Olive steps through the front door of her cottage and into the brisk autumn breeze. The fog sticks to her skin, her bleached hair frizzing at the ends.
Despite how early it is, the caw of ravens and crows fill the air. She turns toward the forest and greets them with a smile, a hundred eyes reflecting back the porch light. They peer from the darkness of the treeline, now silent.
"Hungry?" She asks. Olive lifts a hefty sack of seeds and berries. She walks to a feeding tray and dumps the contents inside.
As soon as she backs away, a swarm of black appears. She takes a moment to listen. She hears the roar of black feathered wings behind their calls. The Corvids erupt from the abyssal wood. She spots a stellar Jay, and a jackdaw soon after. Is this still an unkindness? A murder? Both?
The swarm surrounds her and the feeder, each taking turns as they eat their fill. She addresses a few by name, casually greets others, and finds time to introduce herself to faces she's never met before.
With her flock fed, she turns toward the east. She tilts her head to the side and…
"For once, will you please just shut up?"
…and prepares for her morning run.
She scoffs, shaking her head. She pulls out a cell phone, though it serves little more than a glorified ipod at this point. She navigates menus, places a pair of wireless earbuds in her ears, and presses play...
The music blares as loud as she can stand it. What better way to drown out the noise? Her mind, her soul feels closed off from the world outside. The voices can't reach her here. She can truly lose herself, so much so she barely notices the world around her as it passes her by.
She runs along the cracked and faded concrete. She passes empty cars, deserted buildings, upturned dumpsters and what remains of an abandoned campfire.
She even sees an occasional sign of life. She spots a deer near the treeline, its head lifting from the grass at the sound of her footsteps. She sees squirrels chasing one another across the road, in and out of broken car windows, and finally up a nearby maple tree.
It's what she sees in the sky that truly forces her to stop. She squints at the sight, a flat, wooden plane held aloft by a series of massive, red balloons like a raft in the sky. It rises up, and further still. It shows no signs of stopping.
The Touched, by Olivia Strand
Cory wakes in the passenger seat of a blue ford focus. He felt the muscles in his neck strain as he tried to turn his head. The pain ensured he wouldn't do it again if he could help it. He much preferred a truck bed or perhaps an suv where the seats fold down. He looks down at the pair of faded, mud soaked sneakers. The soles were worn.
He walked so much, they were falling apart. The bottom of the shoes would slap against his foot with every step.He smiled at the thought. It was like wearing flip flops but with more protection.
He opens the door and steps out of the car, but this was a process. From the outside looking in, it looks much like a pretzel or perhaps a knot untying itself. He stretches with a loud groan, his arms high in the air as he tiptoes forward and nearly stumbles in his morning fugue.
He yawns and reaches into the car. He pulls out a backpack, a guitar case, and a duffle bag he wears at his side. He runs his hand through his unkempt beard. He needs a shower but it could wait an hour or two. His short dark hair had a shine to it but it wasn't truly greasy yet. He's hungry, but there will be time for that when he finds his new home. What he really wants is coffee. He could kill for a cup of coffee.
He sighs. As with many things in his life, beggars can't be choosers. He picks up the guitar case and takes his first step of the day, and what a day it will be. In a few short hours, he'll be among friends and want for nothing.
Let's look at Two laws of magic:
- Magic is illogical and does whatever it wants. The more you understand it, the less you're capable of using it.
- Magic is illogical and does whatever it wants. It's complex and therefore one must truly study it to use it at all, and certainly to improve upon it.
It takes two hours for Olive to reach the edge of a small town. The buildings stand strong, though the vines and grass are overgrown. Abandoned when the world ended, it lacks running water and power. Despite this, there was someone who lived here, a shaman and a friend.
A double wide trailer home sits outside of the city library. Cars surround the trailer, some sit on their side and others are overturned, likely to make room.
A scent lingers in the air, the combined musk of Incense mixed with the skunk-like smell of cannabis. Underneath it was the familiar smell of herbs and spice, a smell associated with the brewing of potions. Olive takes out the earbuds and considers the sight for some time. Overgrown plants that outgrew their pots long ago cascade out and over a wooden porch. Despite this, the home looks brand new. Hopefully, it'll stay that way.
