Kine stared at the cell phone.
The name ‘Jonathan Fisher’ was listed as #2 on the emergency contact list. It wasn’t unusual for an Other to have a family. Tomas Ramirez was a field analyst and a vampire. He had a wife and daughter who were also vampires. They were a blood drinking familia unit situated in north Phoenix. Monsters living next door and no one knew a thing. Given the extreme temperatures in Phoenix, no one bats an eye at tinted windows and heavy curtains as most try to do the same thing themselves in order to stay cool for half the year. They were no different than anyone else – save for the fact that they did not age and consumed bloodied beef and pigs blood on a daily basis.
It’s a common misconception that all members of the Day Watch are evil. Real evil was typically generated by human beings. Sure drinking blood, casting a curse and howling at the moon may be constituted as evil by society but really they were as common as buying groceries. Vampires rarely drink human blood only because of the hassle of getting a hunting licenses and dealing with the harassment of the disapproving Night Watch. Casting a curse may sound bad, but when it is used on man who beats his wife so he doesn’t hit her anymore – it becomes justice. Yes his hand suffers as if he stuck it in boiling water, but would you rather he beat a defenseless woman? As for howling at the moon – dogs and wolves do it – what difference is a werewolf doing it?
He moved to the Photo Galley option on his phone. There a couple dozen pictures in total. He had them saved directly to the memory card in case something happened to the phone itself. Most of them contained his late wife – Jonathan’s mother. She was one of the most beautiful women he’d ever met. Her beauty appealed to him because her features were not in any way modern. Her round face was a throwback to the days when he was a much younger man. Her dirty blonde hair was rarely done up, but when it was – he lost himself to her elegant neckline and pale blue eyes. She was a hard working woman who had lost her husband in an auto accident. She struggled for a few years as a single mother but managed to get lucky and work from home. It allowed her to take care of her infant son while provide for them both. In every picture he could see the wear around her eyes. She had endured too many moves and loneliness – that was until he had run into her by chance.
He hadn’t been doing anything related to the Day Watch. He was simply buying groceries. He heard the sound of objects hitting the asphalt. Turning around he saw what happened. Being as she was – she tried to pull out both flats of water out of the shopping car and ended losing the bottom flat as the plastics tore away at its own weight. He could tell she was worn out and the harsh heat from the sun wasn’t doing her any favors. With a simple “Excuse me,” he quick picked up the water bottles and handed them to her. She smiled and thanked him for the kindness and went on her way. Once a week during the grocery trips he saw her. One was arriving while the other was leaving. In some ways it was an odd game they unknowingly played. For what seemed like a three month dance – Kine had finally forced his confidence forward and asked if she would like to have dinner sometime. Her reply was simple with a smile, “It took you long enough.” With that, there were several dates and eventually a marriage proposal. Admittedly – having a family killed some of the internal loneliness that was inherent in all Others.
She looked back at him and for a moment he almost saw the warmth on her face.
An aneurism in the middle of the night took her quickly and quietly.
No magic could save her.
No amount of comfort could assuage their grief.
Even the most “evil” of creatures sent flowers or cards – possibly at the hopes that something similar would be done for them in their own time of loss.
He slid his finger across the screen back to the contact list. Selecting the text messaging option, he typed out four words.
– When You Are Ready –
His body ached as he stretched out on the bed. A long hot shower could not work out the internal aches in his body. He felt as if he had run several miles and then ran some more just for fun. The first time using energy in casting was akin to sex in a car wreck – at least that is what Walling called it. A rush with a violent halt that left you incapable of doing anything else. He knew the more he practiced – the easier it would become but the first day made him want to roll over and sleep for a week. Walling didn’t teach him anything outside of defensive tactics, but really it made sense. If throwing up a defensive spell was draining – an offensive one may be worse on his body. The grace and ease at which Walling did it made him wonder how long he had been an Other. Perhaps he was over a hundred years old or maybe he just had a knack for throwing things at people.
Then there was the Gloom.
Wiping the sweat off his forehead, they sat on a bench in front of a coffee house that once had been a house. Roosevelt Street was a community of homes that were now businesses and art galleries. They had just gotten done with second part of his training – traveling through the Gloom.
Twice he had almost fallen into the Gloom on his own. Both times he would have more than likely died had it not been for someone else’s intervention. Willfully stepping into the Gloom was a different experience all together. If Walling had been a natural at flinging magic – then Jonathan was a natural at stepping through his shadow. The place was a mirror of the real world but lacking true substance. It was like walking in a dream. The world seemed grayish at times and other times it reminded him of an old photo with its sepia tones. Everything moved slower and the people moved walked around as if they were trudging through molasses. Everything about it seemed normal (save the slow motion) except for the blue moss that grew here and there. Walling burned it away with fire where ever he saw it. He said it was a parasite that feeds on people. Leaving it there to grow was like ignoring your civic duty. Though he wasn’t able to burn any away himself – Jonathan understood the concept. It didn’t drain specific things like happiness or joy, but rather drained the energy to do or feel anything.
Walling also warned him to not venture lower than the first level for now. According to him, there were a few levels to the Gloom. At most he could make it to the third, but only a for short time. Each level drained you to the point of being too spent to get yourself out. One could travel as long as they had the power and patience to keep stepping through their own shadow.
“Why the shadow?” he asked his mentor.
Walling shrugged a bit, “It’s hard to say. We could argue metaphysical and what not but my theory is that the Gloom is a shadow of the real world. All we are doing is following that shadow to its core.”
“So what’s the difference between the first and the third?” he continued.
He looked thoughtfully up in the sky. Dusk was creeping across the landscape. “It seems colder and darker. Some of the guys I talked to in California say that the further you go, the more likely you are to end up in the underworld. Some of them think that is where ghosts end up that haven’t made a decision to move on.”
“Like Heaven and Hell?”
“No – just move on. I don’t know if there is a Heaven or Hell. Frankly it doesn’t matter. What does is that we move on to somewhere else. I’d hate to think that our ultimate fate lies in the bottom of shadows…especially down there. However, we are neither here nor there. It’s getting late and I’m getting hungry again. We’ll run through a drive thru and get you back to the dorms. You are going to sleep deeply tonight.” He said as he got up and tossed the empty paper coffee cup in a nearby can.
Learning to drift in to first level was easy. Drifting out was as tough as strengthening his shields. Laying back in his bed, he looked out through the window into the night sky. Was it Shakespeare that said something about things greater than Heaven and Earth or something like that? He shook his head and closed his eyes.
The cell phone’s LED blinked slowly showing it had a message. Simon picked up the phone from behind the counter. “Hey Megan – is this your phone?” he asked as he lifted it up to show his manager. Simon had just been hired on as the bookstore’s closing cashier. The manager shook her head, “No – it must have been a lost and found pickup. Just leave it in the drawer and add a sticky note on it.” Simon nodded and added the note. Placing it in the small basket below next to a few pairs of keys and other things he saw the LED flash. Pushing the menu button – he forced the desktop to turn black. The battery was already half gone…