Storytime: All-well.

March 5th, 2014

It was Nap Hakell that started it, but it wasn’t his fault. If it wasn’t him, it would’ve been someone else.
But it was Nap that day that took that shot at that doe, and it was Nap who missed a clean kill and took the poor thing right in the leg instead.
You can’t blame him too much for that, he was never any real huntsman anyways, just a man taking what he needs wherever he finds it. Can’t blame him too much for that, can you?
So off Nap went, following the blood, since there was so much of it, and up and up he climbed through hills and around them ‘till he clawed through a thicket and into a glade that was full of what he wasn’t looking for. No hide nor hair of doe nor arrow, just three things:
The first thing was nothing.
The second thing was a big pit. A deep pit. Carved through dirt and turf and into rock, bigger than a man’s-height across, unless it was a tall man.
The third thing was a pile of gold next to that pit. It was a little bigger than Nap was.

It wasn’t his fault, right?

Now, Nap was a generous man and besides he couldn’t carry all that gold by himself, so he went and found himself his very best, closest friends, the ones he could trust the most, and he swore them never to tell a soul as they started divvying up that loot.
And they didn’t! They didn’t tell a soul, except for those very best, closest friends of theirs, the ones they could trust the most. And they swore them to secrecy, just like THOSE friends did with THEIR friends, and that was why in half a week’s time there was a camp full of maybe three dozen man pitched around that glade and that well, arguing and crabbing and grabbing and complaining. It was hard to tell which was getting shorter faster, the tempers or the gold-pile, and some hotheads had already started flashing knives around. So everyone was pretty happy when on the fifth day of the trip someone got up and looked around and saw a heap of gold next to that well that was just as tall as he was, right on top of the little piddly pile that had been left after last night’s scrimmage.
“Hot damn with ham in a sandwich!” he yelled. “Lookitthat! Someone get Nap!”
And there was cheering and hooting and hollering and hugs shared between men that had last night pledged to slit each other’s gizzards and everyone was so happy that it took almost four hours before they found that they had no idea wherever Nap had gone to.
He wasn’t in the tents, sleeping off his booze.
He wasn’t picking firewood, out past the picked-thin thickets.
He hadn’t gone home, where his wife was asking pointedly what they were up to.
Point of fact, Nap Hakell was gone. And his friends were sad and doffed their hats, and they split up his personal pile – one of the biggest ones – into five pieces, to be shared between them and his family. Because Nap treated his friends well, y’see? Of course he did. Nobody said otherwise.

A week later the pile was smaller still, the camp was bigger still (a little rickety pub was halfway through construction) and there was a lot of grumbling, a lot of hope. Maybe it’d get bigger again, said some. Maybe miracles can happen twice. Maybe we’ll get more.
Maybe it was a fluke, said some others. Maybe Nap did it and it’s all over now that he’s gone. Maybe we’ll spend it like water – I seen some of you doing that – and maybe we’ll all go home come two more days and it’ll be deader than a dream. And people shushed them, but didn’t cuss them, because all they were speaking was what everyone was thinking. And maybe if someone else was saying it that meant you could ignore it. It was a nervous time, and hell on a decent man’s liver – which led to a similar, smaller hell being inflicted on his bladder, which led to lots of men doing what little Heg was doing and taking a good long piss down the side of the well while trying to listen to the echo. Wherever that went, it went deep.
That was all normal. What wasn’t normal was what happened next, which was when Heg got a little bit too fancy and tried to stretch a bit too far and down he went, screaming and waving and screeching as a whole crowd ran up to see the fuss. He landed hard and he landed bad, and up came some babble about a leg or an ankle or a knee or something. Whatever it was, Heg had broke it, and he was calling for ladders, rope, cranes.
Well, they’d help. Some of them were Heg’s friends, some of them thought hauling folks out of trouble was a good pattern to start, some of them were bored. And they scared up some rope and were just about to lay it down when Heg screamed again – one, two, three times – and then stopped real fast.
And then up came a shower of gold, glittering bright in the dark against the campfires.

Well, that led to a big talk.
All of them agreed that they had to keep going at it. It was dangerous, sure, but so was life, right? At least this way you got your gold. No way were they stopping. They just had to fix it.
So they put up a big tall fence around the pit with nails and boards and sticks and logs and old doors and half of someone’s run-down-barn and they put a bar made from a whole tree on the only door in or out that took their six strongest to budge from its cradle, and they hauled that gold out double-time and locked it up every sundown.
Six days later they woke up and a whole tent was missing, with Hod junior, Hod senior, and Hod very senior all at once. Gone.
That led to a bigger talk. And that led to shouting. And that led to a fight, and in that fight a man named Gid stabbed a man named Elt right in his eye. He said he’d been aiming elsewhere, but nobody liked him and nobody cried too loud when he was tied up and chucked in the corner out of the way while they thought up what to do about him.
There were more men around that weren’t really anybody’s friends by then. Too many mouths telling too many secrets to too many ears.
So they all talked into the night about the pit, and about Gid, and eventually it all just blended together into a world that made sense. They needed that gold, like it or not. The pit would take people, like it or not. They needed to do something about Gid, like it or not.
So they took that rope and they took Gid, and they put him down there and plugged their ears to the sounds. And what came showering up from below but more shining metal.

From then on it all just kept going the same. But it was bigger, and had better suits.
The secret ran off as the town sprouted up, and when the word got loud the town grew into a city. A city that shone under the sunlight and rolled over the hills, where every home was a mansion and every man was a rich man that paid out-of-towners in golden pennies to groom his grounds.
It was a place for merry-making, for partying, for freeing cares and dancing and singing and eating on plates that were gold because why wouldn’t they be. It was a city that lived.
But not a night city. As the sun went down and the sky turned dim and the shine wore off the balconies, each and every one of those rich men would walk inside, put out their lights, pour themselves small drinks, and go to bed early with cotton wool in their ears and minds fixed on sleep. And they would drag their feet as they woke, clinging to their fuzzy dreams for fear of what they might hear as they woke.
The prison’s walls were fearful many. The prison’s doors were frightful thick. The prison’s vault was awful deep, and them that dwelled in it were the ones who’d run out of words to use long ago, and ears that would choose to hear them.
But no matter how many walls the city put between itself and that pit at its heart, they could never quite be sure that it was quiet.
So they made louder music, and more brilliant buildings, and fancier suits, and they smiled even more widely under the sunlight. And when they saw the people with tattered knees that lived in the shady corners with sad lines at their mouths and tired eyes they lectured them – in friendly words – and when they saw them again they warned them – in stern language – and when they found their persistent woe too much to bear they charged them – in formal terms – and they were all taken down to the prison, past the walls and walls and walls being built, and they were put away to moving gold, and they were forgotten where they were, which was nowhere important that needed mentioning. Ever.

It was a beautiful city, and it knew it, and that encouraged it only onward and upward. It never stopped, never halted, never paused in its glory except for the quiet night-time, when everyone turned quiet and shut themselves away.
In that quiet, when nobody was looking, when nobody was listening, was when it finally happened. And because of that, there’s only so much to say from what we have. And what we have is so very little of what was.
The hills were scraped bare, the mansions dust.
The parks were splinters, the flowers shrivelled.
The paths were torn and broken to bright flinders.
The prison was gone, the walls all burst.
And at the heart of it all, the city’s heart, where nobody ever looked and nobody ever listened, was the well, torn open from the inside. It was wider across than a quarry.

It had done so much for them all, for so long. But they’d forgotten that just because it took from them, didn’t mean that it meant to give back.
But you can’t blame it too much for that, a thing trying to take what it needs wherever it finds it.
Can you?

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