Time in Cut Glass


“And I will know it now!” the old man shouts and bangs the table with his fists. Ink flies up, slips through the air and falls in black flowers on the white paper. His eyes are hollowed out, sinking into pools of shadow over sharp white cheeks, agonized and strange.

                The boy can’t move, he can’t see anything. He shrinks away, as the old man’s ragged arm comes down and seizes his hair in a fury, forcing him toward the glass. Possessed by anger he bites his own tongue and spits out threats in threads of blood.

                “Look, God damn you!” the old man shrieks. “God damn you!”

                But the boy sees nothing, nothing in the clouded glass but a mirror of his tears. He can only shake his head, and the tears fly like from fur drenched. The old man screams his rage and the sky breaks open and the stony ground falls. The ink-flowers open deep into wells sliced with shining glass. The boy’s feet on the edge slide, he can’t speak for terror, can’t draw the breath he needs to scream in a chest bound so tight. He’s filled with weakness, limp.

                “I hold you now on the brink,” the old man whispers. “You have one hope boy, one hope. To see for me in this glass; to tell me what will be.”

                The glass is there, the boy tries to see. He opens his eyes so wide he thinks they may drop out into the ink. He holds his breath and looks into the mist. It’s dense, curling and gray like the eyes of the old man; gray like a shroud.

                “A shroud...”

                “Look deeper. Look deeper,” the old man wheedles now, caressing with long fingers at the boy’s neck. Fingers with sharp nails that scratch, cut the skin and slice him.

                The mists shatter under the boy’s unblinking stare in eyes that sting, so suddenly he’s nearly thrown back but something reaches out, steadies his feet and draws him on. He sees stone faces, standing statues with their arms raised up in praise of something, someone. He sees towers built in a mountain of rings. He sees as if he flies above it, looking down on a desert land. There’s no life, no breath, no wind, no living things.

                “There’ll be no one left,” the boy cries.

                “Will I be King?”

                “King of nothing. King of nowhere.”

                “King,” the old man closes his eyes and sings this word like lullaby to himself, holds it to him, warms himself around it.

                “King of nowhere and nothing,” cries the boy, he feels like a sack of water emptied.

                “When! How!”

                “I can’t see.”

                “You will!”

                It’s rushing him closer now, the mist, turning him around and flying him back. A reflection, the white face with eyes that glitter and a bitten mouth. It’s his own hand he sees then. Thin and small, curving around the thickness of the pen, fingers stained in the ink petals. He sees the hand fly up and pierce the old man through his left hollow eye. Blood like ink sprays out.

                “Death,” the boy says, and the old man is rubbing his hands when the pen stops him, thrusts into his rottenness. Husk of an old man falls onto cold stone, where the blood crackles, cakes and dries and flies away. The glass opens its mists and the boy falls into them, dropping into futures he’s unmade. But what’s been seen must exist, and he’s a witness now.

The End

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