Sunday, January 20, 2013

Lord of the Table

I wrote this for this week's writing challenge on io9's Open Channel Concept Art Writing Prompt: A Baroque Dinner Party Aboard an Underwater Shipwreck.  I'm not sure if it's a good or bad sign that it wouldn't post to the site...  Anywho, enjoy!


"I want to leave, Robert." 

He looked up at her, at first surprised and then appalled.  "Cecilia!  Your elbows!"

She rolled her eyes.  "Really?  After four centuries it's my elbow--because it is only the one, Robert--on the table to provokes a reaction?"

"You know it's on the table, and yet it remains?"


"Yes, my love."  He straightened, properly chastised by Cecilia's tone, and picked up his tea cup as it was the closest shield to hand. 

"I want off this ship."

"But Fredericks is still pouring.  Dessert isn't far behind.  We've made it this far, it seems a waste to miss the dessert."

"Fredericks," Cecilia all but snarled the butler's name, her molars grinding on the harder sounds, "has been pouring for over four hundred years.  If we weren't dead, we'd have wasted away waiting for dessert!"

"My dear!  Do maintain a pleasant tone.  Your sister is not well--"

"She's drunk."

"--and it would be rude to wake her."

"She's dead!  And drunk!  She's been drunk for four centuries."

"Clearly she needs the rest."

Disgusted, she threw her hands up.  They were promptly entangled with a drifting bit of sea kelp,  Cecilia swore as she frantically brushed the offending greenery from her person.

"My dear!"

"Oh don't you 'my dear' me, Robert!"

"Well, what do you expect me to do?" he asked, his own ire finally rising.

"End the dinner!  Get up from table so that we may all do so and finally, finally, reach our eternal rest.  At this point I don't care whether it's in Heaven or can't be worse than an interminable dinner party that never proceeds forward, and never changes!"

Robert stared at his wife, aghast.  "I can't believe you find your friends and your sister so intolerably boring.  And that you would say so where all could hear."

"Well, as you point out, Maria is fast asleep.  She hears nothing.  Likewise, Althea is paying us no mind.  To my best recollection she hasn't spoken to us in well over two hundred years, if not two hundred and fifty.  The other members of our party, if they are locked into the same milieu are at the other end of the hall, and there they shall stay until some sort of resolution to this meal is reached--if ever it is.  So, yes, I do find our friends and my sister intolerably boring.  And yes, I say where all can hear, not that anyone is listening!"

"I'm listening."

One of Cecilia's painted eyebrows rose.  "Are you, dear?"

"Are you saying that I, too, am intolerably boring?"

She looked away, unwilling to speak.

"You are saying it, aren't you.  I am the only person with whom you've been able to have meaningful conversation since Althea began monopolizing Fredericks and you find it beneath you."

"That's not what I'm saying," she told a passing school of fish.  They ignored her, uninterested in the dinner party they and their predecessors had been passing for generations.

"Isn't it?"

"I haven't been talking about you at all.  For you are not intolerably boring.  I couldn't have borne being married to you if you were."

"Then what are you saying, Cecilia.  Mariah, Althea and Fredericks do not entertain you.  And although I entertain you, or at least I am not as intolerable as those three, still you find some fault in my company.  I demand that you tell me what it is.  This is hardly the first time you've asked me to end the dinner."

Cecilia shook her head.  That spooked the fish.  "No it isn't the first time."

"So tell me my deficiency.  I am here.  I am awake.  I am speaking to you."  Robert set down his tea cup.  "I am not boring."

"No, but you are a coward."  She turned to face him.  "Unwilling to face his mortality by simply getting up from table."  Cecilia stood.

"Where are you going?" Robert demanded. 

"To sit with Althea while I can.  Until the cycle starts again, of course."  She left.

Robert picked up his tea cup.