The Incense Salesman
The Keeper’s Finds (Part 2)
The Incense Djinn
Dust piled on the floor, dust hanging on the air, dust fused to his skin. It’s mostly ashes – cakey gray ashes from incense cones and sticks long burned drift on the air like hazy pollen over expansive fields of cotton. This ratty shack has no windows, no ventilation system, just the misshapen front door that dangles far out of line with its frame, attached there only by the last remaining hinge; at least the gaps let the light in. And the mosquitoes, and the rats, and the hornets… but at least they let the light in.
He has no appliances, no running water, no electricity at all; he drinks from a stream that runs behind his ratty shack, a stream polluted by gas and oil and old toxic paint dumped into the woods by one of the many crooked corporations based back here in the Treeburg industrial park. He knows it’s not a safe area to live, but his family was here first, his family came to Treeburg long before the capitalists raised their concrete barns and loaded them up with human cattle to milk dry running their assembly lines. Now he’s the last one left back here on Melanie Queen Road, all the other families sold out or simply died off. He’s all alone in these dark, dank woods… just him and the incense djinn.
It’s always the same one for him – blue skin, indigo beard tied in a knot a foot below its chin, violet hair protruding in meter-long spikes which shoot out in every direction from its mountainously bumpy scalp. It always has gold cuffs on its wrists, it always wears a belt of ancient, corroded chains bound tightly around its waist, it always keeps its arms, the skin scaly like pythons, folded before its puffed chest; it always has that same deranged, sadistic look in its eyes, those terrible crimson eyes, like cut rubies soaked in the blood of virgins and left out to collect the light of a harvest moon. Whether he burns incense sticks or incense cones it’s always the same djinn, it appears from the smoke and fades when the embers go out, but he knows it’s always there. Even when he can’t see the incense djinn he knows it’s always there watching him, keeping tabs on him, making sure he doesn’t waste any of the sacraments. He serves the incense djinn, you see, he’s a humble servant to one greater than he can ever hope to be, and the incense djinn serves the Great Old One, the greatest one anybody could ever hope to be, and the Great Old One serves… well, he doesn’t know, but all masters are little more than servants to a greater force. The planet is a red cell, a carrier of bloody slavery through the veins of the Universe as The Void, the empty heart of Existence beats on and on and on; the land bent under the humans, the humans bent under the incense salesman, the incense salesman bent under the incense djinn, the incense djinn bent under the Great Old One; an endless cycle of followed orders bound by chains and left to spin eternally, never breaking, never pausing, never offering a single moment of mercy.
But the chains are rusted, and the incense djinn will soon be free. Then the incense salesman will at long last be relieved of his position; the Great Old One will be appeased, the incense djinn will rest, and the incense salesman will be let alone to die in peace at long last. Maybe he’ll even be left to live; his free samples have collected plenty of souls, released plenty of lesser djinn into this most mortal of coils – surely his soul will be left off the table. Not that he has a table… or any chairs… or any furniture aside from his bed. There’s no frame to it, just a mattress, an old and moldy mattress stuffed with jagged rusty springs and leaves and grasses and hair, his own hair which he pulled from his head during his innumerable fits of insomniac rage, anything to make the pain more bearable, he’d stuff it with his own skin if he could… but lo, he cannot. He must serve the incense djinn. So much was his wish, a wish he did not make wisely but with poorly chosen words, a wish granted and a contract signed in a medium far more binding than mortal blood; a contract which is almost up.
All he has left are the boards. He got rid of all the cones and the burners to go along with them, and now, all he has left are the boards. The useless boards, the last bit of work performed on day fourteen of one’s two-week notice, done for no other reason than because the incense djinn whims it so. There are eight boards total, nine if you count the one he must use to sustain the incense djinn’s material form, but of course that one doesn’t really count. When his divine task is complete it will burn off in a fountain of sparks and leave nothing but a black scorch mark on his floor, a scorch mark he won’t need to clean up for as the smoke fades and the embers die out, so too shall the incense salesman.
“Do not be so sure, fool,” bellows the incense djinn, looking down at the shivering human with disgust. “Your tenure here may not be complete when you’ve finished that which you started; men have many masters… though you are not worthy of being called a man, you sniveling little insect.”
The incense salesman says nothing. He keeps his knees pulled tight against his chest as he lays there in the dust of his life’s work, his body twitching in pitiful, sickly convulsions.
“I have long grown tired of your presence, child; you have but a single duty left. Make your wish and get on with it so we may both be free of one another.”
The incense salesman unclenches his legs and weakly brings himself out of the dust, resting in a kneeling position. His eyes are glazed and red, his mouth hangs open and foamy drool dribbles from his bottom lip. The incense djinn waits.
“I wish…” the incense salesman whispers harshly, then draws a wheezing breath into his clogged, polluted lungs. “I wish for the faculties to complete my final task…”
The incense djinn, without so much as a smile on its ancient, terrible face, snaps its callused fingers. A laptop computer appears in the air and crashes down on the incense salesman’s fragile head, knocking him unconscious. When he comes to, the incense stick and the board from which it burned are both gone, replaced by a long black scorch mark… but still he feels the wretched presence of the blue incense djinn hanging in the dusty air, like a grinning phantom waiting for its next victim to slip into sleep.
Investing a great deal of energy, the incense salesman opens the laptop. His eyes burn and sizzle when the light strikes them, but the pain does not last, the pain is not like the incense djinn, the pain washes away as the tears fall down his dirty, dusty face. On the screen is an assortment of boxes and text, the home page of a website called Omingle, and the interests box is already filled out. The Video button is grayed out and the incense salesman knows it won’t respond to his clicks; dragging his raw, bloody finger across the scratched trackpad, Scotty Mells brings the cursor to the blue Text button, and then he presses down.
Hello Commons, this has been the first subchapter of the tenth story from Convenient Incidents, an anthology of fifteen interconnected short stories which revolve around a man by the name of Hilter Odolf Williamson.
Convenient Incidents is part of the Third Spiral, an anthology of sorts called The Here and Now which is comprised of stories told from the various planes of Existence.
Convenient Incidents is available to read for free in its entirety on my website. Click here to check it out.
I’ve written a few other books, too. Click here to see the list.
If you like Convenient Incidents and would like to help support my work, click here and buy an autographed copy of the book (or anything else!) from my store. Alternatively, you can snag a cheaper (and unsigned) copy from Amazon by clicking here OR you can buy the ebook for even cheaper here.
If you’re there, hypothetical reader, thank you for being there. Be well Commons~