Before I could even get to my room, I heard him roar and the glass shattered against the wall in the room.
I glanced back, fearfully trying to see what happened. I was still gulping down the water he’d cleared for me and I sincerely hoped it had been the end of it.
Obviously the brat-looking spirit thought different.
He entered his room and I followed him there, trying to be as unnoticeable as possible, peaking in the room while he searched below the beds.
“Where is he?” It was out before I knew what I had said and I pulled out of the doorway, suddenly very scared to get away from his glare.
“You are the one sent here to help him escape – you tell me!”
The glass shattered next to my feet covering me with cold water. “Hey! No! I was to open the box, that was it!”
“You will be judged in his place if I can’t get him back!” He pointed straight at my face and all I could do was grit my teeth.
“Is it? This isn’t your court system, darling! They can and they will!”
Bitter taste gathered on the back of my throat. He was playing on my misguided knowledge of their world and the raised hair on the back of my neck said I didn’t like him doing it. I had enjoyed his honesty and I was very disappointed for his 90 degree turn.
I sighed, obeying and stepped past him, giving him the strongest glare I could hold without smacking him. I was pretty sure I wouldn’t stand a chance, but I considered it worth a try. I came to abrupt stop in front of the bed, distracted by an awful smell.
“Oh, god! He shit here or something?”
He reached for a hand laying on the bed and I felt the world disappear under my feet. It looked too similar to the creature that was just tied here. It looked eerily close to the images of human hand without all the skin coverage. As if he’d snarled it off, pulling each end of the muscle clear from the bone. They danced around the hand like squid tentacles and I covered my mouth if I wanted to keep the meager lunch in. It smelled rotten fish mixed with intoxicating sweet flower scent. The combination was worse than anything my nostrils had ever smelled.
“Take it away, please.” I kept my nose covered and he tossed it away in the bucket next to the table. It wasn’t as compulsive to him as it was to me. This didn’t lessen the scent much. “What do you expect me to do?” I inquired instead, pulling my scant shirt higher.
He stood there, his hands on his hips. He was worried, and after what I’d seen before, I started to worry too. Both our eyes fell on the box on the table. He gulped, took the nearby big brown glass bowl and turned it upside down on it. I thought it was odd, but I wasn’t asking his explanation.
“Look, I’ll help you get him back and then we’re even, ok? I’m moving out even if I don’t have the money!” And live under a tree, I added in my head, eyes filling up with sudden tears, when the sudden realization hit me that I was really screwed this time.
“You’re bargaining with me?” He sounded appalled and his question was fueled with anger.
“No…” I lowered my voice, but yeah, that’s what I was doing.
“There’s no question if you’re helping me or not!”
“Oh yes there is! I’m not your personal slave!”
“Says who?” He dared with confidence. His grin robbed my thinking for far longer than I expected.
I choked, lost for words. “I do!” I got out, but he was already past me in the corridor and headed for the stairs. That scared me more than I liked. To start with – this was not their world, wherever the hell that was, and the last thing I needed was him in public.
“Wait!” I yelled after him with real panic in my voice. “Where are you going?”
“I’m going after him!” He hissed suddenly and pulled away from the sunray coming through the broken yellow square.
“Are you nuts? What is somebody sees you? You’re not quite the Average Joe! What’s wrong?”
“The sun is too bright!”
I frowned. “You flew through the sunlight before!”
“Yeah, and that’s gonna hurt for another month! It’s like scorching water on you, human.”
“How would you know?”
“My partner…” he whispered, eyes lingering on my shoulder, but his eyes weren’t seeing me in front of him. “She was boiled alive.”
My mouth fell open and I was speechless for a moment. He was still standing in front of me, now looking straight in my eyes. “I’m sorry.” I offered with no ill thought.
I remained quiet and several steps behind him, when I saw him closing in on the small cabinet that was one half of the bottle neck that made up our door. I did not want to be involved if I possibly could if this thing blew to our faces. It is one thing to be judged based on your deeds, but I’d end in a loony pin should anybody want me to explain this.
The younger woman got up, shocked to see him striding her way, but to my surprise she talked to him as if he was another normal person! Her eyes remained solemnly on his face, not one weary glance on his harness or the monstrous two wings that looked very out of place now in the plain daylight.
I was confused how he could tolerate non-direct light, yet getting burned straight from the sun would cause his skin to petrify.
“She hasn’t seen him pass her the last couple of minutes.”
My finger rose by itself and pointed at her. “She…”
“Nightshifters are part of us. House lady is not.”
“How convenient…” I drawled, confused and saw her wave me with shy awkward smile and I responded with same. “Hi!”
We stared at each other , acknowledging each other and the fact that I was now quite aware of their tiny secret.
“The hell would he go?” he whispered out loud, hands on his hips and eyes turned on the wall behind me.
“Where would you hide?” I asked him back. Well, he probably knew more about those creatures than I would,
“Here? I’d go back home.”
