Monday, October 30, 2006

Becoming Salvish Theander, pt 2

When Harris woke up, a glass of cool liquid was being held to his lips. He was lying in a bed, but it wasn’t his own.
“Have some more water,” a man’s heavily-accented voice said.
Harris’ eyes focused, and met an olive-skinned man, with a prominent hooked nose and dark eyes—of middle eastern descent, he guessed.
“Dinner will be served downstairs, when you feel ready to eat something,” he said, and then vanished from the room.
Harris finished drinking his water and swung his feet around to the floor. Something in that motion filled his mind with passing, seemingly-disconnected images: A dark, cold, hard place... A looming figure stepping from the shadows toward him... The sound of something like horses’ hooves… and then nothing.
The hallway, like his room, was dimly lit by candles, their flames guttering as he passed. The staircase was narrow and the banister firm. The soft-pile carpet absorbed any sound of footfalls, but the stairs still creaked audibly as he descended into the reddish glow at the bottom. The living room was spacious, to say the least, and the large fireplace crackled loudly as it devoured the wood. The shadows of furniture and other objects danced in yellow-orange light across the walls; but one, Harris noticed, seemed to move more than all the rest. That shadow spoke to him.
“Welcome to my home, Mr. Oldman!” The voice was coming from near the fireplace. Again, Harris noted the strong accent, the carefully-placed syllables. “Are you cold? Come stand by the fire. And then some dinner, perhaps?”
It was while they were seated at the table that Harris’ host finally introduced himself. “I am Salvish Theander,” he said. (His last name rhymed with “gray gander.”) “I can help you, Mr. Oldman. You have much debt. You would like to be free of that debt, wouldn’t you?”
“What makes you think I have a lot of debts?”
“Have you ever looked closely at the paper your bills are printed upon?” Salvish reached into his coat and withdrew a folded sheet of paper. He tossed it deftly to Harris. It was a notice from the gas company—addressed to Harris Oldman!
“Yes,” said Salvish, “I know much about you. But, please, look at the watermark on the paper!”
Harris held it up in the light of the candelabra on the table. The seal was a circle with a large, stylized “S.T.” Salvish Theander.
“This will be hard for you to understand, Mr. Oldman, but all debt is ultimately owed to me. This is why you will find my initials on all of your bills.”
“You’re right,” Harris replied, “I don’t understand.”
“Understanding will come with time, perhaps. That you accept it is all that is required of you for now.”
Required of you.’ Who did this guy think he was?
“Or perhaps you would like to check the rest of your notices as well?” he said, setting a small strongbox on the table and opening it. It was full of envelopes.
“No. I believe you.” Strangely, Harris found that he did believe what this odd man was telling him.
“Good. Now then, do you want to be free of your debts?”
“Well, sure, but—”
“Then turn yourself over to me, and that debt will be gone.”
“Turn myself over to you? What does that mean, exactly?”
“You would be my servant. You’d do my bidding, but nothing shameful or beyond your ability. Think of it, Mr. Oldman! Steady employment, and no more debt!”
Harris mulled it over in the intervening silence. “Okay, Theander, you’ve got yourself a deal.”
“Then it is done!” Salvish said, rising quickly to his feet. He outstretched his arms, and a sudden gust of wind from behind him extinguished all the lights at once! Even the fireplace went dark.

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