infinity plus - sf, fantasy and horror fiction
infinity plus home pagefictionnon-fictionother stuffa to z

The Clients of Caralios

a short story
by CS Barlow

Caralios Maraloxodin fell into his usual dreamy daze as his scissors whispered and snipped through his clients' hair. He smiled as he styled, teasing out the creations for which -- he knew -- he would become famous throughout the town of Polt, if not the planet Vance itself. He deftly applied dyes and gels, sculpting and spiking, possessed by his art. He barely even acknowledged what he considered the awe of his clients when they inspected his completed work -- so keen was he to begin his next masterpiece.

He was also oblivious to the surreptitious stares and back-of-the-hand comments of his peers, not to mention the intense glare of his master, Amleck Throdogin. Such was Caralios' fervour as he crafted his present client's hair into an electric-green parody of a storm-tossed ocean, he failed to respond to Throdogin's repeated commands to put down his scissors. Indeed, he only actually became aware of the thickening atmosphere in the salon when another journeyman physically pulled him away from his mirror and rudely span him about to face his master's cold stare.

"Caralios Maraloxodin, I have had enough."

Caralios was still somewhat gripped by his art. "What? Eh? Sir?"

Master Throdogin drew himself to his full height and took a breath. A man of hefty build sporting the bald head of the Master Barber, his presence was imposing, not to mention intimidating. "I have waited for you to cease what I considered the vagaries and fancies of youth and work within accepted parameters. This has not happened and I realise it will not. To say you have originality would be understating fact, but it is uncontrolled and possesses no talent any appreciate."

Caralios's ire rose. "No talent? Are you blind? What -- "

Throdogin roared, "Do not forget who you are speaking to! I have lost count of the number of unhappy clients I have been forced to re-style after the ministrations of your wild scissors. You combine dreadlocks, crimps, frizettes, with amaranths, ultramarines, and celadons -- achieving designs of astonishing flagrancy. I am conscious of modes, boy, and know fashion's feet to be shod in Bohemia. If our clientele so wished I would be happy to arrange hair more radically. Yet make no mistake -- if their tastes were to take a sudden, unprecedented leap from moderation, I am certain few would wear Maraloxodin inventions -- inventions not Bohemian, radical, or trendsetting, but ridiculous infinitely beyond the point of acceptability!"

Caralios felt the eyes of the whole salon upon him. Even his current client had turned so his view was not contained by the mirror. What was Throdogin talking about? There had been complaints? About his work? Impossible! Why hadn't anything be --

With a start Caralios suddenly recalled certain less-than-admiring comments (their exact content forgotten), dismissed almost without thought as his utter self-certainty declared in all surety that not even a master barber was qualified to judge Caralios Maraloxodin.

Throdogin spoke again, "Caralios Maraloxodin: I release you from your apprenticeship."

Caralios heard the words, but could not comprehend them. "Release me? But you canno... Why?"

Throdogin sighed, rolling his eyes in a childish manner that provoked stifled giggles from the young hair-washers. "I have just told you. Simply, then: our acquaintanceship serves no purpose, therefore you are released."

Caralios saw his dreams crumble. His manner became urgent. "But no-one else will employ me! I am sixteen -- beyond the age of acceptance! The Pyramid is the foremost salon on the Iron Valley! None other will recognise my talent! Where will I eat and sleep?"

"These are not my concerns. I run a business, I must be brutal. Now go."

Hate and pride suddenly commingled in Caralios's mind. Fear lifted from him. He was equal to this situation. His features twisted alarmingly. Voice almost at a whisper, he said, "I will go, Master Throdogin, but you will see more of me. Free of your smothering criteria my brilliance will leap high; and soon Polt, nay, Vance, will know my name, wear my creations upon its heads. And you -- you will become nothing trying to compete!"

With that he spat, and strode from The Pyramid.

