Ch. 00 - An InvitationA Chapter by Seratha
“Ah, a visitor. Welcome, welcome.”
The hooded figure remained in his seat, hunched over the only piece of furniture in the room, a simple black table. He beckoned over with a motion of his frail, sickly looking hand.
“Please, have a seat.”
A vacant chair was pulled out opposite his side of the table. Had it been there the whole time? The room was relatively dark, with only the dull glow of moonlight passing through the room's foggy windows. Squinting hardly helped either.
The chair's wooden frame was cold to the touch. The seat itself was no more comfortable. The cloaked man reached into his shawl and produced a thin bottle, presumably wine. A tinkle of glass rang from his side of the table. Two exquisite looking wine glasses, shining even in the room's dull haze, were waiting to be used. Those definitely weren't there a moment ago. Maybe it was a trick of the light, or the lack thereof.
“Care for a drink? I do hope you make yourself comfortable,” he said, pouring the sanguine fluid into the first glass. His tone was warm and welcoming. Almost friendly, yet still detached and hollow.
He conceded the lack of response with a slight nod of his head. His cowl shifted, revealing a crooked nose underneath the darkness. Long and bent at odd angles, like it had been broken and healed many times over. He set the filled glass at his side without taking a drink. Now there was only one glass. There were two before, right? And this music, where was it coming from? It was a piano piece, and sounded vaguely familiar. Its tempo seemed out of place for a shadowy room such as this. Jarringly fast at times, almost cheerily upbeat, but haunting nonetheless.
“I take it you did not stumble upon this place by accident? You came here searching for something, yes?” he spoke again, his voice rising just above the absent piano's keys, as if the music wasn't there at all. Unless it really wasn't there?
He nodded again at the lack of response. From his sleeve, he produced a handful of cards, like a magician at a children's party. Shuffling the cards between his wrinkled hands, he continued in his warm, even tone.
“A story is an interesting thing, is it not?”
He drew a single card and placed it in the center of the table. It was a blank, dull black card, barely visible against the table, except for its unnaturally glossy sheen.
“Take, for example, the story of a single man.”
A tiny shadow figure emerged from the card, in the shape of a miniature man. Unsettling, to say the least, but not altogether unsurprising. This room was certainly far from normal.
“From this perspective, the observer will gain all he wishes to know, as told by the man himself. Sufficient and concise.”
He placed another card next to the one already on the table. Another tiny, vaporous figure emerged from the card.
“But what happens when this man is killed?”
A tiny bang rang out from the tabletop. The figure from the first card bent over and collapsed in a heap. Sickeningly realistic fluid spurted out of his tiny chest, creating a small pool of dark blood over the card.
“What, now, can we say of the killer?” he continued calmly, unfazed by the growing pool of liquid. He placed more cards on the table. “The man's family?”
Two nearby cards produced the shape of a woman and child.
“His neighbors? His employer? Co-workers? Friends? Enemies?”
The table was now filled with small, dark people, each standing on their respective cards, staring blankly at the man laying in his own blood.
“Do you understand?”
Again, no response, but he continued without waiting for one.
“A story has many sides, many perspectives. Tales within tales that must be exposed for the true meaning to come to light.”
With a sweep of his robed arm, the shadowy dolls vanished, leaving behind only five blank cards.
“This story is not unlike what I have just shown you,” he said, shifting slightly in seat and revealing a wide, toothy smile beneath his hood and crooked nose. He leaned back, turning and shuffling the remaining cards between his slender fingers. Among the cards on the table, the center one slid forward. It was no longer blank. A simple white mask with three slits for the eyes and mouth adorned the card's surface.
“And what of myself? I, too, am but a cog in this intricate machine. A facet upon this lustrous jewel. Join us, won't you? Our first tale will begin shortly, and fret not, my humble visitor. We will meet again.”
© 2012 Seratha