With Sigge in the apartment Foxhorn was no longer alone. Sigge was the bane of his existence. An ever-taunting and leisurely creature that rued the fact its visage couldn’t unnerve the man and therefore kept a steady, doubled pace of ruining every second of Foxhorn’s day.
Harm Foxhorn, being a beast of immeasurable destruction and terror, wasn’t the least bothered by the elongated neck and bisque doll face straight out of a museum collection. Not even when Sigge was trying to crane its head to peer into his bedroom because the damn thing couldn’t leave him alone.
The man was intent on washing off the blood and grime covering everything that wasn’t his ripped psychic shop T-shirt and the pants he had also managed to shred.
I can’t sleep while I’m here, just like I can’t sleep the night before coming here. This place and its inhabitants are the root to my trauma, to my inability to do anything. An inability I shove away and function outside of, as long as I’m outside of here.
I’m surrounded by people who would never hurt me. Except for the scores and scores of times they’ve hurt me and continue to do so. And I hate how comfortable it is.
There’s a buzz of anxiety just under my skin, dancing in the back of my mind, an ache in my chest. It makes me squeamish but it blends into the familiar scenery, the rug I feel at home sitting on, the sounds of the house I recognize best, the genuine appreciation I receive for being here.
I can’t sleep. And they’re slowly killing me.
It’s half past midnight and
I’m actually tired enough to sleep.
somewhere already in bed,
already lulled into slumber
with the aid of pills that she
could never sleep without,
my mother is proud of me.
Miss Officer, Mr. Truffles and Ms. Taffe’s Furnace
Being a constable in the RCMP was a serious job, with as much fun and light heartedness one could apply day-to-day. But today wasn’t another ordinary day on the job. No, ordinary days involved car chases, evidence gathering, sitting behind a speed radar gun with a very large cup of coffee and a very deep dish of water, or even the average arrest. Today, a cat was stuck in a tree.
“I can’t say it’s the most exciting thing we’ve done this morning,” Miss Officer said, all of an hour on shift and having done literally nothing but a comms check in her squad car before being called out. She smiled as Mr. Truffles agreed shortly before scampering up the tree. “I thought people stopped calling emergency services for this kind of thing?”
On the grassy front lawn of a quaint, proverbial cottage-house occupied by a tall, elderly woman in a Canadiens housecoat, with a Jamaican accent not diminished in the least from her fifty years rooting for the habs – stood said elderly woman, Miss Officer and one remarkably large tree. “They said on the phone, they had an officer in mind,” Ms. Taffe watched the small black bear make its way to the thickest branch that was the current perch for a very arrogant tabby by the name of Furnace. “Are you sure about this?”
“Trust me ma’am, we are professional law enforcement officers – which may not actually directly apply to getting cats out of trees – but Mr. Truffles is a highly trained expert in… many other things.” She surveyed their small audience of a kid on a BMX bike with a Maple Leafs tuque, before looking back up to her partner. “How’s it going?”
Mr. Truffles waved a paw in the air as a thumbs-up, serving to swing him off-balance and nearly off the branch. He hung on, upside-down, with his free paw attempting to get a grip for leverage.
Furnace, meanwhile, appeared to have fallen asleep.
“Yeah, we’ve got this.”
Between breaths, Harm Foxhorn hacked blood onto the sidewalk. Somewhere in the distance someone called emergency services, sending alarms off in his head that he needed to move. Foxhorn couldn’t be sent to a hospital; he wasn’t necessarily human and any medical professional paying attention could figure that out. As much as he had been out of the ICU for years, the fact that they looked sharply down on public awareness was forever holding over Foxhorn’s head.
Much like his awareness of fatigue and the time limits imposed on his current circumstances.
When the alarms were combined with actual sirens, Foxhorn managed to stumble to a stand, unsure if he had been conscious for the minutes it had taken for first responders to respond or if he had blacked out at some point. His gait was uneven, twisted and broken by the occasional slump into a wall, a wincing shuffle around an obstacle or the need to cough up some more bloody spittle.
The sirens came closer and closer until they stopped where he had been reported.
I am the cracks in the sidewalk
threatening to swallow you whole.
I am not the fear
that you will never escape.
I am the alternative.
I wake and my first thought
is that today’s skies are clear
because I cannot hear the rain
but in reality it is all I hear
the background noise of life
Jennifer wanted to die.
Between the crushing feeling in her chest and whatever was making her knees quake, she was three steps away from heading into traffic if she wasn’t so sure she would falter if she dared moved even an inch. Around her, the crowd was excess stimuli.
