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The Burdener

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Estimated reading time — 7 minutes

David sat at his computer looking over his work for the day. The list was lengthy yet complete, most importantly on time. Two more years at the same college. Two more years in his cold, barely insulated house. Only two more years.

He turned his chair, looking down near the desk was the small trash can filled to the brim with trash from the week. Moving away from the desk he went over to a shelf. Pulling on the box of trash bags, he returned to empty the heap that was soon to attract all sorts of creatures.

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Opening the door on the side of the house he looked over to the large, green trash can at the end of the short driveway. He stepped out, his boots hitting the inch of snow with a crunch. The sound echoing between the walls of his house and the neighbor’s. He slowly made his way to the can as the wind bounced between the two houses.

David opened the can, holding his face away he dropped the bag into the plastic bin.
He closed the lid and turned around to stare down the road at one of his neighbor’s houses. It was Mr. Crawfield’s, a 40 year old janitor. David and Mr. Crawfield had never gotten along, David assuming that it is Crawfield that sneaks around his house, taking anything he could find outside or even on his porch. To David, Mr. Crawfield and his family were nothing but a waste of life, holding a joke with his friends that “Mr. Crawfield works with his true family, the world’s trash.”

David moved down to the door on the side of the house. He felt his phone vibrate, breaking the silent howls of the wind. He opened the door with one frozen hand while the other was attempting to pull the phone out of his pocket. Closing the door he looked down at the phone.

It was his assigned partner; Will. Looking at the message his heart nearly dropped.

“Dave, it’s nearly 6 you said you would be here to help practice the presentation for next week.”

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He had forgotten about that project entirely. The message felt like a kick in the gut. David grabbed his coat and bag, opening the front door he started to head to his car just as the snow began to fall onto the windshield.

It wasn’t a long drive to Will’s house. The old car David would no doubt have to take to the mechanic once a month somehow made the trip without breaking down. He pulled up to Will’s house, a nice looking two story house painted white with a blue trim. The snow started the fall even heavier as he ran up to the door and knocked. It didn’t take long for Will to open the door.

“Dude, you forget again? We have one week left and even then less time to actually get it right.” Will moved out of the way as David entered the house.

“Can you stop badgering me for once, I told you the project isn’t that important.”

“Not that important? Dave it’s ten percent of our grade that’s pretty fucking important!” As Will ended his sentence he turned to the door that led to the study he had set up.

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“Fine, listen just let me use the restroom then we can get this stupid project done. After that we can forget we ever met each other.”

Will looked at David, holding his breath and with a sigh he quietly walked into the study and shut the door. The wind could be heard hitting the walls of the house as David took himself up the stairs to the bathroom.

It was when he got to the top he heard the faint sound of scratching above him. Will had always said it was either rats or bats, one of the two. David had never questioned that assumption, considering he had his own problems with rodents.

He moved to the bathroom door when something caught his attention, the door to Will’s room was wide open. He looked in just for a second then made a double take as he saw what looked like a ladder leading up to the attic in the middle of the room.

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David had seen every corner of Will’s house, but never the attic. David soon got an idea, maybe he could see what Will has that he could pocket up there. Will wouldn’t even notice it was missing.
David moved his way into the room and quickly moved up the ladder, poking his head into the room. He couldn’t even make out the shape of the walls. He quickly pulled out his phone, activating the light on it as he stepped up into the darkness.

He circled around, the attic was cluttered with old items that must have sat in dust for centuries. He moved his way around trying to be as quiet as possible. It was then he noticed something off. The floor was covered in trash, wrappers, pieces of garbage bags, and other things that didn’t seem to fit.

David however saw what he was looking for, a large dresser that must have something inside it. He made his way over quickly, before he felt his foot kick over something. It was hard, and had an odd shape. He stopped himself from falling over as he turned to see what he had tripped over. He stopped, he stood staring at the floor when his blood ran cold.

It was the skull of a dog, picked clean of any flesh and hair. There were dents and holes on the top of the skull, where something looked like it was drilled through.

David took a step back as he heard the skittering across the walls. He turned trying to face the source of the noise, but every time he would turn it would start somewhere else. He frantically started to spin the light, trying to keep quiet to not give away that he was snooping around Will’s attic. He suddenly heard the noise stop, he slowly turned to face the dresser.

