Stepping outside, Stormy stretched like a tree, breathing in deeply, her hands splayed wide to the heavens. The night was a cosmological menagerie, obscured by the greying opalescence of cloud and the raking fingers that clawed up from the earth. The moon was perfectly divided, caught between gibbous and crescent. A night for mischief, for losing and getting lost, but also one for finding secrets and hidden hiders; it was a night of halves.
It was important, therefore, to follow the rules. Looking town from the twin-torn moon, Stormy locked her door, and checked it thrice, hiding the key underneath the welcome mat; she had to be proper about this. Before she had left, she had politely asked the spider, which lived in the dusty corner never to be cleaned, to watch for sprites, pixies and feyfolk.
The chill air toyed with her flower garland, tussled with the hem of her orange-gold dress, and tickled the hairs of the back of her neck to attention. Pulling her patchwork cardigan tighter, she checked her bag, and began walking. Each step was well placed, avoiding any cracks; she didn’t want her mother’s back to break.
A heavy lantern swung from her right hand, throwing out light from the thick, black-wax candle ensconced inside. This was the first of her three items. As she walked alone under the bustling buildings she intoned, almost in ritual:
“How many miles to Babylon?
Three score and ten.
Can I get there by candle-light?
Yes, and back again.
If your heels are nimble and light,
You may get there by candle-light.”
The signs all pointed to it: she would find Babylon. A life is made up of a great number of small incidents, and a small number of great ones. Tonight might be the greatest of them all; it was a tangible weight upon one’s shoulder, and if you stuck out your tongue you might taste it on the air, leaden and electric, or if you listened, you could almost hear it whispered under the tinkling silver bells of pixie-laughter.
It may have seemed, to the outside observer, that Stormy was staring too intently at the ground. On any other night, this would have been true. She was, in fact, paying close attention to the unseen path the starlight tried to hide but the candle flame revealed. To stray from the path would be disaster. She had to find the true voice amongst the thousands trying to lead her astray. So, Stormy listened to, but ignored, the whispering folk that danced in twilight, and let her feet follow the path.
Upon reaching the great black river of tarmac, Stormy stopped. Cars and people were few and far between at this hour; the night life bustled further up the thoroughfare, closer to the centre. The path was hidden here, but she had come prepared. It was a simple enough thing to cross a river, for you only needed a bridge. From one pocket she produced a lumpy piece of milky stone, and placed it on the curb. A deep breath was pulled inside Stormy’s lungs, and she strode across the river, brazen and defiant. One step. The another, and another, until she was across. At the other side, she gulped down air greedily. From her other pocket she pulled another piece of milky stone, and knelt to place it on this curb, the twin halves of moonstone longing to be whole again. Stormy watched with bated breath, and then nodded, straightening up. It had been done as was proper.
Furtively, Stormy crept along, seeing nary another soul, save for the prancing beings forever at her periphery. Unnoticed to herself, her slender fingers rubbed the ring on her wedding finger, a band of iron to keep her safe, whilst her diamond-bearing promise sat sequestered in a box underneath her pillow. This was the last of her items three. Despite her slow steps, her heart beat with furious anger, her ears rung with blood, and her breath came in deep and left uneven. So, it might not be a surprise that another rhyme slipped from her lips:
“‘Gold is for the mistress - silver for the maid’ -
Copper for the craftsman cunning at his trade’”
She stopped and placed her hand on a wall.
“‘But Iron - Cold Iron - is master of them all.’”
The path was at its end. Before her, stretched wide, was the maw of the subway station. C-Route. Stormy nodded, having suspected, but never quite wanting to believe.