The following is a short story that preludes a series of novels entitled HIGHSIX:
The boy didn’t really feel the realness of his lover’s death until she sank below the coagula and they took her under Still Lake, bobbing back to the surface once she’d passed, rocking to and fro until they gained equilibrium and matched their fellow organism’s fitting mass. A tear ran into his eye and blinded him on the right until he wiped it away realizing it was sweat from his brow. The sky was grey, two afternoon, and the opaque clouds above cast their spell of translucent fog in front of the funeral audience. The audience watched through the haze as Marciia Bent, the former Sixth Wife of Dr. Skarpo Bent, sunk beneath the coagula. No one cried, not even Skarpo and not the Bent children, staring at her young 14 year old body as if she were just one of them, like them, never coming back.
The boy knew Marciia before she was a Bent. Before she’d reached maturity they had played in that same lake. The Still Lake was a playground on the coast for brave children. While there were beach houses around its coast, the rich inhabited them but never used the coagula infested waters.
Coagula floated on top of The Still Lake, covering the whole thing, but smaller and more compact where the water met the shore. Marciia and the boy met on that coast as children, first throwing rocks that bounced and flew out of view off the coagula, but eventually stepping out on to them.
The talk was that if you fell under you could never come back up. Once the coagula engulfed you, you were theirs and there was no survival post-immersion. For months they tested this with steps onto their rocking surface. They never went far out at first. Each trip was a dare to the other, the boy taking further steps out and then Marciia matching him so he’d have to up the standard, two steps further out than before each time.
But Marciia was dead and when the canoe paddled back to the coast through Still Lake’s coagula covered surface the boy grit his teeth hard until they hurt and then bit harder.
Dr. Skarpo Bent stepped off the ceremonial canoe onto the rocky beach and helped Elder Best of The God of Ears onto the uneven earth. Everyone was tired in the eyes and no one wanted the ceremony, but for keeping up with duty after the death of Ethaum. The boy was glad the 22 days of mourning were passed, but for his childhood love, his best friend for years, to die on the 23rd and be buried now on the 24th at the age of 14, older than the boy had yet to turn even, it infuriated his senses and he knew deep down inside she was unrightfully dead.
The boy hated Dr. Skarpo Bent from the moment he first saw him. The man was too confident, holding his chin above everyone’s gaze though his height made it completely unnecessary, even awkward, for those of shorter build. He was tall and skinny and wore always a long stained overcoat that barely missed the ground, exposing his thin ankles just like the sleeves which left his long vein raised hands exposed higher than the wrist.
Skarpo walked with his neck loose and his hands hidden within each other’s sleeves. Elder Best began the traditional recitation, but Skarpo kept walking. His face hung to the ground and none in attendance made move to address him. Elder Best continued as if Skarpo were not of issue, but there was no food served after and everyone in attendance made their way home.
The boy watched them leave. He sat on the pebble covered beach until the canoe was carried off, loaded onto the traditional cart followers of The Second God used in these ceremonies.
The boy spat just thinking about it. He took minutes to fume until the clouds had darkened the evening sky and the fog was closer, all around him.
“Curse The God of Ears,” said the boy. It was under his breath at first, but he felt strength in isolation, strength in the fog that promised him privacy. “Curse you Ethaum. Curse The Second God. Curse The Blue God. Curses to all that align themselves to You. I renounce you!” yelled the boy and when he did he was taken back with the shock of his own excitement.
Since birth he was taught to praise The God of Ears. He was born under the “great” reign of Ethaum, the embodiment of the most powerful God of The HIGH Six of his generation. Ethaum was good, he was told, and if you wanted to be good too you would do as Ethaum would.
But the boy never found faith in Ethaum. There was something inside him that combated the God even though he’d seen him in person. The God was more of an old handicapped man who did nothing but lay in his cart as The Church of the Eternal Drum paraded him through the streets of Sattofer City. When he died, it was all over the streets printed in bold: OUR GOD DEAD. The newspapers sold well, but no one kept them and by afternoon the streets were full of discarded headlines.
The next day, the mourning began. Twenty two days with boarded stores, grieving masses and streets filled with slumming sorrow.
Skarpo had this planned, thought the boy. Marciia was his fifth? No, sixth wife. He knew he could get away with another death so close to Ethaum’s demise. He killed her just like the other’s and now I’m going to kill him, thought the boy.
Dr. Skarpo Bent did not kill them like the others. It was true that Marciia was his sixth wife and that she had died from a seeming suicide, wash basin filled to the brim with her sunk under and thighs slit with a straight razor on each side over and over until she found the right artery to end it, turning the water she passed in to a deep and nearly opaque red.
The boy didn’t believe it for a second and so he stood from the stony beach and walked to where the rocks met the cement and made all the right turns to arrive at the infamous stoop of Dr. Skarpo Bent.
Above the door, attached to the frame was a sign that read: BENT- Adjustive Surgical Extraordinaire. He turned the door handle, but it remained firm as he expected. The boy stepped back to check the windows, but there was no candle light from within and the clouds were just losing their claim to the shed of darkness as the sun slid below the horizon.
He knocked hard with an authority that he only imagined he had. Surprisingly, the door opened right away. It was a face he feared, the face he didn’t want to see, but had came there to anyway.
There was a pause where the boy swallowed and Skarpo glared at him, towering over the boy from behind the open door frame.
“Yes?” asked Skarpo.
“You klled her,” said the boy.
“So?” asked Skarpo.
The boy had no answer.
The door slammed and the boy stayed there until there was no more light. Just dim stars.