For Nicole Dragonbeck, who soars on dragon wings.
She stared at the word “horrorscope,” and the vexation at the misspelling faded as terror threatened to overwhelm her.
For upon further looking, further observation, Autumn discovered that the name, though normally a typo at the best of times, was taken literally in this case. Almost without thinking, like curiosity had overridden even her most base functions, she had traced her finger down the line and found her own section.
She was a Leo, and that had meant nothing to her before this moment—beyond vague notions of leadership. She was not a firm believer in this sort of stuff, but her mom took such superstitions seriously, and she wondered what her mother would make of this. What she would think of the fate spelled out on the paper for her.
Once Autumn’s fingers touched the spot on the ancient-looking calendar, her finger stuck firm, and she immediately tugged in response—that initial rush of terror coming into her heart. With a yelp, she tugged the skin off entirely, losing her fingerprint, and a drop of blood dribbled down the paper and collected at the bottom.
“Shit,” Autumn mumbled, her emotion cooling without a trace—gone as quick as it came, and she reached forward to rub at the bloody spot when the man from before returned. He’d disappeared shortly after her arrival in the shop but now appeared back as if summoned.
Her heartbeat jolted at the idea that he very well may have been summoned.
“Ah, I see, that is one of our most popular products. Big with the horror junkies. I don’t know what you call such a fan club, but they love this thing.”
Autumn glanced back at the horrorscope, worried he might mind the blood, but, and this did not strike her as a good thing at all, the liquid had disappeared.
“I can see why,” Autumn said. “It’s messed up.”
The man chuckled before wiping at his white wisp of a beard. “Yes, I suppose it can be such if you think of things that way.”
He peered at her, and Autumn felt small. She had no idea why, but the man gave off an aura of being much, much larger than the spindly shopkeeper standing before her.
“But,” he continued, “I think you just don’t like it because you do not like the thing it has in store for you.”
There the sensation was again. That jolt. That irrational sledgehammer of emotion that hit her in the chest. Her hand curled into a fist. She glanced at the paper and scoffed.
“It’s all fake,” Autumn said. “They write it broadly, you know, make it fit anyone. Plays to expectations.”
“We have a skeptic,” the man said. His eyes were cold, Autumn concluded after a second. His snow-white beard was not the only thing about him frigid: an icicle in a human shell.
“Well, fine then,” he said, “Tell me: how specific is that prediction? That sound like a horror situation which is bound to apply to anyone?”
She glanced at it again and read the words again. She did not believe in gods either. So, she repeated her scoff.
“Yeah, right…I’m going to head out now. Sorry to take up your time.”
The man snapped his fingers and took a step away from her. “Oh, trust me. You did not waste my time at all.”
Before she could say anything or even react, the shop blacked out—one light at a time. Each one shorting out and eating the space in front of her.
She took a step back in alarm and found herself outside, the cold in her lungs again, the shop door sealed and with a “closed” sign on the wood. The inside dark and black and void.
Only for every light to bolt on at once. And for a massive, wide, squirming horde of interconnecting muscles and power lines to scream with a wide-open mouth and spasm into lashing, sparking, fervent madness, before the light blinked back out again.
Autumn experienced that fear once more, organic this time, her entire frame refusing to move. Her brain caught up to the picture and then tried to reject the burning afterimage in her own mind.
The cold was harsher on her now with a sharp edge. She looked around, and only now realized that on top of everything, it was late. It was too late. The sound of the city dead, coldly lifeless.
The storefront, despite being closed, was a mouth to her, and she sprinted away from it. Not wanting it to eat at her.
“It’s nothing,” she said to herself and did not convince herself at all. “He set up a projector…or something.”
She said these things as she ran, and it did nothing except make her run faster, and with more and more panic.
But, still, the horrorscope stayed in her head: the prediction. She could not shake the words, and a soft whimper, almost unconscious, like the urge to touch the paper, leaked out her mouth.
She was still not getting her breath. But she kept her body going toward her destination. Lurching forward.
You will find things have changed. The Gods of the Old World are merging with the New and the Modified and you will find that you will play a part in their rising and their understanding of the new world. You will experience sudden and violent changes to the positioning of something inside your body. Perhaps even some portions will be outside of you, on an altar.
Your lucky numbers are 6, 5, 4, 3, and 2.
She found herself mouthing those words. But she refused to accept them. And even when she came home, and found every single window with the curtains pulled back, and her parents standing stock still, each of them in a different window, with the entire house bathed in the entire battalion of her houses light fixture’s outflow, she still hung onto that idea that it was all nothing but a hippy-dippy bit of mumbo jumbo.
When she noticed the thin, cable-like things apparently dug into both of her parent’s ears, as they stood there and smiled, she was less certain.
Much less certain.