Minus Eight Days And Counting
My fist hovers milimetres from Hermann’s door. How do I ask him that I want permission to attend a big party where supernaturals will show their true sides, a party filled with alcohol and what not?
“You’re eventually going to have to ask me whatever it is that you want to ask.” I startle; how the hell does he know?
/He is an uncanny one, alright./ Really? /During the centuries that Greyscale has known Hermann– well see for yourself.
I am in a dingy locale.Smoke obscures a table. The men that sit next to me are wearing jackets of an odd style and cut; it feels like 18th century, or earlier. Hermann is next to me. He says something that sounds like French, but older in a very, very smug tone. They all show their cards, Greyscale included.
The cards of the game look like tarot-cards… and Greyscale makes a disgusted noise as he spots Hermann’s hand.
I shake my head./ It probably is a form of magic that allows him to do this./ I open the door. What kind? /Greyscale suspected it to be foreknowledge, but he was never certain./
I turn to Herman. He looks at me from behind his desk with dark clouded eyes; I stare at him. When the silence has dragged on, and I still haven’t come up with a way to ask, I simply speak.
“There is a party tonight. A pre-party before the Bonfire Ball.” Hermann nods.
“I know about it”, he retorts,in a flat voice.
“Can I go?” When he doesn’t reply I turn the sympathy up. “Pleaseee?”
He scratches his chin, a chin that is rarerly covered with a beard. I used to think that he cut it with a diamond-sharp razor, but now I wonder if magic is at play, and if he can do that what more– what can’t he do.
“I had… I had originally intended to say no if you had asked. But this world of ours…” Hermann trails off. “At this party you will see supernaturals in their true shape. Unrestrained by the veneer of humanity. I think the experience will do you well.” Taking it as the ‘yes’ I wanted, I make for the door before he has had time to change his mind.
“And Rune?” I freeze.
“Yeah”, I ask, without turning back. I cross my fingers. Don’t say no, don’t say no. “Don’t drink too much. And too much is when you think its a good idea to walk at home while a killer is at large.” I nod and flee.
Three hours pass. I shower. Shave some of miniscule hairs that have formed on my chin. I dry my hair and resolve to cut it after the Bonfire Ball.I select a couple of jeans and a tank-top. In the movies, people are always wearing tank-tops. It feels like a safe bet.
I pet Runt, the newest addition to our home, and make sure that there is old newspapers on the floor, in case he decides to pee. Potty-training a normal dog is bad enough. Potty training a breed of demondogs that the ancient Aztecs feared is worse.
An urgent honk and I am out of the house. I have to stop moving in order to contain my laugh before the sight in front of me. An old Volksvagen is idling impatiently. I look to the left, then the right.
“What are you doing?” The dam breaks and I start to laugh at Nevena’s bewildered tone.
“I am just looking for Wilma and Fred, and the rest of the Gang.”
“So you’d rather walk?”
I get the hint and jump in. I give Simona a polite nod, but my eyes are all for Nevena. Clad in a black blouse that makes her eyes appear luminous and leggins….
Simona chuckles in the drivers seat. Ah, I almost forgot to tie the belt. “What”, I ask. “That look… I sure remember when boys gave me that look.”
“You’re not that bad looking”, I say without thinking. Crap. “Thanks”, she responds dryly.
Nevena reaches over the seats and kisses me on a cheek. I turn redder than a German in high summer, a shade I know after seeing Hermann peel off his skin every year.
“So, what do you think….” Noticing my discomfort, Simona rescues me with a gambit about the political situation in the Riksdag, and I give her the rundown, courtesy of Lena Gränby. Odd how I am thankful to her out out of all people.
Simona stops the car gently and I pause in my rumifications of the Swedish Liberals. We’re there? I peer out into the darkness, a darkness I hadn’t noticed previously.
“Now”, Simona starts, “don’t drink too much. And if you’re going to have sex, wear protection.”
“What? I am just doing my duty as older sister. There is a trope I need to follow.”
