The Junkyard Jaeger
“Wakey, wakey, hands on snakey!” I open my eyes, only to see Greyscale’s ass about ten centimeters from my head. The sight has barely registered when I feel an hot expellation of air against my face, and a smell like…..!
“What the hell are you doing! And what the hell have you eaten!”, I cough, trying to get the sulphuric stench out of my nose.” Poached eggs, chili and my favorite steiner why of course. And it’s time for you to get up. It’s Training Day!”
“It’s six in the morning!” And I haven’t had breakfast”, I add in a smaller voice. “That sounds like weakness in my ears, boy. Besides, this is the kind of training best done on an empty stomach.” “I am intrigued. And mildy horrified.” “Now! Raus, raus!”
I get up and brush my teeth, clear some goo out of my eyes, and grab some sweats from my room, which now smells like sulphur and fart. Dammit, Greyscale.
“Tell me again; what exactly are we doing?” Me, Hermann and Greyscale are sitting in car, moving further and further away from Fallowfell. Greyscale glances at me. “We’re going to a place where we can go all out, far away from human eyes.” “Yeah?” “It’s important that you get to learn your powers– but the very nature of who we are, what we are makes it so that we can’t be too open about it. The government would have kittens.”
“Wait, the government knows about… supernaturals?” “Oh no, not the whole goverment. The Prime Minister and a select few. There are… agreements behind the various governments of the world and the First Council”, Greyscale adds. “The First Council?” “The closest thing we have to a unified ruling body.” Hermann turns around in his seat and looks at me. “One of the more imporant edicts of the First Council is to not reveal our secrets. Which for you means no telling Elena anything about what happened during the previous day.” “What would happen if I do?”, I say, before I have had proper time to censor myself.
“The goverment would send a member of Pier 7 after you”, Greyscale throws in. ” Don’t scare him”, Hermann admonishes. He continues. “Just don’t tell anyone who is a human about the supernatural. It would be a bad, bad idea, for you, and for the person you’ve told. Really bad.” I catch the hint.
The car lurches to an sudden halt in a junkyard. We fan out. The cars are stacked upon each other, in columns that form a labyrint like something of a Harry-Potter movie.
“Now what?” I adress the question to Greyscale, who seems to know more about ‘berserking’ than Hermann. “Now you call on your powers, and we try to get a feel for what you can, and more importantly, can’t do.” “And how do I do that?”
“Close your eyes. Reach deep inside. And pull.”
I close my eyes. I.. I ‘try to reach deep inside’. And pull. But nothing happens. I try again. And again. And again. After ten minutes the silence in the junkyard has grown strained. I open my eyes right in time to catch Greyscale look at Hermann. “Plan B?” “Plan B”, he says in a worried voice.
Greyscale strides up to me. I don’t see the punch, but I can certainly feel it breaking something in my face. He drops me on my ass. “What the hell?! What are you doing?” My words come out slurred, like someone that has a cold. Greyscale smiles a nasty smile at me. This-” he holds up a hand which is rapidly morphing“- is me awakening your powers. You see, magic is a bit of a troublesome fellow. It’s hard to awaken. It needs a push.That push comes in different forms for different people; but fear is usually involved.”
Both of his arms have turned scaly, with long almost translucent claws. His eyes have changed; lizard style. Smoke is coming out of his nostrils. He reaches out with a hand and cuts of the ceiling of a rusted car with casual ease.
He picks up his pace, going from walking to an near-run. “Fear of blood. Fear of life. Fear of death.” He reaches out with a claw and I move at the right time. The swipe bisects a car diagonally, revealing it’s empty engine, seat and half a steering-wheel. I swallow slowly and do the wisest thing I can think of.
I run. This is insane. I thought he was joking– but if he cuts me like that I will definetly die, and this time for real. I pick a car, an old Volvo, and hide beneath it. A large pillar of fire on the horizont tells me where my tormentor is. I guess this is what Greyscale meant when he said go all out. I close my eyes and repeat the instructions. Eyes closed, reaching– and nothing dammit. I don’t think Greyscale will kill me. But there is an abyss of things that can happen between death and hurt– which my previous experiences has taught me.
The pillars of fire are moving further away from me. Puh. I absently put a hand on the pink necklace and a voice blasts through my mind.
“Finally! You are sloven, little mortal!” The dragon! “Huh?” “I said, that you are slovenly. Did you not listen? At all? They said that the Gleipnir is a bridge of souls. And what is the purpose of a bridge, little mortal?” The voice is condescending, and miffed.
