Curse

“What just happened?” she asked, rubbing her forehead.

He sighed picking up the golfball that was rolling around at their feet, “It’s the curse.”

“You were serious about that?”

A somber nod. “Every time I sneeze, someone around me gets hurt.”

“But where did the golfball even come from?”

He shrugged, “From a black hole, a magic portal, the universe’s butthole. It’s just my bad luck.”

For a moment they sat in silence. He fiddled with the golfball. She rubbed the growing welt on her forehead.

“So how do you break it?” she asked.

“Well,” he glanced at her nervously. “I’m supposed to,”

“What?”

“A kiss.”

“Oh,” she straightened, “you mean—”

“No, no,” he stammered, “I wasn’t trying to—”

“You mean you don’t want to kiss me?”

“I . . . that’s not . . .” he grinned, then quickly wiped the smile from his face. “I just wouldn’t want you to feel pressured.”

She shifted a little closer. “Well there’s no harm in trying, right?”

He shrugged, nodded, smiled. “Right.”

They leaned in, paused. Their eyes met, then so did their lips.

Magical.

“Did it work?”

“I don’t think so,” he answered. “We better try again.”

She grinned. “You’re full of shit.” They kissed again.

* * *

Story by Gregory M. Fox

Millennials

He smiled broadly as she approached. “Wasn’t sure you’d come.”

She shrugged, settling into her chair. “Why wouldn’t I?”

“I don’t know, might be busy or have trouble finding the place or just … you know, not be interested.”

“I’ve never missed one of our appointments before, have I?” she said frankly.

“Appointments.” He chewed on the word, swallowed it reluctantly. “Well, how’s the last century been for you?”

A frown. “Perhaps you should be a little more discrete.”

“Huh? Oh, about the time thing?”

“You remember what happened in Byzantium…”

She was always cute when she was flustered. “Hah! How could I forget! But folks aren’t that superstitious these days. You tell one of these so-called ‘millennials’ that you’ve actually been alive for millennia, they’ll think it’s a pickup line.”

A flat stare. “Do you spend a lot of time trying to pick up young people?”

“I knew you were gonna go there.” Voice low, teeth clenched. “Atom bombs, lunar landings, global warming, the internet—all the miracles and catastrophes of the last century, and you want to talk about her?”

Slow, anguished words. “Perhaps we are both selfish and narrow-minded. Perhaps, despite the evidence, we are both still human.”

* * *

Story by Gregory M. Fox

Binding

Silence filled the space between the mage and his client. Alden knew his craft well, so it was very rare that he had repeat customers, and neither he nor Perin felt comfortable navigating the situation. He moved to the northeastern corner of the house, knelt at the base of the corner post and began carving the rune of binding in the freshly sawed boards.

“It’s a good house,” Alden offered over his shoulder. “Well built. The carpenters outdid themselves. I don’t know if you’ll even need magic to keep this house standing.” Receiving no response, Alden bent back over the rune to begin his spell.

“You said that last time,” Perin commented. It was true of course. Alden made that remark to most of the new homeowners who hired him. It usually made them smile. But Perin was frowning deeper than ever. “The old house is still standing,” he said. “The carpenters did their job well and so did you. I’m the one who ruined everything.”

Alden hesitated, “What’s broken can be mended. It’s not my magic, but maybe it’s yours.

Perin’s eyes shone, but he answered, “No. She deserves that house. Maybe now it can finally be a home.

* * *

Story by Gregory M. Fox

Popcorn

“What do you think this smells like?”

He recoils initially, then leans forward and sniffs. “Popcorn.”

She shakes her head, grinning slyly and takes back the paper. “No, it doesn’t.”

A shrug. “Well of course it doesn’t. It’s a sticker. How’s it supposed to smell like butter and salt and all that?  It just smells like popcorn ‘cuz that’s the best they can do.”

“No,” she says again.

“No?”

She leans forward conspiratorially, eyes bright. “You just think it smells like popcorn because there’s a picture of popcorn on the sticker, so you smell what you’re expecting. But it really smells like something else entirely. Try again.”

“It’s a scratch-n-sniff.”

“Close your eyes.”

He blinks.

A smack on the arm. “Just do it. Close your eyes.” He sighs, but does as instructed. “Clear your mind. Inhale.”

With a roll of his closed eyes, he breathes in, expecting nothing. He smells smoke. Wood smoke. Dirt and pine needles. Bug spray and sunscreen. Fish roasting over a campfire. Then he hears wind. Rustling branches and creaking trees. He feels mottled sunlight flickering over his eyes. There are footsteps approaching from behind.

He opens his eyes. She’s staring expectantly.

“What did you smell?”

     *     *     *

Photo by Mockup Graphics on Unsplash

Story by Gregory M. Fox