Word of Night Drabble Collection
Another assortment of exceptionally short stories.
Eleanor rolled over onto her side. “It’s so damn hot!”
C knelt down next to her, grinning, having barely dressed down on what was a hot morning even by Moroccan standards. They were surrounded by hand-planted grass and flowers in a quiet park.
Eleanor kept rolling until she was in the shade of a tall argania tree. C nudged her legs so that she took up, and got a glare for his troubles.
“Well, look,” he said, “you’re trampling all the poor flowers.”
“The flowers can kiss my ass,” she said. “They like how hot it is, or they wouldn’t be growing. I need the dew more than they do.”
“If you keep rolling like that, one of them is going to kiss your ass, you know,” C smirked. “You’re going to be just covered in dirt and flowers. And then the bees’ll be paying more attention to you.”
“Shit,” Eleanor’s face was against the dewy grass and her voice was muffled. “You’re right. Well, fuck it, I’ll just kill the bees. Hey, why aren’t you bothered by the heat?”
“Summer Survivor,” C smiled easily and rubbed the nape of his neck. “I got an app for that. I’d share it with you, but it’s for smart brains, not smartphones.”
Eleanor lifted her head up to look at him, a fleck of dirt on her reddened cheek.
C waved a hand defensively. “Smart in the, uh, computerized sense.”
“Now, maybe this is just me,” C spoke up, “but we could have just gone to the botanical gardens, couldn’t we?”
“It’s not just you,” Eleanor replied grimly.
The two of them had driven two hours out of Marrakech, for a few reasons. One was that Amänär had brought up the mystical properties of the Ouzoud Falls. Apparently, their waters held the power to nourish a person completely. A tall glass and you’d be fed for the day. C, always the nice guy ready to fetch stuff he hadn’t even been really asked to, suggested they get some and bring it back to Amänär to distribute to his people.
That part was easy. They’d gone to the summit first, where the ruined husks of mills still sat and where a few orchards still stubbornly grew. Eleanor felt the power in the place; it’d fed so many mouths for so long that when it was abandoned, all that pent-up belief went straight to the water, changing the world. Like a stain in your shirt you can’t get out. But a good stain, and on the planet itself.
Another was that they wanted a break from the city. That was the part that made her and C ask if they shouldn’t just go back to the car. The path to the base of the falls was through a thick, shaded path with olive trees on either side, and it was not fun. She knew C agreed, too, even though it wasn’t his style to say it.
She set down the lidded bucket she’d been carrying and picked a needle out of her arm. Olive trees weren’t supposed to have pine needles, but not every change to the world was a good one. “If nature keeps this up, it’s gonna come back and hit her.”
“It’s not that bad, besides that crater in the path earlier.” C set down his bucket, too, and sat down on it, wiping his brow. Then he took off a shoe and shook something or other out of it. “As long as you’re not really hurt, we should be fine, right?”
“We should be.” Eleanor scratched at her lower leg, careful not to dig too deep and bleed. The bugs around Ouzoud were bastards; they knew how to make a bite itch. “But if we run into a wildcat and it mauls me, it’s gonna be the trees dying. Sappiest ones first.”
C gave her that genial, half-smiling look that pissed her off and calmed her down in nearly equal amounts. “Is that because you don’t like the sappiest ones, or is it because sap is like blood?”
As usual these days, it calmed her down more than pissed her off. She swatted a fallen leaf off her coat. “Let’s go with both. And let’s also go back up to the summit. Why did we even bother coming down here?”
“Well, life is an adventure,” C said. “And we both thought, ‘well, we’re already all the way out here, we might as well.’”
Eleanor frowned, reached up, and pulled an olive branch off one of the trees. “I’m taking this as a souvenir.”
“Well, there’s your revenge against Mother Nature. Think we’re done here?” C asked.
“We’re done here.” Eleanor started off back towards where they’d parked the car, knowing C would follow.
“Thank God for those new curtains.” Eleanor collapsed on the sofa in the darkness of her apartment. It was the middle of the day, but the only light was coming from the tablet in C’s hands.
“Well, Him, too, but it couldn’t hurt to thank me.” C chuckled.
“Yeah, yeah, thank you, you’re the best, my hero, I love you, all that stuff. Listen, I do not care if the civilians start thinking I’m a vampire. This is worth it.”
“Wonder if there even are any vampires out here. Seems like they’d be uncomfortable forever even if they could go outside.”
“Or they could just stay inside forever, protected by some blackout curtains like us.” Eleanor stretched her arms past her head to the arm of the sofa. “We can get back to the job in just an hour. I promise.”
Eleanor clutched her wrist, panted, and coughed out a mouthful of incense smoke. The air was starting to clear, and a shape formed inside the circle of fresh blood.
She’d done it. She’d summoned the ifrit.
Scarlet flame twisted into a shape curling in on itself, rose up, and formed into the shape of a strong, broad-shouldered man. He was maybe ten feet tall – hard to tell through the smoke where his tail ended and the man began, but he towered over Eleanor, looking down at her past his nose.
“It is daring indeed for a mortal to summon me,” said the ifrit, one of the jinn. ”But you are no ordinary mortal. Your blood itself contains me… for now.” Cruel heat emanated from the jinn’s body, weakened by the magic circle but still noticeable.
He didn’t ask what she wanted, because he wanted to buy time for the heat to dry out her blood.
He’d gotten her wrong on a few counts.
“I need to know where Hamid is.” Eleanor rose up to her full height and pulled her sleeves back, letting a few more bloody droplets drip out of the wound on her wrist. “And if you don’t tell me, I’ll make you wish I had.”
“And what sort of pain could you inflict upon me, hmm? I have been unformed and reformed by the flames of the earth. I have burned the body of my hosts alive to break their will, suffering as they did. A sorcerer who needs magic to contain me does so because she has no alternatives.”
“Actually.” Eleanor held her hand up in a twitching claw, as blood ran down her arm. “The magic circle isn’t to protect me. It’s so we can chat, and I can give you a chance to submit. And…”
Eleanor clenched her fist, smiling. Deep-red lightning crackled from her wound, jumped up her arm, and danced across her fingers.
“...it’s to give you somewhere to sit and cry uncle when you’ve had enough punishment.”
With one boot, she scuffed the circle in front of her.