The second installment of Wyrdtails
Every conceivable bit of wall space was covered in sagging shelves filled with all manner of things, but mostly of dusty old tomes bound in worn and cracked leather, wherein shadowy words spoke of shadowy figures and shadowy spells to either draw them near or drive them back to their shadowy realms.
Together, we were lost souls and, much to my shame and disappointment, it became unbearable in the end. We had become dark mirrors of one another. Our moods were often bitter in those last days, our writings becoming increasingly dark and cynical, his even more so than my own. We were spiraling into only the gods know what. Madness? Yes, there’s that word again. I had no choice but to escape, hurtling into the arms of an infrequent paramour. I packed my things, eight years back, put a ring on the poor girl’s finger, and she and I built some semblance of a normal life apart from the swirling eccentricities that had been part and parcel of my former existence. Where he and I had been lost, under the guidance of my new bride, I had been found.
We stayed in touch, he and I, meeting over drinks, at first monthly, then less so, until we were reduced to the exchange of infrequent missives via email. My last contact with him had been a little more than a year ago, on the occasion of my wife’s untimely demise. It came in the form of a typed note on a small index card slid haphazardly into the gladioli floral arrangement someone else had sent. How it came to be there, I haven’t a clue, but there it was, just the same.
Signed with his first initial, as he was wont to do, in black ink, followed by his customary three dots sigil, a form of Freemasonic ellipse he’d been using since we were college freshmen. In the corner, the smudge of a thumbprint. It smelled of whisky and cigar smoke.
I sought him out after, of course, to thank him for the note and the sentiment. They were wondrous words that encapsulated the best moments of him that I clung to in my heart of hearts. I wanted to tell him what they meant to me, what he meant to me. That I missed him and loved him like the brother I’d never had. That I had so very much loved my wife and that I was dying inside without her and I desperately needed to talk with him, the only other person on this damnable planet he had cared for, truly cared for, in his entire life… but Thaddeus Sexton, roguish raconteur and psychonaut, wouldn’t answer his door, emails, standard post, and he didn’t own a phone.
And now he too was autumn.
I took the card out of my wallet and stared at it long and hard. I laid it upon his chest and whispered, “Godspeed, my friend.” I reached out and let my fingers brush the deceased’s lifeless hand. I allowed them to linger there, to reassure myself that he was truly gone, then turned toward the sea of blank faces in the choir of false remorse. I smiled crookedly and wished all sorts of horrible things upon this murder of crows. But I shouldn’t have bothered. Eventually Death takes us all into his embrace, some with more fervor than others.
It was three nights before Hallowe’en, two weeks and a day since my friend’s funeral, when I received a knock at the door. I rose from my reading chair, depositing my work (I was producing a new translation of Arbatel De Magia veterum for publication) and reading glasses on the Jacobean end table. It wasn’t exactly late, but I was unaccustomed to visitors at any hour. I had never cultivated many true friendships, and my wife’s friends had dissolved into twilight before the crypt doors had slammed shut. I adjusted the belt on my smoking jacket, and with pipe in hand, I answered the gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“Mr. Murdock, I presume,” the gentleman said as the portal gave way. “Mr. Nicholas Murdock?” He was dressed against the evening chill in a long trenchcoat, with a well-worn fedora riding upon a cascade of dirty blond hair. His face, pleasant to the eye, sported a devilish beard, like a young Robert Plant fresh from Bron-Yr-Aur.
“The last I looked myself in the mirror, that appeared to be the case,” I replied, wary as this young man, whose weight was supported by a cane I had more than a passing familiarity with, reached out his free hand in introduction. I accepted it and the hearty shake that accompanied it.
“My name is Landon Connors,” he said, a glint in his eye to rival fell Lucifer himself. “I believe you knew my father,” he added and this was quite true. “We need to talk.”
The last bit, that need to talk business, well, it seldom comes wanted or attached to pleasant news, and that was certainly the case as I allowed the young Connors my ear. And, I should add, that I have resolved that should Landon Connors’ path cross with mine e’er again, my first course of action will be to excuse myself from his presence at once for no good can come of such a meeting.
to be continued