[personal profile] gmtaslash
Title: Excerpts from the Book of Clive
Author: [personal profile] gmtaslash
Rating: R
Notes: Gosh, it's been a productive day. Creative Writing Prose Portfolio submission, Excerpts from the Book of Clive. Which we totally intend to get round to actually writing someday soon. Concrit welcome as usual, and many many thanks to [livejournal.com profile] sedri for being the most awesome beta we could ever wish for.



From far above, the world is a bluish pearl in an ocean of black. A dewdrop. A favoured child of an otherwise barren and uncaring cosmos.

They say that as above, so below, and so it is, for here, shining dully amongst its fellows on a green leaf, is an egg, translucent green - a world of possibility.

Beside it, waiting patiently, are the expectant parents. There were five eggs here the day they were laid, but there are only three now - an egg may be a world of possibility, but many of the possibilities that await it include being someone's lunch - and of the ones that remain, two are damaged.

Although they do not know it yet, these parents are destined to have only one offspring from this clutch.

The egg cracks!

'It's starting, Peter!'

'Sh! You'll scare it, poor little mite.' Peter Bolina nudged his wife with a delicately patterned velvet wing, and leaned in closer to observe. Raindrops pattered on the leaf as they watched the movements within the egg.

A few moments later, a tiny caterpillar could finally be seen determinedly munching its way through the remains of its eggshell. Verity Bolina reached forward to gather her child to her with one fragile foreleg and waited with bated breath for the other two to crack.

They never did.

'There there, dear,' said Peter, patting his wife's thorax comfortingly. 'These things happen, old girl ...'

'Only one,' Verity sniffled.

'There's always next year. And he looks a healthy little chap. Look at those horns!'

'They are rather fetching,' Verity conceded.

'Come on,' Peter said, after a few more moments of gazing in adoration at his offspring. 'We must take him to the Wormwode, to see what he shall be called.' He chewed his moustache thoughtfully. 'I hope he doesn't end up lumbered with something dreadful.'

'Like your brother Humphrey?' asked Verity with a smile.

'Hmph!' And with that, Peter flapped his dark wings and soared up into the sky. Holding her baby carefully, Verity followed.

The Wormwode, famed village wiseman and purveyor of substances both magical and illicit, resided under a particularly fine patch of rhubarb, which he was rumoured to cultivate with strange concoctions to better facilitate his alchemy. He was rarely seen anywhere else, and sure enough, as the Bolinas approached they saw a telltale plume of curiously pungent smoke rising from the rhubarb. They landed, shaking the water from their wings, and approached reverently.

'O Wormwode, fount of knowledge of past and future, he who sees-'

'Just 'hello' would have done,' said the Wormwode, putting down his mug of tea and beckoning them forward. 'And you have come to see me for a ..?'

'A naming, if it pleaseth thee, O wise and-' Verity fell silent at the Wormwode's raised eyebrow.

'Let me see the child.'

The caterpillar was pushed forward into the Wormwode's gaze, where it trembled slightly under the scrutiny.

'Hmm,' began the Wormwode. Verity flinched, but the the wiseman wasn't finished. He slurped his tea thoughtfully, and then began to declaim: 'I see great things in the child's future.'

'Sounds promising,' Peter said.

'He will face many choices, and he will not fly the migratory route of his ancestors. He will fall in love most wondrous with a being pure of heart and not of this world. Together they will tread a path not of their forebears' choosing,' the Wormwode continued.

'Or not,' Verity muttered.

'Is this code for teenage rebellion?' Peter wondered.

'Ahem! There's more, if you're interested.'

'We are, O great and mighty-'

'Yes, yes.' The Wormwode cleared his throat, and continued. 'He shall part ways with men! He shall choose his own destiny, and in his choices the fate of the world rests. He shall be a beacon in dark places-'

'With men?' Peter interrupted, frowning. 'But he's not a man anyway.'

'Look, do you want to hear this prophecy or not?' the wise-man asked, a little put out by the irreverant interruption.

'Yea, O venerable seer, who dost see the fates of all,' Verity said, prostrating herself before him and kicking her husband none too subtly. 'Tell us, O great Wormwode, with what name shall he do these mighty deeds?'

'It is a worthy name for deeds of greatness, indeed,' said the Wormwode. He coughed. 'As I was saying. He shall be a beacon in dark places, and a book of wisdom shall be his constant companion. Generations after shall utter his name in hushed voices, and that name shall be ... CLIVE!'

