The Plague

The classroom was quiet. Bone-white desks faced a board groaning with chalk and time. The scholar sat on a stool and leaned on her lectern, sorting crisp paper into clean lines. Lecture phrases and lines of ink filled her head and she was caught by surprise when a young man cleared his throat from behind the second row of desks.

“I am sorry,” he said, hands locked around a scroll case. “Please…I am sorry to interrupt you, but…”

“You are not one of my students,” the scholar laid a finger to her temple, letting her mind settle and focus on the young man.

“No, I am not. I am visiting the city. My name is Lucas Grahd.”

Artist:  Charlie Bowater
Artist: Charlie Bowater

“And I am Prose Willow. You know this, of course.”

The scholar did not smile and neither did Lucas. Her face was sharp and severe, brown skin pulled taut. Long, tight braids wound in an ornate riddle.  The young man took a step forward.

“I do.  I came here looking for you.”

The scholar sighed. “Why, Lucas Grahd? Why at the end of the day do you tiptoe into my hall? The sun sets.”

“I don’t know,” Lucas said. “I read something you wrote. The gifted man is a plague. To himself, to the city, to the world. What did you mean by that?”

“Most people pass through this world inert. The simple mechanics of society push them through and out, like stones through the belly of a snake.” Prose nodded. “But the gifted, the learned, the wise, those who can see. Actors and painters and sculptors and all the weary litany of those who shape. They affect the system, they touch things. They make, they mar. They change things.”

“Is it wrong to change things?”

“No. Not always. But the more you see, the more you move, the more you change the world, shape it with your choices. You begin to feel the weight, the weight of those choices. Is this why you came? This conversation?” Prose folded her hands and looked over her knuckles at Lucas.

“Not really. Maybe? I don’t know,” Lucas took another step forward.

“The scroll, then?” It was green with black piping, any distinguishing marks hidden by Lucas’ hands.

Lucas looked down at it, as if surprised to find his hands full. “Oh, this? No, I was just carrying this. I came to research a translation in the library, but I walked in here instead. I knew you were here, that you taught here, but I hadn’t planned on approaching you.”

Prose stood up, hands gentle on the lectern. The fading light in the room shot thin gold across the white desks and the young man’s face. “Are you a gifted man, Lucas Grahd?”


“Then forego the illusion. No mystical force guides your steps, you are not perplexed, you are not whimsical. Why did you walk in here?”

“I want a sage,” the young man sat in the closest desk, eyes on the flat white, whispering. “Someone who knows. Someone I can ask.”

“Get out,” Prose Willow said.

The sun set.




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