Seven Deadly Swans – (day 7)

Seven Deadly Swans

 by

 Cecilia Dominic

I am the puppet master.

 

“J.B., you in here?”

 

I am the mastermind.

“Hey, J.B.?” 

I do not like being interrupted.

“J.B.?  Wake up!  Where do you want the swans?”

J.B., his eyes forced open by the question, lost the movement algorithms he’d imagined and bit his tongue – literally – so he wouldn’t snap at his new “assistant” Tally.  She’d not figured out yet that when he was in his creative mode, he was not to be disturbed, something she should understand as an artist.  But shoulds didn’t apply to Tally, whom he couldn’t even fire because she was his boss’ niece.  Like, she should shave her armpits so he didn’t imagine a “mew!” coming from them every time she lifted her arms and the tank tops she shouldn’t wear revealed the balls of fuzz hiding under there.

He squinted against the light she’d flicked on and saw she’d stacked seven boxes, each two feet by two feet, on the corner table he’d been keeping clear for his mechanism assembly.  She stood with hands on her hips and looked at him with green eyes lined in sparkly purple eyeliner, her layered tank tops again failing to cover her feminine failings.  Sure, it was hot in there with all the computers, but wear a recycled bamboo t-shirt or something!

“I wasn’t sleeping, I was programming,” he said. 

“Yeesh, don’t jump down my throat.  And you were asleep.”

“I’ve got to make the damn things move naturally.  That takes complicated movement algorithms, which are not easy to program.”

“Blah blah blah.  Sloth is one of the seven deadly sins, you know.”

He stood with clenched fists, but smiled.  “And what do you know of the seven deadly sins?”

“I did a project for some Baptist church’s ‘Judgment House’ at Halloween.  I’ve still got the concept drawings in my studio.”  Which didn’t have heat, hence why her uncle had hired her as a seasonal worker to annoy J.B.

He grabbed a box cutter and imagined sliding it across her throat, but sliced the top of a box instead.  The special-order swan looked out at him with blank eyes, its flesh-colored plastic as yet unmarred by paint and its hollow gut as yet unfilled by the motors and other gadgets that would allow it to swim with its mates in Peter Dillard’s pond.

“So these are for the Dillard project, huh?”  Tally had unpacked three more of the swans and stood ankle-deep in packing peanuts and bubble wrap.  The swans stared at him, their beaks half-open, and he imagined them laughing at the mess, which he tried to ignore.  But she stepped to the side, and her combat boots annihilated a sheet of bubble wrap with a staccato crackle.

“Unfortunately.”  He clenched his teeth and unpacked another swan, stowing its wrapping back in the box.

“Hey, it’s a nice, big assignment.”  She held up a swan, which was about the size of a basketball.  “These will be fun to paint.  What else do we get to do?”

“He’s hired the performers for the drummers, pipers, ladies, lords, and maids.”  J.B. imagined the cacophony and shuddered.  “We get to do the birds and make them look realistic.  These guys will be swimming in the pond.  That’s what I was working on.”

“So you’ll be doing the gizmos and whatnot, and I get to do the painting?  Awesome!”

J.B. sighed.  Amalgamated Animatronics had other artists and programmers, so why he got paired with this flake… 

Tally stood back and looked at all the swans.  “Hey, we can name them!”

“Why?”

“C’mon, J.B., try to have a little fun with these guys.”  She pointed a pencil at one of them.  “I dub thee Sloth.  And you can be Envy.  And Wrath.  And Lust.”  She went down the line, designating each swan with a deadly sin.

J.B. shook his head, but he had an idea.  And the end result would be a lot of fun for him.  He’d get revenge on his boss by embarrassing him in front of his biggest client.  All he had to do was keep Tally busy during the day so she’d get behind and bring the swans home to work on at night.

“Hey, Tally, don’t paint them right away.  Let me install the, er, gizmos in them first so I don’t accidentally chip the paint when I do.  These guys are complicated since they have to go in the water.”

She grinned.  “Great!  Just let me know when they’re ready.  I’ll start painting geese.  They came in yesterday.”

J.B. started with Sloth since that’s what she’d accused him of.  The day after she’d brought the sloth swan home, she listed around the workshop, not really doing anything so that she hadn’t even started Gluttony by the end of the day.  The following morning, she walked in, painted swan in its box under one arm, a candy bar in her left hand.

“I don’t know what’s wrong with me!” she said.  “I’m just so hungry today!”

J.B. grinned.  “Why don’t you take Pride home tonight?  Give him some purple accents.”

“I’m so glad you’re getting into this!”

Oh, you have no idea!

“I’ve got to say,” she told him the following day, “this one is my best!”

