Mercury and Frederick like to play this game, that is. For the second time this week, Mercury has had to swap his shirt with Frederick’s; but this time Freddy is the one with blood stains and not the other way around.
I am not ashamed.
I noticed in my previous extracts that I’ve been trying to keep description so concise that I’m beginning to think half of the description is missing! Description is not a bad thing, dear writer, it’s not. In fact, description is an amazing thing. Learning how to tart it up with adjectives however, is not so easy.
There’s not necessarily a correct way to write descriptive scenes, but there is such a thing as ‘purple prose’. I have been so worried about purple writing that I’ve in fact cut out some of the most enjoyable parts – some of the most icky parts or flourishing moments from my novel.
So today I properly immersed myself in the blood and puss; wriggled my toes into demon entrails. I let the acrid smell of fear scrape against my teeth until I felt satisfied that I was embellishing my paragraphs just right, for now. Just right for me.
Don’t pick up a thesaurus and replace every word you can find with something that sounds intelligent. That’s just painful and I know someone who does this. That’s bad writing. Do be adventurous though. Don’t be afraid to write something truthfully, and don’t be afraid to let your reader guess the subtext. Most readers are intelligent people, honest, and they love to feel intelligent for figuring something out.
Panting, Frederick glanced at Li-ling…then crumpling to the ground. His wings vanished, a few feathers drifting in the air, and blood pooled across his back. Li-ling saw her chance to flee. Pressing her good hand into the grass, she attempted to heave herself up, cringing and clamping down on a whimper. Managing to heft her weight only a meagre amount however, Li-ling thumped back onto her bum, cradling her arm and touching the cut beneath her hair line.
She glanced back at Frederick.
As swift as she could manage, Li-ling dragged herself over to the demon who lay as if dead. “Freddy?” she whispered once next to him, her head spinning. She noticed her voice was hoarse. “Hey Freddyyy.” Li-ling watched the dark blood spooling over his back, tufts of black fluff floating across the glossy surface. What was he?
Ignoring the intense pain in her knee, Li-ling crawled to fetch his coat and shirt. When she returned with them, she began attempting to mop up as much of the blood as possible.
“Ow!” she cried. A coating of his blood covered her fingers and it burned. “Ow, ow, OW!” she said, shaking her hand up and down. Li-ling looked at her fingers and saw her skin was bubbling. A searing pain flashed through her hand, the kind of pain that electrocuted bones and devoured a person’s sensibilities; like the only way to make it better was to smack it and rip the flesh away until the poison was gone. “I’m such an IDIOT!” she shouted with tears in her eyes again.
She jumped at the unexpected cry, but if it was calling for ‘Freddy’ it was bound to be one of his friends. Mercury appeared charging over the hill. He bounded down the slope with terrifying skill, his lean arms propelling him from tree to tree, and took in the scene before him in seconds. He knelt in front of Li-ling and grabbed her wrist.
“You stupid girl,” he said and without hesitating, stuck her fingers in his mouth.
She stared at him as she felt Mercury’s hot mouth suck the blood away. The burning sensation stopped at once. His tongue rolled across her skin, smoothing over the damage, until he almost seemed to gnaw on her fingers. It was a strange sensation. A mixture of sting and relief. He removed her fingers and held them close before his eyes, checking there was no serious mutilation with spindle-like fingers of his own.
Satisfied, he snapped at her, “Did your parents never teach about demon blood?”
Though her cheeks flamed with embarrassment, Li-ling felt a little warmer towards him and did not reply. A part of her wanted to give an excuse, but she could not think of a decent one. Silence seemed most dignified. Of course her fucking parents had told her about demon blood.
Mercury turned his attention to Frederick and spat a large amount of saliva into his hand. Li-ling stared, disgusted more than anything else. He then began to smear his spit over the gaping wounds in Frederick’s back, his hands covered with blood in seconds. It did not affect him as it had Li-ling.
She watched him scoop blood onto the grass, the once green blades curling with a feint hiss, and spat again on Frederick’s back. The blood flow reduced to a dribble. As Mercury massaged the edges of ripped skin where Frederick’s wings had torn out, it became crusty. Puss and off-colour layers of skin hardened over his wounds, until two long scabs stretch down Frederick’s back.
“That doesn’t look sanitary,” Li-ling muttered.
Mercury did not reply. He seemed angry in fact, and Li-ling hoped his anger was intended for Frederick. Why was she still sat there, waiting for him and Frederick? Li-ling studied her burnt fingers as a dull throbbing caught her attention. They were going to hurt beyond reason in a few hours time and Li-ling already knew that she wasn’t going to let her parents see the injury.
“Is it burning again?”
Li-ling snapped her gaze up to Mercury. He wiped the back of his arm over his forehead but still managed to leave a bloody streak behind. Sitting back on his knees, Mercury sniffed and waited for her to respond. Her answer fell quiet however, as Frederick let out a pathetic inhuman moan that made Li-ling jump, having not expected him to move for another hour at least.
But her attention returned to Mercury when he held out his hand to her.
She put her throbbing fingers into his palm. “A little,” she replied, “not proper burning like before…just, y’know.” He peered down his nose at her fingers, brushing his thumb over her knuckles.
“They’ll be fine then.” He did not pull his hand away. Instead, he held his hand fully open, waiting for Li-ling to remove hers. Wrinkling her nose she withdrew it and stared down at Frederick.
“What are you going to do about him?”
“Give him a chance,” said Mercury.
Li-ling glanced at his face for an answer. He raised an eyebrow. Rolling her eyes, she decided Mercury was one of those demons. The type she often didn’t mind her father smacking in the mouth every so often.
Frederick on the other hand, did not look so lively. She tilted her head to the side, not sure what to expect from leaving him alone. “Hey,” she said giving his shoulder a poke. With a mumbling grumble, Frederick began to move.
He dragged his hands over the ground until they were either side of his chest, wiggling his shoulders to test that they worked. The scabs on his back cracked, blood dribbling through the crust, and he hissed. His arms shook as he raised his torso, head too heavy to lift. With harrowing effort, Frederick dragged one leg in, every part of him shaking, before he buckled onto his right forearm. He did not try to bring up the other leg. Instead, he rolled with a thump onto his side to face them.
He looked so ill that Li-ling could not control the pout of her lips or the tense knitting of her brow. Frederick stared up at her, his head lop-sided. Li-ling could not look away. She was so horrified by his gaunt, pale face that she did not know what to do.
Frederick’s gaze slid over to Mercury.