Something Blue

Go down

Something Blue

Post  Jessamine Blake on Fri Oct 01, 2010 2:01 am

The air was eerily still and quiet in the dark hours of early morning, the adolescent corn stalks bathed in a dusky purple-gray light, a slight chill to the air. The neatly planted rows of which Thomas Bates was so fiercely proud, the sturdy and practical house and fences and toolshed--they all lay still, waiting for the sun to rise. In the deeper purple shadows between the house and the shed, however, something stirred.

A slight figure with narrow shoulders hunched against the pre-dawn chill emerged from a door on the side of the house and crept stealthily across the short expanse toward the shed door. It was secured, but the lock was crude, and it only took a little finagling with a small, flat instrument--a bread knife--in the crack between door and frame to get it open. The figure slipped inside and pushed the lock back into place.

Barely daring to breathe, heart pounding, Enna Bates straightened up from her timid, crouched position and turned to the room's interior. The room was not overlarge, just enough to house some tools and farm equipment, a saddle and a single horse in its stall. The coal eyes looked out from the narrow chestnut face at Enna, but it knew her and made no sound. Enna gave the animal a warm smile, but moved away from it toward the far back corner. The back wall housed some shelves and a small table for storage, and it was under this she reached and pulled out...

Well, even she wasn't sure exactly what it was. She couldn't name it or explain what it did, really...she just knew it would do something. She had been sneaking out to work on it at every opportunity the last three days, and she was fairly certain that it was almost finished. The whole situation was very strange, and a little frightening, but she was also fascinated almost in spite of herself.

She had returned home with Thomas the same evening that Mr. Pearse had departed Santa Anna. They had eaten a light supper--Thomas was feeling ill and sore, no doubt a result of the previous day's events--and had retired immediately, saving all the necessary duties for the morning. Yet instead of dropping right off to sleep, as was her habit, she had found herself wide awake, staring at the ceiling while incomprehensible ideas ran through her mind. It had begun with the simple notion of a gear. Enna knew what a gear was; she had seen Thomas attempt to repair their only clock once, and it was chock full of gears. She remembered being enthralled with the way the little spokes interlinked so perfectly, keeping each other in rhythm and place. Now, that image of a rotating gear seemed to swim before her face until it became two gears, then a network of four. But this was only the mechanism's first layer.

At the time she had only thought it odd, and put it down to her own trying experiences from the previous day. One gear moves all the rest forward, she thought. Well, Mr. Pearse had certainly acted like a gear. Or perhaps the townsmen had done. She shook her head and closed her eyes against the thoughts, but this, if anything, made them stand out more clearly in her mind. The first layer of gears, the largest central one rotating a long, thin spoke, began to be hidden from her sight by a second, thicker layer, moving delicate metal chains...

Before Enna had really known what she was doing, she had found herself creeping out of bed--Thomas had merely snorted once and rolled over--and out to the toolshed. The dismantled clock was out there, along with an assortment of parts in boxes. Neat though he was, organized, and proud, if Thomas Bates had one fault it was his inability to throw anything away. Far from being exasperated as usual, Enna found herself delighted with his pack rat ways for once. She had carefully pulled the box from its shelf and begun to sift through the odds and ends.

By the time she returned to her bed in the wee hours of the morning, eyes nearly closing of their own accord as she stumbled up the stairs, she had made a fair start on reconstructing some simulation of the gear network. At first she'd been dismayed at the lack of certain components she knew she would need, but found (to her pleasure and alarm) that she could easily rework her mental plan to fit what she had in front of her. The mechanism came together swiftly under her hands, little by little each night as if guided by some demon tinker, and she was so torn between her wonder and her fear that she found herself weeping over her hands as they worked.

During the daytime, Thomas noticed a change in his little wife, and it worried him. In the three days they had been back at home, she'd seemed distant and pale, and her eyes were tired. He ascribed it to what had gone on in Santa Anna, but became worried when her spirits did not pick up even a little. She moved about her domestic duties listlessly and without her usual sunny disposition, and once, when he came in to supper with his feet still soiled from the field, she snapped at him. Enna Bates never snapped at anyone. Still, he kept his silence and watched eagerly for the return of some of the natural cheerfulness and serenity he was so accustomed to seeing in her, and told himself the shock would wear off in a few more days. He failed to notice the way her hands, usually so soft and perfect white, were cut and blistered, with rust and grease caked under the fingernails.

Her eagerness was fueled in part by her frustration; she must know what the thing would do, even if she couldn't think of it. Things didn't just spring together in one's hands without any knowledge of their purpose, it was impossible. But wrack her brains as she might during the day, each night she went back to her work without knowing what the end result of it would be. It was one of the many things about this business that scared her, but it spurred her on as well.

