by Martin Maenza
A tall, thin manservant, feather duster in hand, was tidying up in the large study. The walls were lined with bookshelves with many large hardcover tomes. The writing on the spines were in various languages, some even long since forgotten by most of the world. Throughout the room were various items on display, many in protective cases.
The manservant paused as he dusted the glass of one particular display. He glanced down at the alabaster white item. It was long and tapered at one end; the other end curved up slightly. Both ends had openings correctly proportional to the size of the bone at those points.
The man put down the duster and glanced around quickly. He was still alone.
He turned back to the item on display, and his eyes grew wide with anticipation. It was a glorious object, very beautiful and very smooth. He wondered what it felt like.
Taking the glass knob of the lid of the custom-made display case, he carefully began to lift the lid. While holding the lid high with his left hand, the man slowly inched his right hand toward the item. Was it actually calling to him? He wasn’t sure. All he knew was he had to hold the item for a moment, to satisfy a curiosity, if nothing more. His fingers were mere inches from it.
“What are you doing?” a voice boomed from the doorway.
The man was startled by the loud sound, and he released the glass lid from his left hand. It fell to the marble floor hard, shattering upon impact. At the same moment, the servant’s right hand dropped forward, causing him to make contact with the ram’s horn.
The moment he made contact with the item, the manservant felt an incredible surge of pain throughout his body. He threw his head back, opened his throat wide, and began to howl in agonizing pain. The room was filled with the smell of burning flesh. He tried to pull his hand away but could not. In mere moments, the man was reduced to a pile of ashes on the floor.
From the doorway, a well-dressed man in a hand-tailored suit of forest green with long blonde hair shook his head in disgust. He crossed the room quickly and stopped before the broken glass mixed with ashes upon the floor.
“Stupid,” the blonde man said. “They never listen about leaving the artifacts alone. Good help is so hard to find. Luckily, there’s an ending supply of replacements where he came from.”
He glanced down upon the ram’s horn that still sat in the bottom portion of the display case. “Ah, my little beauty,” he said. “You have such great power, especially against certain types of creatures. It is for that very reason that I acquired you all those years ago. Can’t have something like you in the wrong hands, can we?”
The man moved over to the desk, picked up the receiver of the antique-style phone, and began to dial a number on the rotary. After a few moments, someone picked up on the other end. “Hello, Barter, old boy,” the blonde said. “It’s me, Nero. Sorry about calling so late.” Pause.
“Oh, that’s right, I keep forgetting the time shift for Paris. Listen, do you remember that horn I got from you a long while back?” Another pause.
“Yes, yes, that’s the one. Would you happen to have another of those special display cases? I’ve seem to have had a bit of an accident with the one it’s currently in.” Pause.
“Excellent, excellent. I’ll come around and pick it up later in the week. I’m certain I can schedule some business that will get me by your part of the world easily enough. See you soon.” And with that, Nathan Nero hung up the phone.