What! Two blogs in one day! Has she gone nuts?
In a word, no.
What I have is an old short story I'd like to share with you guys, but I didn't want to clog one post with a long ramble and a 3k word story. So I decided to split it up.
This short is unsellable because it contains a tale written by someone else.
Waa? Am I plagiarizing? Hell no! This is a strange piece of fan fiction I wrote many, many moons ago. When I came across it the other day, and realized what it was, it put a smile on my face. I thought I would drag it out, polish it a bit and share it with you good folks.
This tale is an interpretation of a Bob Dylan song called Isis. I tried to work most of the lyrics into the story, without over saturating it. Before the story, I include a link of someone covering the song. (I wished I knew who it was, 'cause he does an awesome job!) I highly suggest listening to the song before you read the story, or after. Point being, listen and read.
The beauty of the work comes together when you are able to enjoy both.
Speaking of which, enjoy both! (and tell me what you think if you can...)
I stared in silence as the barber swept my hair into the dustpan. There was so much of it on the floor I wasn’t sure I had any on my head at all. A quick grope over my skull told me different, my fingers ruffled through about a few scant inches still left out of the good foot or so he cut away. The barber emptied the pan into a bin and return to finish his sweeping. Back and forth he moved the broom, it was mesmerizing. It took my mind back to the day I first married her. How she used to sweep the front porch. A quick snap of the broom from the left and right while she pretended to be domestic. I knew then that I would not hold on to her very long. Was it the first of May? No, it was the fifth day of May that I married Isis. It was raining. She had never looked more beautiful, and I would never forget.
I paid the man for his work and returned to my over burdened horse. The nag had a hard time struggling with my life’s belongings, but I refused to leave anything behind. I had no intention of returning, at least not for a long while. I swung an eager leg over her back and eased into the saddle. With no destination in mind we rode off. I would be happy anywhere besides here, any place that she wasn’t. I left my hometown of Ophir and headed for any wild unknown country where I could not go wrong.
It was the first time I had been out in the countryside, and the first time I had been on my own. My nag and I rode during the sunlight hours and slept in the open night. Eventually, the need for supplies and civilized duties pressed us to look for shelter. I found a small town on a large plateau just outside of Cache County and coaxed the mare up the hill. The evening sun cast a shadow from the west to the east, dividing the town down the center. I could barely see the outline of figures moving in the darkened doorways. Whispers and the occasional call came from the creeping shadows as I steered clear of uncertain invitations. I dismounted my pony and hitched her to a post on the right, outside of a large laundry service where I went in to wash my clothes down.
As I swung past the doors and found the place abandoned. I called out for an attendant but to no avail. Whether they had forgotten to lock up or just ignoring me, I couldn’t tell.
“Hey, you got a light?” I heard a man call out behind me.
I turned around and found a well-dressed man sitting alone on a bench. His teeth gleamed in the dark, and his eyes all but glowed with untold mischief. I knew right away he was no ordinary man.
A huge cigar hung lazy from his lips as he posed the question again. “I asked if you had a match?” He stood and approached me, slowly.
I struggled for words. “Ummm, no, I don’t smoke.” I smiled at him.
He pulled a pack of matches from his coat and struck one. Drawing a deep breath to light the butt, he paused to cough into a handkerchief and gave me a wry smile in return.
“What are you here for?” he asked.
“Nothing,” I answered. “I am just passing through.”
“Nonsense! We are all here for something boy, so what are you here for?”
“Honest mister. I am just out riding the range. I have no home, and no goal.”
He wrapped a large hand around my shoulder and walked me out to my mare, looking her over one time before he turned those penetrating eyes back at me.
“Are you looking for something easy to catch?” he asked
“Sir I don’t have any money.” I backed away with my hands before me. I had heard of his kind; swindlers and grifters out to grab your last dollar with their get rich quick schemes. I would have no part.
His grin widened as his cigar burned brighter, winking at me in the falling dark. “That ain't necessary my friend, that ain't necessary.”
The air was thick with smoke, burning my already watering eyes. The scent wasn’t necessarily offensive, more along the lines of cloying and somewhat sweet, much like the incense of a Sunday Mass. Between his soothing voice, his gripping gaze and that intoxicating cigar, I was entranced. Nothing more than a mouse caught in the grip of a cobra preparing to strike. And strike he did! He asked if we had a deal, yet I don’t remember the explanation of what we were going to do. I agreed. I had no idea what I agreed to, but I agreed.
He didn’t bother to tell me his name.
I never thought to ask.
