4.3 General Impressions

by Matt P.

The shop was dark as Antigone stepped into it, and it smelled like…well, like it should. Like herbs and must, like dark and secret places, which she immediately recognized as fake. She watched as Siobhan walked forward boldly and sighed, moving to follow her.

“You know if we get murdered by a crazy not-charlatan together, Dad will be really pissed off, Bonnie.” Antigone murmured as the two of them strode into the small store.

“Sure, but then the other one won’t have to explain it.” Antigone answered before raising her voice. “Hello? Is anyone here?” She called out, her voice bold as brass. Antigone sighed a bit, although she had to quietly admit it was something she admired about her sibling. Not that she would ever tell her.

“Oh what a degraded age we live in, when callow youths so blatantly ignore our most sacred trust.” A voice called out from the backroom. “Closed signs.”

“You didn’t have a closed sign up.” Antigone pointed out evenly as she waited for the voice to resolve itself into a man. After a few moments, it did.

He was a tall man, probably in his mid twenties and cultivating a carefully scruffy look. He had pale skin and dark hair that was either casually or actually tousled, and intense dark eyes. They seemed to take in the small group of them very critically. “I thought it was implied by the by the lack of lights, and genuinely unwelcoming atmosphere.” He sighed dramatically. “Of course, I knew you were coming.”

Lacey spoke up now, stepping up beside them. “Because you’re psychic?” She asked, almost hopefully.

“Yes, Lacey.” He answered immediately, drawing a shocked looked from the girls. “But by yes, I mean no.” He replied, and motioned in to the back room. They could see it was gently lit, as if by a television or computer monitor. “NSA levels of outside cameras.” He explained. The girls all looked relieved, and then annoyed.

“We want a reading.” Monica stated.

“No, you want to get away from the Salvation addict. But that’s fine.” He sighed, looking at them for a few moments as if he was considering them deeply. Antigone noticed that his eyes were a little bloodshot, maybe hungover.

He looked to Monica first. “Your first choice of colleges is unrealistic and you will probably not get in to it.” He offered her, which drew a snort of derision from her. And, Antigone had to admit, a little bit of concerned tightening around her eyes.

The man turned to Lacey, and took her in for a few long moments. “Prom night, senior year?” He made it a question, and she nodded. “Condoms.” Lacey blinked at first as if she didn’t understand, and then colored from the collar of her blouse to her scalp, bright and outraged scarlet.

He then turned his considering gaze to Antigone and Siobhan. Annie saw contempt there, but that only lasted a moment; it turned, with alarming speed, into a look of surprise. Even amazement, as he took in the two of them.

“Ash and Oak, Holly and Yew. A raven takes flight, a dove does too. Who will see them, far too few. Sorrow will their birthright hew.” He spoke as if in a trance of surprise. He shook his head as if to clear it away, and motioned. “The rest of you can go on to meet Scotty Ravotti for burgers, I’m going to need to talk to these two for a little bit.”

Lacey and Monica both blinked, slowly, almost at once. “Yeah, no.” Lacey said, as Monica added. “Pull the other one, candy comes out.”

“I’m a perfectly trustworthy small business owner.” The man responded, scowling between them.

“You just spouted off a creepy ass poem about sorrow. And now you want us to leave them with you on your honor as, and I quote, a small business owner?” Monica challenged haughtily.

Antigone considered the man, and saw Siobhan was getting her hackles up as well. But then she remembered the poem. And the door they had passed. And the half-glimpsed dreams, the feeling of feathers, and a sudden shiver licked electrically down her spine.

“We’ll stay and talk.” Antigone said softly, causing the others to stop arguing. Siobhan stared at her with a mixture of curiosity and shock. “But Lacey and Monica will wait out here, waiting to hear you start talking about putting the lotion on our skin. Deal?”

The man scowled again. “I do run this as a business, if I’m giving you a free reading you shouldn’t dictate terms.”

“Deal?” Antigone repeated, evenly.

The man considered for a moment, and then nodded.