lethe

When he stops travelling, travelling and dying and waking and travelling on, Jack Harkness gets himself some land.


When he stops travelling, travelling and dying and waking and travelling on, Jack Harkness gets himself some land. Most of a continent, really, with a good stretch along the northern ocean, several large lakes, and six rivers that spill down from the glaciers that hang on the jagged black maws of the mountains. He has no neighbours to speak of; more importantly, he has no neighbours to speak to. He feels closer to the land in any case. When he first arrived, he walked the border of his land in pilgrimage or penance, walking without rest until he fell down dead from starvation or exhaustion or exposure. Dying is easier than farming, he discovers, so perversely he becomes a farmer.

He will not go to market. When his harvest is ready and he has taken what he needs, he leaves the fields to the birds. They wheel in on the ocean breeze, black like shadows, beautiful as they dive and rise. The birds always fight over the bounty, and the wild cats and the serpents snatch them when they are too greed-full to escape.

Jack builds himself a mill by the river because he likes the idea of a waterwheel, and he makes his house halfway up the hill, half buried in the hillside for warmth in the winters and comfort in the summers. From the window where his table is set he can see neither the sunrise nor the sunset, only the river.

He doesn't name the river, nor the hills nor mountains. The animals are unnamed; the brilliance of the constellations is simply light, the seasons nothing more than a coming and going, unremarkable. Words are a bridge. He has no need of bridges. If he wishes to cross the river, he will walk the few weeks it takes, up along the rise of land, to where the wide slow slide of water is reduced to nothing more than mud, silt, damp, ice.

Every now and then he does that, goes up into the mountains. Sometimes he comes down along a different river and has to make himself a new house and a new mill, plant new fields and starve a few times before settling.

He always chooses a place facing a river, though, and always marvels that he still has preferences, desires, habits. His clothes are made of serpent skin: he will wear brown or green, but he is pleased when he catches a blue. He loves the beaches, rough-sanded, stretching between stony outcrops like the webbing between fingers. He loves them, but from a distance: he makes excuses to himself not to go this year, perhaps the next, or maybe the year after that.

He has no idea how long a year is, here, nor how long a day, nor has he any inclination to find out. He can still be surprised by a late frost, a hurricane, a burr of locusts whipping down to devour his work, an earthquake. He treasures these moments, because that shock of not knowing what is happening, what will happen — that tells him he hasn't become elemental himself.

He doesn't need to die anymore to forget. He's like the great river stones, raw sharp edges tumbled away, polished smooth so the waters flow over them without turbulence. He can taste the sweetness of memories and often their tang, but the names are meaningless now, bridges without a shore on the other side. He forgets his own names for long stretches of time.

He likes that it doesn't matter. He's a man with some land, tending crops and watching the weight of the current draw the river down to the sea. The sun rises, and sets; the river which is all rivers never stops flowing.

~ . * . ~ . * . ~ . * . ~ . * . ~

Leave a Reply