I had some time open up on Saturday afternoon to participate in this week's FlashMob Flash Fiction Challenge.
Midnight Harvest Interrupted
Percy abided and paused sweeping the bones into the canvas bag. His hands shook. Not with the fear of having been caught after midnight in mid-harvest , but with the palsy that drove him to this depraved practice.
“I said halt!” the caretaker commanded again.
“I cannot,” Percy admitted, still shaking.
The grungy mausoleum attendant’s patched boots creaked as he approached the intruder. “I know who you are.”
“You must understand,” Percy started. The tremors in his body increased, making it hard to speak without interruption. “I. . . I . . . this is a compulsion. A curse.”
“You’ve been here before.” The caretaker raised his lantern in the dark room to Percy’s face. The crypt robber thought the man would recoil at his wasted appearance. “Yup, I’ve seen you.”
“Please let me f, f, f. . . finish what I have to do.”
“And what’s that?” the man with the lamp asked.
“I don’t want you to see.” Percy lifted one of the bones from the stone vault he’d pried open. It was a curved jawbone with three teeth remaining.
“You can’t come here no more.”
Percy’s quaking slowed as he brought the jawbone to his mouth. The bone smelled dry and earthy as like a preserved mushroom. It would taste the same.
Percy ignored the man, plucking the remaining teeth from their sockets. He trembled as he popped each one into his mouth in an attempt to calm his shaking body. He swallowed the little bones whole before sliding jawbone into his mouth.
The light in the room violently swung from ceiling to floor. Percy registered, too late, that the lamp in the caretaker’s hand was swinging over the man’s head. The glass oil chamber in the lamp shattered upon impact with the bone eater and fire poured over the man, knocking the bone from his mouth.
The caretaker was quick to push the bones away from the burning man with his boot, and then clear the canvas back away from the spreading fire. The bone eater himself remained calm despite the blistering and cracking from the flames. He laid flat as his body increased its tremors. Beyond the caretaker’s panicked breathing, the room was starkly silent. The man on the floor closed his eyes and mouthed “thank you.”
The light dwindled as there was less of Percy to fuel the fire. The room started shaking, signaling the reemergence of the daemon Percy thought he could imprison in his own pure vessel. The caretaker would find out soon enough if he was made of a stronger mettle than the once-monk as the daemon, once liberated, would look for a new host.
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