The Writing on the Wall CH17To know a thing, my mum had used to say, was to no longer know any fear of it. This had once seemed to me to be the most abject of wisdoms, comparing it to the monsters I knew. The things that rattled and bumped in the night. The fears I knew.What the Hollow Man did to his victims scared me no less when I had finished the log than it had before. This might have seemed unfair to me had I taken a moment to try and soothe my mind with something so comforting as simple irritation.I didn't want to talk about it to anyone. They didn't ask, even after I had shut Ser Naderry's dusty old book and covered my eyes. He had been a good writer, in his own plodding way. Not like a writer of tales, but as a record keeper. He did not leave anything to the imagination. I could almost be grateful. My imagination was a bit too skilled in filling in gaps with horrible things.The states of the Ho
A Cuckoo Sings Inside Me CH3He looked at her the same way that the rest of them had. Trying not to screw up her face and say something privately unpleasant, Eleuin let her eyes drift about. She could not quite explain why this young person had given her the faint glimmer of hope he had. Possibly it was that he was even dirtier than the people she saw day to day.Or it was because he was such a vivid piece of the world outside the window. It was not likely that he was the brown-cloaked man she had seen that afternoon, but she had been told that beggars all wore one like it. Eleuin tended to remember what she was told.They sat there in uncomfortable silence for what seemed like hours to her, but may have only been a handful of seconds. Time passed so abominably slow on this planet.Finally, she broke down and spoke again. He had been spending the interim inching away from her, like a worm retreating a dry spell. "It's true," she insisted.
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