The Contessa Chronicles
The Valley Land
by Laurie Beth Jones
Below you will find the Excerpts from The Contessa Chronicles – The Valley Land.
Skinner Leaves the Ranch
“Get out!” He couldn’t believe he had heard those words…him, the most beautiful of them all, at one time the beloved. The blood surged in his neck as he strained against the sudden heaviness of his wings. Once his crowning glory, he detested them now. Quickly surveying his means of escape, he began to lighten his load. He reached for a feather on his right: Honesty. That one had to go.
It was the longest feather of them all. Then Humility. Kindness. Decency. One by one he yanked them out, hoping the sudden weight of them would fall from his shoulders as he plucked and discarded the feathers. At last he stood naked, alone. He shook the remaining spines of his wings and pulled them tightly into himself. There could be no wasted time or motion. He had to get out now.
He eyed the hole at the foot of the Gate, licking his lips at the challenge before him.
He fell to his belly, arms at his side, and began to crawl under, away.
EZ Lee Swayed also dropped down and followed. His wings, which had never really grown in all the way, were easily scraped off as they both slid through the hole.
A sudden flash engulfed them all. What was done, was done.
One day Dad sprinkled rose petals from the porch, leading past the clothesline — out past the studio—past the Library and Lab—right up to the Gate. He asked Mom to follow him there, leading her blindfolded for part of the way. He invited us to follow along with them.
When we got to the Gate he removed the blindfold and said to Mom, “Ta Dah!” Just below us, in a glen by a waterfall, stood two magnificent creations. They seemed just like us —but more dense…. Not quite so iridescent.
The new creations couldn’t see us. Dad said he didn’t want to alarm them until they adjusted to his scent and their new surroundings.
Dad turned to Mom and said, “Honey, I modeled them after us. That one there looks like me, except with better abs. I know you’ve been walking by and rubbing my belly, saying I have been spending too much time sitting under the lotus tree…”
“This one,” he said, pointing with excitement in his eyes— “This one here is made in the image of you! You were my inspiration.”
Mom stood in silence, tears welling in her eyes. We were delighted—amazed—stunned.
“Wow, this sure beats the dinosaurs,” I said.
Jess muttered to me under his breath, “Yeah, and this time he got the arms right, too.”
Mom looked at Dad and said, “This is Very good.” “This Is very good,” he repeated to himself, obviously quite pleased.
Mom said, “Who’s going to teach them how to read? I will start a literacy program first thing in the morning.”
I started jumping up and down. “I want to show them the Library and the Lab and the Studio!”
Jess said, “I want to take them fishing!”
Dad just chuckled his deepest laugh. “One thing at a time,” he smiled. “One thing at a time.”
We all turned toward the house. Mom and Dad walked back ahead of us holding hands. . .
Skinner In the Garden
After their exile, Skinner and EZ had positioned themselves right by the Gate so they could see what was going on. Ahh yes…the Experiment. Skinner had watched with great interest while Al had sculpted and carved, fashioned and shaped, and then breathed life into…
Skinner felt nauseated as he gazed down on the two Whatevers. They were parading around in their birthday suits just like they owned the place. Apparently, Al considered them “works of art.” Skinner thought he had overheard Al calling them names, although Skinner’s ears weren’t what they used to be. In fact, EZ had said, “I can’t see any ears on you at all,” one day when they were hanging around. Skinner thought the male was called “A. Dumb” and the female “Heave” or something like that.
“What are you gonna do now, Skinner?” EZ asked.
Skinner flicked his tongue a lot when he thought, and there was a whole lot of flicking going on. Suddenly he said, “I’ve got an idea.”
“Watch this,” he whispered as he slithered over to the female Whatever.
“I think you need something to cover up that cellulite,” he suggested.
“What’s cellulite?” she asked.
“Oh My God. It is the ugliest thing—second only to wrinkles!” Skinner declared. “What are wrinkles?” she asked innocently, sud- denly standing up, concerned.
Skinner quickly wrapped himself around her ankle and through selectively applied pressure guided her over to a small pond. There he had her look down at her reflection. As she was staring at herself, he crawled up one side of her body and positioned himself right next to her ear. He knew that if she looked beyond her reflection into the deeper pools of life, like Tess did, then the battle would be lost. He had to act now.
