Henry and the Malcontents, Chapter 7

Fiction By Annabel // 8/14/2010

 

 
Henry and the Malcontents, Chapter 7
 
Dear Blood-Sharer,
 
I think you and I are the only two people left in this country who send letters. And you are possibly the only one left ancient enough to remember letter-writing as a norm, as a government-sponsored thing. At least this way, no one but you will read what I write—I am beginning to have to be careful what I say everywhere else, and I hate that.
 
 Remember that I write to shake Tessa, not to please you.
 
Is it true, as I hear, that you now live among dragons? Live ones?
 
In answer to your questions, I am as well as I can be in a state-run academy. The students are a joy to behold, columns and columns of them, in navy vests and collars with real starch in them. They are nearly as delightful to talk to as to look at—correct and decent and positively dripping with disapproval.
 
They watch me when they think I can’t see them. I think I fascinate them.
 
The instructors, on the other hand, are intimidated by me. They try to hide this from me. One claps my back and tells me, loudly-confidentially, that he was a rebel too in his early days. One writes diabolically clever (he really does believe) criticisms of my papers. Another periodically rates me before the entire mathematics class. All this in front of other people, you understand, so that no can think they’re shirkers.
 
The only one worth much is the one who consistently avoids me, whether alone or among others. He’s a history teacher, an underpaid, underfed, under-ambitious mouse of a man in old-fashioned spectacles and prosy ties, with an indifferently-hidden fondness for democracy, which I am attempting to re-translate into downright rebellion.
 
Because I didn’t take your advice. I’ve followed my conscience and the smell of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies to the home of one of those fervent, ineffectual, Anti-Council little “families” you warned me about. And I’m actually helping them to accomplish…whatever it is they think they’re accomplishing.
 
I think I’ll probably make as bad a revolutionary as you do a traitor.
 
Before you panic, I remembered another good thing about letter-writing.
 
This is the only mode of communication that the Council doesn’t own.
 
                                    With a small drop of affection ‘midst a great deal of coolness,
                                                               Zael Cambion Wintra
 
Dear love,
 
You never surprise me, because I always expect you to do the unexpected.
 
There have been, as I’m sure you are aware, attempted revolutions before. They never worked. They never will. Your friends—very worthy people, I’m sure—will either be found out and executed, betray each other, or simply make no difference. In any case, you’re only asking for trouble. At least you will receive what you asked for.
 
I do in fact live among dragons. They are puny, tired, listless things, nothing like the pictures in your smuggled storybooks, kept in a reserve far too small to sustain a single one of them. If I had a heart, I would probably start a lawsuit in their behalf. As it is, I work for their captors.
 
I had an encounter you might be interested in today. I’ve been to the Capitol to see the Queen—sorry, Councilwoman—about more money for the dragons. It was Ms. Pettel-Turvin, who I think is my favorite of the five Council members—a clothes-hanger woman with a plain, angular face and a wealth of restrained sarcasm. I could tell she thought I was too young for the job. She asked me how old I was—“Twenty? Twenty-one?”—and when I nodded yes, she snorted, actually snorted, in derision.
 
 Before being allowed to see her I had to wrangle for a space with her assistant, a diminuative, acidic-voiced fairy. She’s one of the vibrantly-colored fairies, light yellowish orange, like an apricot. The bright fairies, I’ve always thought, look ludicrous dressed up as humans.
 
I almost think they should be allowed to keep their wings. Almost.
 
In your own confused sort of way, you’re probably disgusted. I don’t feel at all remorseful, though, about working for the Council.
 
I’m still a daffodilist, you see. You remember making up that name for me? “Just like a narcissist, only bigger and rufflier, and a brighter shade of yellow.” It’s quite true, I’m pleased to say.
 
                             Still related, however distantly,
 
                                                   C. Wintra
 
*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *
 
Everything looks different in the dark. Our living room is a nightmare now.
 
