The Hurlers

Gray clouds encompassed the cliffs, and were shattered by the spraying water of a puddle. Tumbling over heels, six brothers collide with a corner. All are wearing black, long coats for church; underneath are the course trousers, patched waistcoats and braces of a poor man’s brood. Yet they are the richest in the village; they are full of health and vigour; the oldest has the fox’s eye, the second has the snarl, the third has the heart of a magpie, the other has its skill. The fifth has second sight; he knows what day he’ll die. The sixth will die a soldier’s death, but he will not die today.
The cobbles whisper shamefully as the boots curdle the dirt; all is quiet in deserted streets save for the cackling thunder. A door bursts open at the steps to the guildhall, the wind cracks their backs upon the wall and there, like an angel of vengeance stands the priest, in resplendent wings of dirty white. The eldest son skids to a halt and stares intently at the old man’s face, working away at words to steal into the wild landscape. The young man takes a cigarette from inside his sleeve and lights his last match on his boot, and stands in a model of tranquillity to listen to the warning. The poor man is creaking on the hinges of his vocabulary; the words slur on the way to his lips with a hot pressure that burns and crackles his throat. The sight of these young men spurns every lesson he has taught himself in his celibate life of solitude. The eldest son takes a long draw of smoking air, glancing up to sniff the coming rain. His eyes and hair are black like his father and he smiles to hear the priest abuse his headless father in purgatory, his mother forever pleading with the merciless boatman, his sister. To the latter, the son hisses, the smoke escaping through his nostrils. The priest pauses for breath and almost chokes with indignation as the man smiles, a scowling grin of pleasure, his tongue pinched between pale fangs.
The circle lies far up on the heath, on the edge of the brown cliffs where foamy waves dash their heads against the crags of man. Six sons leap across chaffing cuts, howling to the wind and whooping like crows. They throw stones to the sea and climb further, higher. The clouds break. A drop of rain catches the cigarette of the eldest son and the flame goes out. Spiting sprites beat the heads of the young men, amidst the crashing waves they look down and retch. An ominous mass of pebbles spew in bloody turmoil from their insides; they scream but the gulls peck out their throats gagging their pleas, to their voices to the crying waves.
Cassie Brethren, excused from church but not from frowns, is the first to climb the cliffs in years. She traces bloody handholds, and climbs over the edge of the circle. Calling for her brothers, she wonders across the ancient site, trips on death and rolls over. Winds are blowing, sending shivers up her spine; a gull swoops suddenly from the sky and she ducks. Now the stones turn to her and she screams suddenly from nothing. Then again, as she turns, and once again when her back nudges a solid statue of stone that grabs her.
“Cassie! Look at me!”
The youngest son clutches his sister and away they flee down the hillside with the wind hurling them on.

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