The words for this week’s CAKE.shortandsweet’s Wednesday Write-In were:
package :: jointed :: ribs :: monochrome :: wet ink
And, after much cogitation and deliberation, this story here is what I made out of ’em.
It Is Written
It was a dark and stormy night…
Yeah, all right. So I did that on purpose. What, you think because I live on the streets, I can’t be in on the joke? Get real.
Anyway, it was a dark and stormy night, that night. The sort of night that makes you think the dawn’s never goin’ to come, no matter how hard you hunker down and suffer through it. The sort of night that’s full of knives. It was late, too, when I first saw this weird old guy come huffing and puffing down the street, well past midnight. He was a bit like an insect in a suit, this bloke, oddly jointed and full of corners – his knees stuck out to the side as he walked, like he was on springs. He had a black umbrella, shining and wet beneath the streetlights, clutched in one knobbly hand. The ribs of it looked broken at the front, because they kept bashing into his face as he went – the wind was one of them capricious types, you know the ones. Can’t make up its mind what way its blowin’. In his other hand, he had a package tied up in brown paper and string, like somethin’ out of another century. It was biggish and squarish – looked about the size of a small paintin’, not that I’d ever seen one in the flesh. Whatever it was, it seemed heavy. By the time he got close to me, he was pantin’ like a man halfway up a mountain.
Anyway, on he came. I sat quiet.
He came level with my place – my ‘place’ bein’ a nice, me-sized nook in the brickwork in front of an old buildin’, used to be a bank I think before everythin’ turned to muck – and I watched as he stopped beside an old rubbish bin, out on the pavement. He looked up and down the street like a man afraid the cops are on his tail – that was what made me perk up and take notice, if I’m bein’ honest. Somethin’s not right here, I told myself. I want to be in on it, just so’s I can deny everythin’.When he was finished scopin’, he turned back to the bin. Mutterin’ under his breath the whole time, he jiggled the squarish thing he’d been carryin’ out from under his arm, and lined it up for shovin’ into the bin. He had a bit of trouble with it – the package wasn’t quite the right shape, and between the wind and the rain and the tricksy umbrella, he didn’t seem like he had enough hands to do the job right. I was on the spot of slinkin’ out and offerin’ assistance when he gave a yelp like a dog in pain and, with one final push, left the thing half-in and half-out of the bin.
Then he took off down the street like a rat out of a trap, and didn’t once look back.
So, I sat gazin’ at the bin. The package started to come open in the rain. I saw there was paper in it, paper with writin’ on it. Wet ink slid down off the paper, like the words were so new they hadn’t had a chance to settle in properly, and I knew that if I didn’t do somethin’, the message on that paper was goin’ to end up washed down the gutter. Bein’ a man of letters, I couldn’t have that.
So I got up, and I soft-shoed my way over to the bin. The place was deserted. The street was a howling hollowness.
I grabbed the package, and straight away sort of wished I’d left well enough alone. The old guy hadn’t been pretendin’ – it was heavy. Metal. It clacked, like it was full of movin’ parts. I realised then that there were loads of pages in here, all of ‘em printed with fancy letterin’, monochrome and crisp – and I’m talking printed, like Gutenberg. Old-style hand-carved letters, spiky and sore to the eye. Sathanas Dixit, I read, before my brain sort of went into a seizure. I blinked a bit, wonderin’ why I couldn’t see right, and tried to focus on somethin’ else.
Then, my eye fell on a handwritten page. I pulled it out and tried to angle myself so that I could read it in the glow of the streetlight without letting the rain rip it out of my hand.
Daniel, it said, the handwritin’ lookin’ breathless, if you know what I mean. The printing blocks and documents I mentioned are enclosed. I cannot have them in my home any longer. As I tried to explain on the ‘phone, they have started arranging themselves – you must believe me! I cannot tell you how often I have checked over the work and realise it says something I never intended; the mistake is not mine! I put the blocks in, and they print something different, something – horrifying. It is Him, Daniel. Him! His power is too strong, and I cannot bear it. Please, take these infernal objects and bury them deep, somewhere I cannot know about and somewhere I will never find them. Please, I beg you. And please, we must disband our group. We are meddling with power that no man has a right to. Believe me. Nathan.
I heaved the package, blocks and ink and paper and the lot, over to my cubby. My eyes recovered fine, and once they were workin’ again I read all night long, and never felt another drop of rain.
What a stroke of luck I had that dark and stormy night, eh? Or maybe it wasn’t luck so much as another part of His plan, slotting right into place.
I’ll leave it up to you to decide that one.