Monday, October 27, 2008

The Formation of a Fiend

This is based on an original short story by DrummerBoy. The original was dashed off in 40 minutes for a middle-school writing competition last year. (Students are given a short prompt such as "transformation" and have to write a story in 40 minutes based on that prompt.) I could not resist taking a couple of hours to fine-tune things, give the tale just a little more punch. But although many of the words below are mine, it's still his story. Enjoy.


The blade loose in my hand, I approach the operating table. It is draped in absorbent, disposable paper. The paper is dry now, but soon it will be soaked and stained. Spread out nearby, an assortment of shining instruments; each with its own edge, its own point, its own purpose, its own part to play in tonight's work.

Grim work, yes. Grisly work, certainly. But needful work, oh yes. Most needful. Tonight a Fiend must be summoned. And that summoning requires a sacrifice.

Immobile on the table, round and ruddy, turgid with new life, she awaits. I selected her carefully from her among her sisters, chose her especially. My free hand gently caresses her gravid curves. I examine her closely on all sides, seeking imperfections, irregularities, sources of inspiration. Ah, here… So. Mmm, there… Yes.

I pick up a marking pen and begin tracing lines on the smooth skin. The dark ink will guide my bright knives. I smile in anticipation as the shape of the Fiend emerges onto her flesh.

Now, the plan complete, I lift the knife to make the first cut. There must be no hesitation. No trepidation. No doubt. No pity. I place the point of the knife on the mark and plunge it down. There is no scream of terror, just a vaguely wet sound as the blade sinks in. I work the serrated edge up and down, around the curve, following the inked line in a circle. Within moments I have freed a section the size of my palm. I lift it, revealing the hollow space beneath.

The sight that greets me could turn the strongest stomach. The orange cavity is filled with stringy flesh, slick with juices. Pale encapsulated embryos cling to the fibrous strands. A rich, sickly-sweet aroma fills the air. It is not the smell of death and decay, though that will come as surely as the first frost of winter.

I lift a shining, curved tool that could be a large spoon, were it in a kitchen. The sharp edge loosens the clinging strands from the interior cavity as I work it around. I scoop out the loosened flesh, plopping it wetly into a basin to be discarded.

My work is grim, but it is not without purpose. Tonight, the veil between this world and the next becomes thin. When night falls, my oh-so-normal neighbors will be transformed into hideous creatures, prowling the streets in search of plunder, mischief, or worse. Spirits, demons, monsters, and darker things will emerge from the shadows. Even the children – especially the children – will be taken up in the madness. This Fiend, carved by my hand from living tissue, is the only possible protection for my home and loved ones. As the sky begins to darken, I hurry to finish.

My arm is weary from the labor of emptying the thick-walled womb. Finally it is left a hollow shell. Taking up a small knife, I begin to shape the face of my Fiend. Tracing the marks, I alternately slice, shave, and saw. I lay my tools down and assess my work. The eyes have no trace of humanity, no pity. The mouth – a leering, fanged slit – threatens to open wide and devour anyone who approaches too closely. It is not perfect, but then, no work of Man ever is. My prayer is that it is good enough. It must be, for the sun has slipped below the horizon.

One last, critical step remains. To bring the Fiend to life and enable it to guard my keep this night, I must invoke the First Power of the Ancients – that discovery that first set Man apart from the rest of Creation. Where my previous labors had borne with them the risk of shedding my blood, now I must take care lest my flesh be seared.

I take the Fiend outside into the gathering gloom. I position it carefully so that it can be clearly seen from a distance. (While many Guardians do their best work unseen, the Fiend is useless unless the foe can see – and fear – its glowing eyes.) Already I hear the mobs, assaulting my neighbor's homes, demanding tribute. No more time!

Quickly I kindle the ancient flame and plunge the burning brand into the belly of the fiend, where a prepared wick awaits. The flame leaps up and threatens my fingers. No matter. The consequences of failure are far worse than a few blisters. The wick sputters, then ignites.

The Fiend springs to life, its eyes casting an eerie glow across the night, defending my domicile against the ravening hordes that even now approach my door as I sit back, safety now assured. Warily they approach to the edge of the Fiend's light, creatures of nightmare, refugees from Faerie, half-imagined horrors bearing sacks already bulging with sweet plunder. In ragged unison they raise their shrill voices.

"Trick or treat!"


Debbie said...

Love it! Read it half-through before I figured out what it was about, then read it again just to enjoy the descriptive prose.

Not sure about the ethics of re-writing a kid's essay and posting it, though, even with the attribution. Anyone else a bit queasy about that?

SkyDaddy said...

The kid said it was OK.