I am going to post one more snippet from the urban fantasy story I am working on. Previous snippets available here and here. Over the next few weeks I need to focus on my upcoming exhibition in April, so it will likely be some time before I post some more from the story. I am jumping out of sequence with this sample from my story “Sideways” but even if some of the details don’t make sense out of context I think the main points are still clear enough 🙂
The image in the print slowly began to emerge in the developer tray as Darcy rocked it gently back and forth, bathing the print in the solution. The image that appeared was that of a female creature, superficially human-looking, but Darcy could tell it was something different, in so many little ways; ways that maybe ninety-nine out of a hundred people might not notice, but now he couldn’t help but see the signs. Again, he didn’t know how he knew, but he knew.
And the creature was old. So old. Her face was seamed and scarred, radiating the sad fatigue of a soul that had seen so much, suffered so much, and sacrificed so much. Her hair was thin and wispy and its colour was the grey of an endless winter day. Darcy could see the echo of a past beauty in her, but long absent like the half-remembered dreams of childhood. Darcy sensed a deep loneliness as well; had she been forsaken by those for whom she had given so much? (Again Darcy wondered: how did he know all this? It did not feel like idle speculation.) He looked away from the image for a moment, but felt pulled back to look at it once again.
Her eyes were strong. In the midst of weariness and decay, they contained an undeniable strength, faded perhaps, but not clouded over. Darcy knew they were Elena’s eyes. Darcy felt the breath catch in his throat, and the image which had been tack sharp began to blur. He tried to blink away the tears, but one drop broke free and fell into the developer tray, as if it were going home. When he had developed the negatives for this roll, without knowing precisely why he had omitted adding a drop of blood to the developer; perhaps taking a risk and trying to provoke a punishment? Maybe a tear would have a different effect. He pulled the print from the tray of developer and placed it in the stop bath for a few seconds, then transferred it to the tray of fixer. After sixty seconds, the fixing done, he transferred the print to the wash tray, and stood, staring bleakly at the image rinsing under a stream of water. He had fallen for Elena, hard, and seeing the power and the tragedy in this image, who was he, an accidental bystander, a mere observer, a tourist in the larger reality Elana and Merson inhabited, to even think he had a chance with her. He tasted ashes in his mouth. You pathetic fool, he thought to himself in silent bitterness. You took the picture, now see the result. Another friendship you ruined by your impulsive selfishness. If there is anyone who deserves to be alone it’s you, he told himself. Not her. She deserves the happiness that you don’t.
Darcy started as he felt a hand touch his shoulder, and he did not need to turn around to know who it was. He sighed, and turned to see Elena before him. Where he expected anger, or at least reproach, he saw sadness. Her eyes were also shining under the red darkroom safelight. There was no recrimination in her face, and that just seemed to make it more difficult for him. He felt an even stronger flush of shame in his face, but it did not stop him from asking a question; his curiosity still won out.
“Who are you?” Darcy asked. The question was not an accusation, rather an admittance of awe on Darcy’s part. “Do I even have the right to ask you that question?”
“I have another name, Eye.” Elena replied softly, after a time. “I have been called Heart, and you have seen my Sideways aspect. Where you have true sight, I have true feeling, and have felt the sorrows and pangs of so many, for so long. Love and sadness both resonate within me, but after a time, the love always seems to fade. The sadness remains though, like black ink on a page where all the other colours are gone. And then are all gone, Eye. Forgotten, lost, they have forsaken me. Will too you now turn away?” She pulled herself up straight, seemingly bracing herself for a blow.
Darcy took her hands in his. “If I am the Eye, then I have seen you truly. How could I feel anything but love for you?” He wondered at himself that he even found the courage to say these words. “But what would you see in me?”
The response was a gentle laugh, not mocking but knowing, understanding. “If your name is the Eye, you are blind when it comes to yourself. I look at you and see hope. You are making me feel like smiling, truly smiling, and this is something I have not felt in some time. But you have seen me as I am, and who would have me as I am?”
Feeling in a dream, Darcy answered simply “I would.”
“But I am old,” she said.
“Ugly,” she persisted. Her eyes were shining more strongly now.
“Never to me, “ Darcy responded gently, “Never to me.” He leaned in and kissed her, allowing one hand to gently brush her cheek. He felt her tears on his hand, and when he pulled back he felt the wetness on his own face, from more than just Elena’s tears. Any hesitation gone, he drew her to him, and he felt rather than heard her smile as she held him tightly in return.
Together, they turned to leave the darkroom and go upstairs. Darcy turned off the darkroom light as they left the room.
If the light had still been on, and there had been eyes to see it, they would have seen, or perhaps felt they had imagined seeing, a small smile emerge in the image of Elena still sitting in the wash tray, looking for a moment at least just a little less heartbroken.
Later, as he lay beside Elena, a thought, a concern arose unbidden to Darcy. He raised himself on his elbow, and regarded her for a moment before speaking.
“What of Merson” he asked Elena, quiet but awake beside him.
Again, the gentle laugh that did not mock. “What about him?”
“I saw you hold him, kiss him.” Darcy said.
“Should not a mother love her son?”
Darcy didn’t think there was any room left for more surprises, but again he was wrong. Again he silently called himself a fool, but this time it was with an undertone of joy.
“He is lucky to have you as a mother,” he said, a bit awkwardly.
“Hopefully he’ll take to his new stepfather!” It almost sounded like a giggle when she said it. And Darcy heard himself laugh in return.