Note: To read The Wishing Map from the beginning, click here.
The Wishing Map
Chapter Twenty: Tea for One (Continued)
Previously: Zack was unconsolable after his storytelling “game” caused suffering and death among the childlike naims.
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Dust from the wheel-scarred road coated their shoes, their lungs, their hopes. Gina’s exhilaration over her brilliant rescue had faded; now all she felt was dread. She looked at her brother, shuffling on, bearing a burden she couldn’t imagine. She thought of the impossible task that had sent them here, and resented everyone who’d played a role in it, Aloysia, the Prophets, Uol. We can’t do this! If this is our destiny—we don’t want it!
And then she saw it. A huge rainbowwood tree lay fallen across the road. The path led directly under it, or rather into it, for right where it intersected with the tree, there was a door. There were windows on either side too, with curtains of living fern. About fifteen feet above was a chimney made from a broken limb. Smoke was curling out it. Soul-warming smoke.
Gina’s first thought was to dash to the door and beg to be let in. It was, after all, the season of Wisdom, when you can see your breath and feel the chill air sinking into your skin. Her second thought, however, was, “Hansel and Gretel!”
“What?” Zack said listlessly.
“What if it’s a trap? What if there’s some bizarre old lady in there who eats children!”
Ignoring her, Zack walked up to the door and knocked. The minute he did, it swung open and he stepped inside.
“No!” Gina gasped.
He wasn’t sure why he went in. The inside of the cottage consisted of a single room with myriad nooks and shelves carved into the walls; it reminded him of Uncle Robert and Aunt Zuzu’s Winnebago, except that everything was completely natural, almost as if it had grown there. There was a blazing fire in a hollowed-out spot, and over it a fire-blackened kettle. His lethargy lessened merely by being inside the cheery little house, Zack called, “Hello? Is any…”
The moment he spoke, a plump kind-faced woman appeared. She must have been there all along. Only I couldn’t see her…until I wanted to. This wouldn’t have made sense out loud, but it made perfect sense inside his head. The other thing he knew—though he didn’t know how he knew—was that the woman was Rhema.
She was at least as short as he was, well under five feet, with graying hair pulled back in a pretzel twist and held in place by a fresh sprig of bluebells. Her dress was woven from cobwebs, and ornamented with dew drops and red berries. There was no reason why the cobwebs shouldn’t fall apart and the dew drops dissolve—they just didn’t.
“Stop gawking and sit, Zack,” she said as if she’d known him forever.
Thoughts: Have you ever met an “angel unawares,” a stranger who changed your life?
To read The Wishing Map 97, click here!