The White Horse is a popular bar and inn for tourists to stay at while visiting museums and decaying buildings in town.
Many old ones have been restored in the style of their time period. However, some buildings have rotted away. These past glories are left in ruin because they cannot be torn down as historical sites.
Although some people wish to restore these ancient buildings, the process of doing this correctly, with trades who are trained in forgotten skills, is frustrating. As well, there are a plethora of permits needed from the city, county, and state, along with, random inspections.
Architects and knowledgable art history professors complain, saying that the quality of work by rare trades is not accurate. Or perhaps, they say the right materials have not been used, despite these materials now being nonexistent. But few so-called experts understand that the price paid for not restoring ancient buildings is having them collapse, having history disappear.
The White Horse, however, is an exception to such procedures. The popular bar and inn has been passed down from generations of family since the thirteen-hundreds. Over time, the same lineage has updated the bar and inn through each successive family. The building contains upgrades from the fourteenth century until early 2010.
For some reason, there isn’t much any government official or anyone else, can say about this. The same family line has lived here for over seven-hundred-years, having always owned the bar and inn. Can the state and historical societies reprimand them now? Not likely.
“I had never been summoned to Number 208 [by the park] before; I nervously adjusted my coat . . .” A person could book a pick-up online or by phoning into FedEx but you couldn’t summon a particular delivery person, could you?
“April, it means what I said,” Becky from the warehouse told me on the phone, “I’m not being rude, the lady who lives there wanted you, specifically, at her home.”
The door was open when I arrived. “I’m here,” a frail female voice rasped.
Walking into the house I heard the respirations of a woman on a ventilator. She was all hollows and sallow skin. Her hair was whispy white and thinning. Eyes the color of blue-bells greeted me but they were bloodshot.
The woman grasped a yellow envelope with a trembling hand. She shook the envelope and a key dropped out.
Her shaking fingers held it out, “For me?” I asked.
I took the key staring at it in confusion; it appeared ancient. As I examined it I heard the woman gasp something. I moved closer to her and held her hand attempting to hear her strained voice. She shook her head with a ragged sigh and breathed her last.
Tallia anxiously glanced at Teegan who was asleep on her waiting area couch. She was sure Teegan would be angry at her for drugging his coffee, but Tallia didn’t feel she had a choice. Something was off about Teegan and the darkness surrounding him and Tallia didn’t want to make his potion rashly; there could be dire consequences.
She had found one ingredient which was odd, scrawled off to the side of the ingredients and directions for the potion for Teegan in her Aunt Willow’s tome. Apparently, the potion required a giant gold fish. Tallia wasn’t sure why Teegan’s potion would require the gold fish, but it was something she would have to leave the store to buy.
Teegan had told her if he drank his potion the darkness surrounding him, the shadow that caused a sensitive magically inclined person such as Tallia to hurt and feel pain, would leave for a long time. How long was a long time? And how old was Teegan really? To her he looked about thirty-five.
If he was as old as she thought he might be, she knew he might understand the sleeping drought in his coffee, knowing Tallia as a magic shop owner, had to be wary if Teegan’s potion involved dark magic. Tallia had no way of knowing how long he would be asleep from the drought. She had tried calling Jude, the owner of The Black Coven magic store numerous times on his cell.
Jude must be having a brisk business at his store because he or his assistant, never picked-up the store phone either. Jude was about eighty-years-old as best as she could guess. But his family magic shop dated back to the Middle Ages. He had to know something about Teegan and the potion.
Tallia checked on Teegan one more time, she hoped he’d be out another two hours at least. She needed to leave the store buy the giant goldfish as well as visit Jude. Something inside her told Tallia it was vital she gathered as much information she could get on Teegan and his potion before she set about making it.
She drove her Vespa to The Black Coven first. It was located in an ancient, rundown part of town dating back to the 1400’s. But those who needed to visit Jude’s magic shop, knew how to find it. As Tallia’s own magic shop had been with Aunt Willow, Jude’s place was also a hole in the wall.
The streets were narrow here and Tallia knew her Vespa would be more inconspicuous, as well as, she would be able to travel down narrow streets she couldn’t maneuver with her car. There was a bit of parking lot a block down from The Black Coven. Tallia parked, leaving her Vespa in a parking space.
