A Cuckoo Sings Inside Me CH2When an insect sees a weaker insect, all it sees is another bug. When a cousin sees a cousin of lower caste, he may call him 'lesser', but he loves him as his own.Gremlin sat on the edge of a box and counted his take for the day. It was slim pickings by the docks, but he got less kicks than when he braved the merchant's run. There was enough for bread at least.Kicking up dirt and grinning, he made a beeline for the bakery, a good indoor shop that he was only allowed into if he wiped his feet before entering. To be sure, he had to dodge the odd swing from a patron who disliked the lack of humble hunch in his youthful shoulders, but that was all down to instinct. Gremlin was already seventeen, after all. Two years a man, and proudly waiting for the stubble on his face to become a proper scruffy beard.He had little enough to be proud of, after all.The baker looked up as his coins clanked against the wooden counte
A Cuckoo Sings Inside Me CH1There was safety in numbers. This was an axiom with which Eleuin was well-acquainted. She understood it in at least two different contexts, but it did not seem the same in this place.She leaned on the windowsill, pretending that it was open. The glass was cool against her fingers, but too cold for her face. She pressed the tip of her little nose against it anyway, eyes skyward, as they always were. Beyond the streaks of grease and salt air on the other side of the window, she could see the stars, blinking like electric lights.Behind her, something broke and someone cursed. Curious as to its meaning, she murmured it to herself, trying to divine it without context in which to place it. Perhaps it wasn't vulgar at all, nor even a word. The thought made her giggle to herself. A tiny cloud of steam from her breath fogged up the window.She rubbed at the spot. Though the window was
The Writing on the Wall CH16"This doesn't make any sense!"Noni's chair screeched loudly as she pushed it away from her desk. A cluster of scientists consulting Asclepia of some matter or other looked up disapprovingly at her, but she paid them no mind as she stomped over to my work station.She held out a little potted plant and handed it to me. The leaves were brown and wilting, hopelessly close to death, or more likely a year or more beyond it. It had possibly been a flower once, or meant to be one, but the brown and grey clump that hung down from the top of the dry brown stem might have easily been a deformed aboveground potato as a blossom. I would have believed the potato hypothesis first."Does this make sense to you?" she asked me."That depends on what I'm looking at," I said. "What is supposed to make sense?""It isn't. It just defies logic.""I doubt that. You are not synonymous with logic," Chrysander said, not looking up fro
The Writing on the Wall CH15It was odd, after so much running about, to have not only the chance to sit down and rest, but for it to be all but required of me. In the end, I stopped thinking about it entirely. There was so much to learn.One thing that I had to learn had nothing to do with the Hollow Man at all. The laboratory was like another world all on its own. It had been perhaps an hour before I stopped slipping up and calling Asclepia 'Dr Cordet'. Everyone else who passed addressed her by her given name. If I had been a mere observer, a guest of some kind, I wouldn't have known she was in charge of anything in that big white room.Demetrius and Noni kept to their own, though Noni occasionally skipped over to lean on my desk and see what I was doing. Of course, each time she would inevitably grow bored and hop back over to her own workstation. She had been given a series of plants to identify and catalogue, and several o
The Writing on the Wall CH14The first thing I did when we were able to dissemble the line was rush to stand by Noni. Her hair and face were as composed as one ought to expect with cosmetic magic, but she was still pale. Shaking as well. I was not one to offer hugs in general, but she was one to take them. I tried not to feel awkward."Is it the dark or the closeness?" I asked, not sure of what else to say.She shook her head and shuddered. "The dark. I know I ought to like it underground, there are so many plants reaching down with their roots, but it's so horribly dark. Could you see your hand in front of you?"I admitted that I could not."Isn't that the worst thing imaginable?"I attempted a disarming smile and shrugged. "We've both been through worse. What about falling into the sea?"To my relief, she laughed and hooked arms with me, once again so much herself that I could barely see a shadow of her passing fea
The Writing on the Wall CH13Being lead through the mansion had a different feel every time, depending on the guide. It irked me that Dr Cordet was of such authority that she could lead us to anything more significant than a matchbox.Where Demetrius had flexed his professional muscles or teased, and Noni had flounced with the air of a starlet, Dr Asclepia Cordet walked with the arrogant confidence of a soldier over a defunct battlefield. The grandmaster had dismissed us all, leaving me in her custody like giving a train passenger a luggage with barely the motion of asking for a ticket. Then he had just gone. Barely a word to his son, the temporary fugitive.It was not possible to melt to the back of the small crowd as Soterios did, but I could almost choose my company. Noni would have been my first choice, of course, but she latched onto Demetrius without a word, and he dictated his own pace. She still looked saddened and defeated.Rather than dist
The Writing on the Wall CH12There was not very much to be said on the way back to the Trevino mansion. I thought of a few things I would have liked to say, but it was all nonsense. I wasn't even sure of who I wanted to say it to, only vaguely aware that I was thinking far more than was strictly healthy.When the driver pulled up in front of the foreboding building, I found myself shrinking away from the window. This was not a fair thing to do, in the crowded backseat, but it was a largely involuntary action.Soterios gave me a reassuring smile. "It will be all right," he said, with that surety held only by the truly naive.My door was opened for me. Demetrius held it, a grim parody of a gentleman, still wearing the lingering leftovers of satisfaction. It didn't suit him. "I won't let Dr Cordet trick you again," he said as I stood, testing my feet against the anxiety of the moment."Of course you won't," I said, not looking at him. &
The Writing on the Wall CH11I clung to Chrysander, not because I wanted to touch him at all--for any other reason but to strike him, hard--but because we were sitting atop an albatross. Although it was certainly bigger than I had ever believed one to be, it was barely of a size to fit two adult people.Laughing, he looked down and shouted some kind of cheerful obscenity down through the clouds. Obviously aimed for Demetrius. Then, one arm still curled protectively around me, he reached up and touched the back of his head. "What a charmer you are," he said, as lightly as if we were two nobles chatting in a parlour. "Young men all fall about to aid you. Like a little queen."I slapped him, and immediately regretted it. Soterios had hit him far harder, but it had knocked out his hold over the elephant construct. There was no way of knowing how well the albatross would hold if I did something to Chrysander at this height.