“How do you get back home?”
The question was innocent, but brought his suspicious eyes back in mine and he frowned. He was not about to reveal how to go from one world to another on a whim. He wasn’t that kind of a man and I felt odd pride.
“He won’t get through.” He slowly looked away again, eyeing the surroundings through the large plastic panel windows that looked so out of place on this old house.
“I can’t go out right now.”
“Well! I’m not going alone!”
“I’m not asking you to! You wouldn’t know to search for the signs.
Another thought ripped through my brain. “Will she tell your boss?”
“If I get him back before the shift ends, then no.”
“That is very back stabbing…”
“I suggest you refrain from going on.” This wasn’t a request and I clapped my mouth shut and nodded, glaring at the woman in the booth behind us.
“Shit!” He let out a loud roar with all his might and clamped his fingers in his dark hair. He inhaled hard, bringing his harness to full limit as it stretched with painful sound around his large chest.
“I guess you’re no longer number one in the business.” I snarled out of the blue, irony bleeding through the statement.
“What?” he flew around.
“Only swags with confidence act too tight up like you! When it comes out you’ve lost that tree creature, you no longer keep the number one place.”
“What, in mighty thunder, are you on about? Places?” his face turned into tight grimace with sharp long teeth suddenly his best feature. “You think this is a game? One of your video plays with ugly graphics?”
I had to admit I was impressed of his knowledge of modern technology.
“We pay our lives for our mistakes!” He snarled right next to my ear, when suddenly we both heard steps hopping down the middle stairs and he quickly backed away, further in the back of the empty hall, where he could easily turn so his wings remained on unnoticed. He was slowly pacing back and forth, waiting for the inauspicious man to disappear from site and came straight at me.
“Did your wife lose her cargo too?” I asked quietly, turning back to what probably was too personal question to ask, but right now I wanted to hear him say it.
His posture fell and instead of anger, his eyes misted up. “As an example for the rest of us. She failed the task and Griffin boiled her in front of us.”
Disgust flushed over me. I couldn’t get this puzzle together. “You work for the same man, who had your wife killed?”
He brushed the tear away and headed back to the front desk, avoiding to look at me for the next few minutes while his hands gripped at the table between. “He holds the contract. Weather I like it or not is not an issue.”
He ignored me near him for few minutes talking with the administrator in a foreign language. It was mix of clicks and Latin sounding words.
I felt discarded. I was aware of his posture that showed I was as meaningless to him as the fly on the wall, yet the moment I stepped too near to the stairs I knew his stare had never really left from my back. I climbed the stairs and watched him follow me without speaking a word. I leaned on the wall on the third floor and waited until he got up too, stopping only few steps lower. His hands stretched out, one resting on the wall and the other grabbing the staircase so there was no passing him.
“I’m sorry.” I put all the sincerity in that two word sentence. I understood I was apologizing a lot to him, but never had I regretted digging in somebody’s past as I did right now.
He started forward, not once lowering his hands until his right hand dug against my belly. He forcefully pushed me onwards. I lost the balance and the same hand grabbed around me, putting me down gently. He didn’t hurry letting me go and for a good moment I had the perfect view of his glorious eyes, firm jaw and large nose. He looked indeed like cycled out. My eyes followed his jaw line all the way to the neck and his jugular, which stood out.
His hand shifted, waking me from the dreamy state I had forgotten myself into. His wing nudged me and I watched how he sat down on the old concrete step next to me. His perfect pair of pants seemed to mean nothing and he looked suddenly so very tired.
I remained down, eying the next steps above us and just enjoyed him sitting next to me and the leathery wing that rested against my side.
“We might as well sit here and wait the sun out.” He stated matter of faktly.
I tried not to start laughing, wait out the sun. The entire concept of fearing our own sun seemed off.
“So…” he started, sounding tired, “what do you study?”
Now that was fair amount of laughing material and I burst into fits of giggles.
“What’s so funny?” His eyes were resting on my face.
“I don’t study.” The truth was out before I could think twice. I had planned to keep my lie. One lie for all and so on. But now, when he asked, it seemed so ridiculous to hide.
“Teaching then?” He asked, interested. I shook my head. “You’d have to be in the university to list here.”
“I lied to get this place.”
He frowned, thinking for a while. He saw curl under my nose and reached out to nudge it off. “How do you lie to a system? You’ll get caught!”
“I hacked in the Uni system and added myself in their list. Then every semester I go back and “finish” some courses. They are proud to keep eye on us all, that’s what it says on their homepage. For real, they are rather bad at it with so many students and mass lectures.”
“How long have you done it?” The back of his hand remained resting on my inner elbow. I knew he was testing how long I would allow it before I felt inclined to push him away.
“Few months, give or take.”
“You really are desperate for money.”
I shrugged. Not that desperate, I wanted to say, but he was right. I was desperate.
