Core

This is Part 2 of the longer story “Core“. See here for Part 1.

I was very much taken aback. Most of his fingers were normal looking, but several were extremely misshapen and stubby and small. I looked up at his face and saw no indication that he thought there was anything particularly strange or different about his hand. My shock was reflected on the maiden’s face, her eyes wide. She was suddenly sitting very straight, looking at his hand and trying not to gape.

I glanced at Pocket Square. He seemed to have leaned forward ever so slightly, his posture intensely expectant. A wolf about to pounce.

I swallowed, my mouth suddenly dry. Hesitantly I put my own elbow on the table and opened my hand. I looked up at Mo-hawk’s face again, a bit helplessly. There was no obvious way to clasp his hand and I wasn’t sure where to begin. He seemed completely unconcerned, and in fact wasn’t even looking at my hand.

He thrust his hand forward, smacking his wrist against mine. His head bowing slightly as he leaned forward. A look of determined focus shone in his eyes, which looked up at me under a slightly furrowed brow. I adjusted my hand trying to meet his palm with mine. He kept leaning forward, smacking my wrist with his. I fought down repulsion and light panic, and leaned back a bit, trying to compensate and again moved my hand.

“Let’s go! Grab my hand!” Mo-hawk demanded, sounding annoyed.

“I’m trying!” I replied, embarrassed at the slightly thready pleading tone my voice had taken on.

Again I leaned back and adjusted my elbow on the table. Some part of my brain sounding warnings about the way he was aggressively leaned way over the table towards me. I tilted my arm awkwardly and desperately waved my hand at odd angles trying impossibly to get a good position.

Finally our palms met. Our hands were way too close to my face for comfort. My chin was tucked up and back away from the two stubby grotesque fingers that aligned with my thumb, blocking it from actually grasping.

“Come on!” He said, frowning. Images flashed through my mind. A doe bending her head to take a drink. A wolf’s jaws drooping open hungrily.

“I’m gonna break your… It’s not going to work!” I, to my chagrin, whined in a pleading tone. Why was I still sitting here?

“It’ll be fine!” He snapped urgently. His fingers wrapped disgustingly around my hand like some horrid spider. Or the jaws of a steel trap snapping shut.

I didn’t want to insult him and thought perhaps he was embarrassed about his hand. But enough was enough.

Disgust, rage, and exasperation flashed through me. Fine! It’s your hand jerk! I thought, and I gripped hard. Harder than was necessary. The two stubby fingers strained against my thumb, bending back alarmingly. Some part of me realized I was actually trying to snap them now, as if to prove a point.

The maiden’s face was a picture of horrified disgust and alarm. Her shoulders tense, her hands pushed firmly against her legs where she clutched her napkin.

“Go!” Pocket Square yelled suddenly.

I squeezed and pushed hard.

His hand slammed loudly into the table. Glasses and cutlery clanking. I lurched forward, having expected a lot of resistance and then meeting absolutely none. My fork had been catapulted off of my plate, and before it even hit the ground, before my shock had even fully registered, his other hand shot out, seized a handful of hair on the back of my head and slammed my face down.

What!?

I immediately tried to stand, knocking my chair over. The maiden cried out in surprise. His hand a vise on the back of my head, pinning my face to my arm, and them both to the table. In my shock I had let go of his other hand. I felt a stabbing sensation at the base of my skull, and then a sense of… loss.

I let my legs collapse and threw myself backward, grabbing at whatever was stabbing me in the back of the head. I fell to the floor, somehow escaping his grasp. I sat there, hand to the back of my head, holding on to some narrow cylindrical object I felt there. Looking at him in furious confusion.

Pocket Square was once again impassive and relaxed.

Mo-hawk straightened. “We are from the construct. We were sent to extract your core.” He calmly explained. He held up his hand, as if to show me this ‘core’, “We are going to—” he began, but paused glancing at his empty hand, his face overcome with a look of confusion.

I brought my hand around from behind my head, holding my “core” up, glaring angrily at him.

“No! You don’t understand!” He cried out.

I scrambled to my feet and fled.

“Grab him!” Pocket Square cried out in alarm.

The blessed beautiful maiden slammed into Mo-hawk with everything she had, ramming him with her shoulder. Her head tucked. She knocked him off of his feet and went down a-tangle with him. Pocket Square had been turning to run after me, but as she went down she threw her arms around his legs tripping him and knocking him off balance. I loved her again for her quick thinking and bravery for what must have been the hundredth time. This wasn’t the first time one of us had come to the aid of the other.

I looked at her in admiration over my shoulder as I fled. Never suspecting that I was seeing her for what might turn out to be the last time.


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