Writing – A Mouth Full of Ashes

This probably isn’t very good and it has no ending. It exists just to be whump. This is the one I was talking about earlier, with Albert inspired by BaaingTree’s Alpert. But not as cool. This not a nice story.

Trigger warnings: slavery, torture of a fantasy being (golem), sexual abuse of a being unable to consent

He sat very quietly as the coach rattled along and I watched him, waiting for my heart to calm. This old body always responded too strongly to excitement.

“You’re the most advanced golem I’ve ever seen.” A slight tightening of his hands was his only reaction. Despite his appearance you could tell what he was if you knew the signs. He sat very precisely, his feet planted on the floor, his knees pressed together with his hands resting flat on them. Overly precise. And his clay-dark skin was unblemished by moles, tendons, and veins. “I suppose I’m lucky no one else knew, else I would have to pay quite a lot more.”

“I wish you hadn’t,” he said softly watching the city pass as by through the window. “The others-“

I cut him off gently. “Slavery will be abolished tomorrow.” His head moved to watch me. “All of the buyers there were abolitionists. They’ve found it’s best to get people away from the slavers before. They have a tendency to take retribution before the police can get to them.” His brown eyes darkened. “So the others will be taken care of – provided medical care, expenses to get home if they can, anything else they need.”

“And me?”

I leaned back. “That’s up to you. I believe a golem can not go masterless, is that right?”

He nodded.

That was the problem. Golems were created as servants. It was cruel – they developed intellects as good as any humans after time, but had to obey and couldn’t lie unless ordered to. Which was one reason, the only good one, why creating a golem was forbidden. The others consisted mainly as a way of keeping the slave trade going. There was debate of what the ramifications of dismantling that would be. “Do you have a name?”

“The others called me John.”

“Alright John. I’m Albert.”

“Yes Master.”

“No,” I said sharply. “It wasn’t my money that bought you. I’m merely a courier of sorts.” I lifted out the bede from around my neck.

“A monk,” he said quietly.

“That’s right. I’m only allowed to own the essentials.”

“Then who is my Master?”

“I haven’t met her. She’s waiting at her villa for us. She was one of the abolition leaders.” She’d funded most of it, hiring me to travel with the slavers for a bit to observe, although I could never get close enough to any of the slaves to speak to them. When I mentioned the golem in letters, she sent one of her men with money for me.

The gates opened to a sun-soaked vista, the ground under the rows of trees carpeted with gold and red leaves. It was several minutes before the coach stopped in front of the villa, and I savored the time, thinking of a home that was long-gone.

We were shown into Rosalian’s office by a butler whose sharp dress and precise manners were belied by his kind face. “She’ll be with you shortly, gentlemen. Would you like any refreshments?” I shook my head.

In my wanderings I’d been in many kinds of places, but this sort of extravagance wasn’t something I could get used to. John, on the other hand, barely glanced around before kneeling next to the chairs.

“Your creator was rich,” I said softly.

“Yes.”

I nodded to myself. Only someone of leisure would have the time to set aside to craft such a golem. I remained standing until Rosalian swept into the room in a rush of autumn air. I liked her immediately, with her windblown hair and sun-creased smile.

“I’m Rosalian Dellasol.”

I tossed the nearly empty purse to her and she placed it on her desk. “I’m Albert. This is John.”

She pulled a chair to face us, dusting off her dirt-stained knees as she sat. She frowned slightly at John as I lowered myself into the remaining chair.

“Who made you?”

“I can’t tell you.”  That wasn’t surprising. Golems were a murky area of morality at best, and an order of self-preservation was often the first thing on their creator’s minds.

“Most golems are quite a bit larger than you,” she said. And generally more crudely fashioned. I had never seen one has human-like as John.

He hesitated briefly. “My creator preferred smaller men.”

“Ah,” I said, my suspicions coalescing. Rosalian raised an eyebrow at me. “Why don’t you start from the beginning, John? Tell us everything you can.”

“He… I think he didn’t get along well with others. He told me that he needed help, but he had no other servants. He had made prototypes before, but they weren’t worth saving. Most of them weren’t worth enlivening.” He spoke slowly. “I was too weak when he first made me and he soon… made alterations.”

“What sort of alterations?” Rosalian asked.

“My first skeleton was maple. He replaced most of it with oak.”

“How?”

