Thursday, July 11, 2013

emotionally driven horror

Since I've already posted excerpts featuring the other two characters in Blood Brothers, I figured I'd post a third excerpt to introduce Athemon. While Grillis's point of view lends itself to descriptions of action, and Verlvik's POV lingers on metaphysical and mystical experiences, Athemon perspective results from a lifetime of vicious racial oppression. He's been viciously traumatized, he's got a huge chip on his shoulder, and he is just beginning to discover the power to give back some of the pain he's been given. So, a lot of the scenes shown through Athemon's eyes are shown through the lens of horror. Here's an example:

A hard shove knocked him out of his reverie, knocked him hard enough to make him sprawl on the ground. He rolled over quickly to face his assailant.

It was Hanswerth.

“Good morning, horn-head,” the portly bully said cheerfully. “What are you doing out of your pen?”

Jollsen and Rogyle, standing on either side of Hanswerth, chuckled at their leader’s wit.

Athemon looked up at them, saying nothing. He thought of his father’s warning the day before: don’t provoke the humans, or you will not be able to stay in this house.

Hanswerth smiled down at Athemon for a moment, and then abruptly dropped the smile. “Stand up when I’m talking to you, caprine,” he said.

Athemon stood up warily, careful not to look the butcher’s son in the eye.

“You should be happy I’m talking to you,” Hanswerth said. “You should be grateful for every chance you get to speak with your superiors. Come on, horn-head. Let me see you smile.”

Athemon’s face flushed dark with anger.

“I said smile!” Hanswerth barked.

Athemon closed his eyes, and thought of his father’s command: be humble. A sick feeling filled his stomach. He focused on the corners of his mouth, tried to lift them, willed his lips into a thin smile. It isn’t easy to smile when you feel like crying, but he did his best.

And then a heavy hand smashed into his mouth like a brick. His knees dropped out from under him, and he sprawled in the trash again. His mouth began to fill with a salt-copper taste, and a thin flow of blood streamed out over his chin. He thought of his uncle: we must punish the body to fight the sin. He thought of his father: be humble.

“What do you think you’re smiling at, you dirty goat-son bastard?” Hanswerth shouted. He sank his boot into Athemon’s side with a thud. The small caprine felt his ribs crack, felt a sharp ache spread up through his spine to his brain. He fell onto his side, and curled into a ball of agony.

Be humble. Punish the body to fight the sin.

For several moments Athemon knew nothing but pain. And then, as the rest of the world came back, he could feel the three boys standing over him. Their hate washed down on him like heat from the sun.

“Actually, we’re glad to find you, Athemon,” Hanswerth said, sounding jolly again. “You can help us clear something up. Thanks to you, we know that caprines really do have horns. But we still don’t know if their balls are pointed like a goat’s.”

Athemon felt hands grabbing at the waistline of his trousers, nearly pulling him off the ground. He tried to push the hands away, but a fist smashed across his face again. He heard his uncle’s voice: punish the body to fight the sin. The hands ripped at the drawstring to his trousers. He heard his father’s voice: be humble.

And then he heard another voice, a calm voice, a deep voice. He heard it more clearly than the cruel laughter of his tormentors, more clearly than the beating of his own harried heart. Burn them, Athemon, the voice said. Burn them!

A sudden rage filled him, flooding through his body like his blood itself was molten. The pain in his lip, the sharp ache in his ribs, fed that rage, stoked it like fuel thrown on a fire. He drew on the rage, pulled it into his heart, embraced it. It burned like a firestorm behind his sternum, growing and growing. And just when he thought he might explode from the power of his hate, he channeled that power into his outstretched hands. Athemon opened his eyes, saw heat bending the air around his hands, saw Hanswerth leering down at him. He reached out with both hands, grabbing the bully by the face, driving his thumbs into the butcher boy’s eyes. Burn them, Athemon! Burn them!

Sudden screaming brought him back to his senses. The air was thick with the stench of burnt meat. Athemon looked up, saw Rogyle and Jollsen standing back, a terrified expression on their faces.

“Look at his eyes,” Jollsen said. “Look at Athemon’s eyes!”

They turned and ran, stumbling in the trash, clawing past each other in their desperate need to escape.

The screaming hadn’t stopped. Athemon looked down at his hands, saw them clutching Hanswerth’s face, thumbs still buried in the fat bully’s eyes. He pulled his hands back. The bully’s eyes were now smoldering sockets, blood running from them like tears. And where Athemon’s hands had touched the bully’s face, the skin had blackened and burned away, exposing the muscle, tendon, even the underlying bone in certain places.

Athemon stood up, and looked at Hanswerth with fascination. The bully writhed on the ground like a wretched animal, his mouth still stretched wide with screaming. Athemon thought of all the cruel laughter that had come out of that mouth, all the harsh words and hateful taunting. And then he thought of his father’s command: be humble, don’t provoke the humans. He realized now that he could not return to his father’s house.

Pickers scattered throughout the dump were watching him, he realized also. There were a few destitute humans, one filthy dwarf, and even a handful of caprines. None of them had come to help him when the bullies were attacking him. But he hadn’t needed their help. Thinking about that, he reached up and touched the leather skullcap on his head. “I don’t need their help,” he said aloud, and then pulled the skullcap off.

Hanswerth was still screaming. Athemon wadded the skullcap up and used it to plug the fat oaf’s mouth. Then he lifted the corners of his own mouth in a smile. It was an honest smile, though the bully wasn’t able to see it.

No comments:

Post a Comment