In anticipation of the first issue, Ian Bodkin has been writing a series of prequels involving characters central to The Savage Lyrics and their lives before the Savage arrives. These have been going out in newsletters with early artwork from Issue #1. If you'd like to receive the newsletter feel free to sign up or send us your information through the contact page above. Or simply enjoy the Before the Savage series here, below:
Before the Savage I.1
A boy sat on his haunches, gently clawing away dirt from beneath the roots of a single golden poppy. His shadow stretched out before him and over the limp flower as he began to release each of its tendrils from their earthen rest. Patiently, he did not tear nor break any living thing in his excavation. He blew away what dust crept up the stem. He observed the veins in each orange petal and the exact distance of the protruding stigma.
With his eyes between his feet, he did not notice the shadow that rose behind him and soon encompassed his entire space. No sound nor smell, as in memory he would note the slight breeze against his cheeks, but there was that feeling of the sun no longer on his back.
“Nebu, what are you doing out here by the wall?” an older man, who in this light was nothing but a silhouette with a large walking stick and the slight flash of light from his thick wire framed spectacles, said.
The boy jumped. He had thought he was alone. As most children were in the Town, he thought he was invisible. In an act of composure and measured breath, he pushed his straight black hair from his eyes as he looked over his shoulder. With relief, he recognized the figure behind him and said, “Father, look what I have found we must take it to the greenhouses at once!”
“What have you found boy?” the man said as he stepped beside his son and began to kneel even as his body popped and hissed with the very notion of such action.
“It’s a wild flower.”
“Nebu, I do not have you sit with all those books so that when you find something actually alive in this world, you have nothing more to say than ‘wildflower.’ What is its classification?”
The boy closed his eyes as if he were about to recite a poem or prayer “From the family Papaveraceae, most likely of the Eschscholzia genus given its alternating blue-green branching, and due to the orange petals I think it’s probably the species californica.”
The old man used his walking stick to center his bent hips in a motion from one hand to the firm grip of both. “And what does that mean?”
“In the time before, this flower would have colored fields and valleys in what was called the western Mexico or the southwestern United States of the Americas.”
“America, they thought themselves pluraly singular.”
The boy, realizing he had passed one test and that some new lesson was about to begin, thought to interject, “We should take this to the greenhouses, maybe they’ll let me plant it in the Harvest Zone?”
“Foolish child, you’re lucky it was me who came upon you and not a Cleric.”
“But Ms. Kessner said we should report all findings to the Ministry for…”
With a great stiffening of his stick and another set of protests from his body as he stood up straight, the old man shook his head, “Ms. Kessner thinks the Ministry sustains us. She is foolish. Have you freed the plant?”
“Yes,” Nebu said as he pulled and shook the remaining clumps of dirt from the roots of the plant.
“Then tuck it beneath your coat and let us return to our books. We’ll make our own garden,” the father said as he put a hand on his son’s shoulder. The old man looked back at the Town and along the wall as if checking for a monster or perhaps the onset of a storm.
The two figures made their way back toward the crumbling brick and plywood windows of the Town. An eastern sun rose behind them across a jawbone ridge. The light had just begun to gleam against the domed surface encompassing the Town, and if one of those figures had turned around at that moment they might have seen a glint up in the mountains. Far away. The small reflection of a traveller’s looking glass pulled away from its owner’s eye.
Before the Savage I.2
The woman only gave herself a few moments before she lost it. In that time, she was free. She moved with grace, and a certain fluidity that the burden of the day never allowed her. She grabbed a mortar from the table beside her bed. Pouring the ground contents into a glass of water, she stirred once, drank the concoction down and pulled her head back under her gray wool blanket. This was her time and her ritual.
She felt the weight of it, the wool blanket pulled up over her head. With each breath held deeper and longer than the last, she felt the constricted blood vessels in her head begin to loosen. As she let out deep sigh after deep sigh, the dark air grew warm across her cheeks.
The woman knew that the sun had already broken through the open window. The bright flaxen rays were reaching across the sill and beneath the lightly flapping curtain. She could feel the light beginning to warm her exposed foot at the end of the bed.
