Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Stealing into Winter - a fragment

With all the grace of a drunken dancer, the ghost teetered about the empty square. It would lean and move off in one direction, picking up speed until it righted itself. Spinning on the spot for a moment or two, faint in the painfully bright sunshine, it would lean in another direction and be on its way again, sinuous, trailing pale peach wisps of nothingness and a faint hiss.

Jeniche watched the erratic ballet from the deep shadow of a cellar doorway. Dust ghosts were rarely seen in the city. It was rarely this quiet. Most people would be sitting or lying in a shaded room, waiting for the afternoon heat to abate, especially at this time of the year. But there were normally some people about; luckless servants mostly, sent on the errands of the fools for whom they worked.

The square and the roads leading to it, the shops and stalls. All were quiet beneath the weight of the heat, sunlight shimmering from the hard baked mud walls. Quiet except for the ghost that skittered across the open space, spinning toward Jeniche and then changing direction. She pulled her keffiyeh up over the lower half of her face, squinting as dust drifted into the stairwell. Childhood memories drifted in with it, just as unwanted. She blinked the dust from her eyes, wiping away a grimy tear with the back of her hand.

Turning in the dark, she watched the ghost swithering for a moment before gathering new energy. It dashed along the main road out of the square, picking up more dust as it went, twisting, hissing, and taking on a more solid form. Without warning it collapsed. Mute sunlight pressed down into the silence.