His skin was layered thick with morter dried and crusted, lime embedded scrapes and cuts so when he stretched his palms the pain would sharply bite an instant, then wash dull and pulsing through his tired forearms to his chest and settle in has back where it would stay. He felt it like a liquid seeping free and viscous in the streams of blood advancing with his breath, filling every tissue til his cells would quiver and he’d exhale and in the instant without breath he didn’t feel so wounded.

Ethan was a mason, like his father. Like his father, Ethan worked the city’s seemingly boundless capitol. But Ethan had a hand for sculpture that his father never did. He’d spend his days with bricks and trowels and his evenings tracing marble faces of the men who’d paid his father’s wages when he was Ethan’s age, cutting from the stone the hardness that he’d heard in stories of the rulers who soon would trim the roofs that Ethan paved. He always said the strength was in the stones and not the men.

It was late one evening when Ethan set the final figure, a man of such reputed wealth and dignity that Ethan claimed to cut so deeply in the marble he could hardly lift an arm when he was through. Night was falling, and the air was lush and inky, making Ethan breathe in gasps and almost drown. The town was silent but for whispers of the fires trying hard to fight the cold, distant vines of smoke, tall and tenuous before they vanished in a canopy of rain. Ethan mixed his mortar thick so it would hold against the weather, and in his labor slipped and put the trowel deep into his arm.

Some are wounds that heal and others not. Some are cuts not worth a stitch and so we save them for the next, who has more promise to survive.

Ethan slowly crumbled to his knees, watched the trail of every raindrop stretching past until he lost them to ground below, only a man of stone to catch him, uncemented and without arms free. Ethan grasped the man he made before he fell, and both lay shattered on the dirt but only one with open eyes, a man who pulled the strength from stone to make a story true. And the king he cut was but a pall of shale to catch the wind.

#London #UK

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