16 Chapters
Medium 9781782201885

IX

Mahon, Eugene J. Karnac Books ePub

Rensal, though young, was becoming aware that life was not all play, nor all music and poetry either. There was fear and illness and death also, dark shadows that jostled with light for space.

War was another word that had recently entered his vocabulary. “The war is over,” he heard one tall one say expressively to another.

Rensal had not known that the war was on, or what war was for that matter, but it did seem to be something that was better over, that you're better off without. He wondered if it was a subject he could discuss with the Tall One. He would find a way to ease it into the conversation.

Next morning, on his way to the Tall One's, he picked some berries from the bushes beside the stream. “They will go well with toast and tea,” he thought to himself. The berries hid their dark rich colors under leaves and thorns, but Rensal's fingers could have plucked them in darkness without missing one or pricking himself. When his basket was full of berries beyond the brim, he hurried past the bend in the stream towards his destination.

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Medium 9781782201885

X

Mahon, Eugene J. Karnac Books ePub

One evening, Rensal fell asleep in the meadow under a quilt of stars and dreamt a dream that ruined the beauty of the night with its sinister plot.

In the morning, the dream made off in a hurry like darkness running from the dawn light but Rensal closed his eyes, strained hard, and held on to the vanishing images for dear life. His tenacity was rewarded and soon he had all the images on a string in his mind in a shining sequence: In the dream, a redbit looked in a mirror and watched the color fading from his hair, like rubies turning paler than snow in a flash. Without color, he could hardly recognize himself. But there was worse to come. When he met his redbit friends, they teased him and called him names, “Whitebit, whitebit, what an ugly sight-bit,” and they laughed and laughed.

In the dream, the laughter felt like a knife of shame that sliced the poor whitebit into several pieces; each piece trying to hide from the other in humiliation.

When Rensal awoke he felt convinced for a moment that he was the whitebit. That moment seemed longer in duration than many a day or night to Rensal until he reached the mirror of the stream and saw a familiar redbit looking back at him in relief. Rensal sighed. He sat down beside the drowsy stream, exhausted already first thing in the morning.

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Medium 9781782201885

XVI

Mahon, Eugene J. Karnac Books ePub

One morning, Rensal awoke from a dream that troubled him so much he tried to stamp it out, like the cinders of a fire you have no further use of, but the dream refused to leave.

Rensal had a nagging memory. Dreams became a part of memory of course, a part he had grown to accept. But this dream he would have disowned if he knew how. The dream was set in a courtroom: a redbit judge was presiding; to his right a jury of redbits; in front of him a packed courtroom; the four walls resounding with the words, “No further questions.”

Rensal awoke in a cold sweat. In an instant he knew what the dream meant. In an instant he knew what he was trying to forget. If he had no further questions for the Tall One…What a rotten peach of a thought.

Rensal walked around all day after this dream like a redbit who has eaten the berries that make you see things that are not really there at all. He hardly greeted Ludik and Silitar when they met. He hardly noticed the stream or the sky or the very grass he walked on. At times he was beside himself, leaning this way and that way into his thoughts.

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Medium 9781782201885

XV

Mahon, Eugene J. Karnac Books ePub

Having discussed the beginnings of each important thing that had ever entered his mind, one day Rensal had the idea to discuss where his interest in beginnings came from in the first place.

“What a perfect peach of a question,” said Rensal to himself, knowing that the Tall One would get as much of a kick out of it as he did. Rensal looked at the stream that kept him company as he walked. Did it care about its beginnings, the first seeds of water in the high rocks close to the sky that gathered speed, trying to make a name for themselves? Were beginnings the foolish obsession of redbits only?

The stream was beginning to dimple with gentle morning currents as Rensal reached the Tall One's house.

“Why do I care so much about beginnings?” asked Rensal. The Tall One was beginning to light his first pipe. “The stream doesn't seem to care a whit. It just flows and reflects me whenever I happen to be close to it,” said Rensal indignantly.

“Oh, you can be sure you're still there, Rensal, even when it's not reflecting you,” said the Tall One, trying to humor him, his pipe interrupting speech with punctuations of smoke.

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XI

Mahon, Eugene J. Karnac Books ePub

One day, after Rensal had seen the redwing in the stream, he wondered what became of it. At first, he was afraid to touch it or even look at it. Later, he couldn't get it out of his mind.

What became of it after it drowned in the stream? Was there a history of redwings, or was there only a history of famous redwings? Were redwings who intimidated the wind with their flight remembered, while redwings who lost their hold of the wind were forgotten? If this was history, one were better off without it, thought Rensal to himself sadly.

“History doesn't exist,” said the Tall One, when Rensal arrived with his dilemma. “Redwings exist and the wind exists and death exists and memory exists but history doesn't exist.”

“What's the difference, then, between memory and history?” asked Rensal, trying to follow the logic.

“Memory is alive. History is dead,” said the Tall One bluntly.

“But isn't history a way to keep the dead alive?” asked Rensal.

“Yes,” said the Tall One, “But we can only keep the famous living. The forgotten are dead forever.”

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