Weeks after that first change and I awoke one morning with the certain knowledge and a self recognition that my life had changed irrevocably. You might be thinking, what took me so long, but understand my experience with the world was minimal and admittedly whatever was going on was actually a little fun. I had spent all of my life friendless and getting shoved around and for once I was getting to do the shoving. I was resolved to it and tried to do the best I could, although my purpose was still shrouded. I felt strongly that I should use what I had been given to help others. I was not quite the super hero type and I certainly was not about to go running through the night in some tights with a cape. Mostly, nights went well for me and I even made a few bucks to keep me from starving. I had to make a living after all and most of my encounters were with criminals. If they lost a few bucks and I gained, who was going to care?
I had also begun to reach a point where I finally had a little balance. I had significantly improved on filtering all the senses even in times of chaos. I had even managed to stay in on some nights without that feeling that I was needed. It was a relief to know that I had some control, although at times it remained the most overwhelming of experiences. Still, it was easy to approach it in a simple manner; to not take it for granted. There seemed to be something more out there on the horizon, there just had to be. I had lived twenty four years with nothing of consequence besides death happening to me, and now this. There just had to be a reason this was happening, didn’t there?
Some nights it does not pay to be a superhero though. I should have known, I should have stayed in, but I guess at the end of the day I would have found out sooner or later. Just when I think I have it all figured out again, life throws me a curve ball. I can’t hit a fastball, much less a curve ball, and this one had curves upon curves. It’s all good though, I am used to striking out.
I had made it a habit before the change every day to spend some time watching the news. For the past few weeks, this had become my nightly routine. I learned a lot from the news, things I had done, things being said about me, myths, rumors, half-truths and the occasional lead. Surprisingly, things remained relatively quiet and any opinion of me was of the tabloid type. Things had settled down for me a bit now that I have a bit more control over things. Occasionally something so horrific is on the news that I spend the night investigating and serving out a little justice. It’s not so much that I believe in being a vigilante, but if I go out and I smell that putrid wafting, I seemed compelled to follow and once the evil act is in front of me, then I solve the problem, whatever that problem is, and whatever the problem requires to solve. If this makes me a vigilante, well then it is what it is and no more than that. I wish there were more and I honestly wish that if I had to spend the rest of my life this way, then maybe something would come along to give me purpose. Somehow the thought of me being this way at the age of eighty was not comforting. I spend my days searching and reading in the library and on the internet about curses, about magic, but most of what I read is of the ridiculous. Yet, I have found a few morsels of truth hidden among the rubbish. Of course, I realize that whatever I have must seem pretty outrageous and ridiculous. It’s all too real for me though when night comes and all I feel is pain in every pore of my skin. I would have hoped that this would diminish with time, but just the opposite has occurred. The change takes approximately five minutes or so as near as I can tell. For all my hope that the pain would ease, it has worsened. It is another of the many mysteries that I don’t understand. Maybe it’s because I just have more skills, or maybe it means that it is slowly killing me. I face dusk with trepidation and in a cold sweat and at the same time look forward to the feeling of power that it gives me. So far, the pain’s arrival never disappoints me.
