Asher Black

Shelob art provided by Mike "Warble" Finucane
Shelob art provided by Mike “Warble” Finucane

Asher slept restlessly in the leather chair in The Haunt’s hearth room. The pipe in his hand had gone out.

Devoured from the inside, he could not see the force that sucked his life away. His breath grew shallow. The cold seeped into his hands and feet. He tried to get up but couldn’t move his limbs. He tried to call for help but could make no sound. His body had abandoned his will, and his mind could not command their union. As his vision drained away at the corners, like a shutter closing over a lens, he was aware of dying. Aware of such a thing as death, of falling to oblivion in pieces, and, in that instant, aware of sleeping.

He seized consciousness by the throat, forcing himself awake. Clawed for a handhold and threw off the pressing weight. Eyes open, he stared at the hearth. Faculties and frame hadn’t yet synchronized, and sleep nearly took him again. The familiar theme crept in like its own weather, even before the plot and the actors arrived. He fled but moved only in slow motion, fighting but hitting no harder than an intention. He struggled out of the chair, almost slipping to the floor, and found that the pipe stem had broken in his fist.

“Hell.” He put the pieces on the mantle at the base of a stand holding some two dozen briars, several calabashes, and a humidor at each end. No reason to dwell on something that can’t be mended.

Asher wiped his forehead, poured and drained a small glass of sherry, and opened a window to let in the night air. “My dreams have been annoying of late,” he said to the room. While there was no obvious sense in talking to himself, Asher relied on the sound of his own voice to place things back on a rational footing. Then something seemingly mundane: “Does this call for cavendish or an English blend?” The cool air was encouraging as it sank in over the sill. Asher moved the chair closer and settled down to breathe deeply before deciding on the tobacco.

The mistake was in closing his eyes. The slight breeze licked frostily at his face, and Asher inhaled it with open mouth. This time he did not dream. He felt no terror. Sensed no paralyzing force from within. If he had been awake, he might have noticed the tiny eight-legged creature that now crawled across the ceiling, slid down a strand of silk, and leaped into his open mouth.

Metafiction deliberately blurs the line between fiction and reality by, among other techniques, featuring the author as a character. Asher writes metafiction that explores the writer’s process. Asher’s Haunt can be visited virtually at asherblack.com

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