The Ivory and the Horn [Secure eReader]
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eBook by Charles de Lint
eBook Category: Fantasy
At first, Jaime knows them only as women with the faces of animals -- mare and deer, wild boar and bear, raven and toad. And others. So many others. Following her.
They smell like forest loam find open field, like wild apple blossoms and nuts crushed underfoot. Their arms are soft, but their hands are callused and hard, the palms like leather. Where they have been, they leave behind a curious residue of dried blood and rose petals, tiny bird bones and wood ashes.
In those animal faces, their eyes are disconcertingly human, but not mortal. They are eyes that have seen decades pass as we see years, that have looked upon Eden and Hades. And their voices, at times a brew of dry. African veldt whispers and sweet-toned crystal bells, looping through the clutter of city sound, echoing and ringing in her mind, heard only from a distance.
They hold Jaime in their soft arms, touch her hands with their callused palms. Fairy godmothers in animal guises, bestowing their dangerous gifts.
eBook Publisher: Charles de Lint
Fictionwise Release Date: July 2000
1 Reader Ratings:
There's a big moon glowing in the sky, a swollen circle of silvery-gold light that looks as though it's sitting right an top of the old Clark Building, balancing there on the north-east corner where the twisted remains of a smokestack rises up from the roof like a long, tottery flagpole, colors lowered for the night, or maybe like a tin giant's arm making some kind of semaphore that only other tin giants can understand. I sure don't.
But that doesn't stop me from admiring the silhouette of the smokestack against that fat moon as I walk through the rubble-strewn streets of the Tombs. I feel like a stranger and I think, That moon's a stranger, too. It doesn't seem real; it's more like the painted backdrop from some forties soundstage, except there's no way anybody ever gave paint and plywood this kind of depth. We're both strangers. That moon looks like it might be out of place anywhere, but belonged here once.
Not anymore, though. I'm not even supposed to be here. I've got responsibilities now. I've got duties to fulfill. I should be Getting Things Done like the good little taxpaying citizen I'm tying to be, but instead I'm slumming, standing in front of my old squat, and I couldn't tell you why I've come. No, that's not quite right. I know, I guess; I just can't put it into words.
"You've got to see the full moon in a country sky sometime," Jackie told me the other day when she got back from her girlfriend's cottage. "It just takes over the sky."
I look up at it again and don't feel that this moon's at all diminished by being here. Maybe because in many respects this part of the city's just like a wilderness -- about as close to the country as you can get in a place that's all concrete and steel. Some people might say you'd get that feeling more in a place like Fitzhenry Park, or on the lakefront where it follows the shoreline beyond the Pier, westward, out past the concession stands and hotels, but I don't think it's quite the same. Places like that are where you can only pretend it's wild; they look right, but they were tamed a long time ago. The Tombs, though, is like a piece of the city gone feral, the wild reclaiming its own -- not asking, just taking.
In this kind of moonlight, you can feel the wilderness hiding in back of the shadows, lips pulled in an uncurbed, savage grin.
I think about that as I step a little closer to my old squat and it doesn't spook me at all. I find the idea kind of liberating. I look at the building and all I see is a big, dark, tired shape hulking in the moonlight. I like the idea that it's got a secret locked away behind its mundane facade, that's there's more to it than something that's been used up and then just tossed away.
Abandoned things make me feel sad. For as long as I can remember I've made up histories for them, cloaked them in stories, seen them as frog princes waiting for that magic kiss, princesses being tested with a pea, little engines that could if only they were given half a chance again.
But I'm pragmatic, too. Stories in my head are all well and fine, But they don't do much good for a dog that some guy's tossed out of a car when he's speeding through the Tombs and the poor little thing breaks a leg when it hits the pavement so it can't even fend for itself -- just saying the feral dogs that run in these streets give it half a chance. When I can -- if I get to it in time -- I'm the kind of person who'll take it in.
People have tried to take me in, but it never quite works out right. Bad genes, I guess. Bad attitude. It's not the kind of thing I ever worried about much till the past few weeks.
I don't know how long I've been standing on the street, not even seeing the building anymore. I'm just here, a small shape in the moonlight, a stray dream from the safe part of the city that got lost and found itself wandering in this nightland that eats small dreams, feeds on hopes. A devouring landscape that fed on itself first and now preys on anything that wanders into its domain.
I never let it have me, but these days I wonder why I bothered. Living in the Tombs isn't much of a life, but what do you do when you don't fit in anywhere else?
Copyright © 1995 by Charles de Lint