Monday, December 01, 2008

DIANA: A Serial Short Story: Installment 1

Well, I was trying to think of how to follow up on a month of gratitude posts and not much was coming to me and then I thought of this idea I had a while back. To post a serial story every day for as long as it takes... mercifully only 3 days. I don't know why I'm doing this. It's a goofy idea on many levels. The story is corny, not very good and was written many centuries ago when I was in my 20s. Writer's vanity, I guess. I hate having all these things that nobody has ever read, even if they aren't any good. So... here's part one of ... It seems to be coming out in a variety of fonts and sizes. I don't know how to fix it so all I can do is apologize.


DIANA

by

Katherine E. Rabenau



There was a running horse. Every night in her dreams the stallion ran; a shadow atop the hill, it ran back and forth, back and forth, while she tried desperately to scale the steep cliff, to reach it before dawn. The cliff rose almost straight. Her loose white gown was in shreds; sharp rocks tore at her. Thorn bushes lashed out like fierce dogs. Her hands were cut and bleeding. Above, the hoofs beat. Their steady pounding trembled in the stone. Every night he ran and she climbed, and every night dawn came before she reached him. Sometimes she came so close she could feel the hot, tired breath against her skin. But she never made it.


*****


The noise of the garbage truck woke her. She imaged the fat steel monster opening its gluttonous jaws to catch the huge chunks of garbage being tossed by the keepers. Then came the cruel whine as it chewed and slobbered and swallowed and opened up for more. She rolled over in bed, trying not to be awake, trying to send her mind back into the sweet depths of unconsciousness, but the monster outside whined on unmercifully and it was no use. She was awake. There was no rule, however, which said she had to open her eyes. She would just lie there. She was not ready for the day, for the endless repetitiousness of it. She could not face it. The monster outside whined on.

Then it started again. The strange images began moving through her brain; thousands of them peopling her mind like a bizarre travelling circus. Sometimes they were so real that the stepped outside of her and became like living beings in the room. They frightened her then, for they came unbidden, and each time it was harder to drive them back inside where she could control them.


Would she one day become one of those demented old hags who roamed the town berating silent, invisible lovers? She remembered a bum, a man in his forties. Last summer she had seen him day after day, dancing, fighting walking with his companions. They were so obviously real to him that she could sense their presence, could almost see them. She did not want to share his fate, to be an oblivious object of curiosity or ridicule.


She had been spending much time alone of late, not exactly avoiding people, simply not seeking them out. She was lonely, but there was no one she could think of at the moment whom she wanted to see, no one with whom conversation would be more than an exercise in courtesy.


Her eyes opened, and with a sudden swing, she was out of bed looking around. "God, what a mess."


She showered, had coffee, and began cleaning half-heartedly, but today the loneliness was more than a whisper in the background. Today it was screaming around her ears, making the confined space of the apartment unbearable. She combed her hair, slipped on a worn blue raincoat, and left.


She would go to the museum and merge with the drifting shadows. She would ask the guards foolish questions, just to hear the sound of her voice, to assure herself that she still existed. And she would watch for others whom the loneliness had already conquered so she could look at herself and whisper, "You are not really lonely yet. You are not like them."


On the bus, she faded quietly into her seat and became absorbed in scenes that passed so quickly that one was no sooner caught up in them than they were gone -- life in miniature. Everything moved too fast. She wondered how those moments ended. Did the quarreling lovers make up? Or the tired young prostitute find a taker?


Her thoughts were interrupted by a woman's voice. The brass agony of it clanged against her as its disembodied raving went on and on, louder and louder, silencing everyone. "You've got to dress nice," it said. "Never work. That's how I lost him -- him spending time with that whore. He said to me, 'If you dressed nicer I'd come back.' But I wouldn't have him. They get diseased from those women. . ." The voice went on and on until the woman departed, still talking, and everyone relaxed. The woman's unhappiness had been real; its distortions could not mask the genuineness of her misery, and her grief hung palpable in the air around them, undispelled by her departure. Diana shuddered. She stared at the silent, immobile faces, each locked in its separate isolation, and shuddered at someone's being lonely enough to bare her soul to a busload of these uncomfortable strangers.


She was grateful when her stop came and she could leave the rolling madhouse for the street and then the cool, high-ceilinged darkness of the museum.


Inside, she roamed aimlessly, moving from room to room, period to period, glancing at the magnificent diversity of human dreams and imaginings with only a small part of her consciousness. Only occasionally did something stop her, reach so deeply into her own being that she was moved despite herself to motionlessness, then to attention.


She saw the faces in the paintings and knew that they were kindred, that they knew a pain much like hers -- an unjustifiable hurt that lived inside. And because it came not from the world or from any force that one could label or blame or rail against, the pain did not satisfy. It only grew, enhanced by the guilt of its own presumptuousness.


The portrait which held her so transfixed now was by Memling. The dark-eyed stranger was nameless, simply, "A Man," but she knew, as she had from moment of seeing him years ago, that he was hers, had always been hers, that she had tasted his lips, his flesh, had felt his thoughts. It was this portrait that made her certain of having lived before, of having known other lives. Beyond doubt, they had loved, this man and she, with a depth few are fortunate to know. Five hundred years ago, they had shared ecstasy, if not happiness. Perhaps he was her loneliness, the missing piece she was always looking for. Maybe. . .


Voices across the gallery startled her back to present reality and she looked around, momentarily confused. A chill went over her as a gaunt figure entered the room, for she knew with the same certainty she felt about the Memling man, that this stranger would intrude upon her solitude and that she would be unable to drive him away although he frightened her, although she despised some malevolence that seemed to emanate from him and to vibrate through the room as he approached.


Come back tomorrow for Installment 2 of 3.


5 comments:

Dr.John said...

I can hardly wait for tomorrow.

SnoopMurph said...

Wow, me too!

Raven said...

The next two installments will post at 5 after midnight each night.

San said...

Such an intriguing character you've opened us to here, Raven. And I'm so curious about the man who's just entered...

Travis said...

I'm off to installment #2 with anticipation.