Posted by: Kathryn Hulick | September 23, 2012

The Weaving of the World

“The weaving began when the first Gods fell from the sky and needed a place to land. Ea wove Earth from the strands of her own hair, and Ua who always sleeps wove the sky out of his ever-changing dreams. But he is lazy and he never finished, no matter how much Ea scolded him. The holes he left in the sky-weaving let the light of Out-world shine through.”

Garik reached out to touch the white pricks of stars scattered across the tapestry, but his father pulled it away.

“Not yet. The first that you touch will be one you’ve made with your own hands.”

Before he could hold a loom and a sheen of colored thread, he had to know the stories frontwards and backwards and inside out.

“Tell me about the sun,” his father said.

Garrik folded his hands together and squeezed his eyes shut until the story took shape in his mind. It was pictured on his father’s tapestry, in four squares down the right-hand side.

“At the beginning, it was always night. The animals and people were cold and tired and hungry and plants grew only as tall as your ankle. Ea’s son Rivan saw this and asked an old man what would make the world happier. The man was roasting nuts over a fire. ‘A big fire up in the sky,’ said the old man. ‘The fire in the sky will keep us warm and give us light.’

‘Very well,’ said Rivan. He should have asked his mother, but he wanted to do this himself. He built the biggest fire you’ve ever seen. It sent up smoke taller than the tallest mountain. But how would he bring it up into the sky?

He asked the animals to help him, starting with the largest elephant, but the elephant said no, the fire would burn him up. The largest bear, elk, crocodile, and wolf all refused, too. Rivan asked the birds and the snakes and even the frogs, but no one could carry the fire.

Ready to give up, he sat down by his giant fire and started tossing sand onto it to put it out. In one of the handfuls of sand, a small ant popped up and yelled, ‘what are you doing?’ Rivan answered, ‘no one can carry this fire up into the sky. I failed.’

‘Why didn’t you ask us?’ said the ant. From the sand all around the fire, millions and trillions of ants emerged. They spread out under and through the fire, taking hold of the smallers portions of the burning sticks. ‘One, two, three, lift!’ the first ant shouted, and the fire began to move.

Slowly but surely, the fire walked on the backs of ants up the side of the tallest mountain, and into the sky. Rivan followed, and when the ants made it to the very top of the sky, he threw in a stone from the center of the Earth that keeps fires burning forever. “

Garik’s father nodded. “What about Ua and Ea? What did they think of the sun?”

This part wasn’t woven into the tapestry. Garik thought for a minute, trying to remember, but all he saw were the tiny ants, their bodies forever singed black from carrying the sun.

“I don’t know.”

“Good boy. You don’t know because I haven’t told you. Ea loved the new sun. It bathed her Earth in beautiful light and warmth — the greens and blues and reds of the world became brighter and every living creature walked taller and faster and spoke in happier voices.

But Ua was not happy. The light shone right in his eyes and woke him up. He grumbled and roared and the skies shook with thunder and lightning. He couldn’t sleep.

Again, Rivan didn’t know what to do and he went to the old man. This time he was watering a patch of flowers and whistling while he worked. ‘We only need the sun half of the time,’ said the old man. ‘Put it up in the morning, and take it down at night.’ That was a good idea, but only if the ants could help. He asked, but only some of their number were willing to help, and they wanted something in return. What do you think it was?”

Garik had no idea. “Gold?”

“What would ants do with gold?”

Garik thought harder. What did some ants have that others didn’t?

“Wings!”

“Very good. Very good. Yes, Ea gave them wings, and now these flying ants take the sun up every morning and down every night. That’s why you should never crush an ant, of any kind. Without them, we’d have no day time.”

Garik stared at the beautiful orange around the center of the weaving. Someday, he too would weave the stories into something this beautiful with his own hands.

Photo by Yann (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons
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Posted by: Kathryn Hulick | September 15, 2012

A Shattered Mirror

Shattered Mirror

She is a ghost half-seen through a shattered mirror. An echo of something better forgotten. She has my name, Monica, but she’s not me.

How many lies lead to truth? The first one you tell is so small, so perfect. It falls from your mouth and bounces through the world like a single pebble skipping across a lake. Plunk, down it goes, and no one will ever, ever find it.

