([identity profile] wrote in [community profile] itsjustagamerp2011-10-19 10:37 pm

Experiment #4 - 'Touched by Venom' - Chapter 2

Touched by Venom - Chapter 2
By Janine Cross

I awoke just before dawn on the day following that memorable Mombe Taro. I was back in the danku women’s barracks, the domicile where women and children of the pottery clan slept. I didn’t remember being carried back. I did recall Mother whispering something odd in my ear, though, something like “Run ever, my Zarq. Run fast.”

Dream nonsense.

Santa: Nope, that’s just regular nonsense.

Predawn is a dusky time, a watery otherworld moment suspended between light and dark. Edges are blurred. Everything looks liquid.

Aqua: The morning was really washed up.
90s Kid: Dude. I want what she’s having.

Back then, on that morning, I kept still, savoring the calm.

My reed sleeping mat, which at night was furred with old sweat

Aqua: I didn’t think sweat was furry...
90s Kid: I think that’s what happens when you watch too much porn...

and stuck like honey to my body, now felt clean and crisp and smooth.

90s Kid: And speaking of porn!
Aqua: *reaches over and smacks him*
90s Kid: OW! *catches his hat* Dude, watch the hair!

Waisi’s arm felt cool where it touched mine, not thick with fleshy heat. The night had transformed the snores and farts and whines of a barrackful of women and children into light, even breaths. No crickets stirred within the walls, no cockroaches skittered over the raised wooden floor.

90s Kid: No bed bugs bit.

Outside, stars melted into murk while dew silently beaded huts, temples and stables alike. Gray silence reigned, cool air its consort.

Santa: Then fuchsia silence led a coup and seized power.
90s Kid: Puce silence was the first to surrender in the proceeding war.
Aqua: The stars eventually allied with Dali’s clocks, in an unexpected comeback.

The stillness was so rare I couldn’t feast enough on it. I didn’t just listen to it; I drank it in with every pore.

90s Kid: No, seriously, dudette. What’re you on? ‘cause I want some.

Then a flametail gave its signature tee-tee-wheet! from the jungle. A pause, then it repeated its cry. Its soliloquy continued for a short time before another flametail joined in.

The dense gray around me lightened to a pale ash. Someone stirred and coughed to my left.

Aqua: No surprise, with all that ash.

A basabird screeched. Abruptly, the entire jungle erupted into raucous birdsong.

I groaned and sat up.

Santa: *as Zarq* Get the shotgun.

I saw my hand, caked with cloth bandages stained yellow. In a rush I remembered the previous day: the dragonmaster, the race, the whip thrust into my palm. Today--the day following Mombe Taro--was Sa Gikiro.

My heart skipped like a bead of water dropped upon a red-hot skillet.

Santa: Her heart evaporated?
Aqua: That doesn’t sound healthy.
90s Kid: I think something like that happened in an issue of Bloodgun...

I grabbed Waisi’s arm in terror. “Wake up, wake up! Day of Doom!”

90s Kid: Dude, the apocalypse has been predicted like five times this year. It’s getting old.
Aqua: I’m pretty sure we prevented one of them.

She groaned in her sleep.

“Waisi, the dragonmaster will pick me for sure. He’ll see my hand and remember me and pick me--”

“Shut up, Zarq,” she growled, and rolled away from me. “Don’t be such a shitball. You’re a girl.”

Aqua: Isn’t she a girl too?
Santa: Maybe she’s not. Bad plot twist!
90s Kid: Dun dun DUUUUUUN!
Aqua: Well, it would at least be in keeping with the rest of the story so far.

I was a girl. Ergo, I was safe. I stared at her long braids and wondered what had come over me.

“Paak time, Waivia,” Mother mumbled from her mat beside me. When she called Waisi by her proper name, Waivia, she meant business.

90s Kid: Why else would she give her a silly-sounding name?
Aqua: All the names sound silly.
90s Kid: ...Good point.
Santa: And now somebody has two of them.

