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A Silence of Three Parts

 

I T WAS NIGHT AGAIN. The Waystone Inn lay in silence, and it was a silence of three parts.

The most obvious part was a hollow, echoing quiet, made by things that were lacking. If there had been a steady rain it would have drummed against the roof, sluiced the eaves, and washed the silence slowly out to sea. If there had been lovers in the beds of the inn, they would have sighed and moaned and shamed the silence into being on its way. If there had been music ... but no, of course there was no music. In fact there were none of these things, and so the silence remained.

Outside the Waystone, the noise of distant revelry blew faintly through the trees. A strain of fiddle. Voices. Stomping boots and clapping hands. But the sound was slender as a thread, and a shift in the wind broke it, leaving only rustling leaves and something almost like the far-off shrieking of an owl. That faded too, leaving nothing but the second silence, waiting like an endless indrawn breath.

The third silence was not an easy thing to notice. If you listened for an hour, you might begin to feel it in the chill metal of a dozen locks turned tight to keep the night away. It lay in rough clay jugs of cider and the hollow taproom gaps where chairs and tables ought to be. It was in the mottling ache of bruises that bloomed across a body, and it was in the hands of the man who wore the bruises as he rose stiffly from his bed, teeth clenched against the pain.

The man had true-red hair, red as flame. His eyes were dark and distant, and he moved with the subtle certainty of a thief in the night. He made his way downstairs. There, behind the tightly shuttered windows, he lifted his hands like a dancer, shifted his weight, and slowly took one single perfect step.

The Waystone was his, just as the third silence was his. This was appropriate, as it was the greatest silence of the three, wrapping the others inside itself. It was deep and wide as autumnís ending. It was heavy as a great river-smooth stone. It was the patient, cut-flower sound of a man who is waiting to die.

 


Date: 2015-02-03; view: 1046


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