He quickly began to whisper as he sent a jolt down her thigh.
“There is no part of you that doesn’t need work. And the parts we can’t work on—you must cover up. Here—take these fig leaves. EZ stepped up and handed them to her.
“They are not nearly as fat as you are but will have to do until I start a new industry or two. Trust me. I alone will be able to help you feel and stay beautiful.” He smiled to himself, knowing that his work was to make sure she would never feel beautiful enough–ever.
Heave looked down at her reflection, with confusion now form- ing on her face. Skinner realized his job would be to keep her gazing at her looks for as long as possible. Because while she was doing that, he would be so much more free to do other things without her knowl- edge. Yes, keeping her “at the mirror and out of the studio” was going to be one his major mantras from now on.
“Come on EZ,” he said. “Let’s go.”
“That wasn’t hard,” muttered EZ as he looked over at the Whatever staring at herself in the pond. “And give me that extra fig leaf you’re hiding,” Skinner hissed. “A. Dumb will no doubt be claiming that he needs a bigger one.”
After that things went down pretty fast. Skinner remembered the details fondly.
Skinner handed the apple he had scanned that night to Heave and she handed it to A. Dumb and he bit into it and said, “Ow, there’s something in this apple.” Sure enough, he found a rolled up tiny scroll. A. Dumb and Heave had a hard time reading the words since they had skipped their first literacy lesson with Meg, wanting just to make out instead. So Skinner whispered and filled in whenever A. Dumb and Heave stumbled over the char- acters, which, in fact, was pretty often. He whispered most in A. Dumb’s ear since Heave kept distracting herself by leaning down and looking at herself in the pond.
Suddenly, A. Dumb declared out loud, “Heave, I was created first and you were taken from below my armpit!” Skinner could barely contain himself at this interpretation, almost falling out of the tree he was shivering so much with glee. “From now on we don’t create together. From now on, you must follow me!” Pop! Skinner’s left leg started to emerge.
“In fact, you must obey ME at all times in all things, ” A. Dumb continued. “I am the center of your world. Your desire will always be towards me!”
Pop. Pop! In came leg number two. Skinner could sit up now on the tree branch.
A. Dumb sputtered on, ad libbing as he went. “And do not ever try to teach me anything. I will be the one teaching you!”
(There! That will put Meg in her place, Skinner thought… Meg, that Know-it-all, Be-it-all, Beginning-of-all, End-of-all. Ha! Skinner had learned one lesson from her, and that was this—begin with the end in mind. How fortunate he was to be here now, in the Garden, in this phase of the Experiment.)
Skinner and EZ quickly began chanting from the shadows, “You da Man! You da Man!” as A. Dumb began to march around.
With each sentence A. Dumb spoke about separation and superiority. Skinner’s hands and then his fingers began to fill in, one by one.
When A. Dumb finally declared, “I am the Boss of every-thing here—every creature, every mountain was made just for me! And you too, Heave, you were made just for me, and to have my children, and bear them in pain!” Pop! Pop! Pop! Skinner snapped back up on his feet again—fully formed, and able to stand erect, as it were.
(“Wow, I think I like this guy,” Skinner thought. “Maybe he’s got potential.”)
Just then, Al walked back into the garden. “What is going on here?” he asked. “Why is she hiding her face from me? Is that a bruise under her eye?”
“It’s all her fault,” cried A. Dumb. “She made me lose my temper. Something just came over me, and I hit her.”
Suddenly Al roared like Skinner had never heard him roar before.
There was a lot of crying and denying. Mike and Gabriel showed up with torches again. Somebody had to leave. The Gate was locked. Blah Blah Blah.
But the important thing now was that Skinner was back on his feet— able to walk among them like the mighty one he was— and had been—before…well…you know.
Heave looked down where Skinner had been, but he was already gone, leaving behind a little trail of dust.
“Wow, Skinner can move so much faster since these two Whatevers came along,” EZ thought as he struggled to keep up with him. “Is it my imagination or are his legs even longer now than they were on the Ranch?”
Skinner will encounter Contessa many times in the Valley Land.
Read how she ends up there in the book…..
Blessings and Joy,