The snowfall muffled the distant highway, and frosted autumn leaves still clung to their branches. Cody perched on the bench’s edge. His pug flopped into the carpet of snow at his feet. He watched Rachel’s fingers molding the handful of snow—clumsy and awkward. So simple, so ordinary. Magicless.
It was beautiful.
If it’s sold, the Man chips it. HDTV? Chipped. Shoes? Chipped. Cats and dogs? Chipped. Underwear? Chipped.
That’s life. Who cares? Everything has chips.
When the student loan bubble burst, average folk like me needed new tuition sources. I decided to go with sponsorship. The Man pays my tuition, books, and rent until I get my diploma. In return, I became a walking chip-activated billboard.
I was headin’ out to feed the cows when I heard a zinnia ask, “You got a minute?”
I shoulda known. When a flower asks you if you got a minute, it’s gonna take more’n a minute.
I wanted to growl at the man boarding ahead of me- a real growl, like one of those extinct jungle cats projected at the zoo. I bit my tongue, though, worried that mimicking extinct felines could potentially get me committed. Instead, I protected my bulging belly from his wayward elbows as he fought through the small crowd for first place in line. I didn’t want my little girl brain damaged because someone had hit the snooze button too many times.
I shivered. The air this far below was so damp. It seeped through my tunic and bored its way through my muscles until it reached my bones. I hated the tube.
“Everybody’s in a hurry, huh?” The woman beside me murmured. She was also pregnant. Of course.
A few candles flickered in the room, casting shadows on the curved wall. A rabbit here, a house there, assorted flowers and even a wine glass. A thousand different shapes wandered the room. They were just pieces of paper suspended from string, mere ornaments guided by a mobile above, but the candlelight made them more. It brought the shapes to life.
It unnerved her.
“Take your time,” said the Whispering Woman. The words were no encouragement. You only came to the Whispering Woman if you were desperate. Desperation didn’t exactly breed patience. The girl wandered between shapes and string, chewing at her lip. None of them called to her. They all seemed random and unconnected, both to one another and her life. She thought about grabbing one at random and being done with the whole, terrible process, but then her future would be decided.