Nevena tugs on my arm. “Whatever. Let’s get out of here.” Deciding once more that silence is the better part of valor, I nod towards Simona and follow Nevena.
There is a rumble, and the old Volksvagen makes it way back to Fallowfell.Soon I can’t see it, supernatural sight as not. “I am sorry about that.”
“Don’t be. Atleast you have a sister.” I wince at my own retort. Am I not smooth or what tonight?
“You’re right though. But sometimes…” “Sometimes she can be an overbearing pain in the ass that will not go away”, I finish.
“Exactly. Know where is that warehouse….” I look around. The road ends in the spot we’re standing in. There is forest on all sides of us. And its not warm either. “… got it.”
Nevena sneaks her arm around my elbow, and motions to the left side of the very dark forest. Did I mention how dark it is? For a girl in heels, she moves quickly. I focus my eyes, and suddenly the darkness is less.. thick. I can make out the trodden path we’re walking.
“Yes”, she responds without slowing down.
“How do you know that this is the right path?”
“Look up at three-tops.”
I follow her advice. How did I not see it before? Each of the tree-tops are glowing an odd white color, one I think few humans would notice.
The wooden path segues into an open glade and yet we continue to walk. I absently notice that someone has organized a ring of small black squares around the glade.
We hit a barrier of some kind, no, an atmosphere of of mud, of pins and needles, and when we pass through, there is a large warehouse in the circle of stones.
I frown. “This barrier.. it isn’t like the one at the Orchard.” “This one is newer, and more subtle. Now cmon, I want to go inside– it’s cold outside.”
There is a red carpet leading inside the closed doors of the warehouse, and on each side of the entrance a senior stands with a electronic tablet.
The senior on the left side…. is that Sora Yagimoto? His skin is red rather than white, he has grown tusks; boar-tusks and I think that the bar of metal leaning against on wall is a tetsubo. I don’t need Verde to know this one; I think he’s an oni.
“Good evening, Fallowfell.” I incline my head. “Entrance is a hundred-kronors.” I hand him a bill with the face of Carl Linnaeus on it and in turn he swipes something on the pad. “Now the rules are simple. You are allowed, even encouraged to use magic. But not for violence. If you feel like the room is swaying, ask a guard. No violence.”
“Got it”, I respond.
I look the right side of the entrance, where Nevena is talking to a female senior with a third eye in her forehead. She finishes the conversation and extends a hand to me.
“On three”, I say.
We each grab one of the two handles on the door.
“Two.” Deep breaths.
The door slides open, and we enter. A wave of heat, created by the press of so many people together washes over me. And the scents! I taught learning all the scents of the denizens of 1A was hard, but there has to be hundreds of them, each of them unique. The sensory impression hammers my head hard, and I massage my temples. I close my eyes quickly. So many people… why did I think this was a good idea?
“One second. You can go on.”
I feel Nevena departing. I take short and quick breaths. You can do this. Baby steps. Baby steeeps. I look; the warehouse is built in two levels. The first level contains a large dancefloor and two bars at opposite sides. Four thick supporting pillars with carved steps sprout from the floor, holding a second level aloft. Nosy house-music ensures that nobody can hear what another is saying without screaming loud enough to wake the dead.
And what I see…. there are supernaturals that I vaguely recognize from movies and anime. There are supernaturals that I can’t even begin to understand.There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio…. A ray of strobelight burns my eyes; agh.
Verde? /Hmmhmr?/ Verde, wake up. I am going to need you to identify supernaturals for me. With my luck I’ll offend an fairy princess or something. /Yesyesyes./ I feel Verde peering through my eyes.
My second goal will be finding 1A, but first alcohol. I slowly make my way through the crowd, to the left, towards a bar. The senior that attends the bar has a knitted cap on his head, long dark green hair and a nose three times the size of the biggest potato you can imagine. Seriously, it’s like an eclipse. /Don’t look at his nose! Trolls are really sensitive about their noses!/ I focus my eyes on a point around his throat. /Are you a vampire now?/ Real funny.
