'The Death of Lore', by Ultan Banan. Upcoming fiction.

The Death of Lore

Lore died and no one heard. She may have died on a lonely road in the back-arse of nowhere, or drowned on a solitary fishing trip, her body carried to some forgotten shore and lying unseen for an age. Such was her death. Anonymous. Indifferent. Ignoble.
No one saw and no one heard, so life went on and none and nobody acknowledged her dying. It was as if she’d never existed. Not a single lament was heard in the town squares or in the taverns, or even in the halls of the cold castles where she was born. Not even around the hearths of the old, those who still remembered her, did they weep. The tea had gone cold, the scones were hard, but no one cared to think of death and dying. And yet the shadows of it were there in every dusty corner, in every ashen flue, in the scum at the bottom of the teacups and in the stone of the cold castles. The old sensed it, shivered, and pulled their shawls around them all the tighter; the caretakers of the castles boarded up rooms to keep the shadows locked away. It didn’t work, they just crept under the doors. Drinkers in taverns were beset with mystery ailments, the sickness caused by the draft of the absence of Lore. Lore was dead but lived on in absence. She was not there but there. They all felt it and shuddered.
Denied a funeral, Lore was like a lost soul. Floating here and there, tormented, her absent shadow turned malignant. Dogs barked and attacked the air, the cause of their aggravation eerily unclear. Hitherto healthy and fertile women miscarried, giving birth to cold, blue babies. Children turned hysterical; in one corner of the land, all the town’s children went berserk, harming themselves and screeching madly before attacking their parents with forks and rolling pins. The lake of the Salmon of Wisdom boiled. The salmon was found floating belly up, his beautiful coat devoid of shine or colour. One accomplished artist protested when he found out by cutting off his hand and painting in blood on the side of the town hall, but with Lore gone there was no merit to his work. He died, and the only thing people remembered him for was the abomination on the side of the town hall. They whitewashed over it. Certain species of birds turned cannibal, feasting on each other’s children. The crow, the raven and the eagle, and the swan and the robin. Parks were full of butchered avian corpses. Children would pick up the poor broken bodies and chase their friends around, holding them aloft like war trophies.
Thus was the death of Lore celebrated. Yes, celebrated. For without Lore’s vast archaeology, things unravelled. It did not please the shadow of Lore, nor did it sadden her. Violence rushed in to fill the vacuum of her absence, and she but conceded. For there can be no emptiness and a vacuum must be filled.
A synod of elders saw what was happening and lamented the great change come over the land. They set about writing catechisms and dogma, and procedural law and edicts, but since they too were ignorant of the death of Lore, they were unable to affect change. —God has abandoned us, they cried, and for what? Are we not his blessed servants? But little did they know that it was not God that created order, but Lore, and since they’d paid no heed to her when she was alive, they certainly could not account for the magnitude of her passing. When the edicts and the laws and the dogma failed, they burned women alive and decried witchery and paganism. And nowhere was the absence of Lore felt more powerfully than there at the burning of the witches, yet the people still failed to comprehend.
Some wept and did not know why. Yes, perhaps what the people lost most of all was their sense of humour, and without it only torture followed. Weeping became the thing to do in certain social strata. Women and men would gather in halls and weep; entire towns would come together and lament, the rooms in which they sat sodden with their newly heightened sense of tragedy. They bathed in it, prayed in it. Sat in it til their arses pickled. In one isolated valley, the people wept so violently their homes were washed away in the torrent. Had she been alive, Lore would have laughed. Yes, Lore knew what mattered.
Nay, there is no shelter from misery. The artists knew it. The people didn’t know it but they made their homes there all the same, because it was a home even warmer than joy. Soon, the world and everything in it was submerged under the comforting cloak of misery.
One knew, however. One little girl, an orphan child who begged for bread outside the town churches and held out her hand for pennies after mass had finished. The girl was a mute and they all thought her mad, for sometimes she would lift her dress and piss right in the street, in front of the carriages and the good folk, and sometimes even the priest himself. Women would cross themselves. —She’s possessed, they would say. —God has abandoned her. All these things they would say about her. Then one day, the girl started speaking. —Lore-Lore-Lore, she would rant. —Lore-Lore-Lore-Lore. All day and night she would go on, and now the people said: —The Devil is in her. And they might have burned her too but for her young age. They left her be. Then one day, this little girl went into a library. She took a book from the shelf and sat down, and when she opened it, she found it empty. She took another and it was empty too. She held it up for the librarian to see, as she ranted: —Lore-Lore-Lore! But the librarian merely hushed her. —Shush, silly girl! What do you know of books? But the girl knew. Simple as she was, the girl was filled with the ghost of Lore. So the next time she went to a library, she took a book of matches with her, and every empty book she found, she burned. Soon whole libraries were burning. No longer able to forgive her ways, the people cried for her to be burned. —She is destroying our history! they cried. Put her to the pyre as she does with our books! Blind, they could no longer see that the books were empty. They called the synod, but the old men could not bring themselves to burn a child, even one so full of wickedness. So they took her to the mountain and put her in a cave, and bricked up the entrance that she may never escape. —Lore-Lore-Lore! she ranted as they did it.
Soon they forgot her as they’d forgotten all else. But she’s there still. She eats of the mushrooms that grow on the walls of her cave, and drinks of the water that trickles from the roof of her cold abode. Blind now, yet she hears well. She hears the very earth, even above the very lamentations and sorrow of the people, she hears how it was, and how someday again it may be. And she writes. Scrawling in chalk, and charcoal scavenged from her small fire, she writes. Her walls are a woven tapestry of words, and music and myth and poetry, the language one of soul and earth. She writes the world that has been lost and that will be lost for yet a long time. And one day, years from now, when the cave is opened and we discover a cold fire and the bones of a simple child, Lore may live again.

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 ‘The Death of Lore’, by Ultan Banan. Image by [email protected] Please note: flash fiction, nonfiction and all other content is the sole work of Black Tarn. Ask before republishing.

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