It was not that they were too rough, he thought, padding the halls barefoot. Not that they were too smooth, either; he found his footing easy to keep. Their hue seemed acceptable enough, a sort of soft warm brown; their whorls and knots contained nothing that Jason could fairly censure. No, he thought, it was something else...
Two days later he stood up from his work with a start. "Ah!" he said, slapping his forehead. "They're too quiet!"
They didn't creak at all - not even a little bit!
Jason felt momentary relief at finding the answer to his question, but within moments his brow was furrowed once more. Why were they so quiet! It didn't seem natural.
He went to the Osh after work.
"Pardon me, madam," he said, attempting to attract the attention of a nearby saleswoman. "I have a question I was wondering if you could help me with?"
"Yes?" the woman asked. Her nametag identified her as Mel: How can I help you today?
"I noticed the other day that my floorboards are very quiet," Jason explained. "I mean, abnormally so. It's kinda creepy. Is there something specific that would cause that?"
Mel looked at Jason. She thought for a moment; and then her expression became very serious.
"I'm afraid I can't help you here," she said. "The only thing I know that could cause floorboards to be as quiet as the ones you've described is supernatural forces; creatures and works beyond man's ken. This is an area in which Osh salespersons are not traditionally trained."
"I see," Jason said, nodding seriously. "You say you cannot help, but that is a very important clue you have given me. Is there anyone you can direct me to who would know more?"
"Seek a sorcerer," Mel suggested. "An ancient Power risen from the ranks of men but since become something more; a creature expert in arts light and dark both. This is the best way I can think of to help you fix your floorboards. Besides a few minutes of light carpentry, of course."
"All right," Jason said, committing Mel's words to memory. "Sorcerer, ancient power, expert in dark arts. Thank you!"
Mel went to help the next customer. Jason, feeling faintly guilty, purchased a pack of light-bulbs. He'd run out of spares after the bathroom bulb burned out the other month, so there was some justification.
Once he'd gotten home, Jason returned to his computer. He perused his contacts list. "I don't think any of my friends know anything about sorcery or supernatural forces," he said. "So where should I look?"
Then Jason laughed! Ha-ha! Like there was any question!
"sorcerer how to find," Jason inquired of the Internet's all-seeing, all-knowing oracle. He examined the results; the query gained a "-potter -apprentice". He clicked on the first link.
"Wikipedia, of course," Jason noted. "This article is marked: not written in an encyclopedic style, possible NPOV violations." Jason shrugged. "Eh."
First, be thou warned: stay thee far from the sources of knowledge which thine parents might have advised. The Yellow Pages, the Classified Advertisements; they are foul cesspits, filled with lies and flim-flammery. Seekest thou within their darkened crevices, and all thou shalt find are rats, swindlers who would take thy monies for parlour tricks alone. Hie thee far from such!""This is even less encyclopedic than I'd expected," Jason admitted.
Second, be thou warned: the sorcerers are a strange and capricious brood, and will so readily transform thee to a newt as thine foe, should thou approach them with so ill-considered an' vain a request. Speak ever with respect to them, and be solemn in both goals and mannerisms in treating with them, should thou be of a mind to deal with sorcerers; never betray them, in manner overt or covert. To do otherwise is to court swift and certain destruction."Appropriate, though," Jason added.
Thirdly, the greatest of the sorcerers is the Ancient Master Sagustus; contact him and find more information about him through [his website].
"Okay, yeah, that's a little NPOV," Jason said. "Wonder if he's got an email address thing or a contact form - oh, hey, that's a really nice website!"
(Also, it was a contact form.)
As Jason's finger hovered over his mouse button, re-reading his message for errors before he dispatched it, a great noise resounded through the room. Jason rolled backwards at high speed; his screen went black, and then flashed three times. A streamer of smoke whipped about the bookshelves in a tangle of intertwined colours; another loud crash sounded. The Ancient Master Sagustus appeared.
"Wow, you got my message before I sent it?" Jason asked. "That must really have been the use of supernatural forces!"
"Those are my specialty," the Ancient Master Sagustus boomed.
"Alternately, it could've been a bit of Ajax," Jason reconsidered.
The Ancient Master Sagustus dismissed the question with a wave of his hand. "I left the implementation details to the web designer - but I'm not here to talk about that. We have much more important things to cover."
"Yes, of course, sorry," Jason said, rising from his chair. "My floorboards. They're very quiet."
"That sounds pretty stupid," the Ancient Master Sagustus said.
"No, look!" Jason said. He walked down the hall leading from his office, and then back again. The floorboards didn't make any noise at all!
The Ancient Master Sagustus frowned. "Let me have a look at that."
He had a look.
When he stood, his back creaking, his expression was somber. "It's a ward of protection," the Ancient Master said. "Probably placed when the building was built. So long as the inhabitants live, no thing may fell this place; neither fire nor flood, neither earthquake nor tornado."
"Tornado?" Jason asked.
"Probably not a major issue here anyway," Sagustus admitted. "Feel free to replace that one with 'lightning'. But - there's a catch."
"...lightning overlaps with fire?" Jason suggested. "But that doesn't sound like a catch, just poor phrasing."
"That's because it is not the catch," the Ancient Master Sagustus said. "The protection ward is powered by the life of the occupants. Each year you spend in this place ages you two years."
"...huh," Jason said. "I guess I should probably see about moving."
"If you value your life," the Ancient Master Sagustus said.
Ho ho ho!
How they laughed!
"That'll be $79.99," the Ancient Master said once he'd finished laughing. "I take all major credit cards and Paypal."
(Jason ended up paying with Paypal!)