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The Professor and the Lich

by Craig Gagarin 8 months ago in fiction · updated 8 months ago
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Chapter 1

Jabuticaba

“Thank you, thank you sir,” the Professor says to the carriage driver, shouldering his attaché, as he tips his hat to both driver and horses. A nod, then bashfully averting eyes towards ground after a cold gaze from the couple he was riding with.

“And a day to you too/two; too,” he mumbles as he steps towards the path to the manor. There’s a chill in the air this day, with yesterdays’ snow scattered about in patches, and puddles along the path run like tracks starting to freeze over as the sun sets behind a distant mountain. An amber sky is cascading off the top of the mountain into lilac and violet. An adjustment to his hat securing it tightly, throwing his scarf over shoulder; he prepares for his one-kilometer hike to his destination.

The beauty of the sunset over the mountains has the Professors cheeks rosy with a grin, eyes teary from the chill. He removes a pouch of snuff from his vest pocket. A sizeable pinch scooped, he stuffs his nasal cavity full, wiping away any left dangling past the nostril. He shuffles his feet attempting to maintain concentration on the tasks set to his hands; his attention is drawn away to a flock of crows circling ahead, near the crossing bridge on path. The crossing bridge lies over the creek that empties into the lake to the left; still slippery walk and a ways ahead and below. The task of stowing the snuff was successful, while the task of retrieving his flask from an outer pocket was a failure. The flask hits the cold ground and slides a few meters ahead. An early rushed attempt at capturing his lost treasure almost ends with him on his backside, as his arms fly up and two hard steps come down gaining his balance. His feet begin sliding on the ice. Leaning back, with an arm swirl to a hard stop of the arms, now hunched over; his momentum carries him to his goal across the ice. As he collects the flask, he hears a swoosh followed by the sound of something landing softly in the snow behind him. Skittish from the sound, he ducks. When he pops back up and looks to see where the object came from, he slips; crashing to the ground. His buttock hits the side the frozen groove from passing carriages; both elbows didn’t make it out far enough to absorb the impact, instead causing his shoulders to jolt into his jaw. This all before his head smashing on the cold ground, hat flying off, and scarf unraveling like a mother unwrapping a newborn.

“Ghhuh,” a large grueling painful moan blurts out from the Professor. His first instinct of returning to his feet, fled with the radiating pain from buttocks. Relaxed, and extending his limbs out, he brings his hands together, to remove the top from the flask. Each twist louder than the last as his jaw and neck remind him of their pain and ringing. He slowly rolls to his side and takes a sip. The flock of crows seem to be fussing over what’s on the ground. He gulps two swallows, caps the flask, and stows it in his outer coat pocket. Reaches once, reaches twice, and a third time to grab his hat. The Professor rolls to his stomach and briefly places his nose to the ground; grants his muscles words of inspiration and a prayer, then he pushes off to his feet. Quickly gathering the scarf as it attempts to uncoil to the ground. As his thoughts recalibrate, he affixes his hat, and the scarf is rewound around this chilled neck. He remembers why he’s here; more accurately he curses why he’s here.

The Letter:

I know correspondence from me may come as alarming. It is. Without disillusion, I’m not requesting forgiveness. I request your arrival immediately as I need the pendant you had once worn. I told you then this was my life that I entrust to you, and I meant it. This is of utmost importance, as those that have betrayed me have landed ashore, and are looking for me and the pendant. The only way to keep you safe is to have you by my side. Please, and hurry. L

“More like you want to save your OWN arse,” he mumbles, taking his first step holding palm to right buttock. At this time, he maneuvers off the path towards the hardened grass and snow patches to continue on.

On approach to the bridge crossing, the lake and creek are still. The occasional ripple flees from the cattails. There was no need to shoo away the flock of crows as they scattered as the Professor returned to the path near to the crossing.

“There’s nothing there,” looking at the ground for worms or insect holes; he scuffs his shoe on the path.

“Hmm,” he says while looking up. Out of his periphery, the Professor has a clear view of what’s being tossed at him, and where it departed from.

“A plum,” he thinks. With no time to react, the object strikes him in the face. A light sting with the surprise of being struck, an unknown bitter substance shoots into his mouth and free nasal, followed by the sensation of burning flesh from all points of contact; bursting into a cloud of mustard yellow dust. He falls to his knees choking.

“What the…,” minding his tongue to cursing, but relenting to blasphemy.