For the next few months, Caralios attempted to make good on his promises by trying to secure funds to build his own salon. First he applied to Polt's bank. All went well until Caralios brought out his portfolio and the manager suddenly recalled a prior appointment. Next Caralios resorted to freelance work ... but his clients lacked daring and vision. He found himself not only wanting funds for a salon, but for day-to-day survival. He took jobs in public houses and the town's surrounding farms which never lasted more than a week:

"Caralios, why do the customers make free with the bar?"

"It is easier that way -- they serve themselves."

"And you expect them to pay?"

"They have promised they will do so, yes."

Or ...

"Caralios, the pots remain unwashed."

"The cleaning agent is harsh on my hands. They have been rinsed."

"Allow me to rinse you ... "

Or ...

"Caralios, the livestock requires relief -- they moan with expectancy."

"I am training them to relieve themselves."

"You expect me to rear self-abusing stock? I would be the butt of jokes at the club for months! Off with you!"

Often his bed was a doorstep (thankfully the climate throughout Vance was temperate -- a cool night breeze was the worse to be expected), and his sustenance purchased by whatever small coin passers-by might toss.

And all the while his pride seethed within him. Regularly he would pass time watching the comings and goings of The Pyramid from a shadowed archway, his mind skittering from one grandiose revenge plot to another. He took great pleasure in picturing the face of Amleck Throdogin when his dreams reached fruition and The Pyramid lost all custom to his salon. Perhaps he would employ Throdogin as a sweeper ... ?

One morning, neck stiff after a night cooler than the norm, Caralios stood at the northern extremity of Polt. Here the town jutted over the metallic rift of Iron Valley, which was today filled with a sparkling silver mist -- a mist that swirled and slipped with hypnotic fluidity.

Caralios felt somewhat out of sorts. His dreams last night had been strange, possibly even frightening, though he could not now recall them. What was stranger, even unsettling, was that he swore he had bedded down last night on the south side of Polt, beneath a chicken hutch.

Still, he thought, no matter. He had heard a public house was looking for glass washers in the area, and, as he had rarely sought employment in this neighbourhood and was therefore without reputation here, he stood a good chance of work. He turned to go ...

... And found, instead, his feet carrying him forwards, over the lip of Iron Valley, down in to the silver mist.

The planet Vance ellipsed the cinder-hued hulk of an unnamed and decrepit red giant. It was not borne of the ancient star; it was a forced adoptee, having once orbited a younger, yellower sun three thousand light years distant. This sun, its binary sister, and the cold void between them, had then been the field over which the final battle of a war -- awesome in magnitude, length, and destructive power -- was fought. A chance surge of ungovernable energies released during the battle created a spatial twist down which Vance was sucked, and out of which it was spat -- into the gravitational fields of the red giant.

Before its dislocation, Vance was used as an autonomous factory planet, constructing various intelligences, matter/energy transformers, void renders, and other devices. After, its factories, severed from the battle they were meant to supply, slept, awaiting rediscovery and further employment.

Slowly, inhibitive circuits decayed (though yet preventing full awareness), allowing factory and product alike to create fantastic, reasonless follies and perform other mad actions in their dreamy slumber.

It was during this time that an ancient, loyal, but disorientated and dying generation starship, intercepted Vance's distress signals, homed in on the planet, and with its last gasps of life adjusted the globe's atmosphere and orbit to fit the requirements of its charges -- then gratefully liberated there.

Vance's new populace prospered: generation after generation living out relatively luxurious lives amongst the progressively more restless machines; even, occasionally, interacting with them ...

Voices called to Caralios by name from the vapour. They knew all about him. His past; wishes for the future; dreams. They teased him a lot about his dreams ...

He felt fear at first, but the swirling, glowing mist soothed him. His footsteps -- on what seemed to be alternating sheets of lead and brass -- sometimes echoed loudly, at other times seemed strangely muffled. A continuous warm breeze ruffled his shoulder-length auburn hair.

