This week we're back with another interlude featuring our favorite old madman. Who is he? Read and find out (note, I don't mean to say you'll find out in this interlude, because you won't). You can find the Google Doc version here--thanks for reading!
The old man crouched near the fireplace, eyeing the doll like a Hedera waiting for the right moment to strike. The old man loved Hedera--their intelligence, their playfulness, their ferocity. He loved to hear the sounds they made when they killed something. It was somewhere between a pur and a giggle--they were like cats, great big hunting cats, but there was a bit of dog in them somewhere. The old man wondered when he had last seen a true dog or cat. He was so disconnected from the Mind now that he couldn't remember what it was like to experience anything outside of Ilend. Was there anything outside of Ilend? There was the big ball of gas, of course, and the dragons. The old man hadn't been there in years.
The doll kept sitting there, staring at him defiantly. The old man growled, trying to get her to show some respect. She was always prim and proper--sure she was--but when his back was turned she was a little fireball, spitting out hot coals in her silent suffering. Her humble suffering. Pathetic. This fireball needs to burst, the old man thought, grinning. This fireball needs to taste its own.
He grabbed her and tossed her in the fireplace. The cloth doll lit immediately, and the old man cackled with glee. A few moments more...and that's enough. He stuck his hand in the flames, ignoring the pain, and snatched the doll out of the inferno. He tossed her to the cold stone of the floor and stomped on her a few times to put out the flames still licking her body. The doll was disfigured now, with huge black patches across her surface. "There's a lesson for you," the old man said as he turned away from the charred doll. "You stupid little fireball."
The old man's eyes settled on one of his other friends. She was still lying on the endtable where he had left her. Below her lay the shattered remnants of a glass soldier. "Causing so much of a stir, already?" the old man asked of the doll. "You really should clean up that mess. Someone might cut themselves on the sharp edges you leave behind." The old man cackled and then scurried over to the endtable to snatch up his friend. She was frowning, as usual. Always frowning. He contemplated tossing her aside the charred doll laying on the floor, but decided against it. Not yet. It's not time yet.
Instead, the old man threw the doll in his hand atop the shattered glass of the soldier figurine, and then laughed again. "Clean it up! Clean it up!" he chanted, beginning to do a frenzied, yet rhythmic dance around the pile of glass shards. He did this for a good hour, never changing his pace, never varying the volume of his chanting. Towards the end, when his voice was ragged and his legs were afire with pain, he looks towards the ceiling of his room and yelled a final time--a primal scream of terror, agony, loss, and somehow glee. When his ritual was over, he fell to the floor in exhaustion.
This body...this frail old body. I hate this body... He had been perfect once. He had been invincible. And then it had all been snatched away. His body first, and then his mind. Not his power--or at least not all of it. He could still change things. That was why he was here in this room, drooling on the carpet and playing with dolls. It was a startling moment of clarity, a moment unlike any he'd had in months. The old man sat up, trying to concentrate. What was his name? Who was he? It was right there on the edge of his mind, he was reaching out to it as a drowning man would reach for his savior. But no. It was gone. And the momentary clarity went with it.
The old man turned his gaze to where the third doll lay in the center of the room. Was it time? Yes, he thought, beginning to rock back and forth, clutching his knees. It's time. Time for him to wake up. Time for everyone to wake up. We've slept much too long.