Snowcase #39 • 12 November 2007 • The SnowBlog
Sarah Ann Watts remains mysteriously silent, bio-wise, but she has submitted her novel Zero Summer.
Is there life after death? Do you really want to find out? Beyond the grave all things are possible Zero summer
The horses plodded under the hot August sun and the cart wheels creaked. The grim procession rode on, the soldiers irritably swatting at the flies that tormented their horses, the condemned fallen silent now as the familiar sights of home drew closer and they looked for the beacon on the hill.
Mark raised his head and stared up at the great open expanse of the sky, the white clouds that scurried across the heavens, and drew in deep breaths of the heather scented air, trying to ignore the stench of fear that sat upon him and the doomed human cargo. He had thought he was reconciled to his fate, willing to die but something, maybe the wine, had altered his mood and he was not ready to say farewell to the world not yet. He sighed, letting out his breath in a long exhalation as he sought to conquer his fear.
The priest was watching him closely.
You want to live? he said quietly.
I dont want to die!
The priest rose to his feet as if to rebuke him and Mark flinched from the righteous anger he expected but then he heard the priest laughing softly. There was a single ruby set in a heavy gold ring glinting on his hand. Mark had never seen any priest wear such a thing it looked pagan, Roman. No one wants to die. Take my hand.
The sun caught Mark full in the eyes, dazzled by the glare he reached blindly for the priests hand and felt it close around his. The drone of the bees and the creak of harness, low groans and muttered prayers and imprecations died. The silence was absolute and as his vision cleared he saw that everything had stopped. The horses stood as statues, the leaders had one hoof off the ground, the carts had stalled and looking back he saw the soldiers turned to lead like toys and the condemned frozen in attitudes of misery, their faces clenched tight against fear. Looking up in that still moment he saw the clouds suspended in the sky and it seemed the radiance of the sun had dimmed.
The priest laughed and pushed back his cowl and as if he had given a signal Mark saw other people emerging from the trees no, there were no trees. It was as if they had appeared from nowhere. Mark blinked, his eyes could make no sense of what he had seen and yet suddenly they were there as if they had answered the summons of the priest. An old man dressed like a village squire, a younger man with gold circling his wrist like a halo that had slipped, a lady in riding habit, her veil over her face, riding a grey mare and her servant or groom, thickset in heavy clothes despite the heat, leading two horses.
The priest turned to Mark,
Can you ride?
Sarah Ann Watts
sara (at) wlawrsara (dot) karoo (dot) co (dot) uk