When the last thing you remember is something that feels like a bee sting on the side of your neck, and you open your eyes to see a skeleton sitting in a wing-backed chair, apparently reading what looks like a very dog-eared copy of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ by the light of a hissing Tilley lamp, the temptation has to be to close your eyes and wait for it to go away. So I tried that. But it was no manner of use. All that happened was that I heard a dry bone-ish sort of chuckle inside my head.
I opened my eyes again and regarded the ossified one with some dissatisfaction. Then I noticed the spectacles – and that was the moment when hysteria almost overtook me. In order to wear spectacles the frames have to rest on your nose and your ears. Of course, a skeleton has neither but, nevertheless, these horn-rimmed spectacles hovered in approximately the correct position and hideously magnified a pair of bloodshot eyeballs, which seemed to be studying me in much the way a schoolboy studies a bug on a pin.
In an effort at nonchalance I snorted indelicately and sat up.
Bones averted its gaze, which alerted me to the fact I was completely naked.
“Can you cover yourself please?” The voice in my head was almost plaintive. “Normally I wouldn’t care, but I’ve been reading this…”
I laughed and pulled the bedclothes up to my armpits.
Bedclothes? At this point, my hair all but stood on end and it was only iron self-control, and the discipline of years, that enabled me to pull myself together.
I looked around me to discover I was in an enormous barrel-vaulted chamber – windowless except for one narrow slit high on the ceiling which threw a line of light on a clock face equally high on the opposite wall. This would seem to be suggesting that it was three o’clock in the afternoon. I registered that piece of information and filed it in my brain for future reference, before carrying on with the catalogue of my situation. I was sitting on what was possibly a tomb or, more likely, some sort of an altar, on a thick soft mattress and I had a downy coverlet pulled over me. At the side of my ‘bed’ there was a small pile of clothing: not mine. There was also a leather satchel – which was mine, and which I was very pleased to behold.
A deep, cool voice from behind me all but had me snapping my head around in surprise.
“Is there aught you require, lady?”
I turned around with calculated slowness to find myself looking into the eyes of an obviously female stone sphinx.
“My own clothes” I said coolly “and food”.
The creature met my stare head on for a moment before inclining her cranium ironically. She whistled shrilly, and a troupe of fauns clattered into view, bearing various items of clothing and a basket from which the scent of new bread oozed its enchantment. I inclined my own head as the little males disposed their burdens on the coverlet at my feet.
“Right boys” I said briskly “everyone turn away so I can dress in peace.”
They all turned, except the sphinx.
“You too sister. I have no desire to wring your little marble heart with my beauty.”
She snarled, but turned to face outward.
Once I was dressed in leather trousers and a form-fitting multi-pocketed weskit I opened the basket to find bread, bacon, honey, and a flask of wine.
“You can turn back now thank you” I remarked “and can somebody please take the bacon. I don’t eat flesh.”
One of the fauns trotted over and showed me its sharp little teeth in a feral grin as it took the lump of fat bacon out of the basket….
This is an extract from ‘The Nature of the Beast’. Just one of the stories in ‘Pulling the Rug 2’ by Jane Jago.