So my computer is running slower than a comatose snail, which is why you will not find any pictures in today’s post. I figure if I plug in my tablet, my laptop’s gonna pretty much explode. So hopefully that’ll get fixed soon.
On the plus side, I finished writing Grotesque! It is about 65,000 words right now, and I am so happy that it is done! And by “done” I mean I still have to go back through and edit it, have my family and friends read it and offer criticism, edit it again, edit it again, learn to hate it, edit it again even though I hate it, not look at it for three months, edit it again…you get the idea.
Anyway, in order to celebrate the “completion” of the book, I decided I would gift you with Chapter Two! For those who haven’t read Chapter One yet, or if you’ve completely forgotten what happened in Chapter One, I suggest clicking this link and reading/rereading it. Chapter Two will be posted right below the word of the day, which is dedicated to my best friend. When I posted on Facebook that I had completed the book, her comment was, “HOW ARE YOU SO PROLIFIC”. So that’s that. Enjoy!
Word of the Day: Prolific (adj) – Producing offspring, young, fruit, etc., abundantly; highly fruitful.
When the sun comes up, I can feel the sweet relief of sleep washing over me, as my body hardens into stone. It is more like unconsciousness than sleep, though, because I am not aware of anything until the sun sets again – no dreams, no breathing. It is as if I have blinked and hours have passed. But it is a relief anyway, because I feel refreshed. The pain and fatigue from the previous night are no longer there. I rise and stretch, working the stiffness out of my limbs. That done, I spread my wings so I can look at them more closely. There are barbs at the tips of the joints that look like they could pierce through solid stone. I can only guess at the exact length of my wingspan, but know that it is immense.
My stomach growls, and I look to the plate of food that is still on the floor. It is cold and stale, but I gobble it down anyway, unable to stave off the hunger pangs any longer. I seat myself on the floor as I eat, and feel my tail curl around me. I watch it curiously as I finish the last of the meat. It is an interesting appendage, and I pick it up to take a closer look, surprised when I feel the touch of my own fingers on it; it’s hard to remember that it’s a part of me, and not some pet that follows around behind me. I concentrate on moving it, and find that it is prehensile, and that I have as much control over it as I do over my arms and legs.
Master finds me that way – sitting on the floor, playing with my tail. When he enters the room and raises his eyebrows, I jump to my feet and growl. The sound is so feral that I am surprised by it, and it stops.
“Good evening,” Master says. “I brought you some new clothes. That tablecloth doesn’t look like it’s holding up well.”
He hands me a bundle of cloth that turns out to be a brown tunic and breeches with holes cut in them for my wings and tail.
“Put them on.”
I immediately move to obey, finding that I have absolutely no power to resist. Scowling, I toss the tablecloth aside and pull the thick material over my head and legs. They are better garments, to be sure, but I hate that I put them on. I hate Master for making me put them on. I am filled with so much hate that I find myself growling again.
I am instantly silent. The word he used to address me sparks something in my mind, and suddenly I realize what I am.
“Grotesque” is the word that is used to describe the type of statue that I started out as, the statues that surrounded me out on the ledge. I am a grotesque, something that is meant to instill fear, to intimidate. The thought is so disgusting, so…disappointing, that I feel sadness rise to dispel the hate. And as my despair grows, I feel a tickling sensation around my ears as they move through my hair. I reach up to run my fingers over them, realizing that I didn’t really see them very clearly when I looked at my reflection earlier. From what I feel now, they seem to be long and pointed. And apparently when I am sad, they drop lower. Like those of an animal.
“I have your first task,” Master says, either not noticing or not caring about my distress. “I need you to find me an animal. Something small, like a squirrel, will do.”
“Find an animal, and then what?” I ask.
“Bring it back here. Alive.”
“And where do I go to find this animal?”
“There’s a forest just beyond the village. Look there. And make sure the villagers get a glimpse of you. I want them scared.”
I feel my stomach clench as my feet begin moving to do Master’s bidding. He wants people to fear me. I don’t want to be feared, or seen, or hunted. I don’t want this life, this body, this master. But I can no longer focus on that, because my feet are carrying me towards the open window. I have a fleeting moment of terror as my body casts itself out into the cold night air, and then my wings spread and I am gliding.
The cold bites at my exposed skin and chills the tips of my ears, but the feeling of flight is still exhilarating. My wings beat once, down then up, and I am lifted higher. Over my shoulder, the abandoned church that is my home and prison shrinks away, and I can almost pretend that I will never be going back there.
Ahead of me, I can see the village. The chimneys are issuing steady streams of smoke, and the windows of the simple houses dance with firelight. I am lucky; there are barely any people on the street. Most of the families, I imagine, are at home eating their suppers. My mind works furiously to find a way around Master’s orders. He ordered me to be seen, but, I realize, he did not command me to make the villagers scared. All he said was that he wanted the villagers scared. But I could give someone a glimpse of me without scaring them. I’d have to be fast, though. If I’m going to draw any attention to myself, I want the people who see me to not be sure of what it is they are looking at.
