Author’s Note: A while back, I wrote a short story, Swim through the Sharks, and I always wanted to expand it, so this is the beginning. I have changed the main character’s name from Charlene to Giolla…just because. I would love you to read that one too, but I’m not sure where that chapter is going to fit in yet. Basically, I not sure where I’m going with his, and have only a vague idea of the end, so any suggestions are welcome. I apologize for the graphic nature of some of this. I give two excuses (1) The idea just gives me a raw vibe, so I want to portray that. (2) I’m taking a class on antisocial behaviour and the psychology of these people is just baffling to me. So, I would appreciate if you read this, and any criticisms or suggestions are more than welcome!
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The seven-foot man stared solemnly at the swath of destruction about him, his expression unreadable. His radiant blonde hair tossed in the wind, seemingly the only feature of the scenery that remained untroubled by the recent battle. No less than fifteen bodies were strewn outside of the camp, which was encompassed in a shroud of frosty evening fog. Technically, it had been a win for the Patriots, but Soterios felt a profound and inexpressible sadness. Two of his cabin-mates had been killed today, not to mention thirteen of the enemy, the Delanians.
A piercing, maniacal laugh broke through the silence and disturbed Soterios’ thoughts. This marked the unmistakable glee of the Leader. It came from the cabin; he and his leading officers were no doubt having a grand time torturing the new prisoners. Sighing heavily, he approached the cabin door, knowing what he would see inside. At the front of the cabin, Giolla the Spy had been tending to the three wounded soldiers. Soterios’ could tell from her vacant expression that she was trying to ignore the horror that her master was inflicting on her countrymen. As the sole Delanian permitted to roam the cabins, she had been the recipient of that horror many times.
Soterios bent down to check the status of the wounded, among whom were his treasured friends Jacques and Becky. The third was an elderly man called Bub, who Soterios didn’t know well, but didn’t have any particular problems with. He did not have to ask the question that stirred in his mind, as Giolla knew what he was thinking. It was a trait he appreciated in the girl; most humans did not understand the full capabilities of their intuition.
‘They will all be fine in a few days, Soterios.’
Soterios smiled sympathetically at the teenager before turning to deal with the mayhem that lie in the back of the cabin. She had once been beautiful, like an unopened porcelain doll behind glass. Now she was only beaten, scrawny, and robbed of every ounce of dignity. Sorterios valued her in a way that an old, weathered toy could only be valued by the child who owned it. Giolla loved Sorterios deeply but somehow knew that he did not feel that same way. Her only salvation was her desire to make it through the war alive, a fire that burnt now only as an ember in ashes that lie deep below her scarred surface.
The Leader laughed again as Soterios approached. Three Delanians had been captured, and the Leader was slowly exterminating his first victim with a blunted pocket knife. The man screamed in agony, and Soterios winced.
“Mullen…give them to me I’ll take care of them,” he said authoritatively. The Leader turned from his victim to face Soterios. The victim looked pleadingly at the tall man. Despite his abnormal height, Soterios did not appear foreboding or strong; he possessed only a magnetic face. He looked like a withered angel fallen from the heavens. Still, he was respected as the most valuable soldier of Regiment 552, which was strange, because no one had ever seen or heard him use a weapon.
“How many times, Soterios, do I have to ask you to refer to me as ‘Leader’? How do you expect people to respect me if you call me by some common name?” said Mullen. To anyone unfamiliar with Mullen, his petulant demand would have seemed foreign coming from such a handsome and well-cut figure. But then, maybe that’s why he was so good at luring victims even outside of battle. He could play the role of the charmer if he chose. He was never short of people to torture.
Sorterios’ gazed back at Mullen without expression. They both knew that Mullen had very little power against Sorterios. Mullen had once challenged Sorterios to a duel, and they had gone off into some wood. Mullen came back physically unscathed but mentally and emotionally taxed, an ailment that lasted over a week, but he never mentioned it again. Now when Mullen threatened Soterios it was only a half-hearted attempt to display authority.