Anyway, on the evening news there was a story about a young child abducted from her front yard. I was thinking of checking it out. After all what’s the point of being a superhero if you can’t actually help someone now and again. It was at least the sort of thing that had some meaning because most of the time I never really knew what I was accomplishing. This was the kind of story that strikes fear in everyone, so if there was some justice that needed meting out, I was justice’s guy. The night was a maze of color and shapes of all sizes and variation. I had learned to really love the night. I loved the shadows and what they contained, like stepping into a different world. I loved seeing the strange creatures on the other side of the veil. I secretly wished that I could explore that world. When I thought about it too much I could feel that flare deep inside of me which seemed to indicate that I could explore it if I really wanted. Yet I didn’t know how. I understood my new skills more and more but at the same time they changed nightly and it seemed that I never really knew what I would have at my disposal. Half the time I wondered if anything I was going through was real at all. It was scary sometimes, so when I looked into that world I both knew and didn’t know that I could access it. I knew it was real, it had to be, because if it were not real, then what was I? I had seen too much, encountered things best not thought of and certainly not described. When I hit the streets a sickly sweet smell made my nostrils flare, and my blood began to race. Maybe that blood carried with it knowledge to my super sensibilities. I don’t know the source of the smell, but to me it just means that bad things are happening, it’s a smell of desperate need and tonight there was a touch of sorrow to it that boded ill. The smell permeated the night and it was bad. My stomach turned at the scent and it was indeed the kind of smell that might make you retch, but my blood was coursing through my veins, something beyond my control, something exhilarating and beyond mere adrenalin. I started to follow the scent and I knew where it would take me; to the house where the young girl had been abducted. It was bad, and I knew it before I got there. The scent seemed to communicate something beyond need, something of pain, and loss. The cops were all over the scene still, not a lot of them but a couple of squad cars. I could see the mom sobbing into her husband’s shirt; saw it right through the walls of the house. A poor detective stood nearby helpless. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to know that they had found the little girl and it was not good news they were telling her mom and dad. I already knew the tale; the scent had communicated it to me in the wind. It made me sick inside and then nothing, just that need in the air and cold dread. I was actually happy that my gifts didn’t really allow me to get too emotional about things. My life had seemingly prepared me for it all. It’s hard to understand pain and heartbreak when you were detached from the world around you and those who walked in that world. The loss of memory the next day seemed also to insulate me from the things I saw and also from the things I did. Maybe it was my own way of keeping that distance because if I thought about things too long I became disgusted with the things I had done. I had killed people, about seven in just a few weeks. I knew it was not normal although I could rationalize that those killed had deserved it, or that I had acted in self-defense, or the defense of others more helpless.
I followed the trail, taking my time, letting my anger and sense of justice build. I knew from the scent that I would have time. The killer had done this sort of thing before. He was sure that he had gotten away with it again. I was equally sure that he had not. I walked right between the two cops cruisers. Two policemen were talking. They sensed something but didn’t see me, or maybe they just saw a glimmer, a shadow. I sometimes wished that I could see myself in the way others did, just so that I could know. My reflection though in mirrors and windows indicated I looked as I had always looked, completely unremarkable.
Despite my outward calm I began to walk faster and faster after the scent. Something was changing, whether it was the killer realizing that he was hunted or maybe just his thought that he had worn out his welcome in San Francisco, I knew that he was thinking about moving on. I of course could not let that happen. Sometimes I wondered when I was going after someone that they could sense that I was coming, an ominous feeling of dread in the pit of their stomach. I had found people before waiting for me, as if frozen to the spot. I sensed her as well, my mother running nearby, barefooted as always, and just a shadow of her former self. For some strange reason she wore chimes on her fingers that night and every once in a while they would ring like a bell. Every time a chime would ring, my heart would race a little more, the scent growing stronger along with my speed. I seemed to pick up even more speed and my overcoat was like a cape behind me as I hurried through the night.
I found him as I expected I would, at an old diner that was remarkably full. I mentally added it to my list of places I might want to check out. If it was this crowded the food must be good or at least worth a try. He was not a big man, just average but he didn’t have much look of a predator until you looked into his eyes. If you looked closely enough it was there, the look of something sinister and evil. Maybe it was just me though. I knew what he was. He was sitting in a booth eating fish and chips, with a silly grin on his face when I walked through the door. His hand froze in midair, french fries hanging from his fingers dripping ketchup and stared at me. He glanced at the door, but I slowly shook my head at him. Maybe he sensed that the last guy who had done that to me had his heart pulled out of his chest through his back, or maybe he just saw something like they all did when they met me at night. I don’t know what he saw, I never do, but there was terror written on his face. I walked towards him slowly and slid into the booth across from him. I thought about eating a piece of his fish just to intimidate him like the movies but the knowledge of what he had done so repulsed me that I wanted nothing that he might have touched. He looked at the door again, judging his chances. Like all monsters who prey on children he was basically a coward.
