24 August 2011

Interlude (an excerpt from The Dream Land trilogy)

Excerpt from Chapter 21 of The Dream Land (Book II: Dreams of Futures Passed)

What ever happened to that vagabond Diert-Gangus once his sweetheart was assassinated by the Captain of the regiment in Sorêg?

Down the cobblestone streets he [Set-d’Elous, a.k.a. Sebastian Talbot] went as a light rain fell, spotting the stones, green clouds rolling overhead, smothering him. Strangers watched him trudge toward the wharfs. The sailors wondered if he sought a job onboard, one asked and he waved the sailor off.
The rain grew thicker, and thunder banged his ears, streaks of lightning cutting across the sky, the roar of time filling his head. He knew what he had done. He had changed history—yet he had to wait years and years to see what effect it would bring. That feat was impossible, he suddenly realized with a snap of a ship’s mast near him. Sailors scrambled to untangle the ropes and steady the fallen post. The world was collapsing around him, and only he knew it.
[. . .]
A shadow fell over him. “There won’t be any war!”
At first he thought it was his alter ego, his doppelganger, a past-timeline self come to talk him out of suicide. But it was not. He looked up and saw a man staring down at him, the black silhouette somehow unmenacing.
“You speak English?” he asked the stranger in English.
Famê-ke?Famê Ingloosz-se?” the shadow responded.
The words were all in Ghoupallêan; he had merely translated them into English in his head. He knew he was still sane and continued in Ghoupallêan, using a rough country tone that fit a man of his appearance, only moments before soaked by a rainstorm on the wharf in Selauê harbor yet now amazingly dry, waiting for the future and feeling a twinge of hunger for crusty bread and creamy butter, perhaps a spicy sausage and a slice of cheese on the side, and iced tea. Lots of iced tea.
“Why do you say there won’t be any war?” he asked the stranger.
The shadows shifted, and the sunlight was momentarily blinding as the man sat down on the wooden planks beside the captain.
“No war as long as Sarrêban stays in power,” the stranger replied, alluding to the monarchy, a passive family business content to let the bureaucrats run everything. The military offered a counterbalance to official incompetence and rampant corruption. “I don’t wish for war, yet the people cry out for justice in all the corners of the land. In the end there will be war, yet not as long as Sarrêban remains in power. In their comfort and luxury they have no will to change, not a finger to lift toward justice. I have seen their kind of justice. From a close view!”
He looked over the man, tattered clothes like himself, soaked and forlorn. They were two of society’s rejects. Only, he was an expatriate from another world, someone who could come and go as he pleased, someone with a steady job on the graveyard shift at the local Internal Revenue Service Center, someone who might have a wife and 2.4 kids, a 401(k) plan, and a late-model minivan. He studied the strange image in his mind, then rudely dismissed it. That was not him. Somehow, sitting in once-again wet clothes beneath the green sky, he felt empathy with this stranger.
“Tell me your story, stranger,” he spoke finally.
Through the curls of smoke from a clay pipe the stranger wove his tale of desperation: from a simple boyhood in the bucolic forests of Sorêg disrupted by the accidental death of his father by soldiers on patrol and the death a few years later of his mother while gardening, mistaken for a scavenger and cut down by saber, to the life of a state-sponsored student at Sorêg university, focusing on politics with a goal of gaining entry into the local government, all the better to affect change in policy and do away with the annual patrols, do away with the interference of Selauê, do away with the controlling claws of Seas—ah! the crops of Sorêg set upon the dining tables of so many administrators in that southern capitol, the meat of Sorêg livestock slathering the dinner plates of so many bureaucrats while peasants dug roots from the dirt and made do with the hooves and tails of their beasts shipped-off to the starving cities, praying for a heavy rain to muddy the roads and halt the train of wagons removing their wealth week by week, year by year, as all the while the youth ran thin and dumb in the streets.
In his third year of study at the university he had met a young woman, another student who was beginning a satisfying journey through the state’s curriculum, blissfully unaware of the true condition of the economy and the laws which permitted the wanton destruction of their Danid way of life. Her name was Basura and she wrote poetry beside the lake, sitting in the thick grasses that bound the shore, writing verse which set aside the worries of the world for him, one stanza at a time. Sometimes, she would read aloud to him, the two of them side by side in the grass, beneath the shading branches of the trees, the suns warming them, the breeze cooling them, the bird calls reminding them that they were one with nature and nature with them, far away from the urban noise and urban grunge and urban terrorism. Then one day she announced she had met a captain of the Coræsz, straight up from the Selauê garrison, an educated man who knew something of poetry and appreciated her talent. From that day, she went forth to meet him and returned only in spirit.
The regiment detained him and beat him until he would confess to an act he had not committed, would never consider committing, not given the pure innocence of the victim. Innocence! he laughed. The medic determined she had started a child, and they guessed he was the father. He, a student, would fear fatherhood prior to graduation so it was a motive for murder, to shield something that would ruin his scholarship, something that would bring scandal. So he endured the abuse for weeks, well past the time when it was no longer possible to pull out of him the words he refused to give up—until it was solely for the amusement of the guards, until the new captain grew weary of him and had him thrown out, bloody and ravaged. Having no school ties following the ordeal, having no family, no occupation, no money to his name nor beast to carry him, he had walked the road down to Selauê seeking justice by his own hand.
The courts were full of guards, he was not surprised to discover, and fearing another vacation in the local garrison he relented and wandered the streets to invent a new plan. That brought him to the wharf, where most vagabonds ended their wanderings, staring out across the harbor at the sea, the swaying green waves somehow soothing: the complaisance of contemplation soothed all manner of horrors, swept away the past, occasionally encouraged the future, made the present something like a statue that could be examined from all sides, could be walked around, could be frozen in time, a moment in time—
“Gina said that, once upon a time,” he muttered despite the stranger’s never-ending tale—and he saw it suddenly: the shift of time, the appeal to perfection he had wished for and now found.
History had changed, indeed! Beside him was a man named Diert-Gangus who once was inspired to pursue a curriculum of justice at Sorêg university, a course which would lead him to form a group of students to lead a revolt that would eventually topple the monarchy and set themselves up as the new government, as the Council of Five, the governing body that would initiate the expansion of borders, the annexation of neighbor states, and the subsequent invasions and conquests that would—
“The least I can do is buy you a drink,” he spoke up in Ghoupallêan.
They clasped thumbs in agreement and stepped down the wharf. There were many taverns in the area and the second one they found was open to them. The first had refused them entry even after he showed a handful of coins to pay for their drinks. It was the clothing, he knew. And perhaps their smell. So, before they could finish their first drinks, others more easily offended came over to persuade them to quickly remove themselves from the establishment or risk a beating. His companion had enough of that activity and hurried out, and he followed in sympathy.
“I’ll need to get you some decent clothes,” he announced, pointing toward the shopping district, “so they don’t think you’re a rebel or terrorist.”
“How could I, ragged as I am, ever be mistaken for a rebel or terrorist?” Gangus grunted and stared up at the overcast sky. “True terrorists are clothed in clean, pressed uniforms. Yet no-one sees that.” He kicked at some dirt on the street, willing it to fly into the gutter. “People see with two eyes, do they not?”
“That Zetin high priest, Dnt’o-Kra’, had three, you know.” He chuckled to himself, then added in shy-toned English, “But he was still so blind.”

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