Chuck Reed, the assistant manager, asked if I had a boyfriend, and I said “yes.” One word, one simple syllable. I didn’t like the sparkling look in his eyes when he asked. Like he already knew I was not fit for long term commitment. Like he thought I might be good for something quick and easy.

“His name is Lance,” I said.

Chuck shrugged and went back to checking off shipments on the computer. His ring finger flashed gold. Married? Not a chance. I heard the girls at the register whispering about divorce and custody and girlfriends on the side. Not for me.

He was wrong about quick and easy but right about commitment. I want to turn my music up loud and dance without anyone watching. I want to find my bathroom exactly how I left it, and I’ll never let someone else use my toothbrush. I want to visit antique shops and used book stores and stay exactly as long as it takes, not a moment longer or shorter.

“Lance,” or anyone like Lance, does not factor into any of these things. He could be a knight in shining armor riding a glorious white horse, and I’d give him the finger. Honestly.

The lie could have been forgotten. I know I forgot about it in about two seconds. Chuck frowned at the computer, and I stacked cans of soup on the shelves, making sure to face the labels all the same way.

But someone else heard me say it. The girl Sasha who’s mildly retarded, or something. She works the register like a Jedi master, but still can’t tie her shoes without help. She must have heard me, because she asked about it that evening when I was heading out the door.

“Monica! Hi!” She waved a hand in my face. Too close for comfort. Her eyes sparkled, so different from Chuck’s. The exact opposite of sketchy. “How is Lance? Is he hot? I bet he’s hot. You are so lucky!”

“Yeah, he’s hot. I guess.” I couldn’t tell her I made it up because Chuck’s an asshole. She loves Chuck. She loves everyone. She was looking at me like I was her best friend. What was I supposed to do?

The next day, all the register girls knew, and they all had theories. He was a stoner, a doctor, a college drop-out, an Olympic medalist.

I told them in a quiet, serious whisper that he was a career criminal. Big time robberies, gambling, mob stuff, you know. Why? It was half a joke, but also so Chuck would leave me alone. A guy who cheats won’t think twice about going after a girl with a boyfriend. but a girl with a boyfriend in the mob? Chuck’s a big wuss.

“Don’t tell Sasha,” I said. “She thinks he’s a cab driver.”

The girls all nodded. They protect Sasha like her personal pack of attack dogs. Last week this jerk in a business suit ordered Sasha to count his change again, and the girls all dove in to tell him off. Chuck wasn’t happy, but some of the customers cheered.

After that, I noticed them giving me sideways glances, muttering behind my back. Janessa, the smart one, knew I was joking or lying or something, and she kept rolling her eyes and shaking her head at me.

I was ready to tell her, at least, that it was all fake, but then he came in the store.

Lance himself. The made-up career criminal with ties to the mob. He wore a black leather jacket with studs and scuffed boots. He had a blond goatee and a shaved head. A tattoo of a dragon curled around his left ear down to his neck.

He knew me. “Hey, Monica! What’s up?”

If it took me a moment too long to figure out where I knew him from, the girls didn’t notice. Janessa turned white as a sheet and the other girls huddled behind her. Even Chuck stared.

“Hey, hi.” I grabbed his arm and pulled my former classmate from community college into the baking aisle.

“Zach?” I said, not sure I remembered his name.

“Yeah. What’s with the stealth show?”

“Nothing. Um. It would be great to catch up sometime. Just… not while I’m working. Chuck – the manager – he’s a total dick about this stuff. Coffee?”

I expected him to say yeah, shrug, and I’d never see him again. Thugs don’t drink coffee, right? Wrong.

“Right on. I’ll text you.” He had his phone out, new contact added, waiting for my number.

I gave it to him.

The mirror started to crack.

Photo: Mikhail Evstafiev (Mikhail Evstafiev) [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC-BY-SA-2.5], via Wikimedia Commons
Posted by: Kathryn Hulick | September 11, 2012

The Glass City

In the morning, the domes of the glass city shone in glistening shades of pink, yellow, orange, like a field of ice flowers opening. Ivelle walked through the slowly-waking streets, hands clenched at her sides. No street urchins, no beggars. Not here. Agar saw to that.

The Stewards cast their votes seven days ago, on a morning like this one. eight white stones, one black. The black meant “no” and that was Ivelle’s. She represented the Dreamwalkers on the Stewardship, and if Agar had his way, he would destroy everything they’d built.

How did she know? He’d told her. He wanted that single black stone.