I could almost see it as he told us. A golem was mostly clay, with whatever additions the creator wished. It wasn’t difficult to envision him cutting a seam to expose the armature within. John’s hands trembled slightly as he listed the changes. The bones of his arms and legs replaced, his hips, ribcage…

“Didn’t it hurt?” Rosalian said roughly.

John’s gaze dropped a little more. He was nearly resting his chin on his chest now. “Yes. But that wasn’t important.” He wouldn’t have screamed and a golem couldn’t cry. “He told me not to move and not to make a sound. He didn’t want to be distracted.”

“What did he do with the old bones?” I asked, my throat dry.

“He…” John’s voice caught, a frighteningly human tic. “He burned them and mixed the ash with water and gave it to me to drink.”

Rosalian looked away. I wondered if she truly understood. Once molded into part of a golem there wasn’t a way to disconnect from him, aside from the normal wear of his work. John would have felt that happened to those removed parts. A golem only had to eat to replenish anything that was worn away, like we didn’t feel our skin repairing itself. The carbon in the ash and the other elements would be an easy reservoir for future need. But by the five, what sort of monster would craft so finely and then treat him so cruelly?

But I had watched him with the other slaves.

“You covered for the others, didn’t you?” I asked. He looked at me. “Where would you learn compassion, if you were created by a man like that?”

The merest furrow in his brow. “I don’t know what you mean.”

“You worked harder than you had to so the others didn’t have to suffer. Why?”

“Because… they were weaker. Because it hurt them more.”

“Take off your shirt,” Rosalian said. His hands went instantly to the buttons. A golem could heal, or rather mold away, his scars, but to hide among humans… My breath caught.

“By the five…” I whispered. To hide among humans he’d have to heal like one. His nut-brown torso was a mass of white scars. “Again, where did you learn compassion?”

“You’re not telling us something,” Rosalian said.

“I don’t understand,” John said. “It was… what was proper. I… the beatings didn’t bother me as much. It was easy to trick them into punishing me instead.”

Rosalian was eyeing him, something besides the scars. “You said your creator preferred smaller men. What all did you do for him?”

“I drew water. I tended the orchards. I cleaned the villa. I chopped wood and built the fires. I built walls and repaired the barn. I tended the stables. I prepared food and cleaned after he ate. And..“ He couldn’t lie, not even by omission. “…I was available when he wanted…” Another long pause. “… a warm body.”

“He had sex with you,” Rosalian said, her face pale.

He nodded.

“How old was he when he made you?” I asked. “Do you know?”

“Twenty-two.”

“And how long were you with him?”

“He died of fever when he was fifty-two.”

“I’m sorry. I need to know. What did he have you do?”

“Albert,” Rosalian chided.

“It’s important,” I said and turned back to John.

John had no shame, although apparently a sense of propriety. “I pleased him with my mouth and my body.”

“He penetrated you?” I asked.

“Yes.”

“How often?”

“At least once a day.”

“Ah. Did you ever meet his family? Any of them?”

He shook his head.

“Interesting.” Horrifying.

“What is?” Rosalian asked.

I squeezed John’s shoulder. “You’re not just a golem. Golems are soul-less creatures made from inanimate matter. A homunculus, on the other hand, is often ensouled and relies on human matter, usually spit or hair, but-”

“We get your point, Albert,” Rosalian said. “So you’re saying his creator’s use of him…?”

“It would seem. It’s not complicated to check for a soul, although it seems very clear already. An innocent soul – an adult one that has learned the limits of those around it – is empathetic, compassionate. A soul only rots by making a choice to be selfish and continuing to make that choice.”

“But I’m still not human,” John said. “I still need a master.”

“Are you sure?” I asked. “Is it just that you’re used to having one?”

“I’m sure. The police came to his villa after he died. They thought I was a slave and they took me away, but I escaped. For a while. It wasn’t difficult to travel alone, but I felt lost. I tried. But I went back. Even with how they treated us, I was happier. I had a purpose.”

I nodded. “Alright John. We’ll figure something out.”

2 thoughts on “Writing – A Mouth Full of Ashes”

  1. It pleases me intensely that you liked Alpert enough to write this. Although I know your character isn’t the same, I feel like you got the essence of Alpert down really well! Also, I really like golems, so double woo! If you write more, that’d be awesome.

    –Rogan of LB

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