The average Quenyellian woman spends most of her time in a rocking chair, knitting or reading a book or perhaps simply sitting quietly with a pensive expression. I interviewed one who gave birth to all five of her children without stepping away from her rocker for even a moment; I didn't ask how she'd managed to conceive the children in the first place, but in a village like Quenyel it isn't hard to imagine a newlywed couple indulging themselves even when required to assume the most ridiculous postures.
And if Quenyel is anything, it is ridiculous.
The village is surrounded by a stone wall twenty feet high, made seemingly vulnerable by dozens of circular windows along the circumference. What the ignorant passer-by does not see is that a mysterious light enters the city from these windows, casting tubular shafts of dusty rays that span and intersect across the diameter. The light beams have been plotted on maps all over the city, but most Quenyellians memorize the layout by the age of eleven. Duck here... hop there... don't go anywhere near the old bridge...
Upon my arrival in Quenyel I was greeted by an anxious young boy who was to be my guide. He escorted me through the maze of lights, alerting me when it was time to quickly swerve or jump in order to avoid making contact. The stories he told on the way, of the sudden collapse of women folding their linens and of men tipsy from after-work beer binges, did nothing to soothe my nerves. We arrived at the meeting hall, where a dozen Quenyellians sat in cold metal folding chairs while they told me the history of their city, or at least the small amount that they knew.
No written record exists to explain Quenyel's mysterious circular wall or the light that spills through the windows, although the first death is recorded in an old hardback book with the word "Regina" printed in illuminated text on its olive cover. To summarize, Regina was the fiancee of the city's most highly esteemed equestrian; she collapsed while skipping stones in the creek that runs beneath a bridge near the city gates. Regina's father and future father in law attempted to carry her home in order to allow both families to pay their final respects, but when the men tried to pass through the stream of light shining on her face, they too fell. Onlookers were convinced the dead girl was cursed and from that day forward the creek was blocked off and nobody allowed to go near. According to this book the light became more common throughout the city until a certain amount of beams were produced, and the number remains the same to this day.
One might wonder why the Quenyellians did not try to escape and join a neighbouring town, but Quenyel is a desert village, poor and isolated; the few who attempted escape were turned away as cursed untouchables at the gates of Eron and Chrysopolis, almost as if their inhabitants had prior knowledge of Quenyel's fate.
I was taking notes on these histories when the grandfather of my young guide, who was seated amongst the others, offered to escort us back to the main gate for my departure. As we ducked and jumped and swerved our way across town, some excitement caught our attention and we followed the din; I was careful not to misstep even an inch until we arrived before a large recreational pool near the centre of town. My young guide explained to me how most of Quenyel's citizens had become experts in finding areas of town with virtually no malignant beams, and they would proceed to construct entire buildings on such sites to establish safe havens where people could congregate free of anxiety. I carefully pulled my notebook and pen from my pocket and jotted down the fragments of conversation I could hear around me.
"...thought he fixed the problem last month?"
"A new light beam..."
Someone, I assume the building's proprietor, was fishing something out of the in-ground pool, and when I stood on my toes to get a better look I saw that it was the body of an elderly gentleman. The proprietor nervously tugged at his collar before frantically addressing the crowd.
"This man has had a heart attack. There is no light problem here. This man has had a heart attack."
We stood in place and watched as the solemn crowd slowly dissipated, and the pool's proprietor stood shaking next to the latest corpse, unconvinced by even his own lies.