Solomon's Lines


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Jesse Richmond lives in Utah, where he is pursuing a Master's degree in electrical engineering. He enjoys thinking about stories to write when he should be trying to fall asleep, and occasionally he  [+]

Image of Fall 2020
Image of Short Fiction
Fred tiptoed into his room and slid into his desk chair, casting a worried glance over his shoulder as he opened his laptop. Typing as quietly as he could, he logged onto Artium Obscurorum and navigated to the site’s forum. He opened a new thread under “Help/FAQ,” then started to write:

"Hey all, name's Fred, 22-year-old amateur sorcerer. I've mostly just dabbled in conjurings, but I've been trying to pick up a little necromancy to bring in some cash on the side—"

All at once he froze, holding his breath; he’d heard the noise. An energetic, almost jovial clickety-clack was moving down the hall toward him, all the more unnerving for how familiar it was starting to sound. Fred exhaled quietly, then resumed typing, his fingers shaking:

"Anyway, I was trying out a standard re-animation on my old pet turtle Solomon, but something happened and—"

"FRED."

The deep, unearthly voice made Fred tense up reflexively. He shuddered as he spun around in his chair: standing in the doorway was the skeleton of an adult turtle. Though the turtle’s shell had retained its muddy green color, the rest of its bones were bleached an unnatural white. Small, purple flames burned in each of its gaping eye sockets.

Fred forced out a nervous laugh.

"Oh, h-h-hey, Solomon! I didn't hear you coming! What's up?"

"FRED. WHAT IS THE DEAL WITH ARCHITECTS?"

Fred laughed again defensively, glancing around the room as he looked for an escape route. It was pointless: Solomon was blocking the only exit.

"Umm, I don't know, buddy,” said Fred, squirming in his seat, “why don't you just give me a second to think about that..."

He trailed off as he spun back around in his chair and desperately tried to finish his post:

“—and now somehow he's been possessed by the soul of some guy trying to break into stand-up comedy in the 90s and I can't seem to undo it and he sometimes gets really aggressive—"

"FRED!"

Fred yelped and fell out of his chair; Solomon’s voice was louder and more piercing than it had ever been before. Fred soon saw why: Solomon had grown ten times his normal size, filling up the rest of the free space in the already-cramped bedroom. The purple fire had leapt from his eyes and spread until it engulfed his entire skeletal frame.

"FRED! WHAT IS THE DEAL WITH ARCHITECTS?!"

Fred looked up at the giant, undead turtle, trembling. He swallowed, then stammered out:

"I-I-I don't k-know, man, w-what is the d-d-deal with archit-tects?"

"THEY ARE ALWAYS CALLING THEM 'BUILDINGS.' WHY DON'T THEY CALL THEM 'BUILTS?' THEY LOOK FINISHED TO ME."

Solomon stared down at Fred expectantly; Fred felt his heart beat faster and faster as the seconds ticked by. Then,

"YOU DON’T THINK IT’S FUNNY."

Fred swallowed again.

"Umm—well, I mean..."

"BWA! BWAHAHA!"

Before Fred could finish, Solomon shrank down to his usual size and scuttled out of the room, crying oily tears that left tiny burn marks in the carpet. The sound of his sobs made Fred want to roll under his bed and hide, but he braced himself and ran to the bedroom door instead.

"Solomon, buddy, it's nothing personal!” Fred called out. “It's just—well, that material's pretty dated, and your timing was off, but I really think that if you tried to come up with something fresh—"

His words were drowned out by the sound of a slap-bass riff and then laughter from a studio audience; Solomon was starting another episode of Seinfeld. Sighing, Fred walked back to the desk and slumped down in his chair, rubbing his eyes. Solomon was intermittently laughing and sobbing now; the haunting sound floated down the hallway and into the bedroom, settling around Fred’s shoulders like a bank of fog. Fred listened to it for a minute, then wearily sat up and finished his post:

“—and, in general, it's just getting really hard being his only emotional support in all of this. So, I’m just wondering: does anyone know how to get him back to his old personality?”

He was about to click “Post” when he heard a dejected sniffle from down the hall. He paused for a moment, then added:

“Or, I guess, if not that, does anybody know of any comedy clubs that admit undead turtles? Just wanting to explore my options here. Thanks!”

23

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