Sorry for the late posting… Really bad migraine. Please enjoy.
27 of March 2021 – 10:04 PM
Crazy old man, I grumbled internally as I stepped out of the gas station and began my stroll back home. The 1A was fairly busy that time of night, so I was hesitant to run home at my usual speed. I didn’t want to risk anything, what with that trapper warning still in effect. He could’ve shut up and let me leave sooner…
Mr. Sweeney seemed to embrace his surname and acted like every bit the weird guy you’d expect him to be. Sure, he was far more sociable than the Demon Barber, chatting up every living soul in sight for at least a good ten minutes before releasing them from his crutches. I’d seen some of our older customers match his energy easily, while most of the younger humans had a hard time keeping up with him. Usually, I had no problem holding my own against Ol’ Sweeney, but I was eager to get back home and join the party.
“ ‘Ey–you sure you can walk in this shit?” asked Mr. Sweeney. He had propped the door open with his foot to ask me this and was already hugging himself tightly. His grease black hair, or what remained of it, was streaked silver and combed over to the right in an attempt to cover his balding head, and his beady eyes appeared as black as the surrounding night. “I can just drive you real quick, if you wanna stick ‘round.”
I shook my head and threw him a grateful smirk. “Thanks, but it’s right up the road. Besides, I can’t wait around for you to finish closing up–my little sister’s home alone, so I’ll be there in no time if I run.”
The older human nodded, his lips upturned in a tight-lipped smile. “You’re a good kid, Ax. Stay safe an’ go straight home.”
“You got it, boss.”
With that, I made a show of tugging on my thick beanie and pulling the hood of my jacket over my head before I took off down the road in a moderate jog. My sneakers slapped against the concrete sidewalk as I continued at a mortal pace, my senses alert as I listened for signs of other humans.
By the time I made it to the first intersection, I could feel their eyes on me. I frowned, unable to place a pulse or breathing to the body tailing me. I finally gritted my teeth and spun around before stepping out on the crosswalk–
There wasn’t a soul in sight.
I huffed out a sigh and rubbed my face, making it seem as if I were trying to keep warm. I obviously couldn’t feel the biting cold, but I needed to seem human. Even though I couldn’t confirm it, I felt as if I were being watched, and with that trapper warning…
Chill the hell out, man, I told myself as I crossed the first street. The upcoming strip of sidewalk was covered in shadows thanks to the tall building on its left and the thick trees on its right. There were no cars or bystanders around, and I couldn’t hear an engine within two miles. No one’s around–if someone was, you’d have heard them.
As soon as I stepped into the shadows that bathed the next sidewalk, I broke out into a run, disappearing into the night. The house was about a half a mile away, and after a couple of turns at a speed that made me damn near invisible, I found myself climbing the porch steps and using my house key to enter the first story landing.
Electronic dance music radiated through the entire first level, emanating from the basement below. I was hanging my coat on the rack by the door when a couple of faces emerging from the underground party caught my eye.
“Arden, Taweret!” I called out, genuinely shocked. I hadn’t invited any of my Haunter friends for a couple of reasons; the first was out of respect for Cari, since this was supposed to be her first party and we only invited people with that in mind. The second was… Well, honestly, I was never that close with any of the other undead students. I lived in a witch coven, which most Haunters weren’t cool with–after all, witches were the number one cause of curses that resulted in a person becoming undead. Add that to the fact that I wasn’t involved in any physical extracurricular activities outside of the Parkour Club, and I was written off by most as a poor excuse for a vampire.
The aswang and mummy rushed over in an instant; Taweret’s raven black eyes shimmered as she pulled me into an embrace, strong in spite of her short stature. Arden, on the other hand, opted for a nod and a half-hearted wave in my direction, their coal black irises filled with glee.
