Object 286

The Holder of Dross

Go to your home. Stay awake until shortly past midnight, then write on a scrap of torn paper, "I am searching for the Holder of Dross." The paper should be torn from something you truly value; you must lose something by tearing it away. Place the paper under your pillow, turn off the lights, and lie down, but do not go to sleep. You will begin to feel very tired, but do not fall asleep or get up - this would be a mistake.

You will hear a faint buzzing in your ear, late into the night. Get up from your bed, and exit your home by the front door. Walk to the edge of the street, or the road nearest your door; a man will be waiting for you, leaning against a wooden cart. He will make small talk for some time; you should humor him. He will also offer you a drink, from a flask at his hip. Politely refuse; you do not share his tastes.

After a time of talking, the man will look up into the sky. After he looks back down, ask him, "What are they worth?"

He will tell you, and the answer will be short, and simple to understand. He will ask for more than you are likely willing to give, and this is the moment in which you can turn back and forget your search for good. If you refuse, you can go back through your front door, into your home, and go to sleep, and in the morning your search will seem like nothing but a particularly vivid dream. You may find though that your life and the things you have surrounded it with seem hollow, not worth as much to you as you thought.

If, however, you agree to his terms, go back into your home. Find the things the man has asked for, carry them outside, and put them into his cart. Some of the things you will have to drag. Some of the things will have to be pushed, inch by inch, and even if you are a strong individual, the task will run for hours, perhaps days. Do not stop loading the man's cart, for any reason, or the man will grow impatient, and you will be in the cart instead.

Some of the objects will be precious to you. Some of them you will not remember as belonging to you, but you will recognize them immediately, and they are things you would beg to keep. Some of these things are a part of you, even if they don't appear to be; without some of them, you would be a much different person. Some you would kill for, sacrifice your loved ones for. Put them in the cart. They are no longer yours.

No matter how many hours or days your task requires, you must finish before the sun rises, or the man and his cart will leave. You will have nothing in return, and you will have paid more than you can possibly imagine.

If you are finished with your task before sunrise, the man will nod approvingly, and shake your hand. He may talk a little while longer, and you can and should talk with him while the sun rises; it may be the last leisurely conversation you have for a long time. He will answer questions about the other Objects and Holders to the best of his ability; note, though, that he has been known to lie.

You will wake up on the side of the road nearest your front door, and everything that belongs to you will no longer be yours. Your home will be empty, and if you linger there for too long you will be removed by the owner. You will need to find shelter, clothing, and food. You will have only one thing that you once owned, clasped in your right hand when you awake.

What is left is Object 286 of 2538. It is all you need.