Title: Wanna be a wandering child (but I have a paper due)
Word count: 859
Silly short story inspired by a Tumblr thread featuring my friend Essie. I think I’m hilarious. I wrote and edited this in a couple of distracted hours, toggling different tasks at work. I thought it was so very amusing that I’d put it up here.
There was a girl with flowing long hair the color of corn.
Not the kind out in the field, fresh ripe for the picking. No, it was more like the stuff found in the frozen vegetable section of a grocery store with ‘organic’ and ‘GMO free’ stamped on its plastic packaging. That was the argument of one eclectically dressed man whose clothing choice reminded one of highlighters to his companion, a young man made of varying shades of black.
“The witch said hair as gold as corn!” The young one said. There was an edge in his voice that suggested that this was not the first time the pair had this loud discussion.
“Yes, but I don’t know if that qualifies.” The bright one said and gestured toward the girl and turned away, already disinterested. He possessed the spirit of long-suffering and calm in the face of his hot-tempered companion. “It’s not quite right.”
“Corn is corn!”
“I just don’t know though.”
“Look,” the dark one said, pressing his palms together and making a visible effort to be patient. “She’s the closest we’ve found. Let’s just take her to the witch and let her judge.”
The girl whose hair was in question sat watching the conversation between the two strangers hovering near her, straw tucked into a corner of her mouth. An elastic band held her corn yellow hair in a sloppy bun. Not the artfully messy bun especially crafted for that ‘I’m not trying to look this good, it just happened’ look. It was the genuine ‘I slept through my alarm and had to rinse and spit a squirt of toothpaste and barely made it to class in time and found this rubber band around last semester’s notecards’ type of bun. The coffee shop corner she’d commandeered had been chosen for the large table, electrical outlets, and solitude. Bags, books, laptop, purple and marshmallow scented highlighters and pens neatly littered the table. The two men had been an interesting distraction from the school assignments she had to do, but not nearly as entertaining as watching a video of a kitten trying to eat a bee.
So, like. Priorities.
“Do you mind? I have a paper due,” she said, but they went on with their conversation. Offended at their rudeness, she flicked the straw wrapper at the bright one who flinched tremendously. The short, dark one sniggered.
“I said I have a paper due. Actually, I have three, and two books to be read and discussed in class, and a life. Such as it is. Sorry, not sorry, but I can’t be kidnapped today.” She set her cup of caffeine down and picked up a highlighter, a not so subtle hint that they’d been dismissed.
“Oh, no, we’ve no intent to kidnap you,” the dark one said, and she noted a strange accent to his voice she couldn’t place. “Everything is contingent on the girl being willing anyway. We’d just need you to come with us into the woods.”
She squinted at them, her glasses catching the light and reflecting her bemusement. “You realize that sounds very serial killer-y.”
“We’re not murderers!” The bright one said, just as the espresso machine cut off into that brief moment of quiet.
A few of the patrons and employees glanced over, but most remained attentive to their cell phone screens and conversations. The pair stood stiffly for a moment before everyone went back to their own business, and the girl wished she could do the same.
“You know what? My caffeine levels are dropping, and this just isn’t a good time for me. Come back finals week, and maybe we can talk then. You know, after I’ve fallen into the depths of woe and all that.”
“You don’t understand. We -“
She snapped her fingers and made a tsking noise with her tongue, the kind one makes when training a dog or younger sibling. The pair flinched.
“So, I see this one of two ways. You’re crazy and deluded, or I’m crazy and deluded.”
She operated most days with maybe a solid three hours of sleep. The second conclusion was a high possibility. The dark one sighed, a look of determination covering his face. He leaned forward, bracing his hands on the table and her term paper.
“Listen to me. Could you consider the possibility that we’re telling the truth? You are at this moment standing at the precipice to an adventure beyond the likes of which you’ve only ever read about. Can you really let such an opportunity pass?”
The air shimmered, like someone had dropped a glitter bomb nearby. His words were almost compelling, and for a wild moment, going with them seemed the thing to do. Going with them felt like it might be stepping through the wardrobe, or boarding the train, or passing through the fairy ring. And these chances rarely came twice.
“So long as I pass these classes,” she said and swatted at the hand wrinkling her paper. “Now, shoo.” She put her attention on straightening her work area, wiping off the sparkling bits that floated down.
When she looked up, she was alone.