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Austra Novella: The Violin

September 30, 2011

I’ve hinted at this story in other Austra books and finally set it down. Here are the beginning pages. The story will upload onto Smashwords (allowing for reading across multiple e-formats) and separately on Kindle sometime next week.  Enjoy! Elaine

 The Violin

I was a child when I first knew my father had killed a man. It wasn’t his first killing. There have been many, from the barbarians that roamed the land of his childhood to the Nazis he slaughtered before the last great war. And it will not be his last. But it was the first in which I understood the events and emotions which preceded the act. I was seven years old.

Our family had gone to Montreal for a bit of sightseeing and to attend a children’s opera, one of the many times our parents had taken us to public places to see how well we had learned to fit in to the human world. We had just attended an afternoon performance of Hänsel und Gretel and as the opera house discharged the throng of families, my mother, brother and I walked across the street and up the few stairs to our hotel. At the door, we paused and turned to wait for our parents, who had stopped at the sidewalk to say a few words to the family that had been sitting in front of us. As we did, I noticed a man standing at the edge of the plaza entrance to the performance hall, clutching a program. He was in his thirties, wearing a brown sports coat and buff turtleneck under it. Nothing unusual about him except, that he was alone and looking at me.

 My brother Richard and I were beautiful children, with the dark eyes and hair and the pale skin of our father, and so I was used to being stared at. But there was something in the intensity of his look that made me wary and I moved my mind into his. When I did and shared his thoughts, I gripped my brother’s hand tightly. My mother sensed my fear and turned followed my eyes toward the one who had been watching me. But the man had noticed my reaction and, though the reason for it puzzled him, with the clever instinct of all predators, he had already started to disappear into the crowd. With the speed of thought, Mother shared my vision with Father.  Me lying naked on an unmade bed, my hands tied, tears on my face. He wanted that and more. And he had done these things before.

 –Go inside,– my father told us, mind-to-mind without glancing in our direction. He said goodbye to the parents and their two little girls and followed the man away from the plaza. I stopped in the doorway to watch him but my mother took my hand and gently drew me into the lobby and up to our suite.

When Father returned two hours later, my brother and I were sitting on the sofa taking turns reading Alice in Wonderland aloud, pausing from time to time so we could build images in our minds of the scenes Carroll had created with his words and share them with each other. We’d been arguing over whether Alice’s clothes would also get larger or smaller as she shrunk or grew. When he joined us, I looked at him expectantly but he said nothing about the man that evening.

 I was the first to wake late the following morning and, as I had done the day before, I got the paper the hotel left outside the door of our suite. I saw the man’s picture below the headline on the front page. The mad I’d seen yesterday had walked into a police station near the river, dropped a sealed envelope on the counter and left. By the time the officer on duty had read it, the man had filled his pants with rocks and jumped off a pier into the St. Laurence. He’d confessed to killing eight children then apparently committed suicide. I looked at his picture, then at the smiling faces of seven of his young victims. All but one looked a bit like me.

 I read the story once, and then again. It brought back memories of the horrible days my mother and I had been at the mercy of a monster like this, but his attention had been on her rather than me. I had been too young to understand much of what he had done.  I understood more by the time I sat in that hotel room gripping the newspaper. I was not afraid, but rather felt a surge of pleasure that another evil creature was gone from the world.

 My father had sensed my emotion, came out of his bedroom and sat beside me. I pressed my face against the side of his neck as he scooped me into his arms. “Over the years, your mother and I have tried to explain to you the sort of people you must avoid, yes?” I nodded and he continued, “You would not have let him take you, Patrick. You are old enough and strong enough that he would not have been able to even touch you. But there are others who do not have the power that you and your brother possess. He will never kill another child again.”

 What my father had done did not trouble me. But I also recalled the lessons he had taught us so carefully over the years: Stay aloof from the affairs of men. Do not be drawn into battles that are not your concern. If you are threatened, back away from the fight if you can; if not, try to take it to a private place. For the sake of your family and yourself, do not reveal your anger, even if you are raging inside. Never let the world see what you are. But now Father had, however indirectly, killed a man who had done nothing to us. I did not have to ask a question, he had followed my thoughts.

 “There are times when you will want to ignore much of what I have taught you. Before you do, think carefully, and follow your conscience.”

 “What if that’s really hard?”

 He cocked his head and thought about the meaning of a question I hadn’t known how to properly ask. “You are powerful. You have an advantage. And always remember, we have raised you to be kind.”

 I never understood the full measure of how difficult following that advice would be until I started high school.

Richard and I took the news that we were about to acquire a formal education with a mix of dismay, annoyance and pride. We were fourteen. A bit shy of six feet, my fraternal twin Richard was already as tall as my father and quite a bit broader, and could easily pass for 16 or 17. I was a mere five foot four and have the slight build of most of my family. It is a deceptive fragility. We Austras are incredibly strong, both physically and mentally. We live on blood, but we are not vampires. We were conceived and we were born. We grew as human infants and children do, though a bit slower. But the biggest difference is that we stop maturing in our early twenties―and we will live forever.

“You should always know how to act the age you appear to be and at present that means spending time with your peers,” Father said after he broke the news. He didn’t add that an actual paper trail of education and grades, beyond the occasional visit by our home-school monitors, would serve us well for the next few decades, particularly since both of us wanted to attend college.

“And consider,” Mother added, “you will never have this experience again.”

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3 Comments
  1. siiri2 permalink

    More. I want more. Gimme.

  2. Blu permalink

    Love the Austra series. Please continue to write their stories, they have so much more to say.

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