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Remembrance The Green Market opened soon after the Great War at the end of the last century. I cannot say if this was a thing that was good, or a thing that was bad. It merely was. With our planet's ecology exploding into new territories and life filling niches never before imagined, it could not have been otherwise. No one has ever questioned why it came into being, or who was the first to open a stall. The Green Market does not work that way. It isn't a flea market of tents pushing lotions onto thrifty shoppers intent on finding a good sale. I used to visit those sites in my former life, and I can tell you this: the Green Market is no shopper's haven. Purchasers of the Green Market's products go about their business under the auspices of one community understanding -- Buyer beware, for there are no refunds. Before the Great War... Before the air itself betrayed us... Before the trees took back their beauty and left us with only rocks... Before the dirt itself imploded... I was a simple wife and mother struggling alongside my neighbors to get through the days having fed my family. We celebrated the change of seasons with festivals and banners on our doors welcoming each new sign of autumn or spring. We traded in goods and services, electronics and motor vehicles, paper monies not worth that upon which they were printed. We had an understanding. We worked together, alone, each wrapped up in our own personal dramas with little knowledge of what happened on the other sides of our fences. We lived. It was a good life. I only rarely miss it now. My children are long gone, my husband having taken them after the warnings began. I stayed behind, but I cannot now fathom why. Did someone need something of me? That must be so. How else could a mother coldly send her family away? I must have thought I was sending them to safety. Nowhere is safe now. We all reside behind our eyes, watching for growths and 1
Green Market / Andi Brunett anomalies to wipe us out one by one. As far as I know, I am the last who can recall time before the Great War. No one living now even knows there was ever anything else. I am not supposed to be alive. I should have passed many hundred years ago. I blame my longevity on the changing air. It has changed us all. For better or worse, it has changed us all. But for a change to be recognized, one must be able to examine a before against an after, and there is no one but me to offer such perspective. I find it my duty to report these changes before my life, too, is gone, whatever day that might be. When we speak of the Great War, we say the words with a fearful reverence, in tones we might adopt when discussing a god. There are many gods now, but none who walk the earth with us. I remember in my childhood learning of the one God, but now He has left us, or He is letting us play our parts unassisted. If He watches, He is not saying. And so we pray but not with any hope of our cries reaching any ears. We pray by placing our hands over our hearts, by saying things like, "May the gods find this pleasing." Or sometimes we pray with a curse, "May the gods spit on your soul." We pray empty wishes that go only as far as our exhalations. We do not pray with our tears, and we do not pray with our souls. I know I used to do this. Whether I recall correctly, or merely want it to be so, I cannot say. There are many things I cannot say. I cannot say what caused the Great War. It might have been the wrong words, or the wrong ideas, clash of cultures, fists that turned into bombs. I cannot say how long the Great War lasted, because to me it still hasn't ended. When my companions speak of the Great War, they mean it in the great distant past, but for me it is only yesterday and last winter and today and maybe tomorrow, too. I wish I could say it has ended, but I see it around me every waking moment, like a long dream into which the one God cursed me to live forever. But He is gone, I feel this inside my own breast, and so I can only say, there are many things I cannot say, and His name is only one of them, even if I could remember it. 2
Green Market / Andi Brunett We visit the Green Market because we need what the artists sell. They have become our daily bread. We do not speak of such things with one another, and wait until no one is watching to slip out into the last forest. We turn our eyes away, sliding them to the dirt so we do not have to engage in confrontation. We all do it, but if we say it aloud we would have to admit to ourselves what harms are being wrought at our own hands. The Great War stole much more from us than just land and sky. It stole our integrity and our honesty and our spirits. And of course our one God, may he ever rest in peace. ----------x----------
2. Emandine Emandine gazed sadly over the distance of bleak desert and wished for the jungles of home --her childhood days of verdant green leaves and grassy undergrowth. This new, brown land was dry, too dry, and the dust peppered across her face, settling into what Hank lovingly referred to as her smile lines. They turned her shiny, pink skin to a dull, sickly greenish shade of sad. Bless Hank for not calling them wrinkles, Em thought, and added savagely to herself, even if we both know that’s what they are. Em was getting older; the whole planet seemed to be aging more quickly now that she had left the lush gardens and watery plant life for this stark landscape. And what good had the move done them in the end? Dot was still slow to recover from the mysterious illness that had firmly gripped her mind. Ah well. For Dot I would live here forever. The thought, while sincere, gripped her insides in a vice that made shivers threaten her thin frame. Dot might be Emandine's life, but the desert was not. The desert was her death, her enemy, her poison. Em suddenly realized she would die here, in these overly warm sands, unless something changed. 3
