A shrill cry echoed in the mist. Kitty opened her eyes from her idle snooze and scanned the tiny back garden. The old stones of her low wall held back the mist in the old forest, save for a few brave tendrils creeping in through the gate.
She heard nothing more; the initial screech had neither echo nor reply. Kitty murmured a lament for whatever poor creature had met its final match. It didn’t sound like a person, but people could loose the strangest sounds when terrified for their life. That was a lesson the mist was often content to teach her, as if she had forgotten the burden she carried.
No watcher of the wastes could forget what their job entailed. Kitty heaved herself out of her chair and grabbed a jar she kept on the railing. Her hip bothered her as she hobbled over the stones, but her steps didn’t falter. Something had died out there, and she didn’t feel like finding the cast off bits on her back lawn.
She opened the jar with a wince as her wrist twinged, and pinched some of the mixture in her fingers. Ashes and crushed herbs dusted her garden wall, and whatever fell to the ground scattered the mist like a small gust of wind. What had snuck past the gate resentfully retreated as she finished her ritual.
“You know the rules,” Kitty scolded. “Wouldn’t have to do this if you behaved yourself.”
“You know, miss,” a voice with no source whispered. “We will be free. I can’t wait to see the look on your face when you fail.”
Kitty snorted and turned back to the porch. “Tough titties,” she said. “If I fail, it’ll be because I died. You won’t be able to gloat at me if I’m gone.”