Monday, April 30, 2012

In the Garden Where Monsters Grow

*One of the most exotic and dangerous places I've ever visited was Lady Nightmare's garden, where the most fantastic monstrosities are grown and tended to by her two caretakers...but when the occassional "weed" pops up, it can be worse than what's being cultivated...*

Cudwad cast his gaze back and forth among the various embryos that hung like morbid glass ornaments from the thorny vines. “Uh, which one am I looking for?” he called.

Gnawbone sighed irritably, pausing from his task of turning the thick-shelled eggs in the fire pit. “The salamander. The blue one with the bright red fringes.”

Cudwad finally found the one that he had been sent to harvest, a cobalt blue creature that looked more insect than reptilian, and with gentle, gloved hands, he plucked it free of the Mothervines. “Found it. What does this one do again?”

“Eats dreams. Burns memories. Drowns lost children.” Gnawbone grinned slightly. “Bites idiots.”

Cudwad furrowed his brow, and looked down at the peacefully sleeping beast. “I still can’t get over how Lady Nightmare grows all these…things. I mean, she doesn’t seem very motherly or welcoming…but she ‘loves’ all these monsters.”

Gnawbone shrugged. “You’re trying to apply human tendencies to Lady Nightmare. It’s only going to confuse you. Don’t worry, once the Taint absorbs into your blood a little while longer, it’ll make more sense to you.”

The young boy—although, not much longer would he be one, at least not a human one—glanced at the veins showing through the skin of his arms. Already they were several shades greener than they had been the day before. He had also noticed that morning that his ears were a bit pointier at the tips, and his once blue eyes were slowly shifting to a moon-silver. It was pretty cool.

“Hey, what will that one be?” Cudwad asked, peering at the crimson-red egg that Gnawbone was struggling to turn. It was large enough to sit on, with lines of purple and emerald green covering its surface like cobwebs.

“How should I know? It’s impossible to tell with the eggs most of the time.” Gnawbone finally just shoved the egg until it pivoted around. “Usually it’s something like a dragon or a basilisk. Or a dud. The eggs aren’t as successful as the embryos, but if they do hatch, they are some of the rarest nightmares you’ll ever see. Lady Nightmare’s prized children.”

Cudwad cradled the salamander, biting his lip. “Do you think she’d let me keep one, sometime?”

“What? Keep…one of these? For what, a pet?” Gnawbone laughed. “Trust me, they look harmless when they’re small and sleeping, but there’s a reason they’re called monsters. Just do your job, Cud. No one bends the lady’s rules here.” He pulled back the shaggy white hair by hi left temple, showing the deep burn scars there. “And this was from her being mildly irked, and not for anything I did.”

Cudwad gulped, but then spotted something at Gnawbone’s feet. “Careful, there’s a tiny one right there. Don’t step on it.”

“Where?” Gnawbone looked down at the spot Cudwad pointed to, and then he bent down and picked up a dull, yellowish egg that fit comfortably in his palm. “Odd, this wasn’t here this morning. And there haven’t been any other layings today. Not to mention it’s smaller than the norm.”

“Ooooh, do you think something else laid it here? Like how cowbirds lay their eggs in other birds nests?” Cudwad, still cradling the salamander in one arm, reached out for the yellow egg with his free hand. “If it’s not Lady Nightmare’s, then I can have it!”

“Like a demon’s tongue, you will!”

“Come on, don’t tell her it’s here. I’ll take good care of it. It’s probably just a regular old bird. She’ll just feed it to the monsters if she finds it. Please please please, let me have it.”

Gnawbone scratched his chin, looking the egg over. “Hmm, you know, I bet I could pawn this off as a phoenix egg…yeah, a little gold paint, and I could get some good money for this at the Charmers’ Market. Maybe we should keep it a secret…”

“No, don’t sell it! Give it to me!”

“I’m older than you, so I get first pick of…”

The arguing, of course, woke up the salamander in Cudwad’s arm. Waking a fire salamander should be a slow, careful process, lest you anger the poor thing. Being jostled about in Cudwad’s arm with all that yelling going on is not a good way to awaken a salamander for the first time, proven by the fact that he coughed up a ball of acid before he squirmed out of Cud’s grasp and slithered away among the tangled Mothervines.

The sudden attack by the salamander caused Gnawbone to drop the yellow egg in surprise…right into the pool of acid that the salamander have belched up on the ground.

The two caretakers watched, petrified, as the shell of the egg began to melt in the acid, and it peeled back to reveal something unlike anything they could have ever expected to come from such a tiny, unassuming egg. In other words, it was definitely not a bird…not a reptile or amphibian…not even a monster, which would have been a more pleasant alternative.

“Cud….” For the first time that Cudwad had ever seen, Gnawbone blanched as pale as Death’s horse. “Cud, run…”

1 comment:

  1. Joyfully haunting, merrily nightmarish. Your story is a blast. It reads like a prologue.

    I think you got the skills to write a wicked fantasy tale, filled with your clever charms.