From Reedsy.com prompt Write a story that includes someone saying, “You’ve got this.”
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“No, no, no! That’s all wrong!”
I look up from my work at my mentor who is shaking his head, long scraggly white beard swaying with the motion. His bushy white eyebrows are drawn into a frown, nearly covering his eyes. I use my forearm to wipe the sweat from my forehead, trying not to smear anything from my gloves onto my skin.
“My boy,” my mentor continues, “you are a bright and promising student. You have done this before, and done it well. What is the problem today?”
I drop my head in shame. “I’m sorry, master. This project has taken much longer than any other. I am very tired.”
My mentor nods knowingly. “I understand, my boy. This is delicate work and you have done very well thus far. Only now do I see you begin to falter. Steady yourself. You know you cannot stop now. If you do, the project will be ruined.”
I squeeze my eyes shut, nodding at my master’s words. Yes, I think. I must focus. I cannot stop now. I’ve got this. I can do this.
I take a deep breath through my nose and exhale slowly through my mouth, centering myself, gathering my confidence. I can do this.
Opening my eyes, I examine the diagram I am following again. For a second, my vision swims under the bright lights of the workroom and I fear I may faint. I lock my knees to keep from collapsing. No, I tell myself, I will not faint. I will not shame myself or my master. This piece will be completed and proudly displayed with the others. The project would not be complete without this last piece.
Breathing deep a few more times, I resume my work, carefully, delicately, my hands steady. From the corner of my eye I see my master’s beard bob up and down as he nods in approval. The sounds coming from my work table threaten to distract me, but I hold firm. I will not be distracted. This piece will be finished and it will be my finest work to date.
My stomach roils. How long since I last ate? How many hours has it been? No, concentrate!
The table rattles a little as my work in progress writhes. I absently tighten the restraints and pick up the next tool I need. The project is coming along nicely now and I am pleased with my work. A quick glance shows my mentor is smiling and I know he is pleased as well.
“Well done,” he compliments and I allow myself a small smile. “This line here is particularly fine.” He runs a finger along the line in question and the subject writhes again. The restraints hold much better this time and the table barely even shivers.
I place a small magnifying tool over my right eye, select the finest needle in the collection, thread it and begin on the truly delicate work. My subject attempts to scream around the gag, but the sound comes out dull and low. No doubt the throat is raw from many previous attempts.
My mentor shivers will delicate and removes the gag. This has always been his favorite part. When the final touches are being added, the subject is weak and nearly expired. Standing at the head of the table, my mentor gently places his hands on either side of the face and leans over, his lips nearly touching that of the subject.
I finish the last of my work and straighten up, my spine popping. The subject exhales for the last time and my mentor breathes it in with a shudder of satisfaction.
“My boy,” he says, ecstasy evident in his voice. “You have outdone yourself. I always knew you would be my greatest apprentice and you continue to prove me right. I know you will continue to exceed my expectations.”
Exhausted, but thrilled, I allow myself a prideful smile and survey my work. It is indeed the best I have ever done. I pull the bloody gloves from my hands and wipe sweat from my forehead again.
“Shall we set it up, master?” I ask, a little breathlessly. He nods and together we hoist my finished project up off the table, and carry it to the far side of the room.
We set it up at the end of the existing line, positioning it just so. A few adjustments are made as each of us steps back a moment for a wider view. When we are both satisfied, we back up several paces. I stop as the work table makes contact with my lower back.
Crossing my arms and blinking my tired – no doubt, red – eyes, I survey the completed project with pride. Before me, my work is displayed. A line of what used to human females, seven of them, in a row. Each one has been dismembered, their parts exchanged between the bodies and reattached according to our designs.
The right arm of the first corpse was now on the left hip of the third corpse. The left leg of the second now attached where the right arm of the fifth used to be. So on and so forth, as had been decided long in advance. The drawing of the plans had been only step one, taking days to meticulously draw and tweak.
Step two had been obtaining the subjects. An endeavor that also took days. The third step was the work itself, the cutting and sawing, the dismembering and sewing. Nearly forty eight hours of unstoppable work and now it was finally complete. Now that it was done, I suddenly realized how hungry and thirsty I was, but I didn’t want to move just yet.
Anticipating my need, my mentor handed me a glass of cold water. I took it gratefully, swallowing several large gulps. He clapped me on the shoulder, “truly fine work, my boy. Truly fine work.” A large grin splits my face.
I knew I could do it.
Ok, well, I surprised even myself with this one. It’s pretty sick and disturbing. I think I need to have my head examined! hahaha