Olive takes a cautious step up the porch and toward the screen door. Before she can take another, a woman appears in the doorway.
The woman has long black hair and light brown skin. A pair of sweatpants and a plain black hoodie covered most of her short and stocky figure. The look on her face is sad, or perhaps she was upset.
Olive tilts her head. "Whiskey?"
The woman narrows her eyes, and shrugs. "Olive?"
"Did I do something? You're usually happier than this when I stop by."
Whiskey lets out a giggle, turns and heads back in. "You call first?"
"Well, no bu-"
"Kay bye." Whiskey turns and the screen door shuts behind her with a bang.
Olive cocks her head, more confused than angry. "Bitch, how would I even call you? Did you forget? End of the world? Our big plan?"
"Oh," Whiskey says with a smile, the sound drawn out in a long winded realization. "That's today?" Whiskey retrieves a lighter from her pocket and sparks the flame. She hovers it over the pipe and takes in the smoke. When she exhales, she coughs repeatedly, holding out a finger to Olive as she collects herself.
Olive shakes her head. "You good?"
"Yeah." The word scratches and croaks, Whisky's throat being far too dry to speak normally. "I'm fine." After a moment, and half a glass of water, whiskey lets out a contented sigh and plops into the lawn chair on the front porch. "Are you sure you can do it? This is my home, man."
Olive leans against the steps. "Of course. Why doubt me now?" Whiskey nods and Olive speaks again, "we've been working at this for so long."
Whiskey replies "I know. Any word on the others?"
"Should be here anytime. Notice any signs of life?"
"What?" Whiskey narrowed her eyes.
"Well Matilda should already be here by now and Cory… Well Cory's late to everything."
"They're not elk, it's not like I can track them."
Olive sighed. "Not what I meant." Olive watched, taking note of her somewhat distant stare. Whiskey's upset, sure, but not at Olive.
"Should I go out into the woods and ask someone?" Whiskey's back stiffens, her demeanor shifting into something far more stoic. "Aho, brother deer. I seek your wisdom."
Olive couldn't help but smile but quickly stifled her laughter. "Whiskey, no." She took a step forward up the stairs and said, "Would that even be an option. Like, can you really do that?"
Whiskey nods and lets out a sigh. "Fuck if I know. It's infuriating as all hell."
More than skin deep.
"Well…" Whiskey eyes the pipe, picks it up and prepares for another hit. "I could stay here a while longer."
"Oh come on," Olive replies, raising her voice.
"This idea was yours, not mine. I never agreed. Matilda never agreed either, nor did-"
"But you did say you'd do it." Olive adds with a grin.
Whiskey stops, her eyes shifting to the side. "I might have said that."
"So, it's a done deal." Olive says, her tone all too eager. Her smile stretched from ear to ear.
"No, no." Whiskey holds her hands, waving them as if to block Olive's words. "Don't say 'deal.' It wasn't a deal."
Olive shook her head. "I'm not trying to trick you. Relax."
Before Whiskey could reply, they heard a shout from outside, "Oli?"
Whats in a Name
Cory smiles the moment he sees her, shouting her name as loud as he could, "Olive." He rushes forward and gives her a tight hug.
"Cory," Olive shouts back. "It's about damn time." She released him and crossed her arms. "We were wondering if you'd bother to show."
"And miss a road trip with my sister? Fuck that." Cory turns and locks eyes with Whiskey, holding out a hand to shake. "I'm Cory Strand."
Whiskey answers the question before he can finish asking, "It's short for Sits-with-whiskey."
Cory cocked his head, "Do you sit with whiskey?"
She shakes her head. "Don't drink."
"Ironic if a bit… problematic." He nods. "I like it. Nice to meet you."
Whiskey turns to enter the trailer. "You too."
"Wasn't there a fourth?" Cory asks.
Olive shrugs. "Matilda still hasn't shown up."
"Do you have anything spooky lurking around here? Think she's okay?"
Olive scoffs. "Nothing dangerous. Maybe she got cold feet." She turns to stare at the trailer home and takes a deep breath.
"Think she'll fly?" Cory asks.
"She better. It's gonna be a long walk otherwise."
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- K1973 at Kindpng
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