Summer Dusting

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
touch of romance, touch of horror, suspense, tells how tradition can complicate love

Submitted: June 04, 2008

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Submitted: June 04, 2008

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Summer Dusting

 

The sun had just peeked over the mountain ranges, bringing with it the pinks and oranges that always tagged along, bleeding through the sky. Far off from the mountains that frowned around the brown valley, the skies, a dull gray, rumbled with the threat of a storm, but nor strong enough to come through with the threat. The sun’s rays revealed dark patches that could not be passed with recognition. If one were to walk through the long deserted village of Kessler, then they would not last long.

Hot and uncomfortable breezes hung in the air, a dog’s breath hot on the neck and face. Kessler could easily be compared to a ghost town; though not even spirit lurked there; the silence alone would make one feel haunted. Dust storms occurred regularly when the winds picked up, stealing away with them even more from the vacant village, merciless and endless. It was no surprise that not a living thing made the ruins home. Not allowing even one breath to enter or even escape, the dust spores trapped themselves inside the throat and lungs. That and the watery pain of dirt in the eyes would make any living thing suffer.

It was hard to believe that life had once existed there.

Grass had once been abundant around every structure, making way for the population of trees and plants that sheltered animals. The lake had been framed by docks, which were quite occupied near The Eve of Summer’s Day. The family with the name Saint owned most of the more superior boats, each of the eight children possessing one.

All but one boat was used frequently. This boat had remained at the docks, unnoticed and uncared for, the paddles almost begging to be used. The faded name on the boat, ‘Welliam Saint’, a reminder to Tira Saint of what the phrase, ‘A healthy people for a healthy Summer’, really meant. She was told again and again how honored she was, being the eldest Saint, but they did not know. The Saints had been in power for the past century. Only some had escaped the horror. Tira felt a pang for Welliam. He was considered a man at age eleven because of all the Summer’s Eves in his lifetime. But now he was gone, her dear elder brother on the past Eve; all because of the wound that had never healed. He had been the weakest and the eldest Saint at the same time.

Tira wrung her hands nervously, wincing when anyone glanced her way. She couldn’t handle all of the smirks and jeers thrown at her. She especially couldn’t handle the comments like, "She deserves no pity. It is her duty and age fifteen is plenty old enough to carry it out." Tira would gladly trade social positions with a poor family to avoid the price that was to be paid. One day left.Tira’s feet were marching of their own accord and to their own choice of destination; and as her mind was too preoccupied with thoughts of tomorrow, she allowed her feet to guide her. She was walking through dark alleys that would have scared her two Summers ago, but were now familiar to her. She passed empty doorways, grimy windows, starving strays, and pitifully built houses that seemed to be made of whatever was laying on the ground. Her feet stopped in front of a building with no apparent purpose. It resembled a simple brick, if the brick had a gaping hole in the corner. Expertly, Tira crouched down and maneuvered herself through the hole, not giving a care about her fine gown on the sticky cobbles.

She let out a sigh of relief when she saw who was sitting in the far corner. Hem smiled, revealing the dimples in his cheeks that were visible to Tira even in the dark. He waved her over with his right hand. His left arm hung dead at his side, his left leg mimicking the arm. Tira went and sat on his right side so that his good hand could play with her pale hair.

Tira happily sighed at the familiar gesture and leaned into him.

"So what happened today?" Hem asked. Tira blinked her eyes in annoyance. She came here to escape Summer. But like her, Summer had crawled through the hole and had squeezed Herself between Tira and Hem.

She took her time answering. "I chose the location." Hem had been twisting a lock of her hair around his finger but froze. He had recognized the coldness of her tone and her reluctance at even answering his question.

"Sorry," he said quickly. He seemed to be racking his brains for something that didn’t relate to what was on both of their minds. Tira imagined that his thought process was tuning in with ‘One more day…One more day.

"Stop!" she thought to herself, and tried thinking of something to say as well. She settled on the thought of how fast the youngest Saint, Roane, was learning to walk. But before she could open her mouth, footsteps sounded outside and a pair of boots could be seen through the hole. The boots paced outside, their owner being unknown to Tira and coming near enough to the building to make Tira shift in front of Hem protectively. She realized that she was holding her breath and that Hem’s breaths went unheard as well. Neither dared to let it out. The boots stopped in front of the hole.

Tira felt as if her stomach had jumped into her throat and had started strangling her.on the rough edge of the hole, a scrap of green fabric was tangled on a bolt, the same fabric that made up her dress. Obviously a scrap of fabric with that finesse would be suspicious if found in the back alleys. The boots remained there long enough for Tira to think that calming herself would be near impossible, when slowly, almost reluctantly, the boots moved past the hole and the sounds of walking faded into the distance. Tira and Hem let out their breaths quietly, though still cautious.

