Vonda tried to ignore the calling as she walked in Greenwich Village. The vendors set things out to temp her, wares on dirty blankets on the street. DVDs, books arranged in neat stacks, empty perfume bottles, knock-off Hermes bags. I don't need any of this shit, she reminded herself. Her room in a Queens townhouse was overflowing as it was with knickknacks. She had enough earrings to open a shop herself.
She quieted the urge with the mantras Seline, her counselor, had given her. I am strong and whole, she though to herself, swimming through crowds of hipsters in colorful t-shirts and gay boys in tighter versions of the same t-shirts. She had a new job (a crappy one) at a clothing store for a month; her record was going to be expunged. No way was she gonna fuck it up. But the calling was persistent. The calling was like an tickling behind the eyes, a feather-touched shiver. It quarreled in her ear, mocking and singeing, just below comprehension.
I am strong and whole, strong and whole, strongandwhole. If she could just get home, call Seline . . .
It sparked on the ground. The necklace. Vonda had never seen its like before. A variety of weird things hung between blue gem stone markers. Dice, a baby's tooth, the nib of a pen. She had to have it. The tickling behind her eyes became unbearable, as if a murder of crows were behind the mask of her face. Vonda stepped into alley that stank of old cabbage and cat piss, to get a good look at the vendor. Even though it was relatively warm outside, as it was mid October, the vendor was so muffled up in scarves, fingerless gloves and woolen cap that it was impossible to tell the even the gender. But after a moment where the squatting vendor was illuminated by streetlight, Vonda surmised that she was an Asian woman in overalls. The rest of her wares were interesting, mish-mash hodge-podge necklaces made of wire and trash. But the blue oneï¿½Vonda could taste it, feel it in her hands, against her neck. She hadn't felt like this in months. She stopped the useless tattoo of Seline's mantra. She would steal this one, she knew it in her bones and blood. Having it would make her feel strong and whole.
The vendor walked away, not visible from the slice of sight that Vonda was granted. Perhaps there was another customer. Vonda took the chance and stepped out from the stinking alley. Into the whir of foot and street traffic. She didn't see the vendor. She did, however, see a woman standing on the blanket. Like the vendor, the woman was ridiculously overdressed. She wore a coat of napped black wool that looked feathers. It was a very couture garment. Her hat was of the same stuff, except ï¿½ when she turned ï¿½ Vonda realized that it was her hair, not a knitted cap. The woman turned.
She was nude beneath her robe. Her body, even her hair, had a single stripe of white that went down her body, right down the middle. It was a lightning strike, frozen, against her dark, moist body. The black and white woman smiled. She held the beautiful necklace in her hand, offering it to Vonda.
Here. Take it.
The world was frozen, in stasis, except for the two of them. Vonda only had to make her choice and the start the world again.
When she accepted the blue necklace from the strange woman, the honks and beeps and cell phone conversations of Greenwich Village on a Saturday night started up again. Vonda stuffed the stolen treasure into her jacket pocket. She swore she heard the flutter of wings above her. Looking up, she could see nothing.
About the author
Craig Laurance Gidney has had fiction published or forthcoming in the following venues: Spoonfed, Say-Have You Heard This One?, Ashe, and the anthologies Magic in the Mirrorstone and So Fey. He lives in his native Washington, D.C., where he gawks at visting world leaders. He also maintains a blog at ethereal-lad.livejournal.com, where alter-ego Ethereal Lad reviews off-the-beaten-path books and music.