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Strange Tidings

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Miranda looked out of her apartment in ZuZu City. The lights below providing her with some existential feelings. It’s funny how the city always made her feel alone, almost hollow. She lifted the mug of earl grey tea she was holding up to her lips. The smell of bergamot was actively fighting the negativity in her life at the moment.

 

Suddenly, there was a buzz at her door. Miranda got up, gently cradling her tea mug in the process, and waddled over to the door. She knew that when she would open the door, her fiancé would be on the other side of it. She should feel happier, given the circumstances-- but she didn’t. They had been together since college. He was a big wig real-estate agent now, traveling and selling property to big companies like JoJa. In fact, the only reason she can barely afford this apartment is because of him.

 

She opened the door and there he was, Michael, in all of his post-gym glory. His flesh was still dewy from what was probably a two hour high intensity work out. He was a tall man, and an undercut graced his fine black hair.

 

“Hey there.” His voice was deep, without even another glance, he pushed his way passed Miranda and set his gym bags down on the floor by her kitchen island. He was dressed in black shorts and a white, long sleeved compression shirt. Miranda watched as he moved around her kitchen to the fridge. He grabbed a bottle of Fiji water that he always makes sure she has stocked for him.

 

Miranda noticed that she hadn’t even welcomed him into her apartment. She hurried over to his side, “How was your day today?”

 

Michael turned his head to look at her, his brown eyes looked almost black and lifeless, “Same old shit, different day.” With that he pulled out a stool and sat down at the counter. He brought his hands up to his temples and rubbed them desperately trying to relieve the tension of the day.

 

Before Miranda could even think or respond, he started again, “Listen, I need to talk to you about your grandfather’s farmhouse.”

 

Miranda felt her stomach drop slightly. She had wondered when they would be having this conversation. She had no idea it would be so soon, her grandfather only passed away three months ago. She went to take another sip of her tea, bracing herself for the upcoming conversation, then said, “You want to sell it, don’t you?”

 

Michael shook his head, “I do. I mean, it’s no use to us and I don’t for-see how it ever would be useful to us. Plus one of my buddies down at JoJa was thinking about constructing a warehouse, I think it would be perfect.”

 

Buddies. Miranda doesn’t know any of Michael’s friends anymore. In college they hung around the same group of people, now everything is different. Although, she does see where he’s coming from. That old farm isn’t going to be anything besides another expense to her. She nodded, “I think that’s a good idea.”

 

Michael looked over at her, shocked that she responded so well to the proposition, “Great.” The words didn’t sound real coming out of his mouth. “Thank you.” He proceeded to get up and wrap his arms around her. “You’ll get a nice sum of money from this, I hope you know.” He planted a sloppy kiss on her forehead. Nothing turns him on more than talking about money now-a-days.

 

That pleased her to hear, though. Unlike Michael, Miranda still only held an entry level position at JoJa so some extra cash will be nice to have. It’s not like she is really connected to that old farm anyway. He ruffled the curly brown hair on her head, “I want to get this process moving then, before the winter is over.”

 

Miranda hummed, “What do you need me to do then?”

 

“Well,” he started, now turning her around to face him, “I’ll need you to head there this week. You’ll be in charge of cleaning up the place a bit, and then in a week or two I’ll bring my buddy out there to take a look.”

 

Miranda looked at him, completely shocked by it all, “I can’t just pick up an leave work, Mike.”

 

Before she could put together another sentence, he raised her hand to silence her, “Your boss and I have been in communication about this already. He already said you can take all of the time you need, may even give you a promotion because of your generosity.” He winked at her and it made her uneasy.

 

Miranda just looked at him blankly. Apparently, she was the last person to know about this trade deal. This frustrated her slightly, but this is who her fiancé was. She was very happy for him, but sometimes he needed to act empathetically. Once again, Miranda wasn’t able to even get a word in. Michael was on the phone already talking about his latest real-estate conquest.

 

Miranda walked back over to the chaise by her window and took a seat. She watched the lights again, thinking about all of the things that led her to this moment. She would be in denial if she said that there wasn’t a small part of her that felt guilty. She wasn’t super close with her grandfather, but she knew that farm meant the world to him. But why in the world would he leave it to her?

 

Mike finished up on the phone and made his way back over to Miranda. He took a seat down by her feet, and she looked at him with a forced smile. “Okay, Miranda. I am going to need you to pack up. I’ll drop you off at the farm tomorrow morning and you’ll start getting things ready. I know this is moving fast, but know that I appreciate your understanding nature.”

 

Miranda didn’t really want to respond to his business deal demeanor, so she just reached down and took another sip of her tea that was now lukewarm. The sensation of the liquid made her shudder slightly.