Her time was almost over. Soon thoughts would return. The random images and sounds of the night would begin to form a narrative of their own. The drunken father. A Broken chair. Turning handle. Boot heals. Stolen card. Hurdy-gurdy. Wiping up another man’s vomit. Suggesting the mayor go home. Clink. Clink. Letting them drink. Letting them forget. Turning handle. Table thrown. Knife pulled. Hurdy-gurdy. The cheat ran through the batwing doors and became a thief. The father didn’t drown, he raised his glass and spoke louder. Clink-clink. The Clerics with their hoods drawn watching from the darkness of the street.
The adversary almost had her. At least, that’s what she called it. The pain. The memory. As the day became real, she could no longer be a woman lying in the darkness of her covers. Morning had come, and she sat up. Keeping her eyes closed for one more brief moment, she took a deep breath and clenched the bed sheet in each hand against the side of her hips. No, she thought, it’s time.
She left the bed and walked across the room to the window. She could see the beginnings of the day. People. Mrs. Nitro headed to the schoolhouse to begin lessons. The Addertons headed toward the grain mill. Teresa Huffing and the Jeffers woman right behind them on their way to the water purification center. The beasts in the machine. Even the thief, Sal Quereshi looking in all directions as he made his way across Main St—another wheel turning—was the permitted allotment of entropy. As long as the work continued, as long as the pain subsided to the rumble of white noise in the background, all the animals could play their games.
She felt the prick of cold air against her bare flesh. For a second, her head pounded with last night’s whiskey. Her body felt stiff. Her joints creaked. She remembered her father, Jeremiah Watts, the day before he left. Elisenda allowed the pain. She named it. She felt it only for that second.
Turning from the window, she grabbed a robe from her wardrobe and moved across the pinewood slats to the door. Opening it, she said, “Look I am sorry about your son. But it’s morning, the Ministry will never let him go. He’s gone, and you need to go home now.”
The lump beneath Elisenda’s blanket began to stir, and soon he would rise to leave. The day had begun.
Before the Savage 1.3
Breath will find its rhythm no matter how the body moves. It’s one thing to know, but in truth, it’s a deep thump as the lungs deflate--another thump--and contact around the heart; quicken and repeat. The body alone. The body alive.
A boy squeezed between the dispensary and water filtration center from Main St to A1 lane. He glanced at his clenched hands holding the frayed straps of a burlap sack. Later, he'd cry and explain exactly this impulse; he was afraid he would wake up hungry in the Children's Barracks; he had just been taught the concept of evaporation; he'd grown a foot and lost ten pounds in the last week. At times like this, Sal Quereshi wished he had parents that would eventually speak and swallow his burdens.
On Main Street the shouting continued, and someone was using the red rusted arm of a Hospice Bot--long since broken down and now only used for scrap metal--to reach between the buildings in an attempt to fish Sal back.
"Damn it boy! You better squeeze back through here before I call a Cleric," the sweaty man with warts like freckles across his nose yelled.
Sal let his heart slow--thump--and took a deep breath--thump, thump. Looking back and forth there was no one. The beauty of the Town was it's layout. Everything put The Ministry building at the center. No one but Clerics could enter the Ministry building. Other than Main Street and it's only known perpendicular, Avenue, there were no cross streets. So in Sal's case, if one was to have an altercation or "steal" from one street, and due to stature make way into a parallel street between the buildings, he or she was as free as the two or three birds left in existence.
From the sack, Sal pulled a biscuit, still warm and he could smell the melted butter. He knew if he was a proper thief he might run farther. Hell, one day he might even run beyond the dome and into the Harvest Zone or just be gone. But today was about running into the Ration Dispensary and stealing a few more biscuits and tomorrow could be anything. So he ate.
They'd come. But for now he felt the crumple of milked flour against his lips as it fell across his tongue. The butter and the warmth--thump. He felt the antique robotic arm clawing idly at the back of his legs--another bite and a deeper breath.
Happiness is a moment.
"Quereshi!" the bald black robed Cleric shouted, "Drop the bag! this is your final offense! We're locking you up this time."
Sal dropped the bag as he took out the remaining biscuits and began to shove them into his mouth--thump. He knew the joy was over, but he might as well taste the crumbs that no one else would--thump. He put his hands in the air holding one last biscuit in his right.
"What time do you serve breakfast in the Roost?" he asked, then with a deep breath, he brought the hand down and took one more bite.
Thump-thump. Thump-thump and breathe.