In Serein

3-7-2 Fading Days

I cannot believe that the woman Guenta seeks to bed him.

I cannot believe she would follow him around like a dog with bright eyes and single minded dedication.

All of this is insanity.

The grey house with the silent rooms and the silent children.

The cries of the baby sometimes rising.

Seeing Tremain fading away as each day passes.

The silent meal times in the kitchen and between them, endless stretches of nothing.

I can’t seem to do anything.

Half heartedly, I started to clear out the stables and halfway through getting the old bedding dug out I just gave up and went and sat on a feed bin until Ricco came to fetch me for dinner.

In the hallway we meet Tremain who is coming from the Tower.

All three of us stop and just stand there, our paths crossing at right angles, no-one thinks and no-one speaks.

This is how it is.

He walks on by us without so much as glancing at us and Ricco doesn’t even seem to want to kill him anymore.

I look at him walking up the stairs heavily, slowly and when he has turned the corner on the landing, out of sight, we make our way to the kitchen.

Guenta is a good cook but she is distraught because Tremain won’t eat..

I sometimes wonder if I should tell her that he has no need for food, and sometimes I wonder if he feeds off us but then I don’t think so.

He doesn’t have the look of a one who finds nourishment in anything at all.

Then, one day, as we are gathered at the end of that table which is so long, all of us occupy perhaps a third or less, Reyna comes in and in her arms, she carries the child.

She takes a seat by my side and after a moment’s hesitation, places the baby on the table.

Everyones eyes are upon him.

The son of the Lord of Darkness.

Pink, fat, healthy.

His eyes are dark like Isca’s and he looks around with an air of curiosity. He makes small noises and waves his fat little fingers around, hitting himself in the face and not liking that at all.

He kicks so much that the blanket he was wrapped in comes undone and his pink feet, big for a baby, stick out and make movements too.

Guenta comes by with a pot of soup and she pauses and looks at the child, a peculiar longing about her, before carefully placing the heavy pot at the far end of the table.

I find myself reaching and touching the sole of his foot with my fingertip. The foot and then the whole baby reacts with twitching movements. His foot is cold. I take it in my hand and the child moves his head, then looks directly at me and smiles.

Here he is, no mother, the creator knows what kind of monster for a father, amongst us silent, dark ones and this new life smiles at me.

Reyna reaches and strokes his cheek.

I look at her looking at the child. She is hardly more than a child herself and yet she is his mother, and in her posture and expression is such love for him, for a moment I actually feel something like sadness.

I think sometimes that that child saved us all.

He knew nothing of sadness, of suffering, of thoughts and regrets.

He smiled at anyone and everything.

He screamed with incredible fury if he was too cold, or too hungry.

He loved being carried and first Guenta, then the boys and finally even Vona took turns at doing it.

I made a crib for him from an old box and we took to having him downstairs, in the kitchen, more and more as he slept less and needed less frequent feedings from his motionless mother.

We began to talk again, about him to start with.

Guenta asked me questions and I told her some of the things she needed to know to make sense of us. She wanted to know about Tremain but what could I tell her? I told her some things and many others, I did not tell her about.

It was good that she was there.

She cooked and organised things, gave us tasks of cleaning and repair. I could tell that she loved the idea of being the lady of the manor and I knew that she had designs on Tremain. This was beyond me at every level but then, I had known another good woman who had also thought the world of him.

And in all honesty, and as much as it confounds me, and as little as I can make sense of it, I sometimes wished he would talk to me, to tell me what he was doing there with her, day after day, night after night.

Sometimes I could hear him calling her, not out loud but in my head, not words just something that would drift across my mind like a shadow and there would be a knowing of it all.

I sometimes wished he would come and tell me, “Catena, stand here, these are your colours, make sure you keep them steady and wait for me to tell you when to power up,” so I could help somehow, do something, do anything at all.

One day I actually heard Vona laugh and when I looked out of the kitchen window, I saw Ricco throwing dried flower pods at her which got stuck in her thin white blond hair.

Cyno was a shadow, more of a ghost than I was.

Tremain had thrown him out of Isca’s room and that left him with nowhere to go but to stalk the corridors, pressed flat against the walls and wait for a moment when Tremain would leave to go to the Tower, or sit in his library and drink wine.

Tremain never seemed to sleep and he never ate and after a while, I began to notice that his clothes were getting looser and his face was ever more drawn and lined as each day passed.

We were getting better, slowly, and he was fading away.

He never spoke to any of us for any reason.

He never sent any commands and of course, we kept out of his way.

One day, I saw him fall down the stairs.

He missed his footing and failed to recover and simply fell.

I happened to be on my way to do some more work to repair the huge dining room so that the children would have a place to be when the weather got worse and saw it.

Saw him lie at the bottom of the stairs for a moment, then pick himself up carefully and slowly.

I walked over to him and said at last what I had been wanting to say for a tenday or more.

“Tremain, you got to stop.”

He looked at me in an unfocussed way then he seemed to come back into himself. Tiredly, he said, “Get out of my way, Catena. I have work to do.”

I shook my head and said, “Face it Tremain. Whatever you’re trying to do, it isn’t working.”

There was the ghost of a flash of anger and he half raised a hand, then dropped it again.

“What do you know,” he said but made no move to walk by me or push me out of the way.

I sighed. “I don’t know much but what I do know is that the state you’re in, you’re no good to anybody. Man, you can’t even get down the stairs. How are you going to bring her back like that?”

He narrowed his eyes and seemed to try and think about what I had said. He really wasn’t with it at all.

“Tremain,” I said and it was the strangest thing to find myself speaking like that to him of all men, “get some sleep. Get some food. Take a rest. She isn’t going anywhere. I make sure I come and get you if there’s any change.”

He nodded slowly and let out a deep breath, wiped at his red rimmed eyes with the back of his hand.

Then he looked at me and it was him again.

“You’re in charge, Catena,” he said and turned and painfully made his way back up the stairs. I waited for a good while, and when I went upstairs, I found him lying on the rug by the side of her bed, out cold.

I shook my head as I looked at them both from the doorway.

Have ever in all of history, all of the kingdoms, two who were supposed to love like they professed, reduced themselves and each other to such a state of exhaustion?

To raise his head and put a pillow beneath it. To put a blanket over him and tuck it under his feet. I’m doing it and I can’t believe I’m doing that. I should hate him, kill him. He deserved it a million times for what he’s done to all of us alone, not to think about all those others, all those years. And I’m putting a damned pillow under his head and keep his feet from the floor.

I know only one thing.

I know nothing anymore. Today, I swear that I will finally give up and for the last time, trying to work out or pretend that I have any idea at all, any clue as to what we’re all doing here with each other.

What did she say that night?

“The creator himself had a hand in directing you to my door.”

I got up and looked down on him, then at her, so pale and so not there, so painful to me, so unbearable, so beloved.

I leave them and close the door behind me, very softly.

Whatever the creator had in store for them, for us, for all of us, I pray that we will have the strength to go on and do what we must do.

We are in his hands.