At all other times she called my sister by the fond diminutive Waisi, as did I. “Hey-o, girls, up you get.”

Others stirred, too. The mothers of young men rose quickly. As one, they knelt, folded arms behind their backs, foreheads pressed to the ground, in Supplication to a Dragon position,

90s Kid: Isn’t that what the stewardess always says to do when the plane’s about to crash?

and started chanting.

Their drones drew the air out of the barracks and replaced it with tension. Some of the babies started to whimper.

90s Kid: Chya, ‘cause they can’t breathe!
Aqua: If only Ven were around...

I rolled up my mat, eager to be out of here.

“What’s all the fuss for?” Waisi said grumpily, rubbing sleep pebbles from her eyes.

90s Kid: ...That sounds painful.
Santa: Yeah, the Sandman’s a sadistic ass like that.
90s Kid: Budget too low for sand?
Aqua: The beaches keep eroding away when he comes by.

“The dragonmaster never comes into this zone, anyway.”

“He might,” I said, but low, so the chanting mothers couldn’t hear me; the last thing they needed was their fears spoken aloud. “There’s always a chance he might.”

90s Kid: *sings (badly) to the tune of Wells Fargo Wagon from The Music Man* O-ho the great dragonmaster is a-comin’ down the street, oh don’t let him pass my door~
Santa: Knock it off or that dumbass scientist will think we really are shouting in pain from this.
90s Kid: ...What’s that supposed to mean? *glare*

Waisi dismissed the possibility with a disdainful wave of her hand, hauled herself to her feet, and trudged before me, down the worn wooden stairs of the women’s barracks, into our compound’s courtyard. The red dust of the courtyard smelled rich with dew, and at our approach a flock of tiny mitewings burst from the ground into the sky.

90s Kid: *throws his fists up in the air excitedly* SWEET, something exploded! Finally, some action!
Aqua: They’re just bugs.
90s Kid: ...Well they SHOULD have exploded. *sulk*
Santa: Everything in this piece of shit should have exploded.
90s Kid: Now you’re speaking my language, man. *offers high five*
Santa: *glares*
90s Kid: ...what?

Although the sun had not yet crested the eastern jungle ridge, the threat of its coming turned the air heavy with humidity.

Santa: Oh no, anything but the sun!
90s Kid: Dude, don’t you know? The sun is the mortal enemy of all mankind! It like, helps the plants grow and gives us light and stuff! ...wait.

Waisi began unraveling her plaits as she walked.

“I hope the dragonmaster does come here,” she said. “I hope he comes and takes Dono out of here.”

90s Kid: So uh...maybe I missed it ‘cause I wasn’t really paying attention and stuff, but who is this ‘dragonmaster?’
Aqua: I think he’s the guy in charge?
90s Kid: Think he’s really a dragon? That’d be AWESOME.
Aqua: I suppose he could be...
Santa: We’ll probably never know, this thing’s harder to follow than The Simarillion.

“Shhh!” I hissed, and pointed at the humped mud huts directly across from us. They belonged to old Yeli;

Santa: Old Yeller? ...Get the shotgun.
90s Kid: That movie makes me cry, man.
Santa: Somehow I’m not surprised.

he and his sons, including Dono, all lived within. “They’re probably awake.”

“So?” Waisi sniffed.

90s Kid: *as Waisi* DUDE! When was the last time you bathed?
Aqua: *as Zarq* Do we even have bathtubs?

She lowered her voice, though, not so brave as to express her opinion within earshot of men. “It’s so stupid. While the women are praying our zone won’t be visited, the men are praying it will. Do you think my hair is beautiful?”

Santa: *as Waisi on another random tangent* We should have waffles.
90s Kid: *ditto* Did you see those new shoes Susie got?

She shook out her thick hair and wrapped it around her bosom. “My breasts are going to be bigger than Mama’s. Not like you.

