Obedient monsters are hard to create.
Mutter was sure that his pending execution at the Guards’ Shelter was the worst thing that could happen to him, but that was before he met Professor Conguise.
Now, he is living in a laboratory and the Almightys are giving him shots. He fears that they are attempting to mutate him into some kind of monster like those in the other cages. The creatures in the other cages are unnatural. Things that he can’t believe exist. Things that shouldn’t exist and if he doesn’t escape, soon he will become one of them.
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MUTTER WAS IN TROUBLE. No one wanted a Guard like him. He was too big and too strong and too ugly. He stretched out on the concrete floor and winced. He definitely had some broken ribs, but he’d fought and won with broken bones in the past. He started coughing. It was this sickness that had cost him the match. He sat up; the coughing subsided. He’d pleaded with Vickers, his Almighty master, not to make him fight but the money had already switched hands. He leaned his head against the bars of the cage. He’d lost the fight and now he’d lose his life. Vickers did not give second chances.
The door opened and a male Almighty around thirty years old with blond hair entered the room followed by Satcha, the House Servant who ran this establishment. The Guards’ Shelter didn’t allow visiting at this hour but Almightys did whatever they wanted. He didn’t even bother to stand up. No one wanted him. It was a bit embarrassing, but he’d tried to find a new home his first few days here. He’d even trimmed his beard, but it had done no good. Every time that he’d run to the front of the cage and had smiled at the Almightys, he’d smelled the fear on them as they’d passed. Most tried not to look at him, but he was big and scarred and hard to ignore.
They stopped in front of his cage.
“Ableson, this is the one I told you about,” said Satcha. “Looks like he was a fighter, so he should be used to obeying. He does have a bad cough, but I thought he might work for you.”
The Almighty remained quiet, his blue eyes sizing Mutter up.
“Come here,” said Satcha.
Mutter wanted to stay where he was to annoy the Servant but Guards like him didn’t get many chances for a home. He slowly stood, letting the Almighty get used to his size and appearance.
“How old are you?” asked Ableson.
“Not sure. Been around for a while but not too old.” That was the safe answer. He had counted nineteen winters but that might be too old or too young. He never could tell what an Almighty wanted.
“By his teeth and body we estimate around twenty-five to thirty years,” said Satcha.
Ableson twirled his finger. Mutter understood that signal. Before the fights started, when the betting happened, he was often sized up by the gamblers. He turned in a circle, slowly, giving the Almighty time to study him.
“I’m strong and healthy.” That was a lie but he would be healthy again. He just needed a little time and food.
“Does have that cough, that I mentioned.” Satcha sent him a glare.
“Just a little. From this damp, rotten place.” He hated Servants. They didn’t know when to keep their big mouths shut.
“I need an obedient Guard.” The Almighty’s eyes roamed up and down his frame.
“Won’t find one more obedient than me.”
“Let’s see if that’s true.” Ableson walked down the aisle. “Is there another Guard who he’s close to?”
“Him?” Satcha laughed, following the Almighty. “He’s so big and ugly even the other Guards stay away from him.”
Ableson stopped in the hallway. “Take this one out.”
The Servant opened the cage and slipped a rope over a young Guard’s neck. Mutter’s chest pinched. Typical. The Almighty’s always chose the young ones. His only chance was gone. They would walk out and soon he’d be executed. He started to sit back down, when the three of them stopped in front of his cage.
“Put her in with him,” said Ableson.
“Ah, we keep the younger ones separate from the older ones, especially the older males,” said Satcha.
The Almighty didn’t say a word, but his look was enough. The Servant muttered an apology and opened the door shoving the young Guard into Mutter’s cage.
He glanced at the little Guard who stood as far away from him as possible. She couldn’t have been older than nine. She had russet hair and large, frightened, brown eyes.
“Hit her,” said Ableson, his tone conversational.
“Wait,” said Satcha. “That one’s young and attractive. I can find a home for her. Let me get—”
“I’ll pay for both.” The Almighty’s eyes never left Mutter.
Mutter kept his face a mask but his stomach clenched. He didn’t want to do this. He’d fought females before but they were all older, experienced fighters. This wouldn’t even be a fight.
“I need an obedient Guard,” reminded Ableson.
The girl trembled in the corner, tears streaming down her soft, round cheeks. “Please, don’t hurt me.”
Pleading didn’t do any good. It didn’t change anyone’s mind. He knew the game and it would be her or him. He stared into the girl’s scared brown eyes. “Bruised, broken or dead?”
“Just hit her. I’ll tell you when to stop.”
Mutter stepped forward. The girl curled in a ball on the floor, pleading and crying. He grabbed her by the shirt. She weighed next to nothing, all skin and bones. He punched her in the gut, making the blow look harder than it was, but the girl was so small she gasped and coughed. He hesitated, waiting for the Almighty to stop this, but no words came. He hit her again. She yelped in pain. He shifted his stance, stalling again and praying for the words that would allow him to quit, but the only sounds were the yells of the other Guards in the nearby cages. Most screamed for him to stop but some cheered him on. If the Almighty wouldn’t end this, he would. His next punch caught her upside the head, knocking her out. He let her slide to the floor.
