|The Caretaker (standard:science fiction, 1131 words)|
|Author: Brian Cross||Added: Feb 11 2005||Views/Reads: 2745/1575||Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)|
|A long time ago an amulet was left by a traveller. Now, two thousand years later he comes to retrieve it.|
THE CARETAKER I was engaged in my usual morning constitutional, striding out of Aldeburgh towards Thorpeness when I spotted the bare-chested man in trunks; he was raking the shingles with a metal detector when he stooped and weighed something in his hand, ‘This'll fetch a pretty penny,' he yelled to his pal, ‘come take a look at this.' He must have been aware that I was watching him because he jerked his head round and caught my gaze, with that movement his enthusiasm seemed to wane before seconds later he clutched his chest and dropped to his knees. I was close enough to notice the pallor of his cheeks, I have some knowledge of medical matters and I didn't like his colour one bit. I diverted my course with as much speed as I could muster and knelt at his side, ‘Are you alright?' I asked, a stupid question because plainly he wasn't. ‘Yeah, just a spot of indigestion,' the man, probably in his thirties tried a toothy grin which turned into more of a grimace, ‘be okay in a while fella.' From his expression I was dubious of that but his gangly sidekick intervened, placing his hands beneath the man's armpits and levering him up. ‘Come on Tom, I'll get you home.' He nodded to me knowledgeably as I rose to my feet, ‘Thanks bud, but like he says he'll be okay, he's on medication you know.' Doesn't seem to be doing him any good, I remember thinking as the man stumbled across the pebbles to the footpath, supported by his mate. And then I focused my eyes on something glistening in the sunlight. It was an octagonal green amulet with gold chain and surround, obviously the object the man had found but with the tide closing in it was in danger of being swept out to sea. I raised the amulet from the shingles and examined it carefully between my fingers. Within its vivid green centre there seemed to be the outline of a long, thin face but it is human nature to try and identify a pattern, and I could scarcely be sure it was a face at all. I frowned, a growing awareness that my heart was pumping a little more forcefully – the gold edges seemed to pulse as I held it and heat radiated through my fingers and up my arm. I blinked, shook my head and pulled myself together, it was a warm summer day, the pulse probably just a trick of the light and I decided the heat I felt was a result of the weather. I checked back for the man but he'd been guided away by his friend, presumably into the mews which lay beyond the beach road of Aldeburgh. I had no inclination to return it to him, I don't believe in his kind of practice in any case and I suppose I'm a bit stodgy like that. I was inclined to drop the amulet where I'd found it but a strange and unusual persuasion prevented me. A tremor ran from head to foot as I placed the thing in my trouser pocket. I raised my head towards the sky, just a hint of white amidst the blue but this wasn't a wisp of high level cloud; it was just a spot, not much more. Feeling oddly light-headed I resumed my walk along the coastal path to Thorpeness, probably it was merely contemplation of a pint at the Dolphin Inn there before making my return journey but all the same my mind was a livewire of thoughts that weren't interconnected. Was it a mind playing tricks? Because the further I walked, the heavier the amulet seemed to weigh in my pocket. Yet I fought the desire to examine it until on my return journey there might have been a lead weight strapped to my leg. The need to relieve my lower body of the weight it now carried became overpowering. I could resist no longer. I clasped the amulet in my hand and slowly opened my fist. At once I felt the heat rise, as though the whole thing was attempting to escape; I had the daftest notion of the jewel rising from my hand. But the face on the green surface was no longer an indistinct outline. It was visible, almost luminous, almost alive. Unnerved now, that it wasn't just my mind playing tricks but my mind also, I studied the dome – like hairless head, the colourless oriental eyes, the long imperial Click here to read the rest of this story (46 more lines)
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