Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Chapter Forty-Nine

Like all the other rooms of this forlorn castle, the parlor is empty and silent, still and shadowy, save for the ticking of a clock.

“You can come out now,” says the Lion. “I know you’re in here.”


“There’s no use hiding,” continues the Lion. He patiently circles the parlor. “And you have my word that I won’t harm you.”


“Come now,” purrs the Lion, even gentler, “you have nothing to fear from me... as long as you don’t make me lose my temper.”

He stops pacing in front of the mantelpiece clock.

It ticks a little faster.

The clock opens one eye, only to see Lion’s scarred muzzle staring into its face.

“Hello,” says the Lion.

There is a long pause. “What do you want?” says the Clock.

“To help, of course.”

“Well, we don’t need any help,” says the Clock, and it waddles around to face the wall.

The Lion lazily swats his paw and the Clock falls to the floor. He extracts a single claw, turns it over, and taps on the pendulum. And although the Clock shouldn’t feel pain, it trembles.

“You might not need my help...” The Lion thinks for a moment, but cannot remember the human’s name. No matter. “But she does.”

The parlor rustles slightly and the Lion smiles to himself. He finally has their attention.

“And,” says the Lion, out to the rest of the rooms, “any other things would do well to listen to what I have to say.”

“We’re... we’re listening,” says the Clock, still squirming on the floor. “But you’re too late to help her.”

“Why is that?” asks the Lion.

“She’s dead.”

“Oh, is she?” The Lion tuts sorrowfully. “That does make things slightly more difficult.”

“What do you mean?” asks a broomstick, brushing through the doorway.

“Perhaps I am getting ahead of myself,” says the Lion. He pauses as more pieces of furniture enter. The smell of magic permeates throughout the parlor. “Please, tell me what happened.”

The room buzzes and titters. The Clock clears his throat loudly, and most fall silent.

“She died,” repeats the Clock. His voice is thick. “She fell ill, wasted away and died.”

“And with her...” adds the divan, but the Clock interrupts the interruption.

“...Died the hopes of our master.”

“Only she didn’t die, did she?” whispers the Lion. “Not exactly.”

The room murmurs.

“We, we tried to bury her,” says the Clock. “Only she wouldn’t let us.”

The shovel, which leans in the doorway for fear of soiling the carpet, pipes up. “Her skin was so cold, monsieur. Like her eyes. She couldn’t see us anymore.”

“We think,” says the Clock, “that it was part of the curse.”

“She left,” continues the shovel. “Without a word of good-bye. Just walked back to the town in that broken way of hers.”

“And the master was devastated,” adds the Clock. He is determined not to let the shovel take over his story. “Locked himself away in his room. He sees no one, now.”

They do not mention the day and night he raged through the castle before he was overcome with despair. So much destruction, so many faithful servants crushed and trampled on that painful and unholy day.

The Lion nods thoughtfully. He’d been concerned about having to deal with their master. “And what if I told you that it is not too late to help her? That I could bring her back?”

In a way, they’re just like Pinocchio. Gullible and indestructible. An army of these tools, so much better than an army of hyenas. Feed them their hopes, and let them find his food and shelter.

The Clock speaks with the unanimous thoughts of the others. “We’d do anything to help her.”

The Lion smiles.