September 23, 2023

Aldo and His Wife

Image Credit: Daniel Horne

“The thing you have to realize,” said Aldo, “is that a beholder always considers its own form to be the ideal standard.” 

His audience stared dumbfounded.

“That being said,” he continued, “there is actually great variance among them. Their skin can range in color spanning the entire spectrum of the rainbow. Not only that, but their hide can also run the gamut- from entirely smooth to rough and mottled. Though they tend to have ten eyestalks, even this is not constant!” Aldo crescendoed.

Some in the audience began to exchange tense glances.

“However, I can say with certainty their personalities are, for the most part, quite similar. They are quick tempered, jealous, and the embodiment of xenophobia. The thing they seem to hate most of all is, of course, other beholders.”

Aldo began to pace on stage, gesturing wildly to recapture the attention of the assembled crowd. He was a chubby man, and even the moderate effort of this performance caused him to lose his breath.

The fine theatre had seen better days. The molding and sconces were chipped. Every metal surface had acquired a thick patina. One could not find carpet that wasn’t in the process of fraying or moments away from beginning to. But with the house lights low and the spotlight on the crushed velvet curtain, it was easy to forget the venue’s condition of decline.

“Another commonality endemic of the beholder is their predilection for disintegration.” Aldo curled has hands into claws to emphasise this point. “And almost ironically, they are also known for the eye that produces their powerful antimagic field.”

He could tell he was in danger of losing his audience at this point. He felt a bead a sweat form on his forehead. He would have to move his in depth description of the beholder’s lair to later in the act. He needed to give the audience what they came to see. He cleared his throat.

“But I can tell you’re no common rubes. Your curiosity must be gnawing at the bone! Without further adieu, I introduce you to the star of tonight’s show… My wife!”

A beholder with slick pinkish skin burst from behind the curtain. It’s many eye stalks writhed with vigor. It’s central eye scanned the room. A long prehensile tongue wet its lips, which pulled the gloppy lipstick smeared around its mouth onto is jagged fangs.

Those assembled gasped. They were stunned to see the beat hover on stage. Lacking legs, it’s oblong, orb-like body seemed to defy gravity as it hung effortlessly suspended in the air.

Aldo started in again, “I know we heard so much about scorching rays and disintegration beams, but I must confess, the most surprising and alluring magic emanates from the eye that produces the charm spell.” Aldo could not help himself from breaking into a sappy, sentimental smile. “This is how she stole my heart.” He placed his hands on his chest. One of the creature’s eyes, festooned with dark eyeliner, blinked coquettishly and glowed with a faint purple light.

A few in the back rows gathered their things and began to make a break for the exits. This must have angered the beast, for from her central eye she issued forth a withering cascade of magic. The audience was frozen in its last moments, encased in a stone shell. To a person, the spectators were captured with faces stuck in terrified gasps as they realized their fate too late to do anything about it.

Aldo stayed silent a beat to let his wife finish. When it was clear she was done, he was able to resume the show, “But I bet you’re wondering, where does a beautiful creature like this make its home…”