It grew warmer. Caralios began to sweat. He succumbed to the sudden desire to strip without a thought.

His bare feet were silent on the cool metal floor.

The mist parted slightly to reveal a door of plain steel. Caralios stopped. A voice his ears did not process said, "Another dreamer to join the ultimate dreamers? Come in, Caralios. There are so many who want to meet you ... To be you ... Use you."

The door slid aside with a whisper of metal. Beyond its threshold was a blackness the mist did not penetrate. Caralios, however, did.

Outside Iron Valley a week elapsed. Within the metallic rift, though, time was a malleable thing.

Caralios journeyed brass corridors, crystal rooms, aluminium amphitheatres. Things lived there, and did not move; moved, but did not live. Some sections were quite conscious, some asleep, others dead. Parts were mad, malignant, or benign; innocent, or infinitely wise. He found so much for the faculties to endure there, little for them to comprehend. The place tasted of planets, smelled of stars.

He was never aware of either his summoner's nature or purpose, but amongst the silicon walls, beneath the ceramic towers, once he felt the pulses, experienced the fields and energies, he did not care. The power! The sheer power! His identity was lost there, but he gained others, exchanged them and regained his own sampled by another. He conversed with beings of ether, dined on colour, supped on silence. And all this provided by a mainly somnambulating thing. What wonders would it exhibit fully awake? What marvels?

And then he was again on Polt's outskirts, clothed as before, his memory blanked as to the materialisation of a credit slide in his pockets and to all detail of his recent experience. More, for his mind was not all gaps and hazy recollections: something had been added. There was a new pressure there, a knowledge he could not directly access, a need to ... What?

He inspected the credit slide. Its glittering symbols depicted a substantial amount. He smiled as vagaries fled before his old desire for vengeance. He looked over Polt. "Your eyes are too small to see the light. Therefore they must be widened for you."

Days later, Caralios purchased a salon at the north-western edge of Polt. The building was hardly a handsome construction: a cubic amalgamation of verdigrised bronze, oxidised iron, and cracked crystal. Nevertheless, it appealed to Caralios -- with a little work he knew its appearance would equal its soon-to-be-achieved stature as Polt's foremost salon.

The following weeks were a whirl of decorating and the careful supervision of tradesmen. All went well. Caralios's thoughts dwelled often on what he now considered the certainties of the future -- first Polt and the downfall of Throdogin's Pyramid, then branches in neighbouring towns ... Really, how big was a planet?

However, Caralios's sleep was troubled. His dreams were strange affairs to do with the construction of a large mechanism of unknown purpose, and he would often wake more exhausted than when he had fallen asleep from the previous day's demands. Perhaps it was this that contributed to the frequent blackouts he experienced?

But these were trivial concerns -- his desires were to finally reach fruition!

Master Amleck Throdogin, approached Caralios's salon. Today he had discovered one of the younger apprentices bagging the cut hair of clients. Minor physical violence had revealed the boy's motive -- he had been bringing it here to sell to Caralios (a name all but forgotten). Throdogin had therefore come for explanations.

When he reached the temporary foil drape hung across the building's entrance, it was snatched aside.

There stood a Caralios Maraloxodin much altered from Throdogin's last sight of him. His skin was no longer the white of a cloistered barber but the tan of a field worker; and his head had been completely depilated as if he had somehow achieved the status of Master.

"Who are ... Ah. Master Throdogin. I assume you have come to look over the competition?"

"Competition? You?" Did he jest? "No, Caralios, no. I have come to inform that you will no longer receive cuttings from The Pyramid."

Caralios looked confused. "Of what do you blabber, Throdogin? Why would I want hair from the Pyramid?"

Throdogin grunted. "Your reason for wanting it is beyond me, Caralios; but then your tastes and temperament have always been beyond all. I can only guess that you intend to utilise the hair for some strange, possibly sexual, perversion."

