Esmeralda (Flash Fiction Friday)
Max read the words on the curled slip of paper and his face went dark.
“Max, c’mon man what does yours say?” Julien said.
“Don’t worry about it. It’s stupid. Nobody believes that shit anyway.” Max stuffed the tiny slip of paper into his pocket.
“Stupid? Nah man, these are legit. Henry’s came true. He got that job at Comic Readers didn’t he?” Julien’s brow furrowed, “What did his say again? Riches will befall you or some shit. Anyway, I’m looking forward to mine: Love is on the horizon.” He grinned to himself.
“Maybe you’ll get lucky at Lisa’s party tonight.” Max laughed, “But I gotta get home, man. See-ya later.”
Max stuffed his hands deep in his pockets and walked toward home. When he’d rounded a corner he pulled the fortune out of his pocket.
Blood is red. Veins are Blue. Someone out there watches you.
It had to be a joke. Kids at school had been raving about the new restaurant, Uncle Mick’s, since the beginning of the school year. It was a regular burger joint, but they had Esmeralda, an animatronic gypsy who sat behind glass in the foyer. She was old. Nobody knew how old, but old enough that her joints creaked with rust when she moved, turning her head back and forth, her painted eyes looking through you. After your burger, you’d drop in a quarter and get your fortune spit out on a slip of paper.
Weird thing was, they came true. At least, that was what kids at school were saying. He’d never heard of her producing something like this before.
His home was only a few blocks from Uncle Mick’s. He couldn’t wait to be inside; to be safe. His backpack felt heavy on his shoulders. Sweat beads formed in the hollow of his back. Max started as a squirrel leapt out of a bush and ran up a tree. A curtain moved in a window. Were those eyes?
This is stupid, Max consoled himself, it’s just a fortune. Totally fake. Stop freaking yourself out.
At his door, Max fumbled with his keys, his fingers trembling. He looked over his shoulder at the neighbour’s house across the street. The blinds were parted, but snapped back into place as he looked. Come on he plead with the dead bolt as he felt it slide open. He flung the door open, pulling it closed behind him and twisting the bolt shut.
He dropped his backpack to the floor and flopped down on the couch, closing his eyes and trying to slow down his breathing. Get a hold of yourself.
A knock at the door.
Max froze. His eyes shot open and his shoulders tightened. Was he expecting anything? He rose from the couch, his eyes on the faceted glass inlay in the center of the door. His heart beat hard in his chest as he peered through the glass. There was nobody there. What the fuck.
Max opened the door. Nobody. Birds chirped and the summer sun played shadows on the lawn. Something on the front step caught his eye. It was an envelope with his name scrawled on the front in awkward strokes, as if written by a child. He made a quick sweep of the surrounding houses with his gaze as he snatched the envelope up and closed his door once again.
The envelope sat on the counter, unopened. Max stood with his arms crossed looking down at it. It was a faded yellow, inoffensive looking, so why was he so scared to open it? You’re letting that fortune get to you he scolded himself. Fuck it. He tore the envelope open and peered inside. Inside was a tiny slip of paper, not much larger than his fortune from Esmeralda. On it was written:
We’re watching you Max. -The Bones
Gasping, Max dropped the slip of paper and stumbled backward. He tripped, his back slamming hard against the corner of the countertop. He cried out, grasping for purchase. The sleeve of his hoodie caught the edge of the knife block, pulling it sideways as he tumbled to the floor. A carving knife toppled and fell, landing in the bone of his forehead with a thick twanging thud. As blood turned his vision red, the last thing he saw before losing consciousness was an impossibly thin man with hanging yellow skin emerging from the broom closet. His bloodshot eyes were looking directly at Max, and he was smiling.