Urban Fantasy Fiction Crime

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

An artificial strawberry scent followed her out the door, the little bell on the door sang her steps away, and I sat there wondering if I was really as awful of a person as I believed I was. I cleared the table shuffling the tarot cards, knocking out the story they had just told—wiping off the tears of my client, wishing she had worn waterproof mascara before arriving. Two of the most common phenomena in this life is that anyone who sits in the chair opposing my crystal ball with tarot cards before them will surely wish for lightning to strike me down. And, that it always seems to rain on a Wednesday. Today is Wednesday.

Once the table was clear I wiped it down with some disinfectant spray that made my nose tingle, the herbs in the air soured when combined with the antibacterial mist. A heavy sigh was the soundtrack of the day; for a while I thought I had some breathing condition. I was referred to a psychologist (who I paid too much) to tell me I was stressed: ‘occupational burden, a result of too much emotional labour causing physical symptoms to manifest in my lower abdomen’ is how she put it.  My eyes throbbed, my glasses magnified them out of their sockets. In the unlikely event that I would take them off I am sure that they would yank them from my skull.

Tempted to light some sage I remembered my landlord cussing me out after the sprinkler incident. I should have seen it coming, but I drank too much coffee that morning; thank God for battery candles and how quickly a bulk order arrives. Who would have guessed something as simple as coffee jitters could throw off such incomprehensible psychic abilities.

Regardless, I still had one more client booked. I had given up on walk-ins due to Wednesday’s Niagara Falls on the downstairs leading to my door. Putting the money in the register—as it was once again thrown at me—I pulled out my journal to soothe my ego. It was a game I liked to play with myself: every morning before I stumble into work I write down everything I believe is going to happen. Unfortunately for me, I am of the dreary sort; stubbed toes, car crashes, and the worst of the human condition end up on these pages. Unfortunately for everyone else, I have never been wrong. I used to think it was a coincidence, after all, bad things happen all the time. If the guess is vague enough then it will surely happen eventually. But, as Mrs. Phillips (soon to be Miss. Morales) learned not so long ago, specificity is my specialty. Do not worry too much about her, I cannot see what happens to her next so it will probably be for the better. The timing of her friend’s text freaked even me out, Miss Morales’ phone shook the table and made both of our faces glow, and her eyes became encased in diamonds as the accusations started. I flipped through the pages, my penmanship smudged by the hand the devil claimed and rogue droplets that wet the parchment. Black ink swirled with loops intertwining with others and collapsing on themselves. I put a cheque beside her name, a satisfied smirk slipped across my face; the corners of my lips fell heavy as I realized what exactly I had been celebrating.

Houseplants dripped from the ceiling, brown leaves huddled in the corners of the room, fake crystals fought over what little light there was to catch. My next appointment was not until later tonight. It is rarely mentioned in this industry, but night is when people want to know their fates. Some speculate the moon draws them out, others think it’s this interconnection we hold with each other—an occult bond of sorts. I think it’s because no one wants to spend the night with their problems. They would rather have a stranger look them in the eyes and tell them the end is not near, when they damn well know it is. It always is. Though I am not one to talk; the only reoccurring client I have ever had was when they took me to court.

The parlour grew damp, I resisted the urge to gnaw on my nails. I kept checking my watch, a tarnished metal band with a face that eclipsed my palm ticked away one minute too quick. It used to weigh down my arm but I grew used to it. I checked the journal; he was going to be here soon. He would have been here sooner, but he missed the bus. Ironically if he had caught that bus, even early, he would not have come at all. But this is how my appointments work; they were always destined to enter those doors, announced by the little bell, and stand before me asking for their fate. And I give it to them.

The man who was on his way to my little corner of the cosmos was named Johnathan Lawson, a mild-mannered taxpayer who would never be caught dead at a place like this. However, Mr. Lawson had one issue weighing on his mind that he wanted me to answer. The answer, though lackluster, is yes; in two weeks, five hours, and seventeen (sixteen, fifteen, fourteen) seconds. He will claim what most do: how the whole situation was out of his hands, and how he had no control. Despite my occupation, I can say with utmost certainty this is untrue. Some things are inevitable some are not; it is quite simple to understand once you have seen it enough times.

