TODAY’S BREW: Killian’s Irish Red. It’s St. Patrick’s Day! I drank it yesterday, too.
I hope you cringe at the second part of Edgar’s story.
Inscription 2: The Binding
by Julie Hutchings
“It’s as real as you imagine it to be. There is a spark in you, but you have to ignite it.”
Edgar twisted on the floor, a worm writhing in salt. The blackening wounds on his legs bubbled with infection. The pain of it was too much to write through. It was ruining him.
His mother did not touch him. The boy was beyond touching now, even if she had wanted to. The dark wood floor was lighter than the bruised black skin that covered the pages Edgar had shoved into the ragged cuts on his legs.
She was proud of her boy. He knew how to suffer for his genius. He knew how to create inspiration. What he had written after the butchering to his legs with scissors was masterful, legendary. The sort of words that when strung together create something new entirely, an emotion never known, a dimension never seen.
The child pulsed and rot on the floor with seeping genius.
“Edgar,” she whispered, quiet and smooth as spider silk in his ear. He had clawed his ear with overgrown fingernails, making it bleed. “You must sit up and eat or you will not have strength enough to create. You must continue.”
Edgar felt the devil creep closer, awakening his fitted sleep.
He moaned, a spiderweb of foamy drool connecting to his arm. The words kicked at him from the inside. He was never so glad to have cut himself and pushed the pages inside the wounds. They burned and stung, fueling his pained fingers. Crust closed his eyes as he tried to look at his mother. The rich smell of cooked lamb turned his stomach. But he knew he must eat it.
Flexing his stiff fingers, he took the glass of water she offered him from where she knelt on the floor. It dripped down his chin, making a river of pink from his bleeding gums.
A fine example of an artist’s life. Her boy was suffering for his craft, he would be magnificent because of it. She was sure he loved her more every minute for it. He was becoming a creator the likes of which the world had never seen.
Edgar gagged on the meat, his stomach turning. He held the bile down, but knew it would not be for long. His body shook with fevered cold, making him drop the fork.
“Mother,” he choked out, using his voice for the first time in days. “I think….I think maybe a bath. A hot bath to get my fingers working.”
His mother took his hand, pulling him up. He would not be able to stand on his own. His legs were hideous meat now, homemade stitches holding the wounds closed in pathetic attempt to heal them. They reeked of rot. His mother had gotten antibiotics, but did not think they were working.
She may have to give in and get him medical treatment. But how? Without exposing him to the world?
His legs were lifeless, causing her to all but drag him to the bathroom. His odor was appalling; she was glad he would no longer smell like urine and infection, if only for a little while.
Once lowered into the steaming bath, Edgar let out a deep sigh, and smiled.
For one moment, a tear pricked his mother’s eye, but only for a moment.
Pus leaked out of the bursting wounds on his legs. They looked awful and would not hold the stitches.
“Do they hurt much, Edgar?” she whispered as she gently cleaned his back, every vertebrae bumping under her fingers.
He just nodded, still smiling.
“What you wrote, my boy. It is the kind of work that speaks to generations. The kind of thing that is brought to classrooms. I am so proud of you, Edgar.”
“The pain makes me feel it all. I want to write more.”
“You should sleep, Edgar.”
He snickered, the smile gone now. “Mother, I may not wake up.” His eyes were closed, and he did not see that her eyes were dry.
Edgar was a prodigy, and his abilities would be realized. He would finish this masterpiece. But he had to feel those classics the same way, he had to absorb them, it had done wonders for his words. But the wounds on his legs were full to exploding with pages torn from the novels in his room, and would barely stay closed through the stitches. There had to be another way.
Edgar was clearly feeling alive when he got out of the tub, and was even able to walk without looking like a crushed spider. He would have the energy to write once she dressed the wounds.
She helped him lie on the bed, allowing him the comfort of it while she figured out how to keep his mental web spinning. He could finish this book tonight if he remained inspired by the great writers the way he had been. He had felt one with them, doing this to his skin. She couldn’t let some doctor take away his inspiration.
And she answered the question that had been plaguing her. No one would take the pages out of his wounds. He always put them back in, as it were. Edgar and his words needed to be bound together, and there could be no better tie than the very leather bindings that gave the words to him.
She took down what was now a shell of a novel, so many pages torn from its binding, wings clipped to keep them with her boy for as long as he needed them. It was not hard to peel the four inch wide strip of leather off the mess of remaining pages. It was perfect, just the length of Edgar’s tattered incisions.
She could see every rib as he breathed deeply and comfortably on the bed. Like he had when he was just a little boy, with only a glimmer of brilliance. He was so much more than that now. She ripped another binding off of a copy of Shakespeare’s complete works. Now incomplete, some of Edgar’s favorite pieces now a part of him.
The heavy thread she’d used to stitch his wounds shut and the needle still sat on his desk. She rolled the needle over and over in her fingers, taking deep breaths. Ready to heal her boy, to bring him closer to the genius they both craved.
Standing over his peaceful, mutilated body, she closed her eyes and listened to him breathe. She put her hand on his forehead, bending over to whisper in his ear as he slept. “Egar,” she said. “Edgar, are you too tired to write? Does your mind sleep like your body does?”
He groaned in response, stirring slightly.
“Edgar, it is time to finish your work. You will need your sleep after, but not now. And first,” she pressed a finger onto one of the blistering cuts on his leg, making him scream and jump up, “I want to take care of the work you have done on your legs.”
Edgar looked afraid, but quickly gave in, waking from his brief sleep. He saw the needle, and the spines of his now broken novels, and was confused. But it was not long before he understood.
“Mother?” he said, voice shaking, eyeing the fragments of books. He had childlike fear when he awoke, so unlike the strong boy she knew he was now.
She touched his hair, now clean, but still thin with malnutrition. “To keep your pages inside, where they will always be a part of you. The skin that was used to create those books, now will seal your wounds.”
His mother had novocaine. He did not know where she got it. She shot it into his legs whenever she took care of the infections. It did not do much to dull the pain, but the pain is what he felt with those writers now, something they shared. Soon he would be one of them.
He screamed brutally, once, when the huge needle went in, but when the slight numbness took away the ever present burning in his legs, he relaxed. The stitching could not hurt more than that.
It was not long before Edgar passed out, and his mother could stitch the book spines over his wounds without him wiggling. He would thank her tomorrow. She would give him ice cream, insist that he take it, and he would see the titles of his favorite works of genius as part of his very skin. They held inside the words he loved, the pieces of those great minds now pieces of him. She admired her handiwork, covering his unconscious, shivering body, pushing aside some of the crumpled paper that was always around him.
It was not his flesh, but the need to create that held him together. The bindings were the cocoon he needed, and his pain the catalyst to evolve.
Tomorrow he would spread his wings.