Footprints – Part II

by Gaston Prereth

“Go on, throw something.” said a chubby boy with an abundance of freckles. Charlotte shook her head, trying to ignore the oozing disdain in the young boy’s voice. “Go on, you scared or something?”

“I’m not scared.” Said Charlotte looking down at the rocky ground as if making an attempt to find a suitable object to throw at the freak’s house. “It’s just silly. I don’t see the point.”

“You’re just scared that if you throw something the freak will come out and get you.”

“You throw something then, if you’re so brave.”

“I’ve done it lots of times, I don’t need to do it again.” replied the chubby boy quickly, glancing around at the other kids lurking a few paces back. Charlotte looked back at them too. None of them seemed willing to question Ricky. That would be too risky. If any of them decided to point out that, despite Ricky’s elaborate stories, no one had ever seen him throw anything at the freak’s house, then he might well turn on them too.

It wasn’t that Ricky was the strongest or the smartest of the village kids. He wasn’t quick witted, attractive, or had anything resembling charisma. Yet, he could manipulate nearly all of the other children into doing whatever he wanted. Somehow, he managed to make them feel guilty or ashamed. With a few words he could make them feel alone and that the only path to making people like them again was to do what he wanted.

It had been his idea to come out here in the first place. Often the children would play in the half kilometre of rocky ground that lay between the village and the fields that hugged two thirds of the edge of the dome, but rarely did they venture this close to the strange tall sticks that waved so creepily in the wind. Being this close to the freak’s house was unheard of, if you discounted Ricky’s ridiculous stories.

Charlotte felt something small and round being pushed into her hand. Ricky was grinning. She looked at the stone with blank eyes. It was slightly smaller than her palm and nestled in her fingers like it had been moulded specially for her hand.

“Go on, throw it. Bet you can’t hit that window.” Behind her, Charlotte could feel the other children watching. Their eyes stabbing into her back with the malice of relief. In the distance she could hear the regular thunk of one of the heavy duty farming machines. Everything else was silent.

The soft whine of a bee formed a pillow in the air around Frederick. The muscles in his neck relaxed and the tension from his back and shoulders seeped out into the warm air like bubbles escaping from a stagnant pool. He caught sight of the flying insect as it circumvented the bench where he sat and looped lazily towards the lone peach tree that grew in the centre of the cloister. Frederick’s eyes followed the black speck for as long as they could, till the small shape was lost in the confusion of the background and the hum of its wings died away to a whisper on the wind.

This lone stone bench, cut crudely out of the bedrock and placed with casual regard to one side of the enclosed grass square, was one of the few places where he felt truly at peace. The Deacon had often maligned him for spending so much of his time out amongst the biological, rather than in his cell or the chapel where he could properly thank God for the gifts that he had bestowed, but Frederick found himself drawn to the cloister, drawn to the solitary bench cupped by the fleeting hands of nature.

Frederick shuffled his legs on the stone, working some of the circulation back into his slender thighs, a faint grimace crossing his lips as the rough material of his habit chafed against his skin. It wasn’t that he had doubts. How could one have doubts when the hand of God was visible all around them? But there something about the grass, the peach tree, and the small collection of yellow flowers that blossomed every year in the east corner. Something that kept drawing him back. He felt more of a connection with the annual yellow trumpets than he did with anything else. He felt more at home here than anywhere else in the monastery.

The drone of the bee came cruising back towards him, buzzing with a furious anger as if it had sensed Frederick’s wandering thoughts. It’s flight path was less looping now, filled with steeper more staggered drops than before. It lumbered up to Frederick, it’s hum climbing an octave as it rose over the cliff of his shoulder. The young monk could see the large clumps of thick yellow pollen clinging to the bee’s tiny metallic legs and he automatically muttered a solemn thanks as the little insect disappeared behind him into one of the hundreds of tiny little tubes that led to the nest.

Frederick smoothed his habit over his legs. It would be time for prayer soon, and if he missed it again he would have to do penance with the help of one of the senior monks. His back still hadn’t fully healed from the last time he had been seen to be unfit for worship, and no amount of comfort in this place could appease the discomfort that being late for prayer would bring him.

He took one long lingering look around the cloister and then pushed himself to his feet. The frail branches of the peach tree pleaded with him to stay, but he turned his back on them and the grass covered square, and slumped off towards the chapel. It would be prayer eighteen out of the twenty four prayer cycle, ‘Blessed Lord protect us from ourselves’, maybe the words would do something to stop his confusion and put to rest his yearning for this peaceful spot.

Continued in Part III

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4 Responses to “Footprints – Part II”

  1. I am liking it so far. Can’t wait to see how it ends.

    Tim

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