Dedicated to Theone Berns
Words: Choose, Feet, Stone, Birds, Hot
When you must choose between life and death, most people will automatically choose life. It’s an innate reaction to live even in the direst of circumstances. William, however, was an anomaly. He had no fear or so it seemed, could not shiver or shake, and although well educated, seemed very much like a dolt in social circumstances. His lack of a filter meant he didn’t have many friends and some jobs he searched for were unfortunately out of his reach. Still, William made his living by odd jobs here and there, and worked as a stocker in a local art supply store.
One day, as he was placing frames onto one of the shelves, he noticed a lone business card. He picked it up and saw a picture of two birds on the card with the name and number of a person claiming to be a psychic. Shrugging, he placed the business card in his back pocket and resumed his work.
Once his shift was over, he headed home for the day. He lived in a studio apartment and could afford it thanks to the housing program he was on. Turning on his television, he sat down on his couch and watched what would normally be called afterschool cartoons or anime. After this after work ritual was over, he made himself dinner. His dinner was a bologna and cheese sandwich, complete with a bottle of water. He then proceeded to take the business card out of his back pocket.
‘Why would a psychic use two birds as their logo?’ he thought.
Looking at the design of the business card, as he ate his sandwich, his mind wondered. He turned the business card over and saw that the other side was just white space. Flipping the card over again, so he could look at the birds, he read the rest of the information:
William left the business card on the kitchen table, and cleaned up after himself. There wasn’t much use to the thing anyway, but the birds looked pretty in a gothic and macabre way. He went to bed but couldn’t fall asleep. Always one to have trouble sleeping, he picked up the book on his nightstand and read a few chapters. It should have been a boring night like most, but the business card was on his mind. He had to meet this person.
Getting up, he walked back into the kitchen and started pacing next to the kitchen table. On his feet all the time, he was accustomed to standing long hours, but the pacing in the kitchen was new to him. He didn’t like it. Stopping after quite a number of hours of pacing, he sat down at the table and looked at the business card once more.
‘Why doesn’t it have a website listed?’ he thought.
At least if there was a website, he could see what this business was all about. He sighed. Grabbing his cell phone from the night stand in his bedroom, he dialed the number and waited. After a few rings, a woman answered.
“Tanya Schultz, psychic investigator. How can I help you?”
“Where are you located and what do you specialize in?”
“What I specialize in is best said in person. My location is 244 West Eagle street. It’s right off of Herzel boulevard in Lake Grove. Would you like to schedule an appointment?”
“Will six pm tomorrow be good for you?”
“One second please.”
“I will wait.”
“Yes, that’s fine.”
“I will see you then. Have a good day.”
The next day, William showed up at the psychic’s address. The house was an old Victorian home and he shuddered. He wasn’t sure why he agreed to meet the psychic and told himself all day, that he was just going to return her business card. Still, something didn’t feel quite right, but he managed to hold his own anxiety in check for the time being.
Walking up the steps, he stopped at the front door, and rapped his knuckles lightly across it since he didn’t see a doorbell. Counting backwards slowly from sixty he waited with bated breath. Finally, a woman answered the door and looked up at him. He stared for a few seconds, taking in the stooped shoulders, long silver hair, and wrinkled face.
“I called you last night,” he said quickly when he realized she was staring back at him.
“Oh yes, come in,” she said and beckoned him to follow her.
The smell of mothballs overpowered him as he stepped into the living room. He did his best to keep his mouth shut through all of this, lest he offend his host. Having no filter didn’t mean he couldn’t show some amount of empathy and reading certainly helped him with that. The woman led him to the couch.
“Please sit,” she said to him.
He sat down and she sat across from him on one of the chairs. He started to twiddle his fingers in nervousness. On the coffee table in front of him there was a large stone. Confusion spreads across his face. He took out the business card.
“I wanted to give this back to you ma’am,” he said quickly and tried to hand it to her.
She looked at him and smiled. He was taken aback and not sure how to respond. Leaving the business card on the coffee table, next to the large stone, he waited.
“You have made a long trip just to return a business card,” she stated.
“It seemed like the right thing to do.”
“Would you like a cup of tea?”
“No thank you, I don’t drink tea.”
“A cup of hot apple cider then?”
“Okay, thank you,” William said and hoped he wouldn’t regret this.
Tanya got up from her seat and walked into the kitchen. William stayed where he was wondering about the stone. A few minutes later, the smell of hot apple cider was coming from the kitchen. William was now looking forward to it as he forgone his daily bologna and cheese sandwich dinner to come here.
A light caught his attention. The stone had lights dancing across it and he was mesmerized. The lights jumped and spun in all different directions. Sometimes they would form odd shapes on the large piece of rock. William assumed this was a battery powered stone from some novelty store or other and continued to enjoy the show.
Curiosity got the best of him and he touched an orange light on the stone that had formed into an indecipherable figure. The lights suddenly stopped and only the unknown orange figure of light was still there. He picked up the stone and trying to find a switch and found none. Odd.
Looking up, his throat caught. How did he not notice this before? Was this why the smell of mothballs was so overpowering? Far above him, were human corpses hung like cattle in a butcher shop. The stone fell out of his hands and broke the coffee table with a loud thwack. He nearly jumped.
The old woman rushed into the living room as fast as her old bones would allow and looked at William who was looking up towards the ceiling. Grinning, she took off her old woman disguise and before William stood a seven-foot-tall minotaur with a pickaxe in each hand.
“Everyone fears me when they find out the truth,” the Minotaur snarled at William and with his pickaxes prepared to chop his head off.
William looked at the minotaur, studying it. It had the human top with the bull head and the bull legs. It was like something he had read about in his various mythology books that he loved. Looking at the pickaxe, he tutted. The minotaur looked at him, clearly flabbergasted.
“Pickaxes are much too messy. There is new technology. Perhaps you should have some class in whom you kill and how you do it,” William said without batting an eye.
“You do not fear me,” the minotaur asked but it was more of a statement.
“Why should I?” William asked. “You’d be doing me a favor if you killed me. Leaving me alive however, would make me resume my life of hell.”
“I have to kill you for knowing my secret,” the minotaur said, still gripping his pickaxes.
“You think anyone is going to listen to me,” William said calmly. “I’m a stock boy with a disability. I say something like this happened, and all of them are going to assume I had a mental break. Where’s the hot apple cider? I’m thirsty!”
The minotaur vanished along with the pickaxes. An old woman stood in its place. She smiled at him and retrieved the cider from the kitchen. She handed him his cup of cider and once again sat down across from him.
“It’s unheard of for someone to best me by showing no fear,” she explained.
William drank his cider slowly, enjoying every sip.
“You should really get rid of those bodies. Eventually the moth balls aren’t going to hide their smell,” he suggested.
“Oh, but I am getting rid of them slowly but surely,” The old woman assured him. “They get slowly liquefied and mixed with the apples.”
William spit out his cider and looked at his cup, horrified that he had drank half the liquid inside it. He stood up quickly and the liquid scorched him through his shirt, causing him to take a step back.
“I think it’s time I leave,” he said, shivering.
The old woman continued to smile as William handed his cup to her. He walked slowly out the front door and closed it genially. Then he ran like hell. Meanwhile the old lady looked at the door he had just shut.
“Some people do need to learn some manners,” she said and took another sip of her hot apple cider.