Natalie’s Assignment

Written with my Thursday group with a list of melodramatic prompts:  in this economy, is this why fate brought us together?, there is no escape from destiny, that’s just what_______would have said, this is odd, so it has come to this, so let it be written so let it be done, but at what cost?, as the prophecy foretold, just like in my dream, and then the wolves came, the journey will be begin at 6:20, back to the times of tomorrow, stop making all that noise

“Stop making all that noise!” a man yelled from above.  Natalie drew closer to the wall, wondering if she’d been discovered.  Then she heard children giggling and a window slam shut.  Oh, she realized in relief, he’s not talking to me.  She walked on.

In this economy, Natalie knew, she had no choice.  As old Sister Perpetua would have said, there was no escape from destiny.  This city, this street, this reputably Divine assignment.  She’d been a messenger for nearly a decade, but when the nuns had first found her, she’d been working in a sweatshop, sewing zippers into men’s wool pants.

When the power went out one hot afternoon, management forced the girls to stitch by hand.  That was the crucial moment.  “Look at this!” Perpetua exclaimed as she examined Natalie’s tiny symmetrical rows.  

“You’re using the wrong color thread!” the foreman screamed, clearly angry, but Perpetua laid a hand on his forearm.

“Yes,” the nun countered.  “Exactly as the prophecy foretold.”  She gazed into Natalie’s eyes.  “Come, child.  We’ve been waiting for you.”

The foreman crossed himself.  “So let it be written, so let it be done,” he murmured.

Natalie thought this all very odd as she followed the nun through the factory, out a heavy windowless door into a walled garden.  “Just like in my dream,” she whispered, and then she paused, overcome with the heady sight of gardenias, camellias, lilies, and roses, all white, all fragrant, all nodding like a chorus of back-up singers keeping time with the melody of the river breeze.  Natalie had never experienced such a deep sense of familiarity, as if she were returning to the stream where she was spawned, her true home.

“The journey will begin at 6:20,” Perpetua proclaimed, checking her wrist watch.

“Journey?” Natalie echoed.  What was she talking about?  Her mother would expect her home long before that time.  But Perpetua seemed unconcerned.  “We need to prepare.”  A trio of uniformed women arrived.  They fed Natalie stew with big chunks of meat and rich gravy.  She was given pineapple and sugar cookies for dessert.  They dressed her in black and painted her hands and throat with henna flowers and butterflies.  They pulled her cloak away and painted a large canine baring its teeth across her shoulder blades.  When they held up a mirror, Natalie could stay silent no longer.  “Why are you doing this?”

Perpetua smiled.  “You are to be given a position of great privilege.”

Natalie was young but not so very naïve.  “At what cost?” she asked.

Perpetua raised her voice.  “You would question my authority?” and Natalie nodded quietly.  “Yes,” she whispered.

“So it has come to this.”  The nun shook her head melodramatically.  “All right.”  She sat down across from Natalie and took the girl’s hands in her own.  “This is why fate has brought us together.  I can tell you very little, initially at least, but as time goes on, you will learn more and more.  And then you will teach me.”  She paused to watch Natalie’s eyes narrow in doubt.  “Oh, believe me, child, you are the one to bring us back to the times of tomorrow.”  She pulled a slip of rose scented paper from her sleeve.  “You are to deliver this tonight.”

“But where, how?”  Natalie asked.  “I barely know how to find my way home on the next block.  I do not know the city, nor the countryside.”

Perpetua put a finger to her lips to calm the girl.  Then she nodded to the three women, and they pulled open the garden gate.  “Here,” the nun said, “are your escorts.”  Natalie’s eyes widened and her mouth dropped open.  For here in this moment, the wolves came.

Photo by Mel Poole on Unsplash

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