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Seven Reasons your Blind Date is staring at the Mysterious Iron Ring on Your Hand

Dani Atkinson is a writer and artist in Alberta, Canada. She's bounced around doing day jobs ranging from English teacher in Japan to ice cream parlour clerk in the Canadian rockies. Between day jobs she writes stories, comics, plays, poetry, and games. Occasionally she attempts meditation again, frequently while being yelled at by local squirrels, which makes it hard to focus on the breath. Her short fiction has appeared in Daily Science Fiction, Cast of Wonders, and the It Came from Miskatonic University anthology from Broken Eye Books. She tries to blog occasionally at dejadrew.dreamwidth.org.

1. It marks you as a member of the ancient secret society which is sworn enemies with his. Soon the ground will open and drop you both into the ancient sacred dueling grounds, deep in the hollow chasms and catacombs beneath this city's false skin, and you will draw the enchanted swords and spears from where they are embedded in the stalagmites and stone pillars and you shall charge towards each other screaming. It still will not be the worst blind date you've ever had.
2. It marks you as a member of the ancient secret society which is sworn allies with his. Soon the ceiling will open and you will ascend into the secret city in the clouds that floats above the skyscrapers which never actually scrape sky. In the drifting halls and literally flying buttresses, you will draw the enchanted crossbows and throwing knives out of the heaped thunderheads and tumbling nimbus, and you will race in circles around each other just inside firing range and screaming. Secret societies tend to have a very specific mode of socializing. In this case, at least, should you both survive (and you should, as you are allies after all and thus should be only shooting to wound, though accidents happen), then after your duel you will bandage each other slowly and carefully while looking out over the other city, this city on the ground, far below you and talk about the view and how you got your iron rings and your membership in the secret society. You will probably not get to take him to bed tonight, as it is likely one of you at least will be wounded and both of you will be tired, but you may have a second date. And at the very least, he might act as your second the next time you face an enemy society member in the caverns underground.
3. He only asked you out because he was certain you were of the fae, and he has always dreamed of taking one of the fair folk to bed and asking her to take him back to her fairy kingdom as her captive and devoted servant, to be her bard and decorate her court for centuries until she tired of him and dropped him a hundred years hence in a corn field with his tongue cursed to speak in only truth and only rhymes.
But now that he sees you are wearing cold iron he knows you can't be of the fae and all his plans for the night are completely shot and really it's just awkward now. Curse your ethereal otherworldly beauty! How dare you be so hot and misleading!
4. He is the blacksmith and jeweler who forged that ring shortly before his smithing shop was burgled in the night by a mysterious elegant thief who had left as the only clue a small origami rose which was the thief's calling card, along with a faint wafting scent of perfume. Not rose perfume, curiously, but wisteria and lilac. He smells wisteria and lilac now upon your neck. He is wondering whether to bring this up, or to call the authorities, or to dip into the washroom and text his sister to ask her to call him with a fake emergency so that he might plausibly make his escape. You fold an origami rose out of a paper napkin and he wonders if you know. If you are taunting him with the rose and the perfume and the ring. In truth you did not know and are just being very, very careless right now. The master who trained you, the great lady cat burglar who had been known to the police only as Bowerbird but known to you as Geraldine, would be tutting you soundly over her morning teacup of Kyoto Cherry Rose.
5. He is a member of the fae, and a great gentleman thief, who had meant to take you back to his queen's court as the finest treasure he ever stole. He was planning to take you back to his fairy kingdom and show you off to the other fae aristocrats as you decorated his arm, finest among all the changelings there assembled in the court for the amusement and aesthetic appreciation of the Fair Folk. But now that he sees you are wearing cold iron he knows he cannot take you and all his plans for the night are completely shot and it's really just awkward now. Curse the mortal blacksmiths and jewelers!
6. He is a genie, who, many long centuries ago, centuries without counting, once made a very bad bargain with a very good blacksmith. That smith bound him to servitude with an iron ring, and made him promise to grant one hundred wishes. Ninety nine of the wishes were granted, but then the smith, who had been cautious and sensible with his wishes, died of old age with one last wish still bound into the iron ungranted. The genie thanked god and all the stars that the blacksmith had never thought to wish for eternal life with any of her previous wishes, and he cast the iron ring into the sea, thinking to let it rust away in the deepest depths. But a wish is an oddly incorruptible thing. A wish ungranted can keep as well as honey in a pharaoh's tomb. The ring ended up in the belly of several increasingly larger fish, then in a fishing boat, then the finger of a fisherman's daughter, and then by a series of dramatic and unlikely events involving at least three dueling secret societies, a museum robbery by the great lady cat burglar Bowerbird, and a very disreputable pawn shop, that ring is now on your finger. The last wish is still embedded in its heart, gleaming brighter than a stone. And it has found him again, riding your hand, like a hunter riding behind the hounds. Well, fuck.
7. He reaches a trembling hand towards you, and you see on that hand the iron ring that is a match to yours. His face is different but yours is too. The iron wedding bands are the only things that remain unchanging, since the foolish wishes both of you made with a genie for eternal life. Life, it turns out, can only be eternal if everything else is constantly in flux. It has made it so easy to lose each other, and so hard to find each other again. It is why you have been going on so many blind dates, hoping. "Darling," he whispers, tears springing to his eyes. And your own eyes flood, and when blurred with an ocean of water and salt you can almost pretend your husband looks the way he did when the rings were forged so many centuries ago, centuries without counting.
The End
This story was first published on Friday, October 15th, 2021

Author Comments

I was doing my free writing exercises as lists for a while, taking an idea or a prompt (lesser known gods, terrible superpowers, etc) and trying to come up with a set number of different variations (three, seven, twelve) as a way to warm up and get the ideas flowing. For some reason, this particular list started to refer back to itself and flow into itself, making the microfiction parts interconnect into a larger whole.

- Dani Atkinson
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