Archive for the ‘Angela Slatter’ Category
A Monkey in the Hand – Part 3
Tuesday, March 30th, 2010
Tobias (I had taken to calling him that after my favourite uncle, the one Mother had stuffed and mounted in the hall of the country house), truly hated her. I was very careful, making sure her coal hatch was locked with a key I kept on my person at all times; the same for her brain tray. She was, I thought, fool-proof – or rather, monkey-proof.
He was especially unhappy when I upgraded her, installed a new-fangled electric motor, and left him with the indignity of coal dust still puffing from his backside.
He was smart, though, he worked out what to do.
Logic would decree that a mechanical mermaid was never meant to go near water, but I’d made her water-tight, given her a layer of that strange new stuff out of the rubber tree. In the corner of the workshop I created a little pond, with a waterfall and a large rock for her to sit on. The pond was big enough that she could immerse herself. I thought again about a voice for her, so she could sing to me, and went off on a shopping expedition.
And that’s when it happened. He waited until I came home so I could see what he did. I opened the door to the workshop, ardent as a lover at the thought of seeing my cold metal darling again, only to find her in the water with Tobias sitting on the edge beside her, his hand on her chest.
I gave a great bellow and he bared his carved mother-of-pearl teeth at me and made an awful sound. He dug his sharp, bright nails under the mermaid’s breastplate and wrenched it away, then pushed her down underneath the surface. Water rushed into her chest cavity, in among all my fine, tiny clockwork that kept her going with electric sparks. The water began to boil, steam rose from the pond, and Tobias himself danced happily as she fused. Or rather, I thought it was dancing, until I realised he was shorting-out, too. In the end there was only a lot of steam, fused metal, and a nasty smell of burnt hair and fur.
You shouldn’t get greedy. A monkey in the hand is worth a mermaid in the bath.
Friday, March 26th, 2010
This story is part of the Daily Cabal’s third anniversary celebration, a collection of kabbalah-themed stories. (Thanks to Mechaieh for the theme!) The other anniversary stories are Davids’s Has He Thoughts Within His Head?, Rudi’s The Third Golem, and Luc’s Before Exile.
I waited outside what was, until recently, my father’s house. I could feel the eyes of Rahab, his second wife, and her sons watching from inside the white-washed walls.
I had not changed, my flame-coloured hair marked me out. Perhaps they didn’t think I would return.
Laban, the eldest, came out and asked, ‘What do you want, Mariamne?’
‘My portion of the inheritance.’
But they refused. As if I had no right, as if I did not carry my mother’s blood, as if I wasn’t Mechaieh’s daughter.
‘Tell you mother that she will lose each of you if I am not given my due.’
For three mornings they found a corpse. Every evening I was in a tavern with witnesses while my stepbrothers died.
Now, in a cave outside Shechem, I wait again. Torches light the rough path down. I can hear Laban’s footsteps.
‘I have it. I have it all outside.’ His voice rasps. ‘You will leave us alone?’
‘As promised. It could have been easy, now you have three brothers to bury.’
His rage seemed to surge and bubble over. Fury overcomes fear and he leaps. I Don’t move, simply speak one word before his hands close around my throat.
Behind his back I see the creature coalescing, motes of dust, clay, any material from the ground it can muster to its call. All rush together to form a giant man, features rude but definite. It lifts Laban turns him so he can stare into its empty sockets.
‘They call it a golem, brother. We make it by mirroring God. It does the bidding of the one who breathes life into it. You see the word on its forehead – emet, means truth. It couldn’t have harmed you if you hadn’t wronged me.’
I watch as the light goes out of Laban’s eyes and foam collects around his swollen lips. The golem drops and faces me. It bows and I lick my thumb. I rub the wetness across the first of the letters etched on its brow. The word now reads met – dead. My lips meet those of the golem and I taste the rich ferment of the cave earth as I draw its breath away.
For a few moments we stand like lovers then the magic flees, and the man of clay crumbles to motes that swirl around like a lost love. Mechaieh’s blood serves me well.