“What’s victory without a little dissent?” He said from the Hall of Judges to a crowd of thousands. “As High Steward, I will ensure that we are all one people, with one vision, and one goal – happiness and wealth for all! Where I find dark voices whispering in the night, I will bring them out into the light, for all to see and judge. No more closed doors, no more secret dreams.”

He turned to Ivelle then. “No more will the Dreamwalkers walk all over us. Power for all!”

He raised up Ivelle’s black stone. “This is no ordinary rock. It’s a cage for dreams. It took long hours of searching and experiments, frustration and dispair, and finally… triumph!”

He closed his eyes, held out the stone, and suddenly a flame leapt up, dancing from above his hand.

It’s a trick, Ivelle thought. He must have some concealed fuel, something other than that stone.

But it wasn’t a trick. And Agar couldn’t have done it alone.

Ivelle lifted her fist and knocked on the tall glass door. No answer. She knocked louder. “Fira! Open the door!”

A guard passed in the street. He stopped and gave Ivelle a long, hard look. She gave him a harder look back, making sure he noticed the swirls dancing in her eyes, and knew her for a Dreamwalker.

“Good day,” he said and hurried on.

If she’d been anyone else, Ivelle knew, he’d be hauling her to Judge’s Hall for vagrancy and noise disturbance. It wouldn’t be long before her skills would no longer protect her at all.

“Fira!” she shouted again, then pushed on the door. It opened. Not locked.

She found Fira sleeping beside a slim young guard with a scar over one eye. A new one since last time. The flavor of the week.

“Get out,” Ivelle shouted directly into his ear. He jerked awake, and left without a word, taking one of the blankets with him.

“Now tell me, Fira. How did you make that stone for Agar? And why?”

Fira scowled and pulled the remaining blankets into a swirling nest around her body. She had bruises on her elbows, and the swirls in her eyes danced with sparks of red.

“Why should I tell you?”

Ivelle closed her eyes and said a quick prayer to Ira for calm. “Because we were sisters once. Sworn to protect and provide for each other. Because I… care about you.”

“Cared. I know how you feel now. And I don’t have to tell you anything. Jace!” She yelled after the guard. “Make us some eggs for breakfast.” Fira reached under her pillow and pulled out a pink stone. “Instant fragrance, no trip to the Dreamworld necessary, works for years.”

She held up the stone, and a cloud of sweet, floral scent burst into the room, settling on their hair and arms.

“You’re not invited to breakfast,” Fira said, and walked out.

Ivelle watched her go, then picked up the pink stone she’d left behind. Did she really forget it? Or did she leave it on purpose?

Was Fira… afraid?

Posted by: Kathryn Hulick | August 31, 2012

Robin’s Egg Blue

Philip Johnson Glass House, Summer 2012

“Paint it any color you like, Naomi.” He says. “Blue is always nice.”

“Yeah, Dad, blue,” I say. In my mind I see the uncracked robin’s egg, whole and perfect, shiny-smooth, before a bomb composed of Dad, my brother, and a football went off in a flurry of arms, legs, and grunts.

The egg splattered on my foot. Yellow-white and gooey.

That was the week before Dad moved out. He took my brother and I stayed with Mom and that was it. Simple-easy-no-trouble-for-anyone.

Rachel said I was lucky. When her parents divorced it was all screaming and crying and her Mom even ran over her dad’s motorcycle, on purpose. I didn’t tell her that sometimes I wish my parents would fight like that. Then everybody would see what was really on the inside — not the smooth blue shell of the egg, but the gross ugly inside parts.

Now I’m helping Dad fix up the new place. Not a little apartment like Rachel’s dad. No, he found this old farmhouse and he’s going to fix the whole thing up. New paint, new custom-built cabinets, new perfect grass lawn. I swear everyone at Home Depot cheers when he drives up.

He tosses me the paint color samples — thousands of colors, all bundled together in a block. I fan them out — blood red fades into pastel pink into beige into shades of white with names like antique lace and scallop shell. The blue is at the end. Turquoise and teal and midnight, but no blue just like the robin’s egg. Nothing quite right.

“Hey, Nay-nay, what’s happening?” My brother Sam hauls out a wheelbarrow full of bits of wood, paint chips, and crooked nails. The bones and skin of the dying house.

“I hate blue,” I say.