She walked down to the ancient magic shop, opening the creaky old wooden door and removed her side-bag. She had placed her Aunt’s great tome in her bag. She turned the book to the correct page, listing ingredients and directions to make Teegan’s potion in the script Tallia did not recognize.
Then she called out, “Hello Jude, are you there? It’s Tallia, Willow’s niece. I’m sure you felt me coming. Was there a reason you didn’t pick up the phone? Or have you guys been extremely busy today?”
Tallia received no answer. She gazed around the dusty store, it appeared empty.”Um, Jude’s assistant, Aspen, are you here? We’ve never meant, but last time I talked to Jude, he’d said he hired you to take over from him?”
Again Tallia received no reply. She walked around the magic shop. The Black Coven was a mishmash of magical items all stored on old stone and wooden shelves in no particular order or thought to design.
Powerful and dangerous items were among those items which were standard, and pretty harmless magical items. She saw crystal balls, different statues, and a wall with ingredients for potions and spells kept in jars.
She was shocked to see certain items used only for dark sorcery. These items frightened Tallia. She could sense there blackness in her mind. They were much worse than the darkness which followed Teegan — at least she thought so.
Jude had always been grandfatherly to Tallia. She had meant him many times as grew-up. He often had coffee with her Great-Aunt and Aunt. She wondered why he wasn’t answering her. Tallia walked up to the counter where a 1950’s cash register sat in dust. There was a bell and Tallia dinged it a few times.
Eventually, a man about the same age as Teegan came out. He looked Tallia over and before she could say anything he held up his hand.
“We knew you were coming Tallia. It’s alright. Jude hasn’t been well lately and he’s in the hospital. For his age, he has done well until now. It’s why he hired me to handle things. I’m one of his great-grandsons, I’m. . .”
“You’re Aspen. I know, Jude told me about you last time I saw him a few months ago. He attended my shop’s re-opening. I run Fairy Dust.”
“Yes, Jude told me about you. You rang his cell, but he has trouble talking right now my Aunt told me. He had a stroke. I’m sorry I was busy when you called out in here. From what I can glean from you, you’re dealing with some sort of darkness from a client and you need some advice,” Aspen said.
Tallia nodded, “Poor Jude, that’s awful. I’m sorry for your family.” She put the tome in front of Aspen and waited as he read and reread the potion procedure and ingredients.
“These seem to be pretty normal ingredients, except for the large goldfish. But maybe the potion requires it’s life force? I’m not sure what to tell you Tallia. What’s Teegan like?”
Tallia couldn’t help but blush thinking about Teegan.”He’s demanding but seems to be understanding enough. I thought he was about your age, when he first came to my shop. I could feel the shadow emanating from him. It made me sick, especially when he came back the second time.”
“The second time?”
“Well I pretended I was sick the first day, even though he did give me a headache. I went home for the afternoon and I hoped he’d go somewhere else. But the next day he was back. He told me he was old. My Aunt and Great Aunt made him his potion before. He was able to stop me from feeling ill, from hurting me, by chanting a few words,” Tallia said.
“I’m not sure what I’m dealing with, will the potion truly make Teegan well? Will it make such evil leave him?”
Aspen was paying attention to Tallia’s words carefully. She noticed he was concentrating. He wasn’t bad looking himself. He had auburn hair and bright green eyes. He was tall but not as tall as Teegan. He was attractive but more in a nice guy way. Teegan was definitively what women would call a bad boy.
“Well,” Aspen said,”I think your Teegan is cursed. That’s why he needs the potion, quite badly I’m afraid. You really should hurry back and make it for him. We’ve an extra goldfish around here somewhere, we must.”
“Cursed, cursed by what or whom?”
“It’s hard to say Tallia. Jude would know more I think. Even so I believe Teegan is much older than Jude by hundreds of years. I’ve heard whispers of Teegan. He must have done something terrible in the past would be my guess. Something awful enough to warrant being cursed to live so long and to require a potion.”
Tallia sighed, letting out her breath.
“I have a feeling if he doesn’t get this tonic, he’ll be a resistant foe to deal with Tallia. There’s a reason he takes it. I doubt he wants to be who he is when he’s dark. He wants to be normal and this potion allows him to be.”
“You know all this?” Tallia questioned. “How did you know?”
Aspen smiled mysteriously, “There’s things I’ve heard Tallia. Also, I can read through you, what you felt around Teegan. I can feel his presence too, so could Jude; he’s a powerful guy. Go back and make his potion quickly. He’ll be awake soon.”
