The sun hung swollen and heavy in the indigo sky, its faint red light casting shadows beyond mountains worn down to rolling hills. The keep on the rocky outcrop provided an excellent view of the surrounding countryside, and on the wall of that keep we find our protagonist.
It was one of her favorite places. She loved to sit and watch the world, but never once had she set foot in it. Father said she was too rare, too fragile. “Only one of you in the world, my darling, only one.”
It was frustrating. Golden eyes and carmine skin, long and delicate limbs ending in slender hands and feet: Father’s masterpiece. He had labored long and hard, dreaming of greatness and fame. If she was good, he promised, he’d take her to the city by the lake: the conference of magicians showing off their best works. She was his, of course: to be displayed like an exotic bird next to the book that held the secrets of her creation. She’d still be stuck, only in a different location. Not to mention she’d never once seen the contents of that book, the recipe of her life laid out on parchment.
That was going to change, and it was going to change now. She stood from her place on the battlements with an air of determination, and made her way into the stony bowels of her prison, towards her father’s workshop. Very few places in the keep were off-limits to her, but the workshop had been the one place that she had never been allowed to enter. Too dangerous, you see, with sharp objects and acid, and worst of all, knowledge to cloud her pretty perfect head and make her ask uncomfortable questions like “Why?”. Good thing Father trusted her, because she was about to do something unheard of. The heavy door of the workshop loomed before her, the sharp and heady scent of chemicals leaking from around it. She reached forward and grasped the doorknob, the forbidden fruit of knowledge sweetly cloying on her tongue.
It was dark. She could hear the steady crackling hum of trapped lightning, but she didn’t want to risk disrupting anything important just to turn it on. She squeaked with surprise when the room flooded with light as soon as she stepped in, but as soon as the shock wore off, all she could do was stare. The whole room was filled with equipment she couldn’t begin to comprehend, coiling tubes and vats of bubbling and and banks upon banks of whirring machines. In the very back of the room was a desk. There were bookshelves on each side of it, filled with books and scrolls and odd silvery disks in clear casings. The largest book of them all, her book, was laid out on the desk almost as if it was waiting for her.
Numbly, she walked towards the desk and placed a slender carmine hand on the scratched leather of its cover. Hesitated for a moment, slipped a finger under the edge and flipped it open.
Whatever she had been expecting, it hadn’t been this. Her stomach churned with horror and disgust as she stared in shock. There was a table on the first page of the book, innocuously listing various “experiments” and dictating page numbers for reference. On the opposite page was “Experiment One”, complete with carefully drawn images and notes that continued until page four. It...it was her, but... It’s skin was transparent, the bones had fused wrong, a pale and pulsing brain was visible above its drooling mouth and vacant eyes. She flips away from it to the next section, and her eye catches the last entry: “Terminated on day 16”. The next is an amorphous mockery, the one after is a chittering bony thing with a gaping maw lined with far too many teeth, and the dates of termination continue with them. Day 2, for the boneless. Day 17 for the bony thing. Each “Experiment” sickened her more but her morbid curiosity drove her ever onward. How? How could Father have done this? Her eyes welled with tears as number 23 was noted as having died of natural causes. The others...they...he made them. Had they suffered, and death was a release? Had they been murdered, fearing their creator as he approached with a syringe of toxin? Had they spoken? Begged and pleaded to live, to be freed, for their creator to feel something other than cold detachment because surely, surely, they had been made for a reason?
She turned the page to Experiment 31 and froze. The sketch stared back at her with eyes identical to her own, from a face with the same delicate bones and long lashes. 31 had been posed in a chair, her bent and twisted leg resting on a cushion. Other than that, they were the same. Utterly identical, minus the flaw the genetic code that resulted in the twisted leg. The book slipped from her numb fingers and she sat down with a heavy thump. They had not been creatures. They had been her sisters. Each of the malformed broken things in this, this...compendium of mistakes, they had all been her. She was all of them, but they were not her and she was alive because they had died. She was sobbing openly now, tears staining 31’s page and blurring the image of her. She couldn’t bear to check the termination date.
She fled the laboratory at a run and didn’t stop until she’d reached the top of the tallest tower. How many of them had walked those same halls, dreamed their dreams, laughed and sang and called him Father?
She was his masterpiece.
He returned, she said nothing. The air of the outside world was bitter and sharp, the city was too crowded, and she sat at the exhibition with that horrid book beside her and said nothing.
“She’s lovely, isn’t she? My best yet.”