Child’s Play by Zan
Kenren was tired really and should have rested but he had eternity to do it later, it was here and now that seemed important just then.
Somewhere Down Below it was night. Here, where there was perpetual light, seconds passed into minutes, into hours, days, months and millennia, and would go by unnoticed. If you really wished to see it, you might notice that the suffusion of light differed at intervals but then again you might not.
The boredom and stagnancy of the situation up here on high, it would get to you if you let it. Earlier that day he had given himself over to brooding a little. He had sat in his quarters alone and thought and his mind had chased in circles all manner of things but could make no sense of any of it.
Walking the halls now familiar to him, he thought back to the day he had first come knocking on Tenpou’s door. Memories up here were precious, too few and further between.The mess of books, files and scrolls and a body buried under it all somewhere.
“Hey – you alive?”
He shut his eyes and shuddered because his mind seemed to spiral out to a place and time he did not know and for a few moments, the world shifted. He could hear rain and see mud and blood slicked skin, red and all red…
“Hey – you alive?” A voice asked.
Kenren blinked and shook his head and saw how the light glittered and glanced off the man’s glasses. The general figured that Tenpou learnt that trick himself. Kenren could just imagine the Marshall stood in front of the bathroom mirror. Practicing, taking note such things as angle of light, the tilt of the head and the fall of the fringe. Kenren smiled with all his charm and hoped he would not look too silly just stood there in the doorway. Had he even knocked on the door? He could not be sure.
“Uh...whu...um –sorry, I was having a moment.”
“So I see,” even as his Marshall pushed the glasses he did not need further up on his nose, Kenren visualised the eyebrow he could not see raised. “Well come in then. We don’t want you up on charges for loitering do we?”
Kenren hesitated, only an instant before entering whilst he lit up a cigarette and headed for his favourite meditation spot.
It was not because Tenpou’s quarters was sparsely furnished and lacked chairs. Kenren simply liked to sit cross-legged with his back against Tenpou’s desk. He took some pleasure in just listening to the man putter about as he made a mess; one that Kenren did not doubt he would have to tidy up. He was just losing himself in the air that was Tenpou when the man himself came round the desk and squatted in front of him.
“What about a game?” Tenpou opened his palm to him and Kenren thought how pale it looked with a lengthy coil of red string in the middle of it.
The general wondered if his listlessness was apparent or if the other man was psychic. Either way, he hated being an open book and Tenpou did that mind reading thing far too often at his expense.
Kenren watched as the Marshall looped the string over one delicate hand and then the other. There was only the quiet and their breathing. A breeze came through and played with Tenpou’s bangs as it would some wind chimes, or it could just have been their breathing.
Tenpou brought his hands close together, ‘just-so’ but not touching. As if in prayer. Hooking one tapered middle finger under the loop on the opposite hand, then repeating the move with its opposite in number. Tenpou pulled his hands apart sharply. The string went taut. He looked up as if aware of the other for the first time.
“You do realise there is no cradle and there are no cats.”
“Yes illusionary grand designs. Yes, yes… you’re being quite ‘apt’ today my General.”
Kenren sighed. There was no help for it then. He pinched the two X’s between each thumb and forefinger. The side of his palm tickled lightly as the tips of Tenpou’s fingers gently brushed them. The coolness tingled on his warmth. He huffed as he concentrated a little to remember how it went. He pulled the pinched X’s up-and-over, then down, under and scooped them through the previously formed rectangle. He remembered to wriggle the string a little over the pinched digits before opening them wide and pulled apart. With his hands on the inside, he slipped the cradle off the Marshall. As they briefly cupped hands, Kenren felt reassurance in that touch as he formed parallel lines.
Tenpou hooked each of his little fingers on the centre lines, each in turn so that they crossed and his hands hovered above Kenren’s hands. As each curled little finger hugged the ring finger beside it, Tenpou scooped both index fingers and thumbs under the outer lines, his eyes squinted a little from the effort and focus. Probably because holding his hands in the ‘Manger’ was difficult position to keep if his fingers were not nimble enough. Tenpou caught Kenren’s gaze and held it.
Kenren did not break the intent look even as he pinched the X’s on either side, again between thumbs and index fingers, pushed from underneath, pulled up and held thumbs and fingers wide apart. The quiet, the light and their breathing was all there were.
“Ah, it’s the Diamond.” The Marshall broke the silence.
“I’d prefer it if it were the Jack of Diamonds myself…you know like in a real card game?” Kenren drawled out.
Tenpou ignored the general’s comment as he pinched the X’s on either side of the Diamond formed in the middle. He pulled up and over the periphery, pulled down, scooped through and up again. Their hands crossed now, wrist over wrist. Suddenly the general twisted one of his hands to grab a tangle full of hands and string. The game was like the never-ending circles his thoughts chased around in his head going nowhere, albeit in an array of precise geometric shapes. He did not like it that the game mirrored the mess in his mind.
“Stop this! It’s a waste of time. It’ll go on and on ‘til someone dead ends.” It seemed that he had been wrong about his partner’s hands. They pulsed warm and tingled enfolded in his.
With a free hand, Kenren pulled the string off. “Let’s just leave it ok.” He stood up and pulled Tenpou up with him. He was regretting his brusqueness just seconds ago as he dropped the string onto the table. He still held onto Tenpou’s hands, a little gentler though. He felt the delicate fingers, long and slim and the beautiful hands warmed his own calloused ones. He wondered if his hands would remember the feel of them long after. If they would remember their strength in spite of the deceiving fragile beauty, they were.
“‘Side’s we have some things we have to do right?”
“Yes, yes,” came the absentminded reply, “you have the right of it again there.”
Kenren looked over to his comrade in arms. Tenpou was looking down at the string with an odd expression on his face.
“Oh look it’s the figure of eight.” Tenpou seemed to be musing upon how the string had fallen. For the merest moment, hands still clasped they both shivered, even as the general’s hands got hot.
“Nah you’re looking at it wrong.” Kenren winked at his friend. “It’s infinity,” and he let go. He squeezed his Marshall’s shoulder in reassurance. “Infinity,” he said with finality.