So, this is a story prompt! It is the first one I've done in a good long while, and I am very pleased with it. It isn't a traditional story prompt, as I had to do it for class and wasn't given a single word so much as general directions. However, I had fun, and so I'm posting it here. Also, as a side-note, The Sworn Defender is done! I expect it to be out within a week, and am so unbelievably excited. Anyway, the piece.
Relics and Rarities
The lights were shaped like immense and overbearing pearls, and they shone bright enough to paint the walls in a glean seen only in surgical suites. Their power overwhelmed the shadows of every room and fought them into the cracks and crevices, however few, that remained here. Yet, as they did at the end of every day, they slowly began to dim, and their kingdom came to life once again.
“Wh-where… where am I?”
There was a ruckus on all sides as the cages and their residents drifted away from slumber and out of their cells. The man raised himself from the floor, retrieving his hat and revolver from the platform where they rested in front of his prison. He lumbered forward into the open, his eyes tracking a stranger as she appeared from beyond the halls.
“Listen ‘ere, Missy,” he called out, raising his gun towards the strange woman, “Point me to the man who thought he could throw me in a cage, or I’ll put a hole ‘tween yer eyes.”
She was silent and watched him intently, her face carrying no trace of anger or unease.
“I don’t know who ya seem to be thinkin’ y’are, but ya don’t know me, or what I’ll do to ya if y’are keen on disobeyin’ me.”
“I’m quite aware of who you are, Jeremiah Stills. Just as I am quite aware that you are unable to harm me here.”
Stills furrowed his brow at her defiance before placing his finger on the trigger and tugging on it. A light click came from his weapon when it refused to fire, and he quickly inspected it to assure himself that it was loaded. When he confirmed the presence of bullets, he raised it once more and attempted to shoot the woman in front of him, but his revolver would not fire.
“You some kind of witch?” Stills accused.
“My name is Madelyn, and I’m what you might call a groundskeeper. You and the others aren’t able to hurt anyone here, so there’s no point in making threats.”
Her eyes shifted away from him and towards the weapon he clung to. Jeremiah sighed and shoved his gun into the holster that hung at his hip before slowly approaching her.
“Fine, just show me outta ‘ere.”
“Sure, I can show you around.”
“That ain’t what I-”
Madelyn swiveled on her heel and began walking ahead of him before he had a chance to protest, and he found little choice besides slinking on behind her. She led him away from the room he had awoken within and out into the hall she had come from. There were dozens of doors, each marked with a sign that bore some words and a set of years. Jeremiah tried to make out the meaning behind them, but none of the few words he knew how to read found themselves here. All he knew was that when he peered through the small window that graced each door, there were people milling about in almost every room; some had only a person or two within, while others had whole groups of strangers bustling around.
Jeremiah stopped in front of a room and peered into it, pausing slightly as he turned to glance at Madelyn, who had stopped a few feet away as well.
“Thems the crusaders, ain’t they? My pa told me about the crusades once… he was a professor,” Stills murmured, pointing to a group of men clad in white hoods and tunics.
She shook her head without looking through the glass.
“You always say that, but no, they’re not the crusaders. These people are a little ahead of your time.”
He pulled his eyes away from the strange, hooded men and towards her, but she had already begun walking away.
“Come this way, you tend to like the Invention Aisle,” Madelyn explained, pointing further down the hall.
He meekly followed her as she sauntered forward, turning only occasionally to look back at him, almost as if she were worried he would lose himself here. Soon, they arrived at a large set of double doors, with a glossy, metal sign adorning its top. She pushed the doors open and gestured inside for him to follow. Within, there were dozens upon dozens of rows of bizarre and unique creations, each on a marble pedestal.
Jeremiah drew closer to one and pressed his hand to the sign affixed to it and the letters etched into its surface.
“Ah, I almost forgot!” Madelyn exclaimed.
She brought her hand to his forearm and squeezed it tightly. He looked at her oddly before turning his eyes back to the sign and realizing he could now decipher the words upon it.
“The Rainfinder, 1813,” he read aloud.
The contraption in front of them was a small thing made of wood, a few bits of metal, and a ceramic cup.
“The cup is held high by the sticks, but when it fills with water, it’ll dip down and clink against the metal, letting people know that it’s raining.”
“That’s all?” Stills muttered, clumsily swiping at the thing, “It serves no purpose.”
Madelyn was silent as she stared at Jeremiah and followed behind him as he walked along the other exhibits gathered there. For most of the inventions they examined, he would turn to her and complain of their uselessness, others he would release a hardy laugh, and for a select few, he wondered why they failed.
What felt like hours of amusement came to an end when Madelyn pulled her wrist towards her eyes and glanced at her watch.
“It’s time for you to get back, Jeremiah.”
He turned to look at her, and while he wanted to refuse and remain here, a part of himself knew there was no recourse but to do as she said.
“Thank you, Miss, for bein’ so pleasant with me.”
“Of course, Mr. Stills,” she smiled, “Everything gathered here is here for a purpose… or, better yet, a lack of one. I know the past that accompanies each of them, and yours… well, I know what put you where you are, and I can sympathize. You’re not all bad.”
The man returned her smile with a strained grin of his own before quietly tipping his hat.
“Well, here, I wanta’ give ya-”
His hand reached for his pocket, where he knew he had always kept his small carton of confections, but there was nothing to be found.
“Oh, the sweets,” Madelyn whispered, pulling the box from her jacket, “You already gave this to me.”
He looked at it curiously, trying to remember when he had done so, but before he had much of a chance, a shrill sound began to pierce the air. It was time for him to return.
“Go ahead, I’ll see you later!” Madelyn waved as she walked away.
Jeremiah watched her leave and began to trudge back to where he had emerged from. He returned to the room and scanned it more intently this time. Cacti were decorating the place, along with a half-burned wagon and a blown-open safe. He ignored them as he walked back to the cage that had held him and placed his hat and revolver in the stand in front of it. He looked at the sign that adorned his prison and the words on its surface: The Highwayman.
He clambered inside and took a seat on the chair within. A moment later, his cell was sealed, and the lights lost their dull glow as they grew bright once again.
Hundreds of visitors came to visit Jeremiah and watched his silent and unmoving form before leaving for the next area. What seemed like an eternity finally came to pass, and the place emptied of all souls. Soon after that, the lights began to dim again, and a cacophony rang out as the cages opened once more.
“Wh-where… where am I?”
I was inspired to write this by two of Tracy K. Smith's poems, her the Charlton Heston piece (Number Two in the "Oh My God, It's Full of Stars series") and the Museum of Obsolescence. I liked both pieces, and the meanings they carried.
Anyway, that's about it for now.