User:Michael Bard/The Head on the Bed
The Head on the Bed
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by Michael Bard
There was a knock on his door, though it sounded odd. Shrugging, he got up and opened the door to his bachelor apartment. "Hello?"
The knocking came again, louder and more insistent, and from behind him. Huh? There wasn't a door there. Slamming the font one shut, he spun around. And stared.
There, beside his bed with his just finished unicorn costume head sitting upon it, was a door. In the wall.
There'd never been a door there before.
The knocking started again. So loud this time that he could see the door shake. Some plaster drifted down from the roof.
Not knowing what else to do, he walked over and opened it.
Opened it to look up into the leering tusked faces of a pair of trolls. Not troll-like humans, but trolls. He had no idea how he knew, but he did. And, not just trolls, but trolls in pinstriped suits.
"He-- hello?" he said.
"Where'd da gold?" one asked, drool dripping off one fang.
"Da Oberon, he ain't pleased," growled the other.
Stephen stared. Then asked, "But-- what gold?"
"Da Oberon ain't happy with ya." The first troll motioned to the unicorn costume head on the bed.
"Not 'appy at'all," said the other.
"Get da gold, or else."
"Da Opberon, he ain't a patient fey. You have till da New Moon."
"Oh, and ah've got a message from da Oberon for ya."
"What the hell is going on?"
Neither troll answered. Instead, the slightly bigger one raised a massive fist and slugged him in the face.
Stephen awoke some time later, he head pounding to wake the dead. Dried blood was all over his face and shirt.
And the mysterious door was gone.
He looked at the unicorn costume head. It couldn't be. His pounding head dredged up the image of a horse head in a pool of blood on a bed. A message from the Maffia. No way could that be it!"
He throbbing head and dried blood argued otherwise.
But, why him? Rubbing his skull, he remembered them asking for gold. But he had no gold! Sure, some imitation gold leaf for working with miniatures, but that was it. And, how much gold? They never said, and probably didn't even know. Hell, he didn't even have a clue how to contact this Oberon. Was it the Oberon? The way they'd said it, it had sounded more like a title.
Stephen shrugged. It was impossible. It had to be-- He must have slipped and hit his head, got a bloody nose. That was it! A mysterious door, trolls, nonsense! He sighed with relief.
Still, just in case, he pushed his bed over to in front of where the door had appeared.
He'd eventually broken down and looked up the New Moon -- just to be sure. It was the dark moon, when it reflected no light towards him. And, that night had come, and he'd been terrified, and it'd gone.
How! He was right. Just a pain caused delusion. He had slipped and banged his head. At least he felt fine, so no concussion or anything. Just a dream. That's it, just a dream.
That night he'd had his first good night's sleep in a week. Or, he had until there was a knock at his door in the middle of the night. A strangely familiar knock. Jerking awake, he'd stared, seeing that door, it having moved beside his bed's new location, gently glowing in what had been wall.
There wasn't a second knock, instead the door slammed open.
This time it wasn't just the two trolls. A third figure was with them, also neatly dressed in a pinstriped suit. Somehow Stephen knew that the new rabbit-like figure was a Pooka. "The Oberon is most displeased with you, David," the Pooka said. "Most displeased indeed."
"My name's Stephen!"
"That won't work. The Unicorn always knows."
"It was just a costume I was working on!"
"Ya, right--" muttered one of the trolls.
Ignoring the commentary, the Pooka continued: "Most displeased with you indeed."
"You were warned about the gold. Such a tiny amount."
"I don't have any gold!"
"A sad example," the Pooka continued. "Grab him, boys."
Faster than Stephen'd thought possible, the pair of trolls had him by his arms in a grip of steel. They dragged him out of his bed and off through the door. The Pooka closed it behind him. Beneath Stephen, the ground began moving, and stars glistened off the rippled water that surrounded the boat they were now on.
"You really should have paid him back, David."
