Need to Know (short fiction)

Helen and Troy’s Epic Road Quest

Peggy Truthstalker had been born with a full set of tusks and yellow eyes. Orc tradition marked her as a shaman, which wasn’t surprising considering her mother had been a shaman before her, and her grandfather before that. Communing with the spirits and reading omens was in her blood. There was no denying it.

And it was a pain in the ass.

While going through some paperwork, her pen started leaking. The blue droplets spilled across the page, telling the story of the dark future. John two offices down had an undiagnosed medical problem. The spirits didn’t tell her what it was. Just that it’d be fatal in a week.

There were advantages to knowing things. It had made her a fortune on Wall Street. The spirits didn’t understand the market. Who did? But they gave her an edge, and all they asked for in return was a little blood and to whisper secrets she wasn’t allowed to share.

Like John, who right now was dismissing that pain in his chest as a result of pushing himself too hard on the racquetball court.

Peggy had cultivated an indifference to the suffering of others. It came with her gifts. She saw a dozen tragedies unfolding every day, and she couldn’t interfere without risking the wrath of the capricious spirits that helped to pay her bills.

It was the orc way to not give a damn about death. People died. But it was a shitty, preventable death, and that pissed her off. She didn’t particularly care for John. He was an agreeable sort, but he was too free with the nicknames and he made orc jokes. Not to her face. But she knew he made them.

She knew.

Peggy gouged her long, sharp fingernails into the bottom of her desk, as she did when suitably annoyed. Her annoyance caused the spirits to chuckle.

John poked his head into her office. “Hey, Sport, some of us are going to the bar after work. Thought you might want to come along.”

She smiled at him, though the tight flesh of her pale face and her permanent scowl made the expression anything other than pleasant. “Yes, thanks, but I’ve got plans already.”

“Well, if you change your mind, just let us know, Pegg-O.” John winked at her. Poor, dead in a week John.

Peggy threw the leaking pen away and crumpled the paper. In its folds, she saw a car accident in Harriet’s future. Not fatal, but certainly inconvenient.
She tossed the paper away and closed her eyes.

After work, she walked by John and a gaggle of coworkers. A rattle in the air conditioner duct spoke of drunken groping between Wendy and Peter that would make things awkward for the office for at least a month.

“See you tomorrow, Peggy?” said John.

She mumbled something and was nearly to the elevator when the spirits shared another vision. John’s wife and kids weeping as they lowered him into the ground. Orcs didn’t mourn their dead. She found their pain laughable. Life was tough. Every orc knew that. Every human should too.

She turned and grabbed John.

“You need to go to the hospital tonight,” she said. “Don’t ask me why. Just do it.”

She walked away before he could say anything.

The spirits grumbled their disapproval. All the coffee mugs on the nearby desks fell off at once.

Screw ‘em. She didn’t serve the spirits. If they had a problem with it, they could all go to hell. There’d be a penalty, but John wouldn’t be the one to pay it. She’d angered the spirits before. They’d cut her off. Her numbers would go down for a week or two, but the spirits would come back. They didn’t have much choice. There weren’t a lot of shamans walking around these days that they could share their secrets with.

On the elevator, she saw an omen in the pattern of the button lights. John would live, but he’d be fired by the end of the month. His wife and kids would leave him. But that was life. It was always going to screw you one way or another.

She closed her eyes and hummed along with the muzak to tune out the cruel laughter of the spirits as the door closed.

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One Comment

  1. Nathan (Wilson)
    Posted March 25, 2015 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    I like the message here. She rebels against the spirits’ taunting, not their sucky omens. You have to set limits with supernatural beings, let them know that if they’re going to have fun at your expense, you’re going to snap back at them.

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