People everywhere; wearing colours, moving, with facial expressions and all those little details that makes that person an individual. Everything ever about everyone around Jennifer swamped her every sense that wasn’t fixated on the people she was with. The people calmly discussing the newest interruption in their day with such subdued anger for the sake of being in public, that Jennifer didn’t know if she felt like the sky was falling on her more now than at home when the facial expressions and gestures were wild and large.
Jennifer was stuck exactly where she stood. Even when the argument would come to its inevitable end and the family would move off the streetside to wherever they had ‘compromised’, Jennifer wouldn’t be able to move.
She knew this.
She knew the second that they would know this, that she’d become the fixation of their anger. They’d become undeniably frustrated, as though frustration wasn’t full of every gruesome emotion that hurt to be the focus of. Every microsecond of their attention would be direct attacks. Even without angered words, it would be written on their faces, in their hand movement, their body language.
Jennifer could feel time slowly running out, churning through her crushed chest like a sieve but coming out just as semiliquid as it went in. Piling on pressure as though her heart were the strongest part of her.
Nothing was the strongest part of her.
This was something she knew too well, but didn’t want to admit.
Because if she could be strong, she could end it. If she had just a moment’s strength to step off the bridge, to wander into traffic, to swallow one too many pills, to do more than stare at blades poised millimetres above her flesh. If she were anything but the weakest creature on Earth, she could make sure nothing ever hurt her ever again.
Instead she prolonged in the sea of horrible things. Of stimuli and fright, of being so physically affected by nothing – nothing they told her, there was nothing – that she was frozen and broken, she could feel how wrong everything was and it hurt so much.
Everything hurt so much, Jennifer wanted to die.
Regardless of his boots’ valiant efforts, Harm Foxhorn’s toes hadn’t been dry since five in the morning. The torrential downpour season had begun, serving to remind Foxhorn that he had a hefty raincoat that he isn’t allowed to wear, which left him in something he had picked up for less than ten dollars that had essentially no insulation. Once the sunrise’s effects made its tardy way into the darker back alleys, the morning chill in his bones was no longer his most pertinent problem.
It was remarkably difficult to sidestep spiny caterwal spores while one’s whole body was shivering, especially when the rain both spread them and made them reproduce at alarming rates.
Foxhorn wasn’t terribly worried about them. The rain season was short and followed by a freezing, dry snow of a winter that obliterated the dank and humid proliferating plantlife. Foxhorn had to find his snow season clothes in the wreck that was his apartment, and hope Sigge wouldn’t shred them out of whatever vendetta the familiar held.
Mostly, Foxhorn was worried about the surprising lack of abaedan haunting the edges of rooftops and marking magically prominent areas. He wasn’t sure if it meant more or less work for him in the future and the uncertainty was certainly making him anxious.
He was also worried about his toes never being warm again and that the cope had managed to circle around and sneak up behind him.
The sword that made its way through the primarily shadow-based creature didn’t make a sound, nor did the cope as it started to collapse into two individual portions, divided by the blade at a sharp angle. What had previously been a tall, thin, vaguely solid entity of sharp edges, sharper claws and gruesome teeth, flattened to long flickers of falling black cloth before fading midair.
Foxhorn kept the information that he had been moments from being slaughtered well away from any expression he wore. Instead, he blinked at the unexpected appearance of the man apparent in front of him. “There’s your sword,” he fumed sardonically, as though it had been mere days since the topic had been bantered between them. Or since they had seen each other more than just in passing.
In the grey alley saturated with water from pavement ground to concrete walls, Ashley stood as straight-backed and square-shouldered as he ever did, with his broadsword at rest in one hand at his side. Its tip just barely threatened to touch the ground, subtly portraying just how well-versed he was with the weapon to hold it so with such ease.
With the overcast sky above and the background noise of cars on the equally soaked and puddle-ridden roads, the world of that alley just then was comprised entirely of hard surfaces and water. Foxhorn’s soles were solid and wet, grounding him to the spot he could have just died in, down some nameless crack between buildings.
Saint Ashley Channing’s eyes were on the spot where the cope Foxhorn had been tracking had perished. “There’s my sword,” he duplicated with heavy irony that Harm couldn’t have possibly been more aware of than he was. “Was that the last?”
Foxhorn had spent the entire morning tracking the colony of what were essentially the manifestation of the word massacre. “I don’t know if I should be pissed or not.”
He waited the maximum time before Ashley’s silence in lieu of question would turn into an actual spoken question, spending the majority of it stepping out of the puddle he was standing in and reorienting himself with the surroundings. He also fixed his jacket cuffs after making an attempt to rub his hands together for warmth. “I had been gathering information…” his defiant gaze into Ashley’s eyes conceded, “and exterminating, synchronously.”