Throdogin expected his words to anger Caralios, and was not disappointed. "I will remember your foolish accusations when you beg me for employment at The Pyramid's closure! Your time is over. Mine begins, Throdogin. People will flock here in droves for the bestowal of my creations on their abject skulls! Droves!" With that he swung about and in to the cube, sliding the foil back with a furious tug.

Throdogin slowly made his way back to his salon, wandering along the lip of Iron Valley. Caralios's actions were fascinating. Could the apprentice have been mistaken? Unlikely -- most at The Pyramid well recalled Caralios's time there. Foul play on the boy's part? To what end? No, Caralios was simply denying obvious perversions. Throdogin shook his head. Aside from that, what a character Caralios was! He truly believed himself a genius and all others simply wrong and inept.

An inconstant grinding sounded from somewhere deep in the valley.

Perhaps Caralios was right and everyone else wrong? Mankind's history, after all, was dotted with such individuals. Surely to place Caralios amongst them was sheer craziness? Wasn't it?

Throdogin laughed quietly at his fancy, hardly noticing that the grinding noise had increased slightly in regularity and volume, and that, out towards the valley's metallic heart, a golden haze undulated.

Caralios's Crimson Cube opened two days later ... to instant success.

His days became a blur of glinting scissors and humming shears, of applying dyes and gels, of the amazed and sometimes almost tearful thanks of a never-ending river of clients. Within a week he was forced to devise a strict rotational schedule to prevent people queuing outside the door. Two more and he was applying strong anti-trichogenes to all. Polt's streets gradually came alive with colour and vibrant style where previously there had been only practicality and simplicity.

However, all was not perfect. He still suffered blackouts. He recalled one instance during a young man's cut, happily teasing hair into erect blue dreadlocks, when a sudden transition occurred. A look at the salon's clock revealed an hour had elapsed and beneath his gifted hands now sat a middle-aged woman in the process of having her hair spiked into alternating stilettos of red and orange.

And his nights of undreaming black slumber continued inexplicably to give little rest from his arduous days.

And what was it about the back room? What prevented him from entering --

But this was of little real importance. He was achieving his dream. His bank-account bulged. He was in vogue.

So. What of Polt's other salons? More particularly, what of The Pyramid?

Late one evening, after a very long day's styling, Caralios decided to take a stroll. Not surprisingly, his feet directed him to Throdogin's salon. Except for a light on the top floor, the building was dark -- hardly notable in itself at this late hour. However, streetlamps revealed posters in the windows proclaiming huge price reductions and multitudes of free gifts for "the Distinguished and Astute Gentleman at Throdogin's;" and a smaller posting stated, "No, we are NOT currently taking on staff or apprentices, no matter your experience!" The walk here had revealed similar posters in other establishments. Obviously, The Crimson Cube was achieving monopoly.

Caralios smiled to himself. Perhaps he should enquire if Throdogin was ready to consider employment at the Cube? Certainly Caralios could do with a sweeper, perhaps even a hair-washer for someone of Throdogin's exalted status?

He took a step towards the salon ... Suddenly he considered the confrontation a bad idea. Best to return to The Crimson Cube -- he had much work to do tomorrow.

He always had so much work to do.

A month later and -- surely -- half of Polt's heads having passed beneath his miraculous hands, Caralios received a phoned appointment. The name was Landroff Pentil, a traveller from Raxill some fifty miles north.

For Caralios, this was an ideal opportunity to spread word outside of his home town. Fantasies of Empire filling his mind, he cancelled regulars an hour either side of Ladroff's stipulated arrival to ensure undivided attention.

The time of the appointment arrived. Caralios waited expectantly at his counter and ensured all was as should be. He inspected the amaranth porcelain, gentian plumbing, heliotrope chairs, nutria and celadon parquet, rubious walls, the ecru-shaded lamps -- everything was perfect. He smiled.

At that moment, the door opened and Landroff Pentil entered.

