Julian had chosen to forego the mask; he instead wore all black, with a simple crown of silver leaves in his hair. He left his hair down, and Melissa had said he looked like an elven prince.
Lu, the clockwork jackal, was asleep by the fire. Julian had no idea how Melissa had gotten the thing inside the ball with her, but she had. He kept his gaze on the creature, waiting for Melissa to arrive.
He reached for the glass of water on the table. He kept looking at the envelope, it had indeed been an invitation to a ball. The correct name had been on it as well.
He knew his fears of rejection were irrational. But constantly looking over his shoulder for over twenty odd years of pretending to be someone he was not had given him a feeling of sinking into a void of his own mind...
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Part one of this story is here [link]
The beast was made of clockwork. Its feet made a clicking sound on the cobblestone steps as it approached the man who stood alone beneath a streetlamp, a note clutched in his gloved hand. His blond hair was tied at the nape of his neck in a simple knot, and his eyes kept going to the watch he wore. He tapped his foot, his eyes scanning for a person.
“Oh.” Julian looked from the note to the creature, when he felt it nudge his leg. “I see.” The clockwork dog—he supposed it was meant to look like a dog, though it looked more like a jackal to him—was made of sleek black metal, but Julian could see that its eyes were red. He couldn’t tell if the eyes were precious jewels, or if the beast was lit with an inner fire. He tucked the note into the pocket of his jacket. “You’re her messenger.” He adjusted his top hat, and squared his shoulders. “Lead the way, then.” As they walked through the streets, he thought that this must look like an odd sight, a man walking alone with an omen of doom trotting along at his side.
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The Worm and His Kings by Hailey Piper [link] is not only one of the queerest horror novels I’ve ever read, it might be one of the best horror novels of the year. I stayed up way too late reading it the night I started it, then way too late again last night to finish it. There were moments where I’d stop and re-read a sentence, just to take in the sheer beauty of the language in this book.
“Subway buskers, used to fighting train horns and railway clatter for listening ears, would’ve drowned out the choir, no trouble. They understood music. It’s purpose was to fill the soul, with no purity in the Worm’s name, and instead littered with the taint of mortal desires. The choir’s pure reverence left Monique’s soul empty.”
That’s just one example of the subtle beauty in the writing in this book. That moment I quoted above comes at about mid-way through the book. Monique’s musing on music are fascinating considering her circumstances. The scenes involving the Worm’s choir are chilling, yet strangely beautiful.
(There are spoilers after this point. Proceed with caution.)