Unfinished Things by Ethan Fast
The players decide what is best: they will put Nai in the cellar. “You can visit that other devil,” the leading man says. Around goes a chuckling, a silence.
Nai hadn’t known the cellar was beneath the hall; it is hidden under a rug. They lower him in, and drop the rope down after, then shut the small-hinged door and pull the rug back into place. There is darkness, the cadence of receding feet.
Nai begins untying the rope.
“Another one.” The words echo without direction.
“Are you the devil?” Nai asks.
“Is that what they call me?”
“If you’re the only one down here.”
“Then among us, I’m probably the devil.” A scuffling, and when the voice speaks again it is much nearer. “I can help with that.”
Nai feels a tug. The rope around his waist slips free.
“It was good of them to let you keep the rope.”
“If you say so,” Nai says.
“I do. The others didn’t get to keep it.”
When a so-called devil you cannot see mentions others in the past tense, a normal person is apt to become worried. Such worries are not unfounded, the voice tells Nai, but they will do him little good and are better ignored, or best forgotten.
“I’d really like to have a good conversation,” the voice says, “but that doesn’t often happen.”
“Why not?” Nai asks.
“Well, after fear sets there’s nothing you can do. I mean, try talking about the nice things: fresh air and mountaintops, snow and rain and wind. Nobody has the capacity for that when they’re scared. It’s always ‘leave me alone’ or ‘get it over with’ or ‘go away.’”
Nai lowers himself to sit cross-legged on the floor. “People have reasons to be afraid.”
“Yes, but mostly unnecessary ones. They think, what and where and how, and will it hurt? If they better understood the agenda it wouldn’t be so bad, but no one ever listens.”
Nai suspects the speaker is studying him.
“Except for you,” the voice says.
And so they talk. The owner of the voice is named Fell, and he too once resided in the hall above.
“They put me down here,” Fell concludes, “to punish the ones they wanted to put down here later. Because they knew I couldn’t control it, were it to get bad enough, so they made it bad. Now they send down the others, and it’s terrible for everyone concerned.”
“I’m not sure I understand.”
“Ah,” Fell sighs. “You see I need you, to keep me living. Not that I’m happy about it, but I’m very weak now, and it’s harder to resist.”
Nai considers several things Fell hasn’t said.
“It’s really quite simple.”
‘Til Death Do Us Party
Call for Help
What Pavel Found
The Girl in the Glass Case
The Teacher’s Connection
[ Back to July ]