They will ignore you until they need you
Another one of the “let’s write something based off of a one line description”. This one was “A mystic babysits an obnoxious brat at the zoo”. I enjoyed writing it immensely, I’m not sure it’s half as fun reading as it was writing but who cares. Looking forward to see what my friend does with it.
She wakes up in the morning, struck by an unclear sense of dread. Not the existential kind , she knows that particular one pretty well. They are old friends, the existential dread and the woman in the house. Old friends, old as bones. No, this fear is unclear, unknowable and without direction. This is very bad because it means she has to climb up on the roof and nail her right eye to the weather vane. Again. Since her left eye is already permanently fixed to the front gate this will make her functionally blind since the world she will be seeing won’t be the world she has to move around in. When one eye is watching the sky and the other is watching the road, navigating the house with all of its furniture and other,more interesting and potentially lethal aspects; the stacks of books that somehow appear and disappear seemingly at will, the long forgotten traps and experiments, the plates and glasses of someone terminally unable to remember putting them back in the kitchen again.
She has a lot of plates and a lot of glasses now. She has a lot of everything in fact except possibly clothes because she’s definitely not interested in clothes. Never was. Other than that she has managed to assemble vast collections of a lot of different objects. What she doesn’t have a lot of however is eyes. Two is the limit, trying to connect more eyes to the visual cortex certainly makes for an interesting experience, not dissimilar to high end hallucinogenics, but it’s completely useless. All things just get mixed up, confused and after a short time of wonder it collapses into incoherence. Ultimately the pattern recognition faculties break down, everything becomes equally important and fantastically incomprehensible. As interesting as the experience was, she knows that it’s smarter to navigate the house blind.
“Light a candle, a candle in the dark” she whispers to herself as she bangs her shin on a cupboard which seems to have moved several feet to the left. In her field of vision a motorcycle passes from left to right and suddenly turns into a cloud. Her leg feels like it just broke and the synapses that are supposed to help her out have simply given up and gone for a break.
“Fuck! Fuck all this and fuck it all over again.”
The pain in her leg is sharp,red and unyielding. Not even the dread can surpass it as it envelops her completely. But it’s still there, the fear of what is coming. What might be coming. If not today, then tomorrow. If not now, then when? When?
When turns out to be now as the phone, an old fashioned thing, stored away under a stack of documents, books, magazines and other detritus suddenly makes a noise it hasn’t done in years. A ringing? No,a loud ringing, although muffled. She walks over and stands by the noisy pile for a long time before deciding, against her better judgement, that it might be important and therefore worthy of her attention.
Her voice is hoarse, she’s trying to remember the last time she spoke out loud to anyone else. She has a tendency to talk to herself, she knows that much but there’s a difference between that and actually fitting in.
She almost drops the phone. She almost drops the phone and runs straight out of the house if it wasn’t for the fact that outside the house might be things that are far worse than her sister. Possibly far worse than her sister. At least in the long term.
Ten minutes later she is laid out on the floor panting. Why? Why? Family is not compatible with her life and refusing her sister a favour is impossible for reasons that are connected to a ritual performed long ago. What now? She has to pull herself together and for a few hours seem to be what other people would call normal while still shielding herself from whatever it is that is looking for her. Sighing she gets up from the floor and heads over to the library, who knows, might be something worthwhile in the old texts. And she needs to get her eyes back in her head which is certain to give her a blinding headache for at least a couple of hours. This is not turning out to be a good day. Not at all.
It takes her an inordinate amount of getting out to the gate, mostly because she’s forgotten where she ended up putting the front door the last time she was worried about the right angled Chinese ghost. And then all of her shoes, who used to be grazing in the west fields have turned feral, requiring her to snare an couple of winter boots just to have something to wear. The heels happen to be different heights but beggars can’t be choosers. And so, finally, with little time to spare, she is at least done. Or as done as she is likely to ever be for something like this and not a moment too soon as a cab pulls up to the front gate and she wobbles out to meet him and be taken into the big city; to meet her nephew for the first time.
At least the driver is friendly enough. The benefit, she thinks, of living in an immigrant nation, is that the last immigrants always ends up as cab drivers and although they have no idea of where to go or how to get there at least they aren’t yet destroyed by the general witlessness of the nation as a whole. The gentleman behind the wheel is a Pashtun elder and they have a long and interesting conversation about the benefits of certain shaped rocks to deal with certain shaped spirits. This is a subject that isn’t particularly well covered in literature and which can cause all kinds of nuisances in cases of spells gone wrong or if one accidentally builds a house on an ancient burial ground. They are both very impressed with each other and exchange contact details before she is dropped off in Brooklyn and doesn’t notice until well after the car has disappeared that Central Park Zoo isn’t in Brooklyn. Fortunately she doesn’t mind the subway.
