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The Caretaker (standard:science fiction, 1131 words)
Author: Brian CrossAdded: Feb 11 2005Views/Reads: 2917/1690Story 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.


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 

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