Walking wasn’t easy in the constant drizzle, and with no shoes it was worse. The cold was something Lyra did feel, and it wasn’t what she wanted or needed. It drained her, took energy she needed to search, to maintain the map in her head.
The third time she returned to the little timber shack, she knew for certain, absolutely no doubt at all, that the laneways were built to a pattern that caused distortion, that numbed the mind and disoriented the sense of sight.
Another sense damaged or redacted by the space that caged her.
She’d have to find another way to map her journey to ensure she didn’t bypass a moment of value, a sign of hope and time.
A difficult matter, with nothing to write with, no sticks or stones useful to scratch out a marking, no horizon to distinguish one direction from another.
How could she get to an edge, to find a border or a point of origin, or something that wasn’t part of the laneway system of confusion? Lyra squatted until her eyesight didn’t glaze under the influence of the patterns of disturbance. She massaged her toes and ankles, rubbed hard to get the blood flowing, drew air in through her nose and out, long and slow and deep, from her mouth, while she thought on the problem. Too much relied on her ability to get back, to break through the barriers, both here and there.
She had to succeed.
What could she use if there were no tools? Blood from a cut wouldn’t work, because there was nothing to cut with. She wasn’t going to rip off a fingernail to jag across her skin — although … No.
Blood as ink required something to mark.
The clothing she wore, what there was of it, would it be worth being naked as well as deaf and cold and colour-blind?
The burn from deep in her nose forced her to roll her head back, pinch her nose, and jam her eyes shut to hold the fear deep within. She would not win if she gave in to emotional loss like a … like a … like one of the judicars when she defied their stupidity.
She needed to find a signet-moth — where did they normally live? If she were at home, she’d find them under the eaves of the ancient places of worship. On some of the other worlds, they’d been on the underside of huge boles of ancient trees, and sometimes in caves as old as the beginning of the leafverse itself.
Where would she find them on this world?
It would be somewhere ancient because it always was. They had a role within the basic laws of justness. It would be somewhere sheltered from heat and cold, because they died when wet, cold or scorched.
It felt like an easy task — find a moth and then sit there and watch it for a single span of its life.
In every other place she’d been sent for punishment, she’d found one. It meant something: there would be a signet-moth. They couldn’t make a rule and attach it to something that didn’t exist.
When her heart skipped a beat, she leapt up and stamped her foot.
“That’s not fair!” she mouthed.
A new swear word, she needed a new swear word, one bad enough that if they were watching, they’d have to come in here and reprimand her. That would give her something, some contact, some hope. If they came, it would mean she wasn’t abandoned.
But would they need to hear it if it wasn’t an audible wave of sound?
The hope trickled away like the water that flowed down the laneway drains.
The water drained, so it had to drain to somewhere, it had to find the lowest point. Follow the brick road to where the little creek of run-off joined the river or the lake, or even an ocean. It wouldn’t matter where or what as long as it got her out of this puzzle of lackness. Even for no other reason but to be able to use her mind again. To create.
She kept her eyes down, always focussed on the flow of water so she wouldn’t lose touch with the new reality, but it hurt her back. Her feet burned with the cold, and her vision blurred at the edges.
And then she imagined she saw footprints — not the prints of humans, but animals. One that looked just like a dog, — a big dog, with big paws and deep indentations in the sludge between the cobbles. But the next time she glanced at the shading that might have been a print, it was gone. Not even a difference in the greyness. Had it been delusion?
Her lip trembled. It had been such a relief to know there may be others.
Anything, even if it wanted to eat her. Just to know she wasn’t alone and deaf and mute and senseless.
The substance she thumped into threw her backwards like a spring board.
She shook her head and body, tried to clear the cobwebs that misted her thoughts as she stared at the space before her. It was another tunnel, black as only black can be when flat and unreflective.
Lyra stood up and walked forward.
And bounced back. She didn’t fall this time, but there was nothing there! Nothing that could do that. No wall, no door, no barrier. Nothing.
She reached out with her hand, pushed when it touched a point where the black resisted her efforts. Pushed harder. Put both hands and pushed with all her strength. A slight quiver of the barrier was the only warning before she was shot backwards like a bolt from a weapon. And now she was a lot further from the tunnel, and it was receding, disappearing in the haze of fine rain and fog.
She stood there, eyes wide, until it was gone.
The little creeks that ran down the drains continued their journey.
Lyra moved to the edge of the laneway, leaned one hand on the wall, and walked with her gaze fixated on the blobs of cobblestones before her feet.
Until she got knocked backwards so hard a cannon shot would be less forceful. What was wrong? Why did it do that? A prison must have a way to get in — and therefore out.
Or was this a place with no exit?
Still in recovery mode from an injury, so I hope you enjoy the story. More to come soon. And yes, I know it’s an effort in insular, but for a first draft, and my current situation, seems apt. Enjoy!