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Here is the third chapter of the book. I’m pleased with how it’s coming along, and have been talking to a graphic designer friend about getting a cover designed for it. 


Chapter Three

Later Sephir would look back at those first weeks spent in the red cube in the desert with some bemusement. The twins and Elabel had been so sure it was just a matter of finding the right map, the right traveler’s account, and then they would know what direction to walk and how far and then they would be home.

Sephir did not think she had ever been so sure, but then, it had been easy to be swept up in their blithe optimism.

She would come to wonder, too, how Elabel, who knew every corner and hallway and light pipe on both sides of the city, could not have comprehended the true nature of the desert and the journey back. Even decades later, she was not sure how much Elabel had not understood of her new guests, how much she understood but withheld, and how much she simply didn’t realize was unknown to anyone but herself.

But in those days, all Sephir could think of was the water that flowed freely every morning through the carved runnels and miniature aqueducts of the garden; of the fruit that fell from hundreds of trees, free for the taking; of the liberty to walk in the empty city; of her own room where she could close the door and sit on the windowsill and be entirely alone with her own breath and her own thoughts.

Elabel (whose gender Graneja had questioned somewhat rudely that first evening, though the androgynous woman had not seemed particularly put out) first made up beds for them from rugs and spare clothes, but in the first week she appeared at the doorway to their house with the pieces for folding cots, more woven blankets, jars of dried and pickled food, new clothes for each of them, and — unfortunately — new shoes. The twins, who thought the idea of ornamenting one’s feet perfectly amusing, simply wore them into the gardens and lost them; Sephir set them on her window ledge as an oddity and hope Elabel did not inquire.

All of the new things Elabel brought came out of a huge, odd-smelling canvas bag, still damp when she appeared in the morning on the patio and unrolled the top. Sometimes the jars or wooden furniture or new rugs, too, would be beaded with water, and had to be set on the windowsills in the brittle air to dry before they could be brought inside.

In the early mornings, after the red-haired woman had vanished for a day or two and then reappeared carrying her gray bag, encrusted with unidentifiable grime, over her back (the bag was big enough to tuck a child or two inside its great cylindrical heft, so enormous that Elabel herself could have climbed inside and knelt down and not have been seen,) when Sephir took objects one by one from Elabel’s hands into her own (a glass beaker of green flame-color, cold water pooling in the bowl; a heavy-bound book double-wrapped in layers of waxed fabric; a tin box of flour with a pattern pressed in the metal, also cool and beading water,) and turned them over and over, enjoying their heft and textures against her fingers and thinking only of the pleasure of having — for some value of having — her own things again:

Those mornings stayed in her mind long after too. Why hadn’t she wondered where all these objects had come from? Why hadn’t she puzzled over their curious dampness in a city fourteen days’ march into the heart of the desert? Why hadn’t she followed Elabel to discover where she went when she disappeared from the small terrace house? It wasn’t as though the other woman was resistant to questions; she simply gave incomprehensible answers. Read More