There wasn’t the slightest trace of hesitation when the saint followed Harm leaving the alley, stepping around the occasional overgrown spiny caterwal. “Wherefore?”
“Contrary to popular belief,” Foxhorn started ready to lecture, without any consideration. He eyed Ashley for a moment, specifically the sword. “Not everything that’s not ‘human’ is a ‘monster’.”
Ashley’s ‘don’t condescend me’ look was parsed by Harm even with the few hours spent in each other’s company.
“I don’t mean just the human-form ones and the intelligible ones.”
Queen Street was near bare prior to midday and Foxhorn briefly wondered how the saint and his mighty sword fared during rush times. He also wondered where he was going.
And whether or not Ashley would kill him whether he was in shift, not recognizing him for the great beast that he was. It was a pointless string of thought; he knew the man would definitely do so.
“This way,” Ashley encouraged, heading towards buildings made of brick and stone, encircled by glazed high-rises of offices ready to get out for a dreary, grey lunch.
Foxhorn shrugged and followed with hard, icy-wet footfalls.
In the midst of the older, stony constructions of the city, Saint Channing turned down another alley. Far from Foxhorn’s prior hunting grounds, with significantly more drainage, a sole spiny caterwal was to be avoided. “I hear out east these are a blight,” Ashley commented, and then leaned his shoulder against a wooden backdoor to a structure Foxhorn scoped out to have a steeple before he ducked inside.
Any building with a backdoor short enough that Foxhorn felt the need to duck was generally a church.
“I’m not saying the caters are intelligible creatures – people – but still, y’know, an entity,” Foxhorn followed up, finding himself led into rather tight digs, cosy but spartan. He didn’t have to explain that ‘living’ wasn’t a classifier that qualified for all intelligible beings. He also didn’t have to take an intuitive leap to come to the conclusion that this was Ashley’s home. “So you live in a church.”
Ashley’s sword was sheathed and hung. He took a seat and gestured for Foxhorn to do the same.
“I mean – thanks – of course you live in a church, but you actually live in a church.”
“Churches.” Instead of a fireplace, a radiator nearly predating the 20th century centred the attention of the chairs in the room; Ashley leaned forward to turn it up with all the appropriate responding rattles.
“Right,” Foxhorn mumbled. He supposed Ashley could go just about anywhere in the world and gain lodging. His succession of discussion on creature-kind wasn’t near a finish, “You wouldn’t screw with the natural forces of the universe, and they’re not intelligible, so what makes say… abaedan so different. Or those half-stone gnomes.”
‘Garden fey’ were referred to in size by ‘stone’ – a standardized smooth rock dimension, of optimal skipping-across-water proportions – much akin to the more variable human units of measurement before they were turned systematic. Gnomes that were half-stone had no vocalization abilities and rode centipedes for transportation.
“And don’t you dare say something about how they ‘look human’, because that’s race bullshit. And abaedan are…” Actually the almost-black swift bird creatures creeped out Foxhorn, no matter what he did. Just the thought ran a chill down his spine.
The look Ashley gave Foxhorn attempted to tell the chilled man he was being entirely too patronizing. “Not everything is simply hills and dale.”
“That’s a revelation coming from you,” Foxhorn laughed.
Foxhorn continued to laugh, at the pun within, tittering into his hand briefly. “Consider then,” he recovered, “there is no black or white and everything’s grey, and maybe shades of purple at times.”
“I can’t say this is the most eloquent philosophical discussion I’ve held in these quarters,” remarked the saint.
“Be serious for one minute, alright?” he said as though he wasn’t one of the few people who could pinpoint exactly when the saint started to become childishly facetious.
Foxhorn’s boots were still drying on the register when he finally thanked Ashley for saving him.
The caffeine effectively killed any visible symptoms of his current depression downswing, but amplified his anxiety enough that he had opted out of his favourite chair - more comfortable on the wings - and had backed into a corner. Jenny kept an eye on him, catching herself staring whenever she paused to rub her glasses clean. She had been looking away when his phone went off.
Interrupting the smile blooming out of reading the text message – a smile Jenny cherished – Leixes hurriedly pressed the phone to his ear after a moment’s reluctance paired with a terrified expression. He frowned at the stream of vocals flooding his ear, which he responded to in kind. “Akhae ixes, noml daehn… koht.” His entire face twitched. “Please, at least when you’re talking about words I don’t even know in English… yes, you did warn me, barely.”
