Once they were safely in the sitting room, Alfred Wilfred turned to Finn and said, “While I go to retrieve Wilson, I do NOT want you to leave this house. On no account must you come after me or try to leave… in case.”
“In case you become… confused… all of a sudden.”
“What?” Finn said.
“Just trust me,” Wilfred called as he climbed back into the safe and began to close the door. “I’m a professional!”
This reminded Finn of a question he’d been meaning to ask. “A professional necrophile?”
Alfred Wilfred paused, one foot dangling out of the safe. “Eh?”
“That’s what it says on your business card – ‘FINDER OF LOST THINGS, KEEPER OF SECRETS FOUND (AND OTHERWISE). NECROPHILE…’”
“Oh, that. Yes I always think it important to keep in touch with people.”
“’Keeping in touch’? Is that how you put it? Well, I think it’s revolting!”
“Well, a ‘normal’ person such as yourself might deem it, I don’t know, unholy,” Wilfred said, unperturbed. “But when someone close to you passes on into the next world, I daresay you’ll be contacting me.”
“I’d do no such thing! Don’t be so freakin’ disgusting!”
“All right,” Wilfred said, in the sort of reasonable, placating tone of voice you use when speaking to someone stupid. “But once they’ve passed away, we’re the only channels they can use to talk to their families. Think on that.”
“You mean to tell me you’re a necromancer?”
Alfred Wilfred’s face clouded over in confusion. Then realization dawned like the reflection of the sun in a muddy puddle. “Oh…! What a typo!” Then, to hide his embarrassment, “I must be going. Who knows what trouble Wilson’s gotten himself into…”
While Alfred had left Finn under virtual house-arrest, Finn shrugged, ate his tea, watched the TV, got bored, and went to bed early.
He woke up eleven hours later, unable to remember anything.
Well, that was technically untrue. If Finn wasn’t able to remember a single thing, he wouldn’t be able to do anything, helpless as a baby. However, he was suddenly finding it very hard to recollect what he’d been doing for the past twenty years.
First, he opened his eyes expecting to be in a different bed, only to find he was in a place he didn’t recognize. He didn’t know what day it was. Then he began to wonder how his body got so frighteningly large and hairy.
Secondly, Alfred Wilfred burst in, and Finn had no idea who he was.
“Who’re you?” Finn yelped, and then wondered who had said that, before realizing his voice had deepened.
Wilfred nodded sagely. “Yes. I did warn you.”
“What? What are you talking about? Where am I, and… and how did you get me here? Is this a kidnap? Where’s my dad?”
“I see.” Wilfred frowned. “How old are you, Finn?”
Finn glowered at him. “I demand you take me home this min – no, actually, I’ll call them. Let me use your phone.”
“I don’t live here, Finn. This is your house. I came here to fix the safe. Now tell me – how old do you think you are? What’s your age?”
“Seventeen.” Finn was reluctant. “Why?”
Alfred Wilfred stared at the man with graying temples in the bed, who was most emphatically not a teenager. “So, you started locking your mistakes away when you were seventeen,” he said. “Hmm… seems to make sense.”
“What?” Finn said. His eyes flickered all around the room, and he drew his knees up to his chin. “What do you mean? Look, if you want money, call my dad. I can give you his number. Just don’t cut anything off me, please!”
Wilfred ignored him. He strode into the room, pulled back the curtains (momentarily blinding Finn in the process) and stood looking out of the window in deep thought.
Wilson dashed in, confusing Finn even further.
“What’s this kid doing here?” he said to Wilfred’s silent back. “D’ you have a load of children in here? Is this a mass kidnap? What for?”
“Erk!” Wilson choked and froze halfway across the room. His glasses were missing, he was decorated with cuts and scrapes, nearly all his clothes were torn beyond repair, and he was covered in a thick layer of strange, greasy dust.
Alfred Wilfred turned. “Ah. There you are, lad. Where have you been? I left the safe door open in the hopes that you would catch me up. You seemed awfully busy when I found you. What exactly were you doing?”
“Nnnn…” Wilson articulated. He began to shiver and quake like he was very cold.
“Social anxiety,” Wilfred explained to Finn, and went over to the boy.
“I’m not sure…” Finn said, and they both watched as Wilson struggled to either cough something up or swallow something that didn’t want to stay down.
“Wait,” Wilfred said, and ran out of the room. He came back just in time with a bowl that had a lid on it.
“Why did you find one with a lid? Couldn’t you have just led him into the bathroom, if there is one?” Finn asked as Wilson gagged. Wilfred pulled the blanket off Finn to cover the boy’s shoulders with it.
“BECAUSE!” Wilfred roared, and slammed the lid on the bowl as soon as Wilson drew back, making both of them jump.
Finn swung his legs out of bed and joined the other two.
“What was that?” he said in a hushed voice. In the second before Wilfred put the lid down, he could have sworn that the substance inside had… moved… as if it was thinking about climbing out and slithering away.
Wilson said, in a teeny-tiny voice, “What now?”
Alfred Wilfred kept a tight grip on the lid, but he eyeballed his assistant. “So that was what you were doing in space,” he marveled.
Wilson said nothing. He looked at the carpet.