“Then pick a different color.” A few minutes later I hear the tumbling crash of the wheelbarrow emptying into the dumpster.

I stare at the white wall, patterned with light and shadow from the glass porch ceiling. Why does it need a color? What’s wrong with white?

Two days later, while Mom’s attempting to either make lasagna or burn the house down, it’s hard to tell the difference, I escape to the basement. And I find a stack of cans in the far corner — paint. Blues, reds, yellows, browns — all half-used, and all covered with drips and dust.

I’m not an artist, never have been, never will be. But when I see that paint, I know what I have to do. Dad said any color you like, and I choose all of them.

 

Posted by: Kathryn Hulick | August 28, 2012

The Travel Key

Quabbin Reservoir, April 15, 2012

Time has no meaning any more. A moment and a year may as well be two identically sized stone blocks laid end to end, stacked up, closing the traveler in his prison.

A traveler who can’t move more than one stride in each direction. What irony. Once, he covered vast miles. He rode horseback and elephant-back. He took trains and buses and jumbo jets. He crossed rivers and continents and centuries.

Yes, centuries.

And he always knew where he was. But now, both the where and the when shrink smaller every day. He knows of the lake outside the windows. He can see the trees change from green to red to brown each year. But how many times has that happened? And what lies beyond the lake, beyond the trees?

He can no longer remember. Even his own name slips from his grasp every so often. Was it Clay? Kent? Cal? He settles on Clay for now. Like the mortar holding the stone walls together.

Clay opens the trap door in the floor of the prison and stares at the empty plastic jugs of water. He has plenty of food left, but water… just half a plastic jugs remains. He’s been drinking as little as possible for as long as he can remember, all the while staring at the lake outside the windows.

The strangest thing about his prison: there is no door. And the windows are too small to fit through (he’s tried). Did they build this thing over him? How? When?

The trees are fading from vermillion to rust when he drains the last drop from the water jug. He will die as the leaves fall. It seems fitting.

He is wondering how long it will take, if it might be better to speed things up with the rough edge of one of the tin can lids, when he hears a voice. Singing.

“Oh here I go a-wandering among the leaves so green! Valde-ri, valder-ra, valder-a-ha ha ha

This is it, Clay thinks. I’m hallucinating. I’ll slip into dreams, and then into death, and it won’t hurt at all.

But the voice comes closer, and out the window, Clay sees a spot of a color whose name he can’t remember. It’s a color that he’s only seen sometimes in the sky during a vibrant sunset. Like blue but stronger, deeper.

The color becomes a jacket wrapped around the smiling face of a girl, no more than ten years old.

“I love to wander by the lake that sparkles in the sun!”

She stops and stares through the window. Clay stares back, mesmerized. Her eyes are the same color as her jacket. Why can’t he remember what it’s called?

“You… hey!” Clay’s voice cracks and splits like a mud flat begging for rain. Every word burns, but he has to get her attention.

“Traveler,” she smiles. “I brought this for you.” She holds up a small thing, round and curved slightly on one end.

A travel key.

“Please!” He lunges forward, banging his forehead against the side of the window. His fingers reach through the tight iron mesh. The key will fit through. It has to.

“Ah, ah!” She comes just close enough to tease him. “Tell me your name.”

Clay’s hand falls to his side. His vision blurs and darkens, but he manages to ask. “Tell me the color you’re wearing, and I’ll tell you my name.”

“Purple,” she says.

It’s like a key turning in his memory, unlocking rainbows and flowers and dark, rich wines. Purple. Along with the colors, faces spill out. Voices. Names. One of them must be his own.

“Kristoff,” he says, hearing the woman’s voice in his memory. Dark curls, hands smelling like coffee and dish soap. His mother. “But I prefer Clay.”

“Well, Clay. Here is the key. Use it wisely.” She slips it through the window, and for a moment her small, smooth fingers touch his.

“Travel well.” She smiles, and walks off singing.

Posted by: Kathryn Hulick | February 26, 2012

Underleaf

Taro Leaf

As long as I’ve lived, the Leaf has shielded us from wind and rain. It shines bright green in the daylight, turning our faces and hands the color of spring, and at night darkness pools beneath the Leaf until the world seems to disappear into nothing.

Night is still at least an hour off this day, but a rain falls above, drumming and echoing throughout underleaf. At the edges, rain drips into troughs and barrels. People run past me shouting and waving, heading out to help with the water. But I walk the other way, toward the center of our city, the stem.