“Uh uh,” I said casually, “you won’t make it.”
“What do you want?” he mumbled. “Who are you? Ain’t no cop.”
“No I am no cop,” I answered, “call me a friend of justice. You know justice don’t you? Sure you do.”
“Whatever you think I did you can’t prove,” he said angrily.
I laughed at him loudly and drew some nervous stares. It was as if time had stopped. It was as if a menacing presence had entered the room and everyone was afraid to move or speak. Everyone was desperately trying to not look in our direction, yet desperately aware, like watching a car crash. Unfortunately it was me they thought that was menacing and not the creep across from me. Such is my lot.
“See that’s your problem, you think too simply. You think in terms of what can be proved and what can’t, of me being a cop or not a cop and whatever silly things go through that head of yours. Some things have to be proved, but that’s not my way. My way is what I know, what I don’t know. That’s how my particular skill works. Example, your first victim was a six year old boy in Spokane, Washington. I hear it’s a beautiful state. You were twenty and you tortured that poor kid. You were messy though. So you left and you have been on the move since then, killing children everywhere you go.”
He looked in a right panic at that moment hearing his worst secrets laid out in front of him. “That’s a lie,” he said, frightened.
“Really,” I answered. “I know what that boy felt. I can feel it in the air. Want to know?”
I actually did not really care if he wanted to or not. I just let him have a taste and he screamed with the pain. “Hmm, not good,” I said, “not promising for you at all. That was just a small sample. I can do better.”
I never really know what will happen, what skills I will have and how justice will make itself known. It has something to do with that curse or blessing, something inside of me, something in my blood. I fed him every feeling of fear and emotion the little boy had felt years before, and then I fed him more from every child whose life he had ended. I fed him every microsecond of pain and then turned it up a notch as I got to what the little girl had gone through just hours before. I kept him alive not wanting him to die before he felt every ounce of pain and fear his victims had gone through. She had not been his first victim but I was going to make sure it was his last. Everyone else watched in dumbfounded silence as he screamed, and writhed on the floor but I guess some poor misguided soul called the police and they showed up as I finished what I had started. I still left him a writhing mass of nerve, screaming, near death. I really didn’t care if he lived or died, but I did want that little girl’s parents to know that he had been caught. It wasn’t much, I admit. For them though, maybe not tonight, I hoped it might bring a feeling of closure.
I leaned over him and there was fear and madness as well as pain in his eyes. “Confess your crimes if you live. If you don’t, I can walk through any wall I want. I can find you in solitary confinement and you will die. Tonight though you’re going to tell these nice policemen everything you have ever done, and I mean everything.”
The policemen looked stunned by what they were seeing and I told them honestly what that monster had done and then walked out. They didn’t follow. Sometimes that’s how this curse of mine works. It does things, unpredictable things, some just and some a bit over the top. I never knew how it would manifest itself just that if I let it run its course I would walk away safe. Anytime I had ever tried to predict or control it, I paid a price. So I was learning to let it ride, let it move of its own volition. So I walked out of the joint without a backwards glance and the policemen let me. I was angry that I had not been able to do more, but the truth was a slap in the face. He had killed that poor child before sunset and he had killed a lot more over the years. I said my version of a little Gypsy prayer to guard her soul. I was saddened that was all I could do.
