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Oracle of Spirits 1

By:Mac Flynn

CHAPTER 1


I wasn't abnormal, but I wasn't normal. I was who I was, and that's what made me fall into the paranormal world, and into his strong arms.

It all started that night when I went to get a carton of eggs after work. I walked into the small corner grocery and picked up a carton of eighteen from the milk aisle. The small store had a dozen aisles and a freezer section against the back wall. The two cash registers were at the front near the sole sliding doors that led out onto the dimly lit streets.

I paused and glanced up. The eggs were in a corner of the store, and above me hung a large curved mirror that hid a camera. The mirror reflected my ample frame and distorted it so I looked even heftier than I was. My normally-becoming long brown hair hung about my widened shoulders like snakes and my wide hips looked like I wore riding britches.

I sighed and turned away. The mirror was an exaggerated truth that I wasn't as thin as I wanted to be, but not as fat as I feared. I walked up to the only manned register and set my eggs down. The cashier was a man of forty-five I'd known since I moved to the area two years before. He was an easy-going guy with short hair and a smile that disarmed even robbers. If that didn't work then the bat and pistol beneath the register belt would.

"Good evening, Enid," he greeted me.

"Good evening, Mr. Bellamy," I returned.

He raised an eyebrow. "That wasn't your usual greeting. Something got you down?"

I shrugged. "Just the usual."

"Again?" a high-pitched voice piped up behind me.

I turned to find an old woman who looked ninety shuffle into line behind me. She was bent from a long life and wore a flowered dress with a shawl over her shoulders. The old woman had a woven basket swung over one arm and a scolding look on her tight lips.

Mr. Bellamy leaned over his checkout and smiled at the old woman. "Good evening, Mrs. Shannon."

Mrs. Shannon waved away his greeting and kept her attention on me. "What's happened now?" she asked me.

"It's really nothing," I insisted.

She snorted. "If it was nothing it wouldn't be bothering you so much that you'd show it, so out with it. It'll make you feel better talking about it."

Mrs. Shannon had a way of giving out nuggets of kind words among her brisk commands. She was a staple of the neighborhood, the local busybody with the heart of gold. A strange combination, but it suited her feisty demeanor. Mr. Bellamy looked expectantly at me, and I saw I was trapped.

"I. . .well, I kind of startled a patient today," I admitted. "The higher-ups didn't like that, so I got a stern warning."

"You startled another patient?" Mrs. Shannon asked me.

I shrugged and sheepishly smiled. "I didn't mean to. I just forgot to ask for the name of a new schizophrenic patient and wrote it down on the paper anyway. She-well, she thought maybe I'd stolen her soul or something, and started shrieking about it. It took two orderlies and a doctor with a sedative to calm her down."

Mrs. Shannon clicked her tongue and shook her head. "In my day that gift would've been praised, not tamped down as they do these days."

"In your day they might have burned her as the witch," the cashier teased.

The woman shook a stick of celery at him. "You're getting mighty fresh there, Tom Bellamy. I remember when I could whip you over my knee, and don't stop believing I won't try it right now."

He furrowed his brow and rubbed his chin as his eyes took on a faraway look. "When I was young. When the dinosaurs were just extinct."

"Could you ring up my eggs before they become fossilized?" I spoke up.

"What? Oh, sure thing," he agreed. He rang up my eggs, bagged them in a plastic bag, and handed it to me. "Now don't go eating them in one night like usual," he scolded me.

"They're cheap, and I've got a craving," I defended myself.

"You'll make yourself sick on them. There's enough salmonella deaths in the world without you getting it," Mrs. Shannon advised.

"I'll be sure not to complain too much as I lay dying," I promised as I walked away from the cash register.

"And don't you be ashamed of your gift!" Mrs. Shannon shouted at me as I walked through the sliding doors.

I raised my hand that held the grocery bag and waved at her without turning around. "I know," I called over my shoulder.

I stepped out into the cool night air and took a deep breath. It was hard not to be ashamed of my weirdness when everyone at my office looked at me funny, and some even tried to avoid me. I didn't give off any creepy vibes, but even the new people knew the stories about me. How I couldn't need to ask people their names, or how I'd just know someone had been waiting in a room for a little too long and was about to explode in a fit of temper. It was just intuitive stuff, stuff that a really observant person would notice, but it wasn't 'just' to anybody else. Nobody else did these things, or at least nobody I knew.

