AntipodeanSF Issue 307

By JM Cyrus

The lady Oriadia roused from sleep, dream vestiges leaving her skin like chiffon puffs. The room was dark, the cocooning air smelling like sleep. She pushed herself to sitting, swivelled her body and stood in her bare feet on the woven rug.  She made a sound, something between a yawn and groan, and unplaited her waist-length silver-white hair.

She ran her hands, cold from being outside the blankets, from her cool face down over her warm arms and body, flesh warmed from the bedding, enjoying the contrast. She moved her window curtain to one side and grunted at the dark sky beyond.

Taking a sip of water from her bedside cup, she struck a match. She lit a small candle on a looped iron holder and carried it as she walked.

“One day you’re going to have to wake me,” she muttered to the sleeping frilled lizard she passed on her way out of the bedroom, lying in repose on a tapestried cushion.

The reptile opened one black eye and yawned, mouth pink.  It stretched, elegant and sinuous, unfurling its flame-orange ruff for a moment before shrugging and tucking it away.  It gave a rippling shake from its nose to the end of its tail, and jumped to the floor, following her.

“I don’t suppose we have time for breakfast beforehand do we, Sanu?” Lady Oriadia muttered, more out of routine than anything. Sanu gave a short breath out of his nose in answer and clambered onto the table beside her.

“Suppose not," she whispered, giving his chin an affectionate scratch. Sanu purred.

She climbed the steps to the roof, leaving the candle on a side table by the newel post.

She didn’t light any lamps, knowing the way almost more than her own body; a body that was ageing faster than her mind's eye could keep up with.

With a creak, she shoved the heavy angled door at the top and exited into the cold night.

Sanu finished the stairs with a clacking shuffle, and sat beside her as she paused, breathing in the dark.

Her skin pimpled with goosebumps beneath her night dress, still layered with the memory of the bed's secure bubble. A smear of a million stars illuminated the sky above her.

“Alright chaps,” Lady Oriadia said, “It’s time to go to bed now.” Sanu huffed in echo.

She looked at her feet, arranging them to shoulder-width apart. She tossed her shoulders back, straightened her spine, took a deep breath and closed her eyes. She raised her arms in a smooth, slow motion; straight out, hands relaxed but fingers splayed, until her hands met above her head.

Sanu sat between her feet and upturned his face, expectant.

Lady Oriadia took three deep breaths into her expanded rib cage, and let her senses wander.

She felt the eddying breeze in the creases of her ears, felt the tails of her hair brush her neck, watched the prickly darkness on her eyelids, listened to the sound of leaves and small animals moving, and felt the warmth on her ankles as Sanu breathed. She could taste a small vegetable flavour in the air from the spring growth waiting for dawn, and she felt the tingle of starlight on her face and hands.

With a hum low in her chest, she lowered her arms so they were parallel to the ground at her sides, with palms facing the sky.  She bent her knees, felt them click, and squatted beside Sanu, who gave her an encouraging exhale in the face.

She smiled, eyes still closed, and muttered “Ready?” to Sanu, who yipped in reply.

Her scalic hum restarted and continued unabated as she began to bring herself back to standing at an almost tectonic, planetary pace. Her brows creased with exertion and her jaw clenched, one could see the ripple of tendon about the hinge. Her arms tensed with an unseen weight.

When her knees were at a right angle, Sanu opened his ruff and faced the horizon with her, an open, welcoming expression upon his face.

When the lady Oriadia was past halfway to standing, the sky's colour shifted. Sanu’s eyes reflected the change from black to dark navy to grey-purple to dark rose to pink-orange.  Birdsong restarted, it had been interrupted by the dark.

The sky lightened until Lady Oriadia was standing straight, and then the change slowed to an almost pause. Lady Oriadia opened her eyes, a little out of breath, and looked at the majestic display, resplendent clouds and rays arranged into a picturesque array.

With the rise and fall of her white linen-clad chest, she watched the bright line of sun peep over the horizon, almost furry in its brightness.

For a few moments, the line thickened.  Lady Oriadia felt and saw the colours further morph in the sky above her; the stars now hidden by their brighter sister.

With a deep breath, she faced Sanu, who rotated his head in answer, blinking blue eyes.

“Breakfast time, Sanu?”

He hiccuped and rubbed against her leg.

“Alright then.” She lifted him, and cradling him she walked towards her door. “I think today we can have yoghurt and oats, what do you think?”  He emitted a small note of agreement, followed by another more questioning tone. “Yes, I think there might be some honey left.”  Lady Oriadia answered.

The sun continued to rise, and the new day began.

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About the Author

jm cyrus 300

JM Cyrus is a speculative fiction writer living in London, UK.

With a bachelor's in Classical Studies, and a master's in Reception Theory, she enjoys finding new worlds, and looking at how she found them.

She has work published all over the place, including Luna Station Quarterly, All Worlds Wayfarer and Inner Worlds.

See the full list at her website <https://jmcyrus.carrd.co> and say hello at jmcyrus.writer [at] gmail.com.

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