Kay knew she irritated people with things like drumming her fingers and jittering. She had not been that nervous and distractable last year, but could not go back. Teachers gave up after a few weeks and just lived with her looking out of the window rather than following class whenever she felt like it. Until, that is, she got up in the middle of a test and walked outside to better watch squirrels, leaving behind a sheet covered with doodled flowers rather than answers.
The school called her parents, and her mother gave her a dressing-down. Kay tried to listen, because not doing so would make her mother more angry, but instead kicked her feet and watched the patterns the light made on the floor and walls.
“Oh, Kay, what’s gotten into you?”
The girl only shrugged, “I had to go out.” She was close to tears, not understanding herself.
“Maybe her angel is sick,” came a small voice from the door.
Their mother took a deep breath and tried to calm down. “Honey, angels and demons are just stories. And eavesdropping is not nice.”
Kay’s little sister looked confused. “But Mattis said—”
Your demon gave you ideas, and your angel helped you stick with one. Kay had heard the same; everyone had.
While Mother shooed her to the kids’ room, Kay spun ideas. Maybe she had to find her angel and save it. Or talk to her demon. It was still with her, and might know something. Only she did not know how. Maybe she should go—
“I need to make some phone-calls. We should go see doctor Hames soon.”
Kay nodded. Doctor Hames was all right.
“Go and get started on your homework, honey. I’ll help you when I’m finished.”
Fran wished there was more to the stories of poltergeists, if she had to be not-quite-dead-enough. No moving of objects or whispering of threats for her. Richards might feel her touch, but she had tried only once. He had looked up with a grin splitting his face, revelling in her powerlessness, and finished strangling his next victim.
A lock of the boy’s hair had gone into an old paint can and up on a shelf right under the low ceiling of Richards’ shack. He was not the last.
Turning her attention inward hardly shielded her from those scenes; her sight and hearing were not bound to eyes and ears anymore, and she could feel the fear and pain running through her like a current. She did not even have the solace of company in this prison. Judging from Richards’ occasional bows and thank-yous to the “loge of spectators”, there were indeed several ghosts, but Fran found no way for them to communicate.
All she had was a vague sense of their presence, which might have been her imagination. That, and what Richards called his shows, which, death by death, chipped away at her sanity.
Inspired by the prompts "Invisible witnesses" and "Crimes against ghosts and spectres" by Tango
Trying to keep control of her temper, Juno tapped her driver’s license lying on the countertop hard. “This is no fake,” she hissed, waving at the yellowed newspaper clippings about her death and recovery ten years ago she had produced as corroborative evidence. “If the state thought my actual rather than apparent age determined if I was allowed to drive a car, don’t you think the same should apply to other age limits?”
“I’m sorry, hon, it’s not that I don’t believe you—” her eyes flicked to a photo in the clippings, which was still accurate apart from the haircut “—but it would be just not right. Kids thinking you were their age seeing you smoke, what kind of example would that be?”
Behind the concerned face Juno saw a smug presumption of moral perfection. It made her want to break something, by preference the woman’s neck. After taking a few breaths to calm down, she collected her papers, by necessity slowly. Her fingers shook both with anger and withdrawal, and she did not want to damage the old newsprint further.
When the woman started another apology, Juno cut her off with “Fuck ‘think of the children’,” and stalked out of the little corner shop. The third attempt today. She never would have thought that the cashier at her usual shop quitting would cause that many problems. He had had no compunctions about selling cigs to someone who looked like she was ten.
Inspired by the prompts "Is it okay to sell cigarettes and alcohol to a hundred-year-old vampire in the body of an eight-year-old?" by Tango and "Moral versus legal" by Ellen Million
"What? Oh. Sorry." John moved aside, making room for the lady's shopping cart to pass, and returned her smile and nod. I must have been standing here staring for minutes.
There were orchids on special offer, and one plant stood free of plastic wrapping. It has mesmerised him with the complex 3D curves of its blossoms, and the faint glimmer of its petals when the light hit them at the right angle.
Unfortunately he was on a tight budget. It would be imprudent to not save what he could, in case of unexpected expenses. Besides, they probably needed some kind of special plant food. And while he used to have a cat, he didn't know how to take care of orchids. He only had a vague impression that it was tricky.
On the other hand, they wouldn't be flogged in a supermarket if they were all that fragile, would they? Mrs Snell had orchids in her window, and liked to angle for chats; maybe she would have a few tips for him.
In the end, he returned a few of his other planned purchases. Chocolate cookies were a treat, but they'd be available later, too. Noodles for dinner for a few days in a row would not be a disaster.
Some days, Officer Adanne Amaechi really would like to hang every costumed vigilante by their feet, and lower them into a septic tank.