"My name is Stephen!"
"Last chance, David. Where's the gold?"
"I don't have the gold!"
"David, David, David-- Okay boys, throw him over."
One of the trolls snickered as the pair grabbed Stephen by his shoulders. As they lifted him, a monstrous weight dragged at his feet. Looking down, Stephen saw that he was standing in a tub of cement. Dry cement.
"Cement overshoes?" Stephen burst out.
"The old ones are always the best, David. You really should have paid him." The Pooka tsk tsked.
Stephen tried to play for time. "Don't you mean Concrete Golashes?"
The Pooka and the trolls looked at each other. One troll scratched his head. Stephen shook his -- nobody watched TOS anymore.
"Let me guess," he continued. "It's only written as Cement Overshoes in The Book?"
"Just throw him in," said the Pooka.
The one troll giggled again as the pair grabbed him and tossed him overboard. Stephen had just enough time to grab a lungful of air before the water closed over his head.
The water was dark and cold, but not too deep. It didn't take Stephen long to thunk into the bottom, raising a cloud of silt and mud. Oddly, the pressure didn't hurt his ears, but he wasn't really worried about that. Part of him wanted to scream, the beat his fists, but that would just use his air up faster. He decided to give a miracle maximum time to happen. So he waited.
A few bubbles blurped out his nostrils which relieved the burning in his lungs a little.
And he waited.
"Got the Oberon pissed at you, eh?"
Stephen looked around for the voice, a glurp of air escaping, and saw a furry trout hanging there. He almost answered, but nodded instead.
"It won't be much longer. Just another example, soon to be forgotten. Did you take a loan from him too?"
Stephen shook his head violently. He really needed to breathe.
"Don't fool me. You did. They all do. You wouldn't imagine how pissed the leprechauns are at him."
Stephen drew his hand across his throat, giving the SCUBA signal for out of air.
"You sure are. Just give up, nobody's coming. And I'm hungry."
Hungry? More air gushed out and Stephen reached after it, his lungs are on fire.
"Dead bodies make great eating around here. Not much else." The trout motioned around with a fin. "And, even if I gave you air, the cold would get you anyways."
Stephen didn't feel cold. Just on fire. So much on fire that he just had to breathe. So, he glurped out the last of his air and, before he could stop himself, sucked in a lungful of water.
"There we go. See, dying wasn't so bad, was it?"
Stephen stared, feeling much more comfortable, as the dense water was heaved in and out of his lungs.
"Are you still alive?"
"Yes!" Stephen didn't believe he could speak under water, but he had.
Somehow the furry trout scratched its head. "Now that's odd. Damn odd. Unless--?"
As Stephen showed no signs of dying soon, either from lack of air, or lack of heat, he just said, "What are you talking about?"
"You indicated you didn't take a loan in gold from the Oberon?"
"I never took any loan! I just built a unicorn costume head and put it on my bed--"
"You what--? Oh my! Oh me oh my!" The trout began laughing.
"What's so damn funny?"
"There is a rule placed around here that prevents innocents, or those wrongly accused, from dying. Some human mage put it in place centuries ago -- nobody even knows why anymore."
"Given that you seem to be happily breathing water, and haven't started shivering yet, I'm betting you're in one of those too camps. From your story, wrongly accused."
Stephen nodded vigorously.
"Just wait until the Oberon finds out!"
"Oh, he'll owe you big time! Nothing like this has happened in centuries!"
Stephen thought. "What kind of things can he do--"
"Oh, all kinds kinds of things--"
Stephen swallowed, seeing long held dreams fill his mind. "Could he-- transform me?"
"Oh, into near anything!"
Maybe this wasn't so bad after all-- "I'll have to think about this."
"Of course, it might take him a while to realize."
Stephen could wait a few days.
"Not too many years--"
Laughing, the trout swam away.
Stephen grunted. At least he was alive. And, some day-- oh, some day! Equinehood here he came!