By The Light Of Day (Final Part)
Story by John Stuart Dorn. From hyperreal hellscape to rustic retreat. We hope you enjoyed this story premiere!
By: John Stuart Dorn
Five years later
William wiped the sweat from his brow and adjusted his hat to keep the sun out of his eyes. Summer was in full swing and the first wheat that had been sowed in Spring was ready for reaping. William took the roll of twine from his pocket and cut a threat of it, which he then used to bind some wheat stalks together he had just reaped by hand. He gathered that bundle and arranged it with some other ones he had recently bound together and set them up so as to lean on each-other. This was essential in getting the wheat to dry properly. Leaving the stack behind he walked over to the stone wall that separated the farm from the road. He took a deep swig from the canteen he had left there. Looking up the road William could travelers coming in from fields further out, heading towards the old town. The rows of wheat stacks in the field behind him were enough to satisfy him for the day. He didn't want to be late and headed through the fields back to the homestead he lived in.
Those fine folks that George had introduced him too five years earlier had taken him in and taught him how to run a farm. Childless, they had become like a second family to him. Through them he had become a useful member of the community. Nobody really knew the exact circumstances though of what had driven him.
Some clouds had come to give William shade by the time he made it back to the farmhouse. It sat at a crossroads, one road leading out to more farms, and the other passing through from the old town towards the city ruins. He found someone waiting for him, sitting on the stonewall, her feet kicking too and fro just above the ground.
“Miss Daisy, to what do I owe the honor?” William asked. The young woman jumped down from the fence, brushing her simple skirt clean of dirt. “Mr. Baker.....you are going with Mr. Baker right? I wasn't sure if you had settled on that profession for sure.” William smiled. “Come and see the oven if you don't believe me.” She ran off, bonnet in hand around to the back of the farmhouse. “I see you already know where it is.” William said, following her. “I know it's not much right now” he said, standing beside Daisy. “But I've always really liked the smell of freshly baked bread.” Daisy was keenly inspecting the brick lined earth and stone oven. “That's quite a happy coincidence for I very much enjoy the taste of freshly baked bread.” She said, looking at William coyly. “...Mr. Baker.”
William didn't mind her teasing. “Well, if you came here for some bread, you'll be waiting quite a while.” Daisy took on a slight pout. “No silly! I was hoping...that we could walk to the festival together.” William bashfully declined, insisting he had to change first, to which Daisy firmly stated that she did not mind waiting.
By the time they started out from the farmhouse, there were other people on the road as well. There were the newly wed Petersons, the Galbraith's with their gaggle of young children, at which Daisy smiled. There was also Old widow McCormick, who was being escorted by her neighbors, the Manny brothers. All the while Daisy proudly walked by William's side, clearly unconcerned about what rumors might be spread.
As they walked into town, William's memory hearkened back to that first night he had driven through town. Back then it had been abandoned. Now the old houses were lived in once again, and they sported repairs, additions and fresh paint. The old clock-tower had been cleared of brush, rust and whitewashed to look like new. For the festival a garland of flowers had been hung around the clock face. Beside the clock tower was the town green, which was the site of the planned festival.
Now at their destination, Daisy went to seek out her mother and father. William went looking for George. He found the old man, despite his age, helping with the last bits of bunting being put up on the central bandstand. He happily put this task aside when saw William though. They greeted each-other with a warm and hearty hug.
“How much do I still have left to pay you for that axe old man,” William joked. “Only a few more bundles of wheat from next harvest” the old man replied, which is what he always said. “I think I can arrange it” said William. George looked out over at Daisy, who was chasing her little brother around the maypole. “Well, she seems like a nice girl. Festivals are great occasions at which to make ones intentions known.” William nodded. “You are never one to mince words old friend.”
The festival started soon after. As had been their tradition for the last few years, a ceremony of remembrance was held. This festival did not mark the harvest or a change of seasons. This festival marked the day, three years prior, that the empire had formally dissolved and peace had returned to the land.