 

She watched as Mike got up and grabbed his bags, “I’ll see you tomorrow bright and early! Get some sleep now. Love you.”

 

“Love you.” She muttered back at him, but he was already on his way out the door on another phone call. A heavy sigh escaped Miranda’s chest. She never expected the evening to be such a roller coaster. With another glance out toward the city, she got up and prepared herself for bed. When she laid down on her bed, nausea set in pretty fast. She curled up into a fetal position, and hugged herself to sleep.

 

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Miranda sat in the passenger seat of Michael’s black BMW, glancing down at the rock on her left hand. She never really liked diamonds, but Michael didn’t seem to remember that. She recalled a conversation of them eating pizza at a local joint by ZuZu University. She specifically told him that she wanted a simple wedding band. At that time he thought her idea was simple, yet beautiful.

 

Michael broke her train of thought, “What’s on your mind?”

 

Miranda looked over at him and just smiled, “Just making a to-do list in my head.”

 

“You haven’t even seen the place yet.” Mike chuckled, but it was laced with snark.

 

Miranda shrugged and said flatly, “Don’t ask what’s on my mind then.”

 

Michael didn’t respond, or even hear her. He was fiddling with the controls on his dashboard trying to accept a call.

 

“Mike!” The voice rang on the other side of the bluetooth.

 

“Vince! How are ya?!” He replied with more enthusiasm than Miranda has seen from him in months.

 

“Great! How are things on the farm?”

 

Mike ran a hand through his hair, “On our way there right now! Miranda will have it fixed up in no time to show it off!” Mike looked over at her and mouthed for her to agree with his statement.

 

“That’s right, Vince!” She said in the most obnoxiously fake voice she could muster up. She hated her self for how much she succeeded.

 

Vince boomed back, “That’s my girl!” The words causes a shiver to overtake Miranda’s body. That’s my girl. Gross.

 

Mike and Vince finished up their conversation as she gazed out of the window, trying to flush out their noise. Eventually they passed a sign that read “Welcome to the Valley” and she knew they were close. She hasn’t been in Pelican Town for years, but if her memories from her childhood served her right, they were only about twenty minutes away. With that, she breathed a huge sigh of relief.

 

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It had been several hours since Mike had dropped her off. She hadn’t accomplished anything besides watching a Lifetime movie about a husband who was trying to kill his wife. She was about to start another movie, but there was an abrupt disturbance in her solitude. Miranda got up off of the dusty, old couch and made her way over to the farmhouse door. When she opened it, there was a resplendent woman on the other side. She had long, vibrant hair that was messily pulled back into a clip. Her wardrobe consisted of very earthy tones, and her face was peppered with feint freckles.

 

“Hey there neighbor!” Her high pitched voice rang out as she pushed her way into the building. “I just wanted to drop by and say welcome!”

 

There it was, guilt. “Oh, hi, um, I think you have the wro-” Miranda started, but the woman was busy looking around.

 

“I’ll help you clean this place up in no time!” The woman looked over at her with a brightness in her eyes that lit up Miranda’s soul. There was no point breaking this woman’s heart right now, there will be time for that later. Plus, she could really use the help around here anyway. “But for right now, you should join me for a drink at the local Saloon.”

 

Miranda was hesitant to accept her offer. There was really no point in going to the Saloon to get introduced to a bunch of people that she was only going to abandon in a week or so anyway. “I don’t know? I’m kind of tired and I didn’t even catch your name.”

 

“Oh my gosh, of course! I’m so sorry, my name is Robin. I am the local carpenter here. I was very close to your grandfather. I was wondering when you were going to make an appearance. He had always talked about you, you know!” She walked over to Miranda and pulled her in for a warm, tight hug. “But I won’t accept no for an answer, you must come with me tonight. It’ll be great to meet some of the people in town!”

 

Miranda didn’t really have a choice at this point. Robin was practically dragging her out of the house. Miranda looked down at her outfit and was slightly horrified. She was dressed in sweatpants and an old college t-shirt. She reached up to feel what kind of condition her hair was in, and was relieved to feel that it seemed to be in good shape. “ Robin I am not dressed to go out.”

 

“Nonsense! You are beautiful, and you aren’t in the city anymore. If anything you are overdressed for the Stardrop Saloon.” Her pull on Miranda intensified. Thankfully Robin was merciful and allowed her to put on your winter coat and an old pair of warm boots. She is certain she looks like a bum.

 

Robin pulled her outside and Miranda was horrified when Robin pulls out a key and locks the door for them. Miranda looks at her, wide-eyed. Robin let out a hearty laugh, “I did mention that I was close to your grandfather, right?”

