The following is a short story that preludes a series of novels entitled HIGHSIX:
Demeter Thorpe spat as he left The Council of Skol. His stomach rumbled. He had already eaten his dinner, two pounds of rare steak with a tall glass of goat milk, but he was ravenous all of a sudden. Anger more than anything controlled his appetite.
He knew ahead of time that they would reject his proposal. Old men didn’t like to listen to reason, especially when it collapsed their foundation of knowledge. Knowing he knew better wasn’t enough. If only it was just his conditions that restricted others from giving him credibility. He was short, four and a half feet tall, fat, 230 pounds, and afflicted with a skin disorder called the gloss that made his skin so pale it was almost translucent.
“Fools upon fools,” he said aloud. So rarely in company of willing listeners, Demeter made habit of speaking to Mamoth. “Mercy, mercy. If I don’t drown in stupidity, Your name be blessed.”
Demeter put on his black wolf skin coat, his black sun hat and his protective indigo tinted shades before leaving the Temple of Skol. He walked down the white marble steps under the stars to the white brick road. His boots clicked against them and though he was used to it, his mind still went to the millions of dead below him. Mothopolis was built with the dead. Their bones were ground and mixed in to the concrete and bricks, ensuring their souls would belong to the cause of The God of Bones forever.
He was staying at the Luture Manor. It was the only friendly connection Demeter had in Mothopolis and each time he came he took board with his once mentor, Elder Finnis Luture. They met when Finnis was just newly crowned a Master of Bones and Demeter was still a child. He taught Demeter the histories and introduced him to the only love he had ever known besides The God of Bones: numbers.
Though he had stayed there with each visit back to Mothopolis, Luture Manor looked as if it had grown each time. There were always six stories, but Demeter counted each time anyway, swearing a seventh had popped up below the indigo roof and reptilian skeletal gargoyles. The gate was locked, due to the hour, but he reached between the bars to unlock it as he always did anyway. The yard seemed longer, but there was no sign of work done to extend the grounds.
When he was finally waddling up the steps, his knee giving him trouble again as well his mouth salivating just thinking of the decanter waiting for him, the front doors opened.
“Saleyah,” said Demeter. “Too kind of you. You weren’t waiting on me were you? It makes me ill just to think of such beauty waiting at the window.”
The girl’s scarred face twisted in to what Demeter had come to hope was a smile, but her disfigurement veiled the girl’s emotion from him and it could have just as well been a grimace.
“I apologize for the hour of my arrival. The Council keeps late hours no doubt. Have you dressed Finnis for bed yet? I was hoping to meet with him before I retire.”
“He -aits hor -ou,” she said. “Hood?”
“No, no, darling, I’ve more than had my fill for the day. I only hope to touch him in sickness as he did me in youth.”
Saleyah took his coat and hat, then bowed and disappeared.
“Beautiful,” said Demeter to Mamoth once Saleyah was out of ear shot and then began the long trip up the steps. He could have taken the lift, but the attendant was no doubt off duty and he had no desire to see anyone else tonight.
By the time Demeter had climbed the stairs and made his way to the back end of the manor to Luture’s door, Saleyah was already opening it from the inside.
“Sweeter every time I see you,” said Demeter. “If you wouldn’t mind, I know I said…” but he trailed off as Saleyah pointed to the table where a thick cut of meat steamed beside a decanter full of the good red. “You are too good to me, dear. One of these days I’m going to sweep you up and take you out of this place. I’ll put a baby in your belly and feed you grapes from the vine. I’ll-”
“Hilthy -oy,” said Saleyah letting the door close as she walked away.
Demeter watched her leave. His mouth filled with saliva. “Exquisite.”
Slave mutilation was one of the privileges of becoming a Master of Bones. Each line had their own way of marking their slaves. The Rotsam’s shaved their slave’s heads and removed their ears. The Rexler’s split their slave’s top lip to the nose and bottom lip to the chin. The Modune’s removed their index and ring fingers and the Luture’s burned their slave’s faces. In the case of Saleyah, the fire had taken most of her lips causing her speech impediment.