“It takes a lot of skill to hack in their system. With your skills, you shouldn’t be here, but working in some high tech…”
“Yeah, well, they don’t hire you for high tech if you’re in government penalty.”
He frowned and for a moment I thought I had to explain it to him, but then he nodded, serious.
“What are you accused of?”
“Hacking, what else?”
“You don’t sound very apologetic? Or feel like hiding it?”
He paused and I turned to study him closer. I was starting to understand why he looked as perfect specimen of his species.
“Strange suggestion coming from a law man?” He huffed and I continued with a sigh. “You do the deed, you bear the responsibility. As simple as that.”
“Is that why you need the money for?”
I nodded. “Quick getaway.”
He let out a rumbling laughter. It rolled from deep within and it warmed my heart to hear it. I knew I was gonna miss that in the future.
“What’s his story then?”
“The tree creature.”
“I’m keeping him here for his safety. If it comes out what he has done, people will tear him up before he’d get to court.”
“I don’t believe in court justice.” I murmured, eyes fixed on the foot print above our heads. “It is the most unfair institution in the world. He’ll be given six month sentence on parole and he’ll walk right out of that court room like a free man.”
“He’ll be ripped apart. His only hope is to be put away.” He straightened his back and stretched his wings against the restraints. “I won’t be with him infinitely.”
“What did he do?”
He let out a reminiscent laugh. “He would go through court cases one by one until he found someone, who was let off easy. Then he got their picture, called up 200 random people and they would come together in his victim’s house on the next morning and kill him. they would take a small piece of it one by one and walk away.” His tone changed harsher. “Even after it was already dead they continued until there was nothing else left but the carcass.”
She felt her gaze haze and breathing halt in her chest. This was not what she meant by justice, but she knew well how her boasting had sounded like.
“They could not charge anyone, because they would each come with their own knife to cut the piece. To be pecked clean like that…”
He gazed at me next to him. My eyes had glazed and her shoulders had slumped while her fingers were busy crushing the edge of my shirt.
“Yeah…” He took a deep breath, feeling the cold air on the back of his neck. “Come on, we should get back, you’re freezing here.”
I jumped on his touch. “You don’t like cold?”
“We don’t experience it much.”
As if to make a point, his fingers followed the curve of my hand from the elbow to my shoulder. I granted him a smile, but didn’t look back, when we followed the empty corridor back to his room.
“I think I know, where he might be hiding.” I whispered suddenly, eyes fixed on the river side trees that were visible to our third floor window. “He can shape shift, right?”
“Most of us can, yes.”
“Where would you not notice a tree?”
“I don’t follow.”
I nudged him back a bit, nodding towards the window and the River park over the road. “As long as you don’t slide through air, the fog will give us good coverage in about hour, we can go search the park through then.”
“How can you be so sure? He might just sit on the bus and go anywhere.”
„You have buses in your world?”
„Then he would rather search hideaway from somewhere familiar.”
“Hmm, and what makes you think he would?”
“Same way people fail to see the obvious, when choosing their passwords.”
Naturally he wouldn’t understand the reference, I remembered. “Never mind, it’s not important. Just believe me, when I tell you – that’s most likely his hiding place!”
“Alright,” he wasn’t convinced yet, but he was at least giving me a chance, “you’re local, you know better.”
I wasn’t so sure, might as well be leading us on a wild goose chase.
“The fog around it is often milky.” I changed the subject, looking at his wings. “Halloween would be better, but I guess some fancy costume party will do.”
“Do what?” He’d eyed the hand in the bucket.
“Cover story for nosy church goers – they’ll think your a demon or something.”
“Great. As if I care!” It’s scent was still irritating, but his fury disappeared almost immediately. “I know how we can find the bastard.”
There were still few hours left until sun was anywhere close to setting. The cool air was giving hope for fog and I hoped this would give him enough protection against the sun me on he hunt, ’cause no matter what – I was not doing this alone!
“Wouldn’t it be better if one of the administrators came along?” I offered sheepishly. “I’m not sure showing a large man with wings sends out quite the right message.”
“No, they won’t intervene unless there is emergency.”
“This isn’t one?”
“You got that right!”
I hated observers. They were like official snitches – never helping and screwing you over the moment the government asked.
I sighed, heading to my bedroom. The floor had succumbed into darkness again and the
“Wait!” he followed, reaching out for me, but pulled his hand back immediately to close the door to kill the light shining behind him, when he came face to face with a suspicious looking tall man. “Hello.” He nodded politely, hinting him to go back to his business.
I was busy pulling my jeans on, when he appeared on the door.
“What are you doing?”
“I’ll get cold.” I said, pulling it quickly over my bump. I heard him grab for the door trim and turn away. I glanced over my shoulder to see him standing there, his back to me and nodding to someone in the corridor. He was probably glaring the young man to dirt, I decided, given the youth’s fixated stare straight in his eyes.
I would have found it funny, if we weren’t in hurry. I kicked the skirt off, buckled the belt and pushed him out of my way.