Every time he looked into the rearview mirror, the same girl was sitting in the back of the bus. It didn’t matter what day, what time, what route. As long as it was the same bus, he would see her sitting back there. He never saw her get off. At the end of the day, he would pull into the depot and park the bus. There she was in the mirror, but when he got off, he was alone. He never knew who she was or why she was there, just that she was.
It was raining. The wipers squeaked as they moved back and forth and back and forth. He didn’t have time to look back to see if she was there, not with how much he had to focus on the road. The rain was getting harder and harder and it was becoming harder and harder to see.
Her voice cut through the air and he slammed his foot on the breaks. The bus screeched to a halt, people jostling by the abrupt stop. The train blasted its horn as it streaked past, just barely in front of them. It wasn’t until that moment that he realized the barriers hadn’t come down. If it hadn’t been for that voice. He looked up into the rearview mirror and saw the girl smiling at him. Then she nodded slowly, confirming that it had been her as she faded away.
. “And don’t come back, y’hear?”
The door slammed hard behind her as the young woman stumbled out into the night. This place, the home of her childhood, was gone forever. For her, at least. She hoisted her bag up onto her shoulder and walked towards the street. There wasn’t really a plan in her mind, not yet. It was too hard, too hard to think and to plan. Stopping, she turned and looked up at her old window and saw the face looking back out. That was the girl who lived here now. With a sigh, she turned and started down the street hoping that the crossroads would hold an answer. A few more steps brought her to the glow of the street lights. With a sigh, she entered the circle illumination and faded away.
There was nothing I loved more than cars than the purr of a good engine and the feeling of a day of meaningful work that leaves you covered in grease but satisfied. The problem wasn’t that I wasn’t driven. I had my certifications, every single one I could get my hands on. The problem was finding a shop where I could work and not have problems. Then I found this shop. How I’d never noticed it sitting in the center of town, I will never know. Not when there was a line of gorgeous muscle cars from the heyday of such things. Dodge and Cadillac and Ford and Corvette all in a neat row.
The mechanic was a broad man with a fondness of sleeveless shirts and an old Nascar hat. When I first saw him working in the open garage bay, it was like watching a painter or a sculptor at work, his large hands deft and capable. It was watching his hands that I didn’t notice at first that he wore braces on both his legs to help him stand.
I don’t know how long I stood in the door, in the open garage bay and watched him work. I was enraptured. That was when he turned to me.
“Well, girl? Are you going to just stand there or will you pick up a wrench and get started?”
Another late night spent in the library meant another night alone as far as Kathy was concerned. The patrons had long since left and she had set up the old radio to add some music to the air while she worked on some clean-up and repairs in the children’s room. Running the vacuum over the floor, she sang along to the music and tried to ignore the overwhelming feeling like she was being followed. Then she noticed the toys cleaning themselves up. All but the one shabby doll that hung in the air as though carried. Kathy took a deep breath and flicked the vacuum off. Walking over towards the toy corner, she spoke softly, almost not believing herself.
It was as if the boy’s name was a spell. There were the messy red curls over the freckled cheeks and bright blue eyes. There were the half fastened over-alls and stained, striped shirt.
“I was helpin’, Miss Kathy. On account Mama a’ways says it’s good to clean up toys when you play with ‘em.”
Her hands were shaking but she managed to get them under control. So, the library really was haunted…by an old woman who checked in books and a little boy who put his toys away. Well, it could have been worse.
“When we’re all done cleaning, would you like me to read you a story?”
“Oh golly, Miss Kathy, that’d be real nice.” He hugged the little doll tight and smiled up at her. “Can you read the one ‘bout the pokey little puppy?”
Nia thumped the butter churn, one ear on the winding road that passed by her family’s compound. The cows had passed by an hour before, led out to the pasture by her brothers and the dogs. Now she hoped to hear the bells of the trade wagons. They were due any day now, if they hadn’t bogged down in the mud or gotten hit by raiders. That had happened before. The roads out this far weren’t safe. She paused to stretch, hands behind her head as she arched her back. That was when she heard the jingling of the bells. Wiping her hands on her apron, she ran out to greet them. With any luck, they’d have something small they’d be willing to trade for the small horde of woven straps she’d made rather than a mess of decas
The child would have powers. She had promised herself that when he had been born. This child would have powers one way or another. No matter what it took, she would not let her son be one of the few Normals of Scuttle Bay. Even if she was, even if her husband was. The question was how. It wasn’t in his blood, that much was clear. That left magic and science as her options. From the day he was born, she started in with everything she had. Vitamibe, spellwork, offerings left for Faeries and gods alike. None of it worked. Finally, she took her infant son to the coast. A pirate wreck lay deep under the water still and she could just barely see the shadow there. Holding the child by the ankle, she held him in the water. He would have powers. He would be a hero. He would make it in this place. Of that, she was convinced. The boy stopped moving. She pulled him out, a mad gleam in her eye. What great powers would he manifest? But his eyes were glassy and dull and he didn’t move
A little stack of shoes on a fragment of cloth. Each one patched and buffed leather with cardboard pasted to the bottom and painted black. A young girl stood with her hands wrapped in tattered mittens, her hair under a stained cap. Tuppence, she asks. Just tuppence for a pair of shoes. Tuppence to feed her family, to keep a roof over their heads. Tuppence. Please, sir. Just tuppence. The air was chill, the night coming fast. She bundled the shoes back in their cloth and tucked her scant coins in her pocket to run home.