“Mullen, I would be more than happy to dispose of them for you.”
Mullen grimaced. “Take those two.” He pointed to the two prisoners that he hadn’t gotten around to torturing yet, “I’m almost done with this one.”
Sorterios sighed at the loss of the third but only untied the others and motioned for them to come forth. He led them out into the fog, and several minutes later he returned alone, looking quite satisfied. Giolla smiled at him because she trusted him.
In an instant, all traces of mirth on Giolla’s face disappeared. The Leader’s scathing beckoning was almost never followed by anything good. She looked pleadingly at Sorterios, who simply said as always, “Be strong, girl, the shark is fierce but it is not the savviest fish in the ocean.”
Sorterios knew that he often puzzled his friends, but he found it hard to express in words exactly what he wanted to say. Which was lucky for those who were weaker than Mullen, because he was usually in earshot.
Giolla nodded at him and anxiously made her way to the back of the cabin. Sorterios entered into conversation with Jacques but kept the majority his focus on the girl. The body of the Delanian that the Leader had been torturing lay limp and mutilated on the chair to which it had been tied. Half of the man’s scalp had been shorn off, and his left foot was partially detached. Each toe nail had been individually removed, resulting in the appearance of a foot covered with spilled crimson nail polish.
“Hello Giolla!” he said cheerfully. His sneer seemed unnatural on such a pleasantly proportioned face. The girl stared in despair at the body, too disturbed to respond. How many times had she witnessed this destruction?
“Giolla, I believe that I just acknowledged your presence. Perhaps it would be in your best interest to respond.”
“I-I’m sorry, master,” she managed to stammer, still fixated on the body, somehow feeling its dead agony for it.
“Isn’t it beautiful, Giolla?” ventured the Leader, referring to the victim.
“Isn’t what beautiful, sir?” Even though she knew perfectly well what Mullen meant, she did not wish to make the response required of her.
He callously motioned towards the body, “Why, my newest creation, dear!” Giolla did not dare answer half heartedly.
“Yes, it’s very beautiful; your best work yet, I’d say,” she remarked with forced enthusiasm.
“Don’t you wish you could be this beautiful?” Mullen stared into the girl’s eyes, menacingly, relishing in the distress he knew he was causing her.
“I don’t see how I could ever become as beautiful as your artwork, master.”
“Oh, contraire, my little Delanian sludge. You are my living work of art. What would you say is the best feature of this piece? Is not my craftsmanship with the toe nails inspired, most remarkably the left big toe?”
“Most definitely,” she grudgingly agreed.
“In fact I think I should like to call it ‘Enamel Eruption,’ Mullen enjoyed naming his art.
“An apt title, master.”
“Mmm. Now if you could just grab my camera so that I could capture the moment.”
“Of course.” Giolla went to the nearby set of bookshelves, which contained a few albums of Mullen’s artwork. She grabbed the camera and handed it off to Mullen.
He patted her on the head, rubbing the still wet blood through her hair. “Thank you, pet.”
He took the camera and took a few shots of the corpse from several angles, as Giolla stood by, not daring to move.
“Ah, now I should like to get a close up of the toe. If you could just detach the foot for me and hold it up,” Mullen knew that he would actually enjoy doing this task, but he found the psychological distress that he was causing the girl to be far more enjoyable.
“Please, master, it hurts me to see my countrymen in such a disfigured state. Please do not force me to disrespect his remains.” Giolla pleaded, despite knowing it was futile.
Mullen pinched her already bruised cheek, breaking a few more capillaries, “How ungrateful you are! A deceitful spy, and I let you live!” Both knew perfectly well that Soterios was the only reason she was a living work of art rather than a dead one.
“Master, I’m sorry, I don’t know what I was thinking,” she replied, as he threw her done towards the hinging foot. Gagging, she did as she was told.
Several yards away, Soterios sighed in disgust, wondering what he could do. Why did he have to be sent to a regiment with such an evil presence? If only he had been permitted to interfere to a greater extent…