“These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” – Mark 7: 6
Minral Cawt stood at the Warfare Sanctum entry and kissed the roolstone embedded in his dance staff. He needed to convince lead decorator Particula Slough, a noted fan of his dancing, to stop using glounce skin secretions for warrior face paint. Cawt petted his own glounce Tegrit, put the bird on his shoulder, and then entered the Sanctum.
The clang of metal and the scents of smoke and wood swirled around him. Decorators carved elaborate designs on shield grips and sword handles. And in every weapon and piece of armor and torture device shone roolstones larger and bluer than the one in Cawt’s staff.
Bright green liquid flowed through twisting tubes near the request seat.
A roolstone bobbed before Particula Slough’s forehead as she sauntered toward Cawt. The stone was positioned on a wire antenna. It was the largest, bluest roolstone Cawt had seen.
Cawt rubbed his hands. In the traditional Phirscrabian greeting, he backed against the wall, took in a deep breath, held it, and then pressed his neck against the wall.
Slough, with gate post posture, brought her fingertipdisks to her neck.
Cawt would have to continue pressing his neck until she dropped her hands. He noticed the floor-to-ceiling painting behind Slough. It depicted the renowned Phirscrabian Vortex. Cawt, still holding and pressing, felt a spark of anger: the gleam of that canvas could only be achieved with
the blood of the keylb parrot.
Slough did a quick neck roll and the roolstone on her antenna looped, yet her fingers remained on her neck. Cawt’s body felt lighter. Still, he held the breathless greeting.
Tegrit tried to push his head between Cawt’s hands and throat. That canvas sparkled with keylb blood, and black flecks filled Cawt’s vision.
Slough still touched her neck, so Cawt kept pressing his: her roolstone dwarfed the one in his dance staff. She had the larger stone, so she would break the greeting.
More flecks swarmed. The green tubes, snake-like, and the jumble of scents, and Cawt’s body felt fuzzy.
Slough’s roolstone was inspired by this jar of car wax that I just bought. Look: the plastic is a beautiful, iridescent blue.
Slough’s hands, swirling slowly, lowered.
Cawt, gasping, released, and then, using his dance staff for support, stumbled from the wall. Tegrit screeched and flapped his wings to keep from falling off Cawt’s shoulder.
Slough’s lips produced a glow that only her roolstone overpowered. “I believe that your roolstone . . .” She revolved lingeringly. “. . . could stand to be a bit more polished.”
An armor shiner whirred as Cawt examined his dance staff. “May I make my request, Designer Slough?”
“I would like you to demonstrate the dance move in which you spin on your staff.”
“My troop restricts me from dancing outside the main theater.”
“I saw that move, such an admirable move, at the Glimmercoil Festival. If only you spun faster, it could be majestic.”
Cawt pointed his staff at the painting. “The keylb parrot is a beautiful harmless creature.” A creature that was tortured so that canvas could gleam.
“If you spun faster, and if your roolstone . . .” Slowly Slough spun again. “. . . shone with more intensity . . .” Musicians entered. Their lutes had roolstone tuners, and roolstones topped their drumsticks. They played the Phirscrabian rondo. Speedier than normal. Distressingly speedier.
All the weapon decorators stopped their work, then circled Cawt.
Slough smirked at the painting and looped her roolstone. “Show your allegiance to Phirscrabia by demonstrating that move.”
Cawt rubbed his hands, then set Tegrit on an arrow tip ornamentation stand. Then he performed his famed move amid the decorators. He had to spin faster, though, to keep up with the rondo. So much faster that when he stopped, the decorators blurred around him.
See how the appearance of this car wax jar changes depending on your perspective and how the light hits it.
The song ended. The decorators returned to their work and Cawt retrieved Tegrit.
Slough chimed her fingertipdisks. Two decorators appeared. Their face paint shimmered. Cawt knew that the paint had been mixed with glounce skin.
Slough circled her finger before one decorator’s face. “This paint pattern has captivated our guest.”
Cawt imagined Slough’s roolstone stuffed in his mouth. “May I make my request?”
Slough locked arms with the decorators, then slowly flipped backwards as they carried her to a spot near the request seat. They set her down. She swayed slightly (mockingly?) and reached
toward the seat. It was on the edge of a large circle.
Tegrit squealed and shrank as Cawt passed the coiling tubes of green liquid. He set his glounce on a nail head ornamentation tool, then sat in the request seat.
The decorators started the circle on a slow spin. Cawt rubbed his hands. “I
request . . .” As Slough came into view, she ran her finger down a decorator’s face and smudged the paint. Cawt continued. “. . . that you refrain from using warrior face paint mixed with glounce skin.”
She held Cawt’s dance staff and strolled beside him. “How do you clean your roolstone?”
