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JOSEPH FREEMAN some kind of geriatric’s stripper. The tall fellow had been right – it was like a furnace in here, or perhaps it was just his nervousness. A small woman wrapped in shawls like a cocoon stared at him until he left what he was doing and stepped across to her. ‘Do you have children?’ she asked, her eyes watery, her skin white as snow. ‘Yes. I have a son.’ ‘That’s nice.’ She answered, and stared until he felt obliged to ask ‘Have you?’ ‘I had children.’ ‘Surely you still have.’ ‘No. To them I’m dead.’ His mouth flapped uselessly until her neighbour, a woman as old and large as a hill, with bristling whiskers shouted ‘What did she say you were called?’ ‘Man… Manfred Gold.’ He stammered. ‘That’s not what she said.’ She turned to a gentleman sat at her other side as though he might offer more of an explanation, but he merely nodded a bald head threaded with wispy red veins and opened and closed his toothless mouth like a goldfish. Marshall took the opportunity to flee back to his preparations. Manfred Gold, he mused. The Magnificent Manfred. Whatever had possessed him to choose such a stupid stage-name? What’s in a name, he thought, probably not much if one couldn’t remember one’s own, which most of these old folk must be guilty of. ‘Chew.’ A man who looked like a starved Father Christmas carefully enunciated. ‘Chew. Chew.’ ‘Listen to him. He thinks he’s a train,’ chortled one tiny old lady, nudging a clone of herself in the ribs. ‘An old boiler perhaps.’ ‘A steam train. That must be why he stinks of smoke.’ Marshall bent lower over his preparations. It did smell strongly of smoke – he’d expected to see somebody puffing away on a pipe, or at least a fire in the hearth where there was only blackened stone. This place couldn’t have seen a fire in many years. ‘Chew. Chew. Won’t chew sit down?’ ‘We’re all sat down, Alfred.’ ‘Won’t chew sit down?’ - 101 -

Estronomicon Christmas 2008  

The eZine of fantasy, sci-fi and horror

Estronomicon Christmas 2008  

The eZine of fantasy, sci-fi and horror

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