***

Tales of doers of mighty deeds typically begin with them as adults, forever cut off from the maternal apron strings and the guiding paternal hand, as if sprung, Athena-like, fully formed from the brow of Zeus. But such impressions are erroneous - children who grow up mighty seldom start out that way. And would the tale of the beautiful swan have been so appealing had he not grown up an ugly duckling?

***

'Clive!'

'Mother! Have I told you how ravishing you look today?'

'You're not getting around me this time, child,' warned Verity.

'I'm not attempting any such thing, ma belle Maman. Simply commenting on your general pulchritude.'

Verity sighed. Peter had already washed his forelegs of most dealings with the child, exasperated with his son's apparent inability to grow up. All the other children of the same age were pupating by now, but not Clive. No, Clive simply sat around entertaining himself with reading and, apparently, constructing florid phrases in a horrendous mix of languages.

Unfortunately, he also had a habit for creative destruction. Verity folded her forelegs, surveying the localised chaos surrounding her son. 'This simply will not do, Clive,' she said sternly. 'How will you ever manage to maintain a clean and safe leaf for your children when you can't even keep your room tidy?'

Clive assumed his best innocent expression. 'Dearest Maman, they say that the state of one's living quarters reflects the state of one's mind - clearly,' he said, waving a pseudopod at the mess, 'my mind is still developing, growing, becoming steadily more ordered with each coming day, but filling with necessary information along the way. I simply need a little more time for filing, as it were.'

From the other room came a loud snort. 'Filing? Is that what they're calling it these days?' Clive's father asked from behind his newspaper.

'Well, you're not filing this,' said Verity, lowering her voice as she pulled one of her best stockings from the heap. 'Honestly, Clive, what have I told you about borrowing without asking? What would your father think if he were to find this?'

'My path does not lie alongside that of my father,' said Clive loftily. 'The Wormwode said so himself.'

Verity wished fervently they'd never told the child about the prophecy.

'Yes, but you still live under his roof. Clive-'

'Do not fret, Mother darling. Let not anxiety curl your admirable antennae even one jot.' He started gently herding Verity back to the doorway. 'It drives me to distraction thinking that I might distress you, that I might turn even one scale of your wings grey. Please, allow me to redeem myself.'

'Well-'

'Adieu, Maman, adieu,' said Clive, and closed the door.

Verity thought a very unladylike word, and then, for want of anything better to do, took the dog for a walk. At least he does what I tell him to, she thought wistfully.

***

Alas, all good things must come to an end, and so it was that, one bright and sunny May morning, Clive and his father could be heard having an almighty row.

***

'One Hundred and One Things a Larva Can Do?'

'It's a working title,' Clive said evasively, reaching for the notebook. Peter took flight, and held the book out of his son's reach, hovering above the chaos of the room.

'A novel, eh?' he said, stroking his moustache approvingly. 'And to think, your mother and I thought you were spending all your time locked away in here playing clarinet solos, as it were.' He came to rest on the top of the door, and opened the scuffed notebook.

'You mustn't look yet, Papa! It's not finished. I haven't been able to find anyone to try out pages thirty-six through sixty-seven,' Clive said, bouncing up and down on his hind legs in a futile attempt to retrieve his magnum opus.

'If you'd just metamorphose, you might have more success,' said Peter, frowning as he flipped past the title page. Three pages in, he stopped, turned the book round through ninety degrees, and stared. His proboscis flared in a manner that indicated imminent explosive rage. 'What do you call this?' the butterfly hissed.

'Um, the Reticulated Dragonfly? Look, Father, it's important to me, this is a literary niche that hasn't been filled yet. Not just that, it's scientific - there's a whole untapped field in entomological sexual practice, and no-one's even investigated the effects of neoteny on-'

Unfortunately, in averting his gaze from the labelled, annotated and unsettlingly graphic illustration on page twenty-seven, Clive's father had noticed something even worse. The caterpillar followed his eyeline: Hanging from the dusty lampshade like a dying octopus was a suspiciously familiar garment.

'Is that your mother's suspender belt?' Peter managed at last, gaping.

'I was testing its elastic properties. Page forty-seven needs restraints with a bit more give in them than usual. It turned out to be a little too good,' Clive said, vaguely apologetic.

'A little too-' Peter glared at his son. 'Why were you - wait, is that lipstick?'

Clive swiped a palp over his moustachioed face and glared back. 'I'm an adolescent, Pater darling,' he announced. 'I'm supposed to experiment.'

'You're supposed to have grown up by now! When I was your age, your mother and I were already on our third clutch!'

