The world is long dead, yet had received no notice.
Blessed by its ignorance, she perdures.
Seen from afar she might look like the ivory statue of a tall, white-haired woman sitting on a fossilized porch, her long legs parted just enough for the tip of her fingers to touch the stone.
She is not asleep: for she does not dream. It’s more akin to slumber.
The first rays of the sun peek over the horizon and kiss her skin golden, lightning up the dust motes that are her sole witness.
Only then she begins to move.
A smile curls her lips.
It’s an old habit, ingrained into her being by repetition, just as many other patterns.
Her mouth opens, but she does not speak yet. Her eyelids part and she blinks, revealing glassy eyes. She smiles at the wonders that the new day brings with it.
As the fresh dawn warms up her stone skin she stretches her arms and kicks back her legs, slithers upright on the porch, welcoming the sun – ceaseless companion.
Her voice is soft and high-pitched, stretched away by the wind.
“Good morning!” She welcomes the silence and emptiness and the blasted city and there is no reply. There has been none for a long while but it does not matter.
Manners are manners.
She assesses the empty caverns inside collapsed buildings – yawning maws. Then down to the gaping craters that gravel and rain and dust have yet to fill. She sets her hands on her hips and, as her white hair seem to catch fire in the dawn, declares: “I believe this to be a good morning indeed. I can tend to my garden on a good morning. I will now go to tend to my garden.”
She steps down with a pleasant, harmonica hum rising from her throat.
An unremarkable girl, one who would surely not live in the middle of miles and miles of glassy craters and petrified memories, one who would be made of stone, would pay attention to where she puts her delicate naked soles, yet she shows little concern for the iron beams growing between the shelves: they groan and bend under her foot, step after step down the porch, leaving no mark on her skin. No hesitation.
She hops from one slab of stone to the other as careless as if she was skipping on moss.
There is, after all, little difference.
She does not blink. Does not breathe. Better this way.
She can hum with no interruption; it is just a hum for now, as it is morning, and she still has to find the right words for her garden. As of late it has been a little harder. But it does not matter. She manages. Always had.
Touching the pavement, her steps turn softer and more relaxed. She has time to enjoy her morning walk, between silent towers of walls and archways, her hair bobbing at the rhythm of her gait. As the shadows shorten, all of her skin now feels the warm buzzing kiss of the sun. As supple as flesh, and yet she walks on blasted glass shards as if they were snow. And just like snow they cry their brittle creak under her naked soles.
She keeps humming, content: the vibration rises until she opens her mouth.
A skip, a hop, a jump: open her arms wide and the song echoes in the wind anew.
“What did the sun say
When bent to kiss the field
And asked for his Son a spouse?
Back from where it lay
The river plight received
When so dark a bride arose …”
It might not be the most coherent song, and to most ears, it might sound just like a collection of lines, echoed together so many times that they have begun to lose all meaning, save for her. The most unkind among us could subscribe some truth to that.
Her day is much like her song: careless and unbidden. She walks among the ruins. From time to time she crouches to get a better look at something that captures her attention, and the song hides behind a hum. Might be just a flight of fancy, or maybe the shadowy outline of a memory pressing against her mind. Sometimes is a pattern of behavior, sometimes is just whimsical. Her mind is a flight of seagulls chasing a lost sea: they catch fish only by mistake. But it is enough to be content.
A piece of wood. A fossilized branch. A shard of blackened glass, and the reflection of her own puckered smile, large pale eyes, her hair shaken by the wind. It might remind her of the dolls she keeps home, so round and smooth and unblinking.
And more foreign materials, leftover from the time before the slow stars and quick. Before the Tide, before the Old Country came to rest in the world of Men, corrupting it with its vicious roots.
The shadows fall just beneath her feet now, and she has a great collection in her hands. Time to go back, tracing her steps across broken roads and past craters, towards a collapsed glass dome, held up by patience and some of her arts.
Not that these names mean anything to her. She has no need for such things – would forget them if she knew – and thus proceeds with a smile upon her lips and a light heart, more blessed than most.
The inside envelops her in warmth as dust sparkles down from the windows. It’s a collection of spare parts and shattered memories, echoes from a disappeared world. She drops some of her bounty close to the entrance, plays a bit with the head of a porcelain doll, polished until its sheen is almost a mirror.
“I am home,” she tells her house. She almost forgot.
No answer. No matter. Good manners are their own reward.
“I found a few seashells,” she says, and the rest of what she has found tinkles down the table.
A shard of stained glass, a molten piece of metal, something long and thin that might have been a bone, two plates of metal held together by rusty wires.
“Are they not beautiful?” No answer. “Ah, but this is a day where I should tend to the garden! This is a beautiful day to tend to the garden!”
She leaves the empty room, walks through open corridors, past collapsed arches and isles of brightness. At times, the sun makes the letters etched on her left arm sparkle.
Galatea they would read, if she could read.
At the end of the walk, she enters a large glasshouse, the glass dome she has spent so many days repairing a spiderweb of silver cracks and filtered light. It is her second-most prized possession, after all. She feels a pull right in the middle of the chest when she looks at it, and a sense of protection, and memories well up in her mind as she stands there, as the smell of iron fills her nostrils. These are not behavioral patterns, these are spontaneous responses, and therefore she can recognize these are her own.
Inside the glasshouse, her garden. The last visitor came and went many years before, and since then little has changed. It is a garden full of columns, marble columns that go way up, holding no roof, as if they just were falling back up into the air. And coiled around them, like crimson weed, veins and organs and flesh, vermillion and yellow and white, a concert of moaning and wailing and garbled answers amidst the fine red mist.
It raises from the endless pieces of meat hanging from side to side, each of them warbling with its own strained voice on forgotten pieces of sound that might have once been words.
“Good morning Mama, good morning Papa,” she says.
It’s such a beautiful day to work on her garden.
Author’s Notes: I felt like taking a quick break from Withcbound. This is a rewrite of an old story I turned into the same universe as Patina. I hope you enjoyed it!