Green Market / Andi Brunett "Hank!" she called out. "How is that air unit coming?" She could hear his tinkering in the distance, behind the shed where he hid from her view out the kitchen window. She imagined him sitting back on a pile of junk, occasionally smashing a tool down onto something metallic to create a great clinking sound. He thinks I'm so easy to fool. He thinks I don't know how this heat wears on him. He thinks I can't tell that he, too, is being poisoned by the very air. She heaved a great sigh, debating a needless confrontation. Too tired to pursue a pointless exercise, she turned instead to face the real trouble. The school bus rounded the path, kicking up loose pebbles and tan dirt so that it sprayed like a shower into the dingy air. Em watched the mess sprinkle to the ground. What wouldn't she give for just one rainfall? As she swung into the drive, Polly proffered a wave and pulled the vehicle to a stop, brakes squeaking tragically. Em absentmindedly brushed the air before her mouth, attempting to protect her lungs from the sudden onslaught, but her hand gave up and came to rest on her hip. "What trouble today, Polly?" "None more than the norm, Emandine. None more than the norm. Hank got your air up yet?" Polly's grey curls flounced about her chubby face, somehow rendering her youthful, although Em knew her to be pushing sixty. Polly had grown up in these outer regions and didn't seem to mind the dolorous skies and thick, dry air. Or maybe she did mind them, but managed to keep it to herself. Can't know another's mind, Em chided herself. "Nah, no air for us yet. Hank's been beating at that confounded unit all day now. We're about shriveled as raisins and headed nigh into wine." Polly guffawed, her large body shaking with sincere pleasure. "And a fine vintage you'd make, 4
Green Market / Andi Brunett the pair of you. I'll drink to that tonight, see if I don't!" She turned and called back over her shoulder, "Come now, Dot. Don't keep your auntie waiting when there's no respite from this gawd-awful heat. My, what a spell, what a spell. Get your things, lass. There's a girl. Head on in and mind, don't give Em any trouble or you'll hear it from me in the morn." Dot's tragic figure appeared in the doorway of the bus and she tumbled down the steps. Not saying a word, she leaned against Em briefly, then turned toward the house. "No change today, then?" Polly shook her head, curls bouncing. "Not a whisper or a peep. Never you mind, though, Em. She'll come around. She's a good girl, I can see it in her eyes. She's just stuck in there somewheres and needs time to find her way out. You and Hank just keep on what you got going here and she'll figure the rest. "Now listen, Em. I know you and Hank ain't got the night unit running neither, and I worry for you folk out here. Why'n't you come on board when I swing back around and come stay with me? The mister would be glad of the company, that he would, as sure as you know it. Go pack up and I'll beep when I'm your ways again." Em considered the proposition. But she knew if they left tonight, it would only be twice the hell the next morning. The work would still be waiting, but hotter than Hades if they didn't get it cooled somehow. ----------x----------
3. Edvin Edvin pulled the ragged tarp over the last of the caged wingéds, closing shop on his stall for the night. The moon had been out for several hours and shone down brightly on his dark corner of the 5
Green Market / Andi Brunett market, but Edvin had a way of slithering around the beams of light, avoiding notice when the Cadence Call came through. Only once had the CC rattled his wingéd collection, setting the bird-like beasts to speech and startling the troop leader. Edvin had since moved further into the shade of the jungle trees, and his live wares knew to keep quiet during the CC's nightly march through the market. "Night-night, my lovelies," he crooned to the pixie-birds. Under the tarp, the hybrids fluttered lightly and rested their wings against the bars of the cages. Edvin cast his charms to keep the stall from being accessible in his absence, then gathered his cloak and bags to depart for the night. One more glance at the moon, and he shuffled through the other tents until he found the road leading home. Home. A cave at best, he slept between two gargantuan trees whose leaves had tumbled down and, along with the branches from which they had fallen, petrified during one of the final stages of the Last Great War. A boulder hid the entrance, cleverly placed by Edvin after finding the comfortable hiding spot. The silver lining of surviving the CC raids was learning to search diligently for new holes in which to dive, and Edvin was an expert. He had always been on his own, taking care of himself, bouncing back to his feet any time life managed to knock him down. The raids were nothing new in a lifetime spent hiding from law enforcement, would-be leaders of local rabbles, or other groups attempting to govern the outlying lands. Edvin spared a thought to wonder about the far side of the continent. He had heard rumors that the people over there had been hit much worse. Looking around, he couldn't help but ask himself, What could be worse than this shit hole? But then he remembered the newest stories being swapped for scraps of meat. The other side was now a desert. The water was gone. The land was dried up. The skies were black --- Edvin discounted this tale, as surely they all slept under the same sky and thus would see the same colors above. He looked again at the moon through the grey air. No, the sky wasn't black. It was ashy and a sad shade of dolor. 6
