This story was written for 2 December’s Microcosms competition, for which you had seamstress, secondhand shop, and crime as a prompt. Seeing as how part of the prompt was “seamstress”, it was inevitable that the Ruon would show up in it…

Selling Hope

The shop was the final stop for clothes and shoes before they were so worn that they had to become cleaning rags or something to be burned during the long cold nights when every last bit of fuel meant another moment of life spent relatively warm.

Gira sat back in her rickety chair at the back of the shop and stretched her aching back, regarding her own handiwork. In front of her lay a piece of linen embroidered with symbols in red, blue, and green.

The bell above the door rang and she shouted – like every other time: “Mind you don’t go touching anything you’re not going to buy!”

There was not the usual grumble, but just silence. Gira rose from behind the counter piled high with merchandise to see what was going on when a force pinned her back in the chair, crushing air from her lungs.

“You make these?” A tall, lithe woman stepped from behind one of the towers of secondhand jackets and threw one of Gira’s embroidered cloths at her.

“I do.” She tried squaring her shoulders, sitting upright, but could not. Then she saw the symbols on the woman’s clothes and her blood ran cold. “I only do it to give them some hope, you see.”

“Hope? Yet you let them pay for these worthless charms? Claiming that they can bring back lovers or cure diseases?”

“I sell them hope. Not charms. I never tell them that they are real charms! Mercy!”

A flash of metal.

A gurgle of blood.

A body dragged into a nameless alley.

The fake charms went into the small stove, smoking as they burned. A new pile replaced them.

The tall woman sat down and started working on another charm. She would sell the people more than just hope.