A Gram Of Silence - Alternate Start

I sat by Father's bed and watched him die.

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Author's note

Rewritten the beginning for Every Gram of Silence. It is a bit more cohesive now.
AA

1. The Green (1)

I sat beside Father’s bed and watched him die.

Last time I came he still had his glasses. Now it was broken on the floor. He must have reached for it one morning and let it slip from his hand, then left it there, and the next day, having completely forgotten about the day before, he would still reach for it, and reach for it, until one day he was too weak to lift his hand. Now the bed kept him, and he was lighter than his blankets.

The furniture was gone. The help was gone. The contractors were here, downstairs in the stripped-out living room, smoking, waiting. They gave me a stool and told me to speak up as soon as the old man passed. The boiler has been idling in the yard for two days, they said, and every day spent waiting and not demolishing the House will cost money. 

Soon now. If Father wanted to live another day, he will, and no force in this world was going to stop him…which was why, any minute now, he would go to the Green.

I sat beside his bed and told him about my life, the same stories I always tell. There was James. There was Lucia. There was the carousal of clients that came to James’ House of the Seventh Dawn, seeking his miracles.  

I kept his books. Cleaned the lab. Kept my distance from Lucia, who was eight feet tall and blind.

…well, not quite blind. Once I saw her eyes, just the once: when she pulled me from the ruins of the Orion, her blindfold had come undone. They were Green, emeralds burning, filled with blackened veins that webbed to the edges of the whites, and their glow had set my insides on fire. Within them burned the charcoaled silhouettes of a million human torches, dancing in green flame.

Lucia did not speak. James said she has no faculty for speech. She went with him everywhere, in silence always, to Madam Lyre’s around the corner or Irai Zhimwe across the sea.

Sometimes I went with them; new clients were often uncomfortable in the presence of the great Master Cowen, and terrified of Lucia. Most preferred speaking instead to an empathetic and considerably attractive young woman.

They were the only two that had faces, James and Lucia. Every time I came here I inevitably spend the day talking about them. Father didn’t mind, long as I came back. But it has been too long and there was too much to say; sunset was spilling in from the bedroom window and I haven’t even gotten through half of it.  

Has it been a day already? Has it only been a day?

I sat beside Father’s bed and lost the time. Words came out of my mouth and the twilight swallowed them. I was talking a man napping in his grave, who but stared at the ceiling and showed no sign of having registered my presence, yet I talked and could not stop. A waste of time. Stupidly sentimental, James would have said. This whole time I have stared at his glasses gathering dust on the floor and refused to pick them up, when I should have looked out the window and talked about the sunset.

Now it was night. Crickets chirping. Annoying chirping. Pointless, ephemeral pests. They should quit their noise and die; the evening will be spared of their cacophony, and it would spare the feelings of those who must listen to their racket knowing that, in a day, a week, they would all be dead.

Perhaps the garden should be set on fire. Scourge the bugs from their nests. Let the old timber House catch light and crumble. Let the contractors watch, while I sit here and feel the warmth on my face.

Footsteps, creaking up the stairs. Shaky ones. Heavy ones. A knock on the open door.

‘You’re still here,’ said James.

The yellow lamp in the corridor made a shadow of his stubbled face. His hair was a swamp, sticky with what seemed to be chunks of goo. His longtail suit gathered dust from the floor and swept a trail behind him. Master James Cowen – gaunt, unkempt, and eternally exhausted.  

Then Lucia’s shoulders blotted out the light. She wore her working attire, black tux with a black untrimmed blindfold. A lot more goo was stuck in her brittle white hair. It dripped from her cheeks like melting wax. She stood behind James, silent.

‘I was telling him about you,’ I said.

‘All good things, I hope,’ said James.

From the night came a soft breeze. It was cold, and pleasant-smelling I supposed, if I still had a sense of smell. Then the sheets rustled. Father was stirring. I took up his hand and folded it against my chest. So cold, so rough, like dry old leather. Maybe he has words for me. Maybe he’d want to look at the face of his daughter – but his glasses, still on the floor how would he see me oh I should’ve picked them up –

He was still. With the wind he had breathed his last, and, in silence, Father has gone to the Green.

