A Note From the Author
The following chapter is a special re-write of the original chapter four, which is entitled "The Promise Made." The original version of the chapter is written from the heroine's Point-of-View, while this re-write is written from the creature's Point-of-View. It was requested as a present by the editor-in-chief of this fantastical journey of mine, M.L.O. And what could I do, but comply?
February 24, 2010
"The Hallowed Tradition"
"Nara" (E.S. Posthumus)
"Gravity" (Sara Bareilles)
He feels her.
He feels her.
He feels her.
His damp feet trudge through the sand of the beach, leaving long furrows behind him. His heart is pounding, pounding, heavy with gravity, and a chain is yanking him towards her. He feels her all over his body, his head - his eye, his nose, his lips, his cheeks, his tongue, his breath – his breath - she is holding him down on the ground. Is bringing him back to her.
He holds out as long as he can, watches her when he can, eyes her and saves her and cannot help but to break to the connection that shackles him to her. It never takes too long.
Inside, though his hands twine and finger the illusory chain that fetters to him to her, he does not want to be free.
He is shaking when he reaches her cabin; land is not his foe, neither is it his ally. His limbs are unused to the strange solid world that she lives in, and it tires him. The door opens for him, and in the pitch of night he comes to her, to her sleeping form and kneels on her bed. She looks so simple there, fragile and human, with her face pressing against the pillow. And yet, and yet she has so much power over him.
He turns his face up to his own tears and the dark wood ceiling of her home, a breath rattling in his chest that shakes about his lips before leaving. He can feel with a strange finality that this is forever. This bond, parallel, relationship, dependence – no, interdependence, will never end. But why? Why this small, pale creature with the doe eyes and blood like a storm?
He shakes his head, dries his emotions with the damp cloth of his will as he reaches for her. Excitement shoots through him when she wakes, but then she resists, and he subdues her as gently as he can, the pressure between their bodies resolving his will even more. "Quiet." He tells her, an order, an attempt to circumvent the hold she has over him, his voice harder and darker than he intends.
Recognition stops her and he lets her up, faces her, takes in another deep breath, this one silent. "You did not come." He says, and when she questions him, he answers by praxis, urging the word, "Always," upon her.
They speak with the human words that she values, that her kind values, and he comes to recognize the tension between them as so much more, with wide open eyes.
It is salvation. His salvation. Hers.
In the end.
His eye grows fierce as the conversation heats and they touch. The rough restlessness of her movements when she jerks away from him, the rigidity of her limbs when she backs against the wall. The obsession that shifts in and out of their fight grows in him.
He has her cornered, tight and nervous on the wall, her hands splayed as her fingers dig into the wood. Pulling his head back and striking his chin up, he looks down on her. "Not a what?" He asks her, forces her, picking at her uneasiness. At the barriers she has erected between them.
"Human." She whispers, not looking at him.
His nostrils widen with one huge, swept-in breath; his features darken to storm clouds on the horizon and he is a swelling wave that crashes against her, an eruption that pulls her close and keeps her there. Her head falls back and he savors the scent of her skin before their faces are parallel.
The kiss that follows is not soft, nor is it sweet – but sensual as he tastes her and drowns himself in her. Her mouth is the flesh of the fish he craves and the first triumphant, windswept breath he takes when he breaks the surface. The bite of her teeth against his lips and the pull she exudes unknowingly, always unknowingly, that grates against him until he surrenders himself.
He softens his hands, long fingered and scaly-skinned, ghosting them over her shoulders and arms and body. Opening his eye, he sees that hers are still closed – stark black lines against her cheeks – and as he watches they flutter upward until her eyes connect with his.
The advance of fear and anger for the confrontation she feels also bubbles in him. "No!" She yells at them, taking no comfort in the distance between them now that she is pushing him away. "No!"
And he replies, "Always!" It is his favorite word now and in his mind a second word silently echoes over and over in the disjointed thought that belongs to his people. 'Mine mine MINE mine Mine. Always Mine.' The thought will not stop now.
"No!" She screams again, the pain in her voice strikes a blow at him that no thing nor man may ever heal.
"Always! This will never end!" Only she can restore him, heal that blow, bring him together from the shattered pieces of his society, keep him from decaying into the deepest trenches and depths.
