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“Curo the Filthmonger”

A Tale of Art and Survival in the Cold Embrace of Outer Space

**Winner of the 2017 Saints+Sinners Fiction Contest**    .

This story was inspired by incidents in the life of the artist, Michelangelo. In 1529, Michelangelo produced drawings for proposed fortifications of the city of Florence. It maybe have been the creation of these plans that led the artist to flee the city for fear of his life.

Why I chose to turn this story into space opera is not a question I’m sure I can answer!

“Curo the Filthmonger” is a tale about power, about a supreme commander in danger of losing his life, and an artist who has nothing but his brilliance and powers of seduction with which to save his own.

“Curo the Filthmonger” can be found in the collection, Saints+Sinners: New Fiction from the Festival, 2017,
ed. Paul Willis and Amie Evans. Paperback and ebook can be purchased from Bold Strokes Books, and Amazon.


He was brought before my throne at the ordained hour. I admit to feeling some disappointment, now that he was washed and dressed in fresh garments. True, he was young, and his reddish curls fell appealingly across the pale skin of his brow, but the legs in his tights were too heavy, his stance too stolid, lacking in that lithe, floating vitality that never fails to move me. He was an unprepossessing youth, with neither the charm that came from good breeding, nor a natural, animal appeal. But what was truly fascinating was the way, despite his desperate circumstances, he acted like he belonged in my court, like he had been born to it. If his wrists had not been cuffed, one might have mistaken him for my latest favourite.

Who had dressed him so extravagantly? True, I had asked for him to be presented in my throne room, which request called for a degree of style, but here he was in vermillion and titanium, hologram landscapes scrolling on his cuffs, and a plumed hat of such overblown daring that only a career courtier of some standing would dare attempt it.

Myself, I was elaborately armoured—too formally for the interrogation of a provincial criminal. The armour practically doubled my size, making me an almost mythic creature of metal and synthetic muscle. The war helm gave me a frightful countenance—fiery eyes and enormous, curving horns which crackled with arc light. When I had earlier entered the chamber, a surprised silence fell over the courtiers. Why was I dressed as if confronting a surrendering general, or as if I had to meet my son, the Waxing Lord?

Curo could not hide his fear. Who would not be afraid? His crimes against my august rule were no trifling matter. But fear, I could plainly see, had not blinded him. Those remarkable eyes were alive, taking in the details of my throne room in quick, darting glances. And I knew that he saw more than gold leaf and patina—he understood the structures underneath, could likely already sketch the chamber from memory. What did it mean to an architect of his skill and sensitivity to be standing in this storied room?

“You are the one named Curo?” It was barely a question, and the impressive overtones produced by my helmet made me sound all the more intimidating...

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