I hope everyone had a good holiday season and new year! This flash fiction is another in my Ioan Dumitrescu series. Special treat is that I'm pretty sure that Ioan hasn't posted this one on his portfolio yet, so anyone reading this gets a sneak preview. After my last story, Ioan insisted that I not make my next one a "guy walking somewhere while thinking" piece, which admittedly does seems to crop up a lot in my writing. But then he goes and paints this...
I mean come on! Maybe next time Ioan :-).
Anomis and Noai
Gelo R. Fleisher
Noai could hear the chill wind whistling a lonely song high above him, but as he crunched along the cold ground, the air was stilled against his bundled face. Snow-encrusted purple cliffs rose up on either side of him, their walls the color of battered amethyst splattered with sky-blue paint. He was silently grateful for their protection; the only hint of the gales tearing through the clefts and ridges around him were a series of low eddies clinging to the ground and lazily waving thin strands of snow into the air. The temperature was still bitingly cold, turning the small patches of skin that stuck out between his goggles and unkempt beard into a cherry red.
She had told him he was crazy to come here, that she wasn’t going to wait for him if he left. He hadn’t cared.
Far above of the crest of the rocky ravine hung the spires of the Chirlin pagoda, same as they had every day that Noai spent trudging through the rocks and glaciers of this frigid world. Even farther above, the pale sky was starting to darken imperceptibly; the crisp clean sunlight that had guided him up past the base camp losing its edge. Noai willed himself forward, his leaden feet crunching loudly on the icy dirt.
He still remembered the first time he had seen her; the combination of her raven hair and white teeth had entranced him. She had told him later it was his eyes that had convinced her to give him a chance.
For a moment the smell of her hair filled Noai’s nostrils, the scent of her shampoo blocking out the icy chill of the mountains. She’d been his second lover, he had been her fifth. She hated breaking up and, under the stars of a warmer sun, she had sworn to him that they were going to stay together forever.
He looked up through the impassive walls of the ravine, trying to catch a glimpse of the sun. It was up there somewhere, past the tips of the cliffs, but it was lost behind whisps of pale snow, hissing off the mountains above in perpetual streams. The glare coming off the snow was still bright enough to make his eyes ache. He closed them and looked away.
The other five lovers had made Anomis paranoid, and the fights had begun almost immediately. She’d yell at him if he was late; was he running around behind her back? He’d yell at her whenever she would lie to keep him happy.
A flash of furious anger shot through him, banishing her scent from his mind, and he jammed the walking stick into the frozen ground. The lying still infuriated him, even here as he trudged alone through the ice. Every single one of those lies had been over trifles; he couldn’t remember a single one, but that didn’t matter. A lie was a lie, and he could not suffer a liar. Of all the things he needed in a relationship, trust was the most important, and he couldn’t stand that she kept it from him.
And so he’d yell at her to stop and she’d lash out when he’d hurt her enough. She didn’t care what she said when he got her in that state, as long as it stung. Frustrated tears welled in his eyes, pooling at the bottom of his goggles. Eventually it had stung too much, the needles to his pride.
The walls were narrowing, their purple heights coming together to wreathe the ravine in shadows and blocking out even the spires of the monastery. The sound of the wind echoed hoarsely through the narrow, gray space, crawling down through the walls and around him in gently hissing gusts.
He wanted to see her again, to hold her close one more time, to feel her body against his. But it was her who made the mistakes and he couldn’t forgive that. Some part of him knew it was like throwing away a diamond because it was flecked with dirt. In some manner, he knew it. But he couldn’t face her; it was still too raw.
For a moment he saw her standing there in front of him at the end of the ravine, her raven hair flowing in the icy breeze. He knew it was an illusion, but the thought quickened his heart, and his steps. The illusion lasted only for a second. The object at the end of the road came into clear view. It was just a pile of rocks, with wish papers and flags stuck into the crevices by earlier pilgrims lurching in the growing breeze. Above it lay the beginning of the thousand stone steps that led up to the monastery, their worn faces covered in uneven clumps of snow. The monks had said the truly repentant were to climb these on their knees.
He laid his walking stick gently across the pile of rocks. Noai’s body creaked as it knelt. He hoped that Anomis could understand why he had come here, and if not her then at least maybe God. He felt the cold, unyielding surface of the stone step through his pants and prayed that his hands and knees could give the penance that his lips still could not.