You stand on the shore of the defenders, the sand coarse against your feet and the summer air heated despite the sun still deep beneath the horizon. With your friends you paint green stripes upon your arms and tie green cloth about your swim-ready shorts. The air is filled with quiet laughter, eager anticipation and yarns spun by older defenders who had played within the holiday for many, many years.
A sense of calm wraps about your heart as the barest hint of light begins to creep over the world. You can sense him, standing there, on the opposite shore. Out of sight, but never out of mind.
Slim shadows mark where small schooners and dinghies and even non-wind-catching craft dot the bay, but the largest of all, that Barge of Delights, seems an ominous presence in the predawn hour. Port controllers drift further off, toward the entrance to the bay where the ocean currents ran rougher.
In front of you, just past the lapping waves, sways a platform, bending and dipping and every so often disappearing completely: the first stop along the Broken Pier. The true entrance into the Festival of Fools.
You’ve never stepped foot on it before, that platform, or any of the ones bobbing in the waves after it, a trail, like breadcrumbs, that cross the bay, connecting the defenders along this shore to the invaders on the other.
They would wear red and gray. Headbands about their foreheads, ends hanging down bare backs or braided or folded in new-fangled designs. You’d braided one, the red strip down the center, the gray to either side. You’d given it to him, your heart hammering in your chest.
He’d taken that band. He’d be here today. You are sure of it. Continue reading