Mar 2, 2015

Soulless, part one

A while ago, you may have heard, Rooglewood Press had a Beauty and the Beast retelling writing contest. I prepared a story to enter in the contest, but I didn't finish it before the deadline.
Moral ( If you are a slow writer don't wait until the last minute )
SOOO, long story short I shall share my unentered retelling with you.

Soulless: A retelling of the Beauty and the Beast  

              -J.R. Lockwood 


              Chapter one

 Luna Raster sat hunched over in the doorway of the home she and her mother shared. She looked furtively both ways down the narrow cobble street. The empty doorways of the other houses on the street mocked her. She felt nervous and exposed on the dull wooden step. Her body shivered in the cool morning air.  She never should have dared to do this. She should have stayed inside and prayed to the goddess for her mercy until the Time of the Soul Reaping was past.

She stared down at the bowl full of rose heps in her lap. Her lips tightened, and she grasped the wooden bowl in a firm grip. No, her mind was made up. She would not hide herself in her room as the sun rose. Not today. Today she would watch the sun as it came from the night, and together they would remember her father.
She held her breath as the little sun lizards crept out of their holes onto the dirty street in front of her. They each sought a place to bask. Some settled on the dirt road before her, others on the clay tenant fronts that lined the street, letting the rising sunlight absorb into their skins. Her eyes misted, they were so beautiful, like little drops of the sun.  
She let a short period of time pass before she made her move. Slowly, ever so slowly she lifted the bowl from her lap and rested it on the cobble before her. It made a soft click as it touched the street. Several of the nearest lizards glanced up in alarm. She held her breath and sat motionless. The lizards gawked at the bowl, crocking and bobbing up and down among themselves, working up the courage to investigate. A small group of the boldest lizards left their basking spots and advanced up to the bowl. They were delighted at the contents of her gift and they began eating away at the red fruits.

  “I am sorry dear sun lizards but this will be the last time I’ll be feeding you.” Luna said quietly.  “I don’t want to endanger my family any more than I already have.”                                                            
The lizards looked up at the sound of her voice and then returned to their meal, decidedly unoffended at her comment.
Her eyes roved over their lithe forms. From snout to tail tip they span the distance from her wrist to elbow. Golden scales shimmered down their length. Their black blue eyes snapped with intelligence.  Her fingers itched to stroke them, to feel their warmth just once more.
She slowly placed her right hand on the ground palm up, using her tongue and mouth to make a soft clicking sound. One of the lizards turned its head towards her, a single pulpy strand of rose fruit peeping from its mouth.
It saw her hand and scampered over jumping into the offered palm without hesitation. She lifted it up off the ground and gazed into its liquid orbs. The creature fit it the palm of her hand like a comforting pebble. Its long tail hung off and the lizard wrapped it around one of her fingers, staring back at her.        
“How are you today my little sun lizard? Did you sleep well?” At her soft voice the lizard blinked then impatiently nuzzled her palm with its snout. She giggled and used a free finger to stroke the lizard’s warm head.  “My, my, aren’t you demanding when you want attention.”
 The lizard made a soft croak in agreement and fell over offering its stomach to her.  She obliged, grinning, and scratched its pale yellow scales with two fingers.  The lizard’s body grew warm in her hand and its skin let off a golden glow. She closed her eyes, savoring the moment. Memories of her father played before her eyelids unbidden.

When he was alive, they used to sit together on this doorstep in the early mornings and evenings. They talked about many things but, they would always end up in a discussion of the sun lizards. Her father had such passion for them. He had shown her how to earn their trust, to hold them, to touch them.

