So this day, St. Valentine, I vow to think about updating my journal at least once every two weeks that I use the Intertron. For better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, until reduced Internet access do we part.
In token whereof, I present this microfiction.
[The Weeping Stone: 1. The Withered Tree]
Morn rose from banking the fire; someone else might need this dwelling. He drank a last cup of tea, and contemplated it for a moment. He shrugged; violently he hurled the cup among the embers, raising a dance of sparks that flickered out even as he turned away.
He walked over to the sheets over sacks stuffed with hay that was his bed. He reached among the stuffing and drew forth his second best knife. Morn made to buckle the glimmerblade around himself reflexively, then paused. He tossed the weapon onto the bed, and slung his coat over his shoulder. He surveyed the shack he had lived in the last year: spacious, high, dark; it was really too big for a man by himself, he thought. He had felt out of place here.
Grabbing his gem from over the rude mantle, he strode into the yard. Heading out the gate, he stopped and turned.
“The horse,” he said under his breath.
After he had freed the horse, Morn walked off into the fog. It was a pity such a beast would probably end up the nag of some farmer—if it didn’t kill him. Still, its story was not over yet: the gelding had years coming to him, of honorable service hopefully.
Morn strode into the fog; it swallowed house and horse completely within paces. This was a fit day. It would seem as if he’d fallen from the horse, ranging wide.
He couldn’t really lose his way, really; just past the cliff was the surf, so he need only follow his ears. Morn still walked carefully. It wouldn’t do to just walk over the edge.
When he reached the cliff the view was pretty, but Morn wasn’t looking. The chill wind off the water kept the exposed height clear, so that it looked like Morn was standing on a rocky island surrounded by a sea of fog, rather than an occasional black height on a pastoral shore. Above burned a corona of gold slipped through the white of the clouds. A lone and withered elm was all that relieved the white, black, and grey accented by gold.
Morn held forth the weeping jewel, that had been in the crown of this land before Morn shattered it.
It glistened all over; an exudation that was said to be able to sustain life in the absence of food and water coated the thing wetly, by the look of it, but as he cradled it in his hand it felt cold and hard as any ordinary gem. He had never really had the nerve to taste the thing, yet it seemed to invite such contact: he felt like an infant who wanted to use his tongue as much as his hands. That was least of the mysteries Morn had found regarding the stone.
The blue at its heart was what he returned to. The green of its uncut surface, streaked with amber, the crimson layer under that, the peculiar silver glowing intermediary: all were lovely. Enchanting. Each invited appreciation; contemplating each one, one saw it clearly, as if the other layers had become translucent. Yet one could, with practice, hold two or even three layers in the eye at once. Morn had never succeeded in regarding all within the stone; he had tried it once sober and once drunk. He couldn’t sleep for four days after the first time he tried to gaze at all within at once, but it was the second time that scared him.
One evening while drinking alone, he thought of the gem. He had never considered combining these simple diversions, drink and the weeping stone, but each induced a similar set of sensations. Why not?
How amazing! Why had he not done this before now? It was time, and more than time, to peer within the stone and wrest its deepest secret free. Morn opened the carven, many-wooded box he was keeping the stone in at the time and brought it to the light. Although the gem caught and held even the faintest light, especially the third layer, it was best to have as much fire nearby as possible, to ease the passage into the jewel.
He slipped past the green easily; indeed, more easily than he had ever done so before. Likewise the red: its distractions had no hold this day. In the way between red and silver he thought he saw a curious shadow that he had never seen before. It slipped from his mind as he sped past the grey portal with a greater and greater sense of ease, even mastery. He slipped into the blue, deeper and deeper still, deeper than he ever had before. Arriving at last at a place that he felt to be the core, he glanced back. He took the silver up into blue with no sense of struggle: blue with silver was never. Red yielded at last to him, and was taken up in turn. Last time he’d tried green then red, because of how deceptive the second stage was, but that experience had not seemed to achieve anything. And on this day he thought he was on the brink of something; something big, bigger than enormous. What had begun as a game was fast becoming something more; the fight to draw up the red had turned the whole thing to something vastly more serious.
The green was a wall this time. He slammed into it with all the momentum of his incredible journey, and the jolt made the world itself waver. He nearly lost his grip altogether: the silver slipped from him and become something other, and dark. Something perilous; something with great potential to hurt. He knew he had to gentle the dark storm the third layer had become or it would fling him aside like an errant ant. It seemed to regard him, now. He had never sensed awareness in the stone before, so he threw all his might at the darkness in the silver.
When he awoke, the house was spotlessly clean. The soil of use had disappeared so that no trace of it could be found; indeed, the simple hut was probably newer looking now than it had ever been. All the things of he house were as he had left them, but scoured to an unmatched fineness.
His beard had disappeared; he was as smooth skinned as a child, as he had not been since he was a boy. He was weak; his head hurt. He drank and drank water, but his appetite returned slowly because his head had never hurt this bad. After a couple of days the pain faded so that he walk and speak, and he learned from the villagers that he had lost several days, almost a week.
The box he had held the stone in was in splinters and dust; the only dust in the house. So he hadn’t looked into the weeping stone a long time. He had done his work, drank his beer, and drifted through the last weeks.
This day he ventured into the blue as if for the first time.