The Ninth Archive

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The Old Man and The Child

From a book written in as-yet undeciphered runes, save for one page that contains the following:

“You trust the coppery ones too much,” the old man says, leaning closer to the child. “Do you know where they go when the tides ebb, when the horizon murmurs? They are very secretive.”

“You don’t trust any of my friends,” says the child.

“They don’t have friends. It’s not their nature. They don’t,” the old man’s forehead furrows, the black line across it becoming like a bolt of dark lightning. “They don’t feel things the way we do.”

“Does anyone?” says the child, yawning and stretching. A throbbing ache, like wet ropes stretched and twisted too tight, shoots through the old man’s arms and joints.

“Didn’t you used to be friends with me? What was so wrong with just that? Didn’t we?” The old man grips the chair, which creaks.

“There were always others, you know. Remember Trutannys? And Ireche?”

The old man grunts. The pain is lessening.

“And besides,” says the child, “They do take me on their outings. Past the waterline, where white bones unfurl with the noise of tectonic heartbeats, where deepstars blossom redolent with pastel tears and pearls strung on spiderwebs. Where the memory of leviathan’s song lives on every indrawn breath.”

The old man grunts again. “I don’t trust it.” There is birdsong, a staccato plea from a porcelain horn, floating in the window.

“They took me to where the horizon speaks. It was almost too much to, to absorb.” The child is silent for a while. “I do wish to return. I wish. But it is so rarely time.”

“Rarely time indeed,” says the old man. “Why don’t you spend more time with your other friends? Who did you say again? True tany?”

The child is silent again. “I don’t know what happened to them. I don’t think we’re friends anymore.”

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