It’s Flash Fiction Friday! Thanks for tuning in. Our prompt for January came from @seekeachlight on Instagram: “Your character just moved to a new city. Where do they go first?” Today, we hear Ren’s interpretation.
And you thought having an English degree was bad
by Ren Iwamoto
In the August of that year, Didion Isabeau van Nostrand, who was also called Due, graduated from her final year of school and promptly left home. It was an ill-advised move. She had very little money and no plan. Worse yet, there was an unpleasant quality about Due, whose first interaction with everyone went something like this:
“Hello. I’m Alex.” Or Jane, or Matthew, or Soraya, or whomever.
“Hello. I am Due.”
Here the other person would roll this name around their mouths like hard candy. “Doo-eh,” they would say.
“Due,” she corrected, pronouncing it in quite the same way.
And so on. Whatever inflection Due hoped to hear, one couldn’t say. The other person, exasperated by repeating a name they were sure they were pronouncing correctly, would eventually depart. It never occured to Due that to have people call her Didion, after the famous Joan, would not only be easier, but a more pleasant conversation starter.
Due went first to Rome. It was August, and very hot. It was the time of year all the locals, except for the tourist traps, went on vacation themselves, so many shops and restaurants were closed. Due didn’t care. She didn’t want the tourist experience, and felt the proximity to the Vatican would be in her favour.
Where is the first place you go in a new city? Your hotel, perhaps, to set your things down, or somewhere to eat. Due did no such thing. Due went to find a job.
It was very difficult. Rome was coming into an off-season. No one wanted to hire foreigners. Her degree wasn’t even been in something useful, like business or communications. Going around, handing out her curriculum vitae, potential employers would squint.
“BO? You mean BA? Bachelor of Arts?”
“No, it’s right. Bachelor of the Occult,” Due would tell them, with a minor in dead and inhuman languages, but she did not want to come off as a braggart.
Following this, store managers, HR department lackeys and once, memorably, a nun, would chase her out of their establishments.
Rome was followed by Florence, which she found intolerably smelly, and then Madrid, which she found intolerably inhabited by Spaniards. She set course for London. London was an old city, ripe with people coming and going, so there were always places looking to hire. She lived for two weeks in a cramped hostel before she was granted an interview with a woman the hostel coordinator had put her in touch with.
They met at a pub called The Unicorn. The woman was called Eloise and she worked for Haunted London. She laughed uproariously, but not unkindly, at Due’s resume.
“This is good, very good,” Eloise said. She slapped the CV down on the table. “You’ve got just the attitude we’re looking for: a little cheeky! You can start this week. Just shadowing people to start, of course, to get a feel for how we do things here while you learn all the stories.”
Due didn’t know what it meant to ‘shadow’ someone, but it sounded appropriate given her area of study. How difficult it was to find a job in her field! Her parents had warned her, of course, but how could she trust parents who had cruelly named her Didion?
She shook Eloise’s hand and eagerly agreed to come in the following evening, dressed in all black.
Due was too pleased with herself to sleep, so she lay in the narrow cot, combing over the things she had learned during school. She recited declensions in Latin under her breath, traced sigils onto her pillowcase with the tip of her finger. When she finally fell asleep, she dreamt in a language no one on earth spoke anymore.
The next evening she followed the GPS on her phone to the address Eloise had given her. She stared at the building. Mounted above the door was a hanging sign which read HAUNTED LONDON TOURS and featured the silhouette of a sinister-looking man. Due looked at the scrap of paper with address. Eloise’s handwriting was impeccable, so there was no way to misread it. She was quite certainly in the right place.
Haunted London, Due thought, was quite different from Haunted London Tours. She felt as if she’d just discovered her lover cheating.
Due turned sharply on her heel. She left London immediately. Eloise called her cell phone twice, but Due did not pick up.
When she arrived in Paris the following morning, the first thing she did was look for a job.
Flash Fiction Friday is a recurring series. Check back throughout January for other variations on this prompt!