Storylandia 20: “Cannonfire” PREVIEW

Storylandia, Issue 20
Winter 2017

PREVIEW

Cannonfire
By Lane Kareska

1899–1914:

Tribal… a dark and criminal mind… older brother… wandering alchemist… widow’s humiliation… the larger world… gypsies.

You know my name.

For the record.

Doctor Khatanbaatar Namnansüren.

Aliases…

You know my aliases…

Your mask. Speak clearly please. Aliases.

Cannonfire Khan. Nam the Cannonfire Man. Cannonfire Xan. Namnan Sussex. Doctor Eric Buck. Doctor Arne Scholes-Young. Doctor Leon Southset. Lord Conrad Sussex.

Age.

100. I think. Perhaps 101.

Education.

Informal.

Place of birth.

I do not know the exact place of birth.

Be as specific as you can.

Somewhere on the slopes of the Kharidal Soridag Range. Within forty kilometers of the Bolot village, or what used to be the Bolot village; my family members were tribespeople.

What do you remember of your childhood.

Thatch huts and yurts, the damp wooden smell of dung fires, my father’s stone axe, my mother’s tobacco pipe… Goats, pigs, rams, bears, eagles. Freezing winters, burning summers. Bandits. A wind that stank in the heat and seared flesh from your face. Imagine an arid ocean of grass and then fill the air with a melancholic howl.

You remember your parents? Siblings?

A brother and a sister. My sister died in infancy. She was eaten by a foal—my foal actually. I had an elder brother. Davaajav. I remember him very well. We were best friends. He was a strong young man with a quick mind but a withered leg. He should have died young but he did not; his cleverness kept him alive.

We once sunk a cart in a bog. I was six, he was nine—we were terrified of losing the cart but we had no way to pull it out. Our mule was as weak as we were. Davaajav’s leg made him useless. But still, Davaajav saved the vehicle. He saw that we could pull it free if we wove the wooden spokes with rope and spun the wheels. The ropes coiled and we drove the cart out of the bog. It took a lot of time, but that was Davaajav: already an engineer at the age of nine.

Your parents?

There is not much to say about my father. He was just another one of the billions of persons who lived a short, meaningless life on Earth. He was an illiterate nomad, not the leader of our tribe, notable in no ways, not at all remarkable. My mother, though, there was something unique about her: she was blonde. She was undoubtedly European, or she had been at one point in her life. There was no history—or even story—that was ever passed down to me about her. As a child, all I knew about her was that she did not look like anyone else in our tribe. She had a narrow face, blonde hair, blue eyes, clean pale skin that I found hideous. The rest of us were horsemen and women—the skin we wore on our bodies was the same color as the hides of our animals. We were all flat-faced Mongols, broad cheeks, vast foreheads and beautiful silky banners of black hair. I thought my mother was freakish, horrific.

Now I understand that what likely happened is that she was either a captive long ago brought to our tribe, or—and this is always the origin I chose to believe—she had voluntarily found her way to us and wanted to be there. There was a time in my life when I liked to imagine her as some young French runaway who, for no reason she could name, found herself compelled east. It is a little romantic, but one should not fault himself for feeling romantic about his mother.

~~~end of preview~~~

Cannonfire will be publishing in February 2017.

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