So far Untitled - Chapter 4: The Mall
"I don't care if were not SUPPOSED to talk about her, but we can't just keep her out of our thoughts. She's been all our friend at one time or another..." Donnabel looked at Sad Fairy's blank expression. "... some more than others."
I still can't believe she betrayed us... but I guess we all knew that she wasn't really one of us, Harona signed as she chewed on one of her long braids. She had recently redone them with purple lace trimmed in silver, but no one seemed to notice, which currently kind of made her a little mad.
"Maybe we're not supposed to mention her name because it's bad luck!" Sad Fairy hissed under her breath.
"Oh, yes... we're just full of superstitions, aren't we?" Donnabel shouted, but then stopped herself, because they were supposed to be innocuous. She continued under her breath, "Maybe some people don't want to face the fact they weren't as much friends as they thought they were. I never heard of a demon making friends, why should a half-demon be any different?"
"She was Half-Human, too! Didn't you know?"
Donnabel nodded. "Yeah... yeah, I knew that, too. Which means she had a conscience. I just can't imagine... well... " she stopped and sighed in frustration.
"You talking about that girl who killed those teenagers?" asked a voice from above.
All three jerked in shock. It was Nathan. The guy who worked at Cinnicookie. The reason he was close by was Cinnicookie was just down the hall.
"I got you some churros ... and there is some cookie dough for Harona there..." Harona's big mouth beamed a wide smile of delight. Nathan stepped down into the small pit to where the trio was sitting under some stairs. "Hey, don't you have school or something?"
"We're emancipated," Donnabel said, and snatched the bag. Harona quickly found the small plastic bundle of cookie dough in wax paper and began to chow down. Donnabel offered the bag to Sad Fairy who did not acknowledge the bag, despite Donnabel shaking it in front of her several times. Finally, she shrugged and started on a churro.
Nathan was human, and did not know any more of his visitors other than they accessional came to the mall where he worked. Nathan was typical goth as far as humans knew, and assumed the same of the trio, but his wily sense of questions led Sad Fairy to suspect he'd be a good candidate for Crossing... if Lady Sarcastia accepted men. His Chuck Taylors were also wrapped with duct tape, and he wiggled them with Harona's shoes to compare. He wore black, but the green apron that had a fat guy shouting "Cinnicookie Call!!!" kind of spoiled the effect, and puffs of flour-like dust only made him look like a baker who just returned from a funeral.
Harona's eyes lit from the sugar, and she had started kicking her feet from the small lounge chair from which the trio sat in a lobby pit under the stairs. She hummed to herself a tune she knew... from 1912 or so.
"So ah... you just hanging out?" Nathan asked. He sensed Sad Fairy was upset. In fact, the whole goth community seemed to be affected after those murders. Even worse, they were under more scrutiny. Nathan's boss told him to stop wearing eye makeup, and he saw some former goth kids wearing other colors because their parents forced them to. "You look so cute in Lavender!" "Oh, MOTHER! Gaaah!"
"Yeah, hanging out..." Sad Fairy said as a distant reply. Her hands wandered to the bag in Donnabel's lap, and Donnabel quickly pushed the bag towards Sad Fairy so she could get in on some of the sugary goodness.
"Hey, the boss has some problems at home, and left about an hour ago... so if you want to hang out in the back or something... as long as customers can't see you, it's okay. I am just so bored. No one comes in after lunch on Tuesdays. We can play some Slanted Circle or Pack of Savages over the speakers. That's close enough to organs music to... not be noticed." Nathan watched Harona get more and more wired. She also started moving her head around so her braids would start a dual windmill motion.
"Thanks, but no thanks..." Sad Fairy said. "We have to keep an eye on... things."
"Okay," Nathan said, his face screwed up in confusion, but exaggerated it enough to maybe pass on his desperation. "I gotta ... you know, get back to the store."
"Bye," said Donnabel with a sweet smile. Harona waved enthusiastically like she was saying goodbye to someone on a cruise ship.
"I positively HATE this package," Sad Fairy grumbled.