Jenny took this moment to approach, picking up the knitting Leixes had dropped to answer the call. He mouthed a thanks and gestured for her to stay around when she moved to end her eavesdropping.
From the phone came a further avalanche of language Jenny had never heard before, barring whatever Leixes had just sputtered and clicked.
“Koht, please don’t call me sahkee.” His grimace wasn’t missed by Jenny; that had been a proper, pained look. “Not if you– abhat, uh… abhat kholea. No, abghat. My enunciation isn’t that bad. I said abghat. I did.”
Jenny smirked, “No, you didn’t.”
Leixes smothered the phone against his jaw, “Don’t even.”
“Who is it?”
“I’m– Pshhht, phone.”
“Well then why am I standing here?”
“Asfdjhaldf, I have to tell you a thing.”
Jenny considered taking away Leixes’ coffee, but then he’d never get any work done. She eyed the knitting on the table and tried to place who it would best fit on. Meanwhile, Leixes rambled away on the phone assuring that he was fine and the world was a wonderful place and ‘if only you stopped with the words or bringing that up this would be a good phone call’.
The call was ended while Jenny watched, somewhat unnerved at how long she had been away from behind the counter, and Leixes took an extra moment to compile himself.
“So I’m on for Saturday.”
The sudden news brought an overjoyed grin to Jenny’s face, “Yesss.” Her weekend plans didn’t often require goading friends into attending a show, but she had a minimum audience prerequisite. “And I didn’t know you spoke…”
“Yeah,” she was already backstepping towards the counter, still bouncing at the good news. “Also, whoever that was, she sounds hot.”
Leixes sputtered and dropped a stitch. “That’s really not okay!”
After a particularly harrowing semester, Daxes favoured working on her personal projects during her more ample downtime. At a glance, her projects were comparisons and statistics that looked the same as any notes from her comparative perspective classes. With a more detailed inspection, one could observe that the studies she recorded in her spare time were significantly more complex and oriented well-outside of the categories examined in any of her courses’ curriculum.
Maintaining the most objective point of view for analysis, she was in the habit of taking preliminary notes from afar. In most situations, collecting face-to-face data required a glamour. At her university, Daxes navigated the social change school clubs in and out of as much, though not an active participant herself.
Her pastime wasn’t confined to her campus. In human guise she could be found at every other university within practical travel distance. She extended as far as talking to teachers and administrators in elementary and secondary schools, questioning youth programs organizers, conversing freely with instructors and local sociologists, and catching herself idly making notes on the patrons of the coffee shops she spent lunches in.
While school taught her the tools of the trade and trained her in the political and social aspects of sociology, Daxes was imbedded in the phenomena surrounding supernatural creatures and affiliated people in social environments. She had written entire papers on changes in group behaviours and origins of cultural structures, and how they cross-pollinated when subjects from different cultural and creature origins inhabited an environment together. Entire notebooks of data were filled on model situations, accounting for the fact that society doesn’t exist in a vacuum.
When started, she could talk endlessly regarding personality traits as opposed to supernatural attributes in relationship building.
Her friends found it interesting, her peers found it extraordinary and her family, on occasion, would listen raptly while certain aunts – and one uncle – would start arguments. Those who didn’t have either a basic understanding or a foundation of a relationship with her were more than often found charging off in the opposing direction. Especially those unaware of preternatural existence.
She herself regarded it as so compelling that, besides her multiple published papers, she had enough material for an entire book. Or three.
Having grown up in a wholly family-oriented environment within an even further isolated society, she found every single person and creature fascinating, especially non-paraos. The fact that these people socialized with other people regardless and working around their own various preternatural attributes, species and cultural background therein was riveting.
Her childhood had been wing-wrestling with others her age, being taught arithmetic and algebra by aunts, conceptual topology by uncles, flight and flight physics by her mother, and grooming and paraos history by her father. Her social upbringing was entirely by her kind, with all its intricacies of gender roles. All of which filled her sense of a default society, with human society an drastic reverse and generally found on the extreme end of a spectrum if found in a spectrum.
With inherent cultures still prevalent among most species; interspecies socialization – especially including humans or under the parameters of human society – were nothing short of fascinating to Daxes. Outside of profession and passion, Daxes thoroughly enjoyed her own part in the platform of cultural crossovers. The extent of her respect to the validity of every single person’s experiences made her well-respected in turn, often instantly befriended and at times a role model.
Daxes took the attitude that this was basic social decency and went about her way.
