The lady walked in. She was relatively innocent looking. She explained to me, while glancing around my shoppe nervously, that she wanted a reading to see how long her mother had left. She wasn't satisfied with the doctors' answers of six or so months; she wanted specifics. She needed specifics.
She also told me she's a vegetarian, and only wanted this for her mother, and emphasized that she had no part in killing the animal. It sounded like she was reassuring herself. I could see that she took the whole vegetarian thing lightly.
We walked out to the back to pick an animal. My shoppe is located in the country, so it was a bit of a trek to the barn. Out of the options of pigs, hens, cows, doves, and various others, the lady chose a more expensive sacrifice: a cheetah. I only had one and it was the only one I was able to afford on the black market, so you can figure she paid a pretty penny.
We led it to the back of my shoppe, where I sliced its stomach. The action illicited no emotional response, no tears, no words. She just frowned at her dress; blood had splattered onto it.
Once it was dead I tipped it over, and only then did she react. Gagged as a terrible smell permeated our noses while blood and guts spilled at our feet. Her eyes bulged and she covered her nose and mouth. I watched the blood drain from her face, leaving her a ghost.
But she watched me retrive the bones in awe. There were still no questions, even when we left the body laying outside. She just followed me back inside to the reading room. A curious puppy.
Lady promptly drank a potion I gave her to make the reading work. She told me it tastes like Kool-Aid, and I told her I get that a lot. I explained how I made it with a piece of the cheetah bone and various extracts and spices. She was hesitant after that, but drank it nevertheless.
We sat around my reading table, where she watched me place the bones in a specific pattern. I shook my head in dismay. She asked her first question. What's wrong?
I pointed to some lines in the pelvic bone, which was resting in the middle of the table, and warned her about a tragic end for her mother. Her first tear.
Her next question was rudimentary. She wanted to know how long. I pointed to another bone, one at the edge of the table, and told her the lines showed her mother would live for exactly twelve months, eight days, eleven hours, three minutes, and forty seconds. At that point she was frazzled, unsure of how to take the information. I had seen the same look plenty before.
Her last question was also simple. She wanted to know how her mother was going to pass. Motioning towards the tiniest bone of all, I described a heartbreaking scene in which the mother would fall down stairs and snap her neck. She was to be alive and writhing in pain for a full 24 hours while doctors and nurses tried to save her. Nothing to do with illness. Her hand found her mouth again and there were steady streams flowing from her eyes.
A second later though, hope noticably restored in her, I could see how her eyes gleamed with it. I gave her a sad smile and unabashedly crushed it, with the statement that there was no way around it, that it was set in stone. She started bawling.
My job wasn't just killing animals and reading their innards to strangers; I was also a counselor of sorts. I consoled those like her whose life, or family members' lives, were to end in despair.
She confided in me her emotions, even exclaiming at one point, in anger, how she didn't want to pay for the reading after such information. I hugged her and gave her a few compassionate words, and she sobbed on my expensive shoulder.
Once she paid in full, cash, even tipping me, I gave her a bone of the cheetah and led her through the front door. I squeezed her hand and warned her not to let anything happen to the bone, and that I had to bury the leftovers with the cheetah so as not to attract any bad omens. She commented that the whole thing was an omen and waved to me before driving back down the winding road.
With a sigh I went inside and tossed the bones in the garbage. In the back I shoved the dead cheetah into the fire pit and watched it burn for a while before the smell became even too strong for me to bear. Inside, I poured myself the rest of the Kool-Aid, got cozy on the couch, and recounted the lady's payment.