Most of them were well-meaning, sure, and a few actually did good, but thinking of the cases where due process was violated, or proof had to be thrown out because it had been handed in anonymously, with no way to check if it was collected or faked, made her sick. And then there were the ones whose methods where just so god damn irritating.
She had had to leave one of her shoes behind next to the would-be bank robber, who was still stuck doubled over on the floor. Whoever was responsible for the mess had disappeared, and not left information how police could get the suspect from the floor without ripping the skin from his hands.
Nearby the bank manager sat rather uncomfortably on the floor, ranting about his ruined Armani suit.
Adanne again tried to interrupt him, "Sir, it would be more helpful if you'd try to describe the woman with the glue gun."
She hoped the colleague she had detailed to find some turpentine would show up soon.
"You're mad, Fern. I'm no scout who can sneak around alone and hope to find something other than a fall." After a few months with the hunting party, Mara was a lot more comfortable on her feet than she used to be, but the occasional cliff or ravine always made her worry about breaking bones. The odd jibe from the Northerners in the group, who insisted on calling these mountains "hills", did not change that.
Fern shrugged, spreading her hands in a what-would-you gesture. "If there are magic tripwires"—Mara noted the rising tone on the hunt-leader's calm voice, and nodded. She had not made that up.—"you are the only one who can see them, so you are the only one with a chance of not getting spotted. Finding someone else would be possible, but take too long. Unless..."
She turned to Luen, who pulled a pointed ear and went, "Um."
Mara shot him a glare. If the goblin hadn't caught a whiff of magic in the air... he would have blundered into the wards, alarming their weaver, and they might all be dead by now. And even if he alone would have been caught, Mara didn't have a reason to wish an end as a snack on him, so she rolled her eyes at herself and scrounged up a smile. "From what I hear, smell doesn't let you locate something terribly precisely."
"Not so's I'd want to bet our lives on it," Luen said.
"Do I know that feeling." She took a few careful steps towards the edge of the cliff that had been the best vantage point they could find in a hurry, shaded her eyes and again took measure of the ward. She could not see all of it, as the faint white lines faded against the bright sky even at a shorter distance than her magic sight would reach under better conditions, but enough to make out its curvature. Big enough to put a small town or big village inside. And the terrain? Hard to say when most of what Mara could see when not focusing on her magic sight were the blue-green needles of pines, with the occasional dark grey rock face at a visible bend. At least their canopy seemed quite even, hinting at relatively gentle slopes. The carpet of fallen needles also tended to keep undergrowth down. Should be manageable. Mara's eyes strayed to the sky again. The outer shell of ward-lines made it hard to make out its inner structure, but there were lines running towards its centre. Better than a compass. And she knew nothing else was a realistic option, Fern's suggestion merely a polite fiction. "All right, I signed up for this operation, so I'll do my job. What's the plan for everybody else?"
Fern glanced skywards. "They should be warned and at least on the way back to our last camp. If by now nobody else blundered into that barrier, it shouldn't happen."
Mara shuddered and hugged herself, rubbing her arms more to show she wanted to pretend the problem was the wind—which really was not chill any more at all—than believing she could fool the others.
Luen looked rather exasperated, but Fern did her the favour. She just asked, "Do you need anything from camp? I can’t tell how big an area you’re looking at."
"Just give me your canteen. I’ve got some food, and I should make it back to camp by nightfall."
Out of breath from the climb up the stairs from the parking lot to the university entrance, Kim waved a greeting, smiling at the one friend who cared about her.
He held open the door and asked, "You look tired?"
Tucking her hair behind her ears gave her a bit more time to catch her breath. "Those antidepressants are messing up my sleep rhythm. Seems to be the only thing they do."
"You sure about that?"
"This week I haven't seen you run back to your car to check if it's locked or if you forgot something. Guess it might be a sign that you're too tired to care, but looked to me like you being not so anxious any more."
That gave Kim pause. "Maybe. I'll pay attention." As she saw him smile, she thought she might more often be looking at people rather than the floor, too. There were worse thoughts to start the day on.
The witch queen was satisfied with her newest work. She smiled at the master artisan as she handed him the heavy purse he had earned for delivering a working basis. Creating a truly perfect duplicate of a door in the Empress's palace was impossible - if for no other reason, then for the wood grain - but the fifth attempt had been close enough to link them.
Nodding and smiling as the artisan bowed, the witch queen considered rumours about herself. A mirror that could take her wherever she wanted if she stepped through it... would that things were so easy.
Diane picked through open shelves and big boxes, trying to find clothes that didn't clash, but were comfortable and sturdy enough to carry furniture in. She left the house wearing a sweater inherited from her older sister, a pair of jeans her aunt had been tired of, and a jacket worn ratty by a succession of cousins. She had inherited enough to fill up three wardrobes...
The trip took longer than planned, and yielded just one piece of furniture. Finding clothes to start filling it that fit and appealed to her had taken a long time.