The sign said "Madame Midnight: Fortunes Told."
Curious as to whether someone in their post-pandemic world could get along with a mere deck of cards and a few astrology charts, the twins staked the place out, hiding in doorways and in the windows of nearby buildings to observe the comings and goings of those who would know their future.
After a week, Danny had seen enough. "Whatever she's doing, it's working."
Danica agreed. "Kids bring her things every day. She probably eats better than we do."
"Making up fairy tales beats the heck out of stealing." Danny got to his feet and shook his dark hair out of his eyes. "Let's go talk to her, find out her secret."
"She's not going to tell us, just like that."
"Of course not. That's why we're going to have her tell our fortune."
"Seriously?" Danica stood up and brushed the dust off her pants. "She'll charge us, you know. It's a waste of good food."
"You know what the grownups used to say: you have to spend money to make money." Danny rummaged in a canvas bag containing items they had foraged that day. "Think she likes peas?"
Danica gave a little sigh. "It's worth a try, I guess."
The self-styled Madame Midnight was a slight teenager who greeted them in flowing robes and with a self-consciously mysterious smile. "Welcome, Danny and Danica. I sense that you are troubled about something."
Although the twins weren't sure how she knew their names, it wasn't as if they weren't known in post-apocalyptic city, so they didn't take this as an immediate sign of any particular talent. They followed her into the apartment and gazed about in curiosity at the candles, goblets, long decorative chains of beads and broken glass, and dusty scrapbooks and volumes of poems. Windows were draped with sheets to keep out the light that filtered around the blinds, and on a high perch at the back of the room, a cat stared with golden eyes.
"Please sit down." Madame Midnight motioned them toward chairs at a small round table draped in a black cloth. "You would like to know your future."
Danny gave a little half-smile. "Who wouldn't? It's probably the same as everyone else's, though: we'll live for a few years, then die of Telo like all the others."
"Hm." The fortune-teller pulled out a deck of cards. "That's not a bad guess, but the cards connect us with the vital essence of all things in Heaven and Earth, so let's see what they have to say."
With practiced ease, she showed the twins how to cut the deck, then she laid out the cards and pondered. "There is death in your near future, but not from the Telo. There will be an act of violence while you are engaged in a noble and generous pursuit."
Danica sniffed. "We're not noble. We look out only for each other."
"Nevertheless," Madame Midnight said, "there is something coming soon that will strip away your illusion that you can continue living selfishly. You will give yourselves to a cause and die for it bravely."
Danny chuckled. "We'll die bravely, no doubt about that, but the rest of it? No way would we throw our lives away for someone else's silly cause." He reached into his knapsack and took out two cans of peas and a packet of salted almonds. "Thanks for your time."
Back on the street, the twins sat on the stoop of a nearby building, looked at each other and sighed.
"It was a nice little speech," Danica admitted. "Rehearsed, but what did we expect?"
"I expected some sort of useful takeaway," Danny said. "A clue to how she was getting away with not having to forage and steal for her food."
"Well, we certainly got that," Danica said with a laugh. "She gets kids like us worked up and wondering, so that we'll pay her for any old nonsense."
"I guess you're right." Danny stood up and reached a hand to help Danica to her feet. "From now on, no more curiosity. We'll stick to what we're good at: looking out for number one."
"You think she may be right, though? You know...there's more to life than us?"
"If there is, it'll have to be someone else's problem. All we have is today."
This was written for Sunday Scribblings 2 and The Sunday Whirl