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Saturday, March 25

21

"21"
Short Fiction - Fantasy
by Bethany K. Warner

"Well," said the handyman, hitching up his pants and wiping his hand across his nose, "you've got yourself a bugger of a problem."

I leaned against the bar dividing the kitchen from the dining room and crossed my arms across my chest. Through my turtleneck sweater, I could feel the deep gouges in the wood seared there from the zombie attack two nights ago. I couldn't let myself think about the remodeling bill to fix those gouges and the others and the bite marks all over the house--the zombies were growing in numbers and persistence.

"I know," I said. "That's why I called you. Can you do anything about it?"

"Well," he said again, this time cupping the back of his neck with one of his massive hands, "You see, once one of these models is affected, not much can be done."

I pinched the bridge of my nose between my eyes and tried to keep my voice from rising.

"Nolan," I said.

"Molan," he corrected.

"Molan," I went on. "Do you know why I called you?"

"The clock?" he ventured, waving a meaty hand at the massive mahogany grandfather clock that rose to the ceiling.

I noticed beads of sweat on his brow as he looked the clock. The face was twisted to make room for the extra numbers, the hands were as long as my arms, the silver counter-weights and pendulum could make thousands of bracelets and rings if they were melted down. I could empathize with his unease.

I sighed. "But do you know why I called you?" I emphasized the final word.

He stood silent, then hitched up his pants again.

"I called you because Tulio di Lorenzo--"

"The archivist?" he asked.

"Yes," I said. "Him. Lorenzo said if anyone could fix a Ruggero delle Mortio clock, it would be you. Fix it without destroying it."

Molan snuffled. "Look, lady-- "

"Lady Aisling."

"Right," he went on. "You've got a delle Mortio clock striking twenty-one. If you'd called me back when it was chiming fourteen or fifteen, I might have been able to reverse the enchantments--"

"So you're saying you can't fix it." I wasn't surprised he was stalling. Common wisdom said the thing to do with a Mortio clock when it started chiming anything more than twelve was to chop it into kindling and burn the enchantments out of it.

"I'm saying be smart," he said. "You've got the magicks, yes, to hold off the attacks from the zombies the clock raises. But, do you want to live that way? Fighting them off all the time, just for the other enchantments in the Mortio clock. He didn't build them to last forever. Everybody knows that's why he put the necromancy enchantment in."

I knew all that. I was a lady of a house with a Mortio clock; I was fighting zombies and warding off other just-dead for better than six weeks now after the first strike of twenty-one roused me from a deep sleep and drug me out of the arms of my paramour. I was more than familiar with Mortio's enchantments.

Behind him, the clock began to chime, striking the sixteen-note quarters plus an extra note before tolling the top of the hour.

One. Two. Three.

"This clock has been in my family for 19 generations. The delle Mortio enchantments have provided us health, wealth and longevity."

Four. Five. Six.

"This house was built around this clock. I will not have it disenchanted, do you hear me?"

Seven. Eight. Nine.

"Nor will I tolerate that chime raising zombies and ghouls every time it takes a fancy to strike twenty-one.

"So here's what you are going to do; If you can't work the counter magicks, fine. Explain it to me. I'll do it."

Thirteen. Fourteen. Fifteen.

"It takes blood," Molan stammered. "Blood on the hands and the weights by the strike of twenty-one. But it has to be blood of your house, since it's your family clock."

Eighteen.

"You see, Molan, Lorenzo was right. You are the guy to fix it."

"But I can't--"

Nineteen.

"Lorezno confirmed that you are the lucky descendent of a by-blow of my great-great-great … well, really-long time-ago-grand-father." I pulled the knife from the top of the bar behind me. "No time to waste then."

The next to last chime covered over the sounds of his terror.

7 reactions:

Kelly Parra said...

Bethany, great voice and unique story!! I really enjoyed this. Thanks for sharing with FM. =D

Jeff said...

A neat story idea and well written. I really like this, Bethany. Thanks for sharing. :)

stay_c said...

Congrats! It's a chilling read.

Meleta McHarlin said...

I really like the whole idea behind this story. Wish I'd thought of it. Nice job, Bethany.

kalbzayn said...

Sorry to chime in so late. That is a really fun story.

Thanks

michael brewster said...

ha!

I almost fell in love, until the violent end. Still, almost is better than not having loved at all.

I'd like to see you explore this world more- great narrator...

T. Cannon said...

You couldn't even let me be the first one on Fictional Musings, could you? I really like what you added and the twist at the end. You gave her good motivation, too. She was willing to fight zombies, so she would stop at nothing.