The First Quest – A Last Request Part 2
Part 2 of (Re)Quest – Quest re-imagined …
(Picks up where The First Quest – A Last Request Part 1 left off.)
~ ~ ~
Whispered last requests
muffled by burial wraps
echoes fading fast…
Light pooled on the floor, never shifting, despite the setting sun thanks to the plum-sized lumir globe glowing in its cage overhead. Inside the bedroom, his daughter and daughters-in-law washed their deceased mother. Water sloshed as they worked, dripping, always dripping and its pitter-pat tempo marked the time.
Henneth shifted in his chair in preparation to rise, make good on his promise. The walking stick maintained its eyeless stare. Since Seprah’s last whispered words urging him to go out into the world, he and that slender piece of wood had a connection. Seprah–his wife of…huh…how many decades had it been? Henneth rubbed the bridge of his nose and the number materialized on cue–four. They’d been wed for four decades.
Death broke their union,
stole his wife and his life
left him a lost soul.
The door cracked open, his daughter Serray’s eyes peered out to check for the presence of nieces, nephews and her own children, but all the grandkids were elsewhere. Someone else watched them as the shell left by their grandmother’s death clung to existence for a few more hours. Soon it would be as gone as her soul. Her disease ravaged corpse would be given to the forest to decompose.
Henneth started to rise as the door opened all the way and Serray stepped out holding a half empty basin. Shaking her head, she pushed the door closed behind her and heaved her burden to the window. Once there, she checked to make sure no one walked below and tipped the basin’s contents out into the crisp afternoon air. A few moments later, the water splattered on the ground one hundred feet below Henneth’s tree supported dwelling.
Serray patted him on the shoulder and then returned to the master bedroom, closing the door and shutting him out. Henneth settled himself back into his chair and resumed his staring match with an inanimate object.
“The world awaits you,
leave the empty rooms behind
let your heart lead you.”
Said a voice that belonged to a woman dead these last few hours. Footsteps stopped him from answering that disembodied voice–one he’d hallucinated. Grief did that, didn’t it? Henneth gripped the arm rests of the chair. Its wood was pitted from continuous use, its polished shine worn away just like him. Turning in his chair, he watched as Colrith’s dark head popped through the trap door.
Colrith’s eyes dismissed his father as he climbed the rest of the way up the ladder and thumped his booted foot on the plank floor. Bending, he plucked the rope secured to his belt and unknotted it. Hand over hand, he pulled up a bundle.
In his middle thirties, Cole, was starting to thicken around the middle. He had his mum’s knife blade nose which looked out of place on his rounded features. After tossing the bundle into one of the spare rooms, Colerith returned to the trap door in time to manhandle his younger brother, Branneth. Drunk and drooling, the red-faced Branneth must have imbibed an impressive amount of wine if Henneth could smell it on him from across the room.
Neither son gave Henneth so much as a nod. Why should they? He was just their father, used from years of his wife’s slow wasting. Draleth climbed up next and together, he and Colerith half-dragged, half-carried Branneth into the same room his rolled up belongings had been tossed minutes earlier. The duo returned to the trap door in time to pull up another bundle. Not clothes this time, but something both larger and heavier. Backing up, arms loaded with an unconscious man, the two brothers hauled the body to another room and deposited it there.
A flash of face followed by an eyeful of at scuffed boots, the same kind everyone here wore, didn’t help with identification. Probably a nephew, since the fellow looked too old to be a grandkid. Could be a neighbor, not that it mattered. Seprah was his home and she had gone where the dead go, a place he couldn’t follow yet. Not when health clung to his bones with annoying tenacity.
“Don’t use the good linen,” Colerith’s hatchet-faced wife cried out from inside the master bedroom. Daleth’s and Branneth’s wives seconded her. Serray argued on her mother’s behalf but her words were muffled by the door that shut her in with them.
The walking stick’s glare increased. Seprah’s voice floated in on the wind urging him to go.
“I’m a bird flying–
winging forever away–
don’t follow me, live.”
Maybe it wasn’t her speaking. Maybe it was the walking stick. Maybe it was grief making him hear things that weren’t said. The walking stick wasn’t watching him, daring him to pick it up. Inanimate objects didn’t do that, not even in Shayari where all manner of weird was commonplace.
Sudden movement caught his eye and he turned his head; his son-in-law had one arm looped over a barrel as he negotiated the last step of the ladder. The barrel didn’t slosh when he set it down. It was empty but it didn’t stay that way for long.
Seeing no one about, no one who mattered anyway, Gozev rolled up the rug Seprah and Serray had knotted one winter and crammed it into the barrel. After a quick survey, he added a few other items, his back blocking sight of them disappearing into the barrel. Then he fitted the lid on, tied a rope around the barrel’s belly and lowered it back down before Colerith or Daleth reappeared. One or two of his sons must have been watching the line. Not even a nod had been tendered in Henneth’s direction during the whole operation.
Serray exited the master bedroom before Henneth could utter a word. Gozev caught his teary-eyed wife and managed to swipe her mother’s necklace from the sideboard where it had rested, waiting for the clasp to be fixed. Somehow he’d missed it in his initial sweep of the room. No one else saw his quick hands slip the necklace into the pocket on his wife’s skirt. No except Henneth who didn’t matter anymore. Seprah had held the family together and her death had started to unravel it.
Serray had given her mother that necklace last winter. What was Gozev up to? Gozev caught Henneth’s eye and in that moment, Hen understood. Gozev was making sure his distraught wife ended up with the few possessions of her mother’s, those that had the most meaning.
Seprah’s voice floated in on a breeze repeating her last request. That walking stick stared at him again. He ignored it, but not the whispers. Maybe he would go, but after…he’d see Seprah laid to rest properly first.
Whispers urge to go
Invisible he sat there.
Walking stick ready–
last words echo in silence–
that last journey awaits him..
~ ~ ~
(Re)Quest continues next Thursday…
~ ~ ~
(Re) Quest – 1) a re-imagining of Quest with more of everything you love–action, drama, adventure, character moments, etc… 2) a recasting to add prose portions to the original parts of Quest, which were written strictly in sonnets so I can add all the cool stuff they passed and did that I couldn’t show in sonnets. 3) a chance to catch up on any parts of Quest you might have missed.