“I am here,” came the hissed reply, and it was unsettling close.
I looked down, and two glinting orbs, Senis’s hollow eyes, met my stare. I barely discerned the ragged outline of his body in the faint light that filtered into my cabin. He was crouching before me.
“Stay back!” I stepped away warily.
“Please, Chris, just a little food.” Senis was all but moaning as he remained crouched on my floor.
I looked around me. I had drifted back towards my fridge to stay a few feet away from my intruder, and on the counter adjacent to the fridge was a packaged loaf of sliced, store-bought bread. I undid the tie and opened the plastic wrap, then tossed a heel of bread at the shriveled man. It is nothing to lose, really. Surely my master will forgive me, I convinced myself.
Senis descended on the crust of bread almost furiously. His rotted teeth tore into the bread, and in a blink it was gone.
“You are starved, aren’t you?” I asked. At the same time I felt a twinge of regret for feeding the creature. It would have died off soon enough without any more food, and I would have been rid of it.
“Famished,” Senis hissed in reply. “More.”
“Wait,” I said firmly. “I have fed you. What will you do for me? You promised to give me something in return.”
“Yes, I will give you much, master, things you cannot imagine,” Senis whispered. “But I must eat more!”
I sighed deeply and opened my fridge. The little light bulb inside flicked on imediantly as the door swung open, and a patch of light shone out across my floor. There was a scuttling behind me, and I turned to find that Senis had fled to his shadowy corner again. I pulled out the Tupperware that held my leftovers from dinner and closed the fridge door again. The light disappeared, and I dropped the container onto the floor with a thump.
“There,” I said aloud to the shadows. “Eat that.”
I watched as a shadow took form and crouched over the leftovers. The sound of food being loudly consumed filled my cabin, and suddenly dread washed over me. What was I doing? Senis would be dangerous if he grew strong again. Why was I feeding the very creature that had enslaved me? But yet, I hadn’t given him much—only my leftovers. Surely he would not grow strong off of such meager fares.
The noise died down, and a soft groan of pleasure came from the floor where my intruder crouched. “Well, you have eaten,” I said. “Now show me what you will give me.”
The shadow moved. Senis rose to his feet and walked towards me. His grotesque face was drawn tightly in an emotion that I couldn’t quite discern, but when he spoke, the vehemence in his voice filled me in. “I will not—not until I have eaten more.”
I laughed mockingly, for I could still make out the outline of my intruder’s emaciated body in the dim light. “I am your master now, remember? Give me something in return for my indulgence to you, or you will leave.”
“Oh, but you don’t want me to leave, do you?” Senis hissed. I struggled to reply to this sudden question, and the creature pressed on, “But I will give you something now, lest you think that I am not a man of my word. Come.”
Senis stepped to my table, and I followed, drawn by more than curiosity. Senis stooped so that his sunken cheek rested on the surface of my table, and he closed his eyes. I waited, but was rewarded with nothing more than the shallow noise of his breathing. But then something happened. A guttural sound came from deep in the creature’s throat, and suddenly Senis made a noise not unlike a loud burp, only closer to a hiss. I blinked, and when I opened my eyes, I saw on the table before the creature a goblet filled with a liquid of vibrant red.
Senis took the goblet and held it towards me. “Here is your reward, my master. Drink, and be satisfied.”
I reached out and took the cup, and a chill ran up my arm. I hesitated with the goblet on my lips. What if it was poison? Surely a creature as lowly as Senis could produce nothing better. I sniffed the liquid, and sweet, pungent fumes filled my nostrils. A passion that I had not felt in months rose within me at the smell, and I drank. The liquid slipped down my throat, smooth and pleasurable. It tasted better than I had ever imagined. I wanted more.
I slid the goblet across the table. “Fill it again.”
Senis smiled for the first time in the night. His eyes were no longer hollow, but flickering with life. “Feed me more, and I will give you so much more than a refill,” he whispered quietly.
“Okay.” I turned to my fridge, but Senis hissed behind me.
“No more leftovers. Feed me something better.”
“I assure you,” I replied, indignant at his demand, “I am not going to cook something for you.”
“And what of the meat you have in that fridge?”