What Hem said next did nothing to help calm her. "They’re gathering up the weakest."

Tira spun around to face him, to restrain him if need be. She knew what he would do. "I chose the Red Hills for the location. Do you know what is beyond them Hem?"

Hem looked puzzled, which made her sigh impatiently. "The Black Hills Hem!" she exclaimed. "There has to be fifty caves in one of those hills!"

Realization swept over his face as he shook his head. "We have to stay! It’s our duty. You especially, and I know that it will be me up on the Red Hills with you!"

Tira blinked in stunned silence. She looked away from him, ashamed of herself for reasons and doings that weren’t hers. Hem tried to take her hand but she pulled away. Her throat was clogged with unshed tears that would not clear no matter how many times she coughed. She cleared her throat before saying, "Please. Hem just stay here. I won’t be able to bear it if…Just let me take you to the Black Hills before sundown tomorrow."

Hem stared at her. "What about you?"

Tira did not know what would become of her and just shrugged, not wanting to care. She bade the alarmed voice in her head to stop screaming.

Hem looked at her with his concerned gaze but before he could reply, Tira jumped up and planted a kiss on his cheek, then scrambled out of the building. She made sure to grab the scrap of fabric, not looking to see the surprised expression on Hem’s face. By the time Tira left the back alleys, the moon was high in the sky. At the front of The Wall, the weak ones were put through drills to determine who would stand before her on the platform. Tira passed illed villagers, elders, wounded, the crippled, and even a baby. She ran as fast as she could, unable to see through her tears.

She paused outside of the Saint house to regulate her breathing and to leave behind the flush in her cheeks.

When she entered, she was not surprised to find herself accompanied in the foyer. A tall elegant woman whose whole profile was pale, stood next to the doorway, her hair tied in a neat plait down her back, eyes seeming to sear anything they focused on. The cold gleam in those eyes identified her as Clyre Saint, her pursed lips and stern expression identifying her as Tira’s mother.

"I was wondering where you were," though Clyre’s voice was calm and quiet, it was edged with an iciness that pierced Tira’s flesh.

"I was walking," Tira tried to keep her voice level.

"Yes. Walking," Clyre noticed the torn bit of her daughter’s gown.

"I’m tired," Tira retreated past her mother and sneering siblings, wondering that if Welliam were still alive, would she be as blood thirsty and disturbed as her young brothers and sisters?

She breathed a sigh of relief when she closed the door behind her in her room. The first signs of trespass were ruby jewels atop her bureau and a white gown hanging out of the wardrobe. Tira threw these onto the floor before gathering up her most prized possessions into a suitcase. The case was hidden under the bed while she finally slumbered on large puffy pillows and comforters.

That night, she dreamed about the color red, though at this moment, it was a nightmare.

 

Tira awoke with a start to the chiming of bells, twelve dongs, signifying mid-day. Why was she still in bed at this hour, especially since sundown came early on this day? On any day, Clyre would have turned out the sheets with Tira still in them for a rude awakening. Why was Tira not already in a tangle on the cold stone floor? She was still rubbing at the indent in her cheek from her pillow, when she felt the uncomfortable sensation that someone was watching her.

Clyre Saint stood at the foot of the bed, disgusted as her daughter startled. She stood over a torn apart suitcase, its articles torn and trashed as well. The white dress that would proudly show stains after today was hung back up, the rubies sitting on their previous perch.

"Mother?" Tira struggled out of bed, cringing at her possessions.

Clyre rose her thin brows in silent mockery of Tira’s weak voice but did not comment as she left the room.

Tira repeated the process of last night, repackaging her belongings while standing on the dress. Summer was impatient this day. The shadows grew long as the sun started drifting west. She dropped her treasures out the window and into the hedges below. The bushes looked soft and puffy in their greenness. Tira didn’t bother dressing herself.

One thought made her hesitate. Would Hem be waiting for her in the brick building, or on the platform? Tira dropped off of the windowsill and felt the alarming thrill of falling. It didn’t last as sharp pains shot up into her body from the bushes. Those bushes were a lie, looking soft on the outside while they hid the pricks and thorns. ‘Much like the people of Kessler,’ thought Tira. Bearing smiles on this day, The Eve of Summer, that an enthusiastic child might bear at a party. Hidden by the smile, a sinister beast twisted inside.

Every sound made Tira come to the conclusion of pursuers. The wind rustling the ripe leaves, the distant caw of a crow, the buzz of a bee, and the noisy daily activity of Kessler. She walked in a dazed and cautious trance, jumping when the one o’clock bells tolled. Tira realized that she was already making her way towards the back alleys. She hid and weaved through debris when anyone came near. Hope and dread at what she’d find both fought a battle in her chest as she poked her head through the crumbling hole.

