Madame Midnight

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


Old Egg said...

Having lived through WW2 in the UK as a youngster I know what privation is. However I didn't know any different as I was too young to remember prewar and the Depression. Rationing was difficult and lack of supply from overseas meant you sometimes went without regardless. Hunger makes you inventive but not necessarily criminal although they were around. I would eat anything even the leaves on the bushes walking to school. I don't remember fortune tellers then perhaps they all starved to death!

Jae Rose said...

We have today and hasn't been stolen yet...maybe that's why they keep fighting and surviving because they want something we all do I suppose no matter what world we live in and how difficult it can feel at times....the last two lines will leave me thinking for some time

Dr. Pearl Ketover Prilik (PKP) said...

Interesting group of characters and a story that teases to be continued ...

vivinfrance said...

I too am a pre-war Londoner, and yes, the deprivation was extreme, but we just got on with it, inventively - lawns dug up for potatoes, chickens in our suburban garden, a birthday cake iced with mashed parsnip... And I don't remember any crime - people helped each other then. It took a time of plenty for stealing to surge.

brenda w said...

Strong ending. Thanks for sharing these characters... good story.

Gillena Cox said...

Nice story, left me curious still, how does she do it, she knew their names before they even entered her domain

Have a good week

Much love...

Cathy said...

Interesting story reminds me of the Tv show called "the Tribe" out of New Zealand. Don't worry I'm not accusing you of stealing. Because this idea is has done before.

Alice Audrey said...

Oh yea of little faith. But then, they have no way of knowing what is about to sweep them away. Makes me sad.

Anonymous said...

I was drawn into this story right away, captivated by the scene and the characters. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens to Danny and Danica and if Madame Midnight's reading comes true. Love it! LHN