Two soldiers stationed at an outpost tower keep an eye on the horizon.
"Perhaps they've forgotten about us."
"Don't be silly," said Jian, whittling at a knot he'd cut off the firewood. Bai had observed that Jian seemed to have no skill at whittling, and Jian had pointed out that he had nothing but time in which to improve. "They'll probably send our relief tomorrow."
Bai didn't even bother turning from the sunset-painted landscape to fix him with a withering glare. "This is the seventh day in a row you've said that."
"And the seventh day in a row you've said the opposite, and won't you feel silly when dawn comes and we see them trudging up the path?"
Bai didn't have to look to see Jian's idiot grin. Jian was an optimist. Bai hated optimists.
"Won't I," was all Bai said in reply. He kept his eye trained at a single spot in the growing dark, spine straight, waiting for light.
From fairyninjas.wordpress.com: "two soldiers get assigned to a remote watchtower (of the signal-fire sort). Their relief never arrives, but they make their peace with that. It’s a simple and relaxing escape of a tale."
Though it could technically occur in the same universe as 心也許很小很小世界卻很大很大, Watch has no specific connections to other stories.
Okay, so this story is what happens when, far closer to the deadline than I'd like to admit, I, in the following order: realize that the story I'm working on, and actually started back in January, is just not working out the way I've planned it; open a new document, resolving to keep the writing simple and light enough that the whole thing doesn't come out to, say, more than 3000 words or so; and, over the course of a day and change, cough up nearly 8000 words of what I hope is the classiest fuckin' Canadian Shack story you'll ever read.
It was not, for the record, intended to be a Canadian Shack story. Rather, it was inspired far more by the Lord of the Rings movies -- you know, that scene where Gondor calls for aid and they light all the signal towers -- and thinking, wow, what a shitty job those dudes must have.
The story developed as I was writing it; I knew the end point and I knew they'd have to bone somewhere along the way, but I didn't know a damn thing else that would happen. In that sense, it was a great writing exercise, a really good organic storytelling venture where I kept surprising myself. At first I didn't want to some Big Traumatic Event, thinking it would ruin the otherwise quiet tone of the story -- Bai running in to save Jian by punching a wolf, or something like that. But then I realized the story was probably boring everyone who wasn't me, and besides, I had to do something to move this relationship along, or I'd just sit there, eternally composing artsy vignettes where nothing effing happens. So I compromised and said, okay, Bai saves Jian from the river -- but a) Jian could probably have saved himself if he'd had to, and b) this was not going to be the uber-dramatic start to their kissy times. Overall, I felt it worked well.
The real medal of valor here goes to beili. There are few people I can jot off an email to on Saturday morning and say, hey, think you can have an illustration done for this by Sunday night? and then have them come back and say, here's two! But she is one of them, and she does fantastic work, so don't hold your applause. I'm all kinds of twitterpated.
They both have Chinese names, but this is a totally fantasy setting. Not only are any parallels to real historical events and situations totally coincidential, but if you see them, you are giving me way too much credit for the amount of research I can do in a day.
The original file name for this story was '(not) All Along the Watchtower'.