Spring 2007




Visual Arts
Challenge Prompt
Arts Community
Author Bios

The scribe's desk
Matthew Spillum

There would shine a pale light, silvery and ephemeral, that would signal each dawn. One word would echo in Violet Crane’s head; a quiet inference would hang on the back of each moment. Servants, or the like, would melt from every crystalline reflection, would attend each earthly need. Food would present, and water, and clothing. The entire time, Violet Crane would stare absently at the dull play of wan light on ice. He would chew absently, would wait for the day’s symbol to take form in some simple reflection, the fold of a frozen tunic, the scratches scuffed into an ice wall.
             Violet Crane would wait.
            Perhaps it would be a moment, early in the day, when a glance at some hoary wood grain would inspire the day’s work. In a trance, he would unpack his brushes, shake the frost off his inkbottles, and begin.
             Other days would go harder for him.
            Those days would grind on, a glacier of expectation wearing furrows in his ever more worried brow. The evening meal’s remnants would drift away, would be bourn off by frigid simulacrums of hands, by shapeless expanses of ice that would gather for the purpose. The Queen of Winter’s Breath would rise, swirling into alabaster and marble; would shiver slightly as each sigil shook into focus. Each prior day’s handiwork would shudder to ebon clarity on smooth white. The need for the next symbol would set upon Violet Crane.
            His eyes would dart about the room in growing helplessness as his calligraphy accoutrements accreted about him. Brushes would tap impatient at his fingers and inkwells would force their stoppers from their mouths in silent cries for attention. Violet Crane would pay them but cursory mind. His eyes would scan the dining hall for clues and his ears would dread the Winter Queen’s scornful susurrus. Where would he find the day’s sigil? Would that ephemeral shadow hold the symbol? Or would it be scattered in the rice grains scattered on the floor?
            Violet Crane would remember the time that the clock nearly struck, and it was in its taunting face that he found the right word. He flung himself forward to a shoulder that would seem bared and ready later. He traced the needful sigil in what would seem frenzy, but he would remember the simple calm smile of that icy face. He knew he would always find the right word then.
            The pale rose of evening would part the crystalline table in two pinkish, shimmering halves. Violet Crane would pause over his supper, drawing fingers idly through his dark hair. He would play gently with the delicate petals that seemed to nestle in his mane for warmth. He would pluck one purple petal, would brush it from his fingers to float to the cold ice table before him. He would watch the Queen of Winter’s Breath slowly materialize across the table.
First, traceries of frost, silver ghosts of his previous sigils, would spider out from the frigid air. Icy fog would shimmer and tighten into limbs and trunk, head and hands. The face would evolve last, as Violet Crane would know it would always do; a smile both beguiling and heartless would coalesce from the last wisps of frosty miasma.
            Where would the symbol reveal itself that day? Violet Crane would chew distractedly, would raise one eyebrow in a false disinterest. He would shudder inside to think of how he had seen nothing. All the while, alabaster eyes would flash flinty light above that remorseless smile. Icy fingers would trace void-black symbols in mocking patterns. A subtle scratching sound would build from the finger-tracing, and Violet Crane would wonder if another symbol would really reveal itself.
            The finger would scrape. Slow, unrelenting, like the sharpening of a distant knife, while rose light would lengthen to violet, and shadows would swallow hope.

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