This was supposed to be a short story...now its morphed into a full on story. Thanks for reading! :)
Orphic: (adj) mysterious and entrancing. Beyond ordinary understanding.
The air was definitely turning towards fall, even by Georgia's standards. There was the unmistakable crisp in the air; the leaves were turning, changing from their dull drought induced lackluster green to a more vivid orangey red. Most of the leaves having fallen from their branches already, though it was only mid-October.
Now that it was well past dark, the wind had turned cooler and winter's fingers dragged along Daryl's loose collar. He pulled his leather cut closed, wishing the zipper wasn't broken. Thinking of bailing, he wondered why he let his brother and his cronie drag him out the county fair of all places anyway. He pulled a cigarette from his pocket, hoping the movement and tobacco may warm him a bit.
"Come on, man. This is lame." Daryl said to Merle after he had lit his smoke, took a couple puffs. Merle was taking his second try at knocking the stacked bottles down with the toss of a softball. Seemed easy enough, but when you were lit, like Merle was, it proved to be tricky.
"Why you bein' such a drag?" Merle asked after hefting the ball a little too hard and practically knocking down the backdrop of the booth. Daryl spared the man standing behind the counter and lifted his shoulders, as if to say what can I do? Because what could he do? He wasn't his brothers keeper. Was he? And Merle was a force all his own.
"Aw chill out. You got somethin' better ta do?" This from Shane. A younger, prettier, new friend of Merle's. He wasn't sure how or why Shane and Merle began hanging out, but Daryl was less than enthused with his presence. He only snarled at him, sending Shane a step or two back and away.
Merle, having finally given up on the baseball, stepped from the booth and followed Daryl down the row of similar booths with silly little games, hocking trinkets that Daryl couldn't figure out why anyone would want or need them.
"Yeah, Daryl. Chill out." Merle repeated Shane, lightly punching his brother in the stomach.
Daryl rolled his eyes and pushed his fist away, "Whatever." He was quickly second guessing his choice to stay (remotely) sober.
"Oh hot damn! 'Memeber this game, Merle? I was a crack shot when I was little," Shane enthused.
"Hell yeah! And I bet I can whoop your ass at it too." Merle told Shane as they stumbled up to the booth where Shoot the Star was set up.
Ignoring Shane and Merle's stroll down memory lane, he made his way further down the aisle. The gravel pathway crunched under his boots and music blared from a nearby Tilt-A-Whirl. Screams of joy sounding from the ride. The mix of cotton candy and roasted pecans wafted through the air. Another scent caught his attention, one that didn't belong at the county fair. It was a deep pungent sagey smell. It's earthy scent reminded him of being out in the woods this time of year. So naturally, he followed it, figuring it'd be better than watching the Bobbsey twins over there playing with pretend guns, gerring each other whenever the other missed.
A few booths down there stood a teepee of sorts rather than a ramshackle folding table with a sheet backing. Its top point reached about nine feet up and was probably just as wide. Black and sparkly fabric surrounded the entrance and Daryl wondered what cheesy game resided inside. Peeking his head into the opening, to the right, atop a plaster column made up to look old and not plastic, sat a silver platter of lit candles of assorted colors. In the center of the candles was the fanciest ashtray he'd ever seen. It held a bundle of what looked to be, to Daryl anyhow, weeds lit at the end sending off the sage scent he had followed in. And there in the middle of the tent was, indeed, a folding table only this one was covered with some sort of velvety black material.
Vaguely all this registered in the back of his mind, though. His eyes went straight to the woman, or was it a girl, sitting on the other side of the table. She was small and slight and held a set of playing cards in her left hand, her nails filed to a point and painted purple. She wore numerous rings and large hoops hung from her ears. The bandana she wore matched the sparkly purple shawl wrapped around her shoulders. Long wavy blonde hair fell from underneath the bandana. Looking up, her piercing aqua eyes caught him off guard. She wasn't a girl. No. Those were the eyes of a woman.
She regarded him thoughtfully before speaking. And when she did, her melodic voice seemed to float on the hazy smoke. Then she smiled and it felt as though someone punched him in the gut. It wasn't a necessarily unpleasant feeling, still it made him uncomfortable.