Demeter locked the door after downing half of the decanter. The warm red filled him deeply and while he no longer felt hunger, he bit in to the perfectly rare steak and chewed with his eyes closed. This life was good, but not his. “One day,” he said to Mamoth. “Sixth of SIX willing.”
He pulled the chair next to Finnis in closer, but before sitting down went back for another bite of the chewy steak, moaning as the juices filled his mouth with each chew. He brought the decanter back to the seat with him and chugged down the hunk of meat, loving the near choking sensation.
“How was it?” asked Demeter for Elder Finnis. “Well, I made it up all the stairs at least. Beat you there now didn’t I?” He took a long pull from the decanter leaving it only a third left.
Elder Finnis Luture could no longer speak. His eyes were open, but he was no longer capable of moving his head to see Demeter.
“Only teasing there. Don’t take offense. You know, if it were up to me I’d have had them wheel you up those steps. A silly rule, no doubt. I’m sure if Mamoth had made it passed his twenties he would have been wheeled up to his seat. One little trip, a misstep even if you did take a knee, not enough if you ask me to earn retirement.”
Demeter took another drink, leaving only a fourth left.
“You’re right. Don’t blame the council. Rules are rules. You live by them, you die by them, you live to die by them, you die to live by them and it’s the only way it should be. You know, all they had to do was listen. No one in Mothopolis listens. It’s a city full of talkers only silent when they eat, drink or think of what next to say.”
Demeter drank again. He swallowed, stared through his indigo shades and then removed them.
Pointing with them, he said, “Someone like you doesn’t get to see it like I have. You sit too high, too comfortable. Here.”
Demeter stepped off the seat and then hopped beside Elder Finnis Luture. The bed tipped with his weight and so Demeter leaned over his carpeted legs.
“Try this,” he said and placed the glasses over the open immobile eyes of Finnis. “There you go. Much better. You see, it makes perfect sense.”
Demeter finished the decanter and tossed it over his shoulder. It clinked against the wood floor, but didn’t break. He pulled the covers back and reached below the old man’s undergarments. He found his penis, withered and thin, and gripped it tightly.
“The Great Lie was a lie. Before The Great Lie, 145326, Sarora, Jokkol and Nithya conspired to make war upon the next reincarnation, employing the Demonks to infiltrate Marrow City and kidnap The High SIX as babes so as to skip the reign of Mamoth as first born, 614532. As the story goes, the Demonks were successful and made it to The Falling Tunnel of Center City, but instead of three girls and three boys there were two girls and four boys. Jokkol had switched sexes. The Demonks consulted their God of Eyes who instructed them to throw Jokkol, Xzicxy and Mamoth into The Falling Tunnel, saving Ethaum instead because the male incarnation of Jokkol was undoubtedly evil. Since that incarnation of The High SIX, the First, Second and Fifth God have locked in the higher birth order for six generations. So The Great Lie was to Jokkol as the histories teach. After the six generations, once Ethaum dies ending our current incarnation of 215463, Mamoth is supposed to return as first in birth order, giving Him a new start as first born, returning to 614532.”
Demeter looked around for his drink, remembered it gone and then pulled viciously at Elder Finnis Luture’s penis, twisting and digging in his nails.
“Lies. All lies. I know the truth because I know the numbers. You see, Sarora had it right. Alliance has to be made, but she couldn’t risk a male ruining her chance to rule. They didn’t throw in three. They threw in four. They got rid of all the males and it’s taken six generations for the cycle to reset. The curse is lifted when Ethaum dies.”
Demeter unclenched his fingers from Finnis when he noticed they were wet. He inspected his hand and wiped away the blood on the quilt. He took his shades back and Elder Luture’s eyes were closed. He hopped off the bed and leaned over with his lips to his once mentor’s ear.
“I’ve seen The Serpent and I know what to do. I thank Mamoth for every moment you spend in pain. May your life be long and intolerable .”
Demeter shoved the rest of the steak into his mouth and left to his quarters, anxious to taste more of Luture’s good deep red.