(This is part two of the story. Part one can be found here)
The Khan’s warriors were nearly home, Byron was nearly home. He had been riding for weeks with, riding alongside his leader, his lover, his Khan. During the days he was the rider, at night he was the ridden. Under the sun he fought, losing himself in the slaughter, fulfilling his bloody duty in the Khan’s Host. Under the moon he fucked, losing himself in the passion, fulfilling his sweaty duty in his Khan’s tent. The warring and riding and fucking had taken its toll; his body ached, his heart ached, his balls ached.
Oh, how his balls ached. Every shift in weight, every movement in the saddle was like a punch to the nuts.
His Khan reached the top of the plateau and held up a fist; a signal to the vast war-machine following to begin the lengthy processes of encamping. Orders were shouted, fires were lit. Byron ground his teeth. Home. Was. Right. Fucking. There! He wanted to race his tired horse, whip the loyal beast till it dropped foaming, cross those last few miles to his home, to eat, to sleep. To rest his suffering scrote. This pause in the riding hadn’t improved his testicles misery; the pain had shifted from a rhythmic punching to a tightness, a steel vice sending waves of nausea through his gut.
Doing his best to ignore the pain Byron sat up as straight as he could when the Khan signalled for him to approach. He spurred his mount forward, grateful for the cloth covering his face; designed to keep the dust out it would prevent the men from not see him wincing in pain. He waited silently, gritting his teeth against the agony as the Khan studied the steppes and the lands surrounding his city-palace.
<Do you know what the word ‘promise’ means, little By-by?> Byron despised being called By-by, but contradicting his Khan would be unwise.
<Promise, my Khan? An obligation under oath, or an expression of potential yet to be achieved. Why… why do you ask?> Byron’s eyes were watering. Through the tears Khan started to blur, to wash out; a poor watercolour. The Khan faced him, features running, melting away to reveal the age-yellowed bone beneath, grinning. Dark dots, flies perhaps, buzzed in and around the empty eye-sockets. Byron’s gut heaved and he could taste his own bile.
<You are a clever boy little By-by, you are a man of promise. You have great potential, and using this potential as security you have incurred great obligations, have you not?> The Khan’s fineries were fading now, his ceremonial armours becoming a pinstripe charcoal Armani suit, filthy with grave dirt, conical helmet morphing into a battered top hat sitting at a jaunty angle on a bare skull. A necklace of threaded chicken feathers and cat bones jiggled as the Khan lunged forward.
The flying dots swarmed.
The Khan was now The Baron; a grinning skeleton leaning forward, squeezing Byron’s unexpectedly exposed ball-sack in a feminine manicured hand with long pink nails. The other hand held a castrating knife, short, hooked, and evil looking.
<It’s time to make good on your promise and your promises By-by, so you really need to wake up before I take these nuts from you you little shit so WAKE UP!>
“AHHHHHHHH, FUCK!” Byron screamed and the flying dots streamed from the Baron’s skull and into his mouth.
Byron’s eyes snapped open; he awoke still screaming. He was gagging on the dots, he was choking, he was…
He was still in his apartment.
More specifically, Byron was in his apartment, arms tied to his office chair, pants around his ankles, with a stunning blonde squeezing his balls so tightly his sack threatened split down the middle and let them escape. Her pink fingernail polish contrasted strongly against the ugly bruise purple of his tortured scrotum. Her suit was a vaguely masculine Armani pinstripe. She wiggled the evil hooked castrating knife from his dream in front of his eyes. “Nice of you to finally join us little By-by.”
“Ugh, god, let me go, please please please just tell me what the hell do you want?” Pain brought the dark pain spots back. The dots raced in front of Byron’s eyes, not flying now but scrolling, marching, an ordered patter across the walls. Left to right. They looked like tadpoles now, fattened from his dream and sporting tails, leaving squiggly ink trails in their wake.
“Your promises are due Byron. The Cardinal wants his money.” Another woman, a brunette, walked into the room drinking one of his few remaining beers. This one also wore a suit, bulging under the arm; a gun perhaps? Both women were gorgeous. Probably intentional, thought Byron. The sex appeal of the debt collectors served as an excellent reminder of exactly what he stood to lose here.
Problem is, I’ve got nothing to give them. I need more time, he thought, and told them as much. “It’s not due yet. The Cardinal’s money-man said I had longer to pay. You’ve got to give me the full three months. That was the deal.” On ‘deal’, the blonde gave his balls another squeeze and pain exploded behind his eyes. More inky tadpoles came and started swarming around the blonde’s shoulders before plunging down her impressive cleavage. The dark trails left behind curled and spiked, writhing tattoos of barbed wire forming on the curve of her breasts.
