July 23, 2006

Prologue, Hello and Goodbye

I've been working on a bit of a story; an exercize in memoir esque first person (having said that, the prologue has an extra heavy dose of that style, the rest of the story won't be so dreamy). I rather like it; if you have a moment, tell me what you think of the prologue. :)


Hello and Goodbye

I remember the day my father sent for me. I would like to think of it as my first clear memory, but that’s hardly the truth. However often I think back upon it, focusing and sharpening and perhaps adding in the things that came after, it remains the memory of a child: a fog of confusion and raw feeling, broken by moments of strange clarity.

It was late spring, and I was with my cousins. The green hills where we ran overlooked our village, and the streams were ice cold, fed from melting snow higher up in the mountains. We didn’t dare to stay in the streams long, but splashed in and out, revelling in the contrast between the freezing water and still, warm air. We ran to keep our blood warm as our clothes dried out, screeching with delight as we flew heedlessly into the woods, away from where the stream fell over the edge of the cliff.

There was nothing special about that morning, but I remember it all: every footfall, every time the cold water slowly sank through my boots and into my skin, every flourishing twig that whipped against my thighs as I ran. My memory has embraced that last hour, lengthening it as I might have if I had known what was to come. Every moment we spent up in the hills, ran through the ice-cold stream or went shrieking into the well-loved forests beyond was a moment left in the southlands, and I cherished every one.

In the morning, a glimpse of the horizon revealed white sails. By noon, a ship filled our harbour. It’s hull was enormous before me, and the sails stretched up like clouds, too large to have come from anywhere but the north.

Ever since my mother died, we had known that my father might come for me. We might have known from my birth and it would not have made it easier. My cousins cried. My aunt kissed me and said it wasn’t right, that seven was too young to be taken from my homeland. And from my family. They made me promise never to forget the land of my birth.

They need not have worried. I would not forget the southlands. We may forget a place we have been, but never a place that has been us. I could not have forgotten the land whose cold rivers ran in my blood and whose stones and iron formed my bones.

No, I would not forget them. But neither, in the end, would I weep in remembrance. The southlands were my heart and body, but to the north lie my heart and soul, for I am of it as well. I was not leaving all that I was. So I cried, too, when they told me I was going away, but the tears lasted only as long as the soil beneath my feet. Out on the waves, the shore vanished quickly behind us. I pointed myself with the ship, and it went where the winds took it. To the North.

It was not a long voyage, and though I had little companionship, I was not yet lonely. My heart was filled enough with coming and going, with hello and goodbye. It was long enough ago that in my mind it has become one long, sunny day. The sailors found me a wild child, and were half frightened. Northern children, I would learn, restrain their most primal curiosity from an early age. The crew, the few passengers, and even the merchant my father had asked to bring me to him all set me to govern myself. I ran and I climbed, heedless of splinters or falls, though I had many of each, loving the sea spray even when it stung my eyes and skinned knees. At midday I would sometimes fall asleep on the salt soaked, sunny deck, cradled by the waves crashing beneath me.

The sun grew hotter each day that we travelled. We made good time, and I remember wondering, vaguely, where the South turned into the North. I expected something to happen when it did. A lightening bolt, a clap of thunder signalling our passage. A change in the colour of the sea and sky -- At the very least, some magical gate dividing the one from another. But there was no clear line. The two blended together, like hello and goodbye, like coming and going. It’s a strange feeling, one I’ve come to know well. In my memory, it still tastes like salt and smells like sea air.

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