"Well, the usual crew have been assigned something else for a few days, and we just have to sit here and make sure nobody gets in... and nobody gets out. And Nathan gives us free sugar, which is kind of keen." Donnabel took another healthy bite from her churro while Sad Fairy looked at hers like she was trying to resist, but compromised by putting it in her mouth and sucking on it.
The package in question was underneath the mall, and the only entrance was through a video game arcade which was directly across from their position under the stairs. Through a combination of distraction and staying out of the path of security cameras, the trio could stay all day and night in this location, although the boredom after a few days was excruciating. Sad Fairy wanted silence, Donnabel wanted to talk about EVERYTHING, and Harona just added comments here and there. Sometimes Nathan would come by and say hello, which irked Sad Fairy because somehow he was immune to their camouflage and she KNEW he wasn't anything more than a human with negligent parents. He just had a knack, which were often one of the signs for recruitment for Gate Keeping, but Nathan was still too easily freaked out. So there they had been for the last few days, bored and agitated.
"Hey, spooky faces..." said a familiar voice. It was Genegrieve, Lady Sarcastia's own message girl.
"So, Marideath is still asleep?" asked Donnabel.
"Yeah, yeah... but we'll get to that a little later. First... let me have a churro!" Donnabel handed her the bag, and Genegrieve grabbed several in a greedy handful. "Yeah, thanks. MMmmm! They are still warm! Oh my God, if it wouldn't kill him, I'd so sleep with Nathan for his sugar supply. OH, HAVEN!!"
Sad Fairy sighed. "News from home?"
Genegrieve wolfed the remnants of her food down her gullet. "Yeah. Yeah. Okay, so... I was here two days ago, so you probably don't know but Winnidread was killed last night."
"Oh no!" Donnabel put her hands over her mouth in horror.
Even Sad Fairy snapped out of her funk for a moment to get into the conversation. She, like all Gate Keepers, knew they were not immortal. Since their body loses the ability to heal itself, after a while, and after repeated injuries, the body is simply rendered too damaged and useless to continue. That's when they return to the collective consciousness, and release their physical form to the elements. But most cross over before this happens. The most common death was by burning, although not as much in recent memory. Any sort of massive injury that involves breaking the body up, like being crushed by industrial machinery, corrosive chemicals, or being cut into pieces usually leads to an early release of the soul. But since Gate Keepers have eons of power behind them, they often have superhuman strength, amazingly quick dexterity, and the ability to "know" when things are about to happen. They do not know true precognition, except in rare cases, but rarely are they caught so unawares that they are killed by another. Murder of a Gate Keeper speaks of very bad things, but a part of Sad Fairy wondered if this means an old friend has returned...
"It's not the Half-Breed, although that's what everyone thinks at first," Genegrieve said, looking at Sad Fairy. "We think it's the Soot Man."
The Soot Man is back again? signed Harona in disgust. Who keeps letting him back?
While Genegrieve couldn't understand the exact words Harona was using, she did understand the look on her face. "Yes, Soot Man is back. Probably. Okay, we don't know for sure."
Donnabel wrinkled her face in puzzlement. "Why would he kill one of us?"
"HOW could he kill one of us?" Sad Fairy wanted to know. The Soot Man's preferred method of devouring victims was to suffocate them in a sooty cloud, hence his name. And last Sad Fairy checked, Gate Keepers did not have to breathe to stay alive. No one knew who the Soot Man really was, or where he came from, only he came to this dimension to kill and devour humans in mass numbers. Sometimes he could kill up to 50 or 60 people before the Gate Keepers would find him and send him back to exile in another dimension. He appeared first in the 1700s, then again in 1812, and then again in 1864, and again and again. Recently, he had managed to sneak back in four times in the last two years. The Gate Keepers were getting better at catching him before he did any harm, but obviously, he had caught Winnidread off-guard.
How DID Winnidread die? asked Harona.
"Yeah, how DID she die?" repeated Donnabel. She had been around Harona enough to know if she didn't translate, people would ignore Harona. "She couldn't have been suffocated."
