Sunday, March 18, 2012
A Thousand Word Thursday Story from Jared Rackler
The water beat a steady stream against their skin until no trace of the blood was left. Looking at Lawrence’s skin, he could almost believe it had never happened. If he tried hard enough, he could almost believe they were back in London, bathing together in the big copper tub that sat in his home in Mayfair. Sharp press of stone at his back ripped the vision from him and he was again standing underneath a waterfall on a small rocky outcropping. Even the sight of Lawrence’s nude flesh did little to stir his excitement. Of all the regrets that sliced at his conscience, bringing Lawrence along hurt the worst. Knowing that he was responsible for not only the wound that marked the flesh of his lover’s left shoulder but the curse that was winding its way through Lawrence’s body as well was almost too much to bear.
A sharp intake of breath as James fought back tears drew Lawrence’s attention from their blood stained clothing.
“What’s wrong?” Lawrence asked, turning his eyes towards the taller man. Slitted eyes. Hyena eyes.
James simply stared at his lover, tears shimmering at the edges of his vision. Lawrence’s brow knitted together with worry. He moved closer to the other man, reaching up to cup James’s chin.
“Tell me,” he said as gently as he could manage. The last weeks on the Dark Continent had done more than fray Lawrence’s nerves and it was by the sheer strength of his will that he had not fallen into a heap of quivering muscle as he knew James must be feeling as well.
“I’m so sorry, Lawrence,” James breathed, laying his forehead against the top of the other man’s.
“Sorry?” Confusion played across James’s face. “What ever do you have to be sorry for?”
“What you’ve become, love. It’s my fault. It’s all my fault.” The tears rolled down his cheek in a silent fall.
Lawrence pushed his head away from James, withdrawing his hand from his lover’s cheek, and looked the man in his eyes, crystalline blue and beautiful even red-rimmed as they were.
“And what is it I have supposed to become?” he asked, voice sharpened much like the glimpse of fang James caught as the man spoke.
“Don’t make me say it,” James begged, turning his head from the man before him.
“You will look at me,” Lawrence ordered, gripping James’s chin in a more sinister version of the lover’s touch he’d held not moments before, and forced the man to look at him, “and tell me what exactly it is you think I have become.”
James said nothing.
“Tell me!” Lawrence screamed.
“A monster,” James intoned, voice hollow as all the emotion he held fell away with the tears.
“How dare you,” Lawrence accused. “I am no monster.”
James grabbed the hand that cupped his cheek and held it before the smaller man’s eyes. “No monster? What man has hands like these?!”
Lawrence looked at the hands, his hands, and he felt the blood drain from his face as the skin tightened around his eyes.
“No,” he stammered, “it must be some trick of the mind. Perhaps I have a fever. Someone is always catching something in this blasted jungle! Who knows what lurks within the bloody greenery!” He pulled his hand from James’s grip.
The other man gave a sharp laugh and Lawrence glared slitted, unnatural eyes at him.
“I’m not mocking you, love,” he said, more for his own comfort than Lawrence’s. “It is no fever of the mind. You have claws, Lawrence… and your eyes have already gone. An animal stares out of the face of my love.”
Lawrence’s lips tightened at those words and he felt the press of fangs against the thin flesh. He reached up a finger and pressed it to the point of the fang. He withdrew and gasped as he saw blood well up from the cut of his fang on his clawed finger.
“James.” The name fell from his lips as he fell against the other man.
James cradled Lawrence to his chest as the smaller man sobbed.
“I am a monster,” he said against his lover’s chest. “I am a monster.”
“Yes.” The word felt like poison and tasted of bitter anise in his mouth. “You are,” he agreed. “But you are still my Lawrence. Still the man I have loved since we were school children and even something as wicked as this curse could never keep me from you.”
Lawrence sobbed harder, something like relief in the sound. They had both needed to hear those words and as he held the man in his arms in the quiet of the waterfall beside them, James realized he meant them. Monstrosity or no, he loved Lawrence. They were no stranger to being different from the other men around them, after all, and Englishmen didn’t abandon his countrymen even if they were now in possession of fangs and claws. Was Her Majesty herself not kept alive by the process of a steam powered wheeled chair? Who’s to say Lawrence’s condition couldn’t be tempered, or even reversed?
Drums sounded from within the jungle. James could hear men chanting along with the steady beat that would surely be their death knell if they remained there much longer.
“They’re coming,” James said to a Lawrence gone quiet at the sound of the drums. “We must run.”
Today's ficlet comes from Jared Rackler, who is best known for his wonderful cover art, but is also a writer aspiring to publication. Check out some of his artwork!
Check out more at Jared's blog.