Wryre herself looked different now than she did in the daytime, her bright hair extinguished by the darkness, her long limbs obscured in an over-sized night-robe, her open face hidden by shadows. She felt different too, smaller and almost insignificant, and suddenly unable to speak, even in a whisper, even to tell him, as she needed so desperately to, to stop.
 
Immer was left unchanged by the night, as he had been unchanged for so long, having grown, as he had, single-minded, even old, in an instant. Wryre stared miserably at the back of his head as he sat, knees drawn to chest, on a wooden chair before the television. Even in the dark, he felt to her as he always did, intent and passionate, but lost to her in his quietness.
 
Why do you watch it if it only hurts you?
 
She looked up at the screen that was emitting a sickly glow and saw people, lots of them, grainy and noiseless, swaying, jumping, thrusting signs into the air, their mouths moving in shouts and slogans. Her parents were among them somewhere, she knew, but she could not see them, and could not help but feel that, in their absence, this long-ago protest was unconnected to herself. She watched anyway because it mattered to Immer, and saw the demonstrators move as one—were they singing?—led by one tall, golden-haired woman in an incongruous white gown, who seemed somehow more vibrant and living than the others. Watching her, radiant and passionate as she was, Wryre was suddenly caught up in the excitement of the demonstrators, feeling the fervor that sprang from being one of a living army…
 
Then came confusion and the blessed soldiers turned once again into frightened, angry, ordinary people with homemade banners, jostling and surging, and the be-gowned woman leapt and fell, a flurry of gold and white and crimson. The image was marred by specks of red and then the screen went dark.
 
The brother and sister stayed motionless for a moment, he in his chair and she in leaning in the doorway, before Wryre, with sickness added to her former unease, spoke.
 
“Did she die?”  
 
“Yes,” Immer said quietly, without turning his head. “Most of them died, you know.”
 
“Was she an elf?”
 
Her brother leaned over the back of his chair and looked at her. “Yes. One of the last of the elves. She knew she would lose everything when she began.” He stopped, smiling wonderingly, then added, “We need more people like her.”
 
Wryre smiled at him in outward acquiescence. But she thought of her parents imprisoned, of Gabe’s tiny young fairy mother white and shining and trembling before her uniformed executors, of Otis’s thin-lipped, sardonic father disappearing without explanation in the university where he worked, of suppressed demonstrations and spies wherever one looked, and wished there was a better way.

Comments

excuse me while I kick myself for not seeing this sooner...

...okay, I'm back.
I love the story and the world within it. I'm completely captivated.
I really would say more, but I can't seem to find the right way of putting things right now. Alas.

Hannah W. | Thu, 09/02/2010

Thank you, Hannah, I'm glad

Thank you, Hannah, I'm glad you like it.

Annabel | Sat, 09/04/2010

Do you think...

You will keep writing this after AP is over?
You really ought to.
If you do... well, I hope there will be some way I can keep reading it.

Hannah W. | Thu, 09/16/2010

Can you believe AP will

Can you believe AP will actually be gone?

Yes, I'll keep writing it...but it will be more difficult without the accountability of knowing there are people waiting on me, and the comments. Would you really like to keep reading it? I know that would help me...and I'd like to keep reading your work as well (I can't tell you the excitement whenever I see your name by a post). Perhaps we could exchange email addresses?

And thank you for all your encouragement over these months. :D

Anonymous | Thu, 09/16/2010

just realized I wasn't logged in for the last comment...

Yes, I'll keep writing it...but without the accountability of people waiting, or the comments, it won't be as easy. Will you really like to keep reading it? I know that would help me...and I'd love to keep reading your work (I can't tell you how excited I get when I see your name by a new post). Perhaps we could exchange email addresses?

And thank you so much for all your encouragement over thse months. :)

Annabel | Thu, 09/16/2010

:)

Yes, do let's email. I'd love that. But I need to know yours before you send me anything, otherwise you'll go to spam. Here's mine: [email protected]

Hannah W. | Thu, 09/16/2010

Snow blossom? That's

Snow blossom? That's pretty...mine is rather more boring: [email protected]

Annabel | Thu, 09/16/2010