- Used Books
- Staff Picks
- Gifts & Gift Cards
- Sell Books
- Stores & Events
- Let's Talk Books
Special Offers see all
More at Powell's
Recently Viewed clear list
More copies of this ISBN
Lifeblood (Wolverine)by Hugh Matthews
Just as the gray day slid toward evening, the north wind brisked up, bringing rain so cold it turned to ice that stuck to whatever it touched. The bare branches of the trees along Elgin Street were sheathed in a glistening armor that dragged them down and froze them to the ground. The smallest twigs had snapped but the chill coating held them in place, would not let them fall.
The small man in the plaid wool jacket and black knitted cap walked into the wind, broad shoulders hunched, scarred hands deep in the pockets of his tattered jeans. But his face met the icy blast straight on, let the frozen crystals sting his skin and make the bones beneath the flesh ache, as if they were being scraped by knives.
Pain was good. Pain was real. It cut through the fog inside him, slashed through the roiling, colorless nothingness that stuffed his head. With pain came memory — or what passed for recollection in a mind that could not connect faces to names nor places to events, a mind that did not know if the pictures it conjured to fill its inner screen came from true recall or false, maybe just from dreams, or stories he'd heard. Or from the nightmares that chased him, screaming in rage and horror, back into wakefulness, back into the fog.
Heya, heya, heya. At first he thought the chant was coming from inside his head. Sometimes he heard voices, random scraps of speech, mostly in English, sometimes in other languages that he understood. Heya, heya, heya it came again, louder now as his steps took him past Confederation Park. Off to his right, unseen behind the white rain, someone was beating a drum, a simple double-beat rhythm to accompany the voice.
I've heard that before, the man thought. He stopped and let the sound pass through him, held his mind back when it tried to get a grip on the memory. He'd learned that grasping didn't work, would make the recollection disappear, like trying to grab smoke.
Heya, heya, heya with the drum beating underneath — bom-bom, bom-bom, bom-bom — like somebody had cut open the world to show its living heart, he thought. And that brought up an image: a man split from gullet to groin, lying on his back, looking up, his eyes clouding in death.
Who is that man? He couldn't help reaching for the memory, but even as he grasped for it, the picture faded, the dead eyes the last to go. Still, the drum and the chant continued. The small man turned toward them and went into the park, not following the concrete path that was slick with ice but walking through short winter grass that crackled and broke beneath his heavy boots.
Something big ahead, he thought. Through the rain he saw a block of gray surmounted by dark shapes — people, animals, a great bird with wings spread wide. Now he came close enough to see that it was a monument. On a massive granite base stood four figures, three men and a woman, cast in dark bronze. Around them were four animals — grizzly, wolf, bison, and caribou — and above their heads a giant eagle soared. On the front of the plinth, a plaque announced in English and French that the monument commemorated the sacrifices of the First Nations, Métis and Inuit men and women who had worn Canadian uniforms in wars and peacekeeping missions.
The drumming and chanting were coming from the far side, but the small man's eyes had dropped from the heroic figures to the two rows of flowered wreaths, standing on wire tripods, that were ranged along the steps leading up to the monument. He had a vague sense that the presence of the wreaths meant that it must be not long since the Remembrance Day observances of November 11. The date brought a flash of memory — a soundless image of men with weary faces and mud-spattered uniforms throwing helmets shaped like soup bowls into the air, some with mouths set in bitter smiles, some weeping openly — then the picture was gone.
One of the wreaths drew his gaze. It stood apart from the others, a small circle of dark red flowers woven through evergreen boughs. At its center, encased in plastic, was a framed photograph of a man with strongly aboriginal features, the cheeks flat-planed, the narrow eyes almost asiatic. He wore a beret with a parachute badge. Beneath the picture, a wide ribbon bore the legend Sgt. Thomas George Prince, 1915-1977.
The chant and drum grew louder, but the small man did not move. He stared at the black-and-white image and the man in the photo looked back at him with the confident half smile of the consummate warrior, a smile that said, I know who I am and I know what I can do.
But it wasn't the smile that held the man motionless in the freezing rain, staring at the image while the ice built on his shoulders and covered his wool cap like a helmet. He stared at the picture of the aboriginal sergeant in the old-fashioned, British-style Canadian Army uniform and more images came: bright sunlight on dry earth, small trees with dark leaves and clumps of green fruit — olive trees, said his own voice in his head — a dusty road and soldiers marching in puttees and canvas webbing, bolt-action rifles slung from their shoulders.
"I know you," he said, his voice a grating whisper. And as he spoke the drum ceased, the chant ended on one last heya. The small man stooped and reached for the photograph. It came free of the wreath. He pulled the ribbon loose and wrapped it tightly around the plastic-covered cardboard, then he opened his coat and stuffed both prizes inside, against the worn checked shirt that covered his hard-muscled torso.
He buttoned the coat back up. Now he stood in the falling sleet that whispered as it struck the ground, no longer noticing the bite of the wind that made the ice-covered trees rattle like dead men's bones. He put his hand to his chest, pressed the cardboard against the beat of his heart, and said again, "I know you."
When he stepped around the monument to find the drummer and chanter, no one was there.
Copyright © 2007 by Marvel Characters, Inc.
What Our Readers Are Saying
Other books you might like
Arts and Entertainment » Film and Television » Novelization