Well here is this week’s response to Prompt and Response #2. It’s an incomplete story, but there’s more than 1000 words and frankly, I intend to play with this one a long time. I doubt I can keep it under 10K, I think there’s enough meat there for a novel!
Here is the prompt:
Main Character: A noble genetic engineer with a pair of small spectacles
Setting: The middle ages, in Mexico (it says Mexico City, but to be honest, I don’t know that Mexico city existed then)
The Story is about: What happens when humans trespass upon secrets best left buried
And here is my response:
Note: This is VERY unfinished. I took the prompt of Noble Genetic Engineer very seriously. I wrestled with how to make that fit in the middle ages, but I realised it was easier than I thought and I didn’t have to involve time traveling. Animal Husbandry at its core is genetic engineering. I figured, why not make the main character an Animal Husbander that worked for the king of spain (hence a noble?). The story I want to tell is of a man who’s lost his wife and is driven to find a way to get her back. As such, he crosses the ocean into the new world. He arrives in Mexico City, only a few years after the Spaniards have conquered the Aztecs. It is there he’ll discover the fabled secret to Ponce De Leon’s Fountain of Youth…a secret of blood and resurrection. The Storybrook prompt called for a horror story and since I’ve never done that before I doubt I can do it justice in a short short story…I’ll need to play with it a bit. Here is what I have so far…comments are appreciated!
From the journal of Lorenzo Gonsalves
June 29th, 1533
It has been four months since I have written a word in this journal. I am taking a moment now to put these words to paper before I fall head first once again to my purpose.
“Go. I release you, cross the wide sea and follow your quest! You have served me well these many years Gonsalves. I repay thee with freedom and this passage. Allow us to extend our condolences in the death of your wife. Her passing too soon has grieved us all.”
The utterance of those words set off a flurry of action such that I had never seen before in all my years as chief Animal Husbander to the King. Mine is the craft of life, growth and improvement and we learn early that such things come in their own time. I wish I had had servants to attend to my needs and tasks, to have precious moments to write in this journal. I can scarcely remember the chaos that preceded my setting to sea. I had but a few days to prepare for my crossing on the Santa Lucia II. Though my berth was gifted by the King, the captain and his crew, a hard bitten lot, made it clear they would not wait one moment for a scholar such as myself to prepare.
The crossing itself would have given me plenty of opportunity to write. I was happy to note that the sway of the waves did not sicken me as they did the few other passengers and as the King’s favored, I had very little to do to help the ship’s welfare. My days would have consisted of reading and writing had I not clumsily broken my spectacles on the second day of our voyage. Instead, my days were wasted in unrelenting boredom, unable to read and certainly unable to see enough to write. It was all I could do to find a spot out of the way upon the deck and sit with the sunlight warm on my face or neck, choke down the vile salted stew from the galley and the vinegary wine provided with it.
The months at sea were so dull I thought I would go mad. My other passengers, few they were, were of no comfort. A new Contesa and her favored man servant, an emissary and some sort of merchant had no conversation for me beyond a few pleasantries. The sailors, veterans of many crossings I’m sure, would have little to say to an aging stout professor.
To stave off madness, I studied my plan. I marshalled all the facts I had memorized and turned everything over in my mind. It became a prayer, a branch to cling to as I was washed away in a flood. Frequently, I would finger the vial hanging on a string around my throat. I could barely see the splash of red, but I could feel the smoothness of the glass and drink the warmth it stole from my skin. I could pretend it was alive, as though you, my love, were alive.
My darling wife.
Thoughts of you threatened to drown me in despair a thousand times a day. You should not have been taken from me so soon. I used the despair to harden my will, to forge my spine into steel.
I told myself once I arrived in Mexico city I would do what I must. I would bring you back to me. If the rumors were true, I would bring you back from death to me!
My candle is running low and I do not wish to deal with the innkeeper tonight. The inn and it’s keeper both seem to be an unsavory sort, but I shan’t be here long.
June 30th, 1533
I’ve made a few inquiries in the old city. I spoke to an old Aztec beggar who led me through some of the ruins. I found some carvings that give me hope that I have not succumbed to insanity. I believe I am on the right track.
Poor Ponce De Leon, getting lost and roving too far north into the rotting swamps when the secrets he searched for lay right here in Tenochtitlan, now Mexico City.
I’ve re-read my notes and the accounts I’ve gathered since my days wandering the antiquities markets of Toledo and Madrid. My passion for Aztec artifacts and writings is serving me well. They will bring you back to me my love.
From a lifetime of raising cattle and sheep, manipulating breeding stock to increase milk, improve meat, get better wool, I have always known that blood has power. Blood lines are the language we use to improve the traits we wish to improve. Blood, I am certain, carries the knowledge of each and every living thing down through generations. I believe the Aztecs knew this as well, and more. The accounts of the carnage they would wreak upon their own people are legion.
I refuse to believe such carnage existed only to appease some pagan god.
July 2nd, 1533
I’ve found more clues! I have spoken again to my beggar friend and for the price of a few meals and a spot in the hay above the stable of the inn, he has helped me translate some of the carvings I’ve found. He has led me to others who, through him, have let me question them. I have found stories of unbelievable things. Things that confirm what I now suspect.
I have carvings that refer to priests living much longer than their allotted four score and ten as prescribed in the holy book. Legends of kings and heroes who die in battle, only to rise again and fight again. I have found one peculiar carving that hints at the source of these legends. They speak of tunnels deep underground, accessible only to the priesthood and the royalty.
And they speak of blood.
It is my belief that they used blood to restore the dead. De Leon was a fool, searching for a fountain of youth made of water. In fact, the fountain may well be able to give someone youth, but it is a fountain of blood.
I must decipher these other carvings and explore the tunnels again. Perhaps I’ll find out more.