“Er, hi? Excuse me?” Finn waved a hand in-between their faces. “Would anybody here like to tell me what’s happening, please? Did I just see that boy’s… vomit… move?” He turned to Wilson and demanded, “What have you been eating?”
Wilson rolled his eyes. “Not sick.”
“You could have fooled me!”
Alfred Wilfred shook his head. “This,” he said, gesturing to the bowl, “is your doing, Mr. Finn.”
“Don’t be ridiculous! I just woke up here! What did you do – sedate me? Where am I?”
“You are in your own home, Finn. You’ve got amnesia.”
“What? I… are you a doctor?”
“I’m a friend. Wilson, perhaps you’d care to explain yourself to the nice gentleman, before he explodes like a lesser-spotted norkle?”
Wilson looked like he would much rather hide in the airing-cupboard, but he obliged: “Um. Mr. Finn. I swallowed your mistakes.”
“I swallowed your mistakes, sir. The ones you lost. It was the only way I had of carrying them back here to you, without them dissolving any further.”
“Which means,” Wilfred said slowly, “you lied to me on your application form, Wilson.”
“You described yourself as a human being, but you’re not, are you? A human can’t do what you did, and even if they managed to, the mistakes would eat away at them and drive them insane, or they would be digested. With you, this did not occur.”
“No, sir.” Wilson was despondent. “Er, if you don’t mind, sir, I’m not exactly decent.”
Wilfred shook himself. “Oh. Right. Well, go and wash the space dust off yourself, and then we’ll talk more about it. I’m sure Finn won’t mind if you borrow his bathroom and a change of clothes, would you, Finn?”
Finn was completely at sea. “Erm. Fine.”
“So,” Alfred Wilfred said, giving Finn a stare he wasn’t sure he liked. “All that remains now is to sort you out. What are we going to do with you? By rights I should remove the safe, in case the wormhole spreads or in case something or someone else uses it. That leaves us with two logical options: one, set your mistakes free so that everyone knows about them except you, which would be highly impractical, or two… get you to reabsorb them.”
Finn backed away. “I thought you just said… you just said to Wilson…?”
“I did say if a human managed to swallow someone’s mistakes, they would be driven insane, yes,” Wilfred explained patiently. “However this is different, because firstly these are your mistakes, no one else’s, so they belong to you anyway, and secondly, I’m not going to make you absorb them by mouth. You don’t need to do that.”
“What do I have to do?”
“All you have to do, when I remove the lid, is to look at them. Don’t be afraid. I know you don’t remember them, but you already have made them. Just look.”
“No. When I say look, I do not mean a cursory glance. If you glance, they will escape, and I will not be able to help you remember the past twenty years. When I say look, I mean look, notice each one, think of ways you could have done things differently if you’d like, but the main thing is that you look at them and stop being ashamed of them. Don’t let them haunt you.”
“Um. Yes. I think so.”
“Well, you can’t keep them in a bowl held by a wizard for the rest of your life. My hands are already aching.” So saying, Alfred Wilfred whisked the lid off, Finn leaned forward, and looked…
Everything seemed to turn upside down for Finn, or was he upside down? After a couple of seconds, his head righted itself and some kind of understanding dawned on him.
“Oh!” He blinked.
The bowl was empty.
“Hello, Mr. Finn.” Wilfred grimaced. “Recognize me?”
“Yes. You’re that weird old man whose business card claimed he was a necrophile,” Finn said smartly, and Wilfred chuckled.
“I’ll be taking the safe with me then,” said the wizard, “and my assistant, obviously. Mustn’t forget him, now must I? Dear me, no.” He laughed out loud.
“What is he, if he isn’t human?”
“Perhaps he might still be. Perhaps he just has special abilities. Perhaps he’s a greater-gizzarded splotch-gulper that thinks it’s a human. That I shall have to discover by trial and error.”
On their way out onto the landing, Finn winced and clapped a hand to his eyes. “Uuuurgh…” he groaned, chuckled bitterly, then blanched.
“All right?” Wilson asked, emerging from the bathroom feeling much more human.
“Mm. Fine. I’m just remembering… oh God. There was that time that I…! Oh my God. I’ll never be able to go there again. Urgh. Argh. Won’t be able to look her in the eye…”
Alfred Wilfred and Wilson walked down the stairs, leaving Finn to reminisce.
“I’ll call you to discuss payment in three days’ time,” Wizard Wilfred called back up the stairs, then once they were in the hallway he said, “Give me a hand with this safe, would you, boy?”
Wilson did as he was asked. “What is the matter with Mr. Finn now?” he said.
“Nothing. He’s doing what other normal human beings do – being embarrassed and self-critical. He’s just doing it out loud, that’s all. He’ll be right as a wrangled botchit before long. Which leads me to a question.” Wilfred paused as they lugged the safe over the threshold and out onto the street. “Are you a human boy, or are you indeed a skangdurdle?”
Before he had a chance to answer, they were interrupted by a loud cry of “OH WHY DID I DO THAT? WHY?” from the house behind them, and they hurried away as quickly as they could so reality could reassert itself.
Han Adcock is a writer of short stories, short long stories and poetry ranging from the humorous to the bizarre. His work has appeared in Penumbra, Expanded Horizons and Defenestration magazine. He is the editor of Once Upon A Crocodile magazine, and you can find him on Facebook.