The Tempest is a short fiction fantasy series that follows the adventures of a young girl with a magical ability to control the sky.
Shakespeare and Company Bookstore. Wikimedia commons
Sparrow sat on the bench outside her grandmother’s house, staring out at the sea. The wheat grass in front of her was burnt to a crisp and smoking and her hands were folded up in her lap, shaking. She was able to stop the flames before they caught the rest of the hill on fire. The waves rippled in the distance to the soothing melody of the wind. Tears stained the skin red beneath her eyes. The setting sun reflected golden sparkles across the water and the wind caressed her hair.
Hazel sat beside her, looking up with concern. Every so often she’d whimper. She licked Sparrow hand, before lying down and placing her head on Sparrow’s foot. The more Sparrow considered what she saw in the glass ball, the more upset she became. She knew she’d have to tell Rougey what she saw eventually. But Rougey was older, could she handle hearing that her daughter was murdered? Sparrow couldn’t tell her. Sparrow couldn’t be the one to tell her.
Fresh tears slipped down Sparrow's cheeks and she lifted her legs, curling up into a ball. Hazel whimpered again in understanding and nudged Sparrow’s foot with her nose. Sparrow petted Hazel’s soft head and lent a weak smile to her fox. She looked out to the ocean and thought back to when an emotion this strong in her would have affected the weather, she wondered, if she was younger, what it would do now? A hurricane? She held it down in the pit of her stomach. She refused to let this power get the better of her again. Rougey would immediately know something was wrong and track her back to the house. No. Sparrow watched the sun falling into the ocean. It would disappear soon and the sky would turn hazy lavender.
She couldn’t let Rougey see her like this and Rougey would be home from the Apothecary any minute. Sparrow stood up and walked inside, through the kitchen, and up the stairs to her bedroom. As she stood in front of her mirror, she touched the golden feather necklace around her neck. Plucking the ancient photo of her and her mom off the mirror, she glanced back and forth from her reflection to the photo. She was beginning to look like her mother. She had her mom’s full heart-shaped lips and round cheeks. Sparrow heart burst as she touched her own cheek. She stared at her reflection, studied it, memories flooding her, before she narrowed her eyes and her heart went cold.
Sparrow kept checking the clock. She didn’t blink and her pulse was pounding with anticipation. The air crackled like lightning could strike any moment and the musky air threatened rain. Rougey was asleep by 9pm sharp these days, and it was 8:55pm. Sparrow just had to wait for the snoring and she could leave. She sat on her lavender bed with an open book in her lap that she had never even begun to read. She wasn’t even sure which book it was: Catcher in the Rye? Pride and Prejudice?
Amanda stood beside Sparrow's bed, she and Hazel were having a staring contest. Every so often, Amanda would stick out her tongue and Hazel would growl.
“Are you really going to do this? There has to be a better way. Can’t we just tell Rougey?” Amanda asked.
“She doesn’t need to know the truth. She's too old. She can't help us.”
“Of course you’re going.”
The more Sparrow remembered the crystal ball, the more the rage penetrated the pit of her stomach. She wanted to kick something, to break glass and scream, but she kept it locked up. She would wait, she would save it. Finally, a snore grumbled through the walls, and Sparrow shot out of bed as quick as the bird she was named for. She crept into her grandmother’s room, tip-toeing across the wooden floor, praying the floorboards wouldn’t creak. She reached into her grandmother’s purse by her bed, and ever so slowly, lifted the keys to her grandmother’s ancient green coupe. She looked down at her grandmother, Rougey’s silver-streaked red curls splayed across her pillow, a smile on her lips. Sparrow whispered, “Be safe,” and kissed Rougey’s forehead.
Sparrow closed the door to her grandmother’s room softly behind her before racing down the stairs to the garage door. She unlocked it and the creak of metal echoed up the staircase. Amanda stood behind her with Hazel as Sparrow lifted the garage door by hand instead of using the button.
“Are you sure you’re going to do this?” Amanda asked warily.
Sparrow didn’t respond, she jumped in the old green coup, left the lights off and slowly backed out of the garage. She hopped out and Hazel tried to jump in the car, but Sparrow led her back inside by the scruff and pat her on the head. “Stay. Keep Rougey safe. Good girl.”
Hazel whined in response as Sparrow closed the door in her face. Sparrow shut the garage door by hand, and got back in the car.
