Here and Away Chapter 9

Chapter 9: HERE

“So it’s the zombie apocalypse?” Away asked.

“And then—No! Have you not been listening? Babes expired and rotted away in their cribs. When did I say anywhere in my exposition that the babes came back to life and ate their parents after dissolving into puddles of goo?” Here said.

“People rot. Then they come back. It’s always how it goes,” Away said.

“Not this time. Not this story. Fire doesn’t bring people back. Fire destroys everything,” Here said.

“Except fire extinguishers,” Away said.

“Do you want to hear the fucking story or not?” Here asked.

“Sure, sure,” Away held up his hands, “I’m just not buying a ‘bright jewel’ named Fire that causes plagues.”

“Yeah well I’m not buying a Cait Sidhe named Away,” Here said.

“Good. You couldn’t afford me,” Away said.

“I can’t afford for a doctor to cure me of whatever mutated brand of syphilis you’ve been growing in your pants,” Here’s lip curled.

“You just don’t know what class looks like,” Away said.

Here pointedly dragged his gaze across Away’s torn jeans and grimy t-shirt, “If you’re class I’d rather blind myself.”

Away laughed, “Okay, okay, keep going mighty storyteller.”

“Not so fast,” Here said, “you’ll get the rest of the story when you give me another one.”

“Another what?” Away asked.

“Another story, preferably a true one,” he refilled his mug with coffee, “I want to know how you got that scar on your hand.”

Away’s smile faded and he went very still, “How did you see it?”

“When you clawed me in the lobby,” Here smirked, “you showed your weapons and your weakness, it seems. Tell me.”

The cat’s pupils narrowed to knife cuts and his jaw clenched. “What will you get out of me telling you?”

“A break for my voice,” Here said, “crappy motel coffee in my belly. Something you haven’t said aloud in a long time.”

“Very well,” Away held his hand up. The scar was more of a rip than a cut and had many jagged edges and splinters, but on the tanned skin of his palm the shape of a circle was unmistakable.

“A few years ago I woke up from a dream. I was cold and hungry. I made my way to a place where I knew there would be food, as you do when you’re hungry. It was a trap. I got the scar as I escaped.”

“What did it?” Here asked.

“A girl with blunt teeth,” Away said.

“She bit you?” Here asked.

“As I said, it was a trap. What more do you want?”

“The whole story,” Here said, “you can’t leave it like that.”

Away growled and looked out at the lake. His other hand clawed at the ground and he crumpled an orange maple leaf in his fist.

“We all have shame,” Here said.

“It’s not shame,” Away snapped, flicked the leaf at him, “I’m not embarrassed I got caught. Humans are terrible and I won’t be the last fae to get tricked.”

“Then what’s wrong with your story?” Here asked. He took another sip of coffee.

“This mark,” Away held up his hand again, traced the uneven lines with his fingers, “wasn’t even that painful. They wanted magic to be real, they wanted it so badly. They were more hungry than I was. Little lost souls out in the dark looking for a light. I went out into the night looking for food and I found a little altar at the end of an alley. Canned food and cheap beer but it was an offering. An offering to the fae. I broke into a can of tuna—don’t fucking laugh—a can of tuna with my teeth and this little girl comes walking in off the street. She’s got this plastic rain coat on and she tells me she can see me and she wants me to come with her. She said she was only ten years old and the bad men were out to get her.”

“Damn,” Here said.

“She had dirty knees and one of her flip flops had a broken strap. She had a scrape across the bridge of her nose and a busted lip. I would have followed her into the gates of hell if she asked me to. When I rounded the corner they got me with a taser and threw me in a van. They had an iron chain and they wrapped me up, not tight but I threw up from the stink of it. As they drove me away from the alley she held my head in her lap and pet my hair as I wretched bile everywhere. The girl’s mother was there, her father too, they told her what a good little hunter she was and promised they wouldn’t hurt me. When we got wherever their clubhouse was, they dragged me out and threw me into a magic circle before calmly, and very rationally, explaining to me that they wanted me to turn them into faeries.”

Here turned his eyes to the family by the lake as Away continued.

“Now, imagine trying to tell someone something they don’t want to hear. It doesn’t go over very well. I didn’t even try. I never opened my mouth once for them. The girl’s father got angry, eventually, and tried to beat the words out of me.”

Here drained his mug and filled it again, set it on the ground between them. Away picked it up and took a gulp.

“I let them beat me. Eventually the chain went slack,” Away took another gulp of coffee and looked out at the lake again.

“When did she bite you?” He asked.

“After I killed her parents. She ran at me and I let her get one in before I threw her against the wall. I feel bad about that sometimes. Do I get the rest of your story now?” Away asked.

“You could say my curiosity is satisfied for now,” Here said, “you want an apocalypse? Spider and Fly have one. It’s rusty and crumbling like an bombed out building. The bloated corpse of a coyote on the highway, staining the asphalt. Dead weeds on the side of the road. But there are survivors among the dead. There can be no bleakness without wonder.”

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