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Oct 29, 2020 6:14 PM
Turquoises in the woods.
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Tick, tick, tick, tick.

 

There’s a little house, in the woods; a teenage girl, no older than fifteen, is standing next to it, with her mother and her cow. Her mother is older than she seems, but not wiser; the teenage girl is precisely the age she appears, and wiser than most; her cow, though in possession of hooves and a tail and cow-ears and an udder, appears mostly human.

They don’t look much alike, those three, and the trees around them bear little resemblance to the rest of the forest - they seem to be in a more autumnal mood. Dried leaves crunch underneath their feet (and hooves, in one case); red leaves splatter trees like blood on wooden knives; golden leaves sparkle like false promises and hollow dreams.

“I’d be more willing to listen to your ridiculously unworkable plan if you’d stop misgendering Milky White,” says the teenage girl.

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“Moo.”

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“She isn’t a bull, Jackie.”

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“Is this really the hill you intend to die on?”

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“Fine. You’re going to meet up with one of my agents; that agent, who’s a double-agent with one of our competitors, is going to take him and go back to that competitor’s headquarters. Milky White spies on them, has a nonfunctional fit, and the double agent sells him back to us.”

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“You know what they do to cows in organized crime rings.”

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“Moo!”

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“You’re going to ‘sell’ Milky White to my double agent, or I’m going to sell him at the animal market tomorrow.”

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“No, you aren’t.”

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“Jackie, don’t be a fool.”

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“I’m leaving with Milky White, and you can’t, actually, stop me.”

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“I poisoned your wine, with breakfast.”

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“No, you didn’t.”

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“I do it regularly. You’ll need the antidote in three days time, unless you want to start crying blood. If you don’t do as I say, you’re going to die, painfully, and I’ll recapture Milky White for my own purposes anyways.”

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“That’s the most conspicuous and desperate bluff that I’ve ever heard.”

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“I’m also planning on making you my successor, in six months time, and I’m going to have trouble doing that if you run off because of squeamishness.”

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“Bullshit.”

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Her mother takes a deep breath, and closes her eyes: her arms widen in a broad gesture, and her eyes open.

The wine starts picking up.

”I swear, on my mother, and my mother’s mother, and my mother’s mother’s mother -“ the wind hisses, sprays, the trees bend and dance, dried leaves pick themselves up and writhe like venomous snakes - “that I poisoned your drink this morning, and will give you the antidote if you obey me. I swear, on my mother, and my mother’s mother -“ a faint scream, off in the distance, something agonized and pained - “that you are my child, and that, as my child, you will inherit my business, upon my death, if you obey me for the next six months. I swear, on my mother - “ a crack of thunder, dramatic and booming and powerful, off in the distance, although there’s hardly a cloud in the sky - “that I will not give you the antidote by force or coercion, but only by my own will. Thus it is.”

The wind dies down, and the autumnal leaves sink to the ground. A tree falls, in the distance, having been struck by lightning.

She coughs, and spits out a glob of blood. It makes a wet sound as it lands on a patch of grass.

She lowers her hands, and raises an eyebrow.

A bird chirps.

The world is silent.

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“Probably not bullshit.”

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“Moo.”

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“Milky White, you are under absolutely no obligation to -“

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“Moo.”

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“Fair.”

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“Is it a deal, then, daughter? Your life, and control of one of the most prominent criminal operations in the kingdom, in return for one little task and a little risk to a cow?”

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“Fuck you. Yes.”

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