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List of Chapters
It was a rush of quiet first, when we all tried to figure on what had happened. Then one of us starts screaming for joy, and another says, “Quiet, fool.” I don’t know who’s speaking. I’m just staring down at the body in front of me.
There’s a blur of white and brown, and Rethi grabs me by the outside of my arms. He’s talking, but it takes a second to come through. He shakes me. Just a bit. “Are you all right?” he says again.
I look at him. The way his skin is gleamed with sweat. I think, It’s cold, and it seems strange and beautiful the way his skin glows in the moonlight. “I’m fine,” I say, and I hear myself say it like I’m standing a bit away from myself.
I originally wrote this essay months ago. I’ve put off editing and publishing it since. Honestly, I still don’t feel ready, but I’m afraid that if I don’t write it now I might lose it. And I’ve recently been reminded how our Thanksgiving holiday brings issues of guilt and shame to the surface.
So I’m going to give this my best attempt. It’s also much longer than most of my entries. I think it all matters. I think it’s all part of a big, complex system that’s worth examining in its many parts. And I’m sorry I can’t do a better job of finding the most perfect and precise ways to communicate the vital messages. I’m still trying to figure it out myself. But if you give it the fifteen minutes it will take you to read, my hope is you’ll find these ideas to be as significant as I have. So … on to the question.
How do we come to terms with the fact of our bodies? Not facts about our bodies, but the fact of the body itself—that we not only have but are a body, that we exist as creatures of flesh and blood and bone and sense and skin. The body is simultaneously our prison and our vehicle to explore the universe, and each belief we have about that body shapes every moment of our lives.
The body is not an easy fact to accept.
The arrow hits so hard it knocks the air out of my scream, and the moment freezes. I’m dead, I think. Then I look down and realize the arrow hasn’t buried itself in me. Instead, it’s shattered and is falling to the ground. Blunted? It’s the only thought, the only strange how I can muster. But who in all the hells would fire a blunted arrow at me? And then the arrow shards have hit the dust, and I’ve drawn a dagger into my hand almost without the thought to do so.
On the other side of the camp, I hear a thud. Like something hit the earth. I take in a deep gasp to scream again, trying to wake the rest. By then I see the bowman moving again—just a shadow of a shadow in the night pulling his bowstring taut and setting another arrow to fly at me.
Any idea of “perfect” must ultimately be subjective. Sometimes our collective imagination comes up with an oppressive perfect that we, as individuals, feel obligated to hold ourselves in comparison to. But finding our own ideal, even and especially in contradiction of this societal ideal, has great value.
There’s one specific question of “perfect” that I’ve been thinking about lately: What does my perfect day look like? The more I’ve contemplated what that day might look like, the more I realize how deeply revealing the question is. There were some ways that the contents of my “perfect day” took me by surprise, and some ways in which the idealization made me feel, oddly, grateful.
There’s some anger from a couple of the other guards when they see a woman’s joining their company, but Rethi quiets them quick enough and gets us on our way. A broad-bodied man named Hull keeps giving me an angered look as we go along, so I start riding a bit further from the rest of them.
Right out of Worth, the trail follows the green waters of a river as big as any I’ve seen. My father once said that you know a river from a stream because you can jump over a stream. Were I to jump five times as far as I can—and I’m not shy jumper—this would still be a stream to me. We’ve been following it for just past a turn when I see the river ahead of us gaining some froth and rumble.
By the time I make it to Worth, my leg is a touch stiff but at least feels more like flesh than wood. And my sense of all being beautiful and kind has maybe stopped its swelling a bit too, but that doesn’t stop me from thanking the light for getting me here safe.
Worth has the sort of name that makes you figure its purpose fast enough. It’s the east-most city that’s near to the serpent—the river, that is—so it gets a lot of trade. From what I hear tell, the place has plenty of merchant crews, either from those that send river boats or those caravans that follow the serpent because the path is well-tried and has plenty of towns to rest on. So when I see the set of six, seven wagons outside the city proper, I feel a bit of an excitement.
I look around for someone who may be the head of the crew, but the only person I see is sitting on a wooden barrel in front of one of the wagons. He’s got rust-colored hair and is cleaning his fingernails with a dagger.
Dear Sir or Madam,
It has come to our attention that your Writer’s Motivation™ has been misplaced. We here at the Universe (along with its affiliates, subsidiaries, and partner companies), would like to apologize for any and all inconvenience this loss has caused you.
We regret to inform you that, given the number of complaints of this nature we receive, it is impossible for us to address each case of missing Writer’s Motivation™ personally. This is especially true during the month of November. Please accept these three gifts in the hope that they will help you find your Writer’s Motivation™:
Again, we apologize for the inconvenience and sincerely hope that our gifts will help alleviate this challenging situation and assist you in retrieving your Writer’s Motivation™.
Best of luck,
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Copyright © 2013 Rob Blair Writes