Turning the device over in already much-abused hands, Enna thought she could almost see them moving, but for lack of one crucial mechanism. She turned to the box of rubbish and began digging eagerly through it, determined to find what she needed, to know what this mystery thing that stole her sleep and plagued her days did. She would finish it, before the sun came up.

***

Jessamine's house had never seen a stranger or more dismal assortment of people. If they had all been paying customers, the girls could have worked for a day and retired for life, thought Laney bitterly as she scrubbed the bar. But wounded, dying men do not think of whores; they think of wives, and mothers, and rosy-cheeked, virginal little daughters. They cry out in the night, not out of passion, but out of the dual pain that comes from being steeped in death and far from the comfort of home. These men's homes, however poor, were long gone, and most of their wives and children had either burned to ashes in Little Bethlehem or been trampled into the dirt around Ethan Ramey's homestead. The whores were all the comfort they could hope for.

Laney, unfortunately, was somewhat out of her element. She left the nursing to Abigale, mostly, who moved about the room briskly, saying kind words, redressing wounds, and stepping gingerly through the makeshift beds to cover the faces of those who had died since her last round. Her face was white and drawn, her eyes bleary with lack of sleep, but she did not complain or speak harshly to anyone. Watching her, Laney wondered more than once how such a girl had ever ended up a whore in the first place.

Meanwhile, the other girls kept the house in some form of order, with much less grumbling than they would have done just a few days ago. Santa Anna's plight and the kidnapping of Jessamine seemed to have galvanized them to a fierce loyalty that none of them--least of all Laney herself--had felt before. The madam had gone out alone, unprotected, to speak for them and to defend them. She had gotten herself shot rather than stand silently while the women in her house were in danger. Laney had been grateful and yet annoyed with Jessamine. She knew she did not deserve the woman's protection, and she would have thought it a perfect revenge to see the townswomen who had always treated her like an ugly stain brought down off their pedestals of innocence and sexual cleanliness. Her annoyance did not last long, however; it was soon replaced with the horror of the days since Pearse had left. She could scarcely believe it had been only three.

The first thing she had done once Pearse was well away was go straight to Jessamine's bedroom, where Pearse had slept the night before, and strip the bed. She took it all the way down to the frame, removing even the thin, knobby mattress. Then she burned it all behind the house, and shut Jessamine's room up tight, determined that no one else would use the room until its rightful owner returned. No one, not even the cattiest of the other girls, contradicted her. Once that was done, she set about making every possible piece of the floor available for bed space. Many of the women were left alone, and her plan had been to allow them to stay in the house as long as they needed, for protection, but this turned out to be impossible.

The remaining able-bodied people in town had visited the killing fields to search for survivors, and had brought back the ruined remains of men who were living, but delirious with pain and hunger, and often fever. Their wounds were festering, and Laney knew that most of them would die slowly and miserably; she almost thought it would be kinder to shoot them all. A few of the women had made it as well, but they were even worse off than the men. One lady's face had been half blown away by a stray bullet, but she was still alive, and alternated between screaming from the pain and weeping. The worst victim was a small child with disturbingly familiar, bright blue eyes, a little boy who had likely been carried along on his mother's hip. His legs had been shattered, probably trampled by a horse. They had to take his legs off at the knee to keep the gangrene from killing him, and it was still unlikely he would live very long. His eyes had stared aimlessly but rested on her, his angelic face twisted by pain and flushed with fever. Laney couldn't bear it; she left the house when they were about to do it, hid in the alleyway and covered her ears, curled around herself in shame, but she still heard him start screaming. The sound seemed to echo inside her, and she saw pain-filled blue eyes, staring wildly and helplessly at her, no matter how tightly she clenched her own shut against them.

A wave of nausea swept through her at the memory, and she fought the urge to vomit for what felt like the hundredth time that day. With all the horror around her, it was no wonder. Giving the bar a last fierce scrub, Laney threw the dirty towel onto a shelf and made her way slowly between the pallets on the floor, careful to avoid trailing fingers as well as grasping hands, and climbed the stairs, determined to get her first sleep in days. Her arms hung limply at her sides, her shoulders drooped, and she felt so tired she could have collapsed more easily than taken another step. Her aching feet carried her the rest of the way up the staircase, through the door to her room, and to the foot of her bed. There, however, her tiredness deserted her. She stared down at the bed, and again she saw brilliant blue eyes, wide and helpless and scared. Abruptly, she didn't know whether she wanted to scream, weep, or simply tear her own eyes from their sockets. She sank onto the bed and lay there, her eyes staring blankly at the ceiling. She knew now she would get no sleep tonight, either.