I walked along quietly, thinking about a lot of things. In the past few weeks I had seen my fair share of misery, not to mention my own pathetic life or at least the twenty four years to date, so I feel like I have gotten to a place where things just don’t bother me like they would someone else. Still, I see things that no one else sees. I see the aftermath of violence, can feel a dying soul’s last gasp, that struggle to hang on for a variety of reasons, mostly of some unfinished business. I feel that desire to see a husband, wife, mother, father, daughter and son to tell them one last time they were loved. I feel the regret of every soul that ever died on some lousy street corner. I had never thought about such suffering before, but now it was a nightly experience and I could admit that it was taking its toll. I have felt so overwhelmed, such a profound loneliness. It does not make it any better that I am so incredibly alone, the greatest curse of all; being so desperate for companionship yet being so alone that a single girl’s wave at the mailbox made my day brighter. As I walked along, and alone, I had never felt this so intensely before. I wept as I walked, as much for myself as that little girl. Where was my comfort? Was I doomed to forever feel this way? I had spent all of my life lonely, longing for friendship or even conversation. I had longed to be bigger and stronger, able to push back when pushed upon. Now that I had been given this power, limited by darkness, all I saw around me was loneliness and despair, the last thoughts of the dying and the dead. We all die alone was the one thing that had been hammered into my head. There was a pain there that was not physical and it was frightening in its simplicity.
It was while walking home in this semi-daze that I noticed that I was being followed. My gift would not completely allow me to focus inward, even if I slept or was focused elsewhere, it acted as a kind of radar and it was giving me alarm signals that made me realize where I was, and what I was doing. It seemed that it would not allow me to feel sorry for myself. I peered through the gloom trying to discern just what was interested in me. I knew somewhere deep that it was not going to be human. I sniffed the air like a wild dog and caught a scent of something, something foreign. In the few weeks since the change had started I had been seen multiple times, handed children to firemen during the worst of fires, pulled a cop from the line of fire, but no one ever recognized me or could describe me. The fact that something was following me, made me feel uneasy. I began to hurry along, and noticed that whatever was following me was not doing much to be quiet. I picked up my pace, silently leaping onto a fire escape and gained some height. I waited for what seemed like an eternity, quietly watching, barely breathing. Suddenly it was there. I don’t really know what else to call the thing except a demon. As many bad shadowy shapes that I had seen in the night, I had seen nothing to prepare me for this. It didn’t exactly walk but shambled along, in a half loping fashion, all claws and teeth. It was impossible to tell how many limbs the thing had, for it continually changed shape with everything morphing into something different with the exception of all those claws and teeth. Yes, you guessed it, I was acutely aware of all those claws and teeth. They never really changed except maybe to increase. It sniffed at the air but did not appear to smell anything other than that which was foreign to me, or perhaps what I smelled was magic. While I could not be sure it was hunting me, a feeling deep inside told me that it was indeed searching for little old me, and that the claws and teeth were not for show. I let it pass and decided that it might be best if I went home by rooftop. I didn’t like doing that, no matter how many comic books always portray the superhero as some rooftop jumping athlete, I never felt quite that graceful and I had fallen before. There was nothing like the freedom of jumping from rooftop to rooftop, right up until you fell on your face. Even as fast as I heal, a broken jaw really hurts. Still I made it home before three and settled in for the rest of the night, thinking seriously about why some demon might be searching for me.
For the first time since I had started this crazy ride, I seriously thought about seeking help. Well, that is not exactly true as I thought about it all the time. That is not exactly something you search for in the yellow pages or on some website. Still if I could not exactly find a therapist for the troubled superhero, or an exorcist for the demon hounded superhero, I thought I might be able to find some assistance somewhere else. What I needed, was Gypsy help, since I was quite sure, my gift, or blessing, or curse was Gypsy related, and Gypsy inspired. After all, my mother was a Gypsy witch and right or wrong, it appeared that her spirit or ghost was following me about at night pleased with her handiwork. It was not a huge leap of logic to figure that she had something to do with my current predicament and why my life had been turned upside down.
Of course, looking up Gypsy assistance in the yellow pages was not exactly a likely course of action. So instead I searched for the next best thing, a Gypsy Fortune Teller. Now, this was no picnic either. You can find pretty much anything you want in the yellow pages, spiritualists, tarot card readers and your fair share of psychics. I was looking for something special, but I am not sure I could tell you exactly what it was I wanted. I expected that some part of me would know what was right, but at the same time, I doubted that searching out the Gypsies would solve all of my troubles. It was a Gypsy, even if she was my mother who had gotten me into this mess in the first place. I saw my mother practically every night, and far from being distressed at what she had done to me, she looked quite amused. One small ad finally caught my attention. There was nothing special about it, but I kept coming back to it.