“Did you know” she says to the man with the long hair and the nose ring standing next to her ,“that the rats, and I assume other species, of the subway system has evolved to use the polarity of the electric fields of the tracks to navigate. People say that evolution is slow but the subway hasn’t been away for a very long time.”
She tries a smile because the man is pretty handsome but he hastily thanks her for the information and runs off at the next stop. Human interaction is so hard, she even checked to make sure she had brought all her teeth with her and as far as she can tell all her important body parts are covered. Mostly. By something.
In fact, she doesn’t look that strange at all. The outside observer would probably assume that she was a dishevelled woman who had raided the part of her closet that contained all the 1980s clothes dyed black. Which in Brooklyn was perhaps less strange than in many other places, a couple girls sitting in the same subway car were admiring her unmatched footwear, fortunately missing that the right one was still growling loudly, and as far as fitting in goes — she was not doing a bad job at all.
And so, no more than 37 minutes late, which she felt was practically at least two hours early, she met her sister at the gate of the Zoo. Her sister, dressed in a white blouse and pencil skirt of that indeterminate colour that is called nude and heels which looked highly uncomfortable, shook her head in disapproval.
“Jenny, why can’t you be on time? Why? I almost never ask you for anything, do I?”
Jenny, who preferred a completely different name but wasn’t going to divulge that here, pondered how to respond while a small fat child, the approximate size of a gnome, appeared behind her sister. She stared at it.
“Anne, there’s something peculiar behind your legs. It might be dangerous so you may want to step away.”
The gnome stuck its tongue out, for candy-related reasons the tongue had taken on a purplish tint which made the effect rather startling and made Jenny take a step back.
“It’s my son, Simon, Simon Prower.”
“The fourth.” she added.
“You have four? Why? Are they all called Simonsimon Prower? Doesn’t that get confusing?”
“Is that lady crazy” asked Simon.
“No Simon, she is just lonely. And it just means that he is the fourth in line with the same name, his father before him and so on. An old family. Now Simon, how do we greet new people.”
The gnome ambles forward and stretches out a hand.
“Where’s my present?”
Jenny stares at the little hand, it has five little fat fingers that are covered in some form of sticky substance and seems useless for even the most trivial things. As a Hand of Glory it might burn brightly but she doubts even the least frightening things in her basement would bother avoiding it. So she looks through her pockets and hands him the first thing she finds. A rather fetching dung beetle, perfect for a lot of things, basic stuff.
Simon stares at the insect as it crawls up his arm and screams but to no avail, his mother has, in her infinite maternal wisdom, hurried off and is no longer visible in the crowds of people waiting to enter the zoo. The child and the witch stare at each other as the beetle settles down on the boy’s shoulder, seemingly content.
Perhaps, considers the witch to herself, perhaps there is some potential here. More surprising things have happened, although mostly eventually fatal. And a visit to the zoo might not be the worst way to start off an education.
Simon turns out to be a poor pupil and far more interested in the concession stand than the animals, fortunately he has more than enough pocket money to buy all the snacks and sweets available, turning him into an ever stickier mess than before. While sucking on an oversized lollipop and ignoring the poor magnificent snow leopard he pulls her arm insistently.
“Why doesn’t it do anything?”
“What can it do, it’s in a cage?”
“It could roar or kill something, like on TV. Or attack the glass walls, that would be pretty cool. Or they could give us guns so we could shoot at it. Not real ones, just paintball guns or something. This is boring.”
Jenny counts to ten. Then she decides that this is nowhere near enough and counts to the dark number. Twice. When she looks down the boy is gone, somewhere in the back of her mind she knows that losing her sister’s only child at the zoo would probably be a bad thing. So she looks for him, he’s pressed up against the glass where the penguins dive, over and over, in the vain hope of somehow escaping this living nightmare of being stared at by pasty two legged monsters. Every time a penguin swims close to him he bangs the glass as hard as he can and she watches him closely, seeing the little cogs turn in his head. There is nothing there, just the expectation of a world built for his entertainment and nothing else.
Her sister is back right on time, the clickety-clack of her heels on the pavement is like a metronome. When she sees Jenny she looks around and then looks pale and confused.
“Wh-where is Simon? What have you done?”
“Not much. He’s safe. Check the snow leopard enclosure. I doubt he’s able to get out of it.”
Her sister stares at her and then runs off towards the gates, the onlookers parting to let her through. And Jenny and the snow leopard walks off to find some transportation that allows animals but preferably doesn’t have any small dogs onboard. Although the small dogs won’t be around for very long. Not for very long at all.