If you stare into the abyss, and the abyss stares back at you, you will see into the deep, and the deep will see into you, you can’t hide from it, and it can’t hide from you. -Intellectual Shaman

“Your service has been a sacrifice upon the alter of my family,” Byron said.

“What?”

“Giles, how old would you say I am?

“50.”

“Add another zero. Your father never told you…? He figured it out, as he approached death. My family is immortal, well… sort of, magic keeps us alive.”

“It must be unnerving to face darkness, to know your life and family will end; your bones will be like their bones, separated and scattered by rats.”

“Those are the bones of my father, and his father before him; they went willingly when they were ready. I’m not ready.”

“I will be the judge of that,” Giles said. His finger folded around the trigger. His hand twitched.

Byron looked him in the eye, with no fear.

Boom!

The gun exploded, blinding Giles with black powder. “My eyes! My mouth! Slivers in my lips!” His face contorted and melted like a blistering mask of fire and burning flesh, running blindly from the cave, into the swampy grass, steaming, and sinking, screaming, through the fog of envy.

Byron took the power back. He was the master, the lord—though he had to suffer beneath his dignity, with no servant.

Back at the manor, a boy not much older than 17, greeted him.

“Your paper, sir.”

“Would you like a job?” Byron asked.

“I already have one, sir.”

“How much does it pay?”

“7 dollars—a week.”

“I’ll tack on another zero.”

“I can’t refuse.”

“It’s a permanent job—for a lifetime.”

“That’s job security.”

“Excellent; then I will call you Giles.”

The End

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