Connecting two points. Of course. “So, uhm, how are you?” I can’t believe I am talking to something in my head. “I heard that. And I am quite fine. Now what troubles thee?”
” Oh nothing much. A homicidal maniac is trying to awaken the magic in me by trying to kill me. On that note, that deal we had– you know, the one about partnership and all that, I don’t suppose you could give me a hand?” “Certainly. An attack on you, is afterall an attack on me.”
One moment I am in the junkyard, under a rusted Volvo and then comes a sudden yank and I am somewhere else. I blink. I am standing on the ruins of a ancient house, partially submerged in a black fluid. At first I think it’s a remnant of the disease the barrowman left me, but that’s not it. There is no uglyness attached to this dark void, no sense of virulity and sickness. From my vantage point I can see my reflection in the black surface. I look up, seeing a beautiful starscape.
I step down the house, mindful of jags and broken angles. The house has arcs and bows, like something out of Roman villa. I reach the lowest point of the villa, and look down in the abyss. A closer look tells me that it isn’t a reflection I am seeing. It’s me, but it’s mirror me. It’s me with grey skin, a single emerald eye whose pupil is inverted, and my hair is dark grey close to black.
“You’re me”, I say. “And thou art I”, it responds in the voice of the dragon. The mirror-image reaches out with one hand I and copy it. Just before our hands touch, it stops. “Thou would know, little mortal, that once this bridge is open, it can never be closed. Never. Death alone will sever it.” The words echoes in the between place. I think on it. I think on that bathroom at Ochre, when the barrowman would have strangled me to death if I hadn’t surprised it. I think on that moment real long– and the mortification that comes when a person is truly useless. And I decide I don’t want be that person anymore. I want more. I want to be strong. I want to make my own destiny– be the captain of my own fate.
I nod to the mirror-image. It reaches out with its hand, but this time I am the one withdrawing. “What?” “I just realized that I don’t know your name.” My mirror-image look at me with a forlorn, pitiful look that strikes a chord in me. “I have no name.” “That’s not right. Everybody should have a name.” I pause. “Would you like me to give you one?” The mirror-image nods with the first real emotion I have seen: enthusiasm.
I look at him, the dark-grey hair, the lighter-grey skin, the single eye. The single green eye. I think of my mother’s language, rolling and bright. “Verde. I will call you Verde. How does that sound?” The mirror-image cranes its neck, tasting the word in its mouth. “Verde. Yes– it will do.” Our hands meet. I blink–
— and I am back in my own body, in the junkyard. Power and confidence flows through me. It’s like am I drunk again, except omit the alcohol. Without meaning to I displace the Volvo merely by standing up. It skids across the ground, hitting another pile of broken cars. A small part of me screams that physics doesn’t work like that. The bigger part, the part that moves me is thinking that its time I found Greyscale.
A fiery pillar erupts next to me and I jump. I fly over a wall of cars and land next to Greyscale. “Took you long-” I hit him. The sound my fist makes when colliding with Greyscale’s face sounds like a gunshot. A barbaric, meaty sound, that speaks to me. He lies on the ground, dazed, but only for seconds. He kicks my left leg, breaking something in process. I land on my right knee. I reach out instictively and pull more on that bond between me and Verde and my leg heals.
I look up in time to catch Greyscale grabbing the lapels of my hoodie and then I sail through the air. I land on the grill of an old pick-up. I absently note that something is broken, and there is some kind of internal pressure going haywire inside my body but it doesn’t matter. I have got prey before me and murdering to do.
My vision is turning hazy at the edges, like a camera smudged with sweat. Greyscale leaps through the air, and I rip loose a car-door and fling it at him like frisbee, which has the effect of sending him careening through the sky. I jump after him. He is saying something, a sound, a noise, a string of syllables but I don’t hear them.
My right hand reaches out, seizing something, the wheel of a broken pick-up and I hurtle it at Greyscale. He catches it with one hand and returns it with the other in full, hitting me square in the temple.
Momentarily blinded, I roar. I charge him like a bull and he extends a leg, tripping me simultaneously as he slams an elbow down on my head. He grabs me by the neck, and he says something, but I can’t hear what. There is a tone of finality to what he is saying now. I try to claw his eyes out, but I miss. He slams my head down on the ground once, and says something, but I still don’t hear it. I roar at him, and he slams my head down on the ground one final time.
The last thing I see is the dirt rushing up to greet me….