Author Note: This is the start of the second serial story of Francine’s Non-Adventures. The first story was published last year and can be read from the link above. I’m currently working on rewriting parts for my overdue ebook collection.
I knocked on the door with the Coexist bumper sticker on it. The “witch’s door” as many people in the building called it. We had never met but I knew her from reputation. Well actually I had started hearing about her after the ghost in the park across the street started wailing my name on odd nights. I assumed I was supposed to talk to the witch about the ghost and kick off either a horror plot or supernatural drama. I had done neither by getting a pair of earplugs and simply avoiding her floor.
Now I was deliberately invoking a plot hook. After my recent success in dealing with the magic serial killer, without getting too involved, I noticed the plot hooks I normally had to dodge were gone. It was refreshing to not have to worry about spies or wizards or ghosts. Of course, nothing lasts forever and a few weeks later I was back to dropping USB sticks and throwing away magic rings. And the ghost started wailing my name again.
It didn’t take a genius to figure out that taking care of the magic serial killer had satisfied the god-like force that wanted me involved in these “adventures”. So, I decided to talk to the “witch” and see where this plot hook was headed.
The door opened and a woman a few years older than me opened the door. She looked like Hollywood’s version of a New Age Hippy. Loose clothing, scarves tied and draped around her body, long curly messy hair, small glasses perched halfway down her nose. She smiled then frowned.
“Hold on a second,” she said, took off her glasses, and replaced them with another pair from her pocket. As she looked me up and down thoroughly, I noticed the glasses she was wearing didn’t have lenses.
“Um, hi, I’m Francine. I live on the fourth floor.”
“Francine … Francine,” she muttered as she stepped into the hall to circle around me. “Oh, you’re whose name I hear screeched every night from the park.”
“It’s not every night.”
She looked up to my face, “It’s been every night for the last week.”
“Has it? I wear earplugs so I don’t hear it.”
“Earplugs? That’s one solution, I guess. You could just go see what that spirit wants with you. May I?” She gestured at my arm. I nodded and she gently raised my arm up.
“I’d rather not engage with the supernatural directly. That’s kind of why I’m here. I’ve heard you’re a … an expert on the subject.”
“I’m a witch if that’s what you mean. Wow, you are a mess.”
“You got your fate lines all tangled up and twisted around.” She waved her hand in the air under my arm. “Look at that. I don’t know how you make it through a day without tripping over yourself.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Fate lines. They’re possibilities, paths through life that you could take. Most people have a dozen, at most, but not you. You have a couple hundred but most of them are slack like they aren’t pulling you in a direction. They’re just there and you’re all tangled up in them.”
“Ok, I think I do know what you’re talking about.”
“Do you? Then spill.” She stood in front of me arms crossed.
“I think I’m being railroaded by a ‘higher power’ into having for lack of a better word ‘adventures’.”
“Huh. So you have a lot of ‘adventures’?”
“When I was younger. After high school, they stopped. Last year strange things started happening like something was trying to get me involved with new adventures. I started avoiding them and then things got really weird.”
“Really weird how?”
“I’ve seen things that made me doubt my sanity. Have you ever seen a portal to another world? Or magic rings? Or wizards dueling in alleyways? Or heard ghosts screaming your name?”
“No. No. No. Yes. Well, not my name. Your name, yeah. What can you tell me about the ghost?”
“Nothing. I don’t know anything about it.” If I had my way it would stay that way.
“But it’s calling your name.” Her eyes narrowed as she studied me again.
“Yeah, something wants me to investigate the ghost and … do something.”
“Something like what?”
“Well, usually ghosts mean the person was killed or had unfinished business so I guess I’d have to find the killer or finish their business for them in some way. Shouldn’t you be telling me how to deal with the ghost?”
She nodded, “If you know what to do why haven’t you done it?”
“I don’t want to get involved with … all this,” I said waving my arms around me.
She closed her eyes and was silent for a moment. “Then why did you come to talk to me?”
“I need your help.”
“Why my help?”
“Because… Because you’re a witch.” She opened her eyes and smiled.
“Interesting,” she said while adjusting her lensless glasses.
“What? What’s interesting?”
“One of the fate lines has lost some of its slack.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means you’re moving toward one of the paths that fate has made for you.”
“So, will you help me with the ghost or not?”
“Of course. I have a fate line of my own that leads straight to you.”