It is like their movements are a tempo, sharp, hard, forceful that will allow neither one of them to retreat. His eye flits over her, moving every second, in time to it. Pushing, shoving, clutching, Nails, hands, and scales. Grasping, clinging, stumbling. Wrenching apart, hanging on, still resisting.
He forces her close to him, his nails dig into her arms and she is pressed against him, bowing like a tree branch to look up, but still she stays her ground in her eyes. Letting go, he feels cold in the moment of separation and then takes her head between his palms.
They are panting, swallowing, and his skin is burning and itching with the need for water. It pains him like the strike of one hundred harpoons, but he does not let her know that. Their foreheads converge, the skin sticking together from her sweat and his effort, and he revels.
"It will never end. Never. I give you my sight so that I might watch you. So that you can never leave, so that you must always come to me and I to you. We are always to meet, so that we may part. This is promise you."
It is the hallowed engagement that his ancestors have made for millennia, that was first mouthed, breathed, conceived, when the seas were frigid cold and ice covered the land, and neither sea serpents nor humans were so evolved.
She cannot see the divinity in the words. He will make her learn.
Parting is a visceral pain, and he almost cannot make himself begin, but his steps eventually lead him to back away from her. His skin cries out for water and for her touch with equal need, but his passion strains toward her. He swallows again, to wet his throat. "It is not so bad. Think on it. Accept it. Come to me."
The bowing of her head allows him cover to disappear and he scrambles back over the land, through the sand, gasping. He has no control anymore, he needs the water so badly. At the first splash of the sea against his calves he stumbles and falls to his knees.
On his back he sinks to the bottom, with only a foot or two of water above him, his eye still penetrates to the tar black sky, his lungs inhaling the drink in great gulps. The waves carry his still body farther out to sea, a long, heavy stretch to the surface above him.
The change falls over him, his limbs meld together, his body lengthens, his eye grows blacker, and still he thinks of her.
She is not his now. But she will be.
Another Brief Note, Again From the Author
It seems to me that author's always take some small chance to talk about their inspirations, their processes, and their general thoughts along the road they travel when they write a specific story. They also take one special page to dedicate their work to a person or persons, and to give out acknowledgements. Let me do this here.
My first and foremost inspiration for this story was the music. As you've probably already noted, each piece is based off of a selection from Vivaldi's "Four Seasons," and I believe that it is fundamental to listen to this music while reading. I cannot stress enough how the music helped me to feel the words of this tale in the soft marrow and stringy muscles of my hands. Without the music, this story would not exist.
When I listened to this music and wrote at the same time, it was like I could see each chapter unfold in my head, not in pictures or people, but in colors and swirls and notes. It was almost as if the music was making itself visible in my head, and puts me in mind of the first "Fantasia" movie – the one with the dancing hippos.
With all my heart, I hope that you too can see this in your head. Not while you are reading, no, because that would distract you. Rather, I hope that you see this happening in your head afterward, when you are sitting and thinking, and the music swirls up like the last remnants of a meal in your mouth.
Also, I feel the need to comment on the very last chapter, the re-written version of chapter four that is included at the very end. In it, I desperately want to convey to my readers, to you, that there is an entire society of sea serpents that have not yet touched the human world, that are still somewhat primeval and barbaric, but with a beautiful undercurrent that is full of emotion.
I want it to be felt that there is a romantic tradition within that culture, an example of which would be the oath that the creature whispers in chapter four (both versions, although it is noted as a traditional oath only in "The Hallowed Tradition"). I want it to be seen that this is a complicated, delicate society that does not function in exactly the same way as the human world. Most of all, I want to make my readers think about the creature and his people, and formulate their own versions of them. Each thought about them that enters your minds creates them just a little bit more.
Lastly, we come to the fun part. Acknowledgement goes to F.P. for helping me with the chapter four re-write, and to Mrs. M.T. just for wanting to read my work.
I want to dedicate this story to my beta-reader/editor extraordinaire, M.L.O. In addition, this goes out to my family – my mother, my brother, and my father who looks over me from above. It is well known that this has been a difficult year for me, and I could not have done it without any of you.