By Ellie Stewart

A pair of eyes, bluer than the midday sky, gleamed in the black dungeon. It had worked. The master’s invention had finally come to life as expected. As soon as the news was broken to the rest of the town, the old tinker on the outskirts of civilization would no longer live the life he’d lived before. Surviving off of uneaten food thrown out by vendors in the heart of the town at the end of the day would seem like an ancient custom. Rilano could only hope he’d be receiving some of the shares as the master’s loyal associate and partner. 

“Is this it?” Rilano peered through the darkness at the blue pearls looking back at him. He’d known the eyes would be blue, but he’d never imagined they’d appear so bright, so vivid.

The master snarled beside him. “What more were you expecting?” Rilano felt his cheeks pink, realizing how his question had sounded. 

“Will it move?”

“Of course it will move, Rilano.”

“When will we be able to see it? When will we light the room?”


“What will we do if it fails?”

His master nudged his arm, a gesture Rilano hoped was friendly but seemed a little bit too hard to be. “Close your mouth, Rilano. If anything causes this experiment to fail, it will be your never-ending questions.”

The subject shifted, producing a groan like nothing Rilano had heard before. A groan with such might it seemed to shake the room. Rilano stumbled backward, his back slamming fast against the stone wall. “Sir—”

“Shh…” The master’s hush shook like Rilano’s trembling knees.

The groan had been louder than any noise Rilano himself was capable of making. Maybe I’m just quieter than other humans, he told himself. And this one is created, after all. The noise had been nothing a crafted person shouldn’t be able to muster.

The glowing eyes disappeared. It took everything for Rilano not to ask his master whether this was supposed to happen. He knew it was. Trust the process, he’d been told many times by his mother when the master was locked away in his lab for hours at a time. He knows what he’s doing. 

The two glowing circles appeared again, but this time they were closer. The creature had moved without making a single sound. No, Rilano had lost track of his own orientation. It was a trick his mind was playing on him under his stress. Months had led up to this moment, and now that it was here, he feared how his master would react if something went wrong. He relieved the tension in his shoulders, but it quickly returned as soon as his mind strayed from it.

The room was silent except for slow footsteps in front of him. The stride of the master drawing farther from him, a sound Rilano could recognize from anywhere. The old tinker was approaching his creation. Rilano gathered all the willpower he could muster to stay put, to not interrupt the master’s stride and insist he should keep distance between himself and the blue-eyed person. Trust the process.

The footsteps came to a stop, and Rilano realized his eyes had been shut. He didn’t know why; he wouldn’t have been able to see anything anyway. He almost closed his eyes again when he heard a gasp from his master. Not the kind of gasp you want to hear, not the kind a child makes while peering into a toy shop. This was a choked, clotted sound as if air were trying to escape from a closed throat. The sound of a fish deprived of water, an eagle taken away from its sky.

And then the eyes rose. They ascended higher into the thick blackness, their wide pupils like moths in search of light. Rilano’s chin raised as he followed the eyes with his own into the heights of the dungeon. He remembered back to the planning table, the sketches his master had drawn on the page. The body he’d scribbled out. The body had looked much like his own, like the master’s, like any person’s body. The creation, when completed, wouldn’t be taller, bigger, greater than any person Rilano had met before. It shouldn’t have towered higher than him. As these eyes peered down at him, heads above his own, he felt smaller than an insect next to a horse. His back slid down against the freezing wall, his legs folding beneath him. 

“Rilano,” his master, his dear friend, squeezed out from somewhere in the abyss. “Light.”

Rilano felt blood rush to his legs as he tried to stand up. His shaking knees didn’t allow any weight to burden them. He fell onto his elbows, crawling across the rocky floor to where he’d left the tinder box when they’d entered the dungeon. Once he’d found it, he struggled to get his trembling hands to cooperate, heaving the iron tamper off the top. Had he known he’d be violently shaking when he needed to use it, he would have brought a lighter lid. 

He wrapped his fingers around the striker and the flint, aware that time was running out before who-knew-what happened to the master. Rilano had known approaching this creature wasn’t smart. He should have warned his friend. If it weren’t for his dignity, he might now have a hand helping him to get this fire started. Trust the process. He’d always wondered if he should still trust the process if he suspected the process was setting stones for a disaster to roll into town. How wrong his mother sounded now.

Sparks flew from Rilano’s hands as the master’s desperate pants and gasps continued to seep into Rilano’s conscience. Come on. He felt eyes watching him, but he couldn’t risk looking up at the enormous beast and losing the fire. He could see the orange glow now in the bottom of the metal box. Just a little bit more. With a few more strikes from the flint, the tinder was aflame. Rilano braced himself before looking up.

The striker dropped to the ground with a clang. Rilano gasped as a monster recoiled into a dark corner of the now-lit room, clutching the master in a giant, clawed hand. This gasp wasn’t like a child or like a fish out of water. This gasp was like a man who had just seen his worst fear come alive. Something he’d thought could only exist in his imagination, in his nightmares. A failed experiment. An abomination. This thing was far from human. This thing with its skinny yet somehow steel-like structure was nothing like what Rilano had seen sketched out on the table. They’d planned on creating an expansion of a human, not a corrupted version of the giants he’d heard about in old myths. 

Rilano knelt, frozen, as he watched his master, the one person he’d talked to most, confided in more than anyone else, struggle in the powerful grasp of this beast. His mind raced, searching for any kind of solution. All he could think of to do was grab the flint from beside the tinder box and heave it at the monster. He watched it soar through the smokey air, realizing too late that he should have aimed better. It slid past the creature, barely scraping the side of its hideously deformed jaw. 

The giant’s eyes strayed from the master; its viselike claw dropped him to fall onto his knees on the stone floor. The glossy eyes, pupils dilated, fixed upon Rilano. He stared back, fists and jaw clenched. The master crawled toward him, hands outstretched, dark eyes begging for help. Rilano reached toward him, though he was unsure what he could do to help him. 

And then he froze. 

His feet, his hands, his body turned stone-hard in an instant. He willed anything inside him to move. His eyes were stuck staring into his master’s pale face, unable to move, unable to face the beast he knew was approaching. There was nothing he could do except squeeze a single word from his throat. “…Help.”

For a moment, the master’s dark eyes were soft, full of pity, condolence. Rilano knew his friend was a second away from taking his hand, somehow helping him to move again. Dragging him away from this monster. He’d seen this look before, when his master had taken the time to explain something to Rilano even though he knew he wouldn’t understand. The master had given him this look before letting him into his lab for the first time, before showing him his sketches on the wooden table. He’d had this look on his face when he’d arrived at Rilano’s father’s burial, when he’d agreed to help him dig the grave, when he’d placed flowers next to the small headstone on the hill. This expression had gotten Rilano through everything he’d faced, and he knew it would get him through this. He knew it.

But then the master’s compassionate expression faded, replaced by something unfamiliar. Something cold. The master’s brow furrowed as he stood and began limping away from the disaster he’d crafted. Rilano listened to the silence, broken by his only friend’s crooked and fading footsteps. Was the man he’d believed could change the world truly abandoning the only person who had supported him? The coward.

Rilano remained frozen as this new creature closed in on him. He remembered his mother’s soothing gaze and his father’s approving words long ago as he braced for transition from this world into the next. He could do nothing as the master’s creation overtook him, allowing the true monster to walk out with nothing more than a limp in his step and, Rilano hoped, the guilt of this day haunting him forever more.

Ellie Stewart is a 17 year old graduating high school senior from Utah. She writes stories and poems in her time that isn’t spent working with animals and plants. She plans to publish a novel one day and display it in a personal library among devil’s ivy and fish tanks.

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