There’s was only one thought on her mind now as Sparrow slipped the coup into drive. “We’re going to pick up Maddie.”
“If you get caught you’ll lose your permit,” Amanda said nervously from the back seat. “You can only drive yourself."
Sparrow didn’t respond.
Amanda sighed deeply as the green coupe rumbled along the gravel road. When they reached the asphalt, Sparrow flipped the headlights, and zoomed along the windy road toward town. She made a sharp left around the hill and tumbled down to Maddie’s house. She parked on the street a block away, shut the headlights off, and hopped out again. She ran to Maddie’s window on the right side of the first floor and knocked on the glass.
Maddie opened the window and peered out, her hair askew and a mess, she had only one eye open and was wearing oversized pajamas. “What time is it? What’s going on?”
“Get dressed, we’re driving to San Francisco.”
“What? Sparrow it’s . . . ” Maddie turned to check the red LED’s of her alarm clock. “It’s 9:10pm?”
“I know, get dressed. The car is around the corner. I’m leaving in ten minutes with or without you.”
Maddie nodded, her brow wrinkled with curiosity now, she shut the window and stumbled around her bedroom in the dark. Sparrow rushed back to the car and waited with the headlamps off. Maddie came outside wearing a dark blue hoodie and jeans,and fell into the passenger seat.
“I’m guessing Rougey doesn’t know you took the car,” Maddie said, buckling her seatbelt.
“And she doesn’t need to.” Sparrow made a U-turn and sped down the winding forest roads. In an hour they’d reach the freeway and then just four hours until San Francisco.
“What’s this all about?” Maddie asked, turning on the radio to a familiar Katy Perry song.
“The enchantress and my father are in a book store in San Francisco.”
“That’s amazing!” Maddie’s face lit up before she saw the steely determination carved into Sparrow’s face. “What . . . What’s wrong?”
Sparrow swallowed hard. “They killed my mother.”
“What?!” Maddie turned around to see Amanda nod and confirm Sparrow’s story. “So what are we supposed to do? Where’s Rougey?”
“This isn’t Rougey’s problem. This is mine. I’ve gotten Rougey into enough trouble.”
“But Sparrow, you’re not very strong as a Tempest, you could get hurt! We -” Maddie thumbed back at Amanda before correcting herself. “I could get hurt!”
Sparrow slammed on the brakes and the car screeched to halt. Sparrow was calm like the sea before a storm. “If you don’t want to come, get out now.”
Maddie looked scared and sat back in her seat cautiously. “Which book store?”
Sparrow drove towards the City by the Bay feeling the fire build inside her. Deep rage coursed through her veins from the depths of her belly; the first taste of bittersweet revenge on her tongue.
A V-shaped bookstore shimmered in the moonlight on the corner of Columbus Ave and Jack Kerouac Alleyway named, “CITY LIGHTS Booksellers & Publishers.” Around them were sidewalk cafés, a tarot card reader, a ramen bar, and across the way, an apothecary that looked more like a bar than anything. Sparrow wondered what gave them the idea they could just call any place an apothecary. The three pressed their faces up to the glass in the bookstore, but there were no lights on. It was dark, filled wall to wall with thousands of books.
“It’s creepy here. And freezing.” Maddie tied her arms around her body and shivered.
“This is no place for teenage girls to be alone late at night,” a deep voice said behind them causing Maddie to jump. Sparrow looked up and glared at the man in a dark suit. The man frowned at her before taking a step back in surprise. “You ladies have a good night now.”
Not one of them spoke, but Maddie, Sparrow, and Amanda pressed their faces up to the window again. “How are we going to get inside?” Sparrow asked of no one in particular.
“She’s here,” Amanda whispered, her voice shaky.
“How do you know that?” Maddie demanded, her hands on her hips.
“It’s what she does, Maddie,” Sparrow responded with a tinge of irritation. Sparrow reached forward and pushed the glass door handle out of pure wishful thinking – it opened. Sparrow couldn’t believe their luck! “Quick!” Sparrow said, and the three of them ran into the shop to the tinkling bells that hung on the door handle, and hid beneath a nearby table.
“Shhhh . . .” Sparrow clutched Maddie’s shoulder and pushed them both down to the ground, just as an employee emerged from the warm yellow light of the back office and came by to check the lock. The employee twisted the key, then brushed past Amanda and shuddered. He looked around the bookstore, rubbed his arms, and muttered something about “the wind” before disappearing again into the back room.