“We were wondering where you were!” Taweret shouted, and I fought the urge to wince. Mummies weren’t the whisper-quiet, bandaged zombies movies made them out to be; they looked just like everyone else, though being locked up in tombs for centuries meant that their social skills were lacking some. This was especially funny when it came to the sophomore mummy, who looked biologically twenty-two even with over four millenia under her belt. “Cari said you were working! Since when do you work?!”
Arden bit their bottom lip in an effort to stifle their laugh and mouthed along as they signed: She’s excited. It’s her first party since they cracked her tomb.
I let out a snort and signed as I spoke aloud, “Cari’s mom made me get a job. How’s the party been?”
“Fantastic!” Taweret screeched, hopping up and down. Arden shot me a thumbs up before adding: We were told there’s a Wartech tournament around here. Do you know anything?
“The videogames are upstairs in my suite,” I said, signing back. “Follow me.”
We passed the open basement door and ran up the steps at undead speed, easily dodging the slower Enchanters and mingling Hunters. I saw that Cari’s suite across the hall was seeing plenty of traffic; mostly girls and other female-presenting folks, all disappearing inside to chit-chat over drinks and snacks. My eyebrows rose at the sight of two particular witches. I don’t remember Cari inviting them…
As we entered my suite, it became evident that our “little get-together” had a lot of party crashers. Several students crowded in my living room, taking up every inch of couch available before spilling onto the floor with crossed legs. All eyes were glued to my flatscreen television as Jett, Cinnamon, Deandrae, and Taeyang all battled it out; the game was a first person shooter, and the perspective was split four ways to allow each player their own corner of the screen. Between all the shouting and chaos, I couldn’t tell if they were even on teams or if it was a free for all.
Arden’s jaw dropped as they signed, Whoa! Nice TV.
I snickered and clapped a hand down on their shoulder affectionately, bringing their attention back to me in time for me to tell them, Have fun. I have to go change clothes.
They nodded absentmindedly and nudged for Taweret to join them. I took that as my queue and spun around, nodding to Storm and the other wolves and witches that hung out in my kitchen, snacking and watching the tournament from a distance. A smirk played on my lips as I passed one of the guest rooms of my suite; a group of Haunters were holed up in the game room, playing poker for money and favors. In the world of the occult, money was easy to come by, but a favor from the right name could open all the right doors.
The other guest room was set up for beer pong, and a small group of Hunters and Enchanters were in there, benefitting from their ability to get drunk by conventional means. I simply waved as I passed and continued to the bedroom at the end of the hall, desperate to change out of this dorky work uniform before anyone saw me…
Okay, I’ll admit it–there was only one person I wanted to impress, and the last thing I wanted was for a certain nonbinary witch to see me in my old jeans and collared polo. They were from an entirely different world than me… Okay, sure, I was living it up with the de Ardos, but contrary to what most people believe, Cari’s immediate relatives aren’t a bunch of stuck up snobs. Even Clara could be down to earth when the time called for it, despite most of their wealth being passed down through the generations.
But the Bloodworths? They were high society witches. Fancy clothes, expensive accessories, cars you’d only see in movies, multiple mansion estates…
I swallowed over the lump in my throat as I opened my door. They’re not just out of my league–we’re not even playing in the same tournament. Getting worked up over how I look is so stu–
My thoughts were cut off as my mind ground to a halt. Time seemed to freeze, and the ruckus from the other rooms all faded away as I locked eyes with the person who sat at my desk. His light-colored hair had a slight wave to it, and his grey eyes seemed to widen as he acknowledged my presence.
“Finally!” he chuckled, standing from my desk and abandoning whatever journal of mine he had taken to reading. “I was ‘bout ready to bounce before I heard you down the hall.”
I remained silent and shut the door behind me with just as much noise, turning the lock in place with a swift click. Then I turned back to the man who idled across from me–the man who had broken into my home while my baby sister was trying to let loose for once. I was downright livid, and I knew my eyes were shining red as I stepped further into my personal living space.
“What are you doing here, Jesse?”