“But . . .”
“Tallia, such as you and many other magically inclined people, I have a sixth-sense. That’s how I know these things.You have one too, although less developed. It’s telling you to go back to Fairy Dust and hurry.”
Her blue eyes became huge and Tallia nodded mutely. Aspen handed Tallia a bag with the giant goldfish.”On the house,” he said with a grin. She wondered how they had this giant goldfish just lying around. It wasn’t a typical magical ingredient.
Tallia called back to Aspen lightly,”Stop by come check-out my store some time; have coffee.” He walked her to the door and Tallia stuffed the tome back in her side bag.
“I’d like that,” Aspen said grinning. He winked at Tallia as she left. She was deep in thought and was surprised to find herself getting onto her Vespa, placing the fish on the back of it.
She told herself to payattention and hurriedly drove back to Fairy Dust. Tallia too felt she needed to make Teegan his potion and fast. She prayed he wouldn’t be angry with her or worse. With such darkness within him, she didn’t want to be an object of Teegan’s wrath.
The books were torn and tattered at the edges and it didn’t appear as if they’d been read in sometime. Dust coated the tops and sides, especially the books which stuck out. At some point in their history, the books had been reread a great deal; they had been well loved.
Jy peered at the books on the shelf and sniffed at the foreign scent of mildewed paper in the air. He had only heard of books such as these. They were hundreds-of- years-old and Jy treasured them. Few books were published in paper except the reigning government’s: Manifesto.
He gracefully removed a book from the shelf, surprised by the glossy cover under the dust. He turned to chapter one and started reading. This book was of the fantasy genre and Jy adored fantasy — especially fantasy which hadn’t been altered.
In his world, books were stored on computerized chips in your mind. You sat and closed your eyes, picturing yourself reading the book; that was how one read. Books were easily accumulated but you were only allowed to read approved books. There were millions available, but one could always tell when the regime had made changes in a novel, adding and removing parts.
Jy came across a word he knew was banned. It read, “Freedom.” He curiously reread the word; his only frame of reference was that it was something of too much responsibility for mere citizens to have.
Free write for ten minutes about purple – when was the first time you noticed purple, how do you feel about purple, what images come up for you around the color purple (besides the movie, unless of course it was something that affected your life).
This city makes me dream of better things. From this view, it’s a paradise of skyscrapers grazing the winter sky. The windowed buildings glint in the sunlight. The light causes them to gleam, despite their varied shades of colour. There is a blue-green skyscraper fading into dirty brown, and other skyscrapers which are variations of grey and black. Some of the older buildings are a dull sandstone and ivory marble.
Each building is unique. Certain buildings are modern and geometric and certain buildings are tall with pointed tops. Other buildings are layered, flowing down like ancient ziggurats, while other buildings are of a more recent era in the nineteenth and early twentieth-century. They’re the prettiest buildings, their historicism copied using the lovingly designed architecture of late gothic and early-Renaissance cathedrals.
I call this city my home but I hardly gaze at it from this view. The snow lies as delicate white lace beneath my booted feet and I think, such beauty we have here.
Yet, in this beauty of skyscrapers, snow, and sunlight shimmering, they’re few places to rest for an aged homeless man.
When I removed the contents from my tote-bag, I was perturbed to see a tattered book inside.“I could see the corner of folded yellow parchment stickingout of the torn lining of the battered book.”
“What’s this?” I whispered. Instantly, I heard chanting. In my mind I pictured two woman murmering magic with candles in a circle around them. It was as if the image had been placed in my mind.
Suddenly, the parchment opened in front of me. Oddly, the symbols on the parchment made sense to me. The parchment was a spell for immortality. I had no time to think, the words of the incantation flew from my lips:
Live forever, consequences well known,
Speak the words, let your time now cease flow,
Your string never snipped, fate overlooked you,
Alone, you will wander, the cost is many souls.
When I stopped chanting, the parchment and the book had disappeared. My boyfriend stomped in the front door. Before I gave him a hello kiss, he said: ” Something about you is different.” Then I kissed him hungrily and he disintegrated in my hands. I burst into tears and I learned the price of eternal life — my kiss was the kiss of death.
Thanks to Roger Shipp for hosting this Flash Fiction challenge.