So last night I was browsing the web before (planning) to go to sleep when I spotted a writing prompt on Reddit, and well … the creative brain took over. Next thing I knew it was past 1 AM, and I’d written a fun little story about man who makes a deal with a witch for his firstborn child, but has already, unbeknownst to her, cheated.
You can see the Reddit Writing Prompt that spawned it here, but for a short bit of flash fiction I was quite happy with how it turned out, and figured it deserved to be on the site. So here you are, folks. Firstborn.
Heinrich looked down at the strange young woman. “You’ll what?”
“I said I’ll give you a lucky hundred bucks if you give me your firstborn son.”
He paused for a moment and took a quick look around the corner of the casino. For whatever reason no one seemed to be bothering them or even looking their way. The place even felt quieter. “You’re putting me on right now, right?”
The glare she gave him made him feel like he knew what being a wilting flower was like. “You called me, Heinrich.” How had she known his name? “You asked for a deal. You want the money, you give me what I want. The luck bit is extra. I have a feeling you could use it.” She wrinkled her nose.
“Hey, so my suit’s a little worn,” he said, trying to shrug. For some reason the motion just didn’t work with her around. “A little shabby. I’ve hit a rough patch lately.”
“It looks like it hit back,” the woman remarked, her voice dry. “Deal? Or do I walk away.”
“Now don’t be hasty. Deal,” he said, holding out his hand. She took it, and there was a faint prick at his finger. “What the hell was that?”
“Nothing you need to worry about,” she said, pulling a wad of tens from … somewhere. He must have missed her pulling out her purse. Or any purse for that matter. “One hundred dollars. Lucky. As agre—”
She paused for just a brief moment, eyes narrowing, and for a moment he wondered if she’d realized what she was doing. His hand darted forward, snatching the wad of bills. “Thanks, babe.” He turned and darted off through the casino, before she could change her mind.
A hundred bucks. Who does that dumb broad think she is? He almost laughed. Firstborn son. What does that even mean anyway? He slowed by the slots, feeling a hunger to reach out and play. His luck was about to change. He could feel it.
Pay off Flats, then spend the rest on a table … His eyes slipped to the nearest bar. But first, maybe a celebratory drink.
Yeah, he thought as he moved for the bar. Just one drink …
Behind him, and unnoticed the rest of the patrons of the casino, a woman with a puzzled look on her face flickered out of existence.
* * *
James let out a sigh as he slipped back in his chair. “What a day.” He stared down at his desk, crowded with paper after paper from the days meetings. “I have got to take a break. A vacation or something.” His phone buzzed. Ten minutes until he could leave the office.
Drive home, make dinner, maybe play some League. He frowned. Maybe not. I need to unwind. That won’t help. He leaned forward, sweeping the collection of files into a nice neat stack, looking down at the picture of the child on the top.
“Someday, kid,” he said. “Some—”
Someone knocked on the office door. There was a faint impression behind the frosted glass.
He stood. “Come in.” There was a moment’s hesitation, and then the door opened, admitting a youngish-looking woman with dark hair and a tan complexion that he couldn’t quite place. Attractive, in her own way. And with eyes that seemed to peer right into his soul.
He put on a smile. “Can I help you?”
“James … Hanson?”
He didn’t scowl, but he didn’t quite keep the smile on his face, either. “That’s my father’s last name.” He sighed. “Look, I have to warn you I’ve never gone by that name. I haven’t seen the man since I was four.” He sank back into his seat, motioning for the woman to take one of the seats across the small desk from him. So this is the kind of evening it’s going to be, huh? “Whatever he promised you, Mrs. …?”
“Tsosie. Alexis Tsosie. And it’s miss. I’ve … never married.” She gave him a nervous smile that was, in its own way, kind of cute. Outside of the impending headache it was doubtlessly about to bring. “Call me Alex.”
“Very well Alex. But my father is a deadbeat, gambling drunk, and I haven’t seen him in years. Whatever he promised you—”
“His firstborn child.”
He blinked. That’s a new one. “Well,” he said after a pause. “Oddly enough he did kind of send you to the right place.”
“He didn’t,” she said quickly. “I found you. I didn’t realize I’d been had until after I’d made the deal. I should of known—”
“Yeah, dad’s like that,” James said with a shake of his head. “But you know, I might be able to help—”
“No, no,” she said with a shake of her own head. Her dark hair seemed to bounce, waving about her like a storm cloud. “You won’t do at all.”
“Your father promised me you.” The emphasis in her voice was impossible to miss. “I wanted a baby.”
