The production of some goods is harder (and stranger) than for others…
Kerwin sat and focussed his mind. He tried as best he could to shut out the various distractions in the room, but he found that he could not. He was acutely aware of the ticking clock, the impatient examiner, his mentor on the viewing platform, and the various other pupils around the room.
He was standing in the slate-grey robes of a trainee, but the power stabiliser on his back was the real thing. He reached into his core and found some measure of peace.
In front of him was a jar. The wax seal around the edges was still intact, and it was three-quarters filled with water. He swallowed, trying again to turn his mind to the task.
The Art was like a ghost around him. When he quieted his mind, he could feel it, smell it, but to try to look directly made it disappear. He closed his eyes, letting the Art settle around his shoulders like a cloak.
He reached out for the jar, his gloved hands acting like a channel. The Art flowed through him, swirling like liquid through a drain. It travelled along his arm until it was flowing into the jar. It settled there for a moment before merging with the water.
There was a long moment where nothing happened. Kerwin realised that he was holding his breath and forced his diaphragm to relax.
The liquid started to bubble. It stirred, ripples forming on the surface. The jar and the table stood completely still, but the liquid began to move, agitated. He tried to push the Art gently into the liquid, to soothe the transition, but it rebelled against him. His eyes snapped open.
The liquid in the jar began to froth. Bubbles rose from the bottom of the jar and there was a faint tapping sound as the glass rattled on the table. Kerwin’s eyes grew large and sweat beaded on his brow.
An ugly dark red stain appeared in the water and spread quickly through the jar. Kerwin couldn’t hold the Art in check anymore and began to siphon it off before the jar broke and he failed the test. He slowly reduced the power in the jar until the liquid ceased its movements.
He stumbled to one knee.
The inquisitor in the corner made an involuntary move for his pistol, but stayed his hand before it got there. The examiner strode forward and broke the seal on the jar. He looked carefully inside, sloshing the contents around before sniffing it carefully.
“Is it…?” The examiner looked up to the viewing gallery in response to the question and frowned. He pulled a rope from his sleeve and dipped it in the viscous, red substance. He motioned to an assistant in the corner, who wheeled forward the animated corpse they had earlier strapped to a trolley. The creature made as if to bite the assistant, despite being tied down and muzzled. The assistant carefully placed the trolley and scampered away.
The examiner stepped towards the undead creature and gingerly dragged the rope across its forehead. There was a faint hissing sound and a small cloud of smoke issued from the point of contact. The corpse writhed as though in pain and renewed its attempts to bite. The examiner ignored the captive and walked back towards the jar.
“Yes, it is! The liquid has become Cardinal’s Blood! This water has truly been blessed.” He turned to Kerwin. “Trainee Kerwin Nagendru, you have passed your tests. Now, your real work begins.”
Kerwin struggled to his feet and bowed to the examiner as the man continued. “You will make ten of these jars per day. There is much demand to be met!”
Kerwin closed his eyes, a single tear rolling down his cheek.
Fiction pieces are an integral part of all Warzone publications, and have been since the first edition. War Stories is a series of short fiction pieces that appear in CTC Magazine each issue. This piece is from issue #1. Have a look at the CTC Magazine archives here, or get a hold of their latest issue here. Also check out their Facebook Page.
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