The restraints tightened as the man on the bed stretched forward. “Let me tell you a story.”
There sat in a far off place a lamp post, the only one of its kind. Underneath it gathered three characters. They hailed from different worlds. A scholar, of proud bearing and rich dress, came from the highlands to the north. A farrier travelled up from the south, he reeked of iron and dung. Last, to round out the cast, was a bonepicker. Where she came from nobody knew. They gathered beneath a burning gaslight on a warm summer night. They gathered to tell each other stories, of truth, of fiction and between. For just as one was honest so was the next a liar. The farrier always went first. He told his tale thusly.
She fell. Hel couldn’t reach her in time. She was gone. He leapt but the buzzing drove into his skull. The sky wheeled. The veil was torn away and everything went dark.
Hel jerked upright. On the table beside him a metal box buzzed at him. It read 7:45. He slapped it. The beast silenced he sank back into warmth. Strange. He didn’t remember having a magic box that printed numbers. Turning over, the box’s red eyes spelt 9:13. He hit the floor cursing. He tore his combat gear from the wardrobe.
The door slid open with a hiss. He stepped into an airy kitchen lit by morning sun. A man sat on rays of light, munching cornflakes.
“Morning sleepy head,” He wore a dressing gown and slippers.
“Uh,” said Hel.
“You were out late last night."
An awkward silence pervaded, the kind where you realised you couldn’t remember your friend’s name. Hel’s eyes wandered as he wracked his brain. A bowl of fruit gleamed on the table, beside them a blank, grey box.
The man sighed “And yet you came home alone."
Roommate, right, and they’d gone to college together. What was the nickname he’d had?
“You sure you’re not wanting for company?” He gave Hel a sly look, patting his gown.
“Th-” Hel began. He frowned. Words fled his brain. The clock on the wall read 8:26.
Frantically he charged the door. “I’m late!”