The story is something I had to write in response to Flowers for Algernon. The character had to go through some change, and I like writing animals so it had to be an animal . . . I don’t really know where I took this. In the end I didn’t really know what the change had been, and it took me a while to figure out what I meant. I’m still not entirely sure now. I had to cut off a lot of it so that it wouldn’t be too long for school (it’s still about three-hundred words long, but I couldn’t get it any barer that this) so maybe some day I’ll make this longer. I think it works, though.
The first poem was for school (we were studying the middle ages in Humanities) and the second was just something I wrote for myself.
Slivers of light pierce the darkness. The monoliths that rose around and above, shielding sensitive eyes from the force that was the benefactor, that which fed the ever-climbing heights; the temperamental power that drove her to waters; that which fed the world with warmth and light. It dictated the shifting waves of her existence; it's very absence was the herald of the darkness she belonged to, that was both absence in it's purest form and a completely separate world that was an ethereal form of its own.
But it is not here.
Had the felid mind shared our own concept of time, as a line on which every moment progresses along, she might have thought that the sun was no longer with her now. But the understanding of time to a tigress is as day and night, effectively the same day and night repeating the cycle over and over again, and everything underneath the celestial being that governed their actions would change their own ways continuously as the cycle goes on.
So, for her without the sun to govern her sense of time, time became nonexistent, life lost its shape, and so she and the endless walls surrounding her were no longer part of the realm of existence, the realm of the pattern of light and dark.
Time had died and so, as she understood it, had she.
However, even though through her own scope of life and of herself she did not exist, the hard material that surrounded her on all sides, that replaced the trees and sky and the little growing things beneath her tread, it existed in a way which defied her understanding.
But she did not try to work a way around this apparent anomaly in what she thought of her current situation – she simply lay still and waited for existence to return to her, to seek her out, to beckon her, to show itself in this place of nonexistence, this place in which she could see with no sun nor moon, in which it was neither day or night.
And, in a way, it did.
When she heard a noise, a creaking-swinging-growling she did not particularly care, as what could be less relevant than a change in nothingness.
But then she caught a scent. In a place where nothing existed, and therefore nothing could give off scent, she had not bothered with trying after her preliminary look-over of her quarters. But this was different, and she could not resist the allure of the cold-smelling meat. She forced her stiff body to stand, and slowly turned herself towards the noise. The wall was open. The world was there, beckoning to her with the smell and sight of blood.
And with a quick check for rivals, the tigress shot out of the opening and towards the meat, and tore into it with the determination of one who knew that it could not last after the moment it was there.
Her priorities were forever in the present. So she picked the carcass clean before bothering with anything else.
She tasted the air, now rich with scents, and lifted her head to the sky.
Her eyes were drawn to that which she could not look at, whose presence and absence defined the world.
Time and life were one again, and interconnected duo without one of which the other could not, would not, exist.
So the tigress, creature of will and thought and power of body, willed herself to exist through her own belief of the meaning of existence, and so made herself one with her world.
Later she would see the walls, realize what they barred her from, what they meant. But that was a different matter, a matter of freedom, of the way of life. It was not a priority at that point.
As she stared at the sky, at the rising sun that was still so bright, at the very meaning to her of what it was to be truly alive and not to be a shadow over the edge of the world, she made the subconscious vow that all of her kind, the so-called beasts, had made upon emerging from the darkness of nonexistence into the light of life: she would die before she stepped into that darkness that held the living apart from life and death again.
For that small moment her mind was open to the fact that life should not be taken for granted, and though she would at first throw her body and voice against the walls of her larger prison, and though she had vaguely known it before in the form of the self-preservation, though she would eventually resign herself to a captive life; that knowledge would always stay as a dark presence in her subconscious, to forever throw a shadow on her otherwise in-the-moment thoughts, to forever leave her in only dappled light.
A Peasant’s Cry
Sunshine breaks over the hill,
The men are up, no person still.
Sunshine breaks over the dale,
No children play; to the King ‘Hail!’
Sunshine breaks over the town,
No rest, no sleep ‘til fields are sown,
And even then nothing to them.
And wails rise, to cry of sorrow,
Lord’s men arrive on the morrow.
A toll of bells, a rush of feet,
Their livelihood: cows; pigs; and sheep.
Their barley cropped, bundled their wheat,
A sight that makes all their souls weep:
A culling of all Harvest’s growth,
The worth of all their work, a ghost.
Carted away their hard earned toil,
‘Good’ men left them to sink to soil.
For what use is a peasant’s cry,
When none care if you should die?
When all know you break your back,
Heaving under heavy sacks,
Ploughing through too-rocky fields,
With no assurance of your meals.
What use not falling through the ground?
Leaving this place where fear abounds.
Why not fall down beneath your feet?
As fell last Harvest’s hard earned wheat,
That which you would never taste,
Going to his Lordship’s face,
That which you worked so hard for,
Now which you will grow no more.
For what use was a peasants’ cry,
When none cared that you did die?
The door is silent,
The walls are meek,
The windows through, no children peek.
The boards do rot,
The curtains fall,
No painted scene along the walls.
A room where once they lay to sleep,
Made calm by their eternal beat,
No longer is a place of rest,
But now where broken vows are left.
Another room, another place,
Another without name or face.
A child's cot against the wall,
No child left to be adored.
Flour, worn to coarse as coal,
Stains on cup and plate and bowl,
Once made to shine like the light of a lamp,
Now left to crack beneath the damp.
A lonely place, a house of woe,
A battle fought by silent foes.
None have thrived here, none have tried,
Nothing breaths here, no one dies.
A creak, a stir, a pause, a breath,
A wary glance to watch for death.
Twitch of whiskers,
Sniff of air,
Observing with the greatest care,
Of how conveniently placed
The bed is for a quick escape;
Of how, without much force or breath,
A leap could be made without fear of death
To the window (opened just a crack)
To leave and forge a better track.
He did not smell the scent of cat,
And that was to be wondered at.
He knew there were no humans there,
They would not stand such disrepair.
He saw the bed, the cot he saw,
And all of it was with great awe.
This cave, this cavern, this work of art,
He could live in this place,
He could make a new start.
So the mouse scurried in,
And his family followed,
And soon enough in,
That sad house of shadows,
Could be heard with an ear,
Less fine-tuned than that fellow’s,
The sound of the world turning 'round.