Hallo, Aro: Hunter – K. A. Cook

Banner for Hallo, Aro Allosexual Aro Flash Fiction. Image features dark black handwritten type on a mottled green background. Diagonal rows of arrows with bands, heads and fletching in the colours of the green/light green/white/yellow/gold allo-aro pride flag cross the image above and below the text.

Hallo, Aro is a series of flash fiction stories about allosexual aromantic characters navigating friendship, sexual attraction, aromanticism and the weight of amatonormative expectation.

Contains: A cis, pansexual, quoiromantic, polyamorous protagonist who knows what she wants … and hunts the Ring’s witches to gain it.

Only then did Prue know herself as destined to wither inside stone and melt beneath glass, and few appreciate rebellion more than a witch.

Links: PDF, EPUB and MOBI editions are available for download from Patreon.

Length: 1, 000 words / 4 PDF pages.

Content advisory: Please expect casual, matter-of-fact mentions of the protagonist’s infertility and the misogyny-meets-amatonormativity (and heteronormativity) of requiring or pressuring women to marry (men). I also reference unspecified antagonism towards queer people and the misogyny associated with traditional Western gender roles. A character in another story (Luck of the Ball) is unknowingly misgendered by Hunter‘s protagonist due to hir family’s continued belief that ze is (or should be) a cis woman.

All sex references are non-explicit and non-suggestive.

When her grey gelding slows to a plodding walk, Prue brushes dust from her britches and navy-trimmed-with-lavender coat. Still ahorse, she removes her cap, feeling about her crown for loose pins and wayward curls. The Citadel’s colours don’t require accompanying tidiness to receive respect, but even fourteen years’ adulthood can’t lessen her childish need to perform neatness.

Sorcerers live by their Nine Laws.

A greater number, albeit unspoken, constrains their wives and daughters.

The thinning trees reveal a slab-shingled cottage and lean-to, plots for herbs and vegetables, a slip-rail yard, outhouse and well. Beans, thick with white flowers, climb trellises abutting east-facing walls; a vine, leaden with purple fruits, blankets the lean-to. Brown hens wander, pecking and clucking, beneath a washing line. An insect-borne hum—bees, perhaps?—suffuses the clearing and a gentle breeze teases Prue’s hair. Can one here idle away the sweltering summer afternoons, sheltered by leaf’s shadow and soothed by loam’s scent?

Nothing here recalls the Citadel’s brutal walls of glass and stone.

“Hello?” A figure rises from behind several zucchini plants, the stems of primordial-sized spinach leaves clasped in one hand. A straw hat shrouds a large-eared, heavily-freckled face, a shock of blond hair falling over one eye. An untucked olive shirt, sleeves rolled to the elbow, sits beneath an unbuttoned waistcoat and atop muddy-kneed trousers—all three garments cut to emphasise the pillowy, dimpled curves of thigh, belly and chest. Bare toes, their nails in need of cutting, sink into the damp soil. “What are you wanting?”

Ze fits the villagers’ descriptions … and Prue’s fantasies.

Even if the attraction in no small part concerns the garden.

“Are you the witch?”

“That word suits as well as many.” Ze emerges from the zucchini with a basket of spinach, squash and tomatoes, hir lips pursed and brow furrowed. “What are you wanting?”

Hir slow cadence and husky growl send an unexpected shiver down Prue’s spine. She replaces her cap and straightens her back. “I’m Sci—Prudence Revered. Prue. Just Prue.” She swallows. “Ah … by the Citadel’s writ, I conduct a census of the Ring’s witches.”

Old titles still come too readily to tongue, even though barren daughters returned to blood-families by marriage-families are granted the same honours as curseborn sons: none.

“About what is this…” The witch sets down the basket before folding hir muscled arms, hir unwavering gaze as hard as hir words. “Census?”

Her cheeks smouldering, Prue draws her notebook and pencil from oversized pockets. “Are … are you Luck Vaunted, the Sorcerer Potentate’s missing twin? I must bid all witches to answer: yes or no.”

Ze blinks. “No.”

“Ex—excellent.” Prue notes this in near-illegible writing, scant record made lest she happen upon an obstreperous sorcerer or official questioning her drawing of pay: Fern Hill witch isn’t sister. She dates and signs the page before returning both items to her coat pocket. “Thank you. For your time. Sorry.”

“One question? You ask nothing more?”

Some witches forgo inquiry, perhaps relieved to avoid further hassle; Prue leaves thereafter, heading for the closest settlement after the tale that will direct her in the search for another. Some voice the obvious, provoking conversation; often, these witches become more than a scrawled name or once-visited destination. More, too, than the curse of bewildering intimacies needed by suitors or her once-husband—as the Citadel expects even of women not sorcerer-sired.

“You say that you aren’t the missing sister. I recorded this.” Prue shrugs. “What more shall I do?”

The witch crooks hir head. Tan freckles run down hir neck, vanishing beneath hir floppy collar. “I can think of askings and doings that officials may, should make. Are you wishing to truly carry out your duty?”

Prue breaks into her broadest smile, hoping that the villagers’ warnings lie in truth more than the scorn oft directed at witches. Oft directed at women like Prue—at anyone who defies expectations spoken and unspoken in pursuit of the unconventional. “I gladly travel the Ring,” she says, meaning every word. “I gladly see new places, meet new people, share a hearth or bed with new-made friends—and old ones.” She considers winking before deciding that this pleasingly-straightforward witch won’t appreciate suggestiveness. “I revere this hunt, this office, this duty … and I trust in your honesty.”

She could have remained at home, given to her brothers’ daughters as companion, chaperone or governess. She could have lingered on her family’s fringes, embodying the isolation awaiting the powerless and undesirable. The Sorcerer Potentate’s widening search for his runaway twin, however, gave Prue an unlooked-for chance to escape the Citadel’s cruel pity … and never has she looked back. Armed with horse, purse and uniform, she discovered masculinity an optional attribute in her lovers and femininity an equally-pleasing one. She discovered the want to amass partners of any gender, cherishing their differences with a librarian’s lust to own numerous books. She discovered the road.

Only then did Prue know herself as destined to wither inside stone and melt beneath glass, and few appreciate such rebellion more than a witch.

How better to meet like-minded companions than to obey the Citadel’s writ?

“I see.” The witch lowers hir chin, a crooked smile creasing hir cheeks … and is it just Prue’s hope that the shift in posture better displays hir hips and chest? “You see with unwonted clarity.”

“I learnt my truths from the mutinous.” Prue looks up at the cloudless sky, the sun approaching its zenith, before glancing back to the witch. “Given the late hour and abominable weather, may I tonight shelter at your hearth? I’ll warm your bed for any care you offer. Gladly.”

Romance’s bemusing intricacies and divisions never served her.

Now she casts them aside, pursuing only what does.

“You can help me wipe dishes and shell peas.” The witch grasps the basket before gesturing Prue down from her horse. “After, we shall see … but I do share my bed with old lovers.” Ze chuckles. “And, betimes, new ones.”

K. A. Cook is an abrosexual, aromantic, agender autistic who experiences chronic pain and mental illness. Ze writes creative non-fiction, personal essays and fiction about the above on the philosophy that if the universe is going to make life interesting, ze may as well make interesting art. You can find hir blogging at Aro Worlds and running the Tumblr accounts @aroworlds and @alloaroworlds.

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