A Harsh Glare in a Dark Room

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Mr. Blackbird Lore
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A Harsh Glare in a Dark Room

Post by Mr. Blackbird Lore »

Jane found herself in a narrow hall. Dim lights in seashell sconces were evenly spaced along the left wall. The carpet was thin and nonsensical in its pattern. Together, they gave the impression of a cheap hotel. Glancing over her shoulder, Jane saw that the hall ended in solid darkness. Forward, then, toward the only door.

Her hands settled onto the familiar curves of her weapons. She was unsettled. Everything about this screamed TRAP! through a megaphone in her mind. But the Calling said, “Forward, gunslinger. Be at peace.”

The door at the end of the hall was cracked slightly. The room beyond was pitch black save for the phantasmal glow of late night TV. When she was within arm’s reach, the susurrous of static reached her ears. Voices leaked out, faint and indistinct.

She pressed the door open with one hand and drew with the other. What she found in the next room baffled her.

Directly before her was a reclining chair. A corpulent man filled it completely. In fact the two seemed made for each other. Together they were the avatar of indolence: a masterfully crafted, luxurious piece of furniture elegantly supported every fold and flab of the balding, greasy creature.

The chair faced right, toward the source of the glow. Jane was hesitant to take her eyes off that creature in the chair. It held the form of man, true, but her instincts cried foul. This was merely a form it frequented. It was no man.

From an obscured bucket, the greasy creature plucked a fistful of popcorn and shoveled it into his face. Then he looked at her. The glare on his rectangular glasses obscured the eyes, but Jane knew a predator when she saw one. Liquid butter trickled down his round chin from a sinister, knowing smile. Pudgy fingers glistened as he pointed toward the shifting colors on the opposite wall. “Look.”

Jane looked.

The wall opposite the greasy creature and his chair was not a wall. It was TVs of all sizes and eras: black and white twenties with rabbit ears, seventy inch plasmas, and everything in between. All of them were on. A few were blank, and several produced nothing but static. The vast majority were each tuned into a different program. Anything you could want was available: foreign dramas, globetrotting adventures, vile body horror, Bollywood action, documentaries… everything.

“What are ye?” The question was only half as accusatory as Jane’s stare.

The greasy creature was still grinning its mad grin as it sighed contentedly. Buttery fingers plugged it’s face with a fresh load of dripping popcorn. The white shirt that stretched over the rotund gut was so filthy it was impossible to say where the excess fluid fell.

“Director, producer, and… number one fan.” There was a barely suppressed laugh in the creature’s tone.

Jane raised her gun. “Don play wi me, creature,” she warned.

He dismissed her warning and motioned toward the tv in a single gesture. A voice rose above the others and Jane looked.

An animated cowboy berated a colorful astronaut. “YOU. ARE. A. TOY.” Then the screen cut to a man and woman performing an intricate series of synchronized steps through an ancient ruin, though their body language suggested a deep antagonism.

Another voice rose as the first muted. A large, blue man with white eyes stared out from a large plasma screen. “We’re all puppets. I’m just a puppet who can see the strings.” The video jerked as a new show was selected. A woman furiously typed her first blog entry that would make her internet famous.

A crazed giggle pulled Jane’s attention back to the creature embedded in the chair. “Look with your eyes, gunslinger,” It wheezed.

She faced the wall of screens fully. There was a pattern to how the screens were arranged. Something about their sizes and shapes that formed a spiral toward the center.

The center was four evenly spaced, evenly sized screens. One displayed a brooding man in a long coat in a neon bar. The second: a sharply dressed woman adjusted her rolex and the large man in her way collapsed with a dart in his neck. The third screen was a young man, barely able to grow a beard, staring up at a dragon; his sword and shield seemed so paltry in comparison. The fourth was a high angle view of a leather clad woman with a gun in her right hand staring at a wall of screens.

Jane spun and fired at the corner of the room, but there was no indication she had succeeded. There was no shattering of lens nor even the splintering of wood. The bullet simply disappeared into shadowy recesses.

She spun again toward the sound of choking laughter and leveled the gun on her host. He held up both hands as if in surrender. “Magic!” He wiggled taunting fingers and resumed his laughter.

You? Yer—“

“Your patron! Found me. Now: forward, Gunslinger. Be at peace.” That same sinister and knowing smile. Jane shook with impotent rage. The two stared for several seconds.

Jane broke off first, turning her back and storming out. She slammed the door open with such force she heard it crack the wall and wobble on the rebound. Malicious laughter chased her down the hall. She didn’t know where she was going, Jane only knew she couldn’t stay in that room any longer. There was no break in her stride as she charged into the darkness at the end of the hall. Echoes of laughter faded with each step.

Total darkness abruptly gave way to blinding light.
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