Random Writing 4

From the moment I saw it, I knew I had never wanted anything so much. My aching knees, my grumbling stomach, the twinges in my back from holding the family candle, all my church-day woes just fell out of me. I stared up, mesmerised.

The altar at the church of the eighth ascension was in the center of a raised section to the north of the congregation. It was a large stone block topped with a carved wooden statue of the god Klarat - in the form of his eighth ascension, of course, with outstretched arms and a wren perched on each shoulder. In his hands rested a hammered bronze bowl, dark brown with light streaks where the candle-light reflected from the edges of each blow. In the bowl were the church treasures, those donations that were small enough to keep and valuable enough to display, but not so valuable that the church was obliged to sell them for upkeep.

Today, unlike church-days before, I could see a handle poking over the edge of the bowl. I don't know (and indeed, I never found out) how long ago it had been donated - had it been there forever, and I was just too distracted by my own problems to notice it? Perhaps it had been donated the week before by some mercenary on his way through town, or perhaps it had been in the bowl longer, but the bowl had been turned somehow, or replaced awkwardly into Klarat's outstretched hands by a new altar assistant. It was irrelevant, for time for me was no longer marked by the days, months, years that would have to be invoked to answer the question. Time for me now was just made of before and after - before I owned it, and after.

I knelt there, gawping at it like a stunned fish. The handle was two hand-widths long, just the right size for a man the size of my father, a man I would hopefully grow to resemble - and although I looked more like my mother's brother at that age, the sight of the handle filled me with a certainty of my destiny - after I had it, I would grow to fit it. There was no other possible outcome.

It was carved of a maple-red wood, bound as a grip with black tanned leather but visible at the pommel, which was in turn studded with an ornate iron loop (which in later years I used to store it on a hook above my bed, but which I realised later might have been the attachment point for a martingale). From my low position in front of the altar I could see no more, but the wood curved out slightly with a graceful protrusion that served in the capacity of a fingerguard or slight hilt. Above that the blade, which I recognised by the of the handle must be of medium length, but which I was not to glimpse for many more weeks.

I was thus transfixed when the priest and the altar assistant suddenly moved before me, blocking the wondrous sight of the knife's handle. The priest was dressed in his fourth churchday robes, the white robes with red trimming that signified the fourth cloud of Klarat's path, the cloud where the god discarded his earthly desires to the winds. I can hardly think of anything that seems less appropriate for the moment, in hindsight, but perhaps it was not so odd at all. The priest, by coming between me and the knife, stole me from that moment of utter desire and made me realise that now I had no others. The knife was to be the only thing for me from that moment on, the considerations of my flesh were as nothing. I would come to the church every day if I must, aching knees and grumbling belly notwithstanding.

The priest leant towards me, reaching out with his left hand to dip it into the bowl of ice-water his assistant carried. Then he used the wetted fingers to pinch out the flame of the family candle I held out before me, and said the words of benediction (which I will not repeat here, for though you may not think it, I who am explaining how I came to steal a sacred treasure from a church, I am a man who thinks often of the gods, and keeps their secrets from outsiders). I replied, as a child past his first initiation would, and he moved on, revealing the knife handle to me again, like a star coming out form behind a cloud.

I knelt there as long as I could - too long, a woman behind me who I didn't recognise pulled at my shoulder, eager to take her turn. I rose, sadly, my eyes on the knife handle above us, and carried the darkened candle back to my mother. As I walked away I could feel the knife behind me, and I knew that I would never lose that awareness. Wherever I went without it would be before, and would lead up to that moment of consummation when the handle was in my palm, the zero point that would lead to after.

From my seat on the floor amongst the congregation I could barely make out the shape of the handle in Klarat's bowl, but I sat through the rest of the service entranced. The sounds of the priest's closing chant, something I had previously associated only with the chance of escape and food, became the most melancholy sound I had ever heard, truly the sound of loss, the god leaving behind all of creation as I would have to leave behind (although only for a time) the only thing that meant anything to me any more.

I rose to my feet after my father and mother and began to file out of the church. I knew that I would be back tomorrow, and that people would wonder. I knew that would have to hide my new routine as long as I could. I knew that eventually someone would find out, and I knew that I wanted that to be too late. Because I was going to steal the knife.

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