The following is my flash Friday fiction. 1000 words, random themes and items. For this story, I randomly had: Themes: Swords & Sorcery and Picaresque. Items: Mythical Bird and an Ancient Book. Enjoy.
It was never my intention to learn of magical things or set out on an amazing adventure. I just wanted to rob the guy. He had other plans.
Having spent what seems like all of my life on the streets, I was used to being ignored or verbally abused when I beg for my pay. I know how I must look. I’m as dirty as the streets of this city, and I probably smell as bad as the dumpster that I sleep behind. But I’m still a person. Nothing that I am or did gave that old jerk the right to spit on me.
I was only slightly blocking his path when he walked by. I wouldn’t even have been so insistent if he hadn’t stopped to stare at me. He just stood there, watching me intently. His eyes were a murky blue, and he was searching for something. I couldn’t tell what.
“Hey, old man?” I asked.
He was unresponsive.
“What’s your problem? You never seen someone homeless before?”
“You keep staring like that I’m gonna charge you a ticket fee. How ‘bout you give a donation?”
Alright, perhaps at this point I got a little annoying. Not my fault. He started it. I was agitated because he was a weirdo. I’ve seen some strange things, but this guy was freaking me out. I started to get animated, jumping around, and maybe I got in his face a little. Then, out of nowhere, he spat on me!
I stood stunned and motionless. Still saying not a word, he walked away. Gathering my anger and wit, I decided to follow him home. Though the old man moved slowly, the walk took less time than I would have expected. I’m in this area often, but I swear I’ve never seen this creeper before.
Trailing just far enough behind to keep him in sight, I stopped about a block away as he turned to enter his brownstone. I could hardly make out the key in his hand as he slipped it into the lock, yet somehow, I heard the sound of the tumbler turning and the pins disengage.
Letting my rage control my actions, I shook off the impossible sound and continued forward once he had entered the house. I quietly ascended the short stair case in front of the building, looking around to ensure no one was paying attention to me.
Turning the knob slowly, I was excited to find that he had left it unlocked. I quietly entered. Inside was dark. My only light was that which spilled in from the open door. I pondered why the man might be sitting in the shadow. Maybe he had seen me coming and was lying in wait to defend his home against me.
My vision struggled to scan through the deep grayness. To my right, on a table by the entry, lay a small sword. Instinctively, I picked it up. I wasn’t planning to hurt the man. However, if he attacked me, I would defend myself.
But it wasn’t the old man that flew at me. Instead, it was a vibrant flash of oranges, red, and yellow. At first, I thought it was a ball of fire. I raised my hands to protect my face and bent down in anticipation. After a moment, when it didn’t hit me, I looked up. Illuminating the darkness of the air was a bird of sorts. Darting back and forth through the empty space, the motions of the creature seemed more fluid than water and not natural to the avian variety.
Mystified, I stood and tried to figure out what I was seeing. It came again, fluttering at me, swooping overhead, causing me to duck and weave. It was only when it came to rest upon a dusty book that sat alone on a couch back table further into the room that I realized it was not aflame.
While its feathers flowed and licked like flames, the bird was cool, and did not set fires to anything it touched. It stared at me, with the same murky blue eyes that the old man wore. They looked deep against the bright colors of its plumage; endless. They beckoned me to come closer.
I did as this mythical bird commanded. I’m not sure why I did what it said, but I couldn’t resist. As I came nearer, it hopped off of the tome and stopped to rest above it on the couch. It looked eagerly between me and the volume. I didn’t share the excitement it anticipated.
Reluctantly, I reached for the manuscript. It wasn’t until I touched it that I realized it was such an ancient book. Dust swirled into the brightened air as the cover and half the pages slammed against the table. The words inside had a glow of their own and nearly leapt off the sheet. Studying it, I knew that this was a book of sorcery.
The old man in his bird form looked amused, expecting me to learn the spells become its apprentice. On the page I had opened to was an incantation. It said it would bind the bird to me, as my familiar, my teacher, my servant. I then realized that the man had baited me here. Immediately, I read the words aloud. A swirl of light surrounded us, and the bird came to rest on my shoulder.
Once this was done, I took the book and left the house. It didn’t take me as long as I expected to sell the book and sword. Bound to my bidding, the bird went without protest when I commanded it, though his eyes filled with sorrow.
My begging days were finally over and I had enough money to buy the newly abandoned townhome. Perhaps if the old man had chosen someone better, he wouldn’t be a pet right now. But as I said, it was never my intention to learn of magical things or set out on an amazing adventure.