That is, until I met him.

But first I had to get to my house.

My shoes clacked down the cracked sidewalks as shadows loomed out of the alleys I passed. Alley cats prowled the large trash bins and glared at me with their yellow eyes. I gripped tighter the grocery bag and my purse. The neighborhood wasn't particularly dangerous, but it wasn't safe. Fortunately, if trouble came I carried a small can of pepper spray in my purse, and I could always use the eggs as a messy distraction until I dug the weapon out of the dungeons of my deep bag.

I walked past a particularly dark alley and a chilly breeze wafted over me. A strange and uneasy feeling followed on its wind. I stopped in my tracks and turned my head to the depths of the alley. The light from the lamp posts only penetrated the first five feet of the alley and left the rest to darkness. Nothing stirred, not even the scraps of paper trash on the ground.

I shuddered and hurried on my way. My home was an old single-bedroom Victorian-style townhouse on the outskirts of the small neighborhood. The area was a good fifty minute bus ride from my work, but it was worth the ride to have a little plot of land to myself.





CHAPTER 2





I had to walk two blocks to the store, but that was the closest one if I didn't want to hail a taxi. My block was one long row of houses with connected walls, all in various states of decay. There were broken windows, patched roofs, and the lingering smell of marijuana smoke that wafted through the open front windows and doors. Most of my neighbors were one step away from being the clinic's patients, and I swore a few of them catered to other mental health centers.

With neighbors like those, my house was one of the better homes. There was a small stoop with a long, weed-choked flower bed outside the single front window. There were various stains on the steps that I tried to bleach off without success. Everyone had a dog, and no one's dog had a leash or fence to keep them in. An old wooden fence that surrounded the miniature back yard defied gravity with how far it leaned, and was supported by the ancient gate at the rear that led to the alley behind the row of houses.

The whole place was in need of a renovation, or a demolition, but it was home. I walked up the concrete steps to the ancient, weathered door.

"Hi ya," a voice called to me.

I stopped and sighed. "Hi, Fred," I replied.

Fred was my neighbor and a thorn in my side. He was a slum lord in the literal sense and owned most of the homes on the block. I refused to sell my home to him, and he took that as a challenge to consolidate our holdings through a matrimonial alliance. He resided in the house next to mine and leaned on the railing of his stoop to grin at me across the all-too-short distance between our homes.

"So how was work with the psychos?" he asked me.

I shrugged. "Same old. I'm always surrounded by crazies so I never know when I'm off work."

His face fell and a frown slipped onto his lips. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"It means I'm tired and I'll see you later," I quipped.

I hurried into my house and leaned against the closed front door. A sigh escaped my lips and I ran a hand through my long brown hair.

"I didn't think he'd be smart enough to see that one. . ." I mumbled as I looked over my home.

The townhouse was built with the bedroom and bath on the upper floor, and the living areas in a long row straight to the back of the house. A small wall separated the kitchen from a winding metal staircase with wooden steps on the right wall. That led upstairs to my bedroom, and traveled downstairs to the old earthen basement where I kept my mold and cobweb collections. The living room was at the back of the house with a sliding glass door to the small backyard. The backyard was half bricked over and had only a small patch of tired grass. Then there was the kitchen in the center of the ground floor and finally a small dining area to my immediate left

I wandered through the dining area, pulled the eggs from the bag and set the carton on the kitchen counter while I put the plastic bag in the hanger by the fridge for future use. My back was to the counter as I faced the rear of the house.

I froze when a cold breeze wafted over me. It felt like the same cold wind from the alley, but this time the chill sank into my bones and sent a shiver down my spine. I wrapped my arms around myself and breathed out. A small puff of air escaped my lips and dissipated. The temperature of the house felt like two degrees lower than Hell frozen over.

"What the hell?" I murmured.

A popping sound behind me made me jump. I spun around and looked for the source. My eyes fell on the open carton of eggs. I hadn't opened the carton lid. One of the eggs was cracked and its remains were splattered over its brethren, the carton, and even the counter. I frowned and took a step towards the eggs.

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