Sparrow breathed a sigh of relief; the store was quiet. Were it not for the ticking clock on the wall, it would have seemed as though time stood still. The ticking grew louder and louder in the darkness of the building. They watched people walking around outside: Couples holding hands on their first dates, friends teasing each other, and tourists taking photos of the bookshop from outside. Sparrow understood now why they said a city never sleeps. Even in the middle of the night, the streets were filled with people.
A large sign on the bookshelf nearest Sparrow read “FICTION” and Sparrow tiptoed over to begin looking for the enchantress when she heard the creak of the back office door again. She shrunk back against the wall as the employee reappeared, wearing a baseball hat and a tan jacket, whistling the Harry Potter theme. He took one long look about the bookstore, before he stepped outside, locking the three in.
When he was out of sight, Maddie stood up to join Sparrow by the bookshelf, before they heard a thud upstairs, and Maddie shrunk back down to hide.
“Tick, tock, tick, tock, tick, tock, tick, tock.” A cheerful voice sprang out of the darkness.
Amanda hid behind a bookshelf and Maddie and Sparrow locked eyes.
“Oh where are you, bookie bookie bookie?” the voice coaxed as Magdalena came into view from the staircase to the second floor wearing a light pink dress. Her long brunette hair was piled atop of her head, and a perfect curl caressed her high cheek bones. She peered down at the bookshelves. “Oh speeeeelll book! Where are youuuu?! Spe - Something smells. . . off. Derek. Derek, something’s in here.”
Chills ran down Sparrow spine before she decided she didn’t care and stepped into view. “I’m right here.”
Maddie’s jaw dropped and her eyes seemed to scream, “What are you doing?!” from under the desk by Magdalena’s foot. Sparrow used every ounce of effort to avoid eye contact.
“What are you doing here, little witchy? Oh Deeeereeek, you have a visitor.” The way she said 'visitor' should’ve chilled Sparrow to the bone, but the fire was already ignited within her and nothing could put it out.
“I came to see you, Magdalena.” Sparrow was a bit surprised by how creepy she sounded, but instead of changing her tone, she doubled down. “Don’t you know that?”
“Hmmm . . . Let’s see.” Magdalena placed a finger on her chin. “You know, Derek says you never travel without your grandmother, so she must be around here somewhere. What to do, what to do. I know! Let’s perform a curse, shall we?! Pesky pesky -”
“No!” Sparrow yelled, starting forward, before realizing her mistake. She should have said nothing. Now that the enchantress knew Sparrow’s weakness, she could use it against her. “I came alone!” Sparrow quickly followed up.
“Bring us the book, child, and we’ll let you and your friend live.” Derek’s voice coaxed her now. The hairs on the back of Sparrow’s neck stood on end. Maddie.
“A friend?! Where, where, where is it?!” Magdalena skipped in a circle and peered around the bookshelves.
“Beneath the table.” Derek’s cold voice broke, but Sparrow couldn’t see him. Where was he speaking from? His voice seemed to come from all around. Magdalena tore Maddie out from under the table by the arm, and tossed her beside Sparrow.
“Interesting," Derek said, "So you brought nothing to stop us? Do you hear that Mags? My little bastard didn’t bring anyone here to save her. I guess you came to find the book as well?”
“Interesting," Derek said, "So you brought nothing to stop us? Do you hear that Mags? My little bastard didn’t bring anyone here to save her. I guess you came to find the book as well?”
Sparrow had the sensible head to say nothing. Not even her unreliable cheeks gave away that the book they were looking for was safely hidden in her desk back home. Though now that she was here, standing in front of Magdalena herself, she realized she had no spells in her head. She had no way of fighting back. She faltered and her leg betrayed her by taking a step back.
Magdalena caught on instantly and tilted her head. Sparrow felt her bravery slipping, fear creeping into her heart now they had Maddie. “She's nervous, Derek.”
Derek and Magdalena began to laugh. It was prickly and filled Sparrow’s lungs with ice.
“I know what you’ve done,” Sparrow said coldly, before turning to Magdalena. “I know you’re trying to help him live again. He doesn’t care about you though. I know you killed my mother. You set the fire --”
“She killed ME!” Derek screamed.
