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Lantern

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In the center of a rotting field, planks of wood cling to one another with rust-hollowed nails and ancient habit. Their shape mimics that of an old cabin, but the imitation is skeletal, and shudders with each foggy breath of wind. Pale fingers of moonlight slip through the cabin’s ribs to stroke two faces. One leans over the other. Water churns behind her eyes and bubbles over in the form of cool clean tears. Tears that roll down dark lashes, only to fall and shatter across the hollow cheek below. Dust and cobwebs mix with mucus and tears and she must find a light, she must find a match. Amongst paper blankets and beds of straw she finds what is left to her. A match inside it’s box. Tiny fingers strike one against the other and the lit match kisses a lantern to life. Sudden warmth holds her and dries her eyes. This girl sits momentarily, caught by a rare sense of tranquility. With new light, a course is set. The girl steps away from her grave shelter and follows a gold path leading her way.

The sun above her head is aimless. Floating and falling in the sky, hiding behind blankets of clouds then bursting forth through rain to ask haughtily for more praise. The sun has too much praise. Her sun is a constant source. Her sun tears through night and clouds and pain, its warmth burns blood red, always shining bright.

Others turn to stare. They turn to watch her as she passes, following nothing, carrying nothing. But some saw, could see the darkness made visible by light, and the apathy that had made their world tolerable dripped from their heads, to their feet, to the ground. The grey, concrete ground in the grey concrete cities, filled with grey obsolete people. And in the midst of all the grey, they saw red.

The floating moon is weak. It copies light and throws it back, giving nothing but spit up, pale and useless. It waits for the stars to come out, afraid to look as small as it is, so it makes their spotlight its own, forever cursed to its own insecurity. Her moon made its own light, burned its own fuel, endlessly. It compared itself to no one. The girl paced, her pale face portrayed nothing. The people repeated what they wanted to and gained faith in their hope, security in their brutality. And where the light and her footsteps fell, so did everything else.

Everyone knew where the lantern led. Or thought they knew. Big men at the top of buildings saw the flickering lantern, and knew it and the thousands that followed were coming towards them and their sky high castles. They saw the girl holding the lantern, and dubbed her leader, and that was her own misfortune.

The big men sent out bigger men, droves of them, all following the one ahead . One by one by one by one each man brought his foot down hard on the plants and people beneath him. Grass and blood churned into mud, and the lantern led them forward. Bubble shields fought persistence back along with black sticks and bony knuckles. The girl walked through, to the center of the chaos. Just her and the lantern, no one could follow. The light pouring from her lantern hushed the cries of the dead and their killers. One man stepped forward and pointed.

Silence cracked in half, replaced with a scrape of metal against metal. It cut through air, glass, and the flickering flame she held in front of her, until it met flesh and paused: Her heart beat once, pushing it back immeasurably before metal dove into muscle.

The circle broke and the shields were thrown down and the Big men up in their buildings laughed because the people had no one to follow. But the girl lay down next to her lantern, and followed the trail of smoke winding up from its wick all the way to her home.




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