Forest Creatures: Paper Bird – Part Six
The creature watched, quivering as the boy thrashed and nearly threw the men off of him. They wrestled him to stillness with a few punches thrown in for good measure. The queen lifted her dark skirts and straddled his chest. The human boy’s eyes bulged as he swore at her. The creature had never heard a soul utter such language to the queen before. Perhaps he knew it was too late for him. She only laughed and dug her nails into his scalp, driving his head to the floor with a force disproportionate to her slight body.
And the creature watched as she sewed the human boy’s lips together. He screamed, a horrid, strangled sound. He spit blood angrily into her face and she only laughed.
The creature could not look away. It was mortified by what it saw. It should have fled out the window then. It should have took to the skies and hid as far from the queen as it could have. But on the sill it remained, terror and love rooting it to the spot.
It loved her still even as she mutilated and tortured, even as she wiped the spatter of blood on her cheeks like rouge. She was the only person that loved it.
When she was through with the boy, there were gruesome trails of red running over his chin and neck. It dripped onto the floor beside his tears. His muffled whimpers wrenched the creature’s paper heart. He laid still, defeated, on the edge of consciousness while the other three knelt before the queen and had their mouths sewn closed as well. They did not scream or cry. They were volunteers. The creature couldn’t imagine what she had promised them in return that would be worth this.
“You will serve as my guard,” she said, glowing. Her needle clutched in her bloody fingers as she surveyed them. She was satisfied with the job she’d done. The three volunteers nodded and with a wave of her red hand, they were suddenly clothed in thin, flexible armor the same shade as her dress.
“Stand watch by my door tonight,” she instructed them and they marched out of the room.
All was still and savagely quiet as she laid down her needle and then the boy on the floor started to laugh. It was a low and broken sound and made the creatures feathers stand on end. He shook his head slowly at the queen. He would not serve her. Even after all she had done to him, he still would not serve.
“You refuse?” She asked, amused. “Then I will find her.”
The boy’s laughter seized and the queen smiled. “I will root her out of whatever dirty hole she is hiding in. I will hurt her every moon and you will watch as I do. She will beg for death but I shall never concede. She will spend her eternity in agony.”
The boy was on his knees now. He was at her feet weeping, his hands clasped before her, wordlessly begging.
“You’ve changed your mind!” She said, pleased. “That is good news. Now, go stand guard outside my door.” She adorned him in the same armor the others wore. Though the helmet hid his face, the creature knew he was wincing as he gingerly pushed his body off the floor and went for the door.
And they were alone once again, just as the creature had once loved. Now it trembled on the windowsill, scarred by what it had seen.
“And as for you,” she held out her palm to it. Just like the first time they met so long ago, it hopped into her bloody hand without question.
“I really should have known about this nonsense much sooner.”
She plucked one paper feather from the creature’s wing and it screamed in pain. The queen turned the feather between her wet fingertips and her beautiful and deadly face began to weep without tears.
“I thought we would be together forever. You and I, little pet.” She yanked two more feathers out.
“Yes, my love!” The creature cried. That’s all it wanted! Even if it had to sit on her shoulder and watch her do unspeakable things to every human in the castle. She was its home. It didn’t want to leave.
“I thought you were loyal to me,” another handful of feathers were torn away in a fury.
“Yes, my love!” The creature sobbed. It could not bleed like the humans, but the red from her hands stained it anyway.
“I thought I was your queen. I thought you would serve me well. I was wrong,” she said, coming down from her hysterical rant. “I no longer wish for you to serve me. Our arrangement is over.”
Those were the words the creature never thought she’d say to it. It’s paper heart was no more than scraps within its chest now. Without a thought, she tossed the creature from the highest window in the highest tower and down it fell.
It watched the window shrink further into the sky and it hit the ground with a thud. The queen had robbed the creature of its wings so it could not protect itself from the harsh ground beneath it. It laid there weeping until the sky began to lighten. It dragged itself to the edge of the forest, tripping and stumbling without its wings to balance. It had to be out of sight before the humans arose and began to walk the grounds of the castle.
It sat, shaking in the shadows of the trees and ferns and rocks. It was no longer special, no longer loved. It was just a hideous thing cowering in a place it didn’t belong. It belonged on the queen’s shoulder, receiving strokes and pets.
It’s life was over but it did not know how to die. It had come into being by a human’s dying breath, perhaps if it could die, it could become a human’s first breath.
But that was not its destiny. It would live on. It would encounter Nushka’s human and that’s when everything would begin to change.
previous: Forest Creatures: Paper Bird – Part Five
first chapter: Forest Creatures Nushka – Part One
more by NOELLE CURRIE
photograph by Creative Vix