“He who Pays the Piper…”
In a small, sleepy town…much like any other;
on a pretty ordinary night,
under the cover…
a black stretch limo, as dark as obsidian,
with blacked out windows;
to keep everything hidden,
from those who might pry…
like a wave from the ocean,
rolled silently by.
With headlights, pale and milky,
like cataract eyes;
and an engine that purred
like a kitten
with delusions of grandeur;
knowing that under the hood
666 horses waited to be unleashed;
and each one a stallion,
a thoroughbred stud…
Ready to lay waste to the blacktop,
as dawn lays waste to the night;
it glided like a phantom,
till it reached its spot;
and pulled up to the kerb,
outside a vacant Real Estate lot
at the far end of town,
where urbanisation gave way to brush,
and nature’s natter gave way
to an unholy hush…
Not the sound of a Cicada was to be heard;
nor a nocturnal hoot,
just the faint, haunting sound
of the Pied Piper’s flute…
For 12 days, and 12 nights;
the “Emporium Diabolique”,
like a revenant,
came slowly to life.
Then on day 13, twixt dusk and dawn;
an “OPEN FOR BUSINESS” sign
appeared on the lawn…
Nobody knew the proprietors name,
nor had they seen him;
no one could lay claim
to knowing anything of his past;
his history, his creed, his race or his caste.
He was a riddle, wrapped in a mystery; inside an enigma.
Already his presence…or lack of it,
had caused quite a stigma
amongst the townsfolk, whose tongues were thoroughly wagging;
whilst an infernal heat had left everyone gagging
from the mundanity of their lives…
their jobs, their commitments, their lovers; their wives.
The towns children though, were different.
They bore no animosity.
They did nary give a thought
to what happened to the cat that entertained curiosity.
So on the first day of business, they lined up at the door;
with pocket-money to spend,
and parent’s warnings to ignore.
Dollars to doughnuts, there’d be a steady stream;
of curious and curiouser children…
a Pied Piper’s dream.
So with a click, and a clack from somewhere within;
the door creaked open,
and let the first of them in…
“Hello”, one of them called. “Is there anyone there?”,
his dry lips said nervously;
failing to see
the shadowy figure sat in the chair;
in the corner,
rubbing his hands together.
The skin of his palms,
rasping like sandpaper against leather…
“Come in, come in”, the figure called from the gloom.
Inviting each one of them in to their doom.
“What do you sell Mister?”, another enquired.
“I sell mischief and merriment; I sell doodads for dollars.
I have whatever it is that your little heart desires…
For a brace of George Washington’s
I’ll sell you endless wonder”,
and those words carried with them the promise of thunder.
“Spit and let’s shake on it.
Let’s make us a deal.
I’m a man of my word. I cannot reveal
all the wonders awaiting you…the devilry, the fun”.
So shake on it, they did;
and the deal was done…
In a booming voice he announced,
“Roll up, roll up; there’s nothing to fear”,
but beneath his breath whispered;
“Abandon all hope, ye who enter here”,
as he led them towards a gnarly, old door – way in back
of the store,
from behind which the giggles of children could be heard;
and hushed conversations, as if none of them dared
raise their voice above more than a whisper.
“Join us, join us…come hither, come hither”,
they pleaded as the fresh ones drew near;
their voices tinged with the faint flavour of fear,
“Come over to the dark side.
It’s much more fun there.
We have balloons that all float,
and cookies to share.”
And, so with the promise of goodies, giggles and mirth;
they opened the door,
stepped on through;
off the face of the earth…
So day upon day the yow’uns came,
but never went;
their dollars, their futures, their tomorrows;
in the blink of a juvenile eye.
The only towns person who felt no need to cry,
was the old man who lived just across the way;
who for once could wake up
to the cold light of day,
with a smile on his face, and a spring in his step;
for a deal that had been struck,
and a promise that had been kept…
No longer need he curse the breaking of dawn,
or have to shout from his window;
“GET OFF MY LAWN.”
in a drawer…
in a dresser…
that stood by his bed,
lay a diabolical contract;
the words written in red,
in a substance that could have been blood,
and confirmed an agreement
both parties understood…
The souls of the children was the price they’d agreed.
The recompense?…peace and quiet.
“That’s what we old people need”,
he had said, as he’d scribbled his name;
and convinced himself, it was the parents to blame,
for not controlling their obnoxious offspring;
and thus forced him to do such a terrible thing…
You may wonder why the townsfolk
just let all of this slide?
Well, you see…
Each and every one of them had secrets to hide.
For beneath the crust of this quaint, little township;
was a filling so vile,
as to make any holy man take more than a sip
of Sacramental wine.
So with tight-lipped resolve,
they accepted their fate;
forgot their children, and buried their hate;
in a place deep inside.
Not one of them mourned.
Not one of them cried…
And so life continued, with a vague semblance of normality;
and people busied themselves with the formality
of living each day as it came,
whilst knowing that things would never again be the same…
The “Emporium Diabolique”, sat in its place on the hill,
and watched impassively upon the town
it had claimed as its own,
no one realising that the franchise had grown…
For in the next town along,
outside a vacant Real Estate lot;
a black stretch limo pulled up to a spot,
at the side of the kerb;
beneath the light of the moon,
and a new store in that town would be opening soon;
selling doodads for dollars.
A yow’uns delight.
12 days passed, along with 12 nights;
and on the 13th day,
‘neath the light of the moon;
A sign appeared stating,
“All Children Welcome, we have plenty of room.”
And just across the way, an old man watched;
knowing all to well,
that he’d struck a devil of a deal,
and the kickback was hell.
But peace and quiet, would be his;
and that real soon…
because, He who Pays the Piper, Calls the Tune.
Copyright Ryan Woods 11/04/2016
Thank you Ryan for sharing your amazing talent