Clinging to Daylight [Enfai] Jul 7, 2013 3:43:59 GMT -6
Post by HARUKO SUGIHARA on Jul 7, 2013 3:43:59 GMT -6
Her eyes widened; she dropped her pin.
‘No—oh, no—’ She gutted the wrap, tossing aside pens, a stick of charcoal, and a half-eaten bun tied up in plainer cloth. ‘—No, it’s not here! My sketchpad’s gone—’ Haruko dropped her forehead in her hands, sighing. ‘I flirted with Death to get those sketches!’ And his hot breath, ripe with fish and old rice, on her cheek and the tongue of his knife on her neck had been no charms.
‘I can’t believe it. Maybe I can finish it from memory?’ She glanced half-heartedly at her painting with its fragmented garden, its phantom trees and hollow streams, and the gray veranda traced before a deeply red wall with the half-boy waiting in its breach.
‘I’ll forget if I don’t try and sketch it now—’ She pulled another sketchbook into her lap and flipped for a blank page, one of the empty faces from her earlier attempts to draw the boy flitting by. She paused, taking her pencil lightly to the corner of his eye as her wrist and fingers shuddered barely, the tension of afternoon pulsing still and slowly through her, dragging on the current of her blood—its memories sat just behind her eyes; the clutch of the bandit, the bright spark of the boy’s sword unsheathed, its light striking fire on the river.
‘I wonder,’ she thought, feathering out a nose against the shadow of an eye socket. ‘If he matches—’
“Haruko—” The studio door slid open roughly, battering its track, and her mother staggered on the mats and slumped on her knees. “Haruko—where have you been?” Haruko dropped pen, pushed aside sketchpad, and went to her mother.
“Mother—what—” Haruko started, and Lady Sugihara grabbed her by the hands, dragging Haruko down on the floor with her.
“Haruko,” Lady Sugihara moaned again. “Where have you been? Minoru—Minoru—”
“I was so afraid, I was so afraid, that he, he would—Minoru—Minoru is—” Lady Sugihara trembled, her face streaked in old tears as new ones began to spill, and Haruko sat up on her knees and caught her mother’s shoulders, her head falling against her daughter’s shoulder. “Haruko—oh—Minoru is dying—”
The house seemed to move, independent of Haruko, even as she walked with her own legs, flying from the studio to her brother’s room on the wings of her mother’s desolate sobbing and her hopeless words, through now unfamiliar corridors hung with the bleak, black fog of a funerary parlor, passing servants and faceless physicians. His room assaulted her senses like chamber of ghosts, his gray, still, and sullen shape in his bed, the widow’s shade hanging over her sister-in-law as she knell by his side. In the last half-hour before Haruko came, her brother’s voice faltered, failed, and he drifted from, off into a kind of slumber's stillness, though he didn’t seem to sleep. His eyes opened dizzily, spinning in sickness, the sweat on his brow gleaming in candlelight, and his breathing thick and labored, as if he awoke now and then from under water, floated just free of drowning—but never escaped.
Haruko remembered saying, “Please wait,” and apologizing, to her brother, when she shoved his doctor out of her way after he told her in a voice too crisp, too cool: “It is poison, of an unknown nature,” and therefore, of an unknown antidote. Her mother, or perhaps her sister-in-law called after her, but she couldn’t listen, and couldn’t care, their calling fading as she clung to daylight.
‘Damn him! Damn him, he’s useless,’ she thought, dashing out into the garden, toward the city gate. ‘Useless idiot, he—he doesn’t even know what he’s talking—’ She glanced into her mirror, blinding her with the last, failing, falling light of day. ‘I will find someone—someone REAL! Instead of that—that—USELESS—man—’
A sunset-colored pallor fell over her, her body dwindling into the palace walls, and she slid beneath the gate, beneath the eye, and out into the city, to tear through streets of houses and shops, closing slowly as deeper evening fell, but nothing seemed so important to Haruko as the words hammering in her mind.
‘I will find a way to make him better!’
She made fists of both her hands.
‘And I will find a way to kill whoever did this! I will find a way to—’
She stopped alongside a quiet house, its lamp-light small but stretching like a white cloud across its darkening walls. With her feet shoeless and raw, a dark tear of blood filling one of her smallest toenails, she stood for a moment, swaying, her eyes itchy with salt. The ward seemed to go on infinitely in both directions, houses stretching this way, houses stretching that way, rows of locked doors, shuttered windows, their names, their signs sinking under the nightfall.
‘I don’t know where I’m going,’ Haruko realized, her fists uncurling, her composure drunk as she leaned against the wall, and her eyes so wet with unshed tears, they burned, like she would go blind if she didn’t cry soon. She looked up at the sky, adrift with clouds uncurling like blood and golden banners. Then, she swallowed air and shouted:
“Help me! Please! Someone’s sick! Where is a healer?”