Percival Graves hadn’t slept in two nights. He was starting to think that he should ask one of the quacks for a pill to help him with that. Or maybe he should ask them for the whole bottle of pills. He might as well end it before someone ended it for him.
As soon as he thought of this, the face of Emma Earl appeared in his mind. Cute little Emma who had grown into a beautiful young woman. Despite that she was taller and had breasts now, she still had the eyes of that little child he had first seen at the Plaine Museum while he was sweeping up. Those innocent eyes that hadn’t changed despite the awful things that had happened to her. She was the reason for him not to end it all.
If he hadn’t stopped believing in God during the war, he might have thought it was a miracle that had brought her back into his life. In reality he knew it was just good luck that his idiot son had dumped him into the same old fogies home as Emma’s aunt. Finally that cheap bastard was good for something.
Unfortunately, his son wasn’t a bastard, not in the true sense of the word. He was Percival’s flesh and blood, though he had far more of his mother’s blood it seemed like. That such a whiny, obnoxious little twit could come from his seed seemed almost impossible. That was what he deserved for marrying a beast like the boy’s mother.
He’d always felt Emma was more of his real child. Had it been possible, he would have adopted her after her parents died, but her aunt had stepped in to care for her. Not that he felt any anger at Gladys; she was a perfectly nice woman even when she was senile. If he hadn’t been married and already old, he might have made a play for her ten years ago.
Percival sighed as he sat up in bed. It seemed all he could do anymore was think about the past. That was the real horror of getting old, all this time on his hands and nothing to do but think about all the water under the bridge. So many things he should have done differently. If only he could go back in time and right all those wrongs.
He would start with making sure his leg didn’t get all but chopped off. The wound had eventually healed, but it had pained him for the last thirty years. Tonight he felt the pain more acutely than he had since it first happened. That was part of what had kept him from sleeping the last two nights.
The other was the nightmare he’d had two nights ago. In the dream he was back in the Plaine Museum, sweeping it up as he had always done. Then he heard a scream and saw little Emma, a toddler like when he first saw her, being chased by the reanimated skeleton of Alex the mastodon. “Hewp me!” she screamed. “Mr. Gwaves, hewp me!” But Percival couldn’t help her. He was too old and slow even in the dream. He could only watch and scream as one of the mastodon’s tusks punctured the little girl’s heart.
He knew the source of the dream. Sitting in his bed, he knew what the dream wanted. It wanted him to come back, to perform the duty once again. He wasn’t surprised then when the ghost appeared over his bed.
“I knew it was you,” Percival said. “I knew you’d be coming for me.”
“It wasn’t my idea,” the ghost said. “I’d have just as soon left you for dead. But I suppose it wants to let you have the first crack at it.”
“You mean it wants me to get myself killed.”
“Not necessarily. It’s still weak enough that even an old codger like you could stop it.”
“Then why don’t you stop it, you annoying prick?”
“Because I’m a bloody ghost, you twit.”
“Yes, well, I’m a bloody invalid now, so go find some other poor bugger to do it.”
“We will. You can be sure of that. Just thought you might want to go out in a blaze of glory instead of rotting away in this hellhole.”
“I’m much too old for a blaze of glory.”
“So that’s it, then? You’re going to spend your last days cowering here, until it finally comes for you?”
“If that’s what happens, then it happens. None of my business anymore.” Percival tapped his leg with his cane. “I gave more than enough to you and your Order already.”
“The others gave their lives.”
“And they all died before they were fifty, didn’t they?”
“Not all. There was one who started when he was fifty-two.”
“He probably died when he was fifty-two as well.”
“Fine. The point is that I’m not going to do it anymore. You understand?”
“Go ahead then, you coward. Don’t be asking for my help when it comes back to finish the job.”
“I wouldn’t ask for your help, you bloody twerp.” The ghost started to fade back into the wall. Percival called out, “And don’t you ever make me dream about her like that again or I swear I’ll find a way to wring your scrawny neck.”
“It wasn’t my idea. You know how it works.”
“Yes, I suppose I do,” Percival said. The ghost disappeared, leaving Percival alone in the room again. He sighed and then reached over for the call button to get some damned sleeping pills.