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