We set out that night for the cold in the north. He had nothing more that a steed in an even more pitiful shape than my mare, packed with a few meager items; some picks, some axes, and a few shovels. He didn’t even have a bedroll. The only personal items he brought along were the burning red tip of his cigar accompanied by the occasional cough muffled by his handkerchief.
After a bit of riding, we stopped near an outcrop of trees to bed for the remainder of the night. Our campfire lessened the cool air but I still took pity on his lack of preparedness and offered him one of my blankets. He took it and thanked me kindly.
“I swear to you,” he said, “when this is over you will be able to buy all the blankets you will ever need! You have my word on that.” He coughed again into his hanky and I noticed for the first time a few drops of blood shadowed against the white fabric. He met my concerned stare and he quickly folded the hanky up and put it away.
“So, where are we going?” I asked.
“We will be back by the fourth,” he answered.
“Back from where?”
He sat silent in the dark, either ignoring me or wondering how to answer that.
I tried my question from a different angle. “Back to where?”
“Ophir,” he said with a smirk.
My mouth fell open in surprise. He was from my hometown? But Ophir was so small. How had I grown up there and never met him?
“When I have what I am after,” he said, “will return to Ophir by the fourth of May.”
For lack of anything better to add, I said, “That’s the best news that I’ve ever heard.” For lack of anything better to do, I rolled over in my blanket and fell fast asleep.
That night I dreamed of such wonders. I was digging in the earth and came across an empty chest. Empty, that was, until I thought of fantastic things. The moment my mind created an image, the chest would produce it. I suppose I could’ve thought of a way to keep Isis with me, but instead I thought about turquoise and gold. I wanted to return to Ophir a rich man, rich enough for her to beg me to take her back. I was thinking about diamonds when I spied the world’s biggest necklace! I just began to reach for it when I was awoken suddenly by that horrid cough.
And I began to hate the grating sound of it.
That morning, we picked up the pace and headed further and further north. We rode through the canyons, through the devilish cold, and as the temperature dropped I changed into some warmer clothes. My friend still wore the same dapper outfit, never complaining about the weather, yet I was sure he would freeze to death. As the days wore on he grew pale and thin, coughed more and more always into the same, handkerchief, now pink with his own blood.
The landscape was desolate. I fell into a trance at the sound of the clapping of hoofs on cold rock and stone. My mind wandered, and I began to think about Isis and how she called me reckless! How could she call me that when it was I who found her wrapped up in the arms of another man? We argued, and toward the end I was prepared to forgive her … until she confessed it wasn’t the first time, nor would it be the last.
She tried to explain that her spirit was free and wild, how I couldn’t have her today, but how that one-day we would meet up again. She actually said things would be different the next time we wed. Like I would just sit and wait for her to run from man to man, making me the mockery of the whole town. She asked me to hang on and just be her friend, for now, and something else I don’t recall because I stopped listening after that. I rocked back and forth in the saddle, straining to grasp the words she threw at my back as I left her and our home far behind me. I still can’t remember the best things she said.
The stranger and I rode for several more days, through the snow and ice. I began to doubt my new friend’s plan when we crested a range that brought us face to face with a genuine pyramid embedded in the ice. Yes, I know how it sounds, but I swear it’s true! My partner leapt off of his steed and snatched the picks from his packs. I dismounted my mare and questioned our intentions here. Silently, he pointed to the frozen structure. We stood for a minute staring at it when he finally said the words that chilled me worse that the cutting winds.
“There’s a body I’m trying to find.”
He coughed hoarsely into his tissue again. His voice had grown ragged and raw the past few days, and his frame thin beyond belief. The stranger turned his gaunt face to me and attempted another smile. It was little more than the placid grin on a bare skull.
“If I carry it out, it will bring a good price,” he added.
The twinkle returned to his eyes, and it was then that I knew what he had on his mind. I wasn’t sure I could go through with it. Yet, through the howling wind I nodded, agreeing to his insane plan.
The snow was wild and winds were outrageous, nearly blinding us at times. We started to chop at the ice with our picks, which turned out to be hard work indeed. We chopped through the night and we chopped through the dawn, until my friend said he needed a rest.
Together we huddled against a single, barren tree, clutching at one another for warmth. I began to fall asleep when my partner shook me awake, warning me against the dangers of resting too long in the freezing cold. I thanked him and got up to work again, leaving him to rest a bit longer. It only took a few more minutes of work when the ice gave way into large enough hole to enter. I was pleased and excited. I returned to inform my friend of our impending entry and success.
Instead, I found him dead.
He succumbed to his illness, with that accursed smile still plastered on his face and a burning cigar hanging from his blue lips. A trickle of blood slipped free from the corner of his mouth, and froze almost at once. As sorrowful as I was of his passing, it dawned upon me that I had no idea what was wrong with him, and hoped to God that it wasn’t contagious. I didn’t pause long to mourn him, deciding that I had to go on. He would’ve wanted me to go on. Riches awaited us still, and I would spend his share in his memory.
