Note: This is the first of the 12 Stories of Christmas I’ve challenged myself with. Check back tomorrow for another.
A man stood on the threshold of Ur’s abode; it was Genar, his tall, lanky frame made him appear alien to most people who regarded him, the extreme slenderness of his limbs often provoking revulsion and a nigh unbearable need to look away. To Ur, however, his visage was welcome, always.
Ur was a taxidermist of sorts, one belonging to a very particular specialization of the craft that focused on the taxidermist’s own body rather than that of deceased fauna. A very rare school now lost to the annals of history, what little evidence is left of the existence of this current lies with Ur, the last of the master craftsmen of the Hidden Ways, and a few scattered notes and diagrams that may be come by through no easy means.
It is a time of last things, thinks Ur to himself not for the first time in the past months. Many ancient, nearly timeless things have drawn to a close, leaving but a vestigial representation of their former ubiquity, the glory of halcyon days faded, corroded. A time of last things, things that will not come again, things that have been but will be no more, things – peoples, gods, religions, cults, universes – expiring and giving their ghost up to the origin, the Eye.
Ur, thus, was the last of an order which name is not spoken, nor written, but expressed with symbols of a script system that twists like snakes before the gaze that falls upon it and it communicates the essence of its meaning directly to the mind of the beholder.
Genar was paying a visit to Ur in order to watch and stand as a witness to the last work of the craftsman, who was working on the culminating opus of his life, and which would soon end as such. Ur enjoyed the company, even if Genar always asked, despite invariably getting a negative reply every time, about becoming Ur’s apprentice.
Ur could not even allow himself to consider the request, though he was sure Genar, if applied, would make a fine taxidermist himself. It was the nature of his final work itself that precluded the possibility of bringing someone new into the craft. Ur had to complete the work and simultaneously ensure that no other such craftsmen would remain thereafter. It was pivotal to enduring the success of a great many future endeavors.
Taxidermy, a Greek term that translates to arrangement of skin. The craft is relatively common in its most basic application, but Ur’s specialty is focused on the taxidermist working on their own body through the years and using it to tell stories of sorts. In Ur’s particular case, for his final work he was to give the enigmatic tools for some cosmological puzzle he did not even understand himself, but he understood what tools he was tasked with providing for the one that would come in time.
Ur toiled away under the curious, hungry gaze of Genar, sometimes for days on end without rest, carefully altering the nature of his corpus – which had previously displayed a great many different works – so as to change its architecture into a pattern that would communicate the necessary information to the one foretold. There was a certain amount of prescience in the craftsmen, some minor oracular abilities, that were tied directly to the work of the soon-to-be-extinct taxidermists.
Transmogrification by way of taxidermy is a painstaking process, one that requires a high threshold for pain, utmost control of biological process of the body, and a steady hand to ensure the best result. The craftsman has to convert sinew and bone into an architecture that mirrors the cosmos in a way, to portray a vision and awareness of the universe at large that needs to be conveyed with great eloquence into a language of dead-yet-preserved tissue.
Much like the current of the times, today would be the last of the work, the day Ur finished the crowning opus out of all his opera and simultaneously ceased to be. He was settled into place, as he had been for weeks already, allowing his living portions of body to slowly become inert, working on his own organs, removing, rearranging, trans-substantiating.
Over the recent days Ur’s craftsmanship had begun to take intelligible shape out of the apparent haphazard chaos that had preceded it, a form which even one who was not versed in the interpretation of the taxidermists’ designs would appreciate as a fine thing, a product of skillful, dedicated labor. Ur had modeled his body into a thing that, while retaining a semblance of the human form, anthropomorphic, was now a cosmogonic mosaic of former organs arrayed in a spiraling fashion that closed and narrowed into what was arguably the center of Ur’s body, a nautilus representing the real nature of the Universe or rather Multiverse for it is, in truth, multitudinous.
Genar watched on, and Ur could feel his beaming gaze, perpetually filled with amazement and wonder at what Ur produced. He had always found it childlike. There was no more blood left in his body, his life artificially maintained by arcane mechanisms, and the time drew near for even those artifices to cease their labor. He was done, now, and he could only exit the mortal coil with hope that it would be enough and that the one foretold would find his remains. In that, he trusted Genar to go forward with the final preparations and arrangements after his expiration. He really did wish he could have passed his knowledge on to Genar; he would have made a fine craftsman. Genar would have to settle for stewardship of the taxidermist’s legacy.
Time had been long in the place where Ur had once lived and plied his singular trade, and time has a curious way of distorting even the most well-meaning of hearts and gestures, to both the benefit or detriment of those involved, oftentimes independently from their intentions or actions.
And so it was that the body of Ur was sold by a debased Genar, who in his lonely stewardship had become plagued by a disease of the soul, one that gnawed away at his sense of duty and morality, and eventually his sanity as well. The taxidermist’s legacy traded off for scraps of the very craft secrets that had procured Ur’s final state.
What future Ur had envisioned and endeavored to honor was now jeopardized – lost, perhaps – and Genar? His bizarrely shaped body had transformed from what it once had been in those better days when Ur still lived into something only vaguely related to humanity in some primitive, and atavistic animality that was relegated to the dreams of small children who in their innocence were less shielded from humanity’s ancestral memories. Genar had toyed with the tools and what little remained of Ur’s ancient trade, effectively becoming a perversion of that lost craftsmanship, an abomination, a base affront at nature itself.
The one foretold by Ur had yet to arrive, and if they ever did, they would have to contend with Genar’s terrible, gnarled form and his even more twisted mind. They would not find Ur’s body there, no. What will become of the future Ur saw once, we might never truly know.