Friday, June 17, 2011

The Bleeding Draighor

Afanasy was making his way to the kvas wagon with his bees, but the idea of arriving before dusk was ruined by the blood and the shallow breathing. The poor guy! Somebody was propped up against a larch tree, barely breathing, with blood on the front and some nearby like he had tried to spit it out but there wasn’t enough pep to get the spit more than a few inches away. Sad, obviously.

This guy was blending into the evening better than anyone Afanasy had known in the forest. The whole bodily form was like a charred ember from an old fire that you find, absorbing sunlight for some future use, and withdrawing into the shadows like some kind of Original Shadow.

Not that he knew a whole lot about healing, but he tried applying some honey and some bloodwort to the burns and the missing pieces of this guy. If only he had some kvas, or something stronger. He was just getting ready to do his special Alnus Rugosa call, wot sounded like a bunch of pea-hens rutting, when he saw something in the brush about a verst out. Not just something, really, since he saw the pewter eyes that weren’t eyes. Dmitri Shemyaka! What a miserable son of a peat bog. The same cretin that blinded the eyes of Ivan’s pa, Vasily. Now he hides out here in the woods, all palsy-walsy with Baba Yaga and her half-sister Baba Ghannoush. Those eyes of pewter, staring at the poor guy leaning against the larch tree, just waiting for the moment to administer the killing blow. What a jerk!

Afanasy grabbed a handful of sod and root-ball, which made a nice improvised whip. He gave it a couple whirls around his head, distilling the rich soil from within the root ball, and then let it fly toward the nasty pewter eyes. Those eyes couldn’t see anything pretty. They were made for fighting. The rootball hit him square between the eyes and knocked him flat. The bees got there first, then Afanasy. Dmitri was obviously expecting him, and blew some kind of bladder full of mustard fumes on Afanasy, which was perfectly terrible for someone trying to see things. There was nothing else after the mustard, except for a whole bunch of snow. The snow made everything worse, and before long Afanasy was just guessing what anything in front of his face even looked like. He could see exactly nothing but white.

White isn’t so bad, he reasoned. Everything is snow. Like I stuck my head in a snowbank. He could still hear everything OK, except everything he saw was white. White bear. White bees. Forget it, he couldn’t see. His eyes gave up for now.

But then he saw the Moon. Beautiful! The moon was all grey and serious against the white of the blindness he was absorbing. So the moon was kind of dark against the white of everything else white. A reverse moon. The moon was hanging there in the sky, the only shape Afanasy could make out against the blind white landscape. And the moon relaxed into a pearl shape. The world was a cool, dead, white world, and the dark moon was dropping into a perfect pearl shape, and the pearl shape was an earring on a perfect woman. The woman was some sort of classical temptress. Afanasy was lost in nostalgia and projection: the pearl shape of the moon had become an earring on a woman who was perfect.

When he got his vision back, this would be very hard to explain to anyone.