Authors: D. Wallace Peach
Tags: #Fantasy Novel
D. Wallace Peach
The Bone Wall
Copyright © 2015 D. Wallace Peach
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping or by any information storage retrieval system without the written permission of the author except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental. The author does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for third-party websites or their content.
Cover Art by D. Wallace Peach
Printed in the USA
To all those who dare to see
Many blessings to those brave souls who accompanied me into this dark world
and perceived the light hidden there:
Heather Lewis and Lilja “Tobie” Finzel,
Clayton Callahan, Sheron McCartha, Ted Blasche, Chelsea Nolen.
Table of Contents
As an author of works of fantasy, I travel often down the road of “what if.” Sometimes that journey is light-hearted, and other times, when the news of the day makes me fear for our world, the path I wander is much darker. This is one of those grim trails.
Our human journey through time lies sunbathed and shadowed with remarkable advancements, some clouded with secret and not-so-secret costs. What if we continue to poison our land, water, and air in the name of progress and profit? What if we continue to blast our way through conflicts on a global and personal scale? What if we abandon compassion, no longer our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers? What becomes of us when righteousness is blind?
This book is a work of fantasy in a world without vision or concern for consequence. A broken world.
The Bone Wall
My sister stands by the window in moonlight, the only light in the ancient relic of a lost age. Carved of alabaster, she is a statue whittled by a master’s artful hand, naked skin pale, shadowed, wraithlike in its translucence. Her hair gathers moonbeams, cornsilk draped over shoulder-bones, free of the blood staining her face and hands. Gray eyes honed with steel study a landscape of gnarled trees, skeletal limbs clawing with broken fingers from a dead land. All around her the world dies. She is blind to the fragile greenness of new leaves.
Her clothes lie in a heap on the floor, the reek of battle, sweat, and blood thick in the folds, threads of terror woven into the very fabric. She will dream in blood, wear those clothes without respite, glory in the gore of shredded flesh. My sister is demon-born, exquisite in her purity, and death’s devil has his grips on her.
I am her twin, one and the same, and thus unfolds her story.
My tale begins in Heaven…
God’s House of Law towers above the other dwellings in Heaven. Not
, perhaps, but the highest, with fat round pillars in front and a flat roof ideal for dawdling when a woman’s chores beckon. To reach my perch I scale a rusted, rickety ladder that will one day tear from the mortar creasing the granite walls and fall in a perfect arc, slamming me flat to the garden. The ladder will pin my squashed body to the soil amongst the squashes for all to shake their heads and tsk. I shall make a fine lesson for the impressionable, a vivid illustration of the consequence of sloth.
My father forbids my escape up to the roof, but I am a shirker, a “flagrant shirker” more recently, flawed in the eyes of the pious. At sixteen, I’m three years beyond the monumental marker of womanhood, sticky blood unexpectedly smearing my thighs. That official event earned me the privilege of wearing a plain brown bonnet over my pale hair and a permanently affixed apron, my sleeves hiding my elbows, and ragwear skirt concealing my ankles. I’ve donned this fashionable wardrobe but apparently disregarded the constraints accompanying it. I hold the hem of my skirt in my teeth to climb the ladder, my knees shamelessly exposed to the ivy-bound walls.
From this height, I see far beyond our cluster of stacked habitats to lush fields of jade and honey. Beans, vegetables, and wheat, mature fruit and timber trees stretch in tidy rows all the way to the edge of Heaven and the invisible border of my existence. Within the shield, we live in perpetual abundance, God’s grace bestowed on his descendants, the Saved, we chosen to survive the breaking of the world.
Beyond the shield, the barren landscape idles through time, a dust-brown wasteland of dry wind and scurrying tumbleweed. “God will plant a faultless Garden,” optimists among us preach, and none can truly argue the assertion. We all witness spreading tufts of grayish grass, stalky yellow flowers, and pale withered leaves on reedy trees. On occasion, I spy a lone, mangy beast hunting rodents, and on dark nights monstrous swarms of black insects glitter like crackling blue stars as they incinerate themselves on the shield. It’s ghastly bleak in the world outside when compared to Heaven, and despite my exasperation with order, I’d rather be stuck on this side of the wall.