“The Cardinal’s as good as his word. He’s a stickler for rules my boss, despite all the recent weirdness. You’ve had all your time By-by. Ninety days. We’re here to collect.”
Ninety days? That didn’t make sense. Byron was still wearing the same clothes as he had when shooting up, he didn’t remember bathing, or eating or shitting…
Wait. What weirdness?
“Look, I need more time – I need to sell my writing at least. Hells, I haven’t even finished writing!” Byron gestured with his head towards the desk. His jaw dropped however, as he Olivia’s glowing showing an open word document with two words, all capitals, centrally justified:
Byron stared at the cursor, blinking on the screen like a betrayal. He could not remember a single word he had typed.
“Sorry Byron,” said blonde, “I really am. But in these difficult times, we need cash. Cash and assets. Emma – grab the hard drive and take it to the Cardinal. I’ll be here a while.” The brunette dropped the empty beer bottle on the floor and started switching off Olivia, disconnecting the case from the monitor, the keyboard the mouse. Dismantling her. Kidnapping his Olivia Byron wriggled, made a futile attempt to protest, but quietened when he felt the cold blade of the knife press against his skin. He watched the brunette – Emma – take Olivia out of the apartment and shut the door behind her.
Olivia was gone, leaving Byron with the blonde and the squirming black tadpoles with their squirming black trails.
Blonde smiled at Byron, but nothing warm touched her eyes. She clearly savoured his pain, and meant to prolong it. She slowly dragged the blade from left to right, barely touching him, but still drawing a line of blood from his sack and a shriek from his lips. Unable to help himself, he looked down at the blooded knife resting close to his miserable member, and saw…
Words covered the blade, etched into the steel, branded on the hilt, written on the blonde’s hands. Black, inky words, spun out of the tadpole’s trails, wrote out a story of pain. Byron’s pain and the pain of countless other men and women, written into the very existence of his torturer and her tool. Raising his head, he could see the words covered her face and her breasts like a tattoo, a sonnet of beauty and tragedy and death. Behind her he could see a lullaby of safety and security had deeply scratched itself across the walls of his home, an essay of mystery and travel ran lengthways down the door, sentences appearing like bubbles on the surface of a pond.
Every surface he could see was covered with text, infested with words, with poems, with tales.
Words he could read.
Poems he could write.
Stories… stories he could change.
Byron spoke and changed the story.
The bright hooked blade of the knife rewrote itself to his retelling, bending and blending itself into a leaf, a flower, then a tiny steel bird. A metallic robin. The robin hopped out of the startled blonde’s hand, whistled long and loud; more tin-whistle than bird call, and flew out of the open window. Byron and the blonde looked each other in the eye, astonishment on both their faces.
“You!” She cried,”You’re the one doing this stuff!” The blonde threw herself away from Byron, landing and rolling to hide behind the small sofa as she reached into her expensive Armani jacket for her gun. Byron retold the story of the sofa, its stained brown paisley cushions warping into a mass of paisley patterned kittens, then rewrote the gun pointed at him into a sleek black goldfish. Blonde dropped the fish, which understandably did not last long amongst the sofa-kittens. Byron edited his bindings, the rope evaporating and drifting away as the scent of cardamom and cinnamon. He stood up, raising up his pants.
Byron and the blonde looked at each other, moments passing in silence, broken only by a soft purring. She spoke one last time, “Fuck you Byron. Fuck you.” So Byron spoke, not to change her story, not to edit, but to cut. He reduced his torturer’s tale, summarised her, truncated and distilled her to a page, a paragraph, a blurb. He rest he crossed out, deleted. Shredded.
Byron stepped over the exiled scraps, the discarded draft that was the blonde, and rushed out of his front door. He had to save Olivia.
Behind him, the well-fed kittens were purring.
Whew! Finally finished – this took way longer than it should have (its 1,688 words instead of the 1000 we were allocated), and required quite a bit of re-writing. This part two is already a bit outside the rules, as we are supposed to leave the continuance of part two to another writer, and instead write part two of someone else’s tale. Well, I’ve done my bit by continuing the story of Wasteland by Angela Cavanaugh , and been lucky enough to have Elctrcrngr continue from my part one, so I see no harm in running my own ‘part two’.
I’ve found Byron a huge amount of fun to write, and I hope you enjoy reading about him too. 🙂
Let me know what you think in the comments.
Post script: Part three is now available here.