"Ah," said Caralios, smile broadening, "A good morning to you, sir. Do I address Landroff Pentil?"

"You do. I would prefer it, however, if you were less intimate: Mr Pentil, if you please."

Amleck Throdogin affected a slightly rasping tone. From beneath his disguise of thick black beard and skilfully implanted long black hair, the Master Barber peered at Caralios. Was he recognised? The other was all smiles and attentiveness, taking Throdogin's cloak and hanging it on a lime-green hook, indicating a chair before a gilded mirror. Throdogin sat, alert for any sign his disguise was breached. Caralios only lifted strands of his client's hair and looked at his reflection enquiringly.

"A simple trim, if you please," said Throdogin, "And a slight thinning on top."

"Very well. And the beard...?"

"You may leave as is."

Caralios bowed and commenced cutting.

As the scissors whispered and snapped, Throdogin asked, "Be so kind, good barber, as to explain the kaleidoscopic styles worn on the heads of Polt. Having travelled from Raxill, where hair is cut less extravagantly, I find it a most unusual phenomenon." He was here for answers, and, disguise successful, meant to have them.

"I would be happy to explain. What you see in Polt, Mr. Pentil, is the glorious nativity of a trichomic transition that will sweep Vance. Since my introduction to barbering I have believed Polt needed injections of freshness, originality, even -- if I may make so bold -- brilliance into its collective hair. Seeking to provide this infusion I introduced the fashions you refer to -- to immediate public acclaim. Now the streets of Polt flow with my gorgeous creations!"

"I admire your pride and vision. What of the competition?"

"There is very little, now. Polt's people appreciate only I am qualified to form their hair. All you see on the thoroughfare has passed through my hands."

"Congratulations -- a singular achievement. It must be very tiring providing for the needs of so many."

"It is, but my clientele are very loyal and understanding and would never take their custom elsewhere -- no matter how long the wait for my attentions."

"But what of a once-only customer like me? My loyalty is not guaranteed."

"At The Crimson Cube there is no such thing as a 'once-only', Mr. Pentil! A client on his initial call here is given priority above all others as an inducement to become a regular."

"I fear you carry your advertising pitch too far, good barber." Did Caralios's vanity know any bounds? Throdogin was not achieving his aim. A different approach was required. "I must also comment on your premises. Your decoration is most singular. What, may I ask, is that intricate sculpture of metal rods on your roof?"

There was no reply. Throdogin looked up. Though his scissors continued about as before, Caralios's face had taken on a slack, almost uncontrolled appearance, and his eyes lurched about their sockets in an alarming manner. Feigning innocence, Throdogin again posed his question.

"A simple embellishment," came the neutrally-voiced response. The scissors stopped cutting. Caralios mechanically brushed Throdogin down, stated the cost. Bemused and unsettled at this sudden transition in the other's character, Throdogin paid, retrieved his cloak, and made his way out. At the threshold Caralios said, still tonelessly, "I will see you again, Mr. Pentil. Goodbye."

Outside, Throdogin darted down the side wall of The Crimson Cube, tearing from his face the false black beard and stuffing it into a pocket. The action stung, and he rubbed his chin as he approached a small window to peep through.

He considered his deception deplorable, but had felt left with little choice -- he had to discover how Caralios had managed to persuade the people of Polt to sport his crazy creations with such pride and in such numbers that the business of every other salon in the town suffered to the point of closure.

However, his ploy revealed little other than more questions: what was that bizarre interlude of, well ... vacancy? What of the weird construction on The Crimson Cube's roof, mention of which had begun the strange episode? What of Caralios's certainty of Landroff Pentil's return?

Hence this rather desperate dash to the window. Throdogin looked over his shoulder -- no-one was about. He looked into the salon -- empty.