'My migratory path will differ from that of my father!' Clive shot back.

'You're damned right it will. Starting now. Out!' He flapped a wing angrily down at the door.

'You're just jealous,' Clive told him, sneering in an infuriatingly haughty manner. 'Because I have the world at my pseudopods, and a destiny, and - and a better moustache than you!'

Peter made an incoherent roaring noise, and ripped the manuscript in half. Clive let out a heartfelt moan of despair, and tried to catch all the pages as they fluttered to earth. Peter swooped down from the lintel and advanced towards his son, who stood his ground, quivering with rage.

'This will be the last you see of me, Father,' he said, with as much dignity as one can muster with a torn sheet of paper depicting unnatural acts of congress balanced precariously atop one's head, and turned upon his heel.

Beyond the door, his shocked mother stood in the kitchen, a claw over her mouth. 'Maman,' he said, inclining his head. 'I fear we shall not meet again for some time.'

'Oh, Clive,' she said sadly, but he was already gone, walking out into the unseasonably sunny evening to find his fortune in the wide world.

***

And so our hero did go forth unto the world, seeking vindication, destiny, and a willing volunteer to test out some of the more complicated positions being considered for his magnum opus. Many and varied were his travails, through paths murky and unevenly paved. Adventure beset him at every turn, until one evening, some months later...

***

In a grey and dismal city, many miles from the leaf of his birth, Clive was having a spot of bother. The grime-encrusted alleyway in which he currently found himself wasn't much of a problem - it reminded him somewhat of his childhood bedroom, though with rather fewer strains of malingering mould - but its occupant was proving decidedly uncooperative.

'...and then you just need to get that pedipalp-'

'You know, when I agreed to this I thought it would be a lot more straightforward,' said his companion for the evening, flicking her feather boa out of the way with a graceful toss of her gracile head. 'And less time-consuming.'

Clive, trying to wedge One Hundred and One Things open with the posterior end of his abdomen and still keep it hidden from the prostitute's view, ignored her. 'And then I need your antennae here-'

'No, look, this is ridiculous. You only paid for half an hour, and it's extra for bruises.'

'I'm the one paying, I say what we do!' Clive balanced himself against the slimy wall beside which he was encouraging his consort to contort, and pulled out his wallet. 'I can give you more money,' he added, with a hint of desperation.

'Yeah, but I have to be able to work again and I can't do that if you've tied me in a knot.'

'This is important! It's for Science!' Clive said, forgetting subterfuge and waving One Hundred and One Things at her.

She peered curiously at the book, blanched, and rushed out of the alleyway on fifty or so pin-sharp legs, never to work the back-alleys again.

***

Such occurrences, alas, were all too familiar to our hero. In the dark watches of the night he despaired of ever finding a kindred spirit with whom he could really nail the more specialised chapters of his life's work. Finally, in desperation, he sought the wisdom of that most venerable of herberts, the Wormwode...

***

'It's no good,' Clive said, throwing himself down before the Wormwode in a quivering heap of despond. Said venerable herbert ignored him entirely, his attention fixed on the heavy smoke drifting down from his pungent pipe. 'How will I ever finish my opus without a research partner?'

The Wormwode eyed the dog-eared notebook with little interest. 'It seems to me that you're not actually doing too badly solo,' he pointed out, stretching and resting his mug of exotic tea on one gnarled and hairy knee. He seemed, insofar as the caterpillar could tell, a little out of sorts.

Clive reviewed their conversation up to this point and realised that he had yet to preface a single remark with the self-abasing words of worship that the Wormwode would never openly admit to preferring. He eyed his mentor, and decided that dignity was a small price to pay for some actual helpful advice. It was stupid, really, the things he did to pander to this dried-up old imago, but needs must.

'O Wormwode, most respected of sages, keeper of knowledge esoteric, arcane, and erotic, tell me; how may I find the resources to proceed with this, the greatest work that I in my unworthy way may bequeath upon the world?'

The interested gleam came back into the Wormwode's eyes. He cleared his throat noisily, producing a sound reminiscent of advanced consumption. 'Well, there's always kidnapping,' he began.

'Tends to end in incarceration,' Clive answered, looking disgruntled. 'Being locked up with a horde of corrupt and sweaty characters is hardly going to help.'

The Wormwode raised a disbelieving eyebrow.

'All right, but only with section seventy-one.'

The Wormwode chewed the end of his pipe thoughtfully. 'Ladies of negotiable affection?'

