The remains of someone’s camp laid scattered across the uneven asphalt outside the old Acme grocery store. It looked like the occupants had lived there for a while, based on the number of jagged, dried out cans that were strewn among the broken chairs and cigarette butts. They’d been gone a while too. April had just come from inside that store. The shelves were bare and covered in stale mouse turds. There hadn’t been any food in there for ages.
April kicked a can labeled Black Beans. It skittered across the parking lot and clunked into an old Dodge Charger. The doors sagged open and the hood was pushed up, the car having long ago been relieved of anything useful.
She pressed on and came across what used to be a delightful small town main street. It wasn’t so hard to imagine, despite the trash and empty soda cans that blew and rolled across that abandoned street. Here and there, the skeletons of old cars sat crisscrossed in intersections under long-dead traffic lights.
All the towns were the same. They had a diner, a movie theater and a laundromat. The police stations were always broken into. Pawn shops too. Any place people could get firearms in the early days. Sometimes there was a library that hadn’t been completely destroyed, but most of the books in the world had already been burned for fuel.
When she stopped to rest, she usually found herself in the diner. That was her home turf – where she felt safe. That was because she spent the last few years before the war ignorantly pouring coffee and serving pie to equally ignorant truckers who made their living along I-10 in Texas. They all thought it couldn’t get any worse. They were wrong.
It was getting dark and, as usual, April made a bee line for the diner, but she pulled up short when she saw people through the front window. “God dammit,” she muttered. Looked like a couple of families – broken men and hollow-eyed mothers and scuffed up children. They were probably harmless, but April couldn’t bear the thought of being around people these days, with their small talk and their questions. It always led to tears. She managed to avoid making eye contact with anyone as she shuffled by.
A little further up the street, she noticed a small storefront with a heavy velvet curtain and an old neon sign in the window. The sign was dark – electricity was a fond memory – but she could make out that it had once been a hand with an eye in the palm. A fortune teller.
“Why not?” she grunted, trying the door. The knob turned smoothly in her hand. She looked up and down the street to make sure no one was watching and, when she saw the coast was clear, slipped through the door, closing and locking it behind her.
The front room looked like some sort of waiting room. There was a threadbare but formal looking sofa, plus a few chairs scattered around. One wall bore a poster from the 2024 World’s Fair. The fair’s theme was “Mankind’s Last Great Hope.” The irony of that choice was not lost on April.
Toward the back of the room stood a doorway covered in a bead curtain, with a small table to one side. Several business cards were arranged on the table in a fan. April picked one up. It read:
Fortunes and Mysteries
It didn’t have an address or a website. Not even a phone number. April supposed that locating Mrs. Goulange based on her business card was one of the mysteries one would encounter when doing business with her.
April heard footsteps on the sidewalk outside the fortune teller’s shop. Words were exchanged, then the doorknob rattled. She remembered locking it, but she slipped through the beaded curtain just in case. She held her breath. A few seconds later, the rattling stopped and the footsteps grew softer until she couldn’t hear them anymore.
Turning into darkened back room of the shop, April waited for her eyes to adjust. Vague shapes came into focus in the low light from a single high window – a table, a few chairs, a crystal ball?
April turned on her flashlight and pointed it at the table. She couldn’t believe her eyes. There was an honest-to-god crystal ball on this lady’s table. It was all too much.
“Forget the diner,” she spoke. “I’m looking for the fortune teller’s place in every town from here on out.”
The crystal ball was covered in a thick layer of dust. She picked it up with one hand, turning it over in her palm. There was a folded piece of paper taped to the bottom.
She took the crystal ball back to the front room where she didn’t need her flashlight. Sitting on the dusty old couch, she peeled the paper off the base. When she turned it over, she saw the word April written there in a small, even hand.
“What the actual fuck,” she hissed.
She tossed the crystal ball onto the sofa next to her, her heart in her throat. What did it mean? A random scrap of paper taped to the bottom of Mrs. Goulange’s crystal ball in a small town hundreds of miles from anywhere she had ever been? April’s head was swimming. She unfolded the paper. It read “We can repair this.”
The words became a blur as soon as she read them. April fell into a deep sleep.
She woke up some time later. Had it been an hour? A day? A week? Her head hurt. Gingerly, she reached up and touched her right temple. It came away bloody. All at once she realized that, when she’d lost consciousness, she’d collapsed onto the crystal ball. “Ouch,” she sighed.
The room seemed darker than before, and sure enough, when April got up and peeked out curtain at the front of the shop, it was night. She threw the curtain wide and studied the old neon sign – the one of the hand with the eye inside it – from the back. It fascinated her, how certain sections lit up and others didn’t. April traced her finger along the top ridge of the eye.
And then the sign lit up. It lit up so brightly and so suddenly that April tripped backwards and landed on her butt in the middle of the room.
About Prompt-A-Day: The rules are simple. Every day, I generate a prompt using Story Shack’s awesome writing prompt generator. Then I set a timer for one hour. At the end of the hour, I post what I’ve got. Sometimes it’s decent. Sometimes it sucks. Sometimes I fail at the prompt. Sometimes I do okay. I do not edit, unless I find a typo, because I can’t help fixing those. Feel free to join in and post a link to your writing in the comments.