I stared at the dim outline of my intruder’s face. How had he known what I possessed? “That meat belongs to my master.” It was true. I had slaughtered one of my master’s hogs for him in the past day and was storing the meat till his next visit.
“He will not miss it,” Senis hissed.
“It is frozen.”
“Not all of it, Chris, don’t play with me.”
Again, what Senis said was true, and the hair rose on the back of my neck at his uncanny knowledge. I had put most of the meat in the freezer section of my fridge, but for lack of space I had refrigerated several packages of the meat.
“I will not cook it for you,” I said firmly, hoping this would get my intruder’s mind turned from my master’s possessions.
“It doesn’t matter. I want it.”
“You’ll eat it raw?”
“Yes, raw.” Senis smiled again at me and smacked his lips.
I opened the fridge and removed some of the meat. It wasn’t much—just a couple of steaks. I hoped my master wouldn’t notice. Senis slinked towards me, and this time I handed him the food. He tore into the raw meat as if he was just as hungry as before. I should have been repulsed as I watched him for more than a few reasons, but my mind felt almost numbed to the filth I was witnessing. The passion for more of what Senis had given me overruled all other senses.
With a deep, contented sigh Senis finished the meat and licked his oily hands. “I am full—for now. I will give you all you want,” he said.
Senis walked back to the table. He leaned over and closed his eyes, and then the same noises came again from his throat and mouth. In the next second the goblet was filled again with the same sweet liquid. I drank it down greedily.
“Thank you,” I said quietly.
“But you want more,” Senis interjected, his eyes, now keen and piercing, searching my face. “Yes,” he continued quietly, “so much more.”
My mind flashed with images of many things I coveted. Yes, I wanted more.
“I can give you what you desire, if you will let me,” Senis whispered. He was still staring at me, and I stared back, wondering what had changed. Slowly, Senis had become less ugly to me. Gone was the grotesque creature; it had evolved into a confident man offering me the longings of my mind.
“Show me,” I said.
Senis nodded, and for a moment I thought I saw his lips turn upwards in a smirk. He leaned over my table and closed his eyes, and he started groaning deep, guttural moans. Anticipation rose within me as I waited, but suddenly I felt a pang of dread. What would come next? I had trusted Senis once before when he owned me, and he would have killed me were it not for my new master, who saved me from death and now treated me as his very son. I could end this. The broad sword my master had given me was lying on the mantel above my fireplace. I could reach it in a few quick strides, and I had but to pick it up and run Senis through. But I would not.
Senis’s groans suddenly stopped, and I stared at the table. It had instantaneously become laden with many things I could only suppose Senis had created. A feast of delicacies was spread across my table, and there were other things, too: piles of gold coins, silver goblets of wine, and much more that was pleasant to the eye. I approached the laden table almost with awe and took up a coin, fingering it and weighing it in my palm. The coin was smooth and heavy, attesting to its validity.
“How did you come by all this?” I heard myself ask to Senis, still dazed. “And why do you give it to me now?”
“You need not know, only enjoy,” Senis replied smoothly. “As long as you feed me, I can give you all, my master.”
I partook in the feast, gorging myself with Senis’s delicacies. The food tasted incredibly good to me, and almost like a drunkard I ate with willing abandon. I ignored my conscious now, for how could I listen to something that would deprive me of such delights? The little whisper in my soul that this might not be what it seemed was buried in my lust for more of the food before me.
Presently, I noticed that Senis had come around the table and was standing by my side. He watched me in silence, his lips upturned in a little smile. I turned from the feast for a moment to look at him, and suddenly I was made uneasy.
“It is good, master, isn’t it?” Senis hissed, and his voice dripped with irony.
He had leaned close to me, and when he asked the question, his breath blasted into my face. It smelled foul. Suddenly he was transformed again into the ugly creature I had seen at first, and a terrible dread rose within me. I turned back to the table just to find that the delectable delicacies before me had deteriorated to black slime. The piece of fruit in my hand that I had half-consumed was now a thick black glob. Bile rose in my throat at the realization of what I had been eating, and I gagged and nearly retched.
Part three coming soon!
If you missed part one: A Dream of Shadow: Part 1