Inching closer to the front of the line at the ice cream
shop, Sarah envisioned her day in the sun. She’d been drawn to this beach her
whole life. Resistance had finally worn through, and here she was, waiting to
get two scoops of rainbow ice cream in a waffle cone to savor as she strolled
the boardwalk. The Drifters’ paean to summer romance filled her head until it
overflowed into a low hum, “Under the boardwalk, we’ll be having some fun...”
as she considered whether such an opportunity would present itself on her
Three steps closer and the dingy red smudge on the wall
beside the cash register slowly formed hazy letters, obliterating her daydream.
Knowing the message was for her, Sarah took another step forward as the
sentence asserted itself in brighter red—james kastle raped mariann
growerman. “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never
hurt me,” she mumbled, expecting to shatter like glass at a touch, calming
herself with the obsolete playground taunt whenever she found the truths of her
life in the world. Her biological parents were no longer a complete mystery to
“Next!” yelled the cashier, handing a waffle cone to the
previous customer. He followed Sarah’s gaze to the red smudge above the
register. “You’re seeing something right here, aren’t you? Something bad
happened right here. I knew it.” He turned to the employee scooping ice cream.
“I told you so. This place got bad juju. I knew it. Lookit this lady, Darryl.”
Darryl came and stood next to the cashier, scoop dangling
from his hand, eyes wide and mouth open, both observing Sarah repeat her
The older lady behind Sarah leaned forward and quietly
said, “Take your time, sweetheart, let me know if I can help.” With a hand on
her mouth and furrowed brow, she too watched.
Sarah breathed in through her nose and slowly out her mouth
four times before stepping to the cash register. In a clear voice, she asked
for her favorite, “Two rainbow scoops in a waffle cone, please.”
World War III: The
First War Fought with Magic
introducing black magic into the battle, urging lawmakers to limit the use of
magical weapons for pure evil, evil being loosely defined as a legal term.
Remaining aspects of McHiller’s psychological attacks through the black arts
continue to this day, dispersing globally like a corporeal virus. Scientists have
yet to determine exactly what it is, how it spreads, and how to control it.
Head of University
of Fatheon’s Wiccan
Science Department Stephan Ottenber explains, “It’s as though everyone’s story
is written down in the world, but only that person can see it, and no one has
control over when and where. It can be highly traumatic, as witnessed by the
growing psychiatric industry. We’re still searching for answers.”
no remorse for his
actions up to his death in August, 2147. The Magical Influence Federal Team, or
MIFT, took over his estate and secured his papers for public safety, stating
that nothing significant had been discovered in his works to explain or reverse
McHiller’s spell. Their only concession to public scrutiny was a press release
of a photograph of an unusually large pen and the cryptic words, “The pen is
mightier than the sword.” MIFT remains quiet on the subject.
Ariana placed the final photo, the 1,000-year-old oak at
Subora Arboretum, in the long line of last year’s set, winding from the front
door through the labyrinthine gallery to the exit door at the left of the
As she finished, Leslie entered from the backroom, clasped
her hands, and told her, “Congratulations on another beautiful setup. Are you
ready for tonight?”
“Absolutely! I love the headiness of opening night. It
makes me want to ravish you right in the middle of the front room,” Ariana’s voice
dropped to a stage whisper, “So all the art lovers and random passersby can
witness my love.”
“Your lust, you mean.” Leslie winked at her and kissed her.
She turned to the ancient oak photo. “And you can see part of your story in
“Yes, it says—"
“No, no, don’t tell me. I don’t want to know about you from
magic spells. I want to learn everything from you directly.”
Ariana wrapped her arms around Leslie, kissing the back of
her neck, their arms intertwined across Leslie’s chest.
“It amazes me how the writing is so specific to people. I
mean, I hardly ever see any of mine. It’s so disappointing.”
know, I could actually write down my life
history from my photos. But then it’s already all written, isn’t it?”
“True,” Leslie responded. “I love your work. Even without
seeing the words, the photographs are fascinating. They draw you in, urging
speculation. They’re so mysterious, like you.”
“You, my loveliness, are an open book.”
“Gah, that’s so crass.”
stepped out of Ariana’s embrace and led her by the hand to the backroom.