Augromme thrashed and roared. He scraped around the enclosure, trying to turn around but was unable. He was sore and he was thirsty. He kicked with his back legs. He stamped with his forelegs. He trumpeted and the result was gargling and expectorant. His flanks and his legs were skinned and scabby, punished and weeping fresh sores that were discernible even in his repudiated, zombie flesh.
This tumult caused quite a stir on the other sides of his encasing walls. Small, roving eyes crowded up the darkness of several peeping holes. There were several peep holes, all drilled in at strange, titillating angles of the creature in the Box. The patrons scored in, keen to catch a glimpse of the ornery beast whose massive whole they could only extrapolate from bits and pieces.
“He’s got horns!” one child imagined aloud.
“I see spots!” Another chimed.
The crowd was a healthy melange of local peasantry and the occasional dreaming damned with their precious indigo tickets. Ungulen was taking tickets today and the line worked itself at a slow and steady pace that required the oversight of an adult. The lever boys, Ungulen had noticed, did far better under the pressurized intake of crowds on an opening night or a particularly popular sideshow. Afternoon work was no good for their bucking spirits.
Violet lingered nearby in the grass and Ungulen waved to her. She came over.
“Long faces leave traces,” Ungulen scolded her gently. She was unmoved by the sentiment. He tried again. “Something amiss?”
“It’s just that he’s upset.” Violet kicked a dirt clod and pulled a slim, homemade cigarette from the inside of her jacket.
Ungulen took a few more tickets from excited farmhands and then fixed Violet with a quizzical eyebrow. “Who’s upset?”
“Him. The elephant. Doesn’t it bother you?” Violet took a teensy drag on the cigarette and coughed delicately into her elbow.
“Since when do you smoke?” Ungulen observed.
Violet pointedly took a longer pull on the cigarette and suppressed a growing nausea.
“Alright” Ungulen shook her off, hoping the topic would turn.
“How can you listen to that? Don’t you have any feeling for him?”
“Ah.” Ungulen finally understood her complaint. “Because we’re cousins of some sort? Herds of a feather?”
“You’d think,” Violet shrugged and it was pert and irritable. Ungulen couldn’t hold back a smile and gently took the cigarette off her. He took a long drag of it himself.
“If yer going to start smoking, you could do with making ’em a bit less lumpy.” And then, after a moment, “Is this to slim down some? You’re already fit enough to do jumps. What’s this fer? Got yourself a new fella?”
Violet scoffed and took the cigarette back. She went to drag on it again but instead became entangled with retrieving a piece of grass from her tongue. Presently she continued with her accusation “So you don’t think anything of his pain? Of that poor creature stuck in a box to be mocked and looked over. Inspected like?”
Ungulen sighed deeply and turned his massive, shaggy head towards the Box. “I suppose I could. Except I know him quite well. He’s a mish mosh upstairs, love. Never knows where he is or why. Creatures that old should be expected to die. But this one can’t. Brought back from the dead for some wicked warlock’s purpose and then forgotten about once the ritual was all said and done. He’s just a remainder. Like the last speck of porridge in a pot.”
Ungulen shrugged. “I feed him kippers now and then. He earns his keep. Just like the rest of us.”
Violet blushed in anger. She couldn’t tell if his words stung her or if the cigarette had suddenly induced a sharp headache. She suddenly flicked her cigarette to the ground.
“Maybe one day, Drutherstone will put you in a box,” she seethed.
Ungulen turned that one over with care. “Doesn’t seem likely,” he concluded, scratching his neck scruff but Violet was already marching away.