The boy sat at the base of the mountain and watched the eagles flying overhead. He wished one of them would come down to speak to him, but they never did.
“Who is my father?”
His mother laughed and pointed to the sky.
“See the eagle that flies there? Once, years ago, an eagle swooped down and carried me off. He is your father.”
The boy stood at the edge of the field, watching the cattle. There was a lone bull in the distance, large and proud. The boy wished the bull would come and speak with him, but he never did.
“Who is my father? Is he really an eagle, Mother?”
She had lifted him up to see over the fence.
“Do you see the bull in the field, my son? Once, long ago, a bull carried me off on his back and I stayed with him for many nights. He is your father.”
Mother and son lay together in the field, watching the clouds soar by.
“Mother, how can my father be an eagle and a bull at the same time? Who is he really?”
She pulled her little boy close and pointed at the sweeping expanse of blue.
“Your father is the sky, little one. And like the clouds, he can change his shape.”
“Will I ever get to meet him?”
“Someday. But he watches you every day. You can be certain of that.”
The man stood on the bridge with the sunrise behind him. This day was a long time coming, this day when he would leave everything he had ever known. Slowly, he raised his right hand and gazed at the miniature portrait he held with gentle fingers. To never see her again. It would be a tragedy, but it was no longer a tragedy he could avert. He tucked the small painting into his jacket and let his gaze fall to the still waters below him. No one would know him, could know him. Not if this plan was to succeed. But there would be peace and he would have his works. He produced a small vial and looked it over, almost dispassionately. Then he uncorked it and drank the yellow fluid. It tasted vile and metallic, and burned its way down his throats until it settled in his gut like so much lead. But it was lead no longer. It was gold and life and the future. Tucking the vial back into his pocket, the Count of St Germaine turned and strode down the street out of one life and into another
A little stack of shoes on a fragment of cloth. Each one patched and buffed leather with cardboard pasted to the bottom and painted black. A young girl stood with her hands wrapped in tattered mittens, her hair under a stained cap. Tuppence, she asks. Just tuppence for a pair of shoes. Tuppence to feed her family, to keep a roof over their heads. Tuppence. Please, sir. Just tuppence. The air was chill, the night coming fast. She bundled the shoes back in their cloth and tucked her scant coins in her pocket to run home.
Today was one of the stories no one ever tells because there are none who would believe save for those who bore witness. We were pressed by the rebel forces, penned down behind our meager fortifications of fallen trees and farmer’s fences. Shots rang out on all sides and a haze filled the air. That was when I saw the figures step in to fill out our ranks. They were clad in blue, same as my own Massachusetts regiment, but these men were a breed apart. The man beside me put a hand on my shoulder and grinned at my surprise, for he was my own great-grandfather, decades gone to his rest. Bolstered by the numbers of this greatest generation of soldiers, we rallied. I swear to you, the sound of horses was in our infantry charge and I saw a tall man astride a white horse in the vanguard, his saber raised high. The rebels broke and ran, leaving the day to us. But none will ever believe, I fear. Even now as I commit it to paper and ink, it sounds like a flight of fancy. But I will never forget.
Sparks arch into the air
Fire in the sky
The ground is shaking
Not a star can be seen
A cloud of ash
The roaring sound
People running in the streets
City on fire
The sky is aflame
Sails of ships struck through with holes
The harbor in chaos
A silent city
People walk the streets
Among ruins and murals of yore
Pompeii and Herculaneum
She watched as the stripped the colors from the old statues and wept. Why were they doing this? These people weren’t from here. They didn’t know, didn’t understand. They had never seen the nymphs of the forest or the satyrs frolicking in a field. But they imagined that they had. They had read Herodotus and Homer and Pliny and dreamed that they had stood atop Olympus among staid and stolid gods of dignity and refinement, relegating their fatal flaws to mere misdemeanor and rendering their colors to muted silence. She pulled her shawl tighter around her shoulders, wondering if her family would ever come back and set to rights what had happened. Would they hear her silent tears or sense the bitter anguish? She took up the poker once more and checked three small brazier before her. They might remove the colors, these foreigners, but they would never extinguish the flame
He had bought a ticket to go west. A one-way ticket to freedom and open skies. Sitting on the train, sitting by the window, he kept his cap pulled down and hoped no one would see the soft curves of his face. They would see the heavy work pants and shirt and the cap and never once think anything but young man. His eyes were on the skies now, on the low clouds that hung over the prairies. This was his new home, this place where the sky went on forever. Here, he would be free.
Stepping off the train, his rough boots touched the ground and he pulled his cap down again. Freedom would still have a price. Anonymity. But it was a price he was willing to pay. No one would ever know what had happened to the precocious daughter of the Greenbriar family and no one would ever know where Michael Green had come from.