Hi gang! Time for this week’s Write at the Merge challenge. Write at the Merge likes to give two parts to each prompt and let writers run with them. This week’s, I admit, took some thought. Here’s the prompt:
Word limit: 500
Jamaica, mid 1700s.
The hand he held out in front of himself was so pale as to be nearly indistinguishable from the glove on the other. He had no doubt he looked every bit the governor he pretended to be, but he looked nothing at all like himself. The disguise and the necessity of it wore on him, particularly when his mouth was sour with the knowledge of what had to come next.
The servant—though no one called them that, not when there was such a distinction between serving and slavery—bowed deeply. “Yes, sir.”
He bit back the urge to impress familiarity or kinship—it would have been unseemly in his position, and led to doubts, possibly reassignment. And that would not do at all, he thought, eyeing the gold paperweight at the corner of his desk with distaste. If one didn’t know better, it looked more or less like a cube, but was known to those aware of its true potential as a tesseract. Rising with the key in his hand, he moved to close the curtains and lock the door.
The tumblers in the lock had no sooner thunked into place than he heard an amused voice. “Red hair, little brother?” A delighted whoop. “Don’t you look the dandy. The pale dandy.”
He walked back to the desk with the measured grace of a jungle cat, the disguise falling away like peeling skin from a sunburn to reveal him: taller, caramel skin and long dark hair that hung in braids and dreadlocks down his back, the same disconcerting light eyes he’d maintained in his disguise as the island governor. The eyes flicked to the image now hovering above the former paperweight. “What do you have to tell me?”
The head flung itself forward and back, a long shrill hoot of laughter emitting with the motion. Shaking her braided and beaded hair back from a painfully sharp-featured face with skin dark as night, Asha answered, “Pull that stick out your behind, brother, and sit.” Cackling bared her pointed teeth.
Immediately she was all business. “Smallpox everywhere. Could kill ‘em all before we get our chance.”
“Unlikely. I’ve been in contact with selkies. They’re doing what they can.”
“Some say it be the work of that Unseelie knight likes illness.”
“Dubheasa?” He didn’t change expression. The idea had already been considered and rejected. “No. It has a systematic bent to it that she lacks the patience to engineer. She much prefers putting her own spin on cholera and watching the humans writhe.” His stomach lurched.
“And the Tithe?”
“Holding. So she ought not be harming them.” Not that he trusted her.
“Long as we have numbers when we need them. Don’t fail your queen, Alesander. And don’t forget.”
The reminder of rank and superiority rankled. “How can I?” he answered, and shoved the tesseract off his desk, enjoying the sight of his sister’s disembodied head plummeting out of sight as he picked up his coffee again.