Behind the Eight-Ball
Buzzing. Buzzing and creaking and hissing, a conversation whispered in darkness. Nat was a fly on the wall, having gotten curious after a half-hour or so of intense colloquoy.
“I saw red,” Brown Jenkin said simply. “When the Zoog-weasels attacked me for no reason whatsoever, I retaliated.”
The man in black nodded. “And so it was necessary to kill them all. I see.” He templed his fingers, put them to his mouth thoughtfully.
“You realize that this kind of behavior is why I didn’t keep you on, yes?”
“I do. But I am who I am.” Jenkin scuffed at the ground with his left foot.
“Pity, that.” A chuckle came from the darkness under his hood. “You can be useful. So, since you’ve managed to be persona non grata in yet another place, what do we do with you now?”
“Promote me. Make me governor. You have kingdoms to spare. Why not me?”
A chuckle sounded again, dry as a petrified bone and rattling like an overheated diesel. “Admirable chutzpah. Ah, that is an excellent word. I must remember to use it again. Yes, your reach will eternally exceed your grasp. Still, you’ve come far. I recall when I first enlisted you, and gave you your, mmm, abilities.
“I understand you’ve learned new tricks. Ah, Brown Jenkin. A world for you…” He chuckled again. “I think not. But I’ll allow you to continue your miserable existence. And in your current guise.
“But you’ll not be able to travel the alternities with impunity any longer. That will be the price of your failure. I should return you to Carcosa, with the Scarlet Horde about to hatch.
“Do you recall, Brown Jenkin,” He continued, his voice beginning to rise. “Do you remember clearly, that it was I who released you from that existence, and apprenticed you to the witch Keziah?”
“Fuck. Yes. Yes, of course I can remember that.” Jenkin scratched his ear with his right foot. “I’m crazy, not stupid.”
“Ha. Haha. You are such an amusing creature. Yes. Yes. You are free from my service. That means I no longer protect you, as well. Have a care, Brown Jenkin, have a care. Your enemies are legion, and some of them are mighty. Mighty enough to give me pause.
“Fortunately, you have so many adversaries that they operate at cross-purposes. That keeps you alive. What of the man?”
“Nat? The guitar player. I should just kill him. Fuck him up. Carve, slice, and dice. Served cold.”
“I would prefer that you didn’t. He has his uses. I enjoy his simple defiance, his spirit. He has no idea what he’s doing, but he tries so very hard. Such earnest diligence deserves reward. I expect I’ll get him a real guitar tech now…”
Nat withdrew from the window. The buzzing and creaking was giving him a headache. He massaged his temples while walking across the kitchen, got himself a cold beer and held it against his forehead.
“My ears are burning, my head is burning. I don’t know what half of that shit meant, but if I’m rid of the beast, then I’m a happy man.” He opened the beer, drank about a third of it.
He could still hear the conversation, but didn’t care to try to make out the words.
He slumped down onto the couch, killed the beer.
“I’d like to know who that guy in black is. He doesn’t seem like any devil that I’ve heard of. He’s something darker, if that’s possible. Hmm, maybe I don’t want to know. I don’t really want to meet any of Jenkin’s friends. This one’s my boss. I’m just gonna leave it at that.”
He got up and got another beer.
The silver key was lying on the coffee table. He eyed it sourly.
“I don’t know what you open, other than a can of worms. But you sure are purty. You can be a souvenir. Yes, that’s it.”
He drank the beer, belched, stretched out on the couch.
He fell asleep.
He dreamed of a gelid lake on a frozen planet, with two moons and five suns. He dreamed of a ruined city built around a theater where a shadow play was performed, endlessly, and of a King in Yellow and a Lady, in Red, who danced to the music in the courtyard of their palace, across the lake from the play.
He screamed in his sleep.
He dreamed of a wooden door with black-metal fastenings. A silver key was in the lock. He didn’t turn the key. The door was in a dark, dank basement, and he could hear things moving about, and smell death, and corruption.
He ran, up and out and far and fast. He kept on running.
He didn’t look back.
This is the end, for now, of the Brown Jenkins saga. It has been a pleasure to present it to you. Thanks for reading.