Continukid David Eatock presents us with a haunting glimpse into a project-in-the-making, providing a narrative that chills the reader’s bones and constructing a landscape that is just as cold and bare. The sentence structure allows the reader to tumble into the story, weaving through sensuous metaphor and mystical storytelling, only to leave us in a mysterious blizzard of rural ambiguity. It is an excerpt full of contrast, such as the black and white references, but also one of surprising parallels and comparisons. The characters are simultaneously secretive and revealing, maintaing an uncertainty in the story that grips the reader’s attention.
Jerome, the farmer, the leader of the house, was taken by Winter-time last December. A black lab, clearly discernible in the thick blanket of whiteness, was struggling to remove its leg from a pit of ice that was covered by snow. Its pathetic howling sounded like a siren on a day where snow fell silently, but in mounds, and Jerome, sweet Jerome, who had a sickness for saving things, told Maria and Marilyn that he would be back shortly after saving the dog; the poor dog, as delicate as a glass tulip, as sad as a glass tulip.
Jerome trudged through the snow storm, thickly layered in his white parka and white snow boots while Maria and Marilyn watched from the window located just over the sink. The lab was visible the whole way, but Jerome was not, his contour faded quickly while the dogs faded slowly and once they had both fully disappeared Maria and Marilyn held their breath and clenched at their dresses. They prayed for Jerome, but it was too late; he was gone now.
Marilyn, the glass tulip, has changed since then. She is mute and bed ridden, a statue found in the room adjacent to the linen closet. She is fighting battles inside of herself, climbing mountains, slipping on her icy bones. She searches for Jerome in every nook and cranny of her body, in the bottom of every bottle of his handmade rum, she tastes him on her lips and weeps over old photographs while scorning the black lab, who, every now and then, appears again, with its foot stuck in another ice pit, with its mouth emitting that same pathetic howl and Marilyn howls back while the house watches her and accumulates more secrets.
One of the house’s favorite secrets concerns the story of Maria and the horses, their dubious entrance into the family and their mysterious vender.
Maria stood by the sink and watched the snow pirouette through the air. The precipitation was heavy, but not violent, and the frigid cold was more intense than usual.
Jerome and Marilyn were in the back of the home; they could be heard quarreling over a damaged dress.
“It’s really not much.”
Jerome asserted his will; as her husband it was his job to fix things.
Maria wiped condensation from the window, creating a clear lens to view the snowscape and through the blizzard her eyes became transfixed by a black figure accompanied by two, large, black horses standing still amidst the winter chaos, seemingly watching her.
Her white parka, which had accumulated mounds of dust, rested on a vintage coat rack built by Jerome before the snow started. She slid into it and stamped down in her boots then opened the door and commenced forward.
The snow, which had once fallen so elegantly, aggressively shifted and bore down on her like a thick tarp and she lost herself in it; she flailed and tripped and sheathed her eyes, but in the moments where she found endurance she would peer forward to catch the gaze of the black figure, seemingly unaffected by the furious blizzard, guiding her forward like a lighthouse.
The figure was a man wearing a black trench coat with a large black hat and a black scarf wrapped around his neck. He smoked a black cigarette while wiping snow from his black boots and holding the reins of his horses.
To the right there was an old and battered stable, built for ambiguous reasons, as Maria recalled, and the man motioned towards it with his cigarette. The horses neighed, sickly, worn down by the snow as they trotted towards the stable on shaking legs, like long icicles attached to their bodies. Maria looked on helplessly, intimidated by the man who stood more than six feet tall with a sly grin on his face, “some evil giant from a distant land,” she thought, coming to plague her with his demon horses and corrupt her senses with his bewitching, mysterious aura, but the man saw her discomfort and in a brief moment of what appeared to be empathy, which not only seemed incongruous with the image he presented, but the entire mood of his character, he attempted to put her at ease.
“Horses can make great friends you know and a girl your age can never have too many friends. So what do you say? I’d give them to you for free after all.”
Or perhaps, as Maria saw it, always being a girl fascinated with the subtext of actions, it was only an ill-conceived plot to deceive a young girl with the mechanized fantasy of a young girl’s desires. “Not that young,” she thought, after all, Maria was used to being alone, she spent most of her time day dreaming while staring out at the snow, living other lives, as she liked to put it, so the concept of friends was ultimately boring to her. Still, she followed the man into the stable where he was leading the horses into their cages and tying them up. The stable was not well heated, only slightly warmer than the frigid outdoors and the horses seemed to be choking on the cold air, but the man appeared indifferent to that, seeming preoccupied with unloading the horses wherever he might find a home for them.
The troughs were filled with frozen water and the moldy planks of wood were weakly dangling to form the structure. Spiders had made their homes in the corners of the walls, frozen there too, their ice webs were spun on wooden pillars where no prey had stumbled for a long while and the atmosphere of the place, quiet but for the whimpering of the horses, had a haunting quality that was augmented by the presence of the tall, disconcerting man, but at least the hay, somehow lasting through the harsh gales of winter, was present for the horses to feed on.
The man finished placing the horses in their new home and lit another cigarette as the animals turned their heads towards the wall and wept.
“There you are dear, two horses for you to play with. Don’t worry about compensation, this is only a generous deed on my part, I help people like you, you could say I’m something like an angel.”
The man turned and began to walk towards the exit of the stable before Maria, with her voice being choked up in the bottom of her throat, spoke up sheepishly.
“But it’s so cold here, how are they supposed to survive? And I don’t know if my Dad would like you just leaving them for us.”
The man responded with a snicker and a smile that feigned compassion, he flicked his unfinished cigarette onto the ground and blew the last of its smoke from his mouth before speaking.
“I’m sure they’ll find their way somehow, you’ll take care of them, you’ll love them because they’re yours now, they’re no longer my responsibility and as for your father I’m sure he could fix this place up and he wouldn’t mind having new ornaments to decorate his land with would he? Trust me, do you really think I’d lie to you? Take care little girl, maybe we’ll see each other again sometime.”
Maria turned to watch the horses who were rubbing their noses against the frozen water of the troughs.The walls of the stable creaked with each passing gust and the walls of the cages, abound with rust, struggled to keep closed.
The man walked off with a wave as he moved into the snow and disappeared in a matter of moments.