The troll nods at me. “Could I have whatever passes for beer here and a shot of Mintu?” He hands me a Heineken and a shot of translucent Finnish gold. I lean back on the counter and survey it all. Can you smell any of 1A? /Nevena, Kai and Chiyo were some time ago, that’s all I can say./
I can’t make out any of them on the dancefloor which suggest that they’re at the second level. I sweep the shot and feel the burn. I- I feel a faint touch on my right shoulder and turn absently.
Eiddwen Mordecai is next to me, and if I ever thought that she was creepy before, well then I take it back. Her skin is so pale that I can see the blood pumping under her veins. Her pupils are square, like that of a goat, which would sound cute if you have never actually met a goat (they are assholes). /Do not antagonize an malt-y-nos. Their kind makes werewolves look nice and easily calmed./
That aura of terror that typically surrounds her is almost tangible; I think I can hear the baying of dogs. She is saying something.
“What”, I shout.
“…. told me, to tell you, that 1A is up”, she points at the second level, “there.” Rather than trying to speak over the noise I give her a thumbs up and move myself and my Heineken up one of those pillars. It strikes me that it could be really easy to fall as one walks up these spirals; there is no railing and with alcohol in your system?
Before short I find myself on the upper floor. It’s plain and rectangular, furnished with old tables and chair where supes have gathered. Now… a sphere of green light flares into being over a table, and taking it as my cue, I head there.
Not all of 1A have gathered– Pontus, Signe, Marika and Sara is by virtue of their humanity excluded and Shirin is nowhere to be seen, but otherwise they’re all there. I grab a chair and sit next to Kai who is doing his best ‘fool’ impression by creating small spheres in the various colors of the rainbow and juggling them to Linnea Hexer’s delight. Hexer herself looks rather human, except two things. Concentric rings outline her brown eyes, and there… are those gills? /I do not know where she got those eyes, but gills, that means she has merfolk in her family somewhere./
Chiyo and Stella are talking next to me; Chiyo with two small horns on her forehead and Stella whose lower body is that of spider. I try not to overanalyze that one. /Ushi-oni, but you knew that one. Werespiders.../ Verde stops, and I am greatful.
Amanda raises a beer as if to salute to me, and I take the opportunity to observe her. Her eyes are a metallic shade, close to silver, and her claws and teeth may be a bit sharper, but nothing more overt. /It would be a grave mistake to underestimate an werewolf. Especially upon this night./ This night? /The moon is full./ Not going to fight Amanda, that’s for sure.
Hannah leans over the table and traces a symbol in the wood for Amina. Without the glamour, Hannah’s hair is crimson red and her eyes… they’re blue and white at the same time, like lightning. There is something… I laugh to myself. I was going to think that there was some fey about her. The irony.
Amina brown hair is spiked, but I don’t think somehow that it is the result of an hairproduct. A cloud of small,black, snowflake-sized granules surround her. The cloud makes me think of black powder for some reason./ That cloud…. she bears Baba Yagas mark./ Meaning? /Meaning that Baba Yaga was offered an seat on the Council and she turned it down, and nobody dared to comment on it./
Kai looks like himself, just more drunk. I don’t think witches change their appearances, small blessing that it is.
And so I look on the last person in 1A, the one I have been almost afraid to look at; Nevena. Her straw-colored hair is like white gold now, and crowns of red fire makes her citrine eyes more vivid. There is a melody around her, like tall grass swaying in tune with the wind./ She is Lamia’s granddaughter– that’s who she gets the eyes from. And that melody… there is some samodiva in her./ Samodiva? /Bulgarian fae./
I think I understand what Hermann meant. The people in my class, they’re human and yet they’re not. The faces they show in P.E., in Social Stuides, when they eat, when they laugh, it’s just the tip of the iceberg. What I am seeing now are the depths. In one way I am greatly honored. In another way it makes me sad that they, and now I, can’t be true to ourselves in normal society.
Double that for me.