Sally lifted her heavy mallet. DeMontoya screamed. Sally brought down
the mallet against her chisel. The statue of the young man shattered. The torso
split in half. The arms fell to the floor. The head fell to the floor.
DeMontoya screamed. It started low, guttural, then rose to a banshee shriek.
The scream changed, then, into a kind of howl, rich, echoing
a hard, discordant wail. From outside, through the large windows,
other howls sounded, as if in answer. DeMontoya swung to face Sally.
His skin was pulsating now. There was a kind of auroral glow
obscuring his flesh. His shoulders humped up, and with clawed hands
he tore off his jacket, then his shirt. His skin was dark, hirsute and rippling.
He twitched and grunted with the effort of his transformation.
“Gorgon,” DeMontoya said, struggling to get out the words through teeth
grown to fangs, “this slaughter is on your head. I claim you as my prize.”
Sally didn’t move. She breathed deeply as the man-beast took a step toward her.
DeMontoya kicked away his sandals. Sharp nails on his clawed feet
scrapped against the floor. His eyes, red now, were fixed on Sally’s face.
Sally moved then, stepping to the side and toward DeMontoya.
DeMontoya crouched to pounce, but then shrieked again. This time
it was a scream of pain. And disbelief. The wood and silver cane
of Sally’s old servant had entered the monster’s back
and now pushed out through the creature’s chest. DeMontoya
clawed at the sharp point of the cane, but already his legs
were buckling. DeMontoya fell to the floor, convulsing.
His howling changed to a liquid gurgle, and then fell silent.
The howls outside seemed to rise in intensity. The screams outside
included human voices, voices of horror, of pain, of rage.
Sally stepped over the dead werewolf and the stone parts of his son.
She patted her servant’s shoulder. “The village was prepared?” she asked.
The old man shrugged. “As well as they could be. The soldiers
are mostly deMontoya’s men. But some will fight for the people.
And the people will fight for themselves. For you. Many will die.”
Sally nodded. “This whole province will be thought of as cursed.”
She looked around her work room. “Maybe this province was cursed
to begin with – having deMontoya and me both living here.”
The old servant shook his head. “God’s ways are not our ways,” he said.
Sally raised a hand, gesturing out the windows, to the screams and howls.
“This is not God’s work,” Sally said. “This is the Devil’s business.”
“No, Miss Gorgon,” her old servant said. “It’s all God’s work.
Whether we recognize it or not. The people know that.
The people understand that, if nothing else. That’s why
they’re fighting now. They may not recognize God’s ways,
but they recognize their hatred for the deMontoya’s.
And their love for you. Anything that ends with a creature like this
stretched out, stone dead on the stone floor, that must be God’s work.”
Sally looked down at the carcass, then at the shattered stone
that had been deMontoya’s son. “And the boy?” Sally asked. “Artist.
And monster, too. Yet he came to me. Perhaps
he came to me because he recognized something of himself
in me. And I don’t think it was art he recognized.”
The old servant touched his foot against the dead werewolf.
“That’s a monster, Miss Gorgon,” he said. He pointed
at the wall, at the portrait deMontoya’s son had painted. “That’s you.”
Sally took a breath, let it out slowly. She looked at the portrait.
Then she looked out the windows. Screams and howls
still echoed outside. Sally said, “Nobody will live here after this.
They will call this land cursed. But where does a curse end?
I understand that more Separatists from England are sailing west.
To Vespucci’s territories. I’ve heard they’re building towns
across the Atlantic in a place they’re calling the New World.
Is it possible for a new world to be different from the old?”
The old servant didn’t speak. Sally looked at him and smiled.
“I suppose,” Sally said, “that a new world might be like a new block
of granite. It might be anything an artist chooses to make it.”
Now the old man did speak. “This is the only choice any world
can face,” he said. “To be shaped by artists. Or used by monsters.”
Sally nodded. “Yes,” she said. “But if I go, do I go
to this New World as artist, or as monster?”