Time began as a fluid – at times contracting and layering into a more viscous composure – wherein nothing and everything existed on a purely molecular scale, sans molecules. ‘Time’ itself is a misconception; in an infinity of material, energy and force, condensed, leavened and occasionally exploding, ‘time’ was a fallacy. Primordial and anti-history, every atom, second and joule composed pre-time.
Such a simmering, frozen brew was – sometimes is and occasionally will be – pre-time, that no thing existed. Not once did more than two particles ever bond, and then only to ricochet off one another and tumble back throughout oblivion.
Here among the genetic makeup of the universe exists the consciousnesses of the greatest beings to ensue. Awareness and thought formulated into individuals well before any semblance of bodies or hint of probable physical entities.
Here is Sigge.
Not the birth of Sigge – who would argue the body essentialism of ‘birth’ – but somewhere along the timeline of Sigge’s existence near its beginning. Relatively. In the molten construction of pre-time, an existence such as Sigge’s had already been around for so long it was difficult to differentiate if pre-time even emerged before the being of great self-worth.
As much as Sigge started with little to no considerable self.
The fluid nature of particles, their vague sense of distinction between being a part of one thing or another made pre-time and the basis of all things ever-changing and ever-shifting. Within a potentially, relatively short period of time, everything consisting of Sigge’s make-up could become some portion of energy or a potential solid object. Sigge could as easily be comprised of nothing as it could be the sensation ‘cold’ or the second between breaths whenever breaths would become viable happenstance. This respective formation of physique – without physical presence – was not an individually unique occurrence, but perhaps a notable one.
In the swarm of consciousnesses lapsing in and out of existence, of every iota changing its entire whole into something different, new. Of millions upon millions of facets and aspects that would eventually form time and the universe as seen fit slowly forming, excluding that which would not come into being and including that which would. Amongst it all, Sigge – as inconstant as Sigge’s existence was – was constant.
Siv Vaduva, judging by hir bathroom, clearly did hir hair by magic.
Ze also lit the apartment at night by magic, given the various lamps unplugged and missing lightbulbs.
While Siv spent a fair portion of hir time practising levitating pens, ze had definitely graduated to the slightly more difficult standard magical activities. In the practitioner’s club room, ze never talked about hir own developments and instead ze listened, taking in the experiences, debates and lectures from other practitioners to aid hir own pursuit for mastery in the practise.
Ze also took everything said there with a grain of salt, knowing that plenty of the people populating the guild were poor examples of scholars of magic.
And some were just there to raise themselves.
Ze hirself had realistic ideals for hirself, that ze worked hard towards without falter.
Siv’s life had led to now, and every step ze took consciously worked for hir goals. Ze took pleasure in hir green hair and the occasional show ze was often surprised to catch a glimpse of Henry at.
Meau propped herself up on an elbow and lifted her silencing hand only to press a finger against her lips. She pointed at the nearest kitten and nodded her head towards it.
Jim blinked, not even beginning to be awake, at the gently snoozing cat. She shrugged at Meau and tugged her shirt straight.
On the loveseat, Henry’s legs were akimbo over the back and an armrest. He didn’t fit on the two cushion couch that Meau couldn’t accommodate herself horizontally on, on a good day.
Next to the Acid Lickers patch on the calf of his pants, a halestelan kitten was deep asleep. It stirred, flicked its tail, and repositioned its head with a great and mighty snore.
Jim immediately dropped her forehead into a palm. She mouthed ‘fuck’ while Meau nodded ‘I know’ over her shoulder. ‘It’s too early for this,’ she mouthed clearly and emphatically, before gingerly getting to her feet and tiptoeing to brush her teeth.
Meau rolled out of bed and pulled her pants on halfway to the kitchen and instant coffee. She managed to narrowly avoid the bearded dragon sleeping in the most inconvenient location, stretched out in prime real estate for being stepped on.
Henry shifted anxiously from foot to foot and glanced over his shoulder at what could be made out of the manmade structures in the dusk.
The air around them gave a sudden, violent shift and found the three gasping for breath. Henry barely managed to stay upright with the wind knocked out of him. Meau sucked in a long breath and kept her ground while Jim appeared to be sputtering but much stronger in her stance.
Everything that wasn’t a solid object had just moved about four hundred meters to the left.
Flames holding strong, the light of the fading sun and eerier blue of the fire shimmered just on the side of too dark. As though someone had turned down the dimmer switch on the world.
Scraef Mid Scrithan was, notably, the interior of a volcanic cave.
The bundle of cedar twigs faded down into the ground. Meau let out the smallest measure of an exhale but only steadied herself further.
One down, three to go.