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At Home
At Home
An excerpt.
Published by The Silent One
At Home

After leaving the building, Pulver took a roundabout route to an even poorer part of the city. Few things moved here at night, and what did seemed so familiar that he could hardly give them notice. To a narrow and teetering pile he wended, and beyond its doors through a crumbling lobby, a tattered hall, and up many flights of stairs in the consummate dark to a close hallway lined with doors, some broken in or missing. A few seemed new, though, or at least intact; such was the seventh on the left. With the assistance of a hidden key and a few deft movements, he opened the door. He entered the room without a sound.

He closed the door behind himself, then listened to the emptiness, eyes closed yet moving. Arms behind his back, he locked the door. He was, he was certain, alone.

And now he is home.

There were four rooms in Ossian Pulver's place of residence: A kind of drawing room, into which the main door opened; to the right, a small kitchen and a bathroom; and to the left, a larger room serving both as his study and his bedroom. All were sparsely furnished and lit only with a single oil lamp and the stray strands of light that fell between the heavy curtains over the narrow, peaked windows. Tonight the moon was waxing, so enough of these fell through to give the room outline. Only the bedroom had a door in its frame, and it was rarely closed.

After a moment of silent contemplation, Pulver walked into his bedroom and undressed, neatly folding his vestments and arranging them in little piles in a cupboard by the door. Naked then, he left the bedroom and crossed the front room to the little kitchen. Fetching a small glass from the board that served as his counter, he drew himself a glass of water.

He did not wonder how his neighbours had managed to keep the pipes in order, or they might have been to do so. That they had money or clout ill-gotten was self-evident, but it was not his business to know what that meant. Sanctuary had a very low price, and one that he could keep quite easily.

Finished, he returned the glass to its place and himself to his room. He had been awake far longer than he would have preferred, and the desire for sleep quietly nagged him. Obliging, he eased his creaking body into his creaking cot. As he quickly fell into dreams and figments, he gave a cursory look to what hung above his desk, the sole adornment in the spare flat. It was a Japanese watercolour print of a garden in spring, with a small bridge over a brook. Even in the near-lightless deep of the bedroom's night, the pale square of dissolving colours in shapes seemed to emit a wan glow against the grey wall.

He had read that the Japanese had words for what he sought, what had drawn him to his nest, but he had long forgotten them. Now, only the painting remained to remind him. This wedding of impermanence and strange contrasts suited him.


If any other had been there, even the most oblivious, their death would have been assured. None of the nameless others who lived in the high and crumbling tower knew his name or his profession nor did they seek them out; likewise, none that knew them had found this place. Nor would they. In all things, he was very careful.

Perhaps Maurice knew, he sometimes thought. Maurice knew a great many things about those he employed, and was meticulous in making sure that the knowledge was completely one-sided. Nor could he completely trust that there was not another, somewhere.

Yet this could not dispel his perfect solace. He was alone here, with the darkness and the dust and the ever-settling decay of the world. Alone in the presence of unnumbered strangers and moving shadows.
Thanks From:
cynothoglys (02-26-2013)



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