Excerpt from Silver
Beneath the hot afternoon sun, the grassy hillside is littered with stones, gray and smooth. Some are planted partially into the earth, while others are plopped onto the surface as if they might roll off at any moment. And deep below the surface, the Old Ones live.
The Stone People are nocturnal and wary. They live long, long lives—so long the passing of seasons, centuries, even eons go unnoticed unless something happens to disturb their peaceful natures. The Stone People also have long memories. They remember a time when they were revered and consulted by other Earth inhabitants on matters of great importance.
The Stone People are a patient lot. They measure their days by the cycles of the moon. The full moon is their morning, and the slim stick moon their night. On their calendar, a human month counts as a single day and a year is one week. Their energy is densely packed and only under the full moon does this density loosen enough for them to emerge to dance, sing and share stories beneath the glowing orb.
Josia still remembers when his broad, flat surface was a place of prayer, and the stony hillside a great cathedral of the night. How well he remembers the songs and celebrations, the gatherings of both Human and Animal around his stone family. He still bears the imprint of their tears because they knew his special strength and understood he was designed to carry great burdens.
Josia belongs to both families, embedded and surface Stone and is considered wise although not with the wisdom of the Old Ones living still beneath the surface of the world. No surface Stone can speak without first consulting the old embedded ones. It is law.
Not in a million years did Josia expect to fall in love. It is the nature of Stone People that they are love; they do not fall in love. In such a long life, there was little that Josia didn’t understand about the creatures that passed by, or occasionally sat upon his grainy surface to sun themselves.
Mostly he was content to be an anchor to the fleeting lives of others. The Old Ones may have been able to warn him of what was to come, but they resisted knowing, as only they could, that Josia’s heart was destined to perform a great action in the ways of the world.
It began one night when the moon was full bright above the earth. Josia heard the squall of an infant and, instead of joining his brethren in the chanting and dancing, he abandoned the festivities and took his spirit down to the edge of one of the villages. There he found a simple cabin, the land around it cleared and tidy. And down a winding path was a pretty pond, its surface still as glass. The crying infant wailed again. As Josia neared the cabin, he saw a pale white spirit-light lift from the surface of the pond, flicker, and dance a moment. It moved like a silver swarm to the cabin window and then disappeared within. Curious, Josia approached and looked into the cabin interior.
A man and woman were washing a newborn babe. The infant’s body was still slick with birthing fluids and blood. Josia saw the flickering spirit light hover a moment, and then slide into the newborn’s body. At that very moment the infant opened her eyes and Josia’s life was changed forever.
He stayed the whole night watching the young family with something like pain stabbing his own spirit. In those moments of looking at the infant girl Josia, for the very first time, yearned to have arms to hold her, fingers to stroke the soft down of her cheek, a lap on which to rest her tiny body. Never, in the millennia of his existence, had Josia ever desired to be human. The very idea rather shocked him. No, rather he had been content to watch their comings and goings (so quickly lived, these human lives) with something like pity.
When dawn approached, it was almost a relief to retreat again into dense, unmoving matter.
Josia had always been a mindful stone, and he knew it would do no good to bemoan his fate, so he turned his attention to the Grandmothers and Grandfathers deep below the surface of the earth and took his sustenance there. He listened to the low hum of song and conversation shared by the Old Ones and it soothed his despondency. He felt his energy . . . his life . . . merge more deeply within.
Clara forgot the birth pangs the moment her husband placed the infant in her arms. It was as if a difficult journey was now over and they had returned home once again. “Oh, Richard, she’s so beautiful. Look at her tiny hands; her fingers are so small they couldn’t hold so much as a pebble.”
Richard took the infant’s hands in his and spread the tiny fingers. With a wet, warm cloth he washed each one gingerly. To his wife he said, “I’m rather afraid of her, my love. She seems so fragile.” To his tiny daughter he said, “Hello, little one. Welcome to the world.”
The infant, as if responding to her father’s voice, opened her eyes for the first time. Clara gasped and whispered, “Oh Richard, look at her eyes. They are as silver as the moon. Do you think she is blind?” Fear stabbed Richard’s heart; but when the girl turned and gazed straight into his eyes, the fear fled, and he saw only stars and moon, lake and river, the sun reflecting from a high window. “No, she is not blind. She sees, my love. She sees.”
Richard and Clara named their newborn daughter ‘Silver’ for the odd color of her eyes. Over the next several days the friends and relatives of Richard and Clara came to visit bringing small gifts for the new life among them. All exclaimed over the odd color of her eyes—as if tiny silvered mirrors had been fitted into the cornea of each eye. But more than the color of Silver’s eyes, each visitor left the infant’s cradle with a sudden fusion of understanding, as if some small bit of self-knowledge which had eluded them throughout life suddenly came into sharp focus.
Mrs. Elderman left contemplating the students in her classroom—her lack of patience—and the way it was tarnishing her ability to teach. Jack Lane went home feeling oddly ashamed about his heavy drinking and how it was affecting his wife and three sons. Selena Castlebury, a young friend of Clara’s, on the other hand, went home realizing for the first time that she had gifts and gifts and gifts which she had not yet used in her life. It was as if the infant’s eyes really were tiny mirrors reflecting out to all who met her some hidden part of their own natures.
At first Richard and Clara did not notice the odd effect their infant daughter was having on their neighbors. But as a week and then a month and then six months went by and still the townspeople kept popping in at odd hours to see Silver, they wondered what could be going on. It was becoming a burden to offer tea or coffee or small cakes to so many. Befuddled by this much attention, Richard and Clara also had no idea that each full moon since Silver’s birth, another unusual visitor had also come
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