Chapter no 4 – GENTLE GIANT‌


Rock Stanley stared at Geraldine Borden like she was a black hole, a gaping portal of darkness ready to devour him without a moment’s notice. His eyes felt just as heavy as the weight that he carried on his stout shoulders. The terror encapsulated in his pupils wasn’t anything new. The fear and uncertainty had been stapled to them long ago.

The old hag’s glare burrowed into him with the speed and ease of a laser beam. The discomfort that was transmitted left him fidgety. Rock reached up, removing his weathered flat cap, unsure how to respond.

“It’s a simple question,” Geraldine said. “How many were we supposed to have?”

Rock held the cap firmly in one hand and used his remaining sausage fingers to scratch the disheveled follicles on the top of his skull. The words still weren’t coming.

“Answer me, you idiot! How many?!” Geraldine’s aged vocal cords screeched.

“Nine?” Rock finally managed to blurt out.

Rock’s uncertain tone didn’t ooze intelligence, nor did his timorous nature fit such an intimidating presence. At six-foot-three and just under two-hundred-eighty pounds, he didn’t have to take shit from anyone. Yet, he did.

“Well, I’ll be damned!” Geraldine said. “It speaks! Then help me understand, why did you approach a single parent with only one child yesterday?! Furthermore, you waited until now—hours before they arrive— to tell me!”

“Y—You said that I shouldn’t bother you unless—”

“Not another word! You’ll never be worth a damn!” Geraldine placed her hand over her mouth, adjusting her dentures. Anger left them on the verge of sliding out. “This is why you’ll never be a Borden! Why you’ll never be worthy of my fortune! All I ever wanted was another deserving generation to continue once I’m gone! Is that really too much to ask?!”

Rock’s depression and angst only boiled harder with each cutting remark. He’d never been good enough. Not good enough for his blood parents, and certainly not good enough for his adopted mother. Geraldine was never shy about letting him know he hadn’t earned acceptance. He was an outcast, an idiot, a habitual failure—an uncommon man in the sense that, even while in the presence of others, Rock Stanley was still alone.

“If my ovaries weren’t barren, I would’ve had someone capable!” Geraldine said. “But instead, I had to wait almost two years just to get custody of a useless, sorry excuse like you! They didn’t even give me a female! Even when you were just a child, I knew you’d be shit! I didn’t get this successful,” she swirled her finger around at the collection of valuables in the stunning room, “by not having an eye for failure. I saw you, boy. I saw you coming unglued a mile away. I should’ve known better than to expect anything less. I should’ve known better than to believe I could somehow change you.”

She turned her back on Rock and looked up at the oil painting of herself that hung above the fireplace. It was a recent rendition that captured all her wrinkles and the oversized, hazelnut mole on her left cheek sprouting several inky hairs she’d neglected to trim. The vivid illustration outlined the compounded hatred and disgust she’d harbored for decades, a lifetime of disappointment trapped in her eyes. While Geraldine’s hair may have been a blend of yin and yang, her soul was the former—black as night. And within that sinister space laid the fuel to propel anything her corrupt mind could conjure.

Outside of the parlor, which was nearly the size of a high school gymnasium, the echo of footsteps approached, pausing at the doorway.

Just beyond the threshold, in his elegant brown slacks, white collared shirt, and brunet vest, stood Adolpho Fuchs. The curled brow above his left eye indicated a bit of concern.

“What’s all zhe fuss?” Fuchs asked, his German roots shining through as he spoke.

Geraldine squawked. “There’s only going to be eight now, thanks to this goddamn putz!”

Rock’s squared face and boxy jaw sank lower as he hung his head and clasped the edges of his flat cap with each of his bulky hands. His attire was a far cry from the aristocratic garments worn by Geraldine and Fuchs. The worn-out long-sleeve had small holes developing over his elbows, and his leather belt was hanging on by a thread.

