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Subject: Agnes & Skids - a Prelude (fiction) rss

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MC Shudde M'ell
United States
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He was trouble. His hands were interesting - heavily calloused, but still graceful, light, lively - restless like a musician. His eyes, though - he was looking at everything. He looked at her, and that was part of the job, part of this life this time around, but he was looking at everything the same way, like he hadn't seen it before, or like everything was a thin skin and just below was

smoke and fire

some other reality, some earlier life. She had seen boys come home from France looking around like that, she had seen that questing look in the mirror...

She focused on his restless hands as she refilled his coffee "Did you need a box of matches, honey?"

"It's like you read my mind, Agnes, that'd be a kindness. How much do I owe you for that very tasty steak?"

"This time around, I'm not taking your money, call it a welcome home party,"

His face fell, "Oh, if you need me to leave, I'll leave, I understand -" His head was down now, not looking at anything.

"Oh, honey, that's not what I meant, I didn't mean to hurt your pride, I just-" she noticed the new suitcase on the seat next to him "I just thought you looked like you'd been travelling a while, that's all, and if you'll be back in another night you can settle up then, or now" she was talking too much too fast, she wasn't sure why, but the smoke and fire were coming through the cracks of the world the way they sometimes did, was this it, was she finally going looney? "Tell you what, I'll bring you the check, and I'll bring you a slice of pie with it, okay? I'm putting it on the bill, but trust me, it's worth it," His expression softened a bit, and she fled back to the kitchen. Fire and smoke, and something else.

When she returned, he glanced up at her with a smile on his face that turned almost immediately to rage "That's a hell of a message, doll! I get it, and you can tell McGlen that Skids is done! Done!" He was looking at the pie, a big slice of apple with a slice of cheddar and a dollop of ice cream, she glanced down at it - and dropped the plate. It was a mess of rot and dust, as if it had sat in the sun for a year, a puddle of black, yellow, and green in which even the maggots had grown old and died. And he saw it too, it was real. She had been thinking about the dream, about some of the words of power, maybe she had said them under her breath -

He was leaving, he, he had seen, he - maybe he saw what she did, maybe - "Please!" she shouted, and ran after him not caring about the diner or the cook or the owner, just running out the door into the night, "Please, I'm sorry, I don't know what happened, I didn't mean, I - whose kids?"

"Whose kids? What?" He stopped and turned, confusion momentarily pushing away his anger.

"You said McGlen's kids is done -"

He laughed "Nah, that's me, Skids. Like when you're going too fast and out of control and you want to stop but you slide a little more, that's a - you don't know who I am or where I just got out of, do you? What was that plate then?"

She stood there, in the street in the night. She had no answers, and she didn't know what she was going to do next.

"Hey, Agnes, right? You probably got a mess to go back to, here -" She shook her head and waved away the wallet he was taking out "Look. Ah, I need a smoke, you look like you could use one too. Hey, watch this," He held up his empty hands, turned them, and suddenly there was a cigarette in each. "Now, you never did get me that box of matches, so how do I set 'em on fire?" Fire. Fire and smoke filled her vision, everything was clear for a moment, she saw all the way back... and when it cleared he was there again, smiling, handing one cigarette to her and drawing on his own, both lit. "That'll teach me to do tricks in front of a professional. Wow, that was like Dexter Drake, that was. You do magic when you're not waiting tables? You wouldn't be an assistant, I guess, I mean, you could be if you wanted, don't get me wrong, I didn't mean - I just, what do they call a girl magician?"

The smoke that curled from her nostrils was incense from a brazen censer that had lain buried uncounted thousands of years, but it was still sharp with bitter sacrifice. "They call me a witch."
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