Fortune Telling, the Gypsy way. Tarot Cards;
Crystal Ball Readings
There was a number and an address in Oakland. I wrote it down and then realized I would not remember anything of the night until the day after tomorrow. I decided to use the last bit of time I had before sunrise to write myself a note. I had used this little trick once before, when I got into a jam with some police officers and was worried they might come looking for me. I then took myself to bed which always helped a bit with the confusion that came with morning. I had made a point to always try and get into bed before I changed back into unremarkable Calvin. I did this most nights, even though occasionally I woke up with bloody sheets and seeping wounds. I went through a lot of laundry detergent and of course a lot of sheets.
I didn’t get much sleep that day I must admit. I tossed and turned wondering if there was anyone out there that could and would help me. No one had ever helped me before including my own father, so I was less than hopeful. It’s always the way too that about the time you drift away into slumber something wakes you up. A strange noise disturbed me and I jolted upright in the bed, trying to get my bearings and wondering what it was that had awakened me. I looked at the clock and it was about nine in the morning. As I wondered what was going on, it came again, that strange noise; a knock upon my door. This only made the confusion of waking up not a superhero worse than usual. After all, no one knocked on my door or telephoned me or wrote me letters. I had that sinking feeling that something bad had happened the night before. I stumbled to the door and looked through the peephole. If Ed McMahon had been there with a million dollar check I could not have been more surprised. I opened the door with a rush. It was her, not just any her, but her.
“Hi,” she said smiling. “I was worried about you. I haven’t seen you at the mailboxes in a while. I thought maybe you had moved but the landlord said he didn’t think you had. He didn’t really know your name though either. I had to give him the apartment number so he could look you up.” She stood there smiling for a moment, while I stared at her. What a mope I was.
“Hi,” she said again. “Speaka de English. Habla Pig Latin or whatever. Sprechen do you understand a single thing I am saying?” She offered her hand and I reached out and shook it staring at her dumbfounded. “Amy, my name is Amy.”
“Calvin,” I finally managed to say. “Hi”
“Nice to meet you Calvin, can I come in? Do you have a reason why you’re letting me stand here? Dead body maybe?”
“No come on in, please.” I was in a complete state of shock. I really didn’t know what to say. People did not have conversations with me, much less attractive girls my age or any age. And it was her, the girl, the one girl I most wanted to talk to. I just didn’t know what to say. Maybe, I thought, I didn’t really have anything to say. Up until this moment, I did not want her to really know me, because maybe there really was a reason why everyone hated me or just ignored me. If I spoke with her, it would not take her but a second to realize this. I was terrified.
Finally I managed, “I was just about to make some coffee, would you like some?”
She seemed unsurprised that I had just awakened, and just nodded, looking around my small apartment, seeing the pictures on the wall. I went to my kitchen and put a pot of coffee on. I watched her, helplessly. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a lot of anything else to offer her. It was really the wrong time to realize you needed to go shopping. She took sugar and cream in her coffee and folded herself on my couch like she belonged. All I could do was stare at her. We sat there, drinking coffee, like normal people. I mean, sure she was normal, but I was anything but the kind of guy that girls like her talked to. I was telling her what I did for a living, the computer stuff not the superhero stuff when I saw the note to myself. I read it quickly and then stupidly asked if she wanted to go with me to Oakland. Surprisingly she said yes. I ran to take a shower and managed to make a complete idiot of myself trying to scream out conversation with her while showering, shaving and dressing. Through it all though, she seemed amused. I had never met anyone so completely relaxed and comfortable with themselves. Her eyes were a marvel, brown flecked with gold. They were magical eyes, and everything about her for me was completely magical. It was my last naïve thought.