There was a large, humanoid creature perched onto it. It’s hands gripping the open top drawer. It’s skin was a pale drowned blue, it’s skin had a look of wetness. It’s feet were long and arched, it’s legs positioned like a cat ready to strike. It’s arms had small, hard looking bumps peeking out from beneath the skin. It’s chest was thin, under the ribs were two small arms with three fingers, constantly moving and swinging. Two sets of bat-like wings were spread behind the creature. There were two small stalks beaming from its face, the end of which held black empty spheres. The stalks jerked around as the creature met David’s stare. It’s mouth opened slowly, the teeth seemed human, but were chipped, the gums looked diseased and bloody. The tongue was thin and round, almost sharpened to a point.

“David, the one my gratuitous landlord has spoken so much about, what is with your fearful gaze.”
The words that left the creature were soft yet forced, it took many pauses between words. The tone of its voice changed with every pause, sometimes it was a low mumble while other times it was almost yelling at David.

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David could not respond, nor could he run, he stood staring at the monster with water almost ready to start streaming from his face.

“My dear friend, my companion. There is no need to cry, please listen to my words and listen well.”

David began to take a step back, yet felt compelled to stay. Whatever this thing was, if it wanted him dead he would have been attacked from the darkness. Whatever this thing was it didn’t want to kill him, not yet.

“This is not my first time introducing myself, nor will it be the last. Please sit down, calm your nerves.”

“What- what the fuck are you?”

“Always the first thing that comes out of the mouths of the less knowledgeable, and most likely not the last question from you.” The creature folded back it’s wings as it moved into a less threatening pose.

“I have been called many things over the many years of my coexistence with humans. The old kings would call me ‘breoþan etend’, the Romans ‘vastum dolor’, I was even given a name by an American in what you call Rhode Island not too long ago. Yet that name is one I like the least.”

The creature stood up straight, staring down at David. “You may call me, the Burdener. A name although not as clear as the others, it is one I find the most fun to say.”

David took a step back, keeping the light on the Burdener. “What do you want?”

“What I want, much like a house pet, is a place to live. A place to stay warm, and someone who is willing to keep me fed.”

The Burdener quickly jumped off the drawer, and crouched in front of David.

“I do not eat people, if that would be your next question, although I have before it has never been my choice.”

The Burdener started to crawl around the floor, moving around David as well as between boxes and items stacked around the attic.

“I can only eat what my landlord finds worthless. Whatever he is willing to throw away. I can only consume what he places in my bowl, much like any good pet I eat all that I am given and only what I am given.”

“Why are you telling me this?” David said, attempting to keep light on the Burdener as it moved across the room.

“Because my current landlord; William, is one I have lost my faith in. He only feeds me the minimum for me to survive, I haven’t had a treat for what has felt like years. He has found the world to be filled with meaning.”

There was a moment of silence as the Burdener came up behind David.

“You on the other hand, are much like me. The world to both of us is nothing but trash.” David could feel the cold hand grip onto his right shoulder as the Burdener came close to his ear. His breath smelled like a dumpster left in the hot sun for days.

“Even we are nothing but trash.”

The Burdener moved back into the shadow as David stood still, pondering.

“I have an offer for you my dear friend, you could become my new landlord, I could be your new pet. But unlike any cat or dog, I can give you more than just the fleeting feeling of happiness. I won’t burden you with the specifics, to make this easy for you to understand. I can turn your trash into treasure, money of any kind or value. If you feed me right you could be a thousand dollars richer every week.”

David stood, thinking for a moment before looking forward again, the Burdener was simply standing waiting for him to respond. It took a moment for David to decide what to say.

“What do I need to do?”

A week had passed, David was driving from the college. The presentation went better than expected. Although he had to do all the talking due to William’s tragic disappearance. He opened the door of his car and walked down the driveway to his trash can.

He opened the lid to find it completely empty, besides a small box at the bottom of the can. He tipped the can to the side and angled it so the box slid out onto the snow. He positioned the can back to the way it was, and picked up the box. He opened it and his jaw dropped as he saw the small bundle of hundred dollar bills rolled up finely with a blue thread.

He closed the box and turned to the door on the side of the house, he walked towards it stopping as he looked at Mr. Crawfield’s house. A smile grew on his face as the words of the Burdener rang in his head.

“We are all trash.”

He opened the door, staring at the house across the street, with the only sound being the scratching coming from the attic of his house.

Credit : e6811r-Ethin

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