“For god’s sake man,” he gags and clears his throat; thumbs a single nostril at a time and exhausts them of any and all contents. Immediately crawling to the lake on his left to wash his face. He attempts to catch a glimpse of his face in the settling lake; as a few drops of water drip from his face. The image reflected back at the Professor, although it is him, looks foreign; sad, defeated, devoid of eye contact. More drops hit the water from his face as he continues to stare into the lake and entry to creek; both clear, yet clouded and dusty; submerged greenery scattered throughout. He reaches into his trousers for a handkerchief the complete the purge from his nasal. Hand to the ground, he crawls on his knees to the crossing’s guard rail, lets his tears drip to the ground before wiping them away with his free hand. Back on his feet he glares at the tree. Swiftly across the bridge he heads towards a large thick crooked tree. He supports his exit from the crossing with the rail on the far end, carefully stepping off to the right on to a snowy patch. Crunches from beneath his feet as he heads to the tree, he peeks around to the left, walks all the way around right; nothing. He punches the tree leaving his fist there for balance.

“I know it came from here,” looking past the thick tree for footsteps, a wolf spider crawls out from the tree and seemingly taps his finger. Quickly withdrawing his hand, the Professor stares at the spider. The spider raises a fore arm as if warning the Professor that he has stumbled upon claimed land.

“Huh! How rude,” the Professor says in the spider’s direction. The spider backs into its hole leaving its front four arms out, peering at the Professor; daring him to set hand again; or depart as warned. The Professor in holding of many academic titles and accolades wasn’t to relent to a spider. Taking in a deep breath to deliver this spider a wincing bourbon blast of noxious air.

“Exactly what this just arrogant wolf spi….,” he begins to think to himself. Without body movement, a slight tinge sparks in the many eyes of the spider; a microseconds time brought the Professor standing before the spider, face to face, with all eyes on him, before spiraling his vision back on the tree to see millions of spiders staring at him from the bark of the trunk and limbs. He falls back, crashing hard on his already sore buttock, sliding down into the creek; soaking his sleeve, pant leg, and shoe on his right side; setting his attaché a drift in the creek. The whole time his voice stripped of sound from fright until the radiating pain shoots through his body.

“Urgghhh,” he grimaces and starts to roll to his side. Once his thoughts collect, he realizes what sent him crashing to the ground, and he shoots to the seated position. The millions of spiders are gone. His eyes bulging, flashing across the trees position as if scanning the local periodical by candle light with magnifying glass.

To himself, “Not one. Including the one that started this cursed…;”

“Debacle!” exclaimed aloud.

Caught by his eye while making his way to his feet, are what looks like that ‘plum’ he briefly saw prior to being clobbered. He wrings out what his clothes and dusts himself, grimacing through all his aches; he then reaches for one of the strange fruit. The limb from which it dangles slowly and methodically moves away from the approaching hand. The determined Professor reaches up and snatches the fruit, looking up towards the branches with a disapproving look. Immediately he notices its light weight and polished exterior. As he brings his eyes to focus on his reflection in the strange fruit; Pop! A yellow mustard cloud bursts in his face; skin agitation, choking from dust, as well as eye irritation as both eyes were wide open. Blindly he makes his way shuffling and sliding to the creek. Unbeknownst to the Professor, the spider has made its way to edge of the hole to applaud his recent accomplishment. Lead by his already wet right foot and reaching the edge; the Professor bends over, ignoring the tightness from the bruises; he can only imagine discoloring across his buttock; with both hands grabs handfuls of water and begins splashing his face. The Professor stops abruptly after hearing a loud continuous sound of a large branch crackling. With the dust forming a paste and hindering his eyes from opening, he turns his head to hear with fervor back towards the tree. The ground shakes as the crackling becomes louder. Frozen from the impending unknown, his feet quake right before settling and silence. Thwack! The Professor is smacked on his buttock launching him forward to his knees. The tree root had paddled him into the creek. The Professors arms extended; his hands attempt to search for purchase on the creeks bottom. Where he thought would be a bottom to the creek, is nothing. Just the icy chill and depth of an abyss. He panics. This is the first time his knees were called upon to maintain balance for the whole of the body. His weight is to far forward, his stomach drops. His eyes open to confirm the abyss his hands revealed. As his knees lose purchase on the once supportive edge, his throat is grasped tightly by an unpleasant force. This causes him to gak, drawing in water. He’s ripped back violently from the from the creek; instinctually his body pleads for air. Feet still touching the surface of the water, the root holds him a shoes length off the shore of the lake. His brief moments in the frightening cold depths of the murk have transported him to the lake. The roots grip releases enough for the deathly sound of the Professors aspirated cough to send water jettisoning from his mouth. He’s given a few more of these terminal coughs before the root regrasps his throat and sends him crashing back down to his knees. The professor is desperately clawing at the root. The root methodically positions the Professors body and face over the water, urging him to look within. The same devoid saddened face from earlier looks back at the Professor. The eyes of the reflection beckoning him to leave from whence he came. The root readjusted its grip; the reflection reacting, heeding eye contact with the Professor. The seeping slurry of water from his forehead and chin begin merging a blurred image of the two faces, becoming one. The Professor grasping the root shuts his eyes. His legs start flailing. Water splashes about. Loose rocks clank beneath his feet, sending any lake life down and away from the calamity. With the crisp sound of a honeydew being penetrated with a carving knife, the back of the Professors head is breached by the root. Thin tendrils shunt through, in and around the skull; absorbing any and all moisture before stopping behind the optic nerves. The Professors eyes open, rolling around up, then down towards the water as if it was their first time opening to the world; his arms and legs fall limp. The spider astute, legs forward and compact; whispers on the air; before a quick glance left and retreating into the hole, leaving only a slight glare from his forwardly eyes. A cacophony of clicks and ticks encompass the Professors ears, amplified by the seeping droplets to and from the water and his face. Each completed phloem of water delivers a vision. The visions of his perpetual demise, hysteria, and depression. A pit wells in his stomach. He experiences a brief stint of weightlessness; body acute and water arching; just before crashing to the shallow of the lake. The bloody roots rescinding back to ground; the dead yellow and blood red leaves pulsing their veiny circulatory in the light. Again, the Professor winces in pain, keeping his eyes shut tight in agony. Unseen to the Professor, a pillar of translucent murky water, reflecting the setting sky; sounds of soft swooshing, the pillar stretches and thickens in the form of an outstretched Professor rooting itself in the lake.

