On November 17, 2021, P.T. Wyant posted at ptwyant.com a Wednesday Words prompt involving a drawbridge, a comb, and a Help Wanted sign.
This bizarre Tale of the Navel, a prelude with Peter to Unwilling to Be Yours was the result…
How strange to see a Help Wanted sign just after Peter had crossed a drawbridge into a castle.
He was carrying a comb. He’d intended to give it to Paul. Perhaps it had belonged to a famous vampire, still carrying traces of its previous owner’s dark energy. Perhaps a siren had used it to straighten her hair before singing below a bridge, convincing those ailing in their hearts to jump.
This was how desperate Peter was, brandishing this comb and a likely fable just to get his former lover to talk to him.
“Oh, what a lovely comb!” A mermaid popped her wet head out of the moat. Tresses of hair floated around her breasts. “Won’t you come down, handsome stranger, and give it to me?”
She gave a fetching little wiggle which didn’t fool Peter.
“I’m so sorry, my lovely.” He gave a half-bow and a wink, but never quite stopped walking, keeping a firm grip on the comb. “My assistance is needed elsewhere.”
He gave the sign a significant nod.
“Such a shame. All that beauty of yours wasted on a heavenly direction and attempts to return what isn’t wanted.” The mermaid flicked her tail dismissively at the sign. “Come back when you tire of work and decide to play.”
She giggled and dove below the water of the moat.
It was only when he was on the other side that Peter saw the bones lying in patches of land under the drawbridge. Human bones.
Why was he not surprised playing with a mermaid could be fatal?
He looked around the castle courtyard. Birds chittered and took flight amidst the lords and ladies rushing in different directions. No one paid much attention except for one.
“Why, that’s my comb!” A lady wearing a haughty scowl upon a long face under a coned headdress snapped her fingers under his nose. “Give it here, boy!”
Peter shook his head, smiled, and pressed the comb to his chest. “Forgive me, my lady, but this comb is for my former lover. I must woo him with lies in an attempt to win him back.”
“How brazen of you to admit that!” she scolded, but a smile softened her face. “All right, get along with you. Just remember, lies can be more costly than the truth.”
She raced after a distracted lord in black, no longer paying attention to Peter. Just why was everyone in a hurry?
There was no point in hurrying, just as there was no point in telling him lies could be more costly than the truth. The truth had a way of popping out, regardless, like a hideous jack-in-the-box.
Peter found the stairs leading up to one of the castle towers. He started climbing them, winding up the stone edifice, glancing down at the green countryside below.
Some of it he’d passed through. There were a few cottages he hadn’t remembered seeing. How interesting.
He reached the end of the stairs at a little wooden door in the stone wall.
Uncertain, he tapped on the door.
“Come in, Peter.” The voice was soft, seductive, yet somehow deep and commanding. It tickled the insides of his ears, sending shivers all the way down to his groin.
He opened the door, finding himself in small bedchamber. A great bed with long dark green hangings did nothing to conceal the occupant.
A man with high-cheekbones rolled over amidst his own moonlight-colored hair, exposing bare shoulders slipping free of a robe the same hue as the bedcovers. The man fixed him with a searing gaze, his eye filled with prism-like light.
“Shut the door behind you.” The man smiled the slow smile of a predator who’d just caught a particularly succulent squirrel in his claws. “We don’t want to be disturbed.”
“My lord,” Peter said, tasting the truth in every world. This man was the true lord of this place, no matter what title or lack of title he might have.
He turned to shut the door behind him, knowing he risked being devoured, but so what? He’d come this far for his wish. Better to be eaten than to turn back.
“So determined,” the man said softly. “Paul was a fool to discard you. He might follow gods, but you could become a god yourself.”
Honeyed words in which he might be stuck.
“Not to waste such an opportunity,” Peter chose his own with care, doing a little spin to face the occupant of the bed. “I cannot help but wonder if you were looking and expecting someone else.”
“As you were?” The man raised himself from the bed, exposing more shoulder and chest as perfect as a marble statue’s. “This doesn’t mean we don’t have something to offer each other.”
“I saw the Help Wanted sign.” Peter sauntered toward the bed, yet stopped before getting too close. “Are you the one asking for it?”
“Yes and no. The Navel needs help.” The man leaned back to expose his own hairless navel and what lay beneath it. “The question is do you truly want to help? Or are you simply seeking your own path?”
Difficult to answer that question even with this man looking and smelling the way he did, distracting Peter with his ample charms.
“I wished to see someone again.” Peter stood his ground, clutching his comb. “I may have to lie to do so.”
“You don’t have to lie to me. You won’t be able to.” The man reached and nudged Peter’s thigh. “Come closer. I have a message I want you to deliver.”
“What message?” Peter allowed himself to be drawn toward the bed, to lean over his occupant.
“This one.” The man reached out to seize Peter, claiming his lips with his own. “You’ll know who. You’ll find him as difficult to resist as I always have.”
Peter fell on top of the half-naked man, finding his own body very happy to be there.
The man wrapped his robe which seemed to be growing around both of them. Darkness enveloped the two men. Peter tasted darkness, breathing in the shadows along with the taste of their master…
…only to find himself walking down a cobblestone path, clothes in disarray.
“What happened?” The man, the bedchamber, the castle were retreating as if they’d been a dream.
He glanced down at his empty hands. Somehow, somewhere, he’d lost his comb.