Van refuses, and has his skull bashed in.

“I don’t plan on joining you,” Van said. Under his breath he whispered, “Crazy old man.”

“So be it.”

The two stood still for a few moments, waiting for the other to make a move. Van began to inch sideways along the wall, his eyes locked with the old man’s all the while. Content that there was no immediate threat to the integrity of his skull, he made up his mind to turn and walk away.

Van hadn’t so much as taken a step when the old man’s staff connected with the top of his head, sending him crashing to the ground. In his own mind, probably struggling to cope with the impact, he fell through the earth and into a strange world, a sort of fever dream he had never experienced. There was a sensation of constant warmth, and it seemed to Van he lived through an entire lifetime before he awoke.

He was confused, of course, having been ripped from the strange fantasies his injured mind conjured while unconscious. His confusion grew stronger as he felt himself being dragged across the ground, a firm grip around his shirt collar propelling him backwards through the grass.

“Oi!” he shouted as his senses slowly came back. The dragging suddenly stopped and his collar was released.

“Ah, good, you’re awake!”

Van got up slowly and saw that he wasn’t even ten metres from spot he had fallen.

“You can walk the rest of the way, now,” the old man continued. “Hup hup!”

“Why’d you hit me, crazy fool?”

“The name is Morley!” the old man shouted. “And Morley never goes back on his word! I told you a thrashing was coming, so a thrashing I delivered.”

“And so you dragged me to the other side of the road?”

“Indeed!” Morley seemed quite proud of this feat, puffing his chest out slightly and raising his chin. “Now we can be on our way.”

Van didn’t move, but asked, “You’re going to hit me again if I refuse, right?”

“Certainly!”

This drew a sigh from the younger man, who decided that his continued health was more important that the errands he had to run in town. The merchants and tradesmen weren’t going anywhere, after all.

Van, though, was clearly set off for somewhere, led by old man Morley. Where exactly he was to go, Van wasn’t sure.

The End

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