Flash Friday 11/12/2015: The Swing of Things
The first thing that Ralph noticed as he came out of his unconscious state was that his arms and legs were tied to a table in a torch-lit wooden room, laid out like a dungeon. The second thing he noticed was the blade on a pendulum swinging down the length of his body.
“So you’ve awoken at last,” a cold voice came from Ralph’s right. An aged man with a snake-like gaze and his white hair in a ponytail rubbed his hands in glee.
“Count Narcus,” Ralph spat, tugging at his binds. “I knew a 2-for-1 on steak dinners was too good to be true.”
“Your love for a good meal was always your downfall, Ralph, but now I have you right where I need you. You’ll find that the pendulum blade that swings above you already grazes your nose. Trust me when I say that it gets lower.”
“So, this is it? You’re just going to kill me like this?”
“Of course I am! Instead of a ‘fair fight’ as you may put it, you just lie there and wait for the blade to slice you in two. Feels like a much better solution, if you ask me. So just sit tight and wait for the main event to begin.”
Count Narcus drummed his fingers together with anticipation as he watched the blade swing back and forth. The worried look on Ralph’s face began to dim as time went on.
“Uhm,” Ralph said. “I know you’ve got something special going on here, but, uh…I think the blade isn’t descending.”
Count Narcus frowned. “Isn’t it?”
“It has been at ‘grazes your nose’ level since you started speaking.”
Count Narcus stared at the pendulum for a few seconds. “You know what? I think you’re right. Well, that’s put a damper on bloody everything.”
“Sorry to hear it.”
“No, it’s not you. It’s just–agh! Every time I want to spend a nice Friday night with a glass of champagne, a seat by the fire, a good splitting-open of an arch nemesis of mine, something like this always happens.”
“So…is this torture thing cancelled, or–?”
“Just a minute, don’t go anywhere. Gobbler!” Count Narcus crossed to a bell on the wall, rattling it loudly. “Gobbler, where are you? This is cutting into my crossword time!”
After he had rang the bell enough, it was a matter of simply waiting with his arms folded and muttering under his breath. Soon, an unsightly and somewhat obese goblin staggered into the dungeon.
“Y’alright?” Gobbler said.
“No, I’m not ‘alright’. That new painfully-descending pendulum I had you install isn’t doing any descending at all.”
“Isn’t it? Lemme have a look.”
Gobbler’s leathery feet pattered over as he stared up at the pendulum. He counted the swings, made back-and-forth motions with a finger, and squinted. Finally, he gave a solid nod.
“Yeah, I see what’s wrong with it,” he said.
“What’s wrong with it, then?”
“Yes, I know it’s buggered!” Count Narcus spat. “The very reason I called you down here was so that you could un-bugger it! Now do your job before this whole night is ruined!”
“We could just undo the pendulum and let the blade fall on him.”
“For goodness sakes, Gobbler, I could just take them out the back and shoot them through the head if I wanted. Why else would I spend so much on an overly-intricate dungeon if I could just shunt them off a cliff?”
“Alright alright, let me have a look at the mechanisms upstairs.”
Gobbler shuffled out of the room. Moments later, there was the sound of feet across the ceiling. There were a few metallic clangs, heavy things hitting the floor, and words yelled that Ralph hoped wasn’t the last thing he ever heard.
“Alright!” came a muffled yell. “I think I got it!”
“You do?” Count Narcus called. “Excellent!”
“Yeah. What I’ll do is lower it as far as it can go and do a test swing. You let me know if it gets low enough to actually slice someone in two, alright? In three, two–”
“No, no, no!” Count Narcus said. “You can’t have the victim die during testing! Just hold your horses while I get the prisoner to safety, then you can do your tests, and then we can put him back.”
Count Narcus began undoing the ropes, constantly muttering about being ‘so sorry’, and that things ‘usually weren’t like this’ and how ‘everything usually goes perfectly’. With the bindings free, Ralph stood from the table, rubbing at his wrists.
“I’m really, terribly sorry,” Count Narcus said. “I hope you’re not offended.”
“No, it’s fine,” Ralph said. “These things always go wrong at showtime.”
“Too true, too true. Alright, Gobbler, give it a try.”
The pendulum started up once more. The blade didn’t descend; instead, it began to swing faster and harder with every swing, like a large dog desperately trying to break free from a leash. Cracks began to appear in the wooden ceiling above.
“Gobbler!” Count Narcus yelled over the noise of the boisterous blade. “Shut it down! Something’s wrong!”
“What?” came the muffled reply.
“I said, shut it down!”
With a sickening crash, the blade broke free of its bindings, bringing a large portion of ceiling, some mechanisms, a load of cogs, and Gobbler down with it.
“I’m awfully, dreadfully sorry, Ralph,” Count Narcus said, coughing and wafting dust away from himself. “To compensate for this atrocious display from my minion, I’ll let you pick between the iron maiden and the rack instead. Does that sound fair, Ralph? Ralph?”
Count Narcus looked behind himself. A note was laid on the floor with ‘I.O.U ONE TORTURE’ hastily scribbled on it. The dungeon’s door was still swinging on its hinges.
“See?” Gobbler said, poking his head out of a pile of ceiling and spitting out a screw. “Told you we should have just dropped it on him.”
A well-aimed cog ricocheted off of his forehead.