The Unquiet Clay by Bryn Colvin

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SUMMARY: The unquiet clay still lives and moves, but is not at ease in the darkness.

You have this feeling now and then. Or at least, I do. Lines converge. Your hair stands up and you know that it's time to pay a special sort of attention. A figure alone, my feet covered in mud. In the dark I hear the distant sound of bells. Not the sonorous music of church bells but something lighter, more persistent. Smaller in a way, but more significant for all that.

I hear someone begin to sing, in a low voice, and gradually come to realize, that it is me. A song drawn from my bones and from the autumn night. Dark music, all womb blood and coffee. A song of the land beneath my feet. I cannot remember the words even as I voice them but my feet begin to respond, almost independent of me. Shuffling and skipping at first, finding the rhythms of my own singing. With dry foliage brushing my face, tangling in my hair ,I move. The smell of wood smoke and leaves returning to the soil. It is the dying time.

Bright flickers in the distance promise comfort. Circles of human warmth. No matter how dark the night, there will be stories here. Something to keep away the sounds of bells. They have been in my ears for too long now. Haunting the edges of my days. I do not know what they mean, but fear to be alone with them. They are too close and I hunger for human contact.

I gather my wits and will ,close my eyes, and sing. Words come consciously now. Telling of ancestors passed and forgotten dreams. Working songs, stamping feet against the soil. As I go towards the firelight, I hear them, behind me. The bells, and the heavy footfalls in time with my own. I feel and gradually accept the weight of horns on my brow. Have they always been there? I am no longer certain. They are ungainly and at the same time uncannily familiar. And fitting.

We are somewhere down the hill from the old church. Shapes resolve out of the gloom - old gravestones decked with ivy. A crew, a line wild, pale, dark and motley emerges from between the trees and stones. I know them. Hollow of eye, their clothing a mass of scraps, tatters and remnants of long forgotten revels. Feathers, rags and bits of twine. Things that once shined and winked in the sun, descend from ruined flesh. Where the moonlight kisses them they are hideous.

When they fall in behind me I do not question it. I sense their shambling movements and wonder why there is no fear in my heart as we progress. Something else fills me instead, like joy, but wilder. The sky is almost painfully clear. The taste of frost to come all too apparent, but it no longer belongs to me.

Down the hill we clatter in strange procession, following an old straight path towards the lights and careless voices of the town folk where they gather to celebrate. Their forms are indistinct around the fire. Anonymous. Shadows of people. We, being darker and more earthy have greater substance. Their voices and laughter carry on the breeze, ghost like. A desire grows within me, to teach them to sing. There is a clay taste in my mouth as I reach for the right tones. A resonant and hollow sound wells in my chest. The words are old and heavy, the rhythm timeless.

Heads turn, eyes widen.

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