90s Kid: *suddenly looks waaaaay more interested in the story*
Santa: *does also*
Aqua: *ahem*
90s Kid: What? I’m a guy!
Aqua: You don’t have to be so obvious about it. *crosses her arms*
90s Kid: *crosses arms too* You are such a bummer, y’know that?
Santa: You lovebirds done fighting now?
Aqua: L-lovebirds?!
90s Kid: Whoa, dude, I dunno what you heard but...

That’s what you get for being named after a man.”

Santa: That’s right, your name has complete control over how you turn out in life.
90s Kid: And that’s why everybody in this book is stupid.

I didn’t like to be reminded of my angular figure and masculine name, and tried to draw the conversation back to the significance of the day. She would have none of it.

“Soggy Carrot Day,” she said, deliberately mispronouncing the Emperor’s tongue.

As we hitched the wooden paak ramp to its barrel, she mocked the solemnity of Choosing Day by listing in a singsong all the other names the day goes by: Dragonmaster’s Snatch,

90s Kid: *opens his mouth to remark*
Aqua: *glares him into submission preemptively*
90s Kid: …*closes mouth again*

Day of Re,

Aqua: Re’s the god of the sun. Every day should be the Day of Re.
90s Kid: Does that mean I could take the day off school?
Aqua: Maybe that’s why there hasn’t been any mention of school.
90s Kid: No school, hot chicks...I like this world.
Aqua: It’s a serfdom. The nobles have all the power.
90s Kid: *clearly has no idea what she’s talking about* Yeah, I could have all the power and chicks in the world.
Aqua: If you were nobly born. It’s more likely you’d be doing back-breaking work for the entirety of your life.
90s Kid: you HAVE to always ruin my fun?
Aqua: Not always. *smiles*

Dawn of Reckoning, Doomsday,

Santa: Oh, Black Friday.

and, of course, our favorite: Soggy Carrot Day,

90s Kid: Which sounds kinda dirty.
Aqua: ???
90s Kid: *grins*
Aqua: *smacks him again*
90s Kid: OW! Quit DOING that!

which, if pronounced correctly, is Sa Gikiro. Her litany annoyed me, not because of its irreverence, but because I envied her her clever sarcasm.

Santa: She envied the fact that they sound nothing alike?
90s Kid: Nah, that’s the part she’s annoyed about. She wishes she could think of something better.

“You shouldn’t laugh, Waisi. Sa Gikiro is important.

90s Kid: We take our silly-sounding cultural habits VERY seriously!
Aqua: Even the silly walks?
90s Kid: ESPECIALLY the silly walks.

She made a rude noise with her lips and gestured at me to help lift the egg cradle. We bent, grunted, and hoisted the rusted egg cradle onto the mixing barrel and locked it into place.

“I know how important it is,” she said, thumping a latch shut. “That’s why I hope the dragonmaster does come and choose Dono as one of his new apprentices. I want some silk for a proper gown, and jewels--”

“I thought you liked Dono.”

She shrugged.

“He could die, you know. Some of them do. Look what the venom did to my hand, and I hardly even touched the whip.”

Aqua: Maybe you shouldn’t have touched it, then.
90s Kid: *to Zarq* Hey dudette, how’d you like to touch MY whip?
Aqua: *facepalm*

I brandished my bandage under her nose and a flake of yellow landed on her foot.

90s Kid:*as Waisi, valley girl* Oh YUCK, right on my new shoes!

“Does it still hurt?”

“It’s kind of numb, like I slept on it all night.”

Santa: *as Zarq* Probably because I slept on it all night.

She shrugged again. If I’d confessed to excruciating pain, that might have held her interest. Truth, the whole arm throbbed queerly, as if I’d whacked my elbow against a table corner.

90s Kid: Wait, so did you get whipped on your hand or on your funny bone?
Aqua: She bumped her funny bone against the whip while sleepwalking.

