Sabledrake Magazine

December, 2000

 

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Feature Articles

     Angelic Guardian

     Sins of the Father

     The Purgatory and the Polish

     The Right Thing

     HellTosh

     Invaded

     December Poems

     Changeling Seed, Chapter 12

     A King for Hothar, Part XII

          

 

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     Vecna's Eye

     It Came from the SlushPile

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Serial Fiction

     Changeling Seed

     A King for Hothar

 

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The Purgatory and the Polish

by Anthea Holland and DF Lewis

 

They skulked beneath the floorboards, waiting for the light - the brightness that had been denied them for over four hundred years. It would come; it was imminent, some sixth sense in their sleeping consciousness made them aware that their freedom was right around the corner. One lifted floorboard would be sufficient to bring them the liberty they craved.

Above them footsteps caused echoes in their sleeping chambers, subtly disturbing the hidden recesses of their small but powerful brains.

They called themselves the real ones – to distinguish them from the human beings they heard treading their boarded-over escape route and roof. Those very footsteps revealed the presence of gods that only real ones could fabricate from reality and still make believe they were make belief.

One such human was Cecily Waite. She, however, tiptoed rather than trod, giving the impression of a near invisible angel, which, incidentally, made a rather pleasant change from the more usual clod-hopping myths masquerading as men.

“Cecily! Get some gumption!” called her mother from the kitchen. “Stop mooning about and start doing some real dusting and polishing!”

"Yes, Mum," came Cecily's timid reply. Beneath her, creatures trembled in their sleep at the sound of her angelic tones. They felt, rather than heard, her move about above them, the vibrations, slight though they were as she displaced air, penetrating their inner beings.

Cecily tried to do a good job of her chores, but her mother was a perfectionist and, without fail, managed to find areas that Cecily had missed cleaning.

As she swished the dusters across surfaces and sprayed the polish (which made unseen beings cough in their sleep) Cecily daydreamed. Generally these daydreams included the act of flying in some form or another and she flapped imaginary wings as she flitted to and fro. Sometimes she imagined she was a fairy-tale princess riding the back of a huge air-born swan; sometimes she was a bird herself, gazing down at the world below, at peace because she was a part of that world and yet apart.

Yet, sometimes her wings hurt. They felt like they did not belong to her or, if they did, were battered and bruised by a butcher’s tenderizer. She often glimpsed them hanging in tatters or weeping a greeny-brown sap from the shorn ends of their pinions.

Yet when these wings became imaginary again, as they surely were, she settled back upon the floorboards of her world, in case she fell with a clump first. And the real ones somewhere below sighed with relief because they could not believe humans could fly and, at heart, they loved her, desperately hoping she’d not be daredevil enough to be the daredevil she surely was, without their prayers.

“Finished the polishing?” asked her mother scornfully, not even believing that her daughter had started.

Cecily calmly wiped a damp cloth over the stripped wood floor (all the fashion these days, when carpets were full of mites, ground in dogstuff and particles of ancient food).

“That won’t do anything,” said Cecily’s sarcastic Mum, “you need more elbow grease and at least a smear of polish.”

There was a rustle beneath the floorboards - unheard by the humans above - as creatures sympathetic to Cecily reacted to her situation. Many would like to free her - as they themselves wished to be liberated - from the shackles that bound them. They, too, flew away in their dreams, searching for the freedom they were denied, only in their case it was lack of light rather than lack of wings fashioned by reality that kept them chained to a night-mare existence.

Cecily, unperturbed, rubbed a token dab of polish on the floor-boards putting enough "elbow grease" in the action to satisfy her mother. Much more of this, she thought, and I'll end up going through the floorboards and face down on the earth below. I think Mummy is horribler than sin, she thought.

Thoughts, they have wings, too, she thought.

And beneath the stripped boards, she thought of her real thoughts coiled around each other in loving embrace, so certain of their own reality, they had no cause to think further than this their dank oubliette, no ambition but to retain this their steady state. They skulked at the interface of death and life without realizing which was which.

She shuddered at the thought of the cold earth that awaited her and pondered on the depth of the ground between the floorboards and the soil - was it just a little gap, she thought, that she might reach through cracks and touch, or was it a deep, unending chasm which would give her room, at last, to spread her wings and fly?

Polish to polish, dust to dust, Amen.

 

**

 

The End

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