God, this was getting too easy, Jared said to himself. He slipped the wallet into his pocket and walked quickly, but not too quickly, out of the subway station. When he got home he pulled out his haul for the day and began to riffle through; cash in one pile, credit cards another, IDs and finally trash for all the photos and keepsakes these idiots seemed to insist on cramming in their wallets. He got to the wallet he’d pilfered at the subway station. It was high quality leather, black and scaly. Hmm, Jared mused, maybe this is worth something. He opened the wallet, pulled out the contents and spread it on the table. Cash, check, a lot of cash, nice. Credit cards, check, Amex Platinum, excellent. Hey, maybe he could take the rest of the week off. He put the Amex in his pocket. There was very little in the way of keepsakes in this wallet, other than the cash and the credit card, there was a single piece of brown paper folded into a tiny square. Jared was going to throw it in the trash, but something stopped him. It could be the pin number for the card, he thought to himself, sometimes the old guys had to write them down. He unfolded the paper, it was covered in elaborate symbols and swirly writing. In the center was a series of interlocking triangles. Jared’s left eye started to water. He traced his finger over the triangles. His nose started to bleed. A drop of blood fell onto the paper. Pain shot through Jared’s left eye as the front door of his apartment burst open.
The snow was fresh and crisp under Malcolm’s feet and he reveled in the crunching sound it made as his boots descended. It was deep, almost to his knees, and the journey would take many hours, but he had been entrusted with a very important task and would not be deterred. Mother was counting on him. He continued forward, using one mitten covered hand to shield his eyes from the bright sun. The field was empty and silent except for his clomping and although it was high noon, Malcolm felt uneasy. He stopped to take a drink of cocoa from the flask his mother had given him. It was warm and sweet, and if he hadn’t glanced back it would have comforted him. But he did look back. There in the snow, a few paces behind his own ragged boot prints, were the unmistakable imprints of small bare feet. The flask slipped from Malcolm’s hand and as he struggled to breathe, the foot prints moved towards him.
The noise of the machines grew louder. He had to hurry. He strained with effort as he pulled his roots back through the earth they had fought so hard to penetrate. If he wasn’t clear of the valley by the time they arrived he would have no choice but to freeze in place. Then he would most certainly be cut down. Damn these two legged creatures, he said to himself, who are they to cast me out? In the near distance a machine screamed. He thought of his cousins to the west who had not had time to run. He redoubled his efforts. He would not be cut down in his prime.
The old woman loved to brush her charge’s hair, loved to run her hands through the thick strands after the boar bristle brush had done its job. And the girl had the most beautiful voice, high and light like a bird. She loved the little melancholy songs the girl would sing as she brushed. In her mind’s eye the hair was golden blonde and streaked with sunlight. The old woman sighed, perhaps one day the Queen would restore her sight and set her little bird free.
“Can’t you just do it?”
“No, you must do it of your own volition.”
“Will it hurt?”
“Yes. If you have changed your mind…”
“No! No, I want to do it. I do. I just need a moment.”
“You have had your moment. There are others who will take your spot, make your choice. Now.”
“Okay, I’ll do it.”
As she pulled the sheet away, light glinted off the mirror, striking Jane in the eye; her little hand shot up and rubbed at it. “That will not help.” Jane dropped her hand and looked right and left in the dim attic light. There was no one around; Ben had not snuck up on her. She stepped up to the glass; blue eyes looked back, her eyes. The mirror was old, the paint was peeling from its wooden frame and the glass held a yellow cast. It was almost dark in the attic and more silent than church. Jane didn’t know where the light had come from, or the voice. With a shiver, she picked up the sheet and covered the mirror.