It was a knock at the door that woke Graham that night. The first night without the nightmare and someone had chosen it to hammer on his door. Groggily he made his way to the front door, throwing on a night gown along the way, not as a means to maintain dignity but purely to keep the cold at bay.
The knocking was continuous. A steady stream of bangs for a good minute before Graham started to unlatch the door. When Graham opened the door he was startled by the visitor. Stood before him was the most remarkable looking fellow. He was unusually tall, yet not quite a giant, although he lacked the girth to match his height. He was terribly thin, almost skeletal, his skin stretched tightly over his bony figure. Graham was sure he could see small rips in the flesh, like ladders in a woman’s tights, but in the poor light he just assumed his tired eyes were deceiving him.
The man’s face was what intrigued Graham the most, however. The eyes were wrong. They weren’t eyes, they were balls. Cracked porcelain balls rolling constantly within the man’s head. They were grinding in the sockets ever so gently, reminding Graham of the sound a pencil makes when run over a file. Tiny specks of dust were cascading down the man’s anorexic face. They were barely visible, but they were there all the same.
The man took off his hat, a large black item, and brought his “eyes” to bear on Graham, at least he gave that impression. His cracked lips slowly began to open. Graham got the impression that the man had not opened his mouth for a good while, an impression that gained some serious momentum when the man began to speak. There were no words at first only a dry rasping sound. The man persevered however, forcing the words through this dryness like a river bursting its dam.
‘You… are… Enoch.’
The first few words were strained. The man had forced them out with all his might. He coughed violently for a moment before talking again.
‘I have been sent to prepare you, Enoch.’
The words seemed more natural this time. The man had regained his verbal footing. Still, the fact that he knew Graham unsettled him.
‘Prepare me? For what?’ Graham asked reservedly.
The man’s expression didn’t change yet Graham could have sworn he looked confused. ‘For the birthing’.
Graham was shocked by this. He remembered what the dream had told him, about him being the midwife to something the creature called the Last Scion. Did the creature in his dreams send this man to him? This man with no eyes, no meat on his bones. Was this man a messenger of the creature?
He took a step back from the door, nearly tripping on his umbrella stand. The man stepped through after him, his legs appearing brittle and creaking with each movement. The unnerving balls in his eye sockets changed direction as he reached out a hand towards Graham.
‘Allow me to teach you what must be learned.’ the man said.
In the light of his hallway Graham could see he was right about the man’s skin, it was torn. There were tiny tears all over the man’s hand as if his skin was too small for him, as if it had been taken from someone else and forced over another’s skeleton. The skin was starting to go green in places too, especially around the tears, yet there was no smell of decomposition. It turned Graham’s stomach. He couldn’t trust someone that could be connected to the nightmares. Not until he knew more about them.
He snatched his cane from its place in the umbrella stand and levied at blow at the man’s stiff left knee. The cane was made of strong word and was designed for use rambling, it smashed straight through the man’s knee, rending his leg into separate pieces.
The man didn’t cry as he fell. In fact he gave no indication that he even realised he had been hit. Silently he folded to the floor, the only noise being the crack as his aged hips splintered upon contact with the floor. He lay perfectly still as Graham stood over him, cane in hand. His putrid lips opened again.
‘You have fire in your heart. That will serve you well. You have the instincts of a Myrmidon. That will serve him well. You first lesson is almost complete.’
The “eyes” span faster. The grinding became the only noise in the silent corridor. It was calling out to Graham. Pleading with him. Instructing him. He brought the cane down with all of his might, smashing the man’s skull to dust. The stretched skin sagged around where the man’s face used to be, losing its features. All that was left were the eyes, still spinning, unharmed by Graham’s assault.
Graham bent down to study the orbs. They were spinning on their axis like tops, ever so gently. They seemed important to him. Precious. He picked them up with his left hand and brought them close to his face. They were porcelain, that much was certain, yet they also were anything but. There was a power to the orbs that Graham didn’t understand, but he could feel it as sure as he could feel the night breeze blowing through the open door.
He shut and bolted the door. He could deal with the man in the morning. There would be no unwelcome visitors come the morning, the decent folk having decided to give Graham a wide berth recently, and it was unlikely the man would be going anywhere. The orbs would go in his safe. They needed to be protected, Graham knew that much. Why they needed to be kept safe? Graham couldn’t say, which was very different to not knowing, but much more frustrating. The reason was in his mind, floating through the fluids like a raft on a river. Yet, try as he might, he couldn’t get a clear view, he couldn’t crystallise it in his thoughts.
The creature put it there. That was the only explanation. It was putting things into his mind as he dreamt, inserting directives as though he were some sort of automaton. The orbs were important to the creature, but why? Graham considered destroying them but decided against it. It would be unwise to act so rashly and without reason. If the creature prized these orbs so much then perhaps he could use them against it. Perhaps not, but it was worth exploring. If not then he could always destroy them later.
But Graham didn’t destroy them later. They stayed in his safe, locked tightly and securely, until his second lesson began.