JimSoft Insanitarium -> Insane Stories -> Wallace
By Nomad

The hooves of the horses thumped against the solid ground as the wagon creaked its way through the forest. Indrid sat atop the wagon, scanning the night-shrouded trees for any sign of danger. He had made this trip from town thousands of times, but after darkeness falls, one but be wary of bandits, thieves or any other foul creatures who lurk in the woods.
Suddenly, Indrid gasped! Something was in the trees! He reined his horse back in fright and veered from the track, causing his carriage to hit a tree root. He heard the crack of timber and knew instantly that one of his wagon wheels had ruptured.
After the horse stopped, Indrid listed intently. He was breathing so fast! Gasping for air like a fish on the bank. “Calm yourself,” he said, and tried to bring his breathing back to normal. Indrid leapt from the wagon to the ground and bent over to assess the damage. But the night was unfortunately the darkest in years and the only thing visible were the black branches contrasting against the stars in the night sky. Then Indrid remembered: the trees! He had seen something. Or someone. Hanging from a rope amongst the branches. From their neck. Indrid shuddered. “I must’ve been day-dreaming,” he said aloud.
“Night dreaming,” corrected a voice from the trees.
Indrid jumped back in fright, “Aahh! Who goes there?” he retorted.
“Shhh.. Do not fret, my friend. Wallace the spice-maker goes here. And whom, may I ask, goes there?”
“In..Indrid,” he stammered. “My name is Indrid.”
“Which is it? In-indrid or just Indrid?” jested the voice. “Don’t worry, don’t worry. You seem to have some transport difficulties. Perhaps I can be of service. But you look a wreck! Follow me, lets get you warmed and fed up before you depart.”
Indrid heard the click of flint and soon a lantern was alight among the trees. The friendly voice matched the cheerful face of the lantern-bearer.
He was a very short, stumpy man, about half the height of Indrid, with a long red beard and a toothy, cheeky grin. He was garbed in strange brown and green clothing which suggested that he made his own garments from the produce of the forest.
He had mentioned that his name was Wallace, and Indrid recognised the name. Wallace the spice-maker. He had seen this fellow somewhere before; perhaps during one of the town’s market days.
Now that Indrid had seen the owner of the voice, he felt safe and knew that, if he really had to, he would be able to better the dwarf if in a tussle. Indrid actually felt better that Wallace was there, for the forest is a lonely place at night.
“Come, come, follow, follow!” said the dwarf, as he trampled off through the undergrowth.
Indrid followed the bobbing lamp and the lilting voice for about 300 places until they eventually reached a cave mouth.
“Here we are!” said Wallace, as he led Indrid into the cave and snuffed out the lamp. “Welcome to Wallace the spice-maker’s beautiful dwelling! Take a seat, take a seat, and I’ll fetch you some refreshments”
Indrid seated himself on a small rickety chair and examined the abode. Barrels and wooden boxes lined the walls and each was labelled with words like thyme, rosemary and wolfbane. There were also jars on shelves with stranger delights in them such as serpent tongues, trout eyes and ground unicorn horn.
A wonderful aroma filled the room with thousands of unique smells, most indistinguishable from the rest. Candles lighted the room, each placed randomly on a box, bench or barrel.
Several openings in the rock branched out to other chambers, and from one of these emerged Wallace with a tray of bread and wine. When Indrid saw this, his mouth began to water, and he realised how hungry he really was.
“Enjoy! Enjoy!” cheered Wallace, as he placed the tray in front of Indrid.
Indrid thanked Wallace graciously and reached his hand for the bread. But on contact, the bread crumbled into a fine dust. The dwarf’s grin turned into a concerned frown. “That’s strange,” he commented. “Ah well, try some wine! The bread must just be old.”
Indrid picked up the bottle and began to pour it into the wooden mug, but nothing came out. He shook the bottle and out fell a mass of spiders, dust and spider web.
“No,” said Wallace. “No, that’s not good at all. I’m sorry Indrid. I’m so very sorry.” Wallace began to weep.
Indrid felt sorry for the poor dwarf who had tried so hard to please. “Don’t worry about it. It’s okay,” he said. Indrid smiled, “you tried your best. That’s what matters, okay?”
But Wallace continued to cry. Indrid pitied the poor fellow. “Don’t worry about it. Is there anything I can do for you? Anything?”
Wallace stopped crying. “Really?” he said, beginning to cheer up. “You’d really help me?”
“Of course,” confirmed Indrid, even though he wasn’t overly sure what he meant.
“Yipee!” cried Wallace, as he jumped up onto a table and began to dance.
“I’m sorry, but it’s getting late,” said Indrid, “and my wife is probably worried. I should really-“
“Of course, of course!” Wallace interrupted gleefully. “We’d best get you on your way.”
So Wallace leapt from the table, grabbed his lamp and left the cave, leading Indrid back to his damaged cart.
“Wait here one moment,” whispered Wallace once they had arrived. “I need to procure something.”
He scrambled off into the brush and soon re-emerged hefting a barrel on his back. He threw the barrel onto the back of Indrid’s cart.
“You said you’d help me out,” Wallace’s voice turned serious, “all I ask is that you find a nice sunny place, out of the woods and bury this barrel there. There, that’s all I ask.”
“With pleasure,” said Indrid drearily. He was too tired to argue or question the charismatic dwarf and had his mind set on the warm bed of his home.
“Good! Good good!” Wallace chirped. “I never liked the woods anyway.”
Indrid hopped onto his cart, waved to Wallace, and departed. “Strange,” he soliloquised, “I thought the wheel was damaged.”
But Indrid was too tired to let any of this worry him further. He looked back once more for Wallace, but there was no sign of him, and there was nothing hanging in the trees, and as Indrid rode his way home, he began to wonder if the whole thing had just been a dream.

The following morning Indrid woke up with a start; images of Wallace and his giggling echoing through his head.
Indrid’s wife walked in. “You returned very late last night,” she said. “You looked very tired.”
“I can’t even remember coming back,” said Indrid.
“I feared you’d been eaten by a bear or basilisk,” she said. “What’s in the barrel?”
Indrid suddenly remembered. “Oh, the barrel! We have to bury it in a nice sunny place.”
“Where did it come from?” she asked.
“It’s a long story,” he said.
After rising from bed, feasting on a good meal of warm bread and milk, and adorning himself in his work clothes, Indrid grabbed a shovel and headed out to where the cart was parked.
He inspected the wheel for damage, and could clearly see that the wheel wasn’t even cracked. He lifted the barrel to the ground and was surprised by it’s weight. He was suddenly very curious about the contents of the barrel.
“Ah, why not,” he said as he dropped the spade. Wallace had never told him that he couldn’t inspect the contents of the barrel. He fetched his barrelbreach and popped the lid. An awful smell emanated from the barrel, but this only further increased Indrid’s curiosity. He pushed the round lid to the ground and leapt back in horror. Inside was a short stumpy rotting corpse, twisted unnaturally with rope cuts on its neck. Its bulbous head was purple and bloated and dangling limp from the broken neck. It was the corpse of Wallace.
Indrid’s breathing turned into gasps of fear. He didn’t know what to do, but he was a small note scrawled on a piece of yellow crumpled paper. He picked it up and read it.
“Sorry about the bread and wine, don’t forget to bury me in a nice sunny place! Not in the forest! See you on the other side! -Wallace”

© 2003 JimSoft