J.M. Blackman’s Picture Choice: 1
Title: Do As I Say
The instructions were specific. And there were particular directions with these specific instructions.
The instructions were to retrieve the book, and nothing else. To touch nothing else in the room, except for the door to get in, the floor to walk on and the book to pick up. The directions were to follow the instructions to the letter. She knew which part was most important.
Easy instructions. Strict directions.
Especially for a girl who’s had to use sticky fingers to get by her life, for a girl whose sticky fingers had grown from a necessity to a craft.
Most of the items across the table wouldn’t be worth much except to the person who owned it. She could probably fence the portrait to a witch; the detail and care with which it had been wrought bore importance, weight. Emotional currency was a hot commodity for those who dealt in magic.
The bauble itself wasn’t worth much, but she was betting the liquid inside, whatever it may be, was worth something. People didn’t just store rose water on tables with powerful code books (which she was here for), and enchanted swords (which she was most definitely not here for, but which was just on the code book and worth a considerable amount).
She slid around the table and calculated everything else on the table. Nothing worth more than the sword. And the book. She kept forgetting about the damned book. She was being paid well for it.
But not as well as what she’d get selling the sword back to the clan it belonged to. She rubbed her hands on her pants. The hard fabric was reassuring. She’d worked for these pants, for the money to buy them. She’d stolen. Sometimes, things had gone wrong. Sometimes, she had to protect herself. And things got bloody. But she tried her best not to be greedy. This was being greedy.
She pinched the book between her forefinger and her thumb and lifted it from table, giving a little sigh as the sword slid to the table with a soft thump.
But would it hurt to be greedy just once?
She snatched the sword up and slid it into her beltloop at her back. When she turned for the door, it was gone. She looked for the windows, but they too were gone. The wall was continuous. A bookshelf and sconce and a bookshelf and a sconce and a bookshelf.
She searched the wallpaper for minutes, and then hours. Then, she wasn’t sure how long she’d been searching. She sat on the floor beside the table and restated the instructions and directions in her head many times.
She said them aloud until her throat dried. She thought it until she could not think.
She should have done as asked.
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J.M. Blackman is a Language Arts teacher, author rep'd by Gina Panettieri and a feminist. She endeavors to review nearly everything she reads and is a happy wife. She's a SFF enthusiast, loves dark humor, and has an unhealthy need to protect the image of Batman.