Green Market / Andi Brunett What must it be like to live in the dried up parts of the world? He wondered how the survivors there found water. Then he wondered if there really were any survivors. The few who managed to make it through those iron-tough first few days on this side of the continent were glad to be in a position of re-forming a new society. People had to eat, and people had to have clothes. People needed each other, for these things as well as for protection. Defense against the scary loners eager to take advantage of chaos. Defense against other scary people, too. The ones best left out of mind. Closing back the curtain of his tight quarters, Edvin threw his cloak in a chair and fumbled for a match to light his last candle. He kept forgetting to buy more. Tomorrow, he thought. I'll talk to Crain about trading candles for... This thought went unfinished as the light revealed an uninvited guest lounging underneath the cloak he had just tossed aside. "Pandora! What the blazes are you doing here?" "Happy to see me, Ed? I've brought you a gift. And an offer. Hopefully you'll accept them both." She stood in a fluid motion that stirred his heart. Even now, with the CC on her trail, the world falling apart, and the end of days upon them, she was able to arouse him. Edvin coughed and in a rumbling voice responded, "The stories said you were dead, but I knew you were alive. The wingéds told me. I thought you'd gone west, Pandora. I never expected to see you again." "I can't tell if you're happy or disappointed." "Both." He put out a hand to tenderly rub her cheek. "I'm always glad to see you. But I'm sad you aren't safe. You know you can't be here. You need to leave. And it breaks my heart all over again to say goodbye." "Edvin, my sweet Edvin. You always were a romantic, soft-hearted fool. When will you get it through that thick head of yours that I will never be a prisoner? No one can hold me, not ever." She 7
Green Market / Andi Brunett pushed his hand away. "Now enough of that. I'm not here to hide in your... tree hole. I said I have a gift, and an offer. Which do you want first?" Edvin sighed, forcing his heart rate back down to a slow crawl. "I'll hear the offer first. But I want to know who's hired you to deliver it." "Why, my darling! How astute of you -- that is the gift. You shall have both." And then she told him. Chapter Two ----------x----------
1. Remembrance I had a thought this morning about the one God. Writing this has created a great stirring in my mind, and memories have shifted about as dust on a breeze. My recollections are still vague, hazy creatures that crawl from my clawing grasp when I attempt to take hold, but one image became a rosy, colorful face, and I held to it until the sun warmed my face and I knew I was no longer sleeping. The face was that of my aunt. I forgot her to history long ago, but the one God must have been reading over my shoulder, and last night he returned her to me. I want this to be true, so I offer Him my thanks. Then I recall that He isn't really listening and I feel foolish. I whisper thank you anyway. Sometimes we must act foolishly, to remember what it's like to be unwise. The one God gave me my aunt. Or my memories percolated her visage to the top of my poor memory heap. No matter which is true. She is with me once again, and I miss her so. My auntie was a saint. She took me in when I had no one, when the world stole my parents and my brother and my... well, my everything. I had nothing, and then I had my aunt. When I concentrate on her now, I can see trees, and green, and vines, and more green. She is the very idea of green in my mind, an emerald 8
Green Market / Andi Brunett shining within the grey. I know she loved me, too. She took me from the green city, because she thought it was eating my dreams. Maybe it was. I cannot say. I was only a child then, so long ago. She took me away from the green city and we started life over again in a brown, barren land filled with dirt and rocks. The dirt didn't grow, and the rocks didn't speak. The brown was dead. She took me from a living world to a dead one. But I know she had her reasons. I know she loved me. I don't think my aunt knew about the Green Market at first. But she may have. I cannot say for sure. Maybe the Green Market is why we left the jungles. There! The jungles --- that is where we lived before we came to the dead lands. I hadn't remembered that, either, until now. I lived with my aunt in the emerald jungles, but the green city was eating my dreams, so she took me to the dead lands. The story of my life is slowly coming back to me. I will say another thank you to the one God before I sleep again. He has given me much this day. I will believe this is true. The Green Market did not have arms reaching to the dessert --- not then, anyway, not yet. I don't know where I was inside my mind, but slowly the dry air and the heavy winds brought me back to