Friday, October 3, 2014

The guillotine 2.0

Well, it didn't turn out as interesting as I expected... more of a character/setting sketch. 360 words for you on this fine Friday morning, but I am feeling a little rusty... almost hit my 20 minute maximum time limit :)

The white stucco house on the corner of 12th and Birch has a guillotine in their front yard.

It’s not unusual to see statuary and ornaments in this neighbourhood. Cement and composite plastic figurines of all kind stand guard, from the fantastical fairies and trolls to the realistic dogs, kittens, and even children frozen in place.

The macabre temporarily pops up around Halloween. Tombstones, skeletons, and blow-up ghosts fight for position alongside witches, zombies, and severed heads. Reindeer and snowmen arrive as early as November 1st, and bunnies large enough to be characters in a horror movie smile when Easter comes around.

The guillotine is not a holiday decoration. It’s been there as long as I’ve walked this route. Three years on the job and I’ve never once lifted the latch on the small gate of their white picket fence. Every morning when I organize my deliveries, I hope there’ll be a letter, or even a piece of junk mail addressed to 873 Birch so I’ll finally have the excuse to get a closer look.

Most moulded forest creatures are tucked among flower beds or stand in neat rows beside the front door. The guillotine stands in the centre of a lawn groomed to compulsive perfection by what could only be a golf fanatic. Other than the guillotine, the property could be an advertisement or digitally constricted image. White house, white picket fence, perfect lawn, neat rows of bright seasonal flowers. It looks familiar and forgettable all at the same time.

I’ve never seen a person in the yard or the twitch of curtains to suggest occupancy, but then again, I’m on the job. I walk by between 9:11 and 9:32am every morning. A fifteen-second glance within a twenty-minute window, certainly not enough time or attention to formulate an understanding of who might live inside. Who might live in a picture-perfect suburban house. Who might keep an instrument of terror an death on their front lawn, and for what purpose. Humour? Pride? Memoriam? Aesthetic? Threat? Collectable? Deterrent?

It’s that last point, I think, that makes me wonder. The question of motivation.

Why a guillotine?


  1. Hah! That is well done. I really liked 'bunnies large enough to be characters in a horror movie smile when Easter comes around.' Sometimes not interesting is fun, too.

    1. I think I went wrong by using a postal worker as the POV character... because there was very little reason for him to ever interact with the house/occupants and their guillotine.

      what, are you looking down on me for finding those giant blow-up bunnies terrifying?!?!

      ...YOU try getting a Dutch giant rabbit for your 7th birthday! Bunnies would terrify you too!

      (but not as much as miniature ponies... those things are evil...)

    2. ...I'm also annoyed with myself for using 'perfection' and 'on the job' twice... usually I don't make mistakes like that...

    3. One of my favourite memories of my grandfather is Easter when I was six or seven, our family at their place and, during the hunt for easter eggs, opening a closet to find a rabbit bigger than I was in it :) But I do suppose easter is a better time to run into those than a birthday....

    4. ...okay, this is one of those comments where I can't tell if you're being serious or joking :)

      the bunny was an unintentional gift... my aunt found it by her car when she was just about to come over for my birthday, so she put it in a cardboard box and brought it over... it was a normal-sized-looking rabbit (we thought it was fully grown), and it turns out it was a baby! The thing was enormous, the claws on it were like an inch long and the teeth were super scary they were so big! We had to end up getting rid of it because it was so violent/vicious...

    5. Oh! See, that was an inflatable one; I thought you were talking about inflatable ones as well given the comments of size :)

      We had a real one once (small but scared animals from getting near her cage); we had to get rid of her since I turned out to be allergic; at the time, my younger brother (Jesse) said: "Can't we get rid of Josh instead?"

    6. wonder you kill off his namesake in every book :D

  2. The white stucco house on the corner of 12th and Birch has a guillotine in their front yard. I wouldn’t normally care; Dyer and I were here for the house next door. Ghost, haunting, CASPER wanting us to take care of it. I’d kept the family occupied, Dyer had done the exorcism to banish the ghost to the grey lands – probably after a lecture – and he was now telling them about how it was the pipes and the shifting of the foundation. People trust him. Even I do, knowing he’s the only ghost as solid as flesh and bone, so I left him to it and crossed the road.

    The house was old and run down, the lawn looking as though someone hacked it down irregularly. If any house on the suburban street should have been haunted it – wasn’t this house, and I knew that without knowing why. I pull open the old gate, which resists until I force it. Dyer eats ghosts; I eat gods. And most anything else, if I really have to. Everything is energy, in the end. The god inside me, monster under a bed and ‘gift’ of a magician, stirs, its own power settling over my skin like fur, and scales, and fangs.

    We don’t talk, not as such, but it is worried about the guillotine, which is half why I walk up to it. It is rusted and grimed, but the rust comes off when my fingers brush it; the god pulls back, hard, sinking back inside me when I don’t move. Something draws me, pulls me, and I raise my talent gently, only to feel metal and wood hum to match it, vibrating in time to my power.

    “Oh!” I’m so shocked that I even sound shocked, feeling it boosting my power like a loop.

    “Charlie?” Dyer is behind me, soft and insistent. “What is that?”

    “A tool. A tool for killing gods. A god eater owned it and put their power in it.” I step back, letting go and forcing the power back inside me with an effort. Part of me is amazed to know how easy it would be to place my power in other things, but I’m mostly shocked I’ve never run into this before. I know god eaters are vanishingly rare these days, but one lived here once.

    They lived here and they made a tool for killing gods. I wonder just how powerful the god was they needed it for, or if they made it and didn’t realize just how potent it would become. “There are no ghosts here at all,” I say.

    “No. It’s too empty to be haunted,” Dyer says.

    I follow him, as much to escape the lure of this device as for any other reason; I have a god inside me. I am not sure what it would do to me if the device went off. I make a note to check it out, and I walk away as rust forms on it again.

    1. Ohhh, very nice! you know Charlie is one my my favourites of all the characters you've written ;)

      Great description of the guillotine/rust/etc... and I loved the god actually being afraid of something.

    2. Yeah: I'm looking forward to writing her more in November :) She and Jay play off each other so well. I consider her the most sane/grounded character in the series, and also the only one who really calls the magician out when he is being a dick. Which IS nice.

    3. Yeah, since Jay... probably not ever going to call-out the magician on that...

      So, Jay buys a cell phone, what new weapon does Charlie get?