Friday, April 7, 2017

Picnic Amid the Ruins

Picnic Amid the Ruins
Bobby Derie

Starfire burned down on us from the firmament, pale and bright on the moonless moor, as we tramped down to the ruins. Ludmilla ran ahead, freckles speckling her bare shoulders, fangs flashing like the little predator she was as she chased after the small furry prey that moved at night. Her sister-in-blood, Lashauna, was the new moon to Ludmilla's full moon, chocolate skin gone grey in the starlight save for a patch of vitiligo over one eye, slipping through the tall grass light as an owl. Their eyes and smiles were the same, and I smiled to watch them run, now apart, now hand in hand.

The old stones stood on a bit of a hill, and I reckoned that there was more than foundations buried beneath the soil, the deposition of centuries, covered with grass and stunted, windswept oak. Stone doorways led to half-filled chambers, and the girls liked to clamber and slither through the "caves," making friends with bat and serpent. Lashauna spoke of the worms of the earth, and Ludmilla spoke of hidden treasures, or wondered if not some unspoken cousin might sleep in some antechamber yet undiscovered, waiting to be awakened.

Our picnic-spot was "the altar stone" - though in truth I thought it more likely to be the base of a ciderpress, a roughly pentagonal block of smooth stone into which a groove had been carefully ground around the edges, coming together in the front to let the juices flow into the waiting receptacle. It served as a suitable table for the offerings I had brought this night, and laid out with care, the small forms squirming against their bonds and flinching at my every caress, the worn gold cups and knives, and of course the book. The girls shrieked their ultrasonic "Marco Polos" - the bat's equivalent of the game, where the victim stayed silent, and the blind pursuer found them by echolocation.

When all was in preparation, I called out softly, yet they stopped and stared at me like lionesses caught at feasting, eyes wide, blood dripping from their chins. Some poor rabbit, most likely; always children spoil their appetite. I called them again, and the wind turned, bringing their scent to me as they half-clambered and half-flew on the breeze. They nestled at my feet, one on either side, and on impulse I knelt down and kissed each on her forehead in turn. Then I reached over and retrieved the book.

"Before we eat, darlings," and the fat squirming things struggled, pudgy fingers flailing, "let us have a story and a lesson..."


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