The lack of respectable clothing wasn’t the result of financial limitations. Rock simply hadn’t earned the right to high fashion. The way Geraldine talked, he probably never would. Unless of course, Rock was being unleashed to seek out candidates for the playground. In that case, Geraldine had a special outfit she allowed him to don. No family was going to trust riffraff.

“And? Is eight not enough?” Fuchs inquired.

“Nine is the number of children my mother had,” Geraldine said. “And her mother…and I just…” She paused. There was a quiver in her bottom lip that she struggled to subdue. “I just wanted to know what it was like to be her for a day. Just a day.”

The German couldn’t help but chuckle.

Geraldine glowered. “What’s so funny, Mr. Fuchs?”

“Nothing, my lady,” Fuchs replied, the amusement dissolving off his face.

“When my mother fell ill, out of all my siblings, it was me that stayed by her side! When all the others left, I stayed. I deserved this.”

Even Fuchs, who had been around Geraldine for many decades now, wasn’t so much shocked by her outlandish standards, but more by the rare display of emotion she’d offered them a window to.

“I’m sorry, I wasn’t aware,” Fuchs replied.

The emotion saturating her cadence quickly evaporated when she thought about what came next.

“We’ve had several individual children come and play here in the past,” she said. “The low number amounted to the safest approach. But, as you both know, today is special. Today we take a risk! Today is about the family!”

The madness in Geraldine’s eyes flared. It wasn’t so much about family as it was about the family, the one she’d always wanted but was incapable of creating. It was about molding an extension of her own genetics into

what she saw fit, about having an intimate connection with the mind she aspired to groom.

Geraldine still had Rock, but as he’d grown, his company was nothing like she’d envisioned. She would never look down on the rest of the world with Rock. She could only look down on Rock, along with the rest of the world.

If Geraldine had gotten the family she desired, there was a chance none of the day’s events would even be necessary, that her corrupt mind would’ve been occupied elsewhere, and the vindictive philosophy it housed might’ve never come to be.

But that wasn’t the case.

“These lowly peasants wallow in filth and poverty, yet, ironically, they’ve created something even my wealth can’t buy, the thing I wanted most, something even a brilliant mind such as yours couldn’t give me, Mr. Fuchs.” Geraldine turned to Rock. “These heathen parents have potential in their seeds. Generational potential! Their pathetic, utterly pointless legacies can be furthered by simply existing, by being graced with bodies that function properly. It’s not the result of action! They didn’t earn anything! They didn’t do anything! It’s dumb luck! But that luck runs out today. That unwarranted opportunity shall come to an end.”

“Zhat it will,” Fuchs said.

The German brandished a warped smile that conveyed he was every bit as sick and in line with the ideas Geraldine put forth.

Geraldine put her eyes on Fuchs once again. She mirrored his grin until another thought wormed into her brain and stunted it.

“That’s if this numbskull can be effective for one day,” she said. “It’s probably too much to ask, though.”

Geraldine fixed her glare back on Rock. He hung his head and his hands began to shake. As his cap bobbed up and down, Rock tried to imagine he wasn’t there. As beautiful as The Borden Estate was, to him it was a prison built of gold. None of the castle’s luxuries could make it worth his stay.

Rock lived inside an echo chamber. The rage-laced rants Geraldine regurgitated with cunning consistency ensured there would always be resounding reminders of his inferiority. The points were always punctual, so he could never forget.

He was a failure.

He was a lesser human.

He would never be good enough.

It was not just how Geraldine saw Rock, but also how Rock saw himself.

“Zhe boy will never be perfect,” Fuchs said, “but he has secured you eight. We must be grateful for those efforts, otherwise, we risk ruining zhe festivities. You mustn’t let one bad apple spoil zhe bunch, my lady. You should still have some joy, for today will be far different zhan any other zhat we’ve ever witnessed.”

Geraldine glared at the old man and let the words Fuchs offered simmer in her brain. A smile crept over her haggard face. “Maybe you’re right. It’s not perfect, but I suppose we’ll just have to make the best of it.” She turned herself back in Rock’s direction. “Go to my room. It’s time we dress you properly before our guests arrive.”

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