But there was no point in complaining; I wouldn’t be relieved of work unless dying. A harsh reality of rishi life, that.

But Waisi’s indifference piqued me, and as we walked toward the egg cellar, I voiced my indignation.

All: *as Zarq* My indignation!!

“You’re not nice, Waisi, not at all. If Dono was one of the boys chosen, he’d be whipped at next year’s Mombe Taro. He’d suffer, maybe die--”

“Shut up. You don’t know anything. Little brat.”

90s Kid: *as Waisi* How dare you show concern for another human being?

“Am not.”

“Am too.”


Aqua: *as their mother* You two stop this argument right now or I swear I’ll turn this story around and go back to the first page!
90s Kid: *as Zarq* She started it!

“Just think a bit, hey-o? All the men right now are praying the dragonmaster will choose a boy from our clan as apprentice, and why? ‘Cause they know it’d improve our clan. We’d be rich overnight.

90s Kid: Dude, those get-rich-quick things never work. *shakes head sadly* I had to live without new comic books for weeks after I tried one. And Linkara was kinda ticked off at me for using his credit card.

We entered the cellar, she banged the heavy wooden door closed behind us. I squinted in the darkness.

Aqua: I don’t blame her. Being hit with Blind isn’t fun.

“So don’t act like all the other pottery clan women,” Waisi said contemptuously, “sniveling and carrying on like it would be a tragedy. Use your brain.”

Santa: I think that’s gonna be a problem...

The cellar smelled of sour green featon chaff and earth that had never seen the light of day, a deep reek of slow decay and fat worms.

90s Kid: Which smell worse than skinny worms?

In the gloom, the pumpkin-sized dragon eggs at the bottom of the cellar’s steep earthen ramp huddled beneath their protective blanket of chaff. To me, those cloaked shadows looked sinister, half alive. The cellar scared me--

“She doesn’t have a brain to uthe,” a voice spat out of the dark. “Zarq’ths yolk headed.”

90s Kid: *laughs* Get it? ‘cause the eggs? Yolk? Get it?
Santa: Don’t encourage the author...
Aqua: If she really doesn’t have a brain, it probably just went white over her head.
Santa: *facepalm*

I shrieked at the voice; Waisi merely crossed her arms over her chest.

“What are you doing here, Dono?”

A short, lithe shape rose from the eggs huddled at the bottom of the cellar.

“Waiting for you.” A wheedling note crept into Dono’s voice. “I thought I’d help you carry eggth--”

“I don’t need your help,” Waisi said curtly.

Dono started up the ramp towards us, hands outspread, lisp exasperated by his wheedling. “Awww, don’t thay that--”

90s Kid: Y’know, dude, you’re not really that scary when you have a lisp thicker than Linkara’s.

“You didn’t get me a whip, Dono.”

Santa: *as Franziska* You foolishly foolish fool!

“I’ll make it up to you.”

“I’m not keeping my part of the deal. You can forget all about that.”

Aqua: What deal?
90s Kid: *as the author* I don’t care how much money you offer, this book will be finished.

Dono stopped before us, an ingratiating smile upon his narrow face. “You can’t back out now. I told everyone--”

“Once a year, Dono, once a year. That’s how often Mombe Taro takes place. When else am I going to have the chance to impress a bayen lordling, hey-o?

90s Kid: *sings, just as badly as ever* Heeeeeey-o, heeeey-o, daylight come an’ me wan’ go hoooome!
Santa: *grumble* I said quit with the shrieking!
90s Kid: Screw you, I love that song.

You ruined it, so you’re not going to get anything from me.”

“You know what’ll happen to me if I don’t do thith? You know what they’ll say?”

“I don’t care.”

All: Neither do we!

“It’s your sister’s fault, not mine. That was my whip--”

Santa: Didn’t he have a lisp?
Aqua: He forgot he had one, I guess?
90s Kid: *as George from Yellow Submarine* It’s all in the mind.