 

Miranda mindlessly nodded, but was still absolutely mortified. How many keys did my grandfather give out? She thought to herself. Robin guided Miranda towards a dirt path, and the two walked together in silence for a bit.

 

“So what made you come out to the Valley, city girl?” Robin asked, thick with sarcasm.

 

Miranda shrugged, not ready to dive into that story yet. Plus, Robin could easily over power her and dump her dead body in the woods. Or even worse, open the door to her grandfather’s farmhouse when she was sleeping and murder her. Miranda just replied, “Just thought I would visit.”

 

Robin put her hands in her pocket, “So this isn’t permanent I take it?”

 

Miranda shook her head with a sigh, “No, it’s not.”

 

“Pity, I think you would fit into town here nicely.” Robin looked at Miranda from the corner of her eyes with a grin. Miranda looked over at Robin and just chuckled, “Thanks.” She didn’t want to like this woman, but she couldn’t help but find herself feeling comfortable on their walk. This was just going to make everything harder in the end.

 

Finally they reached town, and Miranda froze at the entrance of town. Pelican Town was so... beautiful. The cobblestone paths were lightly dusted with snow, and it looked as if the town had just started to decorate for the Feast of the Winter Star. Bright, multi-colored lights hung from the buildings and the lampposts. The scene was straight out of a Hallmark movie her mother always made her watch. She didn’t think places like this actually existed.

 

Robin snapped her out of her trance, rocking back and forth on her heels, “Beautiful isn’t it?”

 

All Miranda could do was nod in agreement. It truly was quaint, it was like nothing she had ever seen before.

 

Robin laughed, “Come on, the Saloon is right over there.”

 

Robin escorted Miranda the short distance, and held the door open for her when they reached the Saloon. When she entered the Saloon, she stomped her feet to get rid of the snow on her shoes. Robin called out from behind her, “Hey, Gus! Look who is here!”

 

Miranda felt her cheeks flush slightly, attention was not something she wanted during her stay here. Miranda waved at the bartender and he waved back, slightly confused. Robin shouted back at him, “It’s farmer George’s granddaughter!”

 

Gus’ eyes lit up at that response, “Oh! Miranda! Please come in, your grandfather always talked about you!” Miranda felt slightly ashamed by his words, she never talked about her grandfather. In fact, the only time that Michael ever heard her mention her grandfather was when he passed away.

 

Robin walked across the Saloon towards a handsome man in a blue polo, and promised to meet up with her in a bit. Miranda smiled and walked up to the bar to take a seat, anxiety flowing through her veins, “Nice to meet you.”

 

“Anything you want tonight is on the house, okay?” Gus said. The portly man had the most gentle look on his face, it made Miranda queasy. Maybe the townspeople wouldn’t be upset she was selling her grandfather’s farm to JoJa? Who knows?

 

“I couldn’t possibly-” Miranda started. She really didn’t want to accept kindness from these strangers.

 

“I will not be accepting your money, and that is final.” Gus forcefully placed his hand on the bar, “So what can I get for you?”

 

Miranda was hesitant again. These people were wholesome, and she wasn’t supposed to be enjoying her time with them. She was supposed to be cleaning up the property. “I’ll have a jack and coke, if that’s okay?”

 

Gus smiled, “Coming right up.”

 

Miranda looked around the Saloon. There was a man standing by the fireplace, clinging to his pint for dear life. When he noticed her staring, he shot her a glare and she immediately looked away. She thought she was going crazy, but she swears she heard him growl at her. There was also another woman on the opposite side of the bar who already had her head down in a drunkin’ stupor. Interesting.

 

The door opened behind her and a rush of cold, winter air followed. Miranda cozied into her coat at the sensation. She felt a presence next to her, and when she looked over there was a man making himself comfortable on a stool several spots away from her. He was dressed in a green jacket, and his hair looked thick and curly. When he looked over at her, she saw that his nose was pink from the cold air. He shot her a smile under his neatly groomed mustache, and she returned the favor half-heartedly. Usually she hated me with facial hair like his, but he pulled it off incredibly.

 

“Doctor Harvey! So happy you could join us this evening. Your usual?” Gus interjected into your staring.

 

The man nodded his head, and pulled out a small book from his jacket pocket. Who reads at the bar? Miranda turned back around as Gus was just finishing up her drink. “There you are.” He slid the glass over to her on a small black napkin.

 

Miranda looked up at Gus, “Thanks.”

 

Gus turned to the doctor, “Doctor, have you met the town’s newest member?”

 

You start, immediately feeling the need to correct him, “Oh no, you see, I’m no-”

 

She stopped when the doctor looked at her. His eyes were wild, bright. She found herself lost for a second, until he said, “It’s a pleasure to meet you, I’m Harvey, the town’s doctor.”