The watch ticked, as I tried the focused breathing techniques I am always told to do, but it was to no avail. You would think one would have grown accustomed to such encounters given how misery likes company, but I can assure you I do not. I pulled an old folded chair to the window and rested my head against the glass, my name peeling off of the window in curled flakes as it was smothered by humidity. The base was so encrusted with salt it would cut anyone who looked at it for too long. Looking up I saw rushed pedestrians running from the storm, but still getting dowsed all the same. Someone passed on a bike; I closed my eyes and flinched, but they did not seem to flip the bike until one eye squeezed open. They are going to wait to take care of that road rash on their shin, and then they are going to wonder how it got infected.

I made some tea that was lukewarm with leaves that had gone bad about a month ago. The familiar taste slithered down my throat, the bottom of the cup telling me about the headache I was going to get at 11:15 pm. Sometimes even I ignore my future; I forgot to get Tylenol at the drugstore on my way to work. The sun was hiding behind clouds so thick it was a surprise to all those who looked up that they did not just drop like concrete killing us all.

My eyes drifted down to my mug and what little liquid was left swirling about, I inhaled in a way that mimicked a laugh. Most who stare at this kind of stuff tend to have the concept of what they are doing as seeing one of many potential paths, which I will say is not inherently incorrect. I can only assume that those with that outlook see more than the worst the world has to offer.

I, however, am simply a casualty of tunnel vision. The future is not a stream that ebb and flows where it is persuaded. I see the future as a shotgun pointed at my third eye playing Russian roulette, with some unknown force pulling the trigger and waiting for me to flinch. My current hypothesis is that this flawless clairvoyance stems from only looking at one thing: the worst-case scenario. It is not my fault that’s what usually happens. It often leaves a bitter taste in people’s mouths—except insurance brokers, where people of my talent usually end up. 

My guest was soon to arrive. What little sun was left began to dip under the horizon line with neon signs taking its place, and LEDs flashing like their owners wanted to give someone a seizure. I begrudgingly broke my own silence and turned on a radio, with scratchy classic serving as a distraction from the wave of prophecies arriving. Part of me dreaded the usual twelve-car pile-up in uptown, I am surprised they have not fixed that intersection yet. God knows I have complained about it enough and I live on the other end of the city. I checked in on him.

He stopped to get a bagel, he got extra cream cheese, clearly a sign he was on the edge. The rain poured and caught him by surprise once more (he did not realize today was Wednesday). Pulling his jacket tight, he fought the wind with valor but it responded by throwing trash at his face. Nearly blinding him, he was slapped by a small business card triggering his entire body to fold in on itself. He peeled it off, and the stars aligned. His heels hardly touched the pavement before the siren call had been deployed.

A quick tarot spread to double-check my conclusions with a pendulum found certainty. The hands of my watch grew excited about his arrival, missing a tick. I made some more tea and sat down in a mulberry velvet chair I got from the thrift store. I had to spray it for bed bugs; the ornate wood is smothered with a cheap, gold paint; my clear quartz rested on a stand meant for a little league trophy. I saw online once that there is a pig that has successfully predicted a few of the winning Superbowl games, that pig is now worth two million dollars. I think about that a lot.

But nobody pays for bad news, they typically get that for free. I steadied myself, eyes fluttering shut as the whites rolled up and my head slumped back. The heels of my shoes melted into the floorboards. This was not a necessary step but I found it helped me focus, it may be superstitious but ‘if it ain't broke don't fix it’. My watch stopped ticking; the reading has begun.

“Hello there, I’ve been expecting you.” My eyes were still closed, though I could tell he was unamused.

“Yeah, sure you did. Actually, I think I am at the wrong place.” He was lying and he knew it, the oil diffusers pulled his attention to the strange woman behind the small table. Her long frizzy hair formed a mane around her skull that seemed to be shrink-wrapped, with sun-damaged skin—though she was not old—almost preserved. At one point could even be considered timeless.

“Mr. Lawson let’s not waste each other’s time, and let’s face it: even if you leave now you’ll be stuck in traffic well beyond midnight. Now sit.”


“I hate to tell you this but waiting is not on the table. I thought you were the type of man to understand that,” I chuckled to myself, “though we both know if you were of the sorts you wouldn’t be here, at least not tonight. Now please don’t make me repeat myself.” With eyes closed I could hear the sound of the chair being pulled back, the chair that has been calling his name for over a week now. It was then that he booked his appointment. When he thought he was alone, I was watching. “So, would you like to ask your question?”