“Hey! I won the whip fairly,” I cried indignantly, forgetting completely that Dono was considered a man and his word was therefore not to be refuted. “I was fastest. I reached the dragonmaster before you.”

90s Kid: Wait, so the prize for winning a race is getting whipped on the hand? ...This world is kinda messed up.
Aqua: It explains the names...

“I could beat you any day,” Dono said, his face undergoing a rapid change.

Aqua: I don’t think that’s something you want to admit to.

“But you didn’t beat me yesterday, did you?” I said hotly. “So the whip was mine. Not yours, mine.

“You cheated. No girl beatth a man. Ever.”

Aqua: *fumes* Who says she had to cheat to win?
90s Kid: You’d think the chick who got whipped would be the sore loser.

I should have kept my mouth shut; I could not.

“Even the dragonmaster said I was faster than you,”I said, hands on hips. “I’ve always been faster than you--I’ve just always let you think you were faster. So there.”

Dono glared at me, quivering with fury. Then his arm shot out, slender and smooth as a bark-stripped twig, and his fist landed deep in my belly.

Santa: “He punched me.” There. Just saved ya 17 words.

I doubled over; couldn’t breathe, couldn’t scream, couldn’t move. Then I drew in a breath and pain roared across my abdomen.

Santa: “It hurt.”
Aqua: I’m not sure about that. If his arms are twigs, he’s probably not very strong.
90s Kid: You’d be surprised. Try getting punched by Liz sometime.

Dono dug his fingers into my bristle-brush hair, yanked my head back, and landed a stinging blow across my face.

I shouldn’t have fought back; I did.

I clawed at his eyes, shrieking, felt skin shred under my nails.

90s Kid: *jumps up* CAT FIGHT!
Santa: Uh, no. One of them’s a guy.
90s Kid: ...oh. Right. *sits back down*

He kicked my legs out from under me. I landed hard on my rump, reached for his ankle to yank him down. But his foot landed in my ribs, then against a kidney, then in my belly.

Aqua: As it turns out, feet taste terrible.
90s Kid: *as Fat Bastard* GET IN MAH BELLEH!

I scrambled away, went sprawling down the ramp into the shadows, my teeth jagging through my lower lip.

Santa: That sounds like it would sting really fucking bad.
Aqua: In fact, you could say it sounds like it would really bite.
Santa: *groans*

I thudded against the eggs huddled at the cellar’s bottom; featon chaff lifted into the air and settled about me.

“Leave her alone!” Waisi shouted,

90s Kid: *as Chris Crocker* SHE’S A HUMAN!

and from where I lay, stunned and hurting all over, I watched two silhouettes grapple at the top of the cellar ramp, backlit by the nimbus of light

90s Kid: Flying nimbus? Nobody said this was a tie-in to Dragonball Z!
Santa: There’s already a “dragonmaster”.
90s Kid: Suddenly this story is a lot less bogus.
Aqua: I’m still waiting for Maleficent to show up.

shining from the cellar door.

The two figures parted, chests heaving. The smaller, thinner of the two flicked his thumbnails against his throat in a gesture of insult.

90s Kid: Because giving the finger doesn’t look stupid enough.

“You think you’re so fine, danku Re Waivia, with your big ass and big tits?

Santa: Meet Lotus, you’ll never think anyone else has big tits again.
90s Kid: *looks intrigued*
Aqua: *return of the smack*
90s Kid: OWuh! What? What’d I say?!

You think an aristocrat is going to claim you and get you out of here? Not a chance. You’re kiyu material, born to be a sex slave. A lowly rishi Djimbi whore.”