“You killed Gio.” Sparrow kept her voice low but it shook with rage.
“Who’s Gio?” Magdalena asked with an annoyed tone. “You can’t go around accusing people of killing random names.”
“Where’s the book, child?” Derek tone was serious and threatening now.
“I’m not a child.”
“Your friend won’t be alive much longer if you don’t tell me.” Then Sparrow saw him, Derek’s face was reflected in the glass behind the counter. He could use any mirror.
BANG BANG BANG! “Sparrow!” Rougey was outside, pounding on the glass door of the book store with her fists. Sparrow wondered how she could’ve gotten there so fast.
“Ahhh, there she is! You tried to trick me!” Magdalena said to Sparrow wagging her finger.
“Rougey go away!” Sparrow called back. Everyone she loved was at this stupid bookstore. She’d meant to do this alone.
“Sparrow! What’s going on in there?!” Rougey pressed her face up to the glass.
“Rougey! This doesn’t concern you!"
Rougey ran away from the glass door, and Sparrow sighed in relief. Rougey reappeared, holding a large red brick in her hand. Rougey threw it at the glass door, shattering it into a thousand glittering pieces, and a red alarm rang out down the street. Rougey stepped through the broken glass into the bookstore.
“Rougey no!” Sparrow ran toward her grandmother.
“You are always showing up where you don’t belong!” The enchantress coiled her hands around each other, whispering, before a flash of blue light, frozen and crystallized exploded from the enchantress’s fingertips, over Sparrow’s shoulder and shot Rougey in the chest. Rougey fell backwards on the ground. She doubled over coughing and wheezing.
BANG! SMASH! Glass shattered around them again and the sound of steam escaping a kettle filled their ears. Green smoke filled the room and surrounded them. Sparrow saw Maddie was standing behind the counter, holding Rougey’s brick, and the glass behind the counter was smashed. Sparrow and Maddie watched the smoke swirl around them like a sickly cloud before fading into a long glass talisman hanging around Magdalena’s neck. As it filled it began to glow electric green in the darkness. Police sirens filled their ears and Sparrow’s head was spinning for moment until she felt laser focused. She knew what she needed to do.
Magdalena turned and rounded on Maddie, crouching down like a lion. “I should’ve paid closer attention to you!” She lifted her hands above her head, her fingernails like talons, and Sparrow leapt in front of Maddie to shield her. Sparrow's eyes burned with white hot rage. She thrust her arms out in front of her and bright orange lightning electrocuted Magdalena and Magdalena crumpled onto the floor. Maddie ducked behind the counter, and began crawling along the floor towards the back office.
Sparrow glanced down at Rougey for a moment. Rougey’s face was turning blue and she looked like she was trying to speak. Sparrow's knees gave out, which gave Magdalena time to race out of sight. Sparrow saw a flash of her pink skirt disappear around a bookshelf. “Amanda!” Sparrow screamed, chasing Magdalena up the stairs, “Amanda help Rougey!”
Amanda rushed to Rougey’s side, but couldn’t touch her. Rougey shook and shivered, and Amanda would just make her colder.
Amanda looked up to Maddie walking out of the back office holding a fire axe. Amanda pointed up at the ceiling, and Maddie followed Sparrow’s yells up the staircase in the back.
“You will not get away from me again!” Sparrow’s voice screeched as the pink skirt disappeared behind another bookshelf in the back. Unable to hold in her anger, Sparrow thrust her arms forward and lightning bolts hit the nearby bookshelf. The pages of hundreds of books caught at once and the aisles began to fill with black smoke and scalding orange fire.
Sparrow cornered Magdalena in the very back of the store. She walked slowly towards her.
“Your father never loved her!” Magdalena said, spinning around. “And she never loved him like I did! No one loved him like I did!”
“That doesn’t mean you can bring someone back from the dead!” Sparrow shot out lightning and hit Magdalena in the chest. “He never even loved you! Everyone knows you used a love potion on him!”
Magdalena fell back against the bookshelf, her lip bleeding and her dress smoking. She fell to the ground, and spat, “Your family is cursed. They’ll always be cursed. As long as you have the power of the Tempest in your blood, any man you love will die. Your grandmother knew it, your mother knew it, and they chose to love anyway! Your family is nothing but a bunch of murderers!”