“The sun lizards are not a curse on our city, they are a blessing. They were given to us to use.” Her father said.                                                                                                                                                                                       
“But then why is there the Soul Reaping?”  Luna looked up at him with confusion in her black eyes.                                                 
Her father curled his arm around her slim shoulders. “I do not know what is causing the Soul Reaping but, I know that it is not the lizards.” He bent to her ear and whispered. “I’ve been studying them secretly. They hold the key to cure for Soulless but, I haven’t figured it out yet.
She jerked away in horror, looking both ways down the street. She finally replied in her lowest whisper. “Father, it is against the law!”       
“Is it against the law to help our city, Luna?”    
“But, the goddess will send the sickness to kill you.” She trembled and he held her tight. 
He stared up at the sky stretching above the street and sighed. “Daughter, I need to tell you something. Something very important.” He watched her face for her reaction. “A new god has been discovered in the Old documents.”                                                                                                         
  Confusion etched her face. He continued, speaking slowly. “The Old documents say that He was the founder of the world. It says that he made everything good, even the lizards, and then evil came in and wrecked its havoc. Worship of the goddess emerged and buried His name and memory. But He is coming back into the hearts of a few people. It is said that He is more mighty than the goddess. 
Luna gasped. “That is blasphemy!”
“We have live under the goddess’ rule for a century now, and look how we have been suffering for it!” Her father clasped and unclasped his hands, using them to carve shapes in the air. “The goddess kills anyone, besides her priests, who search for knowledge and for the cure for Soulless. She calls for our worship then strikes us down at her pleasure. She is fickle and cruel. This new god is just; He doesn’t abuse us on a whim.” Her father stroked her hair. “I think I am beginning to give my heart to him.”
“Father!” Tears of alarm welled up in her eyes. “Please don’t say that, the goddess will kill you! She does have power.” 
He cupped her face in his large hands. “Why are you giving the goddess power through your fear? I trust this god to protect me as I learn about Him. Luna, open your heart and mind. Soon I am going to tell the family what I am discovering. And, if this god is true then I want all of you to believe in him too. Will you be open?”
She stared into her father’s eyes, and then nodded slowly. “I will listen when you tell the family.” 
He hugged her. “That’s my girl. Be bold; don’t let your fear rule you.”

                          Luna bowed her head and shuddered. She wished she had stopped her father. She should have made him turn his back on that god and convinced him to worship the goddess. Her father’s faith and trust in the new god had done nothing for him. The goddess had finally struck him down. He had been afficted with the Soulless and had died and lonely and horrible death.

The lizard butted Luna’s palm with its snout again, drawing her out of her reverie. She smiled wanly and continued scratching its belly. “You greedy lit – Owe!” A bright flash of light stung her eyes, blinding her. She covered her face with her left hand. Hot pain seared her right. She yelped and shook her hand but the lizard was already gone.
 The other lizards in the street started hissing and barking. She turned her watering eyes into the door, clutching her injured hand, as the whole street erupted in a chaos of flashing lights. What had frightened the lizards? She knew she hadn’t done anything to alarm them but, what had?

Gradually the light flashes behind her ceased as the lizards made it back to their own holes. They probably wouldn’t come out again until late afternoon now. She looked up; the street was eerily silent and empty. The air around her seemed to be holding its breath for an unseen danger. Her skin crawled.

Her hand burned and sharp stings of fire shot up her arm. She stared down at her right hand, clenching her teeth against the pain and the tears threating leek out. The fingers of her right hand were curled over her palm refusing to move. Through her fingers she saw red blistered flesh.
She winced. Mother would be furious. She wouldn’t be able to work the broom on the streets and they would have to live like beggars until her hand healed. She looked at her injury again, noticing a line of red that curled around her finger like scarlet rings. The lizard’s tail had also brunt her skin when it had been wrapped. How was she going to explain these telltale burns to her mother?  She trembled. She would surly bring the wrath of the goddess down onto their heads.

“Oh, dear goddess of the sun lizards; please forgive me of my disobedience. Please do not harm my family because of me.” She bowed her head and fell on her knees.  “Please spare us from your wrath. I will never do anything to disobey you again. Just please do not strike us down.”

