Gathering Moss

There was, he thought, something curiously peaceful about murder scenes. It was absent in robbery or mugging, in illegal ‘walking or hawking right to torture or rape. In all crimes there was passion and fury, pain and shock. From victim to passer-by everyone had their own input, their own colour to add to the already overloaded kaleidoscope of emotion and action. But in murder, no matter the circumstance, no matter the violence, there was that abstruse, intangible peace.

As he slowly paced the area, Elid Bolder’s eyes roamed unseeingly over the scene. Pausing only to place marks at each side of the road, at each alleymouth, he continued his circling, deep in thought.

It occurred to Elid that this peace of his was something rarely recognised. He wondered if others had pondered it, questioned it. Had others even seen it? Or was he the first to realize that this wraithlike emotion flickered there at all? Even in his short time in the Spine he had seen it time and time again. Hanging in the silence of the funeral, flickering at the most raucous hanging. Even if only for an instant, the moment was always there.

Unthinkingly, Elid raised his leg to step over a still smouldering spar and lightly hopped over.

Perhaps it was only certain people who would see, or even acknowledge this peace? Or perhaps, to question his own thoughts, the peace existed only for him and was indeed entirely unseen by the world at large. Who knew? But, assuming it did exist, even just for him, it was curious that hung on as it did. There may be screaming hordes or the agony of loss, the melee may go on regardless of the fallen, but the peace, his peace was still present – in one form or another. Perhaps, Elid thought, it was the sense of peace that could only be found from the deepest of fears and the greatest of hopes – let me not be dead. And there, reflected in the eyes of those that were, came the confirmation that you were not.

So it was, on such quieting and macabre thoughts, that Elid walked straight into his commanding officer.

Nursing his grazed palms and with a certain inevitability, Elid looked up at the darkening skyline to see a figure with enough badly contained wrath to terrify at twenty paces.

Marksman Pebble. Marksman. Pebble” The man spat out the word like poison. “I already know you are incapable of the simplest of tasks. I already know you are incapable of answering the simplest of questions in a USEFUL manner. I already KNOW you are are INCOMPETENT to the point of IDIOCY.” Elid braced himself for what was coming.

“TELL ME MARKSMAN PEBBLE, HAS THE PUTRID MUCK YOU KEEP BETWEEN YOUR EARS ROTTED SO FAR THAT YOU NOW FIND WALKING BEYOND YOUR CAPABILITIES? IS MARKSMAN NOT LOW ENOUGH FOR YOU? ARE YOU, PEBBLE, SO BLINDLY, DEEPLY, PROFOUNDLY WORTHLESS THAT HOLDING ROCKS IS ABOVE YOU?!” It was a trap. It was clearly a trap. Any answer was wrong, any response a mistake, an incitement to further attack and abuse. Elid had endured this routine too many times to count. So it was only with the mildest of bitterness that Elid gazed into middle distance, face neutral, saying nothing.

**

Night closed in now, shifting from the bruised hues of evening to a deeper, more unknown darkness. The fires had died to a quieter smoulder now, holding up the night with their glow. Slowly, Elid traipsed to the last point and snapped the final bindsrock into place. He reached into the front two pockets of his satchel, and drew out a smooth dark stone from each. The badge of his office. With a small spark of effort, he forced them past the strange resistance each rock had for the other until, with a click, the two touched. A slowly strobing band of light began to wind from mark to mark, forming an ethereal but defined fence around the scene, marking one side as in and one as out. In this case, the shifting rainbow of light informing all passers by that the in </spanwas now strictly purview of the Spine, and you had been warned. How the Spine intended to keep the entire city hub inaccessible was somewhat beyond Elid's grasp, serving as it did both the city's main marketplace and thoroughfare in one crowded package. But orders were orders, and a lowly Marksman such as he did not warrant the time it took to answer the question, let alone the authority to ask it. That much had been made readily apparent.

**

Walking slowly towards the underdocks, Elid reflected that he had got off comparatively light. Redoing the fencing for an entire scene with two layers had been an utterly pointless exercise, and thus it was completely unsurprising that Kaid had ordered him to do so. Admittedly the order had been given in a much more roundabout way, calling into question the dubious nature of Elid’s parentage, mental capacities and personal appearance. But all told he had been able to leave his shift a mere three hours after it had finished. The double fencing was a nice touch, he thought. Spine procedure required marksmen to only take the required number of stones to a scene, so an impromptu visit back to the core office had been necessary. The hour long round trip was not so much the problem. Trying to explain to the on duty sergeant why he needed more stones checked out, without checking the previous stones in was significantly so. The byzantine regulations of the Spine apparently having been made in a city where no such event had occurred before. All hail the bureaucrats.

**

Elid opened his eyes. He opened his eyes. He opened his eyes. He revelled in the thin slice of light, expanding and coalescing into vision, an expanding ring that blurred and trembled, sharpening into razor clarity. He looked, and saw each of his fingers was attached to strings of innumerable number, of unmeasurable length. Each connected to each other at all points, a network infinite and ever changing. His index finger twitched, and he felt the reverberations echo away, the rhythm bounding along every line into his other fingers, into his arms, into his chest and eyes, his legs. A captured marionette surrounded and entwined in an eternal web that constantly shifted and mutated in tune with all influences internal and external. Curious, Elid followed one – picked at random from the dancing mass, a solitary thread was seen and followed, he saw his right middle finger, right at the point. Sliding along, he felt the shift and sway of each other string, connected through him and by him. Each pull of the string led him further away from his cocoon, along and upwards. As Elid pulled, he saw around him the other masses, the other spiderwebbed forms that were other people, other creatures – every rat, bird, fish or cockroach was present, the centre of an unseen mass of antennae. His string led higher, above the faces of the dull immobile walls, their hollow windows a meaningless gap in a meaningless structure.

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