“No,” she said suddenly, cutting him off with the suddenness of a summer storm. “You don’t understand. I’m a witch.”
“A witch,” she repeated. “You know? Magic?”
Dad, of all the crazy—
“I’m not crazy,” she said quickly, and a faint breeze seemed to circle the room. “Here, look.” She held up her hand, snapped her fingers … and her hand was on fire.
That’s … He was about to finish his thoughts with “an impressive trick” when it dawned on him that he was looking up at her.
Floating above her seat. In the middle of the room.
“You see?” She settled back into her seat, hand going out. “Magic. Witch. And before you quote that damned movie at me. which I hate, I’m the good kind. There aren’t many bad ones around anymore. You can go ahead and call me a wizard or a sorceress or whatever if it helps you feel better about it.”
He shut his hanging jaw and nodded. “All right. Magic is real. I’ll admit that’s a bit of a shock to me, but let’s move past that.” He felt a faint bit of pride as his swift recovery seemed to surprise her. “So you need a baby? Why?”
“Not just any baby.” She let out a groan and leaned forward. “I needed a particular kind of baby.”
“I see,” he said, grabbing a notepad. This was nothing unusual. “What, if I may ask, for?”
That got him a glare that made the room several degrees colder. “To be a mother,” she said. “I’m not a monster.”
He nodded. “My apologies. It’s a standard question. Is there any particular reason that you felt you needed to deal with my father, of all people?”
“Because … Gah!” She sat back with a sigh and then leaned forward once more, her face just feet from his. “Look. You know all those stories, the fairy tales, about how love is the most powerful magic there is? Well it’s true. Love is. So if you’re a witch, like me, and you want to make certain your child is the best magic user they can be so you can pass on your knowledge, you need to give them all the love you can.”
“But that’s not all,” she continued before he could say anything. “The more you prove that love, the better chance the magic has of passing to them. It’s just … how magic is. So when I witch wants a child to pass their knowledge onto, the best thing they can do is prove how much they’ll love them. Undertake a quest. Then find a child with as little love as possible and take them away from that to give them the best love they can.”
He nodded. “So you found my father.”
“An absolute wretch of a man.”
“I don’t disagree.”
“I sought him out. A man who was entirely selfish. I made him a deal: I gave him some wealth, knowing full well that the child that would result from that wealth would be thoroughly unwanted and unloved, and in return, I take that child and raise them with as much love as I could.”
“I didn’t count on him cheating me,” Alex said, sinking back in her seat, her expression somber. “All that seeking to find that he’s already had a son. I guess I messed up somewhere. Instead of a newborn, I find—” She gestured at him. “You. You must be, what … twenty-nine?”
She shook her head. “I spent years tracking him down. Two years. Two years of my life, gone. And I assume you had a loving mother?”
“I did. Or do, rather. A great woman. So yes, I’m probably not what you’re looking for. But that doesn’t mean I can’t help—”
“Look,” she said, her voice flat. “You’re not bad looking, and you’re only five years my junior, but I’m not at all interested in a one-night—”
“Whoa!” He held up his hands. There had definitely been a breeze that time. “Not what I meant. I am not my father. My mother would tan my hide. Didn’t you look at the door?”
He nodded. “Yes. My door. Right there.” She followed his gaze. “At what it said on it?”
She didn’t reply, and he rose from his seat. “I think I can help you, Alex,” he said as he walked around his desk and over to the door of his office. He swung it open, pointing at the letters pointed there. “I’m an adoption attorney.”
“And like you said,” he continued as he shut the door once more and returned to his seat. “The quest is part of the love. I’m not the firstborn you’re interested in—does it have to be a firstborn?”
Another wave of her dark hair, eyes with sudden hope in them gleaming like stars. “No, but it’s traditional.”
“Well, I may not be the baby you were looking for,” he said, smiling as he held up a pile of papers, all with pictures of children on them. “But I can help you find the one you are looking for.” He rose, holding the papers. “My day is over so … Maybe we could talk about what you’re looking for over dinner? I know a great Cajun place nearby. Best crawdads anywhere.” He gave her a grin.
And to his surprise and relief, she returned it with a smile that made the room feel like roof had opened to the sun. “I’d like that,” she said. “Show me the way?”
Thirteen months, three dates, and one very joyful wedding later, an unwanted firstborn, now one of the most loved children in the world, gained a baby sister.
There you have it, folks! I hope you enjoyed this little bit of fiction. As for me, back to work on Fireteam Freelance.
Oh, and this story is copyright 2020 Max Florschutz, etc etc etc. No distributing it without my permission and whatnot.