Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Groundwork, Part Three

June woke up beneath a sheet.

She had no sense of time. What day was it? What week? What month? What year? She struggled to remember, but her head hurt too much. Her body hurt too much. She couldn't even tell which body this was anymore.

Lesse. Her concentration narrowed to a point. I'm... June. Yeah. June. January, February, March, April... oh, I liked April, he had such fantastic muscles... May, June. That's... uh... six. Sixth. I'm on number six.

She lifted an arm beneath the sheet, touching her other arm. It felt smooth. No sign of wrinkles. Yet... oh, gods, did her stomach ever hurt. She didn't want to touch it yet, didn't want to see what it looked like. She suspected the stitches would be grisly.

Stitches. Smooth. Right. I guess that means I'm actually number seven. So... that would make me... July, now? Yes, I... I think that's right...

Memories floated back. A journey. A longing for a fresh, young body. A promise. Plots. Sickness. Possession, and not her own brand of possession. An accident... flight... weakness... betrayal... a meeting, and a bargain - 

"I think she's awake."

July's head tilted, though she couldn't see through the blanket. Her eyes still hurt too much to open anyway. She tried to speak, but her mouth was packed full of cotton. She mumbled something incoherent, spitting out a few wads in the process.

"Joy. Freakshow, lift her. We'll see how she turned out."

The blanket fell away. July felt her bed suddenly lift, twisting her almost vertically. Harsh leather straps dug into her arms, legs, and chest. She winced and shook her head, grasping her belly. The skin bulged under her fingers, held together by a thick strand of tightly-tied string.

"Open your eyes, old woman," the second voice commanded. It was high-pitched, raspy, and unamused. "Look at me."

July moaned. Her hair tugged, pinned against her back, and she realized that it was far straighter, far tamer and fuller, than when she'd gone to sleep.

We struck a bargain, she thought. They came t'me and asked for 'is life. And in exchange - 

"Open your eyes," the voice commanded again. "Or I will, ah, yes, I will have Blue open them for you. Yes? That will not be pleasant. Her fingers are rather too large for the task."

July did as instructed, though slowly. She let one eye flutter open, wincing at the stinging pain of daylight. It blurred into focus, revealing the bulk of a misshapen thing in front of her. The second eye opened more quickly, and when it did... July saw the scarred, purple face of her son. It was flanked by two other heads, one large and gruff, the other small and squirrelly.

"Ah." July grinned, spitting out the last of the cotton. "Driscol. M'boy. Didya miss your croakin' mommy?"

Driscol snorted. "You don't quite look the part anymore."

"SiLENCE!" The second voice reminded July of the bark of an angry chihuahua. "Back away, Freakshow! I wish to inspect her!"

The three-headed monstrosity did as it was bid, slinking out of the room. July followed it for a second, realizing in the process that they were in some sort of shack. Dried black blood coated the walls, and deep holes in the wood permitted natural light to filter through. July noticed a withered, dried corpse on the other side of the shack, lightly covered in blood-soaked blankets, and she winked at it.

Cheated death again, she thought. Her crooked smile hurt her face. Can’t ever get this ol’ bitch down.

Another figure stepped up. July recognized it instantly as a Non, and a big Non at that. Her head scraped the ceiling even as she hunched, and July knew that this was not even the Non's full size. Upon the Non's left shoulder, jutting out of her black skin like an ugly cyst, was a second face, surrounded by a ring of crude stitches.

Never been much good with stitches, July admitted to herself. Guess he's not much better, lackin'  proper arms.

The face inspected July's body, frowning. His broken white teeth clicked together. "You're a mess. But it'll do. How do you feel? Can you move?"

As if you're one to talk about messes. Wriggling her arm past one strap, July flexed her hand and stretched it out and around. She touched her face, noting a small growth of stubble on her chin. Her legs, too, seemed to work just fine, though the left one was a little stiff.

The huge Non delicately undid July's straps with fumbling fingers. She nearly collapsed onto the floor, but her young, healthy arms kept her upright. She knocked a fist against her head, laughed a little, and looked at her toes. They wriggled at her, pink and healthy and flexible.

"I seem... well enough," she admitted. "But I don't think I quite have what I want. Isna even a slight trace 'o his power, far as I can tell."

"You'll have to make do for now." The face frowned. "Be happy those legs still work. That weapon... oh, I'd love to examine it... did a fantastic amount of damage to the torso. You should be in a wheelchair, not walking around."

July stepped experimentally around the room. Wobbling soon turned into confident walking, though she couldn't feel anything from her legs like she did her arms or chest. Everything below the belly seemed to be somehow separated from her, eternally numb - but functional. She could live with numb.

"Got a mirror?"

The head nodded to a side room. A mirror hung on the wall, half-shattered. She stepped inside to peer at her face in the mirror's remains.

"Don't forget," the Non reminded her, calling out. "This isn't over. Our deal is ongoing. You help us do away with the rest of the brat... and his mother... and deliver the hybrid... and we're square. Only then. Understood?"

July inspected her face. She ran her lithe fingers across its firm, rounded jaw, along its gaunt cheekbones, across its smooth forehead. A pair of gaunt, mean eyes stared back at her, far more bitter and angry than any set she'd previously owned. She smiled and noticed that her teeth were still slightly pointed, a throwback to the body's struggle with lycanthropy.

"Understood," July said, speaking through the mouth of a young, dead man named Grayson. "Perfectly."


  1. I am getting a lot of answers here, but the constantly rising suspense is driving me up a wall. Well done. I shall thoroughly enjoy discovering what all of this leads up to.

    1. It will lead to George RR Martin levels of character deaths. With the end of the story in sight, no one is safe.

    2. Given the new narration style and pacing, how long do you think the story will be running in real time?

    3. I'm still planning on a year. By this time in 2015 the story should be preeeeetty much done.