90s Kid: And that means she wouldn’t be picked because...?
Aqua: Maybe the dragonmaster likes men instead.
90s Kid: Then why have all the chicks around at all?
Aqua: Because humans don’t reproduce through parthogenesis.
Santa: *raises his hand* Not it for giving him The Talk!
90s Kid: *gives them both a look* I’m not THAT stupid.
Santa: *smirks* But you did admit that you’re stupid.
90s Kid: *moves like he’s about to jump out of his chair at Santa*
Aqua: That’s enough, you two.
Santa: *doesn’t move*
90s Kid: *settles back into his seat* *makes an ‘I’m watching you’ gesture*

“Get out of here, Dono,” my sister growled. “Get out of here before I tear your puny balls off with my teeth.”

90s Kid: *horrified and/or pained squeak* *crosses his legs*
Santa: *staring in near-horror* This story hurts in so many ways...

He held a finger before her face. “You’ll beg me to claim you one day. You’ll thee.”

Santa: “Hey, anybody own this chick? She’s all that’s left on the baggage carousel. Last call!”
90s Kid: DIBS!
Aqua: *gives him a warning look, this time*
90s Kid: … *ducks his head* Yeah I think I deserve it this time.
Aqua: *smacks him, then*
90s Kid: ow.
Santa: I’d offer to leave you guys alone but I’m kinda stuck here.
90s Kid: *glare*
Aqua: *also glare*

He whirled, yanked open the cellar door, and disappeared into the blinding morning light.

Santa: *sings* Blinded by the liiiiiight!

After a moment, Waisi descended the ramp. I started sobbing.

“Stop your sniveling! You don’t see me crying, do you? Zarq. Boy without a penis.”

90s Kid: The alternate title for Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

I bit my lip and held my breath as she knelt before me. Why was she angry at me?

Aqua: Good question. Why is she angry?
90s Kid: Because her sister doesn’t have a penis?
Aqua: Was she expecting her to??
90s Kid: I think this book failed biology. Even I didn’t fail biology!
Santa: So you got a D?
90s Kid: … *mutters* D-minus.

But angry she was; she radiated heat and fury as she stared down at me.

“I’ll make this easy for you, hey-o?” she spat out. “You take what I want, I hurt you. You hurt me back, and I hurt you worse. Understand?”

Aqua: No.

I didn’t.

“Do you?” she said brittlely.

I nodded, kept nodding as she flared her nostrils, sucked in a breath,

90s Kid: *as Waisi, gives off a long, loud snort*

and rose to her feet. “Fine. Let’s see if you broke any eggs.”

Santa: *as Waisi* Good thing we put all of them in one basket...

I obeyed, moving jerkily upon my knees, a wooden puppet completely unable to think for itself, let alone identify a cracked egg.

90s Kid: Someday she’ll be a REAL girl!
Santa: I think they already established that she won’t.
Aqua: ...I’d argue the idea of ‘real girl’ but I think I agree.

But I went through the motions nonetheless, shuffling through the featon chaff, seeking sticky goo.

Santa: Woah! Too much information! Didn’t realize they were into that kinda thing...
Aqua: ...That kind of thing?
Santa: Y’know, three-way.
Aqua: *After a moment, it manages to click. And yeah, that’s a smack for Santa too*
Santa: OW! The hell? It’s not like I made a dumbass comment like that guy.
90s Kid: *reaches around behind Aqua and smacks Santa*
Santa: *cringes again, then mutters* Bastards...

Waisi likewise went from one egg to the next. Finally, she straightened and nodded: no leaking albumen present.

90s Kid: Eww, do ya have to say it like that man?

“Get up, then,” she said. Not unkindly. Her voice, if anything, was husky with unshed tears. “We’ve got paak to make.”

90s Kid: We’ve got three hours before the guests arrive and I haven’t even started peeling the potatoes! And don’t you tell me everything’s still frozen!
Santa: Screw that, I’m watchin’ football.
90s Kid: ...Dude, you should totally spend Thanksgiving at my house.
Aqua: After this, I think I’ll be glad to get paak out of here.
90s Kid: *completely missed that pun* You’re tellin’ me. *gets up to leave, rubbing the back of his head* Man, I need an ice paak myself.