The hollow stem descends from far, far above to sink into a bed of rich soil that we feed with horse droppings, fruit rinds, and dried grasses. Carved into the thick, living stem, two pillars made to look like angels welcome me to my father’s office.

“Surya, sit.” He points to a carved bench. Above us, a clear glass bowl of glowworms casts a comforting greenish light in the room.

“Three tears and fifteen holes,” I report. I don’t have to look at my notes — the numbers have been running through my head all day. As the President’s eldest child, it’s my duty to regularly walk the length of the leaf, checking for damage.

For most of our lives, this has been a ceremonial task. The walk happened once every season at best, accompanied by a parade and dancing.

Now, I go out every morning before the sun rises. No one person could walk the entire leaf in one day, so I work in quadrants. I hand my father the map, where I’ve marked each mar on the leaf’s surface. Some have grown from my last walk.

Elms and Reggie, my father’s advisors, rise from their desks and come to get a closer look.

“Dad, I mean, Mr. President, the southeast quadrant is worse than last week.” I point to the largest clustered patch of five holes. “And I’m sure there are new ones forming that are too small to see from the ground.”

“Must be citizens of nextleaf,” growls Elms. “I say we mount an attack.”

“No, no. Such small yet alarming damage can only be a warning from the angels to work diligently and respect the leaf,” says Reggie, around a mouthful of papaya.

I have my own theories, but no evidence yet, so I let them bicker. My father’s eyes dart from one advisor to the next, but I can tell from the way his fingers drum on the table that he agrees with neither of them.

His hope rests on me.

I look up at the glowworms, so easily ignored. Right now they’re not moving, but early in the morning, they feast on bits of grass and old fruit.

The next morning, I set out as usual, but rather than walking my usual zig-zag pattern from stem out to edge, I head straight for the edge. Near the stem, no human could throw hard enough to hit the leaf, but at the edges… it might be possible.

I reach the far northern tip when the sun is just peeking over the horizon, seeping under the edge in a fiery orange glow. Here, the leaf dips the lowest and the damage is the worst: a mess of misshapen holes and tears, their edges yellowing to brown in places.

I stare up, watching, waiting. Looking for movement. Nothing.

My neck begins to ache, and I wonder if Reggie was right, the angels are testing us.

Then I see it, a white shape pokes into one of the holes.

“Gotcha!” I grab a stone from the ground and throw as hard as I can. Miss. The thing eating our leaf doesn’t budge. My next toss hits right on the mark. The tip of the leaf trembles, and the creature tumbles, spinning through the air. I jump back, and it lands with a splash in a puddle left from yesterday’s rain.

It doesn’t look much like a glowworm, even if a glowworm could grow to twice my size. It has hundreds of tiny legs ad bumps all along its back. The legs grasp and claw at empty air. The mouth opens and closes.

I want to retch. Doesn’t this monster realize what it’s doing? It’s destroying our world.

“Hey!” I shout at the top of my lungs, and a child exploring the edge runs home for help. Soon I’m surrounded by a crowd of edgedwellers.

They all want a look at Leaf-eater. But there’s only one person I want to talk to – my father.

Image by Taro_leaf_underside,_backlit_by_sun.jpg: AvenueDerivative work: Avenue (Taro_leaf_underside,_backlit_by_sun.jpg) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons
Posted by: Kathryn Hulick | November 26, 2011

Watering Can Project

I made these for a very nice neighbor. I’d never painted on metal before, so I got to experiment with some primer and sealing sprays. But the paint is just acrylics.

Posted by: Kathryn Hulick | October 6, 2011

Color theory

Acrylic on matte board.

We used to do this color exercise in painting class in college. I had some leftover paint one evening, so I decided to play with the colors… 

Posted by: Kathryn Hulick | October 1, 2011

Landscape on Violet

September 30, 2011. Oil on paper.

I started painting as soon as I got home from work and kept it up until I could barely see what I was doing. I sat in my front yard near some browning purple flowers, and invented the background landscape. I started with a layer of quinacridone violet – one of my favorite shades – and then layered yellows, browns, and greens on top of this bright color.

Posted by: Kathryn Hulick | September 27, 2011

Lake and Leaves Turning

Hancock, New Hampshire. September 25, 2011.

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