Genegrieve paused, and then whispered, "Shiante."
Harona and Donnabel gasped, and Sad Fairy made a face and said, "Ew."
"Dozens of them. The Soot Man apparently found some amulet that controls them."
"That would explain why the Shiante didn't kill the p... er, Marideath," realized Donnabel. "It wasn't told to kill her, so it just got mad and sat on her head in indecision."
Sad Fairy nodded. She knew that Shiante were pretty unforgiving. Despite being the size of a house cat, one was enough to take down a Gate Keeper. A dozen would have... there must have been Gate Keeper burger for yards around. Sad Fairy shuddered.
"SPEAKING of Marideath," continued Genegrieve, "she is STILL asleep."
"It's been days!"
"Yes, it has. Lady Sarcastia isn't too worried. She spoke with Master Jason yesterday, and he thinks she's being prepped for her powers as a claudience, possibly precognitive."
Sad Fairy nodded her head, "We have been needing one of those for a while. The whole Half-Breed thing wouldn't have happened if we had one of those."
"How can you say that?" Donnabel asked. "Even Master Jason knew who she was involved with."
"I still can't believe she fooled all of us," Genegrieve said sadly, looking at the carpet in disbelief. "She was doing so well until she got involved with the Eye Walker... speaking of which, that stupid mundane is rumored to be up and about on his own two feet. Be careful, everyone. He can see us. And if he's up, he can travel."
"Mundane" was a word that Gate Keepers called humans. Almost all mundanes were clueless and knew as little about their own dimension as a goldfish knows about where food comes from. But once in a while, a mundane comes terribly close, and the Eye Walker was one of them. The most irritating thing about an Eye Walker is they can see even the most minute holes in the fabric of space, and can easily travel from one dimension to another. And being a mundane, they don't understand how truly powerful such a gift is, and then they end up causing a horrible mess until someone finally snuffs them. The most recent case only proved the point. Lady Sarcastia was going to finish him as he lay almost dead in the hospital, but Master Jason told her to wait.
And now he was up and about. Suddenly, this made guarding their package MUCH more complicated.
"Lets see... other news is that Lady Scarity and Lady Morpha are coming over from England to announce a new Lady to end the gap in Miami. We think they are going to choose Muertavida for her work in Cuba and Baton Rouge recently. Lord Coalpitch of Ohio has given Lady Mopril two of his Acolytes, one of them is rumored to have advanced bending capability, and when that's been sorted out, he may come down here to scout for new recruits. One of the Harajuku will be assisting, since they have all the dragon powers ..." Genegrieve paused in thought. "Ah... already mentioned the Eye Walker..."
I'll apply for bending, Harona volunteered suddenly.
Genegrieve snorted. "Let's see... you can jump real high, spin around, your body turns to fangs, claws, and saw blades, and you have a great capability with pre-gunpower era weaponry."
"She can also sew real well," added Donnabel, a bit peeved that Genegrieve had dismissed Harona so quickly and with such arrogance. But as her addition hung in the air, it went flat and seemed very stupid.
"Yeah," Genegrieve said, clopping her tongue, "so the last thing we need is to make her more dangerous."
I don't speak about you in the third person in front of you, Harona said.
But Genegrieve couldn't understand the signs, so she continued, "Bending is the ability to warp the fabric of a dimension. It can alter the trajectory of moving objects, and tear anything... or anyone, apart like they were several sheets of wet paper. And you think Harona here could handle that?"
"Don't patronize her!" Sad Fairy said.
"You make an odd choice in friends..." Genegrieve said, and then added, "...still." Sad Fairy's blood began to boil, and the air in the mall started to darken in their area, and so Genegrieve decided to leave. "Ta ta, grim ones. See you at the mausoleum..."
"I... HATE... her..." Sad Fairy said. But she didn't jerk away when Donnabel rubbed her back.
"Don't let her get to you," said Donnabel in friendly tones. "Genegrieve just thinks she's so special because she's the messenger. Just think, you turned down her job. You REFUSED her job, as I recall."
