Jane walked quickly along the country path. The journey from the big house into the village was a short one, but still the shadows thrown up by the distant setting sun put her on edge.
The appointment to see the old woman had been made on her behalf by Mrs Covington the housekeeper, but the Old Woman had stipulated that Jane must come alone.
Some people in the village said that the Old Woman was wise beyond her years while others said she was simply mad. Everyone, however was in agreement that she was indeed a witch of some sort although none one would ever have the nerve to say it to the Old Womans face.
Jane was sure she knew better than to believe in this sort of thing and why she had agreed to the visit in the first place was frankly beyond her.
In the autumnal sky, high above her there was a noise not dissimilar to a giant bee while beyond the hedges she could hear clanging of bells and soft mooing sounds of cows being taken in for the night.
The droning noise grew in intensity and looking up through a gap in the trees, Jane could see what was making the insectoid drone and recognised it immediately as a Valkrie 350 monoplane.
The sight of such fantastic modern technology made her heart leap with joy. To see something so flimsy prove that humans we were meant to fly.
The old woman’s house was on the very outskirts of the village beyond the short rise and she had lit a welcoming lantern to help guide Jane through the evening gloom. The lamp had managed to attract a handful of moths which darted at random towards the flame saved only by the glass and brass that shielded the light.
The house was squat with smooth rendering, giving it the look not unlike a huge stone pumpkin.
There was a small garden beyond a well kept stone wall, which was filled with mismatched flowers and vegetables all working their way slowly towards a pot.
Tentatively, Jane knocked at the door of the tiny house.
Jane thought to herself that, if this were a door inside one of Mrs Covington’s penny dreadful, then she was convinced that it would have creaked open in an overly dramatic way. With a small smile Jane noted that it simply swung silently open.
Inside was the warm welcoming sight of the Old Woman, she wore a smile as wide as the sky and had eyes as mischievous as any denizen from hell.
“What can I do for you?”
“Surely you already know.” Said Jane trying to act in the most nonchalant manner she could manage.
“Oh of course I know why you are here but it’s just nice to hear it.” The Old Woman was used to people testing powers and she was confident enough to know that she could withstand any argument they chose to throw her way.
The figures stood in silence and then the Old Woman motioned for Jane to take a seat at the kitchen table.
“Shall we begin?”
“There’s no time like the present.” Said Jane with as much bravado as she could muster. Dragging the sturdy kitchen chair from its place near the door.
On the table lay a red silk cloth and upon the cloth sat a small stack of cards and a pair of fine bone china tea cups.
“Do you read tea leaves too?” enquired Jane.
“Tea is for the drinking. The cards are for the future.” Said the Old woman as she passed the cards to Jane. “Close your eyes and Give them a good shuffle my dearie.”
“Close my eyes?”
“Yes... And think about what you want from the future.”
Jane looked at the cards in her hand, They were finely printed and had a multitude of characters printed on the them. Some of the figures had swords and daggers while others were all together more mysterious.
Following the instructions, Jane turned the pack over, closed her eyes and began to shuffle.
While she suffled she felt a curious sensation. A wave of calm washed over her and she felt more alive than she had in some time.
As her hands moved and manipulated the cards, for the tiniest of moments everything had an aquamarine glow.
Then it was gone.
“What was that?” asked Jane opening her eyes.
“What was what?” replied the woman perplexed at the question.
Shaking of the strange sensation “How long do I do this?” Asked Jane slightly embarrassed.
The womans smile grew even wider as she answered. “You can stop whenever you want... Now you place the cards down.”
Silently the Old Woman pointed out areas of the cloth and slowly a pattern began to appear. All the time the Old Woman was careful never to touch the cards until Jane had finished, By the time they were done there was a cross shape at the centre and a curve around the edge with all the cards face down
“Now what?” asked Jane with new found confidence.
“Now we see what the future has in store.”
It was clear that the old fortune teller revelled in this moment. With the very tip of her finger nail she flipped the first card then another and another.
With each card turn her smile vanished until she turned the last and sat back in her char with a gasp of exasperation.
All of the cards were blank.
“Is this some sort of trick?” asked Jane.
The Old Woman looked accusingly as Jane. “I don’t understand. What did you do?”
“You asked me to close my eyes... remember.”
The Old Woman was confused and lost in thought. “Yes. Yes I did.” Her voice trailed off.
“So what does it mean?” asked Jane.
“I think it means that you have no destiny.... or maybe it means that you are in charge of it.”
“No... Not like this. Your destiny must be something... more than the cards can know... something unknown...” deflated the Old Woman sat back in her chair opposite Jane and sipped her tea.
Jane felt pocket of her jacket and for the coin she had brought to pay for services rendered, she flipped it high in the air then, in one smooth movement, caught it and pushed it across the table.
She had taken the Old Woman’s time after all, if not her knowledge.
Jane said a simple “Thank you.” As her father had always said that it costs nothing to be polite and then she headed out to the door and into the cold autumn night.
The plane was parked in the field next to the cottage and she saw no reason not to head directly towards it. After all, why bother to walk on when you can fly.
END OF CHAPTER ONE