As we drove to Oakland, Amy kept up a steady stream of conversation and all I had to do was listen and say the occasional, yeah, uh huh and go on. As it turns out, Amy is a true child of San Francisco, Haight Asbury Hippies. Her middle name was Moonflower but she made me swear never to call her that. She worked as an art teacher, didn’t care for her job so much, but hey it was a living so who was she to complain. She of course wanted to paint, wanted to be a famous artist. She seemed completely at ease, which only confirmed for me just how cool she really was. To top it all off, when we drove up to the address she was totally cool with the place. It was an old part of Oakland, near downtown in a rundown strip mall full of old second hand shops, some of them boarded up. I had pictured a small place with beaded curtains and weird music. The place was a second hand store that just happened to do fortune telling on the side. There was a man standing outside the door, swarthy like a Gypsy should be, but not wearing any garish costume. His shirt though was still a bit loud but he hardly even glanced my way when I walked to the door. He looked Amy up and down, nodding in a knowing way. My anger just flared to life, jealous of someone who thought like everyone else thought that I was insignificant. If he only knew that I could hunt him down and kill him he would not have been so smug. I am sure he had seen his share of crazy young people wanting to get their fortunes told as some sort of kick. For that matter Amy thought the same thing and even asked me if I thought it was real. We walked into the shop and Amy started looking at some shelf full of trinkets, excited like some little kid in a candy store. Before I reached the counter a woman stepped out of the back room and smiled at me.
“I’ve been expecting you,” she said with a smile and twinkle in her eye.
I cannot lie. She looked every bit the part of a Gypsy woman, a lot like my mother, only wearing jeans and a simple blouse. She motioned me forward and I followed her into the back but not before she smiled at Amy and said that we would be back. Amy only nodded and kept looking at the trinkets. I can’t say that magic was done, or that Amy wouldn’t have been fascinated with the trinkets but something was weird. She led me to a table with two chairs and brought us both a coke from a small refrigerator.
“You’re what I expected,” she said. “I’m surprised, that rarely happens.”
I looked at her with narrowed eyes, all suspicion, “Sure I am,” I said. I was now quite sure that it was all bogus, except she seemed so sincere, smiling, her eyes bright and twinkling as if she were amused.
She laughed. “So like your mother Calvin.”
I was taken by surprise admittedly. “You knew my mother? What is it that you know about? How did you know my name?”
“Of course I knew your mother. We come from the same place, although we did not grow up together. I know a lot about you too Calvin. I’ve had my eye on you, watching you, and yes I can help you. I am surprised you have not made your way to me before. Of course there are other Gypsies, some would have helped you; others might have hurt you, or tried at least. There is still a lot of fear for someone like you and people of course fear what they don’t know or understand.”
“Well this is closer to the cryptic answers I was expecting,” I said smugly.
She laughed. “Cryptic? Is that what I was being? It’s going to help us a lot Calvin if you stop thinking about crystal balls and tarot cards. You just have to trust, some of this is ability and some just knowledge. We’re alike, magically, and yet not alike.”
She walked around the room, moving so like my mother, or what I thought was my mother in the shadows of the night. I didn’t know what to say. What could I say? For all I knew it was some sort of Gypsy trick like she suspected I thought already. The smile she gave me, so full of mirth only made me more suspicious. Regardless, she knew something about me and I wanted to know how she knew and what she knew. Then she started talking.
“Your mother was powerful, very powerful, more powerful than even your Grandfather. He wanted to use that, to get more for himself. She was different though. She didn’t like using her magic in that manner, and she wanted more than what her father was offering her. She wanted to use her magic to create beautiful nice things. She was very spirited, oddly so. Everyone thought so. She went where she pleased, without a care, because magically she was so strong. There was something about her, something unusual that made you not want to harm her. Describing her as a witch was well done, because there was that about her that was fey and wild. She was bewitching. Your Grandfather collected things, things of very old magic, things he hoped he could use to control her. Some of those things he collected were beyond even his ability to manage though. It was power that he sought and to gain more he spent it wildly. Eventually, she just got tired of it and left, one day without fanfare or goodbye. She just left.”
“Yeah,” I said, “right to my drunk of a father. Some wild spirit she was.”