A hand grips the roof’s edge and Max’s head appears above the creepers, tawny curls framing a tanned face, eyes the polished brown of chestnuts. Hatless, naturally, another rule-breaker who will undoubtedly drag me straight into the Devil’s Hell. A year older than I, he’s a grown man with a man’s height, breadth, and lust, full bent on courting me. That means stolen kisses and a stray touch now and again that sets my body burning with sin.
“We’re not permitted to consort unattended,” I tease him, pleased at his presence nonetheless. My legs stretch before me, ankles peeking shamelessly from beneath my hem. I’m sitting near the belfry on a thick pipe that pokes up through the roof and bends sideways, forming a perfectly level bench.
“Then climb down,” he mutters sourly, dismissing me as he drops to the pipe at my side, his gaze scarcely straying from the far horizon.
Well, whatever has him so cranky isn’t any fault of mine and only compels me to argue the point. “We could be cast out, Max. We might find ourselves banished, out there.”
wouldn’t find ourselves banished,
would,” he snipes, “and only if you’re with child, Rimma, which results from fornication, which we haven’t applied for, let alone discussed.”
“We can’t very well apply until we marry, and even then fornication is strictly for procreation. You are obsessed with carnality, Max.” The haughtiness in my voice irritates even me and I twist up my face. “Gah! The deacon’s sermons spitting from my lips. I sound like a stiff old woman. Apologies.”
“Accepted.” He finally looks at me, a weak smile tugging up one side of his mouth.
“If you need to relieve yourself, see to your bedmates,” I suggest, my feeble attempt at helpfulness. “That’s how God wills us to ease our desire.”
At that, Max grabs my thigh hard, his fingers digging into my flesh as he leers. “That’s not what I desire.” His hand spiders up my thigh, sending a shiver through my body as I squeak in protest. “So they banish me,” he says with a resigned smile.
My hand clutches his, halting the upward creep, and I kiss him, my lips daringly parted. “I love you, Max.” The words tumble out of me, grown up words I’ve overheard my parents say with a longing I never fully understood. “But we mustn’t risk it, ever. Heaven has laws for a reason. God created our Garden to save two thousand descendants, not a soul more.”
God’s Law is indisputably clear. The elders grant permission for fornication and procreation only after a death or banishment. Survival of Heaven and every man, woman and child depends on each descendant’s faith in God and rejection of reckless lust. That’s why the modest dress, separate quarters for men and women even when wed, gratification encouraged among bedmates, banishments.
“Shits,” he swears, the profanity unlike him, his hand relinquishing my thigh. “It doesn’t matter. We’ll be out there soon enough…or our children will be.”
“Don’t say that.” I slap his arm, refusing to indulge those fears. “Those are hurtful rumors. Heaven isn’t failing. We’re God’s descendants, chosen by Him to survive above all others.”
“Open your eyes, Rimma,” he barks, sweeping his arm across my view of the Garden. “You’re not blind. You’re not a child.”
“No, I’m not.” My arms crossed, I look away, refusing him a glimpse of my tears. “Why are you so surly? You’re simply trying to frighten me.”
“You should be frightened,” he says more softly. A finger to my chin, he draws my face around to gaze at him. His eyes are hard-edged, but something deeper bleeds through his dark irises. He’s scared, terrified, and wants my companionship in his fear. I won’t accompany him there. I refuse. Swept with fury, I want to scramble down the ladder and retreat to the kitchens, to the comforting routine of cooking and mending, the womanly duties of generations of descendants, tasks of my ancestors that will plod on forever inside God’s Garden, encapsulated inside the shield wall.
“Paradise has fallen,” he whispers, blinking at me. He presses his lips between his teeth as we stare at each other. My anger shrivels in the heat of his stare, my throat as parched as the land beyond the wall, my body a lifeless stone as his words filter through my head. “They’re outside the shield wall to the east,” he explains. ”Out there. They want to come in.”