Debriefing

NOTE: This is part of the new novel I am writing. I am posting it here as a diversion for readers who may be living under shelter-in-place policies while the world waits for the coronavirus pandemic to pass. For an explanation of this project, please click here. To read the chapters I’ve posted in order, click here.

Debriefing
Tumbleweed Motel ~ Coldwater, N.M.

The front door chimed. Morgan glanced up from her spot on the couch, where she was taking inventory of the souvenir T-shirts that had come in from the printer in Amarillo earlier in the afternoon. Seeing that it was Dr. Kavanaugh and not a guest trying to check in, she signaled for her to wait while she finished counting. 

“… Thirty-five, forty, forty-five, fifty — all there, Mom,” she called toward the kitchen.

“Thank you, Sweetie. Let’s put three of each size on that shelf next to the front door and stack the rest behind the counter to keep on reserve,” her mother called back.

Dr. Kavanaugh gave her a wry smile. “You really are fae through and through,” she said. 

“So I’m told,” Morgan said. She shifted over to make room for Dr. Kavanaugh on the couch. The large black bird on her shoulder fluffed out its hackles and scolded her softly. “Oh, hush, you,” Morgan retorted. “Nobody said you had to be up in my business all the time.” She looked up at Dr. Kavanaugh. “Because of Lenore?” she asked.

Dr. Kavanaugh shook her head. “Because you count by fives.”

“Oh — yeah. Mom says I’ve been doing that since I was old enough to talk. I never thought much about it. Is it a fae thing?”

“It is. I do the same thing. All of us do. Supposedly the number system in the Otherworld is base five instead of base ten.”

“Supposedly?”

Dr. Kavanaugh shrugged. “So the stories say, but I wouldn’t know. I don’t go to the Otherworld to balance my bank statement.”

Morgan chuckled. “Fair enough.” 

“Lenore, eh?”

“Like the girl from the poem,” Morgan said. 

“Of course. Hello, Lenore.” Dr. Kavanaugh sat down next to Morgan on the couch. The raven fluffed again and glared at her. “So this is the raven you were trying to rescue when you summoned the ceo druidechta to chase off the eighth-graders?”

Morgan bit the inside of her cheek. “Sorry about that,” she said. “That’s never happened before, but he was bigger than me and trying to kill Lenore, so I just went with it.”

“You’re not going to get a lecture from me, Battle Queen.”

“Stop calling me that.”

“Stop trying to hide from who you are, and I’ll stop reminding you.”

Morgan frowned. “Whatever. I hope you didn’t come over just to ride my butt about who you think I am.”

“No. I came over to find out what really happened.”

“What did those idiots tell you?”

“One of them was too embarrassed to tell me anything. He just came in and asked if I could let him into the locker room so he could change into his gym clothes.”

Morgan threw her head back and laughed, startling Lenore. The raven scolded her again and hopped off her shoulder and onto the back of the couch.

Sierra walked in just then. “Morgan, I know you love her, but if that bird craps all over my couch, you are in big trouble. Oh, hello, Holly.”

“She’s not going to crap all over your couch,” Morgan assured her mother. “She’s just taking a break from my shoulder because I was moving around too much.” She stood up and started rearranging souvenirs to make room for the T-shirts.  

“Tell Holly what happened yesterday when you found her.”

“That’s what I was just about to do,” Morgan said. “So the one kid went to change his britches. What did the other ones say?”

Dr. Kavanaugh leaned back, careful not to bump into Lenore. “They told me a wild story about you shoving them out of the way and yelling at their friend until he got in your face. They thought he was going to hit you, and they took off, because they didn’t want to get suspended for beating up a little kid. They said when they looked back, their friend was screaming for help, but they couldn’t see him — or you — because you were both surrounded by a big, black cloud. They didn’t wait around to see what happened next.”

“That’s about what happened,” Morgan said. “It was super weird, though. Everything started going dark around the edges, like I was seeing it through one of those filters you put on photos to post online. I thought I was about to pass out. I didn’t realize he could see the darkness — or couldn’t see it, I guess — until he started flailing around and screaming that I was blinding him.” Morgan bit at a hangnail. “I started thinking about my bees, and the cloud started moving like a swarm. I pictured it actually turning into a swarm and landing on my hand, and when it did, I threw it at him, and it disappeared.” 

“I think that would be weird if you were ordinary,” Dr. Kavanaugh said. “Given what we know about you, I think it would be weirder if it didn’t happen. You’ve always been able to summon fog, either to create confusion on a battlefield, or to give your enemies the slip. When you use it to escape from a crowd, it’s called ceo druidechta — the fog of druidry.”

“I’m not a druid,” Morgan said.

“No. You’re what the druids worshipped.”

Morgan sighed. “You’re really just bound and determined to make me this war goddess.”

“I’m bound and determined to help you remember who you are. The world needs your power.”

Morgan looked at her finger, mentally debating whether it was worth the trouble of interrupting the conversation and disturbing Lenore just to go get the nail clippers out of the bathroom. She decided it wasn’t, wiped her hand on her pantleg, and started stacking T-shirts on the shelf.

“Morgan?”

She looked back at Dr. Kavanaugh. “What?”

“Ignoring me won’t make this go away.”

“I wish it would.”

“I know.”

They were quiet for several seconds. Morgan finished stocking the shelf and began packing the extra shirts back into the box.  

“I don’t know how I got rid of it.”

“Got rid of what? Your gift? You can’t.”

“No. Not my gift. The fog. I had it in my hand in a ball, and when I threw it at that kid, it just sort of dissipated as soon as it hit him. It was like it vanished when I didn’t need it anymore.”

“Interesting.”

“Yeah, that’s what I thought, too. And it was like those boys were taking orders from me. I called them cowards, and two of them ran off. I called the last one a coward and said he was the type to wet his pants and cry for his mama the first time anybody stood up to him, and sure as crap, as soon as I said it, he peed himself and started crying and screaming bloody murder. Then I threw the fog at him, and it disappeared, and I told him to go away and leave me alone.”

Dr. Kavanaugh rubbed the back of her neck. “Do you think it was responding to your emotions?”

Morgan cocked her head and looked out the front window. “I’m not sure,” she said. “It could have been. I was pretty mad when it appeared, and by the time it disappeared, I wasn’t really that mad.”

“I know you don’t want to hear it, but that’s a trait of the Morrígan, too.”

Morgan shook her head. “You’re right. I really, really don’t want to hear it.”

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