“Don’t judge your parents,” she answered sternly, “you don’t know the half of who your parents were. Your father was strong and bold and unafraid of magic, even though he was challenged by it multiple times. He stood up to what she was afraid of and she gave him a purpose. She tried to teach him what she could through stories and songs, things to protect the both of you when she was gone. Do not mock them, or judge them.”
“And then she died and left us both to struggle on without her. If she was so worried for our protection and was so powerful, then why would she do that?” I asked.
“There are all sorts of powers out there Calvin and she used much to escape in the first place and to keep you all hidden. Your father did not want to hide, so unafraid was he but your mother knew and when she got pregnant she really knew. She used her magic as best she could to hide and she used what other resources from friends she could.”
“Gypsies?” I asked.
She nodded. “Gypsies yes, and other resources. She knew that when you were born that safety would be tenuous. You were going to be powerful and you as an infant would have been like a beacon to many. She would not have been able to stop them for long, especially as you got older.”
“I don’t understand. They were safe, why would that be tenuous because I was born.”
“The nature of your magic, the nature of your family magic is to be stronger than that of the parent. You were going to be stronger than your mother, much stronger than your Grandfather. You were going to be a target, probably still are.”
“What did she do?” I asked, concerned and not a little afraid.
“She used her magic to change yours.” She said it so matter of fact that I did not know what to say, and instead just stared at her.
It was beyond what I had expected and I sat there for a moment letting the shock of it all wash over me. It was a blessing, or sort of a blessing. It had certainly done me no favors. I had spent my life as a nobody and now I had all of this to deal with. It was all quite beyond me.
“What would my magic have been like without this extra stuff?” I asked.
“Who knows, magic is like that. Your mother did not know what adding her magic to yours would do. She just wanted to protect you. I sense though what it is about you, what was done. Her magic was used in great need, a desperate need. She could protect herself, and your father would always be there to try, but there was no way she could really feel confident that you would be safe. It was desperate need, and that is what drives your magic. It responds to need. She masked it well and like a fire tamped it down so it would burn slowly responding when it was really needed.”
“Why isn’t it there in the daytime?” I demanded.
“Perhaps one day it will be. There is much about you I can see, magically you are still evolving changing. It might even turn ugly. Magic naturally evolved is still unpredictable but yours was altered, added to and who knows how it will change you, how it will affect the world around you. Perhaps it was her desire to make it burn slow and be hidden that it only sparks when it is dark, nighttime. I did not create what you are, so I have no idea what your mother intended. I cannot answer that question. Even if I had been there and seen what she did, it would not explain everything. Magic like hers, like yours is unpredictable at best. There are consequences beyond the ones you just think about, there are others that don’t come to mind. Tricky, isn’t it?”
I laughed at all of this but she didn’t seem to be joking so I stopped and stared at her. She told me that despite what I thought, I had indeed inherited more than just my mother’s eyes. There was power inside of me; power now manifested but changed in the blessing she had bestowed upon me, that had enhanced what was already there. My Grandfather was hunting me, but the demon was not his. It had been sent though to hunt me down and there were now others. Not all of these demons had just teeth and claws, some had other weapons. She also told me that there would always be Gypsies ready to help me, good people who still loved my mother, and hated my grandfather. Some had helped me quietly through the years, all without any notice from me. The final straw was that my father had known all of this.
“Of course he knew. Do you think your mother would have kept this from him? She knew that giving you her magic would likely destroy her. Your father had to know what was out there, and what she did to you.”
“He should have told me,” I shouted.
“Perhaps.” She agreed, “It was his choice. I suppose he wanted you to have something of a normal life for as long as possible.”
“My life has been anything but normal. Do you know what it’s like to never have a friend, to be ignored and ridiculed?”
“I did not say that it was right,” she said quietly.
“I suspect that something magical has triggered this, something that has caused it to respond to your need for protection. It is quite likely that you have just grown strong enough that you are now noticed and now things hunt you. In many cases magic has to come of age. Maybe yours has done this, and maybe it will keep evolving. Who’s to say.”
