An Old Friend… (part 3)

Is it bad form to end a chapter halfway through a flashback?


I used to run a book store, back in my youth. I had gotten it into my head that the writing was my calling, and that the best way to learn how to do that would be to absorb the accumulated knowledge of every author the world has ever known. My father seemed to agree, and he purchased for me the shop in question as a birthday gift, although for which birthday I cannot remember.

The shop was not very successful, garnering no more than three paying customers per week, but as a bastion of knowledge it was unparalleled. Bastions rarely supply the necessary funds to pay debts, however, and within a year the shop was to close. It seemed people were no longer interested in the printed word, at least from my establishment.

As I packed up the shop (exceptionally slowly, I might add) I happened across a small chest underneath a pile of books in one of the shop’s many corners. Upon further examination I found it to contain a small, yellowed sphere of a curious weight. It was a queer little thing, but I opted to hold onto it for a while, popping it into my pocket as I stepped out into the pungent air of the city.

It was a short walk back to my home, but with every step I could feel the orb getting heavier. It wasn’t becoming physically heavier of course, but it began to weigh on my mind more and more. An odd effect for a mere keepsake to have, but I began to covet it in the same way one covets their own bill-fold. As every person passed me on the street, I would plunge a hand into my pocket and wrap it around the orb to ensure it was still safe and sound. I had only just discovered the odd trinket, and now I was terrified that someone would take it from me.

I found myself hurrying home, and before long I was greeted by the large wooden door I had come to know and love. Bursting into my house, I dashed for the drawing room, threw myself into a chair and pulled the sphere from my pocket.

Ordinarily, I am not one to mindlessly cling onto keepsakes and trinkets, even when I was young. My home was a decidedly Spartan place, little in the way of furniture and no ornaments. Anything that would require dusting had no place in my life at the time, an ideal that starts to slip as you get older and you find yourself in need of a china tea service “for special occasions”. In fact, at that moment, the only thing present in the house that hadn’t come with it (other than myself) was the little sphere.

Despite being a perfect sphere, I soon discovered that the object was ill-suited to being rolled. As I observed it, I attempted to roll it from one hand to the other as a child does with a marble, but the thing would invariably stop halfway through its little journey. At first I though that perhaps it was weighted on one side, like the trick dice used by the alleyway swindlers, but I could feel no such thing when I held it. In spite of this, or possibly because of it, the thing kept me entertained for hours. No matter how large or small the distance between my hands, the sphere would always stop its journey in the exact centre of the space available.

After hours of playing with the thing I fell asleep at the table. I couldn’t bear to leave the sphere alone, and yet fatigue had set in; the only logical choice was to sleep at the table. In retrospect, such logic seems a little unusual, but at the time it seemed perfectly natural. So, with my forehead plastered to the table with a thin film of sweat, I allowed myself to drift off to sleep.

Then came the dreams. My youth was permeated by bad dreams of such lucidity that on many occasions I had cause to question my sanity, but I was also a particularly nervous youth. The dreams that I had that night, however, illustrated to me just how distant all other dreams had been. These were not just lucid, they were real.

I began stood in a forest of dead trees. Dead wood flaked from grey branches as a light breeze blew past my face, and I walked deeper into the trees. The sky was black and obscured the tops of each trunk, but the area near the ground was curiously well lit given the surroundings. I dodged a number of probing roots and creeping vines, obstacles that would have been hidden in any less light, before finally emerging into a clearing.

The clearing gave the impression that some vast pastry cutter had stamped a hole into the forest. Any sign of wildlife came to a halt with a noticeable crispness, with a distinct boundary that seemingly nothing from nature could cross. If pressed, I would describe the clearing as circular, although I am convinced that there may have been a corner in it somewhere, but I couldn’t tell you for certain.

A lake sat in the centre of the clearing, or at least what my mind judged to be a lake. It didn’t share many of the features of the more usual lake, being neither filled with water nor looking particularly lake-like. It looked more like a vast crater filled with an almost fluid mist, yet I just cannot bring myself to think of it as anything other than a lake. Perhaps it was the way the mist rippled as the creature emerged that cemented this image for me.

What emerged from the lake is described as a creature only because I have never seen a mountain move so fast. The knobbly façade rose before me, gleaming in the eerie light, and towered above me by a clear twenty feet. It’s growth was silent, yet every movement implied that it should have produced a cacophony of noise, as though a building were collapsing in reverse, perhaps. Glistening folds parted to reveal a multitude of what I assumed to be eyes, and a vast maw littered with needle-like teeth.

As you can imagine, it was an unsettling image, freakish enough to cause me to snap awake instantly. I hurriedly peeled my face from the table and grasped at the sphere, pushing it into my chest like it were a child. As my heartbeat slowed, I ran a sweaty hand through my already damp hair and turned to drink.

The regenerative qualities of a good whiskey should ever be underestimated. Many a bad day has been cured by a drop of the amber nectar, and I had cause to believe that today would be no different. A reflection in the glass, however, told me different.

As I poured my drink, I spied a figure standing behind me, in the doorway that lead into the hall. I didn’t risk turning around, fear had rooted me to the spot anyway, and I did nothing as he hissed at me.

‘Greetings, Mister Enoch.’


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