_________________
"[These]...settlers are churlish types who are accustomed to live apart from each other, as neither fathers nor sons associate with each other."
--Fermín de Mendinueta, Governor of the New Mexico Territory, c. 1776.
avatar
Jessamine Blake
Clairvoyant Madam

Posts : 103
Join date : 2010-01-23

View user profile http://nobubblegum.blogspot.com

Back to top Go down

Re: Something Blue

Post  Allie Johnson on Tue Oct 19, 2010 12:31 pm

Without noticing it, Jeremiah had been tangling and tugging on his unruly hair for the last hour as he stared down at a list of names. Scrawled untidily in rows were the names of every single inhabitant of the town and then below that, a list of each survivor that came from the battlefield and from Little Bethlehem. In his right hand was a quill-pen and in his left, a fistfull of blonde hair. It was not the list that put him in that state, but the names that he'd had to cross off of the list as the owners of those names ceased to live.

He was too grown to cry, but all the same he felt his throat tighten each time a death was reported to him.

It was fairly silent in the sheriff's office as there were no prisoners and only rations locked in the cells. The office was a small room branching off to the side of the main room. It had a desk, a padded chair, and a grandfather clock, and it seemed the logical place for Jeremiah to set up camp (so to speak). He had not wished to oust Samuel Kircher from the lawman's position, and so had requested that another chair and desk be found and placed in the main room. Although whether Kircher was at that desk now, Jeremiah didn't really know.

He stood suddenly, pushing himself away from the list of life and death with both hands and nearly tripping over the chair in an effort to leave the room. He needed some air.

As he walked down the stairs of the Jailhouse and into the street, the members of the town both new and old only afforded him sideways glances and blaming gazes. If his boss wasn't here to receive their hostilities, then the boy would have to take the brunt of it. He accepted that role, however unwillingly. It made him uncomfortable yet again to be the center of their anger, but he knew that they would come to forgive him and even Mr. Pearse once they realized how much better their lives would be with the Irishman in control.

Jeremiah's thoughts were scattered as he walked. He tried holding his head high with his chest puffed out for a little while, but that didn't fit him at all and soon his shoulders began to sag and his face dropped to the ground. He watched the dust swirl in small circles with each step of his boot. It wasn't any real way for a man in charge of a town to carry himself, but he didn't feel like he thought a man in charge should feel. He felt like a child and wondered if any of the others noticed it.

Without looking up, he knew where he was. He hadn't looked up the whole time he was walking, but every other time he'd gone out 'for air', he'd ended up in the same place, so he didn't know why this time would be any different. It was almost as if some inside part of him were insistent on drawing him there. He would never go inside, though. It was the whorehouse, for cripe's sake! He looked up and nodded partly to himself upon seeing the whorehouse once more. Through the windows he could see a sort of sullen, sad movement as people went about caring for the wounded. The place stank of rotting flesh, medicine, and pain. Incredible pain. Pain had no particular smell, and he wondered what he meant even as he thought it. Still it was there, however. A stench. Or perhaps the strong thought of a stench that came from pain. Yes that seemed more like it. Regardless, there he stood outside of the house of sin, wanting nothing more than to go inside and yet at the same time to put incredible distance between himself and the door.

He couldn't stir himself to do either, so he leaned against the side of a building across from the whorehouse and just watched
avatar
Allie Johnson
Clockwork Cowgirl

Posts : 73
Join date : 2010-01-30

View user profile

Back to top Go down

Re: Something Blue

Post  Samuel Kircher on Tue Nov 02, 2010 11:53 am

Samuel sat in what passed for Santa Anna's saloon, nursing a whiskey glass and trying to keep inconspicuous in the corner. Ever since the New World Order that Pearse had decreed, the town had lost all morale and, it seemed, hope. The townsfolk's faces looked resigned to this new fate, with their slack shoulders and downcast eyes displaying a hopelessness that could plunge any man's spirit into gloom.

As Kircher scanned the small scattering of patrons in the bar, he occasionally caught their quick, evasive glances in his direction, usually followed by a hushed word to their neighbor, the subject of which wasn't too hard to imagine in Kircher's mind. It was the same whenever he walked down the streets; agitation and quiet anger in the eyes of the men, and anxiousness and contempt in those of the womenfolk. Children were a bit more daring though--some ventured to throw childish insults his way (with a few curses picked up from their fathers), and one had the courage to put burrs under Joel's saddle, which caused no end of exasperation for the lawman of Little Bethelehem to remove them and calm his steed.

