The tip of the blunted pencil fit so perfectly into this particular groove in the age-worn wood, that it gave the child a wonderful satisfaction to simply run a line down the wiggle of the grain and back up again. And down again. And back up again. After a few journeys, this tiny canyon was black and shimmering and seemed out of place in the grand landscape of the table. That wouldn’t do, thought the child. It was only fair that the same attention was given to the next groove over. This one was slightly narrower, but the lead was soft and forgiving. Before long, there was a pair of shiny obsidian streaks in the scarred old oak. The child brought her gaze close, and studied them. Here they ran close together, and there they drifted apart. The grain carried them along towards the same horizon, but the paths they chose were their own.
The child put down the pencil and gently ran a finger along one channel, and then the other. Then both at the same time. Rivers in the desert, she decided. Black water, fast and free. Chasms carved in the sun-baked rock, etched over a thousand years. So swift ran the current that the heat could not rest upon the water. So deep went the gorge that light could not reach down to the bed. It was an eternal turmoil, merciless and cold. Yet even here, life tarried still. Those creatures who liked not the certainty of daylight, and whose hearts were steel against the rushing chill, were welcome in the blackness. It was a home for murky things with deep eyes, and deeper minds.
“The rushing sisters,” whispered the child. “Don’t dip your toes in.” She paused, then let out a little gasp and hastily lifted her fingers from the table. All of a sudden the bell rang loud and shrill, and the sound of the teacher’s barking filtered in through the child’s ears. Books slammed shut, children laughed and chattered, and the bubbling din of the classroom filled her world once more. As she was filed out into the corridor, she gazed fearfully at the dark stains on each fingertip where they had been pressed into the grooves on the table.
The sisters had left their mark.