|Path Between Houses
Author: Jane Faro PM
Various and sundry one-shots about Silas, and how he came to be who he is.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Angst - Silas - Chapters: 2 - Words: 1,398 - Reviews: 7 - Favs: 10 - Follows: 5 - Updated: 12-15-10 - Published: 10-21-09 - id: 5458813
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Author's Note: Edit: This was originally intended to be a multi-chapter story, but sadly it did not happen. And as I write altogether too many one-shots for The Graveyard Book and feel bad flooding the TGB fanfic section with them, they'll be added as chapters to this story instead. I lifted both the title and the quote from Greg Rappleye's poem "A Path Between Houses," which in turn got them from the cited Bible verse. Enjoy!
Disclaimer: I do not own the poem, the Bible, or The Graveyard Book.
Path Between Houses
Where is the dwelling place of light?
And where is the house of darkness?
Go about; walk the limits of the land.
Do you know the path between them?
Suppose there had been no boy. What then? It seems inconceivable, now, that he could have carried on as he always had, a guardian without a ward, soldiering on out of duty alone. Though of course he would have. Time stops for nothing and no one, not for his kind or any other, not for shadows or dreams or ghosts of an improbable future, not even for Death. The sun would still have risen and set; the seasons would have followed in due procession; the world would have gone on without a child's laughter among the tombstones, in a graveyard missing its small mouse-haired apparition. Perhaps, like all observed futures, it would have been changed by the knowing; but this, he knows, is unlikely. And that is the most frightening of all.
When the boy is three, Silas brings him a sailboat - a tiny rubberized model of a ship retrieved from the backwater of a public pond. The boy is delighted by the gift, for which Silas is at once grateful and surprised. It occurs to him that the child has not had a real toy since coming to live in the graveyard.
There is no pond in the cemetery, but after a rain he will often find the boy in the Egyptian Walk, perched on the edge of a derelict fountain. The lip of the fountain is higher than the boy is tall (Silas cannot imagine how he managed to get up there in the first place), and the child leans precariously over the edge, pushing the sailboat back and forth across the surface of the water. More often than not, Silas will also find Mistress Owens in the ivy-draped shadows, watching the boy play and, from time to time, reminding him not to lean farther out than he can reach.
"He dun't ever listen," Mrs. Owens tells him, despairingly. She reaches out a luminous, insubstantial hand, as if to pull the boy back by his winding sheet.
"He should be more careful," Silas agrees.
"I'll watch him," Mrs. Owens promises with a smile, though surely they both know that even the best of her good intentions cannot save the boy, should he slip and fall.
Perhaps a month afterward, Silas returns to find the boy immersed in the fountain, crying and bleeding heavily from a scrape to the forehead. The boy does not cry easily, and Silas does not think it is from pain. The toy sailboat, evidently smashed against the bottom of the fountain in the fall, lies in broken pieces in the boy's hands.
Mrs. Owens is frantic. "Oh, thank goodness, Silas," she says. She seems close to tears herself. She swipes at the boy's wound with a corner of her apron, to no effect. "Can't you help him?"
"Calm yourself, Mistress Owens," Silas says, a little more sharply than he intends. He reaches out and lifts the boy out of the water, surprised as always at how heavy the boy is. Or perhaps it's the water. The boy is shivering and drenched to the bone, but, on closer inspection, the wound to his forehead is only shallow, and mostly clotted already.
Silas removes his greatcoat and wraps it around the skinny algae-coated figure, lest the boy catch cold. Mrs. Owens bites her lip. Silas reaches over and pats her shoulder, gingerly. "He's quite all right, Mrs. Owens," he says, as gently as he can. "It's not nearly so bad as it appears."
He cleans the boy up in the chapel, coaxing the old Victorian furnace to life to heat water for the boy's bath. He sluices the blood from the boy's hair and places a large bandage on the boy's forehead. He also washes the boy's winding sheet and, finding no spare winding sheets at hand, gives the boy one of his own shirts to wear.
The boy sniffles as Silas extinguishes the furnace, though not from cold. He thrusts out his lower lip and says, "I want my boat."
"You cannot have it back, Nobody Owens," Silas says. "It's gone."
He expects the boy to grow angry at this, or perhaps to burst back into tears, but instead the boy becomes quiet, and grave. "Gone?" he echoes.
"It is ... " says Silas, and hesitates. Death - even the death of a toy sailboat - is never a simple matter, and he wonders how best to explain to a three-year-old child that something lost can never return. "Bod," he says, finally, "your ship is broken, and it is beyond my ability to put it back together. It is beyond anyone's ability. Do you understand?"
The boy nods, though Silas suspects he does not, in fact, understand. Not yet. Someday, though, he will need to know the truth, and it will fall to Silas to teach him. The knowledge is heavy, and Silas folds it away, to be pondered again later.
The sky has begun to pale in the chapel windows, and the boy yawns hugely, as only large cats and small children can, stretching his arms in the too-long sleeves of Silas's shirt. Quite against his will, Silas feels the corners of his lips tugging upwards, ever so faintly. Perhaps he has begun to show his age. He holds out a hand and says, "It's time you should be in bed, don't you think?"
"No," says Bod, but even so, he curls his small hand around Silas's finger and allows Silas to walk him home.