Sunday, August 15, 2010

Tales of Hoop - Don't Look At The Doll

Courteny heard and felt the drumming at the back door almost, but not quite as much as he felt the awful throbbing and pounding in his head. He had tried pulling the thin sweat soaked blanket over his head, but the dank covers did nothing to drown out the bastard who was slamming his fist relentlessly against the door.

"Alright, alright," Courteny yelled and grumbled as he peeled himself out of the covers, as he swung his legs over the side of the cot the room did a flip around him and for a moment he thought he was going to vomit on himself.  The pounding from below continued. "I'm coming you bastard." He wrapped himself in the sheet and stumbled down the stairs.

The door was rocking on its hinges, little spirals of dust twirled in the on off beams of light that flickered as the wood moved under the constant pounding from outside.  Courteny felt physically sick both from his excesses of the previous night, and from the dread of whoever was outside his home.  He could not remember seriously offending anyone the night before, but then again he could not really remember anything much at all after about seven bells.  Courteny considered for a moment leaving the door locked and doing a runner from the gable window, but the thought of falling to his death from the rooftops terrified him more than the thought of opening the door and receiving a beating from an angry boyfriend or husband.

He fumbled the bolt with shaking fingers and almost fell out into the yard as the door was yanked out of his hands.. Courteny took a half step forwards, almost overbalancing and falling to his knees, if it had been one of his drinking friends calling on him for an early morning prank this might have appeared almost comic to him, even in the dire hungover state he was in, but the sight of the strange quartet stood in his yard had an instantly sobering effect.

Three huge man, he had to assume they were men, but all three of the hulking brutes wore rough jek'ral masks, each one of them could be fleshwerked or less likely but even more frightening, daemon. Standing in front of the three was the most disconcerting figure of the four, the three thugs were easy to understand, they were the tough guys, and at some point in the near future they were most likely going to administer a hideous beating to Courteny in order to to teach him the error of his ways.  The purpose of the little blond girl in the blue dress was a mystery, and an unknown that sent a shiver of real fear through him.

The little girl was six or perhaps seven years old, unusually for a a gutter brat or gang child, for who else would consort with the muscle standing behind her, she was clean and healthy looking.  She wore white face paint in one of the more recent sensai styles, itself a jarring feature on one so young, and she clutched to her chest a china doll.  The doll was as dirty and damaged as the girl was washed and made up. It had once worn a dress, but the fire that had charred and cracked the porcelain flesh of the doll had taken with it all but a few charred scraps of material.  Soot and smeared fingerprints further marked the doll, and Courteny had to shake his head to clear his own blurred vision, but he could swear that thing was leaking tears.

"Don't look at the doll." Number two, or perhaps number three, had spoken.  The voice was human enough, city sounding with a hint of a Sisters accent.  Courteny's eyes drifted across the three masks and were then pulled back to the awful face of the doll.

"I said stop looking at the fucking doll." Number three moved far faster than Courteny would have thought likely for a man of his size, he stepped nimbly around the girl, raised one arm and gave him a slap that bounced his head off the door frame with a dull thud.  His vision swam and he felt the bile rising again.  Courteny raised his right hand in an attempt to stop the giant from hitting him again, but the man caught his hand and turned it over, twisting it until he could feel the tendons in his shoulder straining. The pain was intense, this time Courteny did throw up, spewing thin bitter liquid down himself and spattering the giant's smock.

"Dirty bastard," the giant gave his arm an extra twist and slammed his head into the door again.  Courteny thought the girl was smiling at his distress.  "Now listen closely mister ladies man, because I am going to give you a warning.  Stay away from the girls on Pell Lane, if you don't, then you are going to die in a very nasty manner indeed.  Do you understand ?"

Courteny nodded as he coughed up threads of saliva.  The giant grabbed his hair and smashed his head off the door again, Courteny sank to his knees.

The quartet turned and filed out through the yard gate. "I told you not to look at the fucking doll," offered the last thug as he left.

Tonse removed his hood as soon as the gate closed behind them.  "Cheers lads, I thought that went well."

"You think ?" said Booth as he stuffed his own mask into his pocket. "Will he listen then."

They walked on a few paces, Kiesis turned the doll over and over in her hands.

"Well, if he doesn't," Tonse mused. "Then it won't be us that kills him."

(Painting - Tavern Interior by Pieter de Bloot)

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