept quiet. Those who disliked Mr. Komenk, or were afraid to be contrary, started shouts of “Ja!” and “Yes, it’s true!!!”
Azen was one of the silent ones. He held his tongue and saved his opinion for more important times. And Public “Confessions” Day was not one of those times. Instead of accusatory words, he only offered a frustrated sigh. Nobody heard him.
“You really suspect me, your own town inventor?” Mr. Komenk said composedly. His frustrated eyebrows were raised expectantly, while he held out his arms pleadingly, hoping for the inhabitants of the hamlet to at least think about what he was saying. His distinct cheekbones cast long shadows over his face, and lines under his eyes showed years of like frustration. “The Green Glow will come again…why can’t we be sensible and get along in the meantime? Who wants to die cold and bickering?”
A mumble of controversy rumbled through the crowd. The Green Glow theory, which stated that the Westlands would return to a happy, near-tropical climate one day, was one full of hot debate. Mr. Komenk decided to leave that alone for now. He searched his fellow Westians’ eyes for any traces of friendship. He was starved in his findings. “And anyway, I didn’t steal Miss Fazar’s mammoth. As you can see, the mammoth is clearly my own. Hers had two notches in its tusk. Mine doesn’t.”
“Liar!” someone called.
Mr. Komenk shook his head and stepped back into the crowd, hoping to go unnoticed. He looked around the group again hopefully. Azen winked when their eyes met, hoping to be the friend that the poor man was looking for. Mr. Komenk smiled a bit and slipped further into the crowd, hiding himself from suspicious, angry eyes all around.
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Azen slammed the door behind him, and once again pulled the furry hood of his jacket over his matted hair. The water in the dormitory had run out and he had been sent to fetch some. Why did the world seem so unreal when he woke up in the middle of the night? Right now, the black sky overhead looked almost like the belly of a whale. Or maybe a merivather beast. Goodness, why was he thinking that? Nobody knew what in the world a Merivather beast was, or what it looked like. Anyhow, Azen thought it was something akin to a whale. Or at least that’s what all the poems sounded like.
As he walked from the house to the community well in the town square, he quietly sung one of the poems he and his schoolmates had sung years ago…
The merivather beast
What a feast for the sailor
Nothing better for the heart
Nothing better for the body
But a hunk of oily meat
From the merivather beast
All agree, nothing better
In the sea, on the crests,
Merivather is the best
Borne on stormy high swells!
“Nothing better indeed,” came a voice from his left. He jumped—not because he was scared, just startled. He knew who it was. It was Mr. Komenk, looking just as sad as ever. “I’ve had merivather beast, and there’s anything better, after day six straight of eating it.”
Everyone knew that Mr. Komenk had been a “Dragon Slayer,” back in the day. It was no secret. In his youth, he had gone out to take care of the vicious merry-water population that were eating all the fish. He had a soft spot for the merry-waters, but the pay was good, and the adventure ran high.
“Do you have any idea what that is?” asked Mr. Komenk, pointing toward the town square. Up until now, Azen had been walking with his head down, examining his feet in the moonlight. Now he looked up, and his gaze landed on a fairly hideous, four-wheeled machine that was now sitting in the town square.
There it was, as massive as a mammoth, as ugly as a merivather’s front claw, as lively as a grajim, as foreboding as the cliffs of Serajkes.
“It’s Andoran,” Mr. Komenk went on. “I can tell. It’s far too unpractical to be Westian, far to unstylish to be Nortrish. The Sherasi don’t know how to make anything so sophisticated. Designed in Andora, manufactured in the Port of a Thousand Isles by a thousand slaves, I’d imagine.” He eyed Azen. “You get all that?”
The boy nodded his head.
Mr. Komenk brushed his hand along the side of the machine. “And plus, it’s got Ansi written all over the side of it.” Curly letters were painted in white against the gray metal.
“I don’t know how to speak Ansi,” Azen said.
Mr. Komenk raised his eyebrows. “I do.”
“So what does it say?”
“It says…” The gray-templed man started, but widened his eyes in astonishment and stopped.
“Well? What does it say?” Azen asked into the darkness. His question was met with thoughtful silence.