The cold and lumpy cobbles hurt her arms. Lyra held the moan inside, hoped the punishment was over, that someone would come and pick her up, comfort her, let her go home again. She wanted only to get warm, find proper clothes to don, and shoes – good warm socks inside thick leather boots to thaw her toes. A coat of a thousand colours woven from the thick wool of the moulin-sheep of the mountains. She opened her eyes as wide as she could, but the gloom remained deep and heavy. The trickles of clear water, icy, were shadows between the cobbles, black within dark grey. Icicles clung to the colourless drab sack that hung on her slight frame.
It was so cold she couldn’t hear – nothing but the internal thrum of her heartbeat as it slowed to stabilise the inner core of heat. The tremble in her fingers and thighs spread up her arms and torso until her lips quivered.
Lyra shook her head. She wouldn’t let it get to her. It would end, sooner or later, but it would end. They were not so cruel, surely, as to leave her here to freeze to death.
The hollow sensation in her head kept the world silent and empty, as if her ears were full of water, as if she lay on the bottom of the ocean. No sound came from the movement of water, no pings as the raindrops hit the road, no groans as her mouth opened to express the pain and discomfort. Her teeth did not chatter. She shook her head again. Had she taken a knock? Was she injured?
“Help!” she yelled. She didn’t hear the word. Nothing came to her ears, nothing came from her throat. No sound.
Silent. The world was silent. Not still, not empty. Silent, dark, cold.
Where did they put her this time? Had she reached the limits of their compassion, the end of their patience, and been sent to … she couldn’t even begin to think of worse than her last punishment. The world without light, without colour. Lyra shuddered.
There could be nothing worse than a world without light and colour.
And yet … the lights above her, globes that hung on long thin poles that flexed as if in a strong breeze, were dull grey lumen’s, not yellow – was there a proper colour to the light?
The rain fell from a blue-grey mass of things that could be clouds, and in the position above her that would be sky in her own world, and the raindrops fell onto cobblestones riddled with striations – was that colour? Or her imagination?
Was she back in the world of no colour, but this time with the bare minimum of light, just to reinforce the lack?
That would be cruel, too cruel, for Lyra. Her soul existed to make colour from sound, to make sound from movement, to breathe in air and shape it into emotions she could share with those who listened, and especially those who responded, smiled, clapped, reciprocated.
Was that why they hated her, or was it only that she’d shown others how to make music, to speak openly, to share words and passions, music and dance?
Well, no punishment was allowed to last forever, so she’d wait it out, create some more music and words, and sing until the time came to open the gates to freedom once again.
Was there a place to get out of the rain?
It was a laneway, a cobbled road with canted edges to disperse excess water, and a low wall restrained the cobbles to each side. Lyra stood up and staggered to the waist-high stone ledge. Looked beyond. The lanes were divisions of shapes, no more. She turned the other way, shaded her eyes to see what was there. More cobbled laneways, shaped within more upthrusts of stone barriers, until the grey mist of rain and fog blurred everything to indistinct white within silver-greys.
If there were roads, even such silly and purposeless roads, there must be living beings, and maybe even people. Although, she had to admit the time they’d sent her to a world without people, where only creatures lived, it was the most pleasant punishment she’d endured.
It was too cold to stay still.
Lyra scrabbled over the wall, and walked across the next lane, and the next lane, and the next. A dark tunnel oozed out of the fog — was that a yellow light in there? Did someone have a fire? Were there living, breathing people here?
She ran into the tunnel, opened her mouth to call, to tell them she was no threat. No sound came out. No sounds echoed from the rounded internal structure of the tunnel.
The light didn’t get closer. Somehow, the faster she ran, the further it seemed to be — or the smaller it became … was the light being extinguished? Hidden? Why?
A dark shape loomed up into the blackness of the tunnel. It grew and grew until it was so close Lyra could smell it — rank and rotten, like too much green waste in compost, like dumped seaweed from a storm, like old mould grown rampant. She skidded to a stop and threw her hand up.
The thing she touched flinched, it made a movement, it was warm.
If it was warm, it was real.
Lyra swung her hands in a circle, tried to touch, to make herself felt, seen …
Nothing happened. Nothing changed, but she knew the person was gone. There was no sense of a warm body in the air near her, nor a sense of breath moving the air.
She was alone in a silent, colourless world.
A short, because behind in the work, still working on the attempt to finish before end March … tramp, tramp, tramp.
This one will continue into a longer tale, stay tuned.