myself. So maybe she was right; maybe the green city was indeed eating my dreams. We lived happily in the dead lands for many years, and I grew from child to young lady in the span of what seems now to be only days. Surely I didn't age so quickly. The memories of those years must be some of the uncolored recollections still beyond my grasp. Ah, well. They will come, if the one God wishes it. The heat almost killed us. I remember the heat now and my body shivers and sweats. I miss my aunt, but I surely don't miss that heat. It dried our bones almost to a skeletal state, and we often had to visit neighbors when we couldn't stay cool enough. The heat killed my uncle --- may the one God bless his soul, I don't remember his face now at all --- but nothing could kill my aunt so long as I was her charge. She breathed for me and forced me to live when I wanted only to rest in peace. Maybe her love is what keeps me alive still. I wish I knew. 9
Green Market / Andi Brunett Auntie, why are you gone, while I am still here? Come back! Come back! But no. She is gone now. Only her picture in my mind, a gift from the one God, remains. And I am thankful at least for that. I hope she will visit me again in my dreams tonight. That would be a boon indeed. ----------x----------
2. Emandine The child set her head of curls down into Emandine's lap and began to hum. The sound vibrated through her body like a cat's purring, and she reached a hand down to stroke Dot's hair from her face. Only in the past couple days had Dot began to make this crooning sound of comfort, and Em was loathe to move wrong and scare the poor girl back into silence. She continued to pet Dot, almost massaging her scalp, running her fingers through tangles and shaking them free, never yanking, never tugging. This went on for over half an hour, and Em thought her back would break from the pain of sitting up against the wall without moving for so long. Her feet had long since fallen asleep. Em envied them, wishing she could fall asleep too, and ignore the prickling sensation of strangled blood flow. Em had decided to take up Polly on her offer after all. A long-overdue argument with Hank spurred the decision to pack up enjoy some cool air. Her poor husband still resented the move. "I'm too old to start anew, Em, too old for this heat, and too old to be father to a child whose mother --" She had cut him off there. Emandine would allow Hank to bemoan their mutually uncomfortable living arrangements, but when it came to the child, she became fiercely protective. "You'll not speak ill of my sister, Hank, and you'll not speak so about the child's mother. We all have our crosses to bear, and you can carry yours any way you please, but as for mine, I'll accept 'em for 10
Green Market / Andi Brunett what they are and move along." Hank had grumbled under his breath, but he hadn't put up any more of a fight. He also quit working on the unit, declaring it unworkable. "We'll need someone to come out and get it running, Em. I'm not too proud to admit, I wasn't cut out for these sorts of mechanics." Em shook her head and stifled further argument. She knew Hank could get the blasted machinery running himself if he had half a mind to. He was gifted that way. He was trying hard to provoke her into a fight, but she wouldn't bite. "Pack your bags then, gang. We're headed to Polly's for the night. I'll see if her boys won't mind putting in their hands tomorrow." Em turned and left the room quickly so Hank wouldn't see the grin spreading over her face. She had just called his bluff and raised the ante. She knew Hank couldn't stand Polly's boys touching his equipment; he said things always went missing and mysterious breakdowns occurred after they'd been around. Hank came after her, put his hands on her shoulders and turned her to face him squarely. "You set me up for that, Em." "You set yourself up, Love." She raised on tiptoe and planted a kiss on his peeling nose. "I'm glad of it, though, Hank. We need a break. Let's just pack our bags for a few nights and get away. Polly won't mind --- she'll love the company, and I can finally get her to finish those curtains for Dot's room. Just two days. Like a vacation." That was how Em found herself sitting cross legged with the remnants of some torn blankets she was attempting to put together into a sort of quilt. Polly had left the room to work on supper, and Dot had slowly crept through the doorway, approaching on quiet feet, until she had reached her aunt, at which point she dropped to the ground soundlessly and snuggled into Em's lap. The cloth pieces went every direction, but Em couldn't bring herself to cry out. The pieces would come together eventually, or 11
Green Market / Andi Brunett they wouldn't, but nothing right now was going to make Em exchange her handiwork for this poor child. One of Polly's boys entered the room and, in a gargling voice, indicated that supper was soon on the table. Em nodded and waved the help out of the room, putting a finger to her lips. The ape nodded stupidly and shuffled back toward the kitchen. Em stared after him, unsure how she felt about being summoned by a beast. Polly loved her boys and said they provided great comfort in her otherwise lonely estate, but Em couldn't help the shudder that ran through her body at the thought of being a lone person surrounded by apes. It was no wonder Hank turned down Polly's offer to send her boys around to help. Emandine didn't want to admit it, but Polly's boys frightened her to the core.