He walked toward the Almighty.
“I didn’t say stop.” Ableson’s blue eyes challenged him.
He stared at the girl on the floor. Only in the roughest fights, those to the end, did they hit opponents when they were down.
“Forget it. He won’t work.” Ableson turned and headed for the door.
His only chance was leaving. He’d be dead tomorrow if that Almighty walked out the door. The girl’s tiny frame was about the size of his arm. She was still breathing. “Wait.”
Ableson walked back to the cage, a smug smile on his face. “Obey or I leave. This is your one warning.”
He nodded. His heart thudded as each footstep moved him closer to the little female. The other Guards had fallen silent. He grasped her by the back of the shirt. Her head lolled to the side, her eyes closed. His supper churned in his stomach. He stared at the tears on her cheeks as he punched her over and over, trying to hit non-vital parts but it was difficult. She was tiny and his fits were big.
“Enough,” called the Almighty.
He lowered her to the floor. Her breath was ragged as blood trickled from her lips. His eyes burned, but no wetness came. He hadn’t cried since he’d lost his mother. It didn’t do any good. He wiped the girl’s blood on his shirt as he faced the Almighty.
Ableson smiled at him and handed an envelope to the Servant. “I’ll take him.”
Satcha looked in the envelope. “Ah, the price for the girl…”
Ableson frowned at the Servant but dug in his pocket and handed Satcha a few more bills. The Servant stuck them in his pocket and opened the cage door, putting a rope around Mutter’s neck. He fisted his hands, fighting the urge to kill both of them, but he’d never make it out of the shelter if he did that.
“Come.” Ableson yanked on the rope.
“What about her?” asked Satcha.
“Do what you want with her.”
“But…you already paid….”
“If she lives, sell her again, or kill her. I don’t care.” Ableson walked toward the door.
Mutter refused to look back at the girl, the sacrifice for his freedom.
About the Author:
- S. O’Dea sees things a bit differently than most people. This is probably a bi-product of being the youngest of seven children in a time when TV was only worth watching in the evenings or Saturday mornings and there were no computers. Back then, kids had to amuse themselves and being five years younger than her closest sibling she was often the unwilling entertainment.
Since she was so much younger than her siblings, it was only reasonable that they knew how to do many things that she could not, such as read and write. One day, before she started kindergarten, she really wanted to learn how to spell her name. Her mother was busy cooking or cleaning (she had seven children to care for), so her brothers were instructed to help their baby sister.
After she learned how to spell her first and middle name (Linda Sue), she raced into the kitchen to share this new knowledge with her mother. She was so proud, standing tall and reciting the letters of her name. L-E-M-O-N H-E-A-D.
Her mother was not happy with her brothers and stopped what she was doing to teach Linda the correct way to spell her name. L. S. still receives a box of Lemonhead candy every year for Christmas.
- When did you write your first book and how old were you?
I started my first book in 2012. Before that I had written a few short stories and had started a book, but never finished it. I was scared to actually write so instead I just dreamed about doing it, until April of 2012. I was 44 years old.
- What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
I learned to trust my subconscious. I start with a general idea of the story and let my subconscious mind do a lot of the rest. There are times when it takes me down a dark and dirty detour and I couldn’t be more happy when that happens. That is where the really good stuff is born.
- What do you think makes a good story?
First, I think you have to be able to relate to the character. I’ll give an example of a character from a TV show. I think that the writer did a fabulous job of tying us to that character in the beginning so that when he truly became a monster, we continued to root for him. Walter White, from Breaking Bad, was a drug dealer, a cold blooded murderer and an arrogant ass. Yet, in the beginning we related to him. He was an underachieving, family man diagnosed with cancer. He fears dying and leaving his wife, unborn child and disabled son destitute. This pulls at our emotional strings. We can relate; we fear a similar fate. Still, we should have turned against him once he became a drug dealer and murderer, but somehow, for some reason, we continue to root for him.
This kind of draw to a character makes the story interesting. We have to care what happens to the character(s) or the story fails. I’ll stumble through bad grammar (to an extent) and poor plotting if I like the character.
- Have you ever been in trouble with the police?
Not really. Once when I was in high school a group of us set out to toilet-paper some houses, but we were caught and chastised by the local police. I remember standing in the woods (it was very rural where I grew up) and the cops walking up and down the line, lecturing. They knew all of us; it was a small town. It was humiliating and I never did anything like that again. Thankfully, they didn’t tell any of our parents.
5. Do you drink? Smoke?
I do not smoke, never have. I do drink occasionally. I used to drink a lot so I tend to stay away from alcohol now.
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