 

His hand was extended for a shake. Miranda took his cold hand in hers and gave it a firm squeeze, introducing herself, “Likewise, I’m Miranda.”

 

Harvey turned back to his book, but something within her wasn’t satisfied with their interaction. She blurted out, “Do you always read at bars?” Smooth.

 

Harvey chuckled as she folded the corner of the page to save his spot, “As a matter of fact, yes. Is there a problem?”

 

Miranda bit the side of her cheek. She didn’t mean to come off rude, but she can understand how Harvey could have interpreted it as such. “I’m sorry, I am not really good at small talk.”

 

Harvey smiled softly at her, “I’m not either, I understand.”

 

Both of them were facing one another, but neither said anything. Harvey avoided eye contact and  Miranda pretended that she was looking around the Saloon. When she went to go say something, so did Harvey. They laughed at the awkwardness of their actions. Harvey gestured at her to proceed with whatever she had to say, so she did, “What are you reading?”

 

Harvey picked up the book and showed her, “Just some historical interpretations regarding the witch trials in Europe. Nothing interesting.”

 

Miranda took another sip of her drink, “Sounds interesting.”

 

Harvey shook his head as Gus slid his drink over to him. The doctor took a moment to nod at the bartender, and then looked back at her, “No really. I know this stuff isn’t everyones cup of tea. You don’t have to pretend to be interested.”

 

Miranda looked at him with her eyes squinted, “Try me.”

 

“You can’t be serious.” Harvey’s face was in total shock.

 

Miranda raised her drink to him and finished it off, “Please.”

 

Harvey looked away for a moment and had a studious look on his face. Miranda could tell that he probably never had people asking about these sorts of things. She gave him all the time he needed to gather his thoughts. Finally, he started, “Well there is one historian by the name of Zika who believes that the witch trials were perpetuated by the churches desire to prove the existence of Yoba. If they could prove that there were evil supernatural forces at work in witches, then there must also be good supernatural forces as well.”

 

“Interesting.” Miranda thought for a minute, “Have you ever heard of the historian Sally Scully?”

 

Harvey shook his head.

 

“Her interpretation claims that witchcraft was a way for women to exert their power in a male dominated world. That they were protectors of folk religions that were banished by the religion of the majority.” She stopped Gus as he was walking by to get her another beverage, and then continued, “I prefer that interpretation.”

 

Harvey looked at her with a flabbergasted expression. When she noticed, she couldn’t stop herself from giggling, “What?”

 

Harvey cleared his throat and loosened his tie, “I’ve just don’t have anyone here in town who usually entertains my nonsense.”

 

“It’s not nonsense. You like what you like, fuck anyone who say differently. But sadly, I’m not staying in town.”

 

Harvey cocked his head at her, looking slightly sheepish in his confusion.

 

“Between you and I, I’m actually thinking about selling the old farm.”

 

Miranda swirled the small straw that was in her drink, actively avoiding eye contact with Harvey.  She could feel his gaze intensify.

 

“Why? To who?” Harvey’s voice was incredibly upset.

 

“My... friend has a friend who is interested in buying it. He’s from JoJa.” She’s surprised she spilled the beans so freely, but she’s even more shocked that she lied about her fiancé. What motivated her to do that?

“You can’t!” Harvey exclaimed incredibly loud. Several people in the Saloon looked over at them. Miranda urged Harvey to calm down.

 

In a hushed tone, she replied, “Please, I’m in a hard spot right now. It would help me a lot.”

 

“It wouldn’t help us!” Harvey looked as if he were furious with her.

 

“It could though! It would provide jobs and bring in tourists.”

 

Harvey ran his hands through his hair violently, “No, Pierre will go out of business and our environment will be destroyed.”

 

“Pierre?” Miranda had no idea what he was talking about.

 

“If you need money so badly why don’t you just build the farm back up. I wasn’t here when it was up and running, I’m fairly new here, but everyone talks about how great it was.”

 

Before she could think she said, “I can’t my.... friend would never move here, he’s the one who wants to sell it.”

 

Damn alcohol. “Your friend? I don’t underst-”

 

Before he could finish, Robin made her way back over to her, “You two seem to be getting along well!”

 

“Yeah.” Miranda says as she clumsily fumble with her jack and coke.

 

“Good, that’s why I volunteered for you guys to go find a tree for the town square tomorrow!” Robin looked incredibly pleased with herself, but Miranda feels like she’s about to throw up at any moment now.

 

“What?!” Harvey interjects, “Do you kno-”

 

“We would love to!” Miranda stands up abruptly and shouts to the entire Saloon. “You can count on us, right Doc?”

 

Harvey looks like he is about to explode, but he quickly composes himself to reply, “Y-yes. You can count on us.”