The Early Hours

“Mako, where are you heading off to so early? Surely the men haven’t awoken yet?”


Eliza’s quiet, worried voice echoed through the dining room into the hallway, where Mako was tightening the leather belt around his coat to keep the old fabric from flapping open in the wind.


“I’m tired ma, I need some fresh air. It’ll do me some good.”


He sounded older than he was, Mako realised. He felt he had gotten older in the past few days. But what alternative had there been? If a child wants to enjoy a merry, innocent childhood without fear or pain or loss, and then a crushing crusade of endless storms comes out of the sky and plummets down into the child’s village, destroying everything that the child knows in its wake as it continues to grow by the day, there is nothing a child can do but grow up. Grow up and help.


They had buried Martha three days ago, on the fourth day since her death. The winds had howled and pounded at the doors of the villagers’ houses mercilessly for the past week, only subsiding for a quiet hour or two to let Eliza and Mako finally leave the confines of their rooms to bury Mako’s little sister.


Eliza had wept as the men shoveled snow away from the ground and dug a hole in the old cemetery. As Martha was placed inside, so peaceful and white in her little blue dress – Mako had found it in one of the chests in his mother’s room the night before – the winds began to pick up again and Eliza had wept louder. But Mako knew it was not just the grief enveloping his poor mother. It was the unfairness.


The winds had not subsided in the three days since Martha’s death; they had not quelled to allow the family to bury its beloved treasure, the sweet, kind, little Martha. The burial had not been carried out according to tradition. And so Eliza wept. Mako meanwhile stood, angrily biting his lip, refusing to allow the tears to come cascading down his cheeks. They’d probably freeze into little icicles before they made it all the way down. He wouldn’t allow the winter to treat him so, he wouldn’t allow the winter to treat them so.


“Mako, the winds haven’t subsided since…” Eliza’s voice choked as she came closer. She looked more fragile than before. They had barely eaten – both of them – since the big storms had started the day Martha died. The food resources in their basement were depleting but not as fast as the life would out of Eliza if she starved herself willingly.


Her beautiful hands had become thin and veiny, her eyes bulged – sore and red – out of their sockets. She looked sickly. But she was still his beautiful, sweet, soft-spoken mother. Mako grabbed her skirts and hugged her around the waist, pressing closer as if for warmth, like a suckling infant to his mother’s breast.


“I’m going to the shed to get some more supplies. We’ll need the timber for the fire. And the meat for dinner. I’ll restock the basement supplies today, and tomorrow I’ll go down to the river with the men and get some more water.”


Mako turned away from his mother and headed out of their home, swinging the heavy wooden door shut behind him. He didn’t turn back to see Eliza watch him from the kitchen window. Otherwise he would have seen a tear drop down to the floor and his mother quickly rub her tired eyes to dry them and compose herself. She had to stay strong. For her son, for her household. What was left of it.


Her son was so grown up. Eliza blinked and Mako disappeared, enveloped in the mist of the early morning. Thank God the winds were always quieter in the early mornings, but she still worried. Pulling a thick cloth over her head like a hood, she huddled into the fabric, waiting for her son to return with the meat and timber.

Previous chapterNext chapter


The feedback is excellent and exactly right. Thank you Angela for giving Anna such comprehensive and useful feedback. I hope you find that helpful Anna.

I have just one thing to add: you say -'The burial had not been carried out according to tradition'. I wondered how it was different and why. A couple of sentences to explain this would be good. I find it helps to ask myself what questions the reader might be asking as they read what I have written.

But once again atmosphere and Mako's torment well captured. Great work Anna. Keep it coming.

Thank you for your wonderful comments, Suraya!

Hi Anna,

Like Angela, I also tend to write shorter sentences and struggle with descriptionso I love your long sentences here. I think they set just the right tone for a historical piece and create a very vivid picture of the setting (I feel like I should be reading this under the duvet in bed with a hot chocolate!) I particularly liked the bit where Mako thinks if he cried his tears would probably turn into icicles.

Sometimes  I felt Mako's voice wasn't always consistent with his age (although I know you want to show his sister's death has made him grow older). For me, it felt a little odd that sometimes he referred to his mother as 'mummy' and other times as 'Eliza'. In your paragraph below, it seems like you switched from Mako's point of view to Eliza's in the same paragraph, which was a bit disorientating. Perhaps it would be better to stick with Mako's viewpoint and make it clearer that he thinks his mother is hoping that their father will return.

"She was a plain woman but beautiful, Mako knew. She should have remarried, only Eliza still held onto hope that her husband wasn’t dead. He had fallen down a cliff three years ago, Mako barely remembered him ............. But Eliza retained hope that her husband had climbed out, perhaps struggling to remember who he was, where he was meant to go. Perhaps that’s why he still hadn’t returned to his loving family, reconnected with his wife and children."

Hope these comments help and let me know if you're not sure what I mean. I enjoyed reading this and I'm curious to know if Mako's father is really dead!