Mistica Chronicles

Welcome to Issue 34

Melody Winning Entry

Hettie lived a simple life. She had a small house with a large garden, with vegetables to eat and flowers to cheer. She prided herself on her attention to both her plants and to her neighbors, so when the house next door finally sold, she was the first to know. Not that she could have possibly missed the moving truck, with the glare from the vibrant flames painted on the side piercing through her window.

(In retrospect, that should have been a clue to what was to come.)

She quickly busied herself with preparing a welcoming gift for her new neighbors. Soon her little kitchen was filled with the scent of baking muffins, and her hands were stained purple as she whipped together a batch of her finest blackberry jam. The heat from the oven was sweltering, but Hettie worked with a smile.

It was only when she stepped outside, gift basket with fresh goodies in hand, that she realized the heat wasn’t her oven at all. Oh, the news did say that a heat wave was coming. Hettie made a mental note to give her garden a little more water.

She trotted up the walkway to the neighbor’s house and pressed the doorbell, only to pull her hand back with a surprised hiss. The metal ring around the button was almost scalding! But scarcely had she drawn back her hand before the door opened and she was hit with a sudden gust of heat that forced her frazzled eyes upward.

She almost screamed when she saw the flames licking the furniture inside the house, before she realized that the only things on fire were the residents. An Inferno Zisscor was stretched across a fireproofed couch, lazily flicking his tongue and the channels on the TV. An Inferno Cheran was reading – not a paper book, but what looked like a Kindle – while the young Draklaita next to her was seeing which of his two heads could produce the biggest flame. And directly in front of Hettie, the Inferno Jumboyo who had opened the door beamed at her.

“I-I’m Hettie! Your neighbor!” Hettie managed to stutter out, the familiar ritual thrown off. “I have a garden! I have food from it! For you!” She thrust the basket of muffins and jam at the startled Jumboyo, then turned and scurried back to her own house. She slammed the door and sank onto her chair, reveling in the relative cool of the wood and wondering whether the red blush on her face was more from heat or embarrassment.

Hettie didn’t like to judge by appearances. But she felt you couldn’t blame an Overgrown pet for being a little wary of a house full of fire hazards.

The next day, Hettie woke up early as she always did to tend to her plants. She felt exhausted – the heat wave hadn’t let up overnight, and she had tossed and turned. But she got up with a smile, for she knew there was always peace to be found in her garden.

The smile fell into a look of dismay when she got outside. Despite the extra water she’d given them, all of her plants were looking a little dry. Some of the tomatoes at the outermost edge of the garden seemed to have exploded in the heat.

She cast a mournful look up at the flames mocking her on the side of the truck, and prepared to protect what was left of her produce.

As Hettie worked and the sun rose, the heat only worsened, and she could feel her own flowers drooping. It won’t do to water the plants and neglect myself! Setting down her tools, she decided that what she needed was a quick trip to the beach. The cool water would have her ready to face the day in no time! She smiled just thinking about it.

But once again, her smile was dashed when she arrived at the beach. Her new neighbors, apparently, had had the same thoughts as her. The Draklaita and Cheran were surfing, while an Inferno Quari splashed through the waves, steam rising in thick clouds around him. With condensation sticking to her skin, Hettie turned towards home, resigned. When the weather predicted heat waves, I didn’t think this was what they meant!

Her house, at least, was slightly cooler, and while the bath was no beach, at least she could get some cool water. She spent the rest of the day relaxing as best she could, counting the hours until the sun went down. She had just finished up her dinner when a knock came at her door.

The unnervingly familiar gust of heat that met her upon opening it told her who it was even before she met the eyes of the still smiling Jumboyo, and she wearily noticed the faint scorch mark his hand had left on her door. Great.

“Hello, Hettie,” he said cheerily. “My name’s Adnan. We met last night – well, sort of! My kids all really loved those muffins you brought over, and that jam was divine! So, we all wanted to put something together to say thanks for welcoming us to your neighborhood.”

Hettie finally drew her attention away from the flames long enough to notice that the Jumboyo – Adnan – held her basket in his hands, a light cloth covering what was inside. She took it from him and he smiled at her, nodded once again, and then turned back to his own house with a wave.

Hettie sat back down in her chair. She cautiously removed the cloth, and couldn’t stop the gasp that came from her.

A pane of glass rested against the back of the basket, grains of beach sand still visible where the fire hadn’t fully fused them together. The shapes on the glass were a little misshapen, but she could clearly make out tomatoes, blackberries, even a prize-winning watermelon. In front of the glass was a very small hand-held fan and a very large tub of ice cream – and a note.

“We thought these might help with the heatwave,” it said. “It’s been so hot that even my family needed to cool off at the beach!” A faint trail of smoke still came off the bottom of the paper where six pets had singed rather than signed their names before – “P.S. Thanks for the jam! We all can’t wait to see what your garden grows in autumn!”

Hettie didn’t like to judge by appearances. But she smiled as she thought that Inferno pets were perhaps the most warm-hearted of all.

And, she decided, she didn’t even mind the scorch mark.