This was for the 750word .com challenge – 96 day streak!
To kick it off, I chose 3 words from flicking through Sherri S Tepper’s ‘Sideshow’ – a good book but haven’t finished it yet.
The words were: Humiliated, smell, skull.
Eck, Bill and Lack-Lack
A dreadful reek rose from the sacrificial pit. A stink of uncommon gruesomeness permeated the flared nostrils of the king’s chief poison taster, whose refined nostrils recoiled in revulsion. Eck didn’t notice any of it. Eck had lived among the stink for all of his short years, and all those yeas had effectively cauterised his inner sensibilities, so that the mere reek of the charnel pit from a distance mattered very little to him.
“What be it you’re looking for again, Bill?” Eck asked his companion.
Eck had never met anyone quite so fancy looking. Bill glared back at him, “It’s ‘Sybill’, you cretin. And I’m looking for a very special inhabitant of this disgusting location. I believe you call him Lack-lack.”
“Lack-Lack ain’t going to like visitors,” Eck said, “E’ll gobble you up.”
“Nevertheless, I must meet him. His knowledge is legendary.”
“And so’s his appetite.” Eck sniggered, “Ain’t no one going to see him without feeding him up.”
“I’ve made provision for that,” Bill said, “In my waistcoat, I have the finest steak from the kitchen. I hope it will be a sufficient reward.”
“Ee won’t like that,” said Eck, he-hawing like an old donkey.
Bill glared at him, “What would you suggest?”
“He likes it fresh, off the bone, off the shoulder, as it were,” Eck stroked his bushy chin thoughtfully, “You know where to get a baby at this hour?”
“Don’t be revolting,” Bill siad as Eck burst into laughter, “That really is beyond he pale.”
“What you need to be seeing ‘im for, anyway.”
“It’s court business, nothing you need concern yourself with,” Bill held a kerchief over his face and winced as they drew closer to the pit, “Good gracious. What is that?”
“That was the Seventeenth Earl of North West Churtsy, I fink,” Eck scratched his bum-cleavage, peering at the remains below, “He’s finally dead then, bout bloody time…”
“Where is Lack-lack?” Bill asked.
“He’s probably sleeping. Though he’ll want that one, now he’s stopped moving. Lack-Lack!” Eck yelled into the bloody pit. “Someone wants to see yaz. Brought yuz a gift an’ all!”
Bill went visibly paler, holding the kerchief tight against his face, as the bloody innards of he pit moved and the Seventeenth Earl of North West Churtsy was released from his spiked moorings and began a steady, single flotilla towards the slatted run-off drain. Bill gasped audibly as a vast arm reached up and grasped the floating body, snapping it in two, it rose up and out of the water, its pale flesh oozing with clotted red liquid.
“Oh, ‘ere he is, Bill mate,” Eck slapped Bill on the back and the other man staggered, stumbling forwards, barely righting himself before slipping away entirely.
“You bloody idiot!” Bill snapped, but gripped Eck’s grimy shirt with both hands as Lack-Lack hauled himself out of the thick death fluid.
“This fella wants a word,” Eck said cheerfully.
Lack-Lack, its greyish, noseless features contorted grimly, took a bite from the late Earl’s naked shoulder and crunched thoughtfully, “What do you want, then?” it rumbled.
“I, I rather want to ask you a question, if you’d be so good…” Bill gulped as the goul leaned closer, “If you’d be so good as to answer me.”
Lack-Lack made a grinning sneer that exposed yellow tomb teeth and bits of the Earl still trapped between them. Eck grinned. Then Bill wisely pulled out the steak, wrapped in bloody white paper, the sight of it brought Lack-Lack up short. He lunged at it, growling in approval, and Bill danced a couple of steps back with surprising sureness, and said, “One question, I beg of you.”
“Then it will be all yours, I shall hand it to you any way you desire,” Bill’s eyes were bright, his face shiny, his cod piece surely more than a little soaked by now, “But please, tell me this one thing.”
Lack-Lack growled again, his eyes on the juicy, dripping steak, he dropped the Earl’s torso and said, “Better be a good question.”
“I know, I know. You won’t have heard this one before.” Bill kept at a distance which he probably thought was out of reach. Eck sat on the skull chair he’d fashioned from dead cows and watched with anticipation. A genuinely new questions. Now that would be something.
“I, I would…very much…like to know…” Bill’s eyes darted from Eck to the grey, matted head towering above him, “How the Earth was made.”
Lack-Lack howled. Eck screeched. Bill looked momentarily shocked and said, “But I thought it was an interesting…”
Lack-Lack moved faster than his bulk made likely. Eck caught the steak as it flew from the torn out arm socket. He munched happily as the great ghoul continued his late meal. Soon there was nothing left of ‘Bill’ but rib splinters and hair.
Eck scuttled away to his cosy place among the ravens that lived close, but not too close, to the king’s charnel pit. Bill had greatly disappointed him. Who mad ethe world was one of the very first questions, and an easy answer to that as well. Of course, he knew he answer to it anyway. He knew all the answers. He listened closely, knowing he would never hear it again, as Lack-Lack so loathed hearing the same question twice. But at least this one had brought a worthy snack.
Eck snuggled up amidst the bird feathers and rocked himself to sleep in a dog-rib cradle.
It wouldn’t be long before the next visitor.