Forged

Spend time reading Owen Sheers, this is what happens… for some reason I can’t finish it though. Is this a happy or sad tale?

Forged

He sits near the door, torn between the embrace of the furnace and the bite of the hills in winter. Freeze-framed, the trees tip towards the last of the stars in the morning light. Bent low, close to horizontal thanks to the prevailing winds, the trees provided the best hiding places in the heat of summer. A glimpse of a memory; his father taking time out to read to him under the branches, the feel of the bark pressing patterns into his back, words tumbling freely over him and soaking into his skin to mix with the sweat.

Metal on metal turns his head as his father starts work. He closes his eyes and listens. There is a rhythm to the sound of the forge, like the words that describe all that happens here. Smelting, smouldering, tempering, annealing. He rolls the words around in his mouth, tasting each one on his tongue; some heavy and metallic, others light like sparks flying.

He wasn’t allowed in here when he was younger, hands would lift him up and birl him away if he came anywhere close. That sound of the hammers ran through him though, even then. Beguiling, comforting, counting away the hours. He measured his play in hammer beats, the light from the forge flickering and shifting on the ground around his trucks and cars. A half-forgotten stab of pain from treading on a shard of metal in the yard as a toddler; a slice into his foot, blood redder than fire, and arms cradling to shield his view of the wound being sown shut.

White orange glows through his eyelids. Even his lashes feel like they’re curling away from the heat. Cold air tugs at the hairs on the back of his neck. He can hear the horses stamp and puff in the still air. Turning, he opens his eyes. Blinking against the pale blue, he jumps to his feet and runs out into the icy yard.

Skirting the side of the house he throws a half-wave to his mother who is out among the remains of the vegetable garden, tugging at frost-bitten stalks. He can feel her eyes watching his back as he scales the gate and climbs deftly up the hillside at the back of the farm. Past the tree where he etched his name into the underside of a branch a few years back. Past the burbling waterfall, now silenced in ice. Over the remains of the dry-stone wall marking the former boundary of one farm and the next.

The hammer blows have followed him all the way up here. He realises he’s been walking fast, three steps to every beat, since he started uphill. His breath clouds in the air, cold rasping through his airways, testing all his senses are awake.

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