Date: 24th December.
Location: Clonmel, Eire.
Timothy Flaherty stood at the oak-panelled doorway to OMurphy Manor, wrestling with the heavy gargoyle-faced iron knocker, balancing a home-baked fruitcake on his Zimmer frame as he lifted the heavy knocker once again with two shaky hands.
Seamus approached BUDs monitor. "Whos that?" he asked.
Switching to camera twelve, Timothys kind and wrinkled face appeared on the screen. His bushy silver eyebrows folded with concentration as his watery eyes focused on the gargoyle knocker, which pinned his polka-dotted necktie to the door. Seamus scrolled the camera up then down, showing Timothy, thin and unsteady, dressed in an oversize pale blue suit, pink shirt and brown corduroy joggers. His shaking hands steadied him against the door.
Seamus chuckled as he zoomed further to read the identity badge, which was pinned to Timothys chest. "Clonmel Orphanage - Official Collector," Seamus read aloud.
"Whos that?" asked the old man.
"Identify," said Seamus.
BUD retrieved Timothys file, which ticker-taped across the bottom of the screen. "Subject: Timothy Keegan Flaherty. Address: 2 Mary Street, Clonmel. Age: ninety-two years and fourteen days. Height: five-feet-eight inches. Weight: One-hundred-and-sixty pounds. Interests: Geology, gardening, classical music," recounted BUDs monotone voice.
"What does he want?" asked Seamus.
"No data available, Sir."
"Do you think hell go away if we ignore him?"
"No data available, Sir."
"Ill see what he wants," said the old man as he ran to the door and pushed but it didnt budge. He set the latch then ran at it from a distance. The door opened violently; sending Timothy over the Zimmer frame; catapulting the cake tin high into the air, then down onto the crown of Timothys bald, pink head.
"Ouch!" Timothy winced before collapsing to the ground.
The old man scuttled forward but Seamus was too quick. He caught him by the collar and lifted him so that his legs kept running, mid-air.
"Youve done quite enough. To the basement with you! Lets see whether you can make trouble there," said Seamus.
Seamus helped Timothy to his feet, walking him through the expansive entrance hall, past the spiralled steps and into the drawing room and to the old chez lounge where Timothy stretched his creaking body.
"Some water?" asked Seamus.
Timothys vision was blurred as he opened his eyes, making Seamus face seem as though it wobbled back and forward, mingling and morphing with the grand chandelier, which hung directly above. Timothy shook his head, closed his eyes tightly before re-opening them to look about the room.
It was filled with dust-covered chairs and sofas; sideboards, which were covered with precious ornaments, set about a fireplace at the centre of the room. Over it a portrait likeness of Seamus hung, watching over the room. Timothys confused eyes switched between the portrait and Seamus, himself. Until his eyes began to focus and they became two distinct entities.
"Anything stronger?" asked Timothy.
"Theres whiskey, but its in the cellar," muttered Seamus.
"Whiskey?" said Timothy, and his eyes began to sparkle.
Seamus didnt often have visitors. Since the death of his mother he was never comfortable with people at the Manor. Seamus wasnt a people person. It wasnt that he didnt like them, quite the opposite in fact, for they fascinated him and intrigued him, yet he found them confusing and unpredictable. Seamus liked logic, which explained why, even as a child, he preferred machines and computers. They were logical. They obeyed fundamental rules, which Seamus found re-assuring. Seamus liked order. He liked rules. His rules to be precise
Seamus tripped his way down the dimly lit stairs, through the blackened corridor whose old timber floorboards creaked with each step. The old cellar door lay just ahead and Seamus edged toward it like a blind man, feeling his way along the dark passage, stopping and listening every few steps. He heard a sound. It was the strangest of sounds and it came from behind the cellar door.
He pressed his eye to the gap and peered inside.
* * *
In the stone-lined cellar to OMurphy Manor sat old man, Malakai: cross-legged, precariously balanced on a rickety stool; leaning over the round oak table as he massaged his temples with his long wrinkled fingers. He stared at the crystal. Its multi-coloured surfaces sparkled exquisitely, even under the pale-lit bulb that barely illuminated the room.
It was extraordinary: unique and very rare: shiny and beautiful. He focused on it, leaning progressively forward until his large yellow eyes reflected in each of its sparkling, multi-coloured surfaces. His pointed ears wriggled with anticipation as he continued the ancient incantation. "Seeeyah-Caaan-Naaan-Yabba-Doooo-Seeyah-Waaah-De-De-Yaamana."
The crystal began to spin. It spun faster, levitating inch-by-inch above the table. Sparks appeared around it, like lightening. They flashed, sending plumes of fog that condensed about it like a cloud. The cloud grew progressively dense. At its centre, something started to materialise.
It was very small at the start, like a miniature room - with figurines jostling in their seats. Yes, it was like a tiny audience, and they were seated before of a stage with a jolly round figure dressed in red.
Malakai heard a faint voice.
"Its been another successful year at S.A.N.T.A. Inc., and I would like to thank each and every one of you for your support," said the soft, husky voice.
Malakai blinked. When he re-opened his eyes, Nicks face was floating mid-air above the table.
"What is the meaning of this?" whispered Nick.
"Yes, whats happening?" asked Seamus as pushed his way into the room.
"Malakai? " said Nick.
"Malakai?" said Seamus.
"Whos he?" said Nick and Seamus in unison as they watched each others face hovering in the cloud before them, dimensions apart.
Lightning flashed from within the cloud, filling the room with a blinding light that stunned Seamus. The force of it threw him to the ground, knocking him unconscious.
Seamus opened his bleary eyes to find the cloud dispersing, filling the cellar with a dense fog so it was impossible to see more than six inches ahead. Standing up he found his way to the door, which he opened and closed, like a fan, until the fog cleared. Seamus was alone. Malakai and Nick were nowhere to be seen. Only the crystal remained, hovering above the table.
It was spinning progressively slower, fading in brightness. It lowered gradually until it rested on the tabletop. The crystal tipped on its axis then toppled onto its side. He picked up it up. Ouch. It was hot to touch so he found a cloth, which allowed him to examine it closer.
Its multicoloured surfaces still shined under his gaze, even under the condensation, which he wiped carefully away. At its centre a fading light pulsated, losing its brightness like a fading heart beat as its energy drained away. He stared into it. As the light faded its sparkling, reflective quality returned.
"Funny! My eyes never seemed so large, nor so yellow," Seamus said as he watched them in the crystal.
"Humbug!" said a familiar voice that seemed to echo through his head.