"My best friend refused..." thought Sad Fairy. "... said I was too good for it."
"Hey," said a familiar voice. It was Nathan. "There's some weird handicapped guy looking for you. Well, looking for 'where the goths hang out.' I told him the candle place at the other end of the mall."
"Thanks Nathan," said Donnabel sweetly. "You did good."
"Wait, did you say a handicapped guy?" asked Sad Fairy.
"Yeah, some guy walking with those crutches. I guess you call them handicapped." Nathan paused and scratched his head. "Or handi-capable. I don't know..."
Eye Walker? asked Harona with subtle hand movements.
"This is just great!" Sad Fairy said, and pinched the bridge of her nose.
"Friend of yours?" asked Nathan.
"Yeah... if by 'friend' you mean creepy mundane, then yes."
"Heh," Nathan laughed. "Mundanes..."
Harona rolled her eyes at Donnabel, causing her to giggle, and Nathan to go, "What? Whaaat?"
"They don't want to date you," Sad Fairy said, "so go away."
"You guys are so mean. We're all in the same boat here," protested Nathan.
"Yeah," said Sad Fairy with a poker face. "Same boat, oars, sail, anchor and all. Where's YOUR sailor suit?"
There was a pause while Donnabel and Harona pursed tightened their lips in a stifled grin and looked to the floor.
"I can take a hint, gees..." and Nathan moped away.
"Well, thanks for THAT, Sad Fairy. "Now where are we going to get churros?"
"In your ears, yam-head," Sad Fairy said and faked deep concentration at the package across the way.
The package was a huge gateway in a storage closet in a place simply called, "Saturday Arcade." It looked perfectly ordinary to anyone passing by, or who even went into the storage closet. It was usually guarded by a mysterious creature that no one really knew WHAT he was, but he appeared to be a balding human in his late 30s in this dimension. He sort of popped out of the gate a while ago, and had been guarding it ever since. No one knows why, but they suspect he's afraid something that might have been chasing him from wherever he came from, and that "thing" (or series of things) might get through. One of the more interesting properties of the gate was that if you moved a huge ping pong tabletop, and opened the door behind, the gateway itself was as large as a football field. Whatever could come through that gate could be up to that size, and once it was realized, it has been guarded so closely by the Gate Keepers that up until the recent incident with the half-breed, it was home base for Lady Sarcastia. But, as the goth crowd became under scrutiny, she relocated to a gate in a graveyard many miles away.
Sad Fairy once joked it was more likely because that Orange Julius went out of business, and Lady Sarcastia had to go elsewhere for her orange frosted drinks.
If the Eye Walker stumbled across this gate, there was no telling what he might accidentally let in. Hell, the Soot Man was peanuts compared to some alien being the size of a football field doing... well, whatever a creature of that size does when lost in another dimension.
The "man" who usually guarded it unexpectedly said he had to be elsewhere, and since no one knew when he was going to be back or if he was coming back at all, it was under Gate Keeper detail for the last few months. The previous guards, Scabatha and Maudlynn, had been summoned for a package in Alexandria for some mysterious purpose. That is, mysterious if Sad Fairy gave a damn, and all she cared about is when they were coming back.
Because this job was boring. Very boring.
"I am going to tell Nathan you're sorry," said Donnabel, knowing full well that Sad Fairy didn't care enough to understand why she had to apologize.
"You will do no such thing," Sad Fairy said.
"Try and stop me," said Donnabel, and walked away.
"Fine, yam it up Miss... Yam-head."
What do you have against her head? Or do you have this thing with yams you need sorted out? Harona asked, and walked away.
"Hey, now, you can't leave too!" Sad Fairy protested. "Lady Sarcastia says we have to stick together!"
"Miss?" asked an unfamiliar voice. "Shouldn't you be in school?"
Sad Fairy realized she was shouting in the middle of a mall, had walked halfway into a fountain, and mundanes were staring at her. Saying, "Oh fuck," didn't help matters much.