3. Edvin Pandora's revelation sent Edvin to his knees, his mouth agape. "Pick up your chin, Darling, you look ridiculous. You'll never pass as a strong arm with that silly expression on your face." She bent, and placed her hands on each shoulder. "Ed, this could mean the world for us." Edvin allowed himself to be soothed. Her hands, touching him again after all this time, warmed him in places beyond his heart. "You've seen him? You've really seen him?" She laughed, head tossed back and silky, dark hair spilling like an endless stream in the candlelight. Suddenly his shock exploded into anger and he burst from the ground. Grabbing her arms and squeezing tight, he shook her violently. "Do not mock me, Pan! Tell me now -- have you really seen 12
Green Market / Andi Brunett him?" Pandora wrenched free of his grip, no easy task for her smaller frame. "I would not mock you, Ed, not now or ever. You insult me to think such." Lifting her wrap from the floor where it had fallen during his storm of emotion, she twisted it about her shoulders and neck, covering her face almost entirely. "I will be back for your answer in two nights. I hope you won't disappoint me." "Pan, wait!" Edvin moved to block her from leaving. "Please don't go yet. I'm sorry. I just... I have so many questions. I don't understand how he could have survived. Stay. Please. Stay." She glared at him from beneath her hood. "Step aside. My work here is finished for the night. I said I'll be back. Be more gracious at that point, and I will consider a longer visit." "Pan, I have missed you so much. Please, I'm begging you, don't go yet." She laughed, softly and smooth as water. "I never could stay angry with you for long, Ed. If any man comes close to owning a piece of my heart, it would be you, had I any heart to offer." Pandora moved closer, almost dancing back into his arms. "I can't stay, Dearest. I've other errands to run this night. But would that I could. Stay safe. I will see you again soon. Two nights." And with these words, she slipped yet again from his grip, this time a loving caress, out the makeshift door and into the moon. "She didn't even kiss me goodbye," Edvin thought to himself, half bitter and half relieved. He did miss her, of that he had been telling the truth. But to have her back in his life again... He wasn't sure how he felt about her dangerous presence. Pandora meant money, but she also came with trouble, and travel, and potential for capture or even death. Edvin felt his age, and realized he wasn't sure how many more times he could play this game. Shaking off his melancholy, Edvin used the rest of the candle light preparing. Pandora had known his answer before she left. The offer she carried to him was far too precious to turn down. She 13
Green Market / Andi Brunett wouldn't be returning for his answer, but for his company on the long journey ahead. He would need the two days to pack up, close shop, find someone to care for most of his wingeds, and otherwise tie up loose ends. No time for sleep between now and then. Surveying his home with a keen eye, he considered leaving it empty in hopes of resuming residence here again someday, then sighed. Someday would likely never be his to claim. He made lists and began the tedious task of sorting items into different piles: Take, give away, quick sell, and leave behind. He also cleaned as he went along, wondering why he would take such senseless measures for a cave he was likely leaving behind for good. "Nostalgic old fool, I've become," he taunted himself. A knock at the door brought him up short. Two visitors in one night? Stranger and stranger. Pulling back the curtains, he found himself squinting into the bright sunlight, where a boy stooped under the weight of a large package. "Tipton, what are you doing here? And why so early?" The boy struggled with his load, trying to keep from spilling its contents to the ground. "Crain received a notice last night that you were running low on candles. He sent me around to see if you wanted to purchase some now, and save you the trip out." Edvin smiled. Damn Pandora's interference, but for all that she was presumptuous, she was also right. "Yes, indeed I do want to buy me some candles. I've several long nights ahead." The wizard is back, he thought to himself.
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