He rubbed at his throat uncomfortably. I am surprised he did not pull out his hair with how many times his hands ran through each strand. This part always drove me a bit mad; they know what they want to ask me, I know what they want to ask me. Yet they always act so coy, I open up my eyes and arch my eyebrows to frame my displeasure.

“Well isn’t that your job, to tell me what I need to know?” My knuckles cracked, and I did a stretch that would have convinced someone I was made of porcelain. Technically he was not wrong, but part of me wanted to simply tell him which relative is going to kick the can first and send him on his merry way. But that is not what he wanted, and his great aunt Lydia was nearing 100 so it would be less impressive anyhow. I just stared back at him, he had hazel eyes that looked like they were freshly power washed. His shoulders were so stiff, one would have thought he was strung up by a clothing hanger; he looked so out of place, if a photo were taken of this moment people would claim it was photoshopped.

“I suppose. I can tell you do not care much for the theatrics of all of this. So, here is your answer: Yes.“ He looked at me as if a brick was shoved down his throat.

“Is that all? Yes? To a question, you don’t even know.” Scoffing at my trinkets, thinking himself superior to separate himself from the entirety of his situation.    

“Please forgive me, sir, I’ll be more specific.” My nerves dipped in ice water the palms of my hands scalding. “They were right, and you were right to suspect that of them. Yes, they will soon find out about your transgressions-“

“Now hold on!” The air thickened around his throat, and he choked on the congealed oxygen. My voice broke into a chorus, a booming cacophony pointed in his direction. I hate it when people interrupt me.

“I can assure you, it is going to get worse. Those papers you shredded are already being taped back together, and your bank has already been notified about the—how should I put it—strange amount of money you have suddenly acquired. You should have done it in small batches, not two payments that could easily pay for a house. The toxicology reports will be next, and I’ll spare you of what comes after.” The words hung from my mouth, warm honey, and absinthe mixed with my spit. The future always does leave such an interesting aftertaste. Blood vessels spindled across his body, I could hear his heartbeat from where I was sitting, his nails clawing at the arms of the chair. He got up to storm off as a flurry of profanities followed him. Impulsively, he threw the money on the table. Sometimes I wonder if they are aware of the financial transaction; they must be because they hardly tip. Mr. Lawson tested the integrity of my floorboards with muddy prints serving as his train.

The door awaited his grip, but he stopped. Why did he stop? His head turned towards the counter with my journal, he got closer and read the squiggles of the thread of fate.

“You’ve been watching me! That’s the only way you knew!” He snatched it, staring at the words I jolted up, and flipping back to the last week. His hands were tremoring when he saw when he booked his appointment. “How? No, no one was, but…“ spit dribbling out with each false start to his sentence.

Silence. A deafening quiet, not even a mumbling radio could crack through the crust.

“Give that back.” My hold on him had already slipped, he had already paid.

“You made it happen, didn’t you. Didn’t you!” He waved the book in my direction. “You used some witch fuckery and screwed the whole thing over!” I said nothing, waiting for him to blow enough steam to walk away—he needed to walk away. “You listen here, you are gonna fix this mess.” He stomped over and yanked at my arm and ripping me feet above ground, my journal shoved in my face. “Write something!” I collected myself to the best of my abilities.

“And what would you like me to write?” Nostrils flared as a reaction to my tone.

“That I get away with it!” I rolled my eyes, simply a reflex.

“I’m not a miracle worker.”  His grip on my arm grew tighter, a bruise was sure to form. My heartbeat steadied, staring down the shotgun barrel now seemed comforting. I grabbed a pen and flipped to two weeks, one day, two hours, and seven seconds from this very moment:

Johnathan Lawson will live without this burden.

He looked at it, for longer than I liked. Each breath was more strained than the last.

“Is that it?” I looked at him and nodded, the music now clawing its way into dominance. He stumbled back, he pulled the book away, flimsy in his hands. “I swear to god if this doesn’t happen!”

“No need to explain yourself, Mr. Lawson.” I smirked, “I am more than familiar with your handy work.” I will not lie I knew it was coming, I saw the windup, then the journal hurling at my head. It was 11:15 on the dot.

He ran away, the door slamming behind him. I never saw him again, though maybe he was onto something, because what I wrote turned up true.

They found his body two weeks, one day, two hours, and seven seconds after we met.

Like I said. I’m never wrong. 

July 02, 2022 03:37

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