“Great job!” he agreed.  When her back was turned, he fished a small device out of the swan, pulled a USB cable out of his desk, and plugged the little recorder and speaker into his computer so he could put the next sound file on it.  While Tally slept, the swans whispered to her, each about its own sin, and he was glad to see that the messages were sinking in.  Without her realizing it, he was honing her as a weapon.  Envy would come next to ensure she would be jealous of her uncle’s wealth, then lust for his own entertainment, and then finally, on assembly day, wrath.  Uncle dearest wouldn’t be pleased to hear that his niece had been yelling at the groundskeepers and even Peter Dillard himself as he supervised, which he always did.  J.B. licked his lips.  Maybe she’d even become violent! 

On the day after she’d slept with the whispers of Lust, she didn’t come in.  J.B. checked his watch, then the clock, then his watch again.  Where could she be?  Had he programmed her too well?  Had she turned into a whore?  His computer had crashed when he loaded the sound file, so maybe it hadn’t worked.  Finally, at 3:00, he decided to stop by her apartment.

Loud, angry music greeted him when he knocked on the door.  Apparently she liked it rough.  He licked his lips again, anticipating how he’d approach her, and how she’d receive him.  She jerked the door open and caught him mid-lick.  He pulled his tongue inside his mouth.

“J.B.!  Just the person I wanted to see!”  She crooked her left index finger at him.  “I have something to show you.”

He followed her inside.  This would be too easy!

The head of Lust the swan sat on her dresser on a piece of black velvet.  She’d painted red lips on it and pointed teeth.  It various pieces lay scattered around it.

“What did you do to it?”  J.B. picked up pieces of the shattered swan and looked for his little speaker.

“Looking for this?”  She held it out to him and snatched it back when he reached to take it.

“Okay, so you figured it out.”

“You’ve been manipulating me this whole time!  Was this a game to you?”

He folded his arms and shrugged.  “You said to have fun with it.”

“That’s not what I meant.  But you messed up, J.B.  That wasn’t Lust.”

She grabbed a long knife from a drawer in her night-table.  He tried to dart around her, but she held his wrist and pulled his face so close to hers that he could count the sparkles in her purple eyeliner.  He’d been so distracted by her armpit fuzz he hadn’t noticed her toned biceps, and he couldn’t wriggle out of her grasp.

J.B. closed his eyes and imagined the graceful paths of the swans through the water.  “What do you mean?”

She held the knife against his throat.  “You mixed up your sound files.  That was Wrath.”

 

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17 Responses to “Seven Deadly Swans – (day 7)”

  1. Tony Noland

    Ha! As a programmer, he should have known better than to release it without a trial run for debugging!

    Great one, C.

  2. Cecilia Dominic

    Thanks, Tony! This one was fun to write.

    CD

  3. David G Shrock

    Fun story! And more deadly sins. Swans and sins. Perhaps too much pride in work leads to overlooking the critical details.

  4. Cecilia Dominic

    Thanks, David! Yep, sounds like Pride got him in the end.

    CD

  5. Marisa Birns

    Really wonderfully clever, Cecilia. And scary!

  6. Icy Sedgwick

    Aw this is awesome – really cool concept!

  7. Cecilia Dominic

    Thanks, Marisa and Icy! That’s the problem with weapons — sometimes they turn on you. 🙂

    CD

  8. A.M. Harte

    This one’s great! I love the way you combined the seven sins and swans.

  9. Seven Swans A-Swimming | A. M. Harte

    […] Hats off to author Cecilia Dominic as well, who was my co-partner in today’s prompt and cleverly twisted the seven sins and the seven swans into a romping little tale. […]

  10. Patti Larsen

    AWESOME! Had me right to the end! What a fun concept… stupid swans. LOL

  11. Chuck Allen

    I love your story. A great mixture of themes and so much fun to read!

  12. WA_side

    Well, he had thought wrath would be the ultimate ….. 😀

  13. Jim Bronyaur

    Love the concept and the story was great. Thanks SO much for joining this year! 🙂

  14. Eric J. Krause

    Good story! Guess he should have made sure which was where. But at least he got his wish that wrath made her violent…

  15. Cecilia Dominic

    I’m so glad that everyone enjoyed the story! Thanks, Jim, for allowing me to be a part of this!

    CD

  16. TEC4

    Very, very clever … nicely done and the bad guy got what he deserved. To quote Evvy in “The Mummy”: “Nasty little fellows such as yourself ALWAYS get their comeuppance …”

  17. Susan May James

    What a great idea! I loved the way you tied in your theme for the day and this is such a good read, it really kept me captivated!
    Well written & well done!

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