57 minus 40: The coins and the man

Posted: 8 July 2021 in 57 minus, 57 minus new fiction, fiction, new fiction, writing
Tags: , , , ,

[Oh, before I start, a housekeeping note:, I mention this every so often, just in case anyone is concerned about the photos I’ve used in this blog. As with previous years, other than shots I’ve taken myself, or have express permission to use, they come from an iOS app entitled Unsplash, which supplies copyright free photos. Also on: https://Unsplash.com]


Once upon a time, I partook in a project called Elephant Words, where a single image would inspire multiple stories.

In honour of that, here’s something new, a story written for this blog that no-one’s ever seen before. I came across the following image the other day, while looking for another image entirely. I liked it, and it sparked something.

So here a tale that it inspired.


The Coins and The Man

The room was dark, and dank, which matched his mood, if not his demeanour. There were three men in the room with him, whose had been waiting for him. He liked none of them, he respected only one of them, but he was frightened of all of them.

It was late at night, and he should have been in bed long ago, but his task required a late night rendezvous, and he had no choice. He’d never really had a choice.

The room was silent, as each now waited for someone else to speak again. A single candle burned, and its flickering illumination spread shadows, moving shades that merely heightened both the tension and the silence. A cough came from the far side of the room, followed by a curse word, which would have been laughable in other circumstances.

He’d not enjoyed the task he’d been given, but he’d had no choice in the matter; his conscience, his honour and his need for payment had all made sure of that.

He didn’t even have the luxury of pretending it had been a struggle in his mind. He had known what had to be done, and he’d done it. It was as simple as that.

Except it wasn’t simple; it was anything but. He knew what the item was for, and what the consequences would be of his having completed the… transaction.

And he was scared. He wondered if anyone knew that, then with a mental shrug chastised himself. Of course everyone knew he was scared. For it wasn’t only him. Everyone was scared right now, whether or not they admitted it.

It was a time of being being scared, of change. Outside the room, some distance away, the crowds were gathering. Again. As they had gathered that morning, as they had that afternoon. As they would tomorrow. And the day after. Unless something happened to stop them.

Unless someone did something. And he had done something. Not the only thing that would be done that day, or the next, but he had done something.

Hence the small bag of coinage, sitting there on the roughly hewn wooden chair. The bag was loosely tied and occasionally, as the light would catch it, there was a reflective glint, betraying its contents.

Such a moment occurred as he watched, momentarily transfixed by the sudden brightness.

“You must never speak of this”, the larger man said, choosing his words carefully. “You know that.”

He almost laughed at the naïveté, but such levity at this moment, with these people, would be fatal. He knew that. “Everyone will know anyway,” he replied, resigned to it.

“We won’t tell anyone,” another voice came, from the deep shadows in one corner.

He couldn’t stop himself. “Of course you will. You’ll want everyone to know.”

Except he did stop himself. And merely said “I know.”

“It has to be done, therefore it must be done.” said the first man again, and that was it. The decision was made.

In truth, he knew the decision had been made far earlier, made in rooms in which he did not have the right to be.

“Now, go,” he was told. “It’s late. You shouldn’t be here when he arrives. And well done. We are… pleased.”

He turned to go, paused, then glanced at the silver coinage one more time, before leaving.

As he left the room, he saw the other man, the man from Kerioth, attempting to stealthily approach, on his way to claim the bag. And all it would cost the fool would be the betrayal of his best friend.

He sighed, and realised he’d sighed a lot today. He walked through the back roads, pondering quite the strangest day in his long life. He’d carried the instruction to the treasury, and the note from his employers. The small cloth bag had been sufficient but the thirty coins had been heavier than he’d expected, and he’d had to roll the bag, carrying it under his arm, frightened throughout that he’d be robbed on the way.

He wondered again why the priests had chosen him to carry the funds, why he had been plucked from insignificance to play his small role. He wondered if it was because they trusted him, or whether the true reason was merely that he was eminently disposable.

And he wondered how long it would be before the crowds knew his name and, with a shudder, then how long it would be before either the priests, or the crowds… came for him.

He walked a little faster then, into obscurity.

© Lee Barnett, 2021

 

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Fifty-seven days. Fifty-seven posts. One fifty-seventh birthday.


Just dropping this in here, as I was asked by message the other day: the best places to contact me outside the blog are via email at budgie@hypotheticals.co.uk and @budgie on Twitter.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

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