Deciding that it was time to leave, Kircher got up and exited the saloon, untied Joel from the post, and climbed into the saddle, checking that his Winchester rifle was still in its holster. Kircher steered his horse down the street, making it seem that he was patrolling the town, but his concerns were far from those of social order right now. His mind had been troubled by the swiftness of the town's takeover, and the absolute law that Pearse had laid down here. Having Jeremiah as his personal liason to the town was an odd choice, Kircher had thought. But the boy had always seemed to have a solid moral center (at least to Kircher), and he supposed that it was far better than appointing someone with lesser strength of character than the young lad. But the townsfolk would certainly treat him as they would treat any transplant of Little Bethelehem, with apprehension and distrust. As far as they were concerned, all of Little Bethelehem were servants of Pearse. Reflecting on these things, Kircher was beginning to develop serious reservations towards the Gentleman of the West.

Rounding a street corner and approaching Ms. Blake's whorehouse, Samuel spotted young Jeremiah himself, leaning against a building, watching the house, looking pensive. Drawing closer, he pulled up some five paces from the young boy.

"How've you been, Jeremiah? I would say 'good day', but those are hard to come by now. Nevertheless, how goes the census?"
avatar
Samuel Kircher
Soldier of Misfortune

Posts : 25
Join date : 2010-01-24

View user profile

Back to top Go down

Re: Something Blue

Post  Jessamine Blake on Mon Jan 03, 2011 9:30 pm

Enna delicately placed the final piece and stood back to admire her handiwork. Then she frowned. Something was missing...

Time to go to town.

*****

Laney woke abruptly to a pain in her stomach. She curled in on herself and grit her teeth. There had never been a worse time for her to be a woman. She fought to ignore the ache and listened to the sounds of the whorehouse around her. Downstairs, a child was crying disconsolately. The sound grated against Laney's head. She uncurled, sat up. She took a deep breath and then stood up to go calm the child down, or else kick it out the front door.

She took two steps away from the bed, and then her head reeled and her stomach lurched, and she was on her knees, retching uncontrollably. The smell and sight of vomit assailed her senses and made it all the worse, and she gagged and coughed until there was nothing left in her stomach to throw up.

Attempting to stand proved to be a monumental mistake, making her head pound as her vision failed to keep up with the movement of her head. Instead, she closed her eyes and crawled away backwards, unsteadily, distancing herself from the pool of sick as best she could. She thought she was headed in the direction of the doorway, but she wasn't sure. When her back hit the wall, she used it for support as she climbed shakily to her feet, eyes still closed tight against the dizziness that threatened to put her back on all fours and gagging. As she sidled along the wall, feeling for the door, it occurred to her that there was something very wrong with her body.

Not sure I could see anything even if I opened my eyes. Sliding along rough wood; am I lying down?

As her fingers found the crack between the door and the wall, she felt her heart racing and sweat beading on her forehead.

I'm cold. The baby won't stop crying.

She pried the door open with numbed fingers and stumbled through it, collapsing in the hallway. This time, she stayed down.

*****

Momma said the monsters had left, but he could still see them. The man with the evil eye left on a horse but he stayed, too. The fire-haired lady disappeared but she stayed. Wheel spokes turned and he had watched his father die in a barren field. Something was coming, and he was afraid of the dark even when the sun was up. And over everything, a pair of vivid blue eyes stared at him no matter what he looked at. When he tried to sleep, the eyes still watched, and he couldn't form the words to explain most of what he saw but he kept on seeing it anyway. He cried and cried until his mother despaired of comforting him and ignored him to tend to the people dying on cots in the floor all around the whorehouse.

Upstairs, a heavy thud as something fell to the floor. The small boy's sobbing quieted and he looked up, eyes wide and full of invisible terrors. The boards were spaced unevenly, carelessly. Something dark obscured the dim light filtering down from the floor above. Something was soaking through the cracks, dripping down onto a patch of floor between two of the cots. The men in the cots were sleeping, or dead; they didn't take any notice. The child toddled across the room to investigate, stopping just a foot from the pooling liquid. It was thick, deep, sticky red. Wonderingly, he reached out his chubby fingers, hesitantly, to touch it.

The inhuman shrieking coming from her child brought his mother much faster than his tears had done.

_________________
"[These]...settlers are churlish types who are accustomed to live apart from each other, as neither fathers nor sons associate with each other."
--Fermín de Mendinueta, Governor of the New Mexico Territory, c. 1776.
avatar
Jessamine Blake
Clairvoyant Madam

Posts : 103
Join date : 2010-01-23

View user profile http://nobubblegum.blogspot.com

Back to top Go down

Re: Something Blue

Post  Sponsored content


Sponsored content


Back to top Go down

Back to top

- Similar topics

 
Permissions in this forum:
You cannot reply to topics in this forum