Like so many stories of valor and derring-do, this one begins in an apartment.
I’m not a morning person. I’m not really a night person either, but mornings definitely don’t agree with me. This particular morning fell during a rough patch, business-wise, and so I disliked the morning with an added bitterness.
I staggered into the kitchen, groaning against the invading light and demanding that it take its cheery self elsewhere. I rummaged in the cupboard, frowning at the scarcity of breakfasty offerings. What was left of the cereal was more like sugary gravel. I shut the cupboard and pulled open the fridge, shivering against its chilly breath. An open beer can rested on the top rack. The milk sat on the middle rack, and something seemed to be swimming in it. The vegetable crisper rattled ominously.
“Is there anything here to eat?” I called out.
The voice that answered me was unfamiliar, but that did little to deter me. “That’s a loaded question, Arch!” It bore a reedy quality, like a frail but lively old man that might still try to go swing dancing despite the abject terror such an activity would give his hips.
The living room pulsed with candlelight. The shades were drawn, and candles were arranged in strange, furious patterns throughout the room, flickering. The cacophony of scents laid siege upon me, both bringing up wistful childhood memories and creating debilitating nausea. The furniture rested at awkward angels, as if arranged in psychotic feng shui. Only the couch, facing the dark television set, remained in its normal position. Seated upon the couch was a small figure, pear-shaped, with the head of an ant.
Not an ant’s head, mind you: It’s head was an ant, complete with six, fidgety little legs. Its shimmering, red eyes looked upon me with thoughtful anticipation.
“Hello, Fred. So, what’s with the seance atmosphere?”