Darkness swallowed up the light that came in, making it impossible to see anything. ‘What if there’s nothing to see?’ a voice nagged at the back of her head that she pushed away.

"Hem?" her voice sounded pathetic to her own ears. No response. Hem was not there. Tira bit back the taste of hopeless ness as the two o’clock bells rang out, distant from where Tira slumped over. Time was running out. She had to find Hem and get to the Black Hills. But Hem could be anywhere. Tira crawled out of the revealing light that came through the hole, and into the protection of darkness. Darkness was the only thing that the building could offer. She could not move. Hem was always eager to do the right thing, or what he thought was right. Apparently he thought that the thing that would scar her forever was the right thing to do. Summer deserved nothing in Tira’s opinion. Not if She charged a life and Tira’s soul.

Footsteps shuffled outside, urgency in the steps. Probably just a villager making their way to the Red Hills. Nevertheless, instinct told Tira to hide farther into the darkness.

A head with sandy hair peered inside; the green eyes all the more startling with shadows falling across his face. He looked all around, not seeing his friend. A defeated expression flashed across his face. However, it changed to fright then surprise as Tira leapt at him from her hiding and smothered him with hugs.

"I thought you wouldn’t come," both said at the same time.

Tira shook off her smile and regained her serious composure.

"We have to go, quickly. The light dies early." The sun was falling towards the horizon now, seeming to challenge Tira with its gaining displacement.

They wove through the twisting roads with surprising speed, Tira jogging alongside a limping Hem, heart thumping, and thoughts of ‘what if?’ The thought of death gave them a rushing urgency to run away, rats scampering away from fire.

But their fast pace seemed too slow to Tira, with panic rising inside of her. They were nearing the outskirts of Kessler, passing barns and farmlands, keeping the platform in sight. Hiding did not matter anymore, just running, two figures stood apart from the procession, standing near Tira’s desired destination.

Panic bloomed into fear but it motivated her. The land had drastically steepened and Tira was now dragging an exhausted and half conscious Hem to keep them moving. The two figures neared, dressed in black uniforms. Saint guards.

Caves were in sight, three that Tira could choose from. She pulled herself and Hem into the one farthest from the guards. Stalactites and stalagmites framed the opening, offering protection but making Tira feel as if she were walking into the mouth of a giant beast. She fell next to Hem behind a large crystal, her heart beating out of tune with the four dongs after noon. The sun was inching down, timing each second of the frantic search for the eldest Saint. The villagers would be tense and fearful, the expression on Clyre’s face matching.

Hem gasped for air next to Tira, tense and fearful for himself and her, but mostly for Tira. The only thing he saw himself useful for was an item that could be beat when anger overcame a victim. He would be reunited with his parents if he were found. It was a comforting thought despite the currant situation. But he would not leave Tira. The thought that she needed him had fueled his low self-esteem.

The guards entered the cave, more than two of them now. Tira trembled next to him, though he dared not move for fear of revelation.

Tira let a small gasp escape her throat and her eyes grew wide as she looked in front of herself. Her pack of belongings lay feet in front of the hiding spot, exposed and bright in the darkness. The guards had seen it as well.

"There she is!" a guard rushed at her. Hem leapt up as fast as he could, but was roughly shoved aside. His head hit a large and sharp stalactite. He seemed to fall in slow motion, hitting the ground with a sickening thud. He lay motionless. The guards moved in on Tira, though she was pushing them off to get to Hem.

"Hem! No! Hem!" The guards were dragging her down the hills, telling each other that the young man was dead. Tira sobbed and continued to struggle, though knowing that it was hopeless.

Coming upon the platform, she could see their faces. They stared at her with anger and fear as the sun barely peeked above the land.

One figure stood out from the rest, standing at the center of the platform. An old man crouched on trembling legs, his face serene despite his tremors. Clyre Saint stood over him; a blade held in her outstretched hands and fear written over her face as the sun disappeared.

 

Summer’s wrath was quick and deadly. Her hot winds carried fast and swift from the southern deserts, still carrying the contagion from the deceased ruins as well as dust storms. Kessler was a speck of dirt on Her clean slate and could easily be wiped away if She permitted. That was all She wanted to do. Those ungrateful servants had refused to serve; they would be overwhelmed by Her vengeance. One life would not please Her now. The late bloodshed was nothing, meant nothing.

The structures and lands were cleared away of civilization, quickly. The people suffered greatly in the time it took for Summer to accomplish this. The dust clung to the air, heavy and thick, promising to remain there through the suffrage and beyond that.


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