The Old Man – a story

This is an older story, sort of a Lovecraft homage. More of a mood piece than anything else. If ya dig it, there’s more goods like this in This Beautiful Darkness.

The Old Man

To those that saw the old man walk his usual route for what must have seemed like their entire lives, he was just what he appeared to be – a feeble old man.

I knew better.

I saw the king in exile. The banished bastard.

I knew there was something wrong in the way the grass grew not away from his small, well-kept home but into it. How the weeds wound up the steps and around the columns and across the threshold. I could smell the sickly sweet scent of candy that came off the place when the wind was right.

I suppose it was the way he walked though that brought me to his window late one spring night. The way he looked as if he was trying to look ordinary but couldn’t manage it. Spine too straight, clothes too clean and well kept, and his head high, only looking down when he thought someone was looking.

And at that window I saw his secrets. I heard the voices as I approached, coming like whispers, like the rustling of leaves. He was alone and seated in an ornate chair that glittered and sparkled in the dim light. Things moved within the shadows, things tall and misshapen. Things that leaned down from the ceiling towards the man, their many eyes glittering as the chair did. They were his servants from the Far Off Place.

One night I heard laughter coming from the place but didn’t approach, as it wasn’t coming from him. And then the walks stopped. And the weeds and grass began to recede from the house. And the house began to rot and its skin began to peel.

I tried but couldn’t keep away.

I had to know the truth.

The house repelled me with the scent of rotten garbage and festering meat. The ground around it was soft and muddy, the very wood of the porch sagging beneath my weight.

Inside the walls were warped, the carpet torn to tatters, and the chair was broken and the jewels gone. There were no shadows on the walls. The house was dead.

I searched and found a shattered crown, a broken scepter. And there, almost out of sight, was the king. His skin was empty and shriveled, pulled half-into the wall where the shadows had been, the top half of him gone forever, back to the place he’d come from.

The house rotted back into the earth from which it had sprung.

No one built again on that land.

But sometimes I still see shapes in the shadows there, and think I see the distant figure of a lonely man walking with his head bowed and spine bent walking down our road.

…c…

Author: Chris Ringler

Writer, blogger, reviewer, artist, arts and cultural events coordinator, and semi-professional weirdo. Author of a heap of books from horror to fairy tale to kid's.

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