Sunday, August 16, 2015

Short story: De-stoning
For gorgons, getting someone to de-stone whatever poor buggers tripped across them at home was somewhere between spring cleaning and a community service. Medusa had them come by once a week, rather than once a month or even once a year, which told you all you needed to know about the kind of person she was.

"Looks like you're having a pretty good week this week," Beauty said conversationally, carefully gluing the tip of a bird's wing back in place. If you did the repair work while they were stone they always seemed perfectly whole after the potion had taken effect, and she'd decided a long time ago not to think about the details too much. "I've been coming here for months, and I don't think I've ever seen the numbers this low."

It took Medusa  a little too long to respond.  "Yeah." Another pause. "It's been good."

Beauty looked up at the gorgon, the sunglasses they both wore making it harder to see the expression on her face. But she could tell that her shoulders were hunched, and the snakes were hissing quietly as they brushed back and forth against her cheeks. "What's wrong?"

Medusa hesitated. "Nothing," she said finally, trying to brush the snakes away from her face. "I'm fine. Just tired."

The snakes weren't having it any more than Beauty was. "Nope, sorry, still don't believe you." She used the eyedropper to apply the de-stoning potion to the top of the bird's head, waiting until it had transformed and flown away before straightening. "Do it for your snakes, if nothing else. They're clearly worried about you."

Medusa sighed. "They can tell how stressed I am." She curled in on herself even more tightly. "Please don't tell your boss about what I'm about to show you."

Beauty tensed. "Is this the kind of thing that could theoretically get us arrested?"

There was far, far too long a pause. "Maybe not if we found a nice judge?"

Now she had to look, if only because it was rude to leave nice people alone in the middle of a disaster. Beauty followed Medusa back into the house, her brain cycling through all the possibilities of exactly what she might be about to see. "You know the constables won't care if you turned a burglar, right? They consider it self defense, and include the de-stoning cost as part of the bail."

The utter silence from Medusa quickly dashed her hope that the problem was that simple, and she braced herself when the gorgon finally stopped at a particular closet and opened it. Inside stood the stone figure of a man with longish hair and a shocked expression she could see even through her darkened lenses.

 Beauty didn't recognize him, but it wasn't as much of a comfort as it might have been. "Who is he?" she asked, lowering her sunglasses. "An ex-boyfriend?"

"Sort of." Medusa thunked her head against the side of the door, sounding miserable. "Remember when I told you about Perseus?"

Ah. He and Medusa had dated briefly, at least until he'd tried to chop off a handful of her snakes for a quest his prospective father-in-law had sent him on and she'd found out it was all an act. If he'd tried to chop off her head, she could have had him arrested, but it turned out the law was fuzzier on the question of living hair.

"Well, that explains a lot." Beauty turned to Medusa. "How long has he been like this?"

"Three days," Medusa said, voice slowly growing more indignant. "I know I shouldn't have, but he actually offered to pay me to kill some of my snakes. Of all the--"

Beauty held up a hand to stop her. "Sorry, but I'll be able to lie better if I don't know too many details." Then she moved forward. "How far away from your house do you think we'll be able to carry him?"


Perseus blinked, staring blearily up at the trees and Beauty's smiling face. "Where am I?"

"In the middle of the woods, and you're lucky I found you." She put on her best "innocent citizen" expression, which had been judged moderately successful by those who didn't know her that well. "A basilisk has been seen in the area, and you must have ticked the poor thing off."

He slowly sat up, still blinking in confusion. "I don't remember a basilisk. I was... I was going to meet someone...."

So she might have dropped statue him with excessive force. The chunk from the side of his head had been surprisingly easy to glue back on. "I don't think anyone lives around here." She held out a hand. "That'll be 50 credit slips for the de-stoning."

His brow furrowed. "Excuse me?"

She shrugged. "This stuff is expensive, and the boss is going to make me account for every drop. The Enchanted Forest Service sent me out here for animals, not you."

Still in a daze, he gave her the money. The following week, she gave half of it to Medusa.


Note: Beauty later appears in "Beast Charming"

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