 The air hung heavy around her. And so did the weight in her heart.  Her hand throbbed for attention. She stared at her guilt numbly through watery eyes. It would need to be cleaned and wrapped. Perhaps mother would not ask to see it if it bandaged. She could just say it was a burn from the hearth.

She stood to her feet, and stepped out of the doorway to their house’s rain barrel. She dipped her left hand into the cold water. The barrel was full but she would only use a handful. She would not waste and make mother bring extra water from the distant city fountain because of her folly. The water soothed the fire in her hand for an instant. She used another handful of water, making sure any dirt or grime had been washed away.  The hand was red and blistered, but clean. She turned towards the door in search of a bandage cloth.


 A retched cry blasted through the silence of the empty street. Luna started, her hand forgotten. The scream, it was so loud, so near. Her heart quickened. It was a cry of utter terror and suffering. The cry of the Soulless!


 She ran through the door and into their two room home, glancing frantically around the sparse furnishings. Mother was not in the front of the house. Luna felt her panic rising.
"Mother, answer me!"
 Visions of her mother twisting on the floor in agony swam through her mind. The horrible wild eyed look, the slobbering mouth and the ridged limbs. She went through the dividing curtain trembling at what she might find.

Her mother, Sara Raster, was huddled on the foot her pallet, weeping and shaking. A mixture of relief and worry washed over Luna. Her mother had not been struck with the Soulless, but why was she crying like this? Chills crawled over her skin, and fear knotted in her stomach.
 Luna approached her. Sara raised her dark head at her daughter’s voice. Her face was riddled with pain and horror. Tears flooded her eyes, but then she saw her.
“Luna! Oh, my daughter, you’re safe.” Sara jumped up and embraced her, sobs racked her body. “Oh, my girl, my Luna.” She whispered in her ear.
Luna hugged her back tightly, wishing away her forebodings but, the feeling of dread only grew with every heave of her mother’s frame.
 “Mother, I heard the scream, it was so close. I was afraid… I was afraid it was you…” Luna’s voice trailed off and she hugged her mother tighter.
 Sara held her back and sobbed through her tears. “This family is cursed! We are cursed!” She pointed with a shaking arm “The scream… came from the other…. side of that wall.”
Luna looked at the white clay wall separating their house from the next one, her face paling. Her brother and his wife and child lived in the house next to theirs. “No, please no!”
 She ran to the wall, and knelt against it, her heart twisting. She heard the mewing of her baby nephew Eip and she could just make out soft feminine weeping. Her sister-in-law Lemay.  A ragged howl tore through the near silence, accompanied with several harsh animal-like grunts.

Luna looked at her mother who had crumpled to the floor. She took a deep breath, swallowing down the lump in her throat, and wiping at the tears running over her checks. “Mother.”
Sara dragged her gaze up from the floor and she pulled herself into a sitting position, her face chalk white. Luna swallowed again. “Mother, its Roan. He has been struck.”    
 A single wail escaped her mother’s lips before she collapsed, her body racking with silent sobs. “We are cursed! Roan… my son. This … family … is … cursed!”
Luna scooted over the floor to her mother and wept beside her. Had the goddess struck her brother despite her prayers? Had her brother been disloyal? Through her tears she prayed for mercy for Lemay and Eip, even though she knew there would be none.

She did not know how long she and her mother knelt and wept in their room but, soon the dull thud, thud of the city soldiers’ feet sounded out on the street. She cringed at each pound of the hammer as it drove nail after nail into the boards that blocked up the door of her brother’s house. Sealing Roan, Lemay, and Eip into a tomb.

Luna and her mother huddled together through the night listening to the growls and screams emitting from the other side of the wall.

OK, that was chapter one. Personally, I get the funny feeling that it needs work in some particular areas, but the problem is I don't know which areas need work.
Hope you enjoy,


1 comment:

  1. Wow. This is awesome!! I hope you share more with us!