And…

I sat beside Father’s bed and watched him die.

Last time I came he still had his glasses. Now it was broken on the floor. He must have reached for it one morning and let it slip from his hand, then left it there, and the next day, having completely forgotten about the day before, he would still reach for it, and reach for it, until one day he was too weak to lift his hand. Now the bed kept him, and he was lighter than his blankets.

The furniture was gone. The help was gone. The contractors were here, downstairs in the stripped-out living room, smoking, waiting. They gave me a stool and told me to speak up as soon as the old man passed. The boiler has been idling in the yard for two days, they said, and every day spent waiting and not demolishing the House will cost money. 

Soon now. If Father wanted to live another day, he will, and no force in this world was going to stop him…which was why, any minute now, he would go to the Green.

I sat beside his bed and told him about my life, the same stories I always tell. There was James. There was Lucia. There was the carousal of clients that came to James’ House of the Seventh Dawn, seeking his miracles.  

I kept his books. Cleaned the lab. Kept my distance from Lucia, who was eight feet tall and blind.

…well, not quite blind. Once I saw her eyes, just the once: when she pulled me from the ruins of the Orion, her blindfold had come undone. They were Green, emeralds burning, filled with blackened veins that webbed to the edges of the whites, and their glow had set my insides on fire. Within them burned the charcoaled silhouettes of a million human torches, dancing in green flame.

Lucia did not speak. James said she has no faculty for speech. She went with him everywhere, in silence always, to Madam Lyre’s around the corner or Irai Zhimwe across the sea.

Sometimes I went with them; new clients were often uncomfortable in the presence of the great Master Cowen, and terrified of Lucia. Most preferred speaking instead to an empathetic and considerably attractive young woman.

They were the only two that had faces, James and Lucia. Every time I came here I inevitably spend the day talking about them. Father didn’t mind, long as I came back. But it has been too long and there was too much to say; sunset was spilling in from the bedroom window and I haven’t even gotten through half of it.  

Has it been a day already? Has it only been a day?

I sat beside Father’s bed and lost the time. Words came out of my mouth and the twilight swallowed them. I was talking a man napping in his grave, who but stared at the ceiling and showed no sign of having registered my presence, yet I talked and could not stop. A waste of time. Stupidly sentimental, James would have said. This whole time I have stared at his glasses gathering dust on the floor and refused to pick them up, when I should have looked out the window and talked about the sunset.

Now it was night. Crickets chirping. Annoying chirping. Pointless, ephemeral pests. They should quit their noise and die; the evening will be spared of their cacophony, and it would spare the feelings of those who must listen to their racket knowing that, in a day, a week, they would all be dead.

Perhaps the garden should be set on fire. Scourge the bugs from their nests. Let the old timber House catch light and crumble. Let the contractors watch, while I sit here and feel the warmth on my face.

Footsteps, creaking up the stairs. Shaky ones. Heavy ones. A knock on the open door.

‘You’re still here,’ said James.

The yellow lamp in the corridor made a shadow of his stubbled face. His hair was a swamp, sticky with what seemed to be chunks of goo. His longtail suit gathered dust from the floor and swept a trail behind him. Master James Cowen – gaunt, unkempt, and eternally exhausted.  

Then Lucia’s shoulders blotted out the light. She wore her working attire, black tux with a black untrimmed blindfold. A lot more goo was stuck in her brittle white hair. It dripped from her cheeks like melting wax. She stood behind James, silent.

‘I was telling him about you,’ I said.

‘All good things, I hope,’ said James.

From the night came a soft breeze. It was cold, and pleasant-smelling I supposed, if I still had a sense of smell. Then the sheets rustled. Father was stirring. I took up his hand and folded it against my chest. So cold, so rough, like dry old leather. Maybe he has words for me. Maybe he’d want to look at the face of his daughter – but his glasses, still on the floor how would he see me oh I should’ve picked them up –

He was still. With the wind he had breathed his last, and, in silence, Father has gone to the Green.

And…

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