Amongst a grouping of trees sat a two-bedroom cottage that Wirt called home. It was a stuccoed, barely two-story house covered in a climbing ivy that grew up the walls, over the roof, and into the windowpanes. The yard was mainly flowers, with the only exception of non-flowers being Wirt’s favourite herbs, which he grew in raised garden beds close to the front door for daily use. He’d also built a small enclosure around his home matching the log fences everywhere else on his land to signify ‘this is my property’.
Turning the doorknob, static shocked the tips of Writ’s fingers. He looked to the skies to see if it was that burning light again. He had an unfortunate night a few days back trying to outrun a green lightening that seemed to chase him. The lightening didn’t hurt much, but it was itchy when it struck his skin, leaving small red markings that looked like they were following the path of his veins. But it appeared there was only rain falling from the sky this evening. No need to run again, thankfully.
Inside the house was the inviting scent of a warm dinner waiting. Roasted sweet nuts were sitting in the stove ready to be added to an eggplant dish Wirt had put together earlier that morning. Saliva slipped from between Wirt’s lips. He’d indeed spent most of his day away from home focusing on completing the Task Curse’s request, having skipped his midday meal to ensure the task was completed on time. The Tasker had said it would unstick all the glass from the windows of his home, so Wirt felt the imperative to do the assignment outlined in the letter or suffer the next week re-sticking his home back together. He placed the watering can at the foot of the mudroom, took off his shoes, and walked towards the kitchen.
“Tea, Dad?” … “Right, I’ll put on the kettle then,” said Wirt. He clicked the dials on the stove to the highest heat possible. Small green flames sparked from a hole in the stovetop and reached eagerly for the cast iron as Wirt laid the kettle down. The blaze wove around the tea pot and calmed into an even, hazy green layer underneath it. Although fire was normally a reddish orange colour, or even blue at times, in Wirt’s house it was green. All the items in the kitchen were Distorted in some manner or another – not of Wirt’s doing, but it didn’t bother him that the house actuated unconventionally so’s long as things worked.
The clear water coming out the goose-neck tap turned a milky brown as Wirt washed the soil residue from his hands. He used a soap infused with pumice to scrub the dirt off more thoroughly. Again, he didn’t know where the house got the soap, but he didn’t think it necessary to ask. He dried his hands on the underside of his shirt, and by that time, the kettle was whistling for Wirt’s attention. He chose a white ceramic teacup decorated in a navy-blue floral pattern from his large assortment of teacups in the cupboards. He poured the contents of the kettle through a metal netting, collecting the soaked cardamon cloves and set them aside for compost. Wirt reached for the cold box and added some milk to his tea. Not that he had any animals on his land to milk, though. The milk just appeared in the bottle.
Much of Wirt’s home was a mystery to him, as it was just as much to his father; the soap that appeared from nowhere, the bookshelves which stocked themselves, a hollow wooden box which played a film as seen through the mind’s eye when a book was placed within it, luminescent glass bulbs which glowed a warm yellow light despite being disconnected entirely from electricity, and a cold box which held near freezing temperatures that was always stocked with fresh milk (which he assumed to be animal’s milk) and at certain times, eggs.
“Nnnnn….” groaned Wirt, “Really Dad, I don’t understand how you dislike cardamon, it feels like someone is lighting a fire in your belly.” He grabbed a handful of roasted sweet nuts from the oven and crowned his eggplant dinner.
“Yes, well, you can sit at the supper table, Dad. I, however want to start making plans for tomorrow.” … “Oh, toss table manners today, come on then, join me!”
Impatient from the phenomenon he observed today, Wirt carried himself to the common area which sat adjacent to the kitchen and overlooked the front garden. As Wirt expected, the bookshelves carried old favourites as well as some new editions. He set his meal down on an armchair and walked to the shelves.