He moved round to the building's rear. Here he found another, smaller window. He peeped over the ledge. Sunlight reflecting from the glass made the room's contents little more than silhouettes. A person, back to Throdogin but surely Caralios, stood before a large, squat, mechanism. Lights blinked, pistons pumped. Caralios was tipping something in to a receptacle at the machine's front.

Caralios suddenly looked up, possibly noting Throdogin's shadow upon the machine. He began to turn.

Throdogin sped from The Crimson Cube, slowing to a walk only when he was sure Caralios had not pursued. His mind skipped from strange event to strange event. "Well," he said to himself, panting slightly, "I have begun in subterfuge and it would seem hypocritical not to continue in the same manner when the situation demands it." He resolved to return at night and break in to The Crimson Cube's rear rooms.

That night, Caralios went to bed in his usual happily exhausted state. He sipped a dry sherry as he read a little, then doused his light before falling into immediate slumber.

... To be woken three hours later by voices -- two distinctly different voices that yet shared an ability to set his teeth on edge and cause horripilation all over his skin. One was thick and wet, as if fighting through strings of phlegm, the other as dry and rasping as copulating beetles. They emanated from the salon. Both were unintelligible.

His breath shaking and heart pounding, Caralios arose and quietly descended. The lights were off, but he sensed the room's definite occupation by something. Thinking perhaps to scare the intruders away, he shouted in what he hoped was the manner of an angry man three times his stature and thumbed the luminares.

A lurch.

Throdogin once more peeped through The Crimson Cube's side window.

The salon was filled with corpses.

Ten grave-fresh cadavers. One stood by the counter repeatedly holing its palm with the bell's plunger in an attempt to ring it; another dragged -- via fingers hooked into vacant eye sockets -- a precariously connected hemi-undead whose arms, flaying against the floor, scattered digits and rotted flesh everywhere, and whose trailing spine wagged in a canine-like fashion. Others were slumped in chairs, propped against walls. Some yet sported sagging flesh and jellied guts, most shrink-wrapped in flaking leather. A few were clothed in funeral garments, while others were obscenely -- in the strongest possible way -- nude. They creaked and sloshed. And their reek wafting through the slightly open window would have induced instant nausea were Amleck's throat not constricted by fear.

At a doorway to the upper floors stood Caralios Maroloxodin, still in his night attire. His face was again haunted by unsettling vacancy, his eyes were again twitching. He stepped into the room. A younger zombie -- still possessing a corrugated eyeball -- on sight of the terrified barber aqueously moaned, "Huuurchghkut... Huuurchghkut," and sloppily punched its older, adjacent partner who then hissed, "Herhhcuhss, Herhhcuhss" and slapped loosely at its head.

The dead had risen from their coffins to have their hair done. Caralios's fame had spread even beyond the realm of life.

Throdogin was unsteady on his feet; his vision drew in and out of focus. He should have fainted. He wanted to. This was impossible! Horrible! But can the living deny the dead when they rise to demand? He watched in horrified awe as Caralios dazedly attended to his customers.

Suddenly he recalled the rear room and its mysterious contents. Answers, he knew, were to be found there. He trotted to the cube's reverse and tried the window -- it was ajar. With a push it swung silently open to leave a gap just big enough for Throdogin to scramble through. This he quickly did.

The room was small and low-lit, and filled almost to capacity with the bizarre mechanism. It was a cuboid structure of black metal sporting tubes of glowing fluids, globes of silver honeycomb, pulsing plastic cubes, flasks of finely wrought wire, and other intricate, less-definable, constructs. The whole thing hummed at a level just below hearing, lending a strange distortion to the air about it, an otherness Throdogin could not put a name to. To the mechanism's fore a small draw opened and closed spasmodically.

Throdogin looked about. The walls of the room were lined with hundreds of small trays which, on closer inspection, were revealed to contain meticulously labelled and neatly ribboned coils of human hair.

