Kiran and Fish quickly settled. Any initial trepidation that one typically feels when encountering another human being and attempting to become friends simply wasn’t there. Their respective familiarity with one another felt as natural as the layers of reality now left exposed to them, its secrets laid bare, teeth glowering in the corners of their vision. Kiran had so many questions and for every answer that Fish could provide, another question cropped up for the both.
Kiran slumped into the couch and crossed her arms. “Wait. Who’s after me?”
Fish caught herself stumbling on words, a half-hearted mention of Jack likely gone awry, the danger overstated but unable to be placed back into the container from whence it sprung. “He’s… he’s…” she fumbled. “Well, he was almost a friend? A friend of a friend. His device was possessed--”
“--but then it turned out it wasn’t really his phone, it was a dominion, and it had taken over a house but then Jack kind of liked it so he tried to kill me and my friends.”
Kiran glared over her arms. Not long ago, the idea of possession and dominions would have left her in a laughing fit, doubling over at the thought of something so absurd. But now, reality pushed through too firmly for her to ever doubt.
“We didn’t know, though!” Fish exclaimed. “When Hashtag dug him out of the tunnel, I just figured that, I don’t know, that I could fix him. So I brought him to Flower or Iris or whatever she was calling herself and that…” something caught in the back of her throat, “...well, that did not go well...” Fish drifted off. The silence of the room hung heavy.
Green chittered at its edges and Kiran shifted in her seat. “So who the hell are you all, exactly?”
Fish wiped a tear from the corner of her right eye. “What? What do you mean?”
Kiran leaned forward. “You’re a group, right? Everybody with,” she began to whisper, “with, you know, abilities. You have a name or something? What do you call yourselves, your organization?”
Fish blinked and then from the back of her stomach a large laugh erupted into the quiet. “I mean,” she wheezed, “a few of us went to school together. Hashtag and I only for a few weeks, though we were friends, or something of that semblance, for a long time after...” her voice grew faint. “...Flower was practically my mom. Jack was random. All of this is, was, still is....no matter how long I’ve been at it, how much I’ve let my being steep in it, it’s still so new and weird and I will always feel like I know nothing.” She sighed. “I mean, I’ve never met anyone like you before.”
Fish picked up a mug of hot tea and let the steam wrap around her face. The scent of earth and flowers bored into her.
Kiran pushed her feet firmly on the floor and stared into Fish’s eyes. “What do you mean?” her voice a cocktail of excitement and fear.
Fish set her mug down and gestured outward. “So you know the things that you’ve done? Astral projection, teleportation, the, you know, things, you see in the shadows. None of us can’t do that without our—well different people call them different things—but our companions. I mean a few spells here and there are fine but actual real big esoteric shit, that takes help.”
“From your demons,” Kiran stated flatly.
“Devils,” Fish corrected. “Sometimes. Hashtag’s is. Mine is, we’re not sure, are we Green?”
The house shook. Kiran picked her feet up off of the floor and hugged her legs. “Well my parents always said I was different,” she cracked a smile and stared up at the ceiling.
“Different how?” Fish asked.
Kiran’s eyes darted around the room. “You know, what I thought was normal parent stuff. Things they’d say to make you feel special and loved...”
“...Thing is,” Kiran continued, “my parents were incredibly superstitious, my grandmother even moreso. I never believed anything they ever said. It all seemed like wishful thinking at best, but they’d talk of destiny, having purpose. ‘My little ray of sunshine,’ as you said earlier, but it doesn’t really translate one to one. It was more ‘Light of the world’ than that.”
“Where are they?” Fish asked. “Can we talk to them about it?”
Kiran was not used to her oddities being treated with such sincerity but it was a welcome change to the sidelong glances and feet shifting uncomfortably. “Where are we even?” she asked.
“Oh, I have no idea,” Fish brightened. “It doesn’t really matter. Green here should be able to get us just about anywhere that I ask it.” Fish stood and let it slip from her heart. Green swirling light spiraled into the room, teeth and chunks of enamel protruding at odd angles.
Kiran stood and then fell backward. “What the hell--”
“Oh I forgot,” Fish dismissed. “You don’t have one of these. It’s fine. It looks much rougher than it is.”
“What the fuck,” Kiran muttered. The green air shifted red. The teeth sharpened and recoiled as if ready to pounce. The house turned. The air around the room whipped tighter and then flung itself high into the sky. A beacon. Even Fish could sense the electromagnetic current ripping through them all now.
“Green!” she shouted. “Shut it down!” But the teeth chattered in the atmosphere, immense energy pouring external to the house. Fish could feel them, wings and bones and horns all getting a big whiff of power on the silent wind. It wouldn’t be long before they all descended upon them. With or without Green there was no stopping them now, an inevitable swarm of bloodthirsty leeches were directly clued into their location.
“Please make it stop!” Kiran was shouting.
Fish stepped up to her toes and whispered her name to the air and in an instant, silence washed away the chaos.
“What was that!?” Kiran was crying in the corner. “Why would you do that to me?”
But Fish didn’t hear her. She was already planning their next move. “We can’t stay here for long. They’re coming. But we can’t travel. Green, well, Green doesn’t like you it seems. Let’s sleep here tonight and be off in the morning.”
“Off where?” Kiran whimpered.
“Anywhere but here,” Fish responded. “Maybe you can take us somewhere safe. Can you do that right now?”
Kiran shook her head no vigorously. “I don’t even know how I do it!” she yelled.
“Okay fine,” Fish conceded. “You take the couch, I’ll crash on the floor.”
“You seriously expect me to be able to sleep after all of that?” Kiran’s voice quavered.
Fish stood. “Yes, because we need to run and neither of us can run in the state we’re in. When was the last time you slept? Because I can say for certain that it’s been a few days for me. Green is strong, but I’ve been around and there’s nothing for miles here. It’ll take them a while to find us.”
Kiran reluctantly stood and crept onto the couch, pulling a wooly blanket over her body. Fish pulled a hood over her head and curled up at the edge of the couch. Kiran draped the blanket to the ground. Fish hugged it and let its warmth wrap around her.
“I’m sorry,” she said.
“For what?” Kiran mumbled nervously.
“I know I didn’t get you into this mess,” Fish admitted, “and I’m probably the least capable to get you out of it.”
Kiran stared blankly ahead, her voice soft against the newfound quiet, “I didn’t think it would be like this, you know, but somehow I always knew this would happen.”
Fish sighed and closed her eyes. She did not teleport or project that night but fell into a deep sleep where dreams and nightmares latched themselves onto her feet and traipsed along while she navigated the unreal. There were more claws than usual, more voices fluttering in the wind. She swept through hallways, basements, alleys, and flew high in the sky until she encountered a series of mountains. Her brown hair whipped in the wind. Her yellow scarf danced. She felt the air rise and she closed her eyes as the pressure receded.
When Fish woke, it was not in the same room as before. The ceilings extended into forever, massive glass windows etched into their frame. Yellow light enveloped them all. Kiran, Fish, an unknown girl, and a gigantic tree, a frail old man suspended in its bark. He was smiling. Green slunk into Fish’s heart and buried itself beneath the thumping of her blood.
by Dan Diehn