'Tried that,' Clive said dolefully. 'Section ln(2π),' he added helpfully, flicking to the appropriate pages and thrusting them under the Wormwode's nose.

The Wormwode took the notebook and perused it for a few moments. Then he looked up. 'You're going to need someone with a lot more time on their claws than I have to spare for this,' he said. 'But don't worry, I've got just the thing.'

'What is't, O venerable-' Clive withered under the Wormwode's glare, and changed tack rapidly '-sir?'

'Write to this company,' said the elder, handing him a hastily-scribbled address. 'Tell them what you're looking for in a ... research assistant.'

'The Stables, Amsterdam - Stallions for Hire,' the caterpillar read, somewhat dubious.

'I guarantee they'll have someone of the pedigree you're looking for,' the Wormwode assured him, settling back with his mug and trying to suppress an evil chuckle.

***

And so it was that our hero was introduced to the doe-eyed, golden-haired vision of loveliness who was to become his love and his confidante in all things. Their love was indeed beautiful and passionate, after a slightly rocky beginning...

***

In the musky-scented twilight of their boudoir, Lucien eyed Clive doubtfully. 'Are you sure we'll, y'know... fit?'

Clive looked around theatrically before taking a lengthy drag on his joint. 'None of our appendages appear to be hanging off the bed, ma belle.'

'No, I mean - us. We're not exactly- mmph!'

Clive had decided to take matters into his own legs. And palps. When Lucien managed to extricate himself, gasping, from the embrace, he started to push away, wild-eyed.

'That,' he said, scooting towards the foot of the bed, 'was quite possibly the weirdest experience of my life.'

'I prefer 'exotic',' said Clive a tad huffily. 'And I'd like a bit more credit for my creativity - it's not like you've got normal parts, you know. How on earth do you manage to eat, let alone indulge in foreplay, with mouthparts like that?'

Lucien didn't really have an answer to this. He started to wrestle his shirt back on instead. 'No, look, sorry, I think there's been a terrible misunderstanding. I'll have the office return your money, honestly, I just don't think we're compatib- whoa!'

A few minutes passed, in which the compatibility of mandibles, maxillae and manparts was established with alacrity and not a few surprised squeaks. Eventually, Clive looked up, his moustache in some disarray. 'Still have questions?'

Lucien gulped. 'Um-'

'Oui, mon amour?' asked Clive, more than a little distracted by the movement of the boy's throat. The brochure might have lied about The Stable's employees' flexibility and prowess, but their description of Lucien's manly grace and magnetism had not been exaggerated. It was making his haemolymph circulate faster than ever.

'No - no questions,' Lucien said tentatively. 'Just, um. A ... confession.'

'You can tell me anything. I want this to be an open, trusting relationship, darling.'

'Well, uh, I've ... I've never actually done. This. Uh, before.'

'... what?'

Lucien leaned forwards to pick at the delicate burgundy threads of the bedspread, and didn't meet Clive's gaze. 'I'm a ... you-know,' he explained, waving a hand vaguely and looking a little embarrassed.

Clive sat up and examined his new paramour with interest. 'Really? You've yet to experience the carnal delights of-' He stopped, seeing Lucien's blush. 'Tell me, mon chou, what made you decide this was the job for you?'

'The fact that it paid money? And meant I didn't have to live with my mother any more.'

'With your mother. Hmm. And so you've never...?' Clive wiggled his eyebrows and various of his legs and pseudopods. After a few seconds' staring in blank incomprehension, Lucien got the message.

'Nope. Well, I thought that was sort of implied by the word-'

'Fair point.' Clive pondered, and then grinned. He went to fish under the mattress. Lucien began to wriggle away again, wary of whatever an insect might keep under the bed.

Clive produced a thick and leatherbound book, from which many loose pages and oddly lacy bookmarks protruded. 'Lucien, ma petite fleur, I have some reading material for you ...'

***

After some initial confusion necessitating detailed diagrams, Lucien proved an enthusiastic student of the Caterpillar Sutra, and together they brought the research further than Clive had ever dreamed it might be advanced. Under the caterpillar's skilled tutelage, the human even drafted two appendices on the advantageous disparities between endo- and exoskeletal limbs in various scenarios. Their joyous partnership was fruitful indeed...

***

Alas, bliss cannot always reign, even in the happiest of households, and so it was that one day, Clive went into the bathroom to find Lucien, semi-nude, peering at his protruding gut with an expression akin to horror.

