When you spill salt on the table, you’re supposed to pick up a pinch and throw it over your left shoulder. This will, it is hoped, ward off evil spirits, bad luck, witches, Brussels sprouts and all sorts of other nasty things.
Petra had learned this from a young age. Like everyone, she knew that the ritual existed, although she didn’t really understand it. If you’ve already spilled the salt, why not pick it up? Why waste some more? Why not scrape it carefully into a napkin and pour it back into the cellar?
The meaning, however, was irrelevant. The important thing was that the ritual existed. And Petra would use it to her advantage.
It took months of careful plotting, of always being in the right place at the right time. It might be more correct to say, of never being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It would only take one very small error for everything to go wrong.
The hardest part was the loneliness. Surrounded by so many friends and family, Petra could not, absolutely could not, share her plan with them. In the end, it became far easier to separate herself from them completely, and she did this with a pang that almost made her question her decision. But she knew, better than she’d ever known anything in her life, that this life, and the life everyone around her had planned for her, was not the life she wanted. She had to set herself free.
Natalie, oblivious to the machinations of Petra, sat down to her favourite breakfast of boiled eggs, toast soldiers and steamed asparagus. Reaching for her fork, Natalie knocked over the salt cellar, which went for a tumble across the table before coming to a stop against the napkin holder. Petra’s heart began to beat like crazy. This was it. This was finally her chance.
“Bugger,” said Natalie.
Petra knew she must seize her opportunity now or lose it forever. She surged forth, pushed her way to the front, knocked old ladies and small children out of her way. The flow was still moving, she was nearly there, she could see the light! She was out!
Natalie picked up a pinch of salt in her right hand and flung it without a thought. And Petra, finally free from the cellar, went flying over Natalie’s left shoulder with a smile on her crystalline face. She would not be eaten, oh no, she would never be eaten.