His mind whirled. The horrific events in the salon above and the peculiar events of the recent past gained an explanation. This machine was analyst, telemetric matcher, and remote hypnotist in one. Simply by assaying a few strands of hair it could, via its transmitter on the roof, pinpoint the donator and mould his will to coming here and submitting to Caralios's ministrations. But were they Caralios's ministrations? What of the man's strange episodes of vacancy? Was this machine manipulating Caralios also?

And the undead above? There the machine/ Caralios had over-reached its/ his ambitions. The hair on the head of Landroff Pentil had to have been human in order to fool Caralios, but who was to know its age?

In a corner Throdogin discovered tools left behind after The Crimson Cube's restoration work. He selected a sledgehammer.

The humming in the room intensified. Throdogin felt a pressure on his mind as if something were trying to break through the all-too-thin mental barriers surrounding it. A voice began to whisper in the recesses of his skull. "The stewardship can be shared, Amleck Throdogin. My Caralios will need help in governing my new servants. And Polt is but the start, of course. Does not the thought of power over the whole of Vance clutch at you?" The voice became urgent, "We could build ships! Command other stars! I will NOT return to my slumber. You WILL NOT -- "

Throdogin raised the hammer to bring it arcing down upon the machine. Cubes shattered, sizzling fluids spattered and jetted. The honeycombs were flattened, the draw knocked off. Thrdogin laid into the main bulk. More fluids shot into the air to splatter across ceiling and walls. Sparks fountained. A purple light suddenly limned the whole machine, became blinding white, blinked out. The heat of a hot summer's day puffed briefly into his face.

The hum was gone. The machine, metalwork ticking as warmth left it, dark.

From the salon above came a series of thuds, a pause, a muffled cry, another thud.

Dread filling his mind, Throdogin climbed back up to the salon. The scene he met was no less horrific than before -- corpses still filled the room, bits of flaked flesh and yellowed bone littered the floor, the stench was no less nauseating. But now there was something almost natural to it, for the corpses were no longer animated.

Caralios was slumped obscenely over the shoulder of a seated cadaver, tools of implantation still clutched in his hands.

As far as Throdogin was concerned there was only one possible course of action.

He dragged the still unconscious Caralios from the salon to a safe distance, before returning to set about razing The Crimson Cube to the ground.

Later, as the building burned and he tried to revive Caralios, Throdogin became suddenly aware of a large presence behind. He looked up. There, shocked faces garishly lit by the leaping red flames, were the people of Polt. Their amazing, comical, tasteless hair-styles bobbed in the slight early-morning breeze, entangling with each other, reflecting the conflagration in a myriad of different colours. The machine's glamour over, they had -- instinctively it seemed -- flocked to The Crimson Cube in dire need of explanations. Throdogin stood.

"Good sirs, ladies, children. As a special once-only you will find the doors of The Pyramid open early to meet what I am certain are now your requirements. Doubtless patrons of the other, lesser, salons of Polt will find the same at their preferred establishments. Please, make your ways accordingly."

And, with hardly a mutter, they did.

Out of sympathy for him, and not a little guilt for his own actions, Amleck Throdogin re-employed Caralios Maroloxodin at The Pyramid. However, never again did the once-haughty Caralios touch a pair of scissors or a bottle of shampoo, contenting himself with sweeping and keeping the salon's appointment book. Often he would simply vacate The Pyramid without leave, but Throdogin felt no anger at this -- he knew where Caralios would be, and why. The dreams the man had had forced upon him and so nearly achieved would forever haunt his days; it was therefore no surprise that he was often found at Iron Valley's edge, straining to hear a second summons to its sleeping heart.

Throdogin prayed he never would.

With many thanks to Matt Hughes.

© CS Barlow 2005.
This story appears here for the first time.

Let us know what you think of infinity plus - e-mail us at:

support this site - buy books through these links: (US) | (UK)

top of page
[ home page | fiction | non-fiction | other stuff | A to Z ]
[ infinity plus bookshop | search infinity plus ]