The Dash-All Chronicles: How I Met Seth (or The Ingenious Plot to Create Mayhem-Initiation) Part One


The lobby of The Elderflower Motel has been left in the original skin it was ordained on the night of its grand opening, which occurred on a balmy June evening in 1976. It has brown fabric wall covering and a well-worn carpet sporting a pattern of large brown and orange flowers. The counter is made of dark walnut and the walls behind it is paneled with that same type of wood; large, green indoor plants line the panorama windows overlooking the parking lot and two deep leather sofas (brown) hug a small table to the right of the entrance’s double doors.

This is where I work.

I’m the night receptionist this month, and next month Kay and I switch so I get a month working the day shift. Kay is my only full-time colleague, an African-American amazon with a smile so white it makes her skin go a tantalizing dark chocolate whenever she uses it. Which is often.

Three nights ago I was going over Kay’s checklist, making sure everything was sewn up for the evening: there were a few bags of laundry to be done, but I would take care of that after one a.m. That’s when it mostly goes quiet and the truckers pulling in have all had had a bite to eat. (To the east of the motel is a large parking lot where we usually house between five and eight trucks and their drivers a night.)

When something heavy was placed on the counter before me I looked up, meeting the startlingly pale-blue eyes of the slight man standing before me. He wasn’t more than an inch taller than me, and wearing socks I’m five-two; his height made his eyes align almost perfectly with mine and since I’m used to burly truckers who are seven-nine or traveling salesmen who are too stressed to fully meet my gaze, I was taken aback by his pointed attention: it made me feel just as though tiny fingers were tugging at my focus until it was completely directed at him.

“Someone is out for my life and I wish to crouch behind your counter,” the man said, his voice low, but clear, as though I was actually hearing him inside my head.

“Well,” I began, the haze inexplicably dulling my mind making my tongue sluggish and before I could elaborate he gave a nod, grabbed the heavy thing – which was wrapped in red cloth, but had the suspicious outline of an axe – and walked around the counter, dropping to his knees on the floor.

This was when I realized he had an arrow protruding from his shoulder blade, the tip of the head showing its silver just above his collarbone, through the hole it had made in his blue T-shirt.

The haze cleared.

I drew a breath to say something when one of the doors slid open and I looked over at a long-maned lion of a man, his golden beard shot through with fine silver lines. He walked up to the counter and his small, brown eyes gave me the feeling that they could have burned a hole through my skull as he stopped before me, goosebumps spreading unpleasantly over my arms. I didn’t dare even glance at the arrow victim at my feet.

“Evening,” the lion purred.

I swallowed.

“Good evening, sir. Can I help you? We have four… no, five rooms available. Three facing west, two facing east, if you prefer to wake with the sun.”

The lion smiled and I swear his teeth had an unsettling sharpness to them. Thinking of it now I suppose I was only imagining it, but I wonder if Seth was influencing my fear. He has a knack for creeping into my head, I’ve noticed.

“Tell it to come out or I’m telling you, sweetheart, we’re both as good as dead,” the lion stated, his voice still even, his eyes still boring into mine.

“I’m sorry?” I asked, surprised at how steady my voice was.

Something metallic flashed in the lion’s wide belt, underneath his long coat, and I immediately thought: gun. The man at my feet was hurt, the man in front of me was imposing – it didn’t take me long to choose a side. Then again, perhaps Seth chose it for me. Someday I have to demand an answer from him about that – did I ever actually have a say in the matter?

The lion was about to elaborate on his request, but didn’t get a chance because a blur of movement hit him and made him tumble out of sight.

I heard a gurgling noise, like someone having the life strangled out of them. No, exactly like someone having the life strangled out of them, and I backed away from the counter, up against the wall, my heart beginning to pound itself against my eardrums. I barely dared to breathe.

The spot the young man had occupied was empty, but the heavy thing in its cloth still lay where he had placed it on the floor. There was no blood, but the broken pieces of the arrow lay on top of the heavy thing. He must have retracted it from his shoulder without making a sound.

I closed my eyes.

I should go into the back office and call the police. An ambulance. The police. The police first, definitely. Safety in numbers of uniform clad, stout men and women who knew right from wrong like the back of their…

A cold clasp around my hand made me give a small shout in surprise, and then those pale-blue eyes were looking into mine again. There were blood stains on his blue T-shirt now and I immediately deduced that the fabric must have soaked the blood up when he was getting the arrow out, even though the splatters of it looked a little strange, at an odd angle from the shoulder and soaking the front of the T-shirt instead of the side.

“I’ll call the police,” I said.

“Why?” he asked.

The way he said the word was comforting because it made me feel hysterical and the fact that he confronted me about it head on made the blooming hysteria shrink away until I began to feel normal again; as though this was just another evening on the job, dealing with a drunken middle-aged man attempting to flirt or an out-of-towner arriving with a prostitute and trying to look as innocent as a rose about it.

The stranger pulled me with him as he bent down and picked up the heavy thing, the arrow pieces clattering onto the floor.

It sounded loud and I looked down at them, thinking they made a strange addition to a space that usually wasn’t occupied by anything. I was beginning to feel light headed. Had he just slain the lion? Had he just murdered the man? Was he a murderer? Was that an axe? If he was an axe-murderer, why hadn’t he used the weapon? These were the non-sensical thoughts running through my head as the stranger pulled me toward the backdoor. The green neon sign above it – declaring it to be an Emergency Exit – hurt my eyes. There was no emergency. There couldn’t be, if we didn’t have to call the police.

“I’m working,” I said, but my thoughts were slowing into a dull mass. “I can’t leave. And the lion…”

The man looked over at me, his eyes finding mine and holding them unflinchingly.

I followed without any more hesitation.


 

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~ by mescribe on February 9, 2011.

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