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Parenthetical Visitors

by Rudi Dornemann

The women in long white dresses (who weren't really there) said they were travelers. They'd traveled a long, long way.

They told Robert all this (without making any noise), and asked if he could turn over a moss-covered rock on the side of the road.

He was early. The Keeper of the Royal Signet probably wouldn't reach the field for another hour--another insult, added to those that had finally pushed Robert past respectful silence, and had, ironically, made the Keeper the injured party. He kicked the rock over with his heel.

The women in long white dresses (who weren't really there) were fascinated by what they found in the mud, pointing at bugs that scurried through their incorporeal fingers. Robert wanted to ask if there was anything else they wanted, but couldn't bring himself to talk to what he were just figments of his exhaustion, bits of dreams he might have had if he'd been able to get any sleep since the day of Carolyn’s refusal, the day he walked out of the Keeper's service, the day of the challenge.

The women either couldn't read his thoughts or were too busy to bother, so he tipped his hat slightly enough anyone would think he was adjusting it and continued between dew-soaked fields, past trees as laden with thieving birds as fruit, and over the bridge. The Keeper was there, early and impatient.

Then twenty minutes of waiting while Robert's second didn't arrive, the Keeper staring at Robert with a hatred undercut by frequent yawns, Robert trying not to look back. Then ten seconds that might have been a year while Robert chose his weapon. Then a time that hadn't seemed to happen at all: the burning in his chest crowded out any memory of turning or hearing the tenth pace called.

"I bet the Duke a dozen by midsummer," he heard the Keeper say. "This makes seven."

Robert saw that the women in long white dresses (who weren't really there) were there again, bending down over something even more fascinating than the underside of a rock. He went over to join them, and looked down at his own body (he wasn't really there anymore either).

The women in long white dresses said they'd traveled a long, long way. Would Robert like to join them? And perhaps he could show them some interesting things before they left this world?


I like :)

Posted by: Christy | May 3, 2009 6:53 PM

Thanks, Christy!

Posted by: Rudi | May 3, 2009 7:54 PM

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