"Hello there. Come in. Have a seat," she encouraged, gesturing to one of the two folding chairs on his side of the table. He had no idea why he did so, but he found himself doing exactly what she suggested, lowering into the chair across from her. He realized then that it wasn't playing cards she held. The two upturned cards on the table held strange pictures of the sun and moon and a tower with flames coming out the top.
She picked up those two cards and with those long fingered hands, shuffled them loosely into the well worn deck. Her hands were delicate, long. Daryl saw a flash in his mind's eye of those fingers lightly dragging down his ribcage, causing very real goosebumps to break out over his flesh.
He ran his hands over his bare forearms, blaming the chill of the night air for the goosebumps. He shifted in the uncomfortable chair and cleared his throat. By then, the woman had fanned the cards out onto the cloth on the table.
"Pick three," she said simply in that sing song voice of hers. And though it was seemingly impossible, her voice echoed around in the teepee before making it reverberated in his ears. The sounds of the fair outside subsided to unnoticed background noise. It was just him and her. And her voice, her hands, her eyes.
He did as she instructed and picked three cards. Without much thought he chose one card on the right of the fanned out stack, one from the middle and one on the left, flipping them right side up in front of himself.
The woman hardly spared them a glance, instead looking so intently into his eyes he became uncomfortable and looked away. Examining anything other than those magnetic blue eyes of hers.
"These represent your past, present and future," she explained, gesturing with an open hand to the first, second and third card.
Sure, whatever lady.
Daryl felt his shoulders tense. If he believed in this sort of thing, which of course he did not - no freakin' way, he didn't want to know what his past, present or what his future held. He lived for the day. Never giving much thought to his past or his present. Oddly enough though he wanted, felt compelled, to know more. Or, he just wanted to hear more of that voice that did strange things to his mind and body that he couldn't explain.
So, he motioned with the uptick of his chin for her to continue.
"This card," she said pointing to the very first one he pulled out, "is called the Three of Swords."
He could've guessed that much. The card, faded and tattered at the edges, depicted three swords stuck into a bright red heart.
"It represents your past. The clouds and rain can mean violence or a bad time in someone's life."
Daryl outwardly scoffed, though he didn't mean to. "When ain't someone had a bad time in their life?" He asked skeptically. He knew he had more than his fair share of bad, but still, who didn't have a hard time once in awhile?
She went on without dignifying his skepticism with a response. "The heart is symbolic of beauty, while the swords signify harm to the body." She peered at him again. He had the unmistakable feeling that she was reading him down to his very core. "Has anyone ever hurt you?" She asked, her voice quietly compassionate.
The sagey air was beginning to thicken around him. He opened his mouth intending to reply with some sort of smartass responce. Words bounced around in his mind, refused to come out.
"Did someone hurt you?" She waited, one beat, two beats, three. "Daryl?"
Fear, something he did not feel very often since he became an adult, slithered down his spine and he stood abruptly. The backs of his legs tipping the chair. With his cat like reflexes, he reached behind him and caught it before it clattered the ground. The noise of the fair came slamming back at him.
"There you are!"
Daryl jumped again as his brothers hand clasped around his shoulder.
"The hell you doin'?" Merle questioned.
"Uhh," he looked to Merle who was lighting a cigarette, oblivious to what had just gone down, to which Daryl was thankful. He brought his eyes back to the woman. She held that intent stare still, the corners of her lips were pulled in the slightest smile. So slight the average person would probably miss it. Not Daryl, though. He was a hunter, a tracker. He had trained himself to see things, to notice things. And that tiny little grin did not get past him.
"Let's go." This from Shane further off outside the tent.
Daryl reached into his pocket and pulled out a wadded up ten dollar bill and stuffed it down into a clear vase sitting on the edge of the folding table that held other assorted bills. Before he turned to go, she said his name again in that eerie way that sent his spine quivering once more.
He looked at her expectantly, backing away slowly.
"Here. Take my card," she said, holding out a white business card sized piece of cardstock.
He said nothing, taking the card from her. It could've been an accident, though his gut told him it was not, she ran her index finger along the back of his hand as she handed over the card. Nothing short of lightning bolted through his hand, up his arm and straight through his chest to his heart. The zap didn't hurt per say, it just jolted enough to remind him he was alive.
Daryl turned on his heel and left the tent and the sage scent behind him, following his brother and Shane. He wasn't scared. No way. But he knew one thing for damn certain, he never once told her his name.