“Your stone is rather dull. You should sample my cleaner.” She pointed at the tubes. The green liquid blazed.
“During the process of skin extraction, glounces are treated cruelly.”
Slough ran her finger down her face. It left rings of the shimmering, glounce-enhanced paint. She stopped strolling. Cawt’s seat revolved faster.
As Slough gave her response, she came into view with greater frequency. “Though they dwell in the uppermost parts of our mountains, glounces reside within our realm. They are ours to do with what we please.”
“During the process of skin extraction, glounces are placed in boiling water . . .” Cawt saw Slough’s roolstone flash faster. She started to blur, but Cawt continued. “. . . then, still alive, nailed to a board . . . board, still . . . then . . .”
Slough’s voice wound around him. “Minral Cawt, despite my awareness that you, with the help of your dancing, have convinced our king to ban the use of keylb blood . . .” She stretched the
word “blood,” and the spinning Warfare Sanctum lathered within Cawt. “I am an advocate,” Slough said, “of beautiful design.”
“Glounces . . . during skin extraction . . .” Cawt could not continue. Slough’s weapon decorators grunted as they pushed the circle harder and harder. Her roolstone stretched into a single glowing blue ribbon that connected the blur of colors behind it.
I untwist the jar’s cover and release the wax’s fragrance. Pure. Clean. Intricate.
Cawt felt the seat come to a stop, but everything else seemed to keep moving. Slough’s roolstone swiped and dabbed in his vision before it returned to its shape.
Slough pointed at the twisting tubes, then flung her arms toward Cawt as if casting a net. “You apply my cleaner to your roolstone, then wait thirty seconds for it to dry before you kiss it.”
“May I continue my request?”
Slough opened a nozzle on a tube, dampened a cloth with the cleaner, and then rubbed her roolstone. “Perhaps you would like to try some of this?”
Cawt retrieved Tegrit. A catapult axel engraver buzzed and Slough removed the cloth. Her roolstone shone with incomparable luminosity.
Tegrit screeched and shrank from the tubes. Cawt stroked the creature. “I don’t see what using glounce skin for face paint does. Does it help warriors strike harder? Make their arrows more accurate?”
“When Phirscrabians see your staff, they know they will enjoy your performance: you are an upper echelon dancer. Similarly, glounce-enhanced face paint creates an impression: when our enemies see that shimmering, only achievable with glounce blood, they resign to defeat. They know that our warriors are the fiercest.”
Tegrit shrieked and the canvas, the gleaming canvas showing the Phirscrabian Vortex—Cawt imagined the keylb parrots getting their wings amputated, their beaks snapped off, the blood tubes plunged into their chests—stirred the feeling he had when he was on the request seat.
“You must wait thirty seconds for the cleaner to dry.” Slough kissed her roolstone. It and the glimmering canvas whisked and swashed and churned in Cawt.
Note this wax’s undiluted white.
A decorator scraped a design into the base of a torture machine.
Cawt set Tegrit, now hissing, on another machine’s gilded hinges. The face paint, the canvas, and those tubes twirled in his mind. Slough’s roolstone, and all the weapon makers’ roolstones goaded him.
Cawt rubbed his hands, then wet the cloth. A scent, pure as the sun on the sea, surrounded him. Tegrit screamed. The paint on Slough’s cheek shimmered.
Cawt applied the cleaner to his roolstone, and the scraping of the torture machine decorator overwhelmed his glounce’s cries. He removed the cloth. Cawt’s roolstone, bluer than the Phirscrabian flag, glowed meticulously.
Cawt kissed the stone.
Slough looped the roolstone on her antenna. “I asked you to wait thirty seconds before you kissed that stone.”
When I press the cleaning pad into this car wax, it feels supple, yet solid.
The scraping intensified, and Cawt, clutching his staff, tottered. He knocked over his glounce, then accidentally stepped on the creature.
Slough grabbed Cawt’s dance staff. She positioned it so the roolstone was inches from his
face. His finger circled the stone. “Majestic.”
This wax goes on so smoothly. I can’t wait to see the shine.
Douglas J. Ogurek is a dink. Though it has been banned on Mars, his fiction appears in Bards and Sages Quarterly, Blood Moon Rising, British Fantasy Society Journal, The Literary Review, Gone Lawn, The Milo Review, Morpheus Tales, Perihelion Science Fiction, Schlock Magazine, Wilderness House Literary Review, and several anthologies. Ogurek founded the literary subgenre known as unsplatterpunk, which uses splatterpunk conventions (e.g., extreme violence, gore, taboo subject matter) to deliver a Christian message. He lives on Earth with the woman whose husband he is. They are owned by a pit bull named Phlegmpus Bilesnot. Ogurek also reviews films at Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction.