Tattoo: The Books of Glory

a webserial about people who are not like us

Tattoo Book 5, part 3.10

Posted by harmony0stars on March 8, 2010

Choosing a room for Edgar was an easy enough decision. She put him in the room directly down the hall from her own. It lacked its own bathroom, but she figured he probably wasn’t used to such amenities any way; the prospect of toilet training him was not something she was looking forward to. The only other free bedroom was directly across from Robert on the third floor, and given Robert’s reaction to the other boy so far, it was probably best to give him a little space for the time being.

Edgar was easy enough to tuck into a bed, though he seemed baffled by the concept. She expected she’d find him under the bed as often as on top from the way he rolled around, struggled with the blankets, and hung over the side to look underneath. She should probably just save herself some effort and put the mattress and boxsprings on the floor. It would save her time later if he continued to hide under things. Ruffling his hair affectionately, she went to check on her other guest.

Cindy had fallen asleep with a book in her lap in the other second floor bedroom. She jerked awake as Glory slipped Austin’s Sense and Sensibility from her hands before it could fall. “Everything go okay?” she asked with a jaw-cracking yawn. Glory couldn’t help but notice the dark circles under her eyes and felt bad about making her wait at all. She’d really thought the problem of Edgar could be solved within a few hour’s time.

“Not exactly,” Glory said gently, setting the book on the night table. “But at least he’s a little bit more presentable than he was.” Cindy gave her a quizzical look but Glory figured the woman would see for herself in the morning. “There’s a lock on the door, so you can go ahead and sleep in the bath if you’d be more comfortable that way. We can get started on looking for Chelsea in the morning.”

The woman made no comment, as if she had already given up hope. She had lost track of time in Miskatonic’s bestiary only to find that months had past, months during which anything might have happened to Chelsea. Well, Glory wasn’t quite ready to admit defeat. She’d promised to help, and she would. And then she’d focus on reuniting with her own missing family.

Going up to the library, Glory decided to let Robert sleep. It would only be another three hours or so until he had to get up for school anyway. She’d grab him as he passed by to go downstairs. In the meantime, there were the articles the ghouls had given her to consider.

To call the pieces of newspaper ‘clippings’ was a kindness. Some had been wadded up, she supposed to keep multiple pieces together. Others consisted of an entire torn page which she had to search for the pertinent article. Some of the clippings were so crisp and clean, they might have been taken from a library, while others were so smeared with filth she was leery of touching them despite the fact that she was probably immune to any diseases they might carry.

Frankly she was surprised that the ghouls were in the habit of reading newspapers or reading at all. It wasn’t that she’d expected them to be illiterate, although it wouldn’t have surprised her if they were. How much of their literacy was inherited with their knowledge of languages, she wondered with stirrings of her old excitement at a question without a solution.

Despite their appearance, ghouls were obviously not the subhuman creatures Scott had made them out to be. A pity he would have been more interested in their biology than their intelligence, especially considering an article she’d once read which posited that human creativity and genius was incontrovertibly linked to insanity. Were ghouls really as mad as Ehecatl has suggested, or were they simply intelligent in a way that set them apart from other races.

And on the subject of Ehecatl, was his race defined as much by their sharp tempers as their reptilian appearance. If ghoulish intelligence was inborn rather than learned, a serious study could lead to a breakthrough in understanding, not only of language, but in the advancement of intelligence in general. The human genome was nearly as strangled as the cheetah in so far as diversity went. Phoenix had mentioned tribes of men, of which Ehecatl’s people were one… so while the ghouls might seem very different, if humans and ghouls could produce fertile young, as the ghouls had seemed to suggest, perhaps they were not so different after all. It almost made her want to give up the study of magic for genetics. Now there was a puzzle she could sink her teeth into. How many tribes were there exactly? Were people with the Innsmouth look a third tribe?

With a sigh, Glory pushed her growing excitement away. Whenever she started putting ideas together, connecting dots she hadn’t known were dots until some new piece of information was revealed, it was a like something inside her opened… a mouth, hungry and eager to taste the pieces, savor them, arrange them into new flavors. Information was her bread and water, the only thing that made life worth living. But she had more important things to worry about than the allure of a new intellectual daydream. If she wasn’t careful, Phoenix would probably start criticizing her again for becoming distracted. She couldn’t afford to lose her focus, not when Lori might be within arm’s reach.

Turning her attention to the scraps of newspaper, she could almost envy the ghouls. Some of the clippings were in French and German and even one in Arabic. The first two she had a smattering of from her readings, enough at least to figure out the gist of the article without a dictionary. The third, well she only had a very vague understanding of the alphabet, let alone the words they formed. Unfortunately only a handful of the articles were in English. Any other time she would have been delighted to expand her understanding of languages, but now… she didn’t have time to pour over the articles.

Phoenix… I don’t suppose you…? She chuckled in pure joy as the words became as clear to her as her mother tongue. Even the French and German clippings became more clear. She wouldn’t need a dictionary after all, perhaps she never would again. Thank you, Phoenix! She felt his surprise at her gratitude before he could cover it up with his usual condescending pride. He might know all of her shortcomings, but apparently he still had no idea what made her really tick.

Unfortunately, whatever pattern the ghouls had discovered remained indecipherable to her. Yes, most of the articles were about thefts at various museums, but they were hardly very forthcoming, especially those clippings where someone had been murdered in the course of the theft. She would have expected as much, as the police would want to keep the specifics of such cases private until they had been solved, but it didn’t make her task any easier. What had the ghouls seen that she couldn’t?

to Book 5, part 3, page 11

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