On the Fulfilment of Dreams
"Dear stranger, the card I hold in my hand is death."
Dandelion gazed solemnly over her cards, swathed in a mystical aura. Her customer, smartly dressed in a suit and bowler hat, looked rather shocked.
In her slender but grubby fingers, Dandelion plucked another card from the table behind which she sat. Raising it to her eyes, she hesitated. The man's eyebrows rose in restrained impatience and anxiety.
"Um-" mumbled Dandelion, looking at the card.
"Out with it, girl!" exclaimed the man, out of fear and exasperation.
"Well," begun Dandelion awkwardly, "you're going to die, but- you're going to find the experience very satisfying. And- uh-" she reached for the next card, "you'll fulfil a childhood dream." She smiled at him sheepishly. He stared back.
"How am I supposed to fulfil a dream when I'm dead?" he bellowed, erupting out of his seat. Dandelion continued to sit calmly, ignoring the hurricane of spit blowing in her face.
"Stranger, this is what the cards have foretold," she said mysteriously.
"That I'll find my own death somehow satisfying? Do you think I'm some kind of masochist?"
"Well, sir- I couldn't possibly comment-"
When long arms lunged for her, Dandelion took that as her cue to leave. She leapt from her seat, bounded over an upturned chair, only just remembering to grab her broom from where it rested against the makeshift table. Bouncing up onto an old cinder block, she launched herself into the air.
"I want my money back, you stupid little witch-"
"Thank you for your patronage," chirped Dandelion, halting in her escape to turn and face him in the air. "Dandelion's fortune telling service will be available every quarter-day- excluding carnivals and bank holidays- in the Market Square. Provided you're still alive, that is. If not, we wish you a very satisfying death."
An apple spun towards her head, a poor aim, and she caught it in her hands.
The man cursing and blinding on the ground, she swerved away out of his reach as a brick hurtled at her. She rose high up into the sky, taking a complacent bite of the apple. The town stretched below her, the narrow streets winding like a maze. The noise was incredible; horse-sellers crying out their prices, tradesmen and con-men advertising their wares, children crying and laughing. Everywhere she looked, people were milling around like ants.
And then one ant yelled at her, "Hey, witch! You there, on the broom!"
She looked down condescendingly to spy a young street urchin on the roof of the steam-heated communal baths. She floated down cautiously, throwing the now-apple core over her shoulder, and saw he was laughing- at her, she presumed.
"What's so funny?" she asked indignantly.
He rubbed at his eyes which were wet from hilarity.
"I en't laughing at you. I was jus' impressed with what you did!"
Dandelion's anger dissipated; showing off was her speciality. She floated down lower.
"That's nothing-" she bragged. "I threw eggs at the Commissionaire once- and he didn't think to look up, so he never figured I done it."
He stared at her admiringly, making her grow even more boastful.
"And another time I killed half a dozen pigeons and strung them outside the lady mayor's window, all dripping with blood and guts. I heard she fainted when she opened her curtains in the morn!" Dandelion paused. "I think she threw up too," she added, for good measure.
The urchin eyed her broom with a kind of longing. "Must be so nice to fly. Kinda makes me wish I were a witch."
This was too much; Dandelion burst out laughing.
"But you're a boy," she said, stating out the obvious. The urchin blushed bright red, embarrassment making him resentful.
"I'm only kidding," he scoffed, turning his head away. "Why would I want to be a witch? Nobody likes them."
Dandelion pursed her lips angrily.
"Well---nobody asked you," she said, rising again.
"Wait! I didn't mean it!" he boy exclaimed quickly, panic in his eyes. "Please stay."
Dandelion turned back to look at him, her head held high. "What do you want now?" she asked coldly.
The urchin blurted out the first thing that came into his head.
"I want to know how to fly!"
Dandelion stared at the boy as though she'd never seen such a creature before.
"Please. My name is Christopher. What's yours?"
Only a few minutes later, Dandelion and Christopher were sat amiably side by side, their differences reconciled.
"You know…" Dandelion said softly, "I've never met someone who wanted to be a witch- we're not exactly liked, you know. The only witches round here are me, Mama and my sister- and she can't even fly yet. But the temple still wants us gone."
"Well-" said Christopher, "I think it's unfair. Whatever they say, you don't seem evil to me. Plus, you can fly. Now that's just cool."
"Cool, huh?" Dandelion said, her eyes dancing with delight. "That's a new one too."
"Couldn't you go somewhere else, somewhere without the Priestesses and the clergy? Not that… I want you to go- anything like that." His eyes flicked up to her face and he blushed again, lowering his cap over his eyes. Dandelion did not notice. She was the sort of girl who was sharp-eyed and observant- when she was paying attention, that is. And very little attracted Dandelion's attention, especially when it was related to boys.
"The temple is everywhere," she said sadly. "You can't get away from it---- though; I would like to live by the sea one day." She perked up a little at this. "It's so beautiful there. The cliffs are so high, and when there's a storm the waves hit the rocks and it sounds just like thunder. And the ocean is such a lovely green."
The admiration in Christopher's eyes increased two-fold.
"You've seen the ocean?" he breathed.
"I've flown there once. It took hours and hours."
Christopher sighed and laid back, his elbows behind his head. "Must be nice," he murmured. "To fly wherever you want… to be free…"
Dandelion picked her nose. "Yeah, it's pretty nice."
Christopher sat up suddenly, instantly animated.
"Hey, could you give me a ride? Just for a few minutes? Please?" He pointed excitedly to her broom where it lay on the tiles. She eyed him critically.
"Too heavy," she said, and he wilted. In fact, Christopher was a scrawny boy who looked as though he barely got enough to eat, and she could have easily lifted them both- but, Dandelion didn't give rides to just anybody.
"Oh, well… never mind then," he said sadly, as the afternoon bell tolled, beating out three deep booming chords. Dandelion stood, Christopher jumping up after her.
"I have to go," she said. Bizarrely, Christopher shook her hand.
"I hope you'll get to live by the ocean one day," he said.
"And I hope that…" Dandelion paused, realising suddenly she knew nothing about Christopher. "That you… uhm… fulfil all your dreams," she finished lamely. He wrung her hand once again, and she launched from the roof, a dark dot disappearing into the clouds.
Christopher settled back down, his head in his hands as he watched her, thinking of all the dreams that one day might come to pass.