Accordingly, each family brought forth an image, usually a photograph, of a father, son, brother or husband, that had perished during the fighting. As each name was called out, the bell in the clock tower was rung. After this, a procession of war relics was begun by the village elders. They lofted up banners, old rifles, helmets, and one empty storage drive. The boys of the village all crowded close to see and touch the remnants of war.
After this ceremony, there was a formal dance. All the eligible bachelors and maidens paired off together in the square. The forms and style of dance, while not yet something handed down from generation to generation, nevertheless evoked to William a sense of timelessness. More importantly, everyone seemed to be having a good time. After the dance there were games and performances. And after that, a feast. William hoped to have plenty of baked bread ready for the next festival. After the feast, the bonfire was lit. Even though the summer sun still lingered in the sky, the light and warmth of the great fire became the focal point of the gathering. All around it people broke into discussion, play, gossip and all other manner of socializing.
Daisy clearly saw her chance. Before William knew it, she had taken him by the hand and pulled him off towards the woods, skipping as she went. “C'mon William, I want to show you something!”
Off into the woods they went. Daisy was light and sprightly on her feet, dancing to and fro between the trees like some sort of sprite. As was customary for unmarried women, her hair was down, and the evening sun made it shine like bronze as she spun and weaved through the foliage. By the time they made it through the trees, the sun had been darkened by clouds and they were both quite out of breath. Daisy was smiling though and pointed towards the northwest. William looked up, seeing before him a great view of the city. The power outage, war and fall of the empire had not been kind to it. Even though those old glass and steel towers stood as imposing as ever their threat was hollow now. In the sky above, the clouds in front of the sun parted, letting it shine down again. William, catching the sun in his eyes, sneezed.
Daisy chuckled at him, and tried to say “bless you” but sneezed as well. “Bless you” William said to her, offering her his handkerchief. As she lightly dabbed her nose he told her “You know Daisy, someone once told me that only special people sneeze from sunlight.”
She handed back his handkerchief. “I don't know about myself Mr. Baker, but you are indeed quite a special person, at least to me”. “You are a very special person to me too Daisy” He said in reply. She blushed at that, and turned away to hide her face.
“It's quite beautiful.” William said, looking back out towards the city. “Is that what you wanted to show me?” He asked. “We are still a bit early, lets sit and wait” Daisy said, taking a seat on the grass and patting the ground next to her. William obliged her. They continued to stare out towards the city. “William, do you intend to marry someday or do you prefer the life of the bachelor?” Daisy asked, twirling a lock of her hair around her finger. William swallowed.“I don't believe in marriage without love” he said. “Have you ever been in love before?” Daisy asked. William nodded yes. “It was before the war” he added. “What was her name?” Daisy asked. “Marie” William replied. “Do you think you could love again?” Daisy asked, hugging her knees. “It seems so,” He said.
Daisy lay down on her back and looked up at the sky. “Marie is such a pretty name. If I had a daughter I'd call her Marie. Eldest sons are usually named after their father, but girls can have all sorts of pretty names.” She said. Before William could reply, a flicker of light appeared for a second in the city below.
Daisy sat up excitedly and pointed towards one of the biggest towers in the city. The light had seemed to come from it. “Every night, the lights on the building dance! It's so beautiful. I wanted you to see.”
Indeed, as Daisy said, the glass side of the tall tower lit up in a cascade of color. “Perhaps someone has hacked into it and is using the signals to send some sort of signal?” William mused aloud.
“No silly, it's dancing. It's dancing to music only it can hear.” Daisy said self-assuredly. William studied the lights, noticed a pattern and then smiled to himself. “I think I know this song.” he said, standing up. He offered his hand to Daisy. She stood up and gently laid her hand in his. As they danced he sang.
“Let me call you sweetheart, I'm in love with you.
Let me hear you whisper that you love me too.
Keep the love-light glowing in your eyes, so true.
Let me call you sweetheart, I'm in love with you.”