Jens watched the old man tremble beneath the sheets as the nurses rushed about, little bees buzzing in defiance of the spectre looming over the room. Jens wept, not for the impending loss of his father, as he and the moaning, shriveled body in the bed had never been close nor enjoyed each other’s company. He wept for the burden laid upon him. He was in Saudi Arabia when they called. The old man was dying, and the finest medical care money could buy was no match for the most reckless abuse a body had ever endured. The cigars made of bearer bonds, the drinking of any liquid with a proof, the womanizing which had earned him the nickname “Bellsjorn” after a species of rat that had a propensity for digging into underground stores of dried fish. It had wreaked a terrible vengeance, withering he who had once stood a giant.
“Your inheritance,” he wheezed, and cackled in that defiant yet defeated way he always did, “It’s time, for my sake as much as your own.”
Maybe it was a controlling interest in the company, with which he could spite all those women who’d openly mocked his invirility. Or access to the vast, hidden fortune that he suspected made up for all the company’s financial shortfalls.
“You get the pants,” the old man said, and pulled back the blanket that covered his lower half. The flayed skin ran up to his waist, ancient flesh bound as if the devil’s trousers. A hole in the crotch allowed his father’s graying, sore penis to poke forth.
“You get the necropants.” He explained it all, how the Icelandic wizard Galdur had discovered the instructions seared into jagged rock in letters that oozed blood as they were read. A willing man offered use of his corpse once freshly dead, and the skin was pulled off to form the leather that stared at Jens. Galdur stole a coin from a poor widow and placed it, along with a sigil-etched parchment, under his scrotum. And from there came fortune, in the most literal sense possible. As long as the necropants remained worn, success followed. The relic was sent down the family line, each generation accepting the burden from the past lest they refuse and damn their predecessors’ souls as well as their coffers.
“My father told me about it when his father died, and I let it consume me,” the old man said. “I ran from my fate in debauchery, for I knew I could only accept. It is why I could never be the father you needed, for how could I potentially damn one I truly loved?” It all made so much sense. Why his father never showed his lower body after 1982, why the company survived despite an investment in Beanie Babies during the ‘90s–which would have bankrupted half the Fortune 500 combined–why the old man treated him like an afterthought at best and a punishment at worst.
“I will die, and before that, you will be he who wears the pants.”
“And if I refuse?” The old man showed a second of vulnerability, that second where the fear in his core showed itself. And then the iron gaze that belonged to the man who had ordered Jens to fight a pack of stray dogs on his thirteenth birthday returned.
“If I die while wearing the pants, then I am damned, and the dark muse which brought about their creation takes my soul. You will live the rest of your days in squalor, for the curse of the pants is as swift as their gift. You die a penniless outcast with the knowledge that the soul of the man who begat you burns in a pit where demons stick their fingers up his butt.” It was an odd, if effective, description of hell. He pictured his futures: a beggar on the streets of Reykjavik, women pointing at his exposed penis and laughing; or a titan, mounting the corporate world and penetrating it with dark magicks.
And so Jens cried, for he knew he could only accept.
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