The Hurdy-Gurdy Man was an odd character. Ramrod straight, square of shoulder and firm in baring. His lengthy grey hair kept one in mind of the cliché octogenarian Cambridge professor, or that of a Victorian era Royal Navy Commanding Officer. No one, as was often the topic of conversation amongst the wags and mess deck lawyers of the more ignorant end of society, had ever seen him smile. Yet, as he only travelled to their area once a year, it wasn’t a lengthy debate. He was perpetually old, whip thin, and very short, less than five feet in height; he had looked the same age for as long as anyone could remember. His swarthy complexion, mixed with his thick Romani accent, often had people unconsciously keeping greater distance from him in conversation than would be considered the norm; oddly those ignorant wretches thought him a sideshow con, a staged gypsy act and something to be mocked. Yet those fools could not be further from the truth. He had the most fantastic manner of dress. Bright colours running through silk waist coats, white spats over his highly polished black boots, burgundy trousers, crisp white shirts, emerald velveteen coat, a genuine top hat, and he always wore a loud yet beautiful tie. His grey pointed beard, including his waxed and perfectly curled moustache were work’s of art rarely seen in this very Australia.
He was, however, a kind man, yet ever so mysterious to behold. Children loved him despite his gruff manner. They filled his tent through every hour of the day, the ripple effect being that parents would enter hunting out a son or daughter, and inadvertently be caught up within. The result was empty pockets for them as they were caught up, and subsequently mesmerized or bedazzled by his spring driven wares. Such an oddity in an electronic world.
Reminiscent of a renaissance fairground tent, or something to be found beside the jousting lines of King Henry VIII, his brightly coloured toffee apple red canvas show piece was raised in exactly the same place each and every year. The tent, like the man, was again a work of exotic beauty. The outer sides bore hand painted lettering, announcing to the world that ‘The Hurdy-Gurdy Man’ was here. Striped flags flew from its roof, shifting, fluttering and snapping in the wind. They were an advertisement in themselves, providing colour and lively movement and sound.
The Hurdy-Gurdy Man worked with clockwork mechanisms. All clockwork mechanisms, be they within fob watches, wind up toys; he had built clockwork into a bicycle that need not be peddled, rather, wound up prior to use, and was able to be ridden for an entire day without having to be rewound at all. His fiddle with its clockwork interior played on its own with just the turn of a key. A mechanical arm extended from its base, the bow sawing back and forth, changing angle of its own accord. It played superbly, so beautiful was the music it produced, people disbelieved it was a clockwork device at all. Yet, it was the more sinister and dark services that were offered at the back of the tent that proved to be were more his livelihood than any spring driven invention could never hope to compete with.
He was a ‘Misfortune Teller’. His ability to read beyond the here and now was profound. Through his visions he could divine moments of loss from the future. Accurately deducing when something animate or inanimate was scheduled to die, scheduled for illness, scheduled for heartbreak, and scheduled for ruin. Dealing in curses, he could conjure the dead, and awaken darker forces from within the void. The Hurdy-Gurdy Man could make people, animals, and structures disappear for the right price. Not through open acts of violence, rather through his inherited abilities in the arcane; one minute they were there, the next, they were not. Worse was when he caused something to disappear, it went beyond the mere physical aspect, he also removed all memory and trace of the thing he had eliminated. Once gone, with exception to the Hurdy-Gurdy Man and his enormous hide bound ledger, no one knew what had been expelled from every aspect of being was gone, because no one remembered it being. Every trace in the world disappearing like mist in the sun. Photo’s would vanish, a father’s child would lose all memory of the father, mothers would forget the child. Forever. His price for services external to clockwork was terribly heavy, payment came to him in the form of ‘souls’. Stripped from the living and the dead. The souls he carried were not unique to humans, he had the souls of ships lost in heavy seas, the soul’s of the beasts of the hunt and the souls of their quarry. Dance halls, hotels, schools and monuments, birds and swarming hives; the souls of those loved, and those despised.
His immense collection was kept trapped within his clockwork Romani fiddle. When he played it, for he could do so very, very, well, the clockwork within did not hamper it. It was the emotion of the trapped soul guiding his fingers, driving the sound, fuelling the fire to the music and the dance that followed. The fiddle was also the means he used to draw souls. When he played a particularly melodic tune, the soul in question, his payment for services rendered, was called to it, secured within, left impossible to escape without his specific wanting. Most of all, the trapped souls gave him power, obscene in its strength……………………………….
To be continued.
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