Fish was growing accustomed to people vanishing before her eyes. The air sucked out of the room and she found herself alone in the demon bar, again. She sighed, a mixture of equal parts relief and panic clutching at her throat. Jack was weaker than when he was at his pinnacle, but his thirst for power was strong and insatiable. He may no longer wield the indescribable intensity of a supernatural being, but he was clever and abhorrent. Images flashed before Fish’s eyes like intrusive thoughts and she shuddered at what he was capable of, blood arcing from Trish’s fingers, her scream crystallized in a perfect memory of horror.
“Hey,” she spoke quietly to the server, trying her best to not reclaim the attention of the room.
It swooped toward her, taut skin rigid against protruding bones and horns. “I would suggest,” it hissed, “that you take your leave as soon as possible.”
Fish rolled her eyes, allowing herself to puff up, a faint green glow humming off of her skin. The server bristled.
“What the hell was he drinking?” she asked, shifting her head ever so slightly, gesturing to where Jack was a moment ago. “The purple sloshing stuff.”
“Oh you wouldn’t want that,” rows of teeth buzzed while eyes darted around the room. It continued, quieter, “None of us are really sure how he manages to keep it down. Most of us wouldn’t touch the stuff.”
Fish cocked her head and asked slowly, “But what is it?”
Fish shivered. “As in…”
“Yes,” it interrupted, “as in actual summoner’s blood.” It hunched down closer to Fish’s face. It’s breath smelled of incense and cold fire. “You should be careful to keep your…” it hesitated, “uh, companion better hidden. Half the room can taste the green in the air.”
Fish pressed herself into the back of the booth, hoping that it would extend around her and swallow her up, transporting her somewhere far from here. She exhaled and then leaned forward, making eye contact with the red and yellow fireball eyes. “Thank you,” she said, and then disappeared.
She didn’t know where to start. If the girl had managed to astral project into the middle of the dancing forest, she was probably hopping and skipping across reality willy nilly, unaware of the dangers that lurked well, literally everywhere. She could be anywhere and Fish no longer felt like she could hop in and out of underground locations, asking for help. Despite her best efforts to keep her language vague she couldn’t risk anyone else unearthing the true potential that she sought. Jack on her heels was enough and after her little show and tell at the demon bar, who knew how many more had heard her thoughts parading through the din. She needed to be discrete.
The next day Fish trudged through the snow and down the desolate road to the solitary grocery store in town. She stole a bag of tea candles, a box of matches, and a sprig of rosemary. Sitting in her living room cross legged, she lit a candle and held the rosemary above it, singeing the leaves and breathing in the smoke, exhaling while reciting words in a dead language.
It had been a long time since Fish had cast a locator spell and she was uncertain what sort of distance it could encompass, how many layers of reality it could penetrate, but she figured it was a start. She knew that without knowing the girl’s name, there were limitations to its efficacy, so she focused on her perceived difference, that ineffable aura that poured out of her being.
Fish closed her eyes and furrowed and unfurrowed her brow. She tossed out any thought not applicable to the task at hand, envisioning herself literally picking up each unnecessary image, packing it into a box, and shoving it into an imaginary room that obliterated anything that entered. She counted her breaths and synced her inhale and exhale with the beats of her heart.
All was dark until slowly sunlight dripped across her vision, dust dangling in the expanse. Goosebumps ran up her back and clung to the nape of her neck. Fish had never seen something so beautiful, so vibrant. It didn’t make any sense. It wasn’t a place. It was a being.
The candle fizzled and Fish snapped back into her makeshift home, sitting cross legged on the floor.
This became a daily ritual. Fish knew, deeply, that the outcome wouldn’t change. She knew that she wasn’t going to find her through such rudimentary means, that one day she’d light up the ingredients and see the girl in plainview walking down the sidewalk, lounging at home if she had one, but Fish couldn’t stop. The yellow embraced her and the comfort swam through her entire being. It was like nothing she had ever experienced and with each spell, she felt like she grew closer to the girl. The colors were nuanced and they danced in her subconscious. Fish dreamed she flew between mountains, her yellow scarf whipping in the wind.
And then there she was, standing above her, clearly lost and clearly there. Fish sat up and rubbed her eyes. “Oh thank god,” she wheezed. “I was just looking for you.”
Kiran took a step back. “You were? Why? Who the hell are you anyway?”
Fish stood. “I tell people that my name is Fish.”
Kiran laughed a little too loudly. “Like the animal?”
“Like the animal,” Fish repeated.
Kiran instinctively waltzed over to the couch and plopped down, lolling in the corner. “But why?”
Fish settled next to her. “Well,” she practically burst with solemn excitement, “names have power, you know?”
Kiran scowled and then angrily spit, “Oh like how my name is Kiran but my parents refuse to call me anything but Sunny?”
Fish practically fell off the couch. She reached out her hands and stabilized herself on the squat table and a cushion. “You’re my little ray of sunshine,” she mumbled under her breath.
Kiran jumped up. “Yes!” she exclaimed and then softened. “Wait… how did you know…”
Fish glared at the floor and then looked Kiran in the eyes. “It’s what my, uh… my guardian… the only adult I’ve ever known as a parent… it’s what she used to say to me. It’s my true name too.”
Kiran grinned widely. “I’ll call you Fish.”
Fish beamed, “And I’ll call you Kiran.”
by Dan Diehn