“So we’re no better than you.” A wall of lightning launched out of Sparrow’s hands, and the entire room filled with fire and the black smoke of burning pages. A sprinkler above them exploded and water showered down around them. One by one, all of the sprinklers in the store went off drenching the bookshelves, and another alarm rang out through the shop, competing with the first.
Magdalena began to hiss like a snake. Sparrow stared, her red hair hanging wet around her face, confused why Magdalena wasn’t standing up to fight, until she realized, Magdalena wasn’t hissing at all. She was shrinking, and melting. Sparrow couldn’t believe her eyes. “You're no enchantress! You’re nothing but an ugly, old witch!”
Sparrow stepped forward but there was nothing to be done. Maddie came up behind Sparrow with the ax. She touched Sparrow’s shoulder and the two watched the enchantress disappear into hissing steam and a ragged old pale pink dress. Sparrow began to walk away when Maddie stepped forward again.
“Sparrow.” Maddie pointed to the ground. There, shimmering within the old dress like poison, lay the talisman, flooding the dress in sickly glowing green light. Sparrow bent down to touch it, but Maddie continued calmly, “Sparrow get out of the way.”
Sparrow took a step back and Maddie lifted the fire axe above her head. She smashed it on the ground, shattering the talisman into hundreds of pieces. The green smoke whistled into the cool night air and Sparrow's father disappeared.
Sparrow and Maddie walked downstairs together and found Amanda, sitting beside a pale blue Rougey, her eyes filled with tears. Beside her was a tall glowing blue door. “I can’t even hold her hand.” Amanda’s voice hitched from the ground. “I’m so sorry.”
Sparrow fell to Rougey and held her grandmother’s icy hand as water sprinkled down around them. Sparrow removed her wet jacket and placed it over Rougey to try and keep her warm, before she looked up at her dear friend. “Amanda, you’ve done enough. It’s time for you to go home.”
“But what about – “
“Amanda. It’s time.” Sparrow stood and walked over to hug her friend, but realized she couldn’t. Instead they stared at each other with watery eyes. “You’ve been the dearest friend to me.”
Amanda hiccupped and glanced down. “But Rougey –“
“Go, Amanda. Before it closes.” Beside Sparrow, Maddie nodded in agreement.
Amanda looked at Rougey and whispered, “Thank you.” Amanda waved goodbye to Maddie and Sparrow, and stepped through the glowing blue door. The door shut behind her, sealed, and disappeared without a trace.
Sparrow collapsed on the ground beside her grandmother, not giving herself a moment to miss Amanda. There wasn’t enough time, Rougey was fading quickly. “Rougey, what did the enchantress do? What can I do?” Rougey took a few haggard breaths but didn’t respond. Tears pierced Sparrow’s eyes, stinging her sinuses as she held them back. She remembered Maddie. “Rougey what about the medicine?! The medicine you used to help Maddie when she was little! She had cancer and you saved her with it! Do you have any left?!”
Rougey took a shallow, rattling breath before coughing again. “Mortal . . . Illness. The book, Strawberry . . . Page 122.”
Rougey achingly lifted her head and nodded towards the book in her open bag. Rougey had brought the spellbook. Sparrow snatched it and flipped to page 122: Curses. “A curse is no mortal illness, and cannot be cured without a counter curse.” Sparrow’s voice shook and tears streamed down her face, blurring the words on the page. “Without knowledge of which curse is performed, a direct counter curse is unobtainable. There is a general counter curse which may delay the effects, but it won’t cure them.”
“Do it . . .” Rougey gasped for air. It was as though she was freezing from the inside out. Sparrow looked over the words but her hands were shaking so much she couldn’t focus.
Maddie ripped the book from Sparrow’s hands, and read on. “The counter curse is . . . Maledicta delenda est.”
The wails of the firetrucks and ambulances filled the air, drowning out Maddie’s voice. Sparrow repeated the counter curse over and over again, clutching Rougey’s hand while Maddie held the other. Red and white lights flashed on the bookshelves around them and firemen and EMT’s filled the bookstore, asking Sparrow and Maddie questions they couldn’t answer.Sparrow’s lip quivered as clasped her grandmother’s hand tight to her chest. “You’ll be alright, Rougey. I swear it."
"Take this." Rougey lifted a golden key from around her neck. It had a swirly design on it that reminded Sparrow of wind. "It will explain everything."