On approach from the north along the manor’s path, a cloaked rider moving swiftly, slows to a canter. The flock of crows once again taking flight to the neighboring trees to look in suspension. The incredulous Professor hearing the galloping on the path above to the north, opens his eyes and turns to his left.

“Hey?! Hey,” he exclaims. The rider currently listing right, onto the grass and snow; looks at the ground below where the flock of crows were congregated. Clicks and ticks pierce the air, whipping the riders head from right to left. This prompted the rider into instantly lowering the hood from his burnoose and halting the horse, causing a brief slide on the crossing.

“Hey?! Hello,” the Professor waves his hands; continuing on after grabbing his floating hat. The Rider seeing the Professor feels his face go flush and stomach drop. The horse beneath has been uneasy after the whispering of the spider; groaning with unpleasant snorting towards the tree, and strafing with unsure steps to the left. The horses’ training prevents it from turning its’ head without command; this may be disobeyed as tears fill its eyes. The Rider queuing in on the Professors face, then to the murky translucent image forming behind him.

“Hey! A hand. Please,” said with trepidation by the Professor. This drew the horse’s attention; the horse wide eyed, makes eye contact with the Professor, squeals, recoils its stature and strafes right slamming into the guard rail. Pinning the Rider’s leg, breaking through the rail, sending fragments into the creek.

“Arghh,” the stunned Rider moans. An attempt to control the horse forced the horse back and away from the rail. The horse’s hind legs step off the crossing. A few crows challenging their luck, that had returned to the path took off crowing, causing the horse to buck and stomp.

“Yeet! Yeet,” the Rider says to the horse as he placed his hand gently on the side of its neck. The horse gains its composure and form, with eyes forward, but wound tight and at the ready.

“Mi fami, mi fami,” the Rider looks back at the Professor, raises the hood on his burnoose. Gallantly composed both Rider and horse.

“En dillian;” without hesitation, the horse takes off, clattering across the bridge; both Rider and horse unconsciously leaning a right shoulder into the southern breeze purposely ignoring the tree.

“Huh! How rude.,” the Professor says in the Rider’s direction. His attaché floats out from under the crossing in the creek into the lake. With his hand fisted clutching his hat, he slams the water before him; the slight murmur of clicking and ticking resonates on the water, creating a phloem from the splashing water catching the Professor in the eye. Anxiety overwhelmed him, mixed with a feeling of never-ending depression draws him in. The Professor flails about in a cold abyss; then finds himself on the path where he had fallen collecting the flask; now in hand. Ignoring the pain, the Professor spins around from buttocks to his knees. When placing his hand down to stand he notices his attaché on his side, his clothes are dry, and he has a nostril full of snuff. The Professor to his feet; begins twisting the cap off the flask, he looks about, and takes a sip. He looks back towards the north of the path, and seals the cap on the flask.

“I must’ve really hit my head,” he says pocketing the flask; touches the back of his head for blood, reaffixes his hat, and begins onward towards the manor.

fiction

About the author

Craig Gagarin

Im new to writing and over time i hope to improve. With the help of the community here at Vocal i'll achieve that.

Hot Fixes:

Quote paragraph structure 10/15/21

Learned how to embed 10/20/21

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