#11. A Bargain

#11. A Bargain

Somi was quite happy with her purchase. The Captain had told her to wait until the next No-Moon to use it though, and wait she had. She had sat and stared at the crystal and its little prisoner for hours, captivated. The time was drawing near though…
The Captain had told her that it would hurt, the sting, but she was not afraid. Hurt was not so bad. Humiliation, however…
Somi wondered what Rella Greene’s face would look like when Rella got what was coming for her. She wondered if Rella would cry, or scream. Somi hoped for both.

“The scorpione is a deadly and wondrous creature, pretty Somi. It will grant you the power you seek.”
“You think I am pretty? Sincerely?”
“Yes, and yes, little one.”
“But I do not think I have enough…”
“For one as pretty as you, little Somi, and one with a cause, I charge nothing.”
“Surely you jape, Captain Marsh?”
“Hardly ever, little one.”
“And what do you mean, one with a cause?”
“You are one. You have a cause. The cause of balance, retribution, justification. A reckoning. You understand?”

The time was drawing near indeed, for tonight was a No-Moon night. Somi had snuck out of the house just before midnight, and crept down to the river pool, as the Captain had told her to do. The pool was like black glass in the moonless night, gleaming low and dangerous. Somi walked to the edge of the water, and took off her shoes. She shimmied her feet down into the sand the way Captain Marsh had told her, and she pulled the crystal from her pocket. She stared into the crystal, studying the tiny creature inside. It was black, and clawed, and it had a venomous stinging barb on the tip of its tail ‘that struck like a viper’, Captain Marsh had said. It was a monster. A tiny monster from some far off land, and it possessed a power that it would impart upon those that asked it properly.
Gazing into the crystal, Somi made herself recall every moment of that day, every detail…

“Get her! Get her, Rella! Stinky Somi! Stinky Somi!” The other children cheered while Rella Greene stuffed rotten fish into Somi’s dress. The fish was warm, and slimy, and full of maggots, and awful. Occasionally one of the fish fins would spike her skin, and it hurt, but hurt was not so bad.
Rella and her friends had taken to calling Somi “Stinky Somi” after they realized her da was a fishmonger. Half the children in school had a fishmonger for a father (or a fisherman, or a mussel hunter), but not Rella Greene. Rella’s family lived on the hill with the other wealthy families; the Browns, the Whites, the Blacks, the Redds, the Bankers, the Masons, the Wheelers, the Wardens, the Sailes, the Oakes, and last but never ever least, the Hilles. It did not bother Rella and her friends to eat the fish and clawfish and mussells and eels that men like Somi’s father harvested from the river, but it certainly bothered them to share a schoolroom with a fishmonger’s daughter. It did not bother Rella and her friends that there is quite a distinct difference between a fisherman and a fishmonger (they were not concerned with bureaucracy). It did however, seem to bother Rella and her friends quite a bit that Somi did not stink. A stinky fishdaughter ought to stink, so Rella and her friends had set out to rectify the situation…
Somi had never been so infuriated, so violated. They held her down out on the street, and Rella stuffed the fish into her dress. Some smart one had let the fish rot somewhere for a few days before bringing it to the school in a bucket. Rella and her friends were savages, scooping handfuls of offal writhing with maggots, hooping and hollering as they threw the stuff at Somi. Somi cried and screamed and begged for them to stop, but they would not. They were having too much fun.

With her feet buried in the river sand, Somi stared into the crystal, tears falling from her eyes and burning down her cheeks. The crystal exploded, scattering into the dark river pool. Three of Somi’s fingers flew away with the bits of shattered crystal, and the torn stumps that were left began to bleed down Somi’s arm and into the sand around Somi’s feet. The tiny creature within the crystal, the scorpione, had flown out during the explosion and landed on Somi’s chest. Somi screamed, and clutched at the little monster. “What did I do wrong?” she thought. “What have I done?”
The tiny monster buried its barbed tail into Somi’s chest, and began to pour fire into her bones. The pain was so intense, she could not even scream. She clamped her teeth shut so hard that many of them shattered, and she spit them out in a bloody, grisly wad onto the sand. Heaving and groaning, she slumped forward onto her knees, and tore at the creature on her chest. She may as well have tugged on her own arm. The thing would not move. It’s barbed tail was now in Somi’s chest, a full inch or more. She began to choke and cough up mounds of burning blood from her lungs. Her back arched itself so hard that it snapped her spine. The skin along her spine split, then opened up and unfurled like a freshly born butterfly. Crying silent tears, Somi clawed her way to the edge of the river pool and up onto the bank, then she turned around painfully and gazed down at her reflection in the dark water. Hurt was not so bad…

Rella Greene stepped over to her window. She had heard her name spoken after the three taps on the glass, and she wondered if it was Eno Wheeler, back to see if he could steal another kiss in the night. If so, she would grant him his thievery, then call him a liar if he had the nerve to be a braggart about it. This was her normal course of action regarding the boys about town…
Rella stepped over to the window, and what she saw there caused her to wet the floor boards underneath her. A twisted, bloody monstrosity hung outside her window, dangling from the roof by one of its lanky arms. It looked like a person turned inside out, then shaped into a spider, with the spine pulled out and curved up and over the shoulders, swaying like a hunting viper. A wicked, bony barb dripped black poison at the end of the twisted spine. The creature was hanging from the roof with one of its arms, but with the other arm it was clutching a bucket full of rotten fish. “Rrreeella…” the monster spoke. Rella fell backward onto the floor, splitting her scalp where her head struck the floor. Her vision blurred. She heard the window shatter as the thing leapt through the glass and into her room. The thing landed with a heavy, wet thud, and began to lurch toward her as the smell of rotten fish flooded the room. Rella screamed. She screamed and she cried.

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