I lowered myself down the hole and lit a lamp with trembling hands. Before me lay a casket, and nothing more. So this was what the man was after. I could only imagine what was inside. A body, he had said. Perhaps it was a mummy wrapped in jewels. Or perhaps it was the body itself? Yes, any museum would pay a hefty fee for a perfectly preserved specimen. I plotted my future with Isis as I worked the heavy stone lid back and forth. With a loud creak in the dark it finally moved away and fell to one side.
The casket was empty!
No, not entirely empty. It was an opening of sorts. But instead of another tomb beneath filled with riches, there lay a dark and foreboding pit. I lowered my lamp as far as I could, and saw nothing of value. The more I looked, the more I grew enraged. There were no jewels, no nothing. I felt I’d been had. I had spent the past few weeks trekking up to this forsaken place, my fingers cracked and bleeding from frostbite and digging, only to find nothing?
I eyed the tomb closer and traced a path in the dust and grime across the floor. There, on the opposite side from where we broke in, was a man-sized hole punched out of the wall, an old entrance now frozen over with a thick layer of ice and snow. Someone had not only beaten us to this spot, but they had done it ages ago, probably even before my partner had even heard of the pyramid. My mind spun. How could I have been so naïve? I raced back out to give him a piece of my mind.
It was only when I reached his now frozen corpse that I remembered he had passed on. I saw the smile on his face and it dawned on me that I was the only one to blame. He was just being friendly, and had never asked anything of me but my help. He never forced me along and was always a perfect traveling companion, save for that wretched cough. His words echoed in my head, offering me something easy to catch. Easy, and free, just like my Isis. When I took up his offer, I must have been mad.
I tied the horses together and was about leave when I looked back to his body slumped against the dead tree. He deserved more than that, even if he was insane. I hefted him up on one shoulder carried him to the pyramid. There I dragged him inside and rolled him up to the casket. I threw his body down into the hole and watched as he bounced from rock to rock, fading into the inky blackness. With a grunt, I replaced the casket lid, and sat in the darkness of the empty pyramid wondering what to do next. What was one supposed to say at these times? I wasn’t sure, so I said a quick prayer, and I felt satisfied.
On my way out of the hole, I came to a decision. If Isis wanted to be free, then she could have her freedom. I still wanted her, now more than ever, but I wouldn’t cage the bird of her spirit. I decided to ride back to find Isis, just to tell her I loved her. If she couldn’t love me in return, than so be it, but I had to settle this once and for all.
The return trip seemed much faster when split between the two horses, and I approached Ophir somewhere at the beginning of May. That’s when I saw her again. She was there, in the meadow, where the creek used to rise. She would often spend the night sleeping out in the open, something I balked at but now understood, having spent many a wonderful night under the stars myself.
Isis had a sleepy look about her, and rubbed at her eyes when she saw me approaching. I came in from the east, shielding my eyes from the setting sun. Immediately all the things she did and said came flooding back and I grew furious in an instant. She drew near my horses and stood in my path, staring slack jawed and wide eyed.
“Out of my way,” I said. She stepped aside without argument, so I passed her and rode on ahead.
“Where you been?” she asked.
All at once, my anger was tempered by her sweet voice.
“No place special,” I answered. I stopped my horses and turned in the saddle to face her. I must’ve looked like a stranger after all this time. My body was strengthened by the arduous journey and hard work. What she didn’t know was that I had also changed on the inside.
“You look different,” she said.
I melted to her angelic tones. How could I remain angry with the only woman I have ever loved? “Well I guess.”
“You been gone.” Her voice had a touch of something I had never heard before; genuine interest.
“That’s only natural,” I answered as I dismounted from my mare and tethered both of the horses to a nearby tree.
She came to me and brought her face right up to mine, her sweet breath hot on my lips, her eyes staring past me into my very soul.
“You gonna stay?” she asked.
I swallowed my pride and grew with the lessons I had learned on the open road.
“If you want me too, yes,” I answered and wrapped my arms around her supple frame. I swept her face to mine and embraced her in a passionate kiss that seemed to last the rest of our lives.
Isis had always been a mystical child and her second sight turned out to be right. Things were different the next time we wed. I had learned to let her be herself, and she learned to love only me. I once thought I was mad for following a stranger to the ends of the earth, but now I know the truth of things. What drives me to her is what drives me insane. I still can remember how beautiful she was both times we wed, and how she smiled on that fifth day of May, in the drizzling rain.