A salmon-pink bound novel with gold lettering stuck out. Wirt gently pulled on the book. ‘Ouroborics and Politics: The Divide in Using What We Don’t Understand’ by Ergwin Tesn. “Politics are stupid”, said Wirt, “Everyone should just govern themselves”. He put the book back more roughly. A book beside it read ‘Ouroboric Principles in Use’ by Grendt of East House. That one seemed useful. Wirt set it aside on the armchair. His eyes made light work of the other book titles; ‘Growing World, Growing Geography – How to Map What’s Always Changing’, ‘Rune: Return of Prince Jandar – A Fantasy Novel’, ‘Cooking with Husks – Let Nothing Go to Waste’, ‘Ouroboric Strings: The Difference between Braids, Knots and Slips’, ‘The Nude Figure: An Artist’s Reference.’ Wirt put the last two books aside. The String book was relevant to better understanding Ouroborics, and the reference book was for…art. At the bottommost shelf was a book with a dull grey cover which stuck out for its own reason in that it was one of Wirt’s favourite books: ‘The Midnacht Dracon’ by an unknown author.
“Oh ho ho, classic novel right here, Dad. You remember reading this series together?” … “Yes, you don’t have to remind me, the Nacht Monstre used to scare the wits out of me! But could you have blamed me? The illustration was terrifying!” said Wirt, flipping through the pages. He stopped on a page with a drawing of a woman in armour bleeding into a vile. “Ah, there’s Perin. I quite fancied her as a boy. She was such a clever person, having to serve the Evil Commander but undermining his every goal with the help of her page, Tutt. I’m quite glad to see the book here, to be honest. The magic used in the Perin series is all based off real Ouroboric practices. Although its just a silly children’s series, we may be able to extract something useful from it.” Wirt set the children’s book down on the armchair. Three books were enough to start his research this evening.
Starting on his meal, Wirt found himself rushing and not quite appreciating the dish. He carefully watched the rain drops tap against the window and drag downwards with their watery trails sticking to each other when they crossed paths. The water from the quarry wouldn’t do that. Well, it would, but not on this scale.
The sound of a fork scraping against ceramic concluded Wirt’s supper as he gathered the last remnants of eggplant into his open mouth. He left his plate in the sink and poured himself a second cup of tea as well as one additional cup, but this one with mint leaves instead of cardamon that he left to float in the hot water instead of straining. The cups were placed on small table in front of the living room chesterfield.
“Alright then, Dad? Didn’t put the wrong mint in this time, did I?” … “Well of course it’s a little weak, you made me rip the poor leaves off the sprout that just came up,” said Wirt, shaking his head with a small laugh. Whisps of vapourized water rose like smoke from the teacups leading Wirt’s eyes upwards to see water dripping from the ceiling.
Another leak in the roof. Brilliant.
Wirt downed his tea in a single gulp and placed the piping hot ceramic on the floor beneath the leak. “Gah, fuck, that’s hot, I’m an idiot,” hissed Wirt, bringing a hand to his throat but feeling the pain near his collarbone.
Louder tapping on the windows from a harder rainfall made Wirt return his attention to outside. Water was clearly trying to communicate with him today, and he’d only wished it’d done it sooner.
“You saw it, right, Dad? Tiny water droplets from the water in that clearing. So small…” mused Wirt looking at hands and remembering the feel of almost instantaneous dryness and warmth after pulling his hands from the creek. “Admittedly, I couldn’t really see the droplets, but I know it was foreign water. Our water wouldn’t fall off my skin so drastically. That downscaling proves that there is a rift in our borders. I’m sure we can escape if we can unravel the Ouroborics there.” … “I know I’ve never been the best at using Ouroborics, but I can learn!” Wirt jutted his chin at the pile of books and sniffed. “At the very least, my Ouroboric potential is strong.” Wirt flexed his arms slightly and a floor mat wove itself from seemingly nothing before the front door. “Ey? I mean, didn’t plan that, but made it happen, didn’t I?”
The continuous soft sounds of rainfall lulled Wirt into a calmer state. His voice came out a whisper. “…I don’t think I’ll be alone for much longer, Dad. If I can undo the magic keeping me here, even the Task Curse can’t keep me from leaving. Because really, what more can it take from me…” … “Well, a positive Percy you are, Dad. I actually think I can escape this prison!” said Wirt, having regained his usual energy visual thinking about leaving through an imaginary doorway from the clearing into the rest of the growing world.
The growing world was freedom. Freedom to leave his farm, his house, and the Task Curse’s ruddy life-ruining letters. It would be an adjustment to live somewhere new, just as it was when Wirt and his father first moved to Titan’s Table, but it would be worth it to have a degree of control in his life again. Wirt would give anything to make that happen.
“…I’m going to escape this place, Dad. I promise you. And I have a feeling my door out of here is in that mossy area by the puddle.”