“Mr. Burton, would meet you shortly in the living room, Mr. Grant,” said a very charismatic young butler; “In the meantime, I can entertain you with my nonsense.”
Jackson Grant’s mind ventured on an extravagant journey to discover the words that would have been apt to compliment the butler’s witty remark. Yet all his good intentions were smothered by his endless silence as he chose to smile back sheepishly instead. While strolling with the butler through the massive hallway of the grand mansion, every passing moment amplified Jackson’s anxiety regarding this annual performance meeting with his boss (Mr. Burton).
“I know how it would all end up” His mother’s words echoed in his ears; “You’ll be a lamb to slaughter, Jackson. You’ll be intimidated by the occasion & your anxiety would carelessly slither up your spine. I shall just give you the finest amontillado I can find. A bottle of wine can brighten up the darkest of nights & can lead to delightful conversations.”
Jackson wondered looking at the wine bottle if the conversation with Mr. Burton would be delightful & if he would be rewarded with a regular job for the hard work that he had invested in Mr. Burton’s company as an intern.
Disturbed by the awkward silence, in an attempt to break the ice & strike a conversation the Butler curiously asked Jackson “If you don’t mind me asking. How long have you worked in Mr. Burton’s company, Mr. Grant?”
“For one year.” Jackson stuttered as he was overwhelmed with anxiety. “Ah… I truly respect… Mr. Burton’s work ethic & moral values.”
He made the statement in a weary tone, just to continue the courtesy of the conversation.
“Then you know nothing about the man underneath the tuxedo.” inferred the curious butler; “You would be oblivious to his depression that impales his aching soul.”
“His depression?” asked Jackson; somehow amidst the extravagant lifestyle of Mr. Burton, the possibility of a hidden sense of depression seemed a misfit.
“Do you see the pathway of the back lawn?” enquired the butler, indicating towards a long passage that led to a vast lawn that had countless white lilies. It merged with the dark & dense boundaries of the forest.
“Yes, it’s a beautiful & alluring lawn,” said Jackson; “but what has the lawn & the white lilies got to do with Mr. Burton’s depression?”
“Four years ago on an ominous night. Mr. Burton’s seven-year-old son Wade wandered on the pathway towards the white lilies, he wanted to play amidst the lilies under the pale moonlight, that night. He never came back. Running past through the white lilies master Wade entered the dark woods that harbors the most diabolical wild creatures. It was that shattered full moon night which broke the core of Mr. Burton’s spirit. He wasn’t the same man he was… Now he’s just a shell of a man. The most depressing fact is that the child’s corpse was never recovered. His tender body may be covered in the mud somewhere in the forest without having received a proper funeral.” At this point, Jackson could feel the Butler’s usual pleasant voice swell up with sadness. “Poor Mr. Burton tries his best to be a normal man during the days, but at nights like these, he desperately walks near the lilies in the hope of finding his son. Sometimes it’s on such tranquil full moon nights that he likes to take someone along with him in search of his son but under mysterious circumstances only he manages to return.
The butler hastily shuddered, as across the massive hallway towards the living room a flurry of apologies, from Mr. Burton came to greet Jackson, holding a white lily & a shovel.
“I’m terribly sorry for the delay, I was trying to find a white lily in the market to plant it in the back lawn. I hope Arthur kept you away from the boredom & loneliness,” said Mr. Burton in an apologetic tone; “This mansion is so huge being stranded all alone, and the loneliness could drive any mortal insane.”
“Yes, Arthur was rather kind to accompany me in your absence. My anxiety worsens when I’m abandoned alone” Expressed Jackson in a shaky voice.
“Ah! How generous of you Jackson to bring Amontillado. Arthur, would you be so kind enough to serve us the wine,” said Mr. Burton, sipping the wine that Arthur offered to him he continued “I haven’t seen my son for years. He loves the white lily. I plant one in the back lawn on the nights when I incredibly miss him. Finish your wine, Jackson then we’ll go plant the lily in the back lawn & will discuss your future.”
Tremors ran wild in Jackson’s hand as he witnessed the expression of fright & uncertainty dribble in Arthur’s iris. “No Mr. Burton, I’d rather stay here…” Jackson emphasized on this, as his fears grew in epic proportions.
Leaning towards Jackson, Mr. Burton pointed towards an envelope “I’ve planned an offer you can’t resist unless you think that I intend to bury you & then plant this white lily on top of your grave.” said Mr. Burton hysterically in a light-hearted tone.
However, these words were sufficient to spark a whirlpool of insecurities. Engulfed in terror & horror of his thoughts… Jackson was drenched in cold sweat! He wildly ran for his life. Jackson bumped into Arthur due to which the wine bottle fell from Arthur’s hands & the wine spilled all over the marble floor. Much to the bewilderment & disappointment of Mr. Burton, who witnessed Jackson run like a berserk wild chicken straight out of the front gate of his gigantic mansion as he screamed “I quit!” that seemed to be in perfect synch with the madness of the moment.
“I don’t know what happened, I just said that as a joke. I was willing to pay him $50000 per week for the kind of hard work that he had shown in office,” said a rather surprised & dejected Mr. Burton; “not only did I lose out on a hard-working employee, the rascal also managed to waste all the lovely wine while making a dramatic exit.”
“He was hard-working but perhaps not worthy of the opportunity that you intended to present him. What a shame, his mental illness may have made him hallucinate things. A man should always know his true quality” Being the silent author of this dramatic chaos, Arthur continued; “A gentle reminder, Mr. Burton you need to pay the fees of Master Wade’s boarding school tomorrow.”
“Oh! I almost forgot about that, it’s because of people like Jackson that I prefer to keep Wade in a boarding school away from me,” said Mr. Burton who went in his room to retire for the day “Thank you for reminding me Arthur, what would have I done without you.”
“Goodnight, sweet dreams Mr. Burton!” said Arthur.
Privately smirking to himself, Arthur knew creating a nightmare in a heartbeat was his true quality.
Note: I had a conversation with my college teacher, even though I’ve graduated long time ago. My teacher still believes that I’m better with prose in comparison to writing poetry. So I wrote a short story for the first time after nearly 5 years. Please do let me know what you think about the story & what you thought about the character of Arthur in general. I tried to add some layers to this short story, please do let me know which ones were you able to you discover?
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