I was somewhere I had no business being, doing something that I shouldn’t, when I felt a hand on my shoulder.
Gerald glanced at the hitchhiker staring out the passenger side of his truck. “Did ya’ hear me, son?”
“I said, if you’re looking for mercy out that window, you won’t find it there. This world ain’t for giving mercy and when it does, it comes with a price.”
Slouched against the worn leather seat, the hitchhiker pulled his gaze away from the barren landscape, eyes drawn to the anomaly marring the desert sky. He inhaled a sharp breath and slid further into his seat, hands grasping the dashboard.
“It’s getting bigger,” he mumbled.
I burned a witch to death last night. She was a standard specimen: long nose, black hair, broomstick, pointy hat. I looked for a cat but couldn’t find one, which is not unusual. In my experience, few witches travel with their cats. Ditto for cauldrons, wands, crystal balls, and any other magical items you can think of: Witches travel light.
The castle ruin was the only shelter Famine could see for miles, a shadow cast on withered land, on mud, bracken and brittle heather. And on bones. Beyond was the sea, and snow clouds on the horizon. The gatehouse, its great rounded towers broken and jagged at the tops, stood defiant in the desolation, like an old, wounded knight after a battle. Wind, sea-salt, and even War had not defeated it, and as Famine traced the silhouette against the sky, he could have believed the castle would withstand time itself, if such a thing were possible.
It was cold enough to freeze your balls off; he wanted nothing more than to be back at home, sitting in his big green recliner and sipping a hot cup of cocoa with little marshmallows floating in it. But no, the little bastards needed their toys. That was bad; worse was that those toys had gotten more complicated (and more expensive to make) over the years. Once upon a time, a little red truck or a simple rag doll would have been enough. Hell, even the days of the Etch A Sketch and Easy-Bake Ovens hadn’t been so bad. A few brats burned themselves with those ovens, but was that his fault? No, siree; they’d asked for ‘em, and they’d gotten ‘em.
It’s nighttime, so we all wear sunglasses.
I know it sounds absurd. Only a week earlier, we all would have agreed. Why do you need shades when there’s no sun?
Welcome. It’s a pleasure to meet you. I’d ask how you came to be here, but I know you can’t tell me. Do you know where we are? No? Well I suppose that is to be expected, so don’t be troubled. You were somewhere else, and now you’re here. That’s all.