Ten Facts of Life in New Arcadia

Gargoyles and Grotesques

Every night before bed, LaRose went into the swamp in her mind, and used Pharos to look more closely at one of the monsters swimming in there. As she swam towards one, it would leave, and others would try to sneak along behind her, using her own shadow as a shield from Pharos. He swam in circles around her, trying to keep them away. LaRose kept this underwater dance of light and shadow going for as long as she could, but eventually a monster would almost get close enough to touch her, and she would break out. 

Once outside of her meditation, she did her best to recreate the monsters. Drawing was dissatisfying. She knew she would get better with practice, but she also hated the limitation of two dimensions, when these things barely seemed limited to three. She tried collecting bits from the trash and recycling, taping them into rough shapes and adding papier-mache to create the details. After a few days of a growing monstrosity on Mr. Nick’s porch, Uncle Taylor went into town and returned with modelling clay. Going from drawing and ad-hoc crafting to sculpting was like going from crawling to running in a single day. 

Something changed, the day she made the dog-porcupine-snake-fish in a clay form that was, if not perfectly accurate, at least able to capture its essence. When she saw it again, it was different. A few of its scales were losing that dull patina, and a slight shine was poking through. Its legs, rather than being limp monstrosities, were flattening, like they were trying to become flippers. Some of the eyes were disappearing; mostly the ones whose placement made no sense, like the ones embedded among the spines or lodged under a limb. She started imagining what would happen if that strange, twisted mishmash of a thing continued. The snakelike and doglike features could blend into something like a graceful seal. The extra eyes might end up clustered in a way that allowed for expression, and a more focused sight. The spines could lay flat, waiting for a threat to flare up, like a pufferfish. It would still be a sort of monster, but endearing, in its own way. 

She spent a day making a model of this hypothetical end point, and then over the next week made some in-between forms. The creature changed, faster and faster, and was less afraid of the light, which helped her sculpt it more accurately, and in turn she could make more and more accurate pictures of it. Then, one day, the shimmering, spiny, many-eyed seal left her. It swam away to the surface, and she never saw it again. 

She repeated this process over and over. Some monsters resisted it entirely, like the shapeshifting one that she was now certain was all the same creature, happening over and over again at the same time. But others even seemed to pose for their portraits. 

Neither LaRose nor Uncle Taylor nor Mr. Nick were entirely sure what was happening, but it seemed to be some sort of improvement. So Uncle Taylor kept buying clay, and LaRose kept making little monsters. 

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