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On the Road Again

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The sun was just setting over the low slope of hill, painting the horizon a sort of pinkish orangey that was very pretty as a colour on the sky but would look terrible on a wedding dress. Miss Perspicacia Tick leaned on a milestone, the toe of one boot idly kicking the grass on the roadside. To an outside viewer, she was contemplating the sunset, perhaps waiting for a coach to pick her up, along with her bundle of clothes and books. But Miss Tick was never idle. She was keeping an eye on the road. There was a bend down there, right into a copse of trees, and who knew what hid in the shrubs that lined the road?

“Are you quite done?” she asked quietly, even though there was no-one around to hear her, except the ghost in the bushes.

A rustle came up behind her, which told her Miss Level’s ghost had finished whatever she needed to do in the bushes. No-one ever told you the kinds of ghost stories where the ghost had to stop to have a wee. Miss Tick straightened up. “I’d like to ask why you needed to hide in the first place, being invisible, but one, you don’t speak, and second, I do actually understand. Anything else would hardly be ladylike.”

She felt the press of a ghostly hand on her sleeve. “Just a little longer until the sunset.” It was a redundant statement, but Miss Tick’s education in the Quirm College for Young Ladies had left her with a niggling need to fill awkward silences.

The two witches took off down the road towards the east, leaving the pink-orangey sky behind them. These were unfriendly lands, and the further they got from Miss Tick’s last port of call, where a farmer had been almost certain she’d cursed his pigs by making his wife herbal tea, the better. There were other villages to find prospective witches in with a smaller chance of getting dunked into the river for it.

The night fell like a slow blanket over the land. There was another press on Miss Tick’s arm. “You’re quite right. It is dark enough, and we’ve seen no-one on the road. Alley-oop, then?”

She held out her hand until she felt the length of an invisible broomstick, and with some jostling and gentle guidance both the witches and Miss Tick’s bag were perched upon it. Miss Tick’s wrapped her arms around her friend’s ghostly body and held on tight. This non-corporeal Miss Level always felt a little soggy. Maybe that was a ghost thing. Miss Tick would rather not think about it.

A gentle lift, and her boots hung above the dirt road. A little warning hop, and then they were off, speeding through the air towards the emerging stars. The wind knocked her hat back until it hung on its string on her neck, its brim flapping like wings.

It was a living; it was a life, anyway.

***

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