'Ma belle, what's the matter?' Clive asked, sauntering up behind him and wrapping a foreleg around his beloved's chest.

'You're not going to believe this,' said Lucien shakily, prodding his stomach gingerly.

'Why, what's the matter?'

'Clive...' said Lucien, turning to face the caterpillar. His lower lip wobbled as he struggled for words. 'I think I'm pregnant.'

Clive opened his mouth, but his brain wasn't equipped for this scenario, and nothing came out. He was fairly certain he'd deliberately gone for a mail-order boy toy to guard against this very occurrence. He blinked a few times, and then joined Lucien in poking at the stomach on display.

'Are you sure it isn't gas, mon petit chou?' he asked eventually, in lieu of any more sensible response to this news.

'I know I'm not as clever as you, Clive-' the reproach in those beautiful and excessively-lashed eyes made the caterpillar squirm a little '-but I think I can tell the difference between a baby and indigestion.'

'But you're male.' Clive was absolutely certain about that. He'd checked, repeatedly, from a whole host of unusual angles.

'Yes, I'd spotted that,' Lucien said through gritted teeth. 'Along with several other very important points, like the fact that you're a caterpillar and I thought you were sexually immature! That's the only reason I agreed not to use a ... well, you know!'

'Excusez-moi?' Clive asked, taking a step back from the irate human. 'The stains on our sheets, not to mention my life's work, can attest to the fact that I am anything but immature!'

'Yes, but...' Lucien deflated slightly, but his voice still held accusation. 'You're meant to be firing blanks.'

'I'm a caterpillar! Who says I fire anything?' Not for the first time, Clive cursed himself for failing to tick the intelligence box on the requisition form for his lover.

'You've got a gun,' Lucien pointed out, wagging a finger at Clive.

'That's for hunting deer, mon p'tit papillon. And I think we're meandering far from the topic at hand.'

'You're right. When are you going to make an honest woman of me?' Lucien crossed his arms over the protrusion of his belly defiantly.

'Woman?' Clive was confused, and probably justifiably so. He perched on the edge of the bathtub and regarded his definitely masculine other half quizzically.

'Toyboy, then.'

'I don't think honesty is the issue here, ma belle. I think fertility is. Specifically your fertility.'

'And yours. I hardly did this on my own,' Lucien pointed out with a pout.

'No,' Clive conceded. 'Even you're not that bendy. But we're hardly compatible, are we? If you consult the Biological Species Concept, at least.'

'So I'm now the Virgin Mary? Except not a virgin? Clive, you really confuse me sometimes.'

'I know, mon chou.' Clive sighed and stood up, reaching out with several legs. He waggled his moustache enticingly. 'Come, let me kiss your confusion away.'

'Not on your nelly! Not until we've got the abortion sorted!'

'Excuse me? The what?'

'Well, I'm not keeping it,' the human announced, turning aside and reaching for the medicine cabinet.

'Is there something about the fruit of my loins that offends you?' Clive asked, perplexed.

'There is when it's stuck up my bum!' The caterpillar's confusion only deepened at that, and Lucien gesticulated wildly with his free hand as he explained. 'Where do you think it went?'

'Then where is it growing, mon amour?' asked Clive, worried by the mental images the conversation was now throwing up, and also by the agitated manner in which Lucien was rifling through the cabinet and knocking lotions and potions into the sink in his haste.

'I haven't the foggiest!' Lucien wailed, on the verge of tears. 'And why the hell haven't we got any laxatives?'

***

And so it was that our heroes set forth once more to visit the wisest of all shamans, hoping for a miracle, or failing that some wild carrot, Momordica charantia and purple-leaved albizia. But their journey was fraught with danger, and many times they were waylaid by mysterious and malevolent forces. Many dragons, witches and other fell creatures did they encounter, and many quests did they discharge, and all the while Lucien's belly grew rounder and rounder with each passing day, each successful mission, each new foray into uncharted territory for the sake of Clive's great work. And with these epic clashes 'gainst the minions of darkness, prudishness and publishing, they took their first steps on the path to Clive's eventual ascension to his destined subversion of the apocalypse.

Date: 2009-05-18 04:29 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sedri.livejournal.com
Love you guys, too. :) Welcome!

Date: 2009-05-18 11:50 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cassie5squared.livejournal.com
*fighting laughter*

Oh gods.

You two are determined to give me a hernia.

Brilliant. Utterly brilliant.

Date: 2009-05-18 08:31 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] agenttrojie.livejournal.com
We're determined to make you *laugh*. The hernia is a side-effect.

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