Flapping my wings, I fly higher, enjoying the feeling. Then I find myself imitating the sounds of a bat, even though I’ve never seen or heard one before. There is simply this feeling of rightness to it that makes me sure I’ve imitated the creature exactly. Interesting. That will have to be explored further later. In the meantime, I can see that an old man has looked up from his walk home and caught sight of me. My eyesight seems to be sharp as an owl’s, because, even though I am flying hundreds of feet over him, I can make out his exact facial expression as he searches for the source of the noise. I feel my ears twitch as the man grunts to himself. He’s seen me, but he took me for a bat, as I’d hoped he would.
That done, I flick my wings and send myself towards the forest that borders the village. As I get closer to the trees, I glide lower and lower, until I am able to alight on a branch. I sit there and catch my breath, my eyes sweeping the forest for any signs of movement. I wonder how long I can stay out here before that compulsion in my gut forces some action out of me. Folding my wings, I shift into a more comfortable position on my branch and wait. My tail curls around the tree of its own accord in order to help me balance better.
A rustle of sound beside me has me turning to see an owl considering me from further down my branch. It is big and brown and beautiful.
“Got any tips on catching small animals?” I ask it. “Apparently I need one.”
It stares me down for another few seconds, then spreads its wings and flies off. I sigh, missing the companionship, and lean back against the trunk of the tree.
A minute later, something small and fuzzy drops into my lap. The vole is shivering, stunned by its capture, but probably more so by its release. I wrap my hand around it before it can recover itself and try running away, and look up just in time to see the owl’s tail feathers disappearing from sight within the canopy of trees. The vole squirms in my hand, and I feel my gut stirring as it prepares me to obey my orders.
The flight back to the church is too short. The vole has been trying to gnaw its way through my fingers, but to no avail. If I can’t cut my own skin, this tiny rodent has no chance.
And what of the owl? To my knowledge, animals aren’t supposed to be able to understand humans or their languages. Was it just…coincidence? I am so curious, I almost think to ask Master, but I’m afraid of what he’ll do when he finds out what happened. Will he punish me for having some other creature do my job for me? Will he be just as baffled as I am by my communication with the bird? If I’ve done something that he never planned for, then he might destroy me just to keep me from doing something else unpredictable. No. I won’t risk it. I will keep the truth of how I caught the vole a secret from him.
Master is waiting for me in the room I found him in last night. When I present the vole to him, he looks pleased.
“Good. This will do nicely.”
Without another word, he picks up a small knife and slits the poor creature’s throat, letting the blood run into a stone bowl.
“Did anyone see you?” he asks as he squeezes the last of the blood out of the vole’s limp body.
“Yes. An older man.”
“Good enough, for now. Did he recognize you for what you are?”
“I couldn’t tell.”
Master frowns slightly.
“You’ll have to do better next time.”
“Master…may I ask…what is it you’re doing?”
“With the blood? Or in a more general sense?”
“Whatever you’d prefer to tell me, I suppose. I’m just…curious.”
“I have big plans,” he says cryptically. “As for the blood, I am using it for a form of divination.”
“Yes. It helps me know things. Things from the past, present, and future.”
I frown, not really understanding the importance of the first two.
“You don’t understand why I would want to know the past or present?” Master guesses.
I nod, surprised by his astuteness. He smiles and points to the bowl.
“The knowledge of the present,” he says, and I realize he used the blood to figure out what I was thinking.
“So it helps you know things from the past and present that you can’t see? Couldn’t possibly know about?”
“That is exactly what it does.”
“Indeed. Now go to your room, Grotesque. There is some food waiting there for you. Eat it, if you wish.”
I am compelled to leave for my room, and I go willingly. Though he has been rather pleasant to me, I am still filled with resentment towards Master. I am also feeling guilty for bringing that vole to him, just so it could die horribly. Then again, if the owl had eaten it, it probably would have died horribly anyway.
The food is the same as before, and I eat it without question. I am hungry from the flight, and the warm food does a good job of dispelling some of the cold I still feel from being outside. A magic flame still burns in my fireplace, keeping the room well-lit and warm. At first it surprised me that Master was taking care of me at all, but now I understand why he’s doing it. A slave who is sick and starving would be absolutely useless to him.
Master doesn’t call for me again before the sun rises, so I spend hours of boredom just looking out the window. The sky is covered in a thick layer of clouds, so at first the sunlight isn’t even noticeable. But then I see my hands turn to stone and realize it must be morning.
I blink and the sun is setting again, my skin slowly softening as the stone melts away. I’ve barely stood up before Master is bursting into my room. He has a plate full of food in his hands and a wicked grin on his face.
“Rise and shine, Grotesque. I have your next assignment.”
He sets the plate of food in front of me and I regard it warily.
“What is my assignment?” I ask.
“I need you to go into the village, find a young child…a girl I think. Yes, find a young girl of about three or four years of age, and bring her to me. Take her from her bed if you have to.”
A sudden dizziness sweeps over me and I stumble over to the table so I can lean against it.
“You want me to kidnap a child?”
“Yes. And make sure plenty of people see you doing it. Do not attempt to comfort anyone when you do it. You will scare as many people as possible, including the child. Then you will bring her to me. Hurt or kill anyone who gets in your way. You may choose to eat first.”
How can I eat when my stomach is roiling? But the moment I decide I don’t want to, I am forced towards the window. I grab on to the walls on either side of it, trying to resist, but that causes an extreme pain to erupt inside my head. My vision goes black for a moment, and when it finally clears, I am flying towards the village. To wreak havoc and instill terror in the hearts of the people there.
And to kidnap a child.