“I have never felt powerful,” I said, but at the same time I wondered what had been hidden beyond the eyes of so many that I saw when they looked at me.
“But what?” she asked smiling, as if she already knew. So I told her my suspicions that I had kept like fantasies, something to keep me going all these years. She only nodded.
Now, this was not exactly the news I was wanting and I started to pace in the small room while she watched. She seemed to enjoy letting me struggle before throwing me the lifeline. As it turns out, demons had some weaknesses. While they were ruthless hunters, they were not so bright. In fact, even though relentless and without mercy, they were not very good trackers. They had to see their quarry. They hated water, and while it would not kill them, it would seriously disturb them. She could not tell from whatever source of knowing she had whether they wanted to kill me or just bring me back to their master. She suspected the latter as I was a power that many would want to harness and hone for themselves. She also could not tell me what other things might be hunting but suggested they could be worse than the demons.
“But you’re a bright young man,” she said. “I am sure you will figure it all out in time, if you don’t die or do something stupid.
She led me back to the storefront where Amy continued to look at trinkets. She pointed at Amy and patted me on the back.
“She’s good for you Calvin,” she said, her eyes warm and knowing.
I asked her if I might come back. She said that I might if I had need but that she suspected they would soon pack up and go north to Seattle.
“Besides,” she answered. “You’re hunted. I don’t really want the attention. You have what you need anyway, and there are still others that would help you. My gifts are not such to withstand what you are going to attract.”
“Great,” I said.
“There will always be Gypsies around Calvin,” she said, “and most of them want to help you. They will want you to succeed. Some though may want to use you for their own purposes.”
I nodded and then went to Amy. She seemed quite pleased to see me, but as we walked outside I realized something bad. However long I had thought I had spoken to the fortune teller, it was longer than I thought and it was nearly night fall. I handed Amy my keys and told her that I needed to run an errand for the fortune teller. I apologized and Amy seemed to take it in stride. She walked to my car and hopped in. I suppose I could have just asked her to drive saying I didn’t feel well and then when the pain struck me she would think me ill, but she might actually take me to the hospital. I was going to have to walk back home, but at least I had all night, and I might as well get some work done.
I headed for the Bay Bridge. The change felt good tonight, at least after the five minutes of unbearable pain. I felt strong, and I felt fast. After spending my entire life being the worst athlete, the worst everything it felt good this power, this blessing. It was a night in which I was moving so fluidly, quickly like a shadow like smoke in the wind. Somewhere I heard the unmistakable sound of chimes ringing on the breeze. I felt as light as air, as if I could fly. I had felt close to this before, right up until the moment I jumped off a twelve story building sure that I could fly, only to fall flailing to the ground. Broken bones heal faster on me, but they still hurt. So I knew better than to try and take to the air. Still it was times like this that I so enjoyed, a power I had certainly never felt as my normal unremarkable self.
In typical fashion whenever I began to feel good about my superhero self, it was inevitable that something else would bring me crashing to ground, usually painfully. I was not sure but suspected that it was this silly blessing’s way of keeping me focused. On this night though, it was the sudden realization that I was being herded. Shadows flitted about me, and they were thick. I was pretty sure from the dread feeling that a lot of those shadows had some nasty teeth and claws. I was being herded to the very destination I had wanted to go in the first place. The Bay Bridge was now ominously close. Long, multi-layered it had gained fame in its collapse during the last really big earthquake during the Bay World Series. I wondered how it would fare against hundreds of nasty little demons. Alright, that’s not true, I was actually wondering how I was going to fare. All the not so bright demons had to do was keep me busy until dawn and then I was toast. The only consolation was that I had been told by a Gypsy fortune teller that they weren’t very bright, so would they know that about me. Of course, she wasn’t the one facing all the teeth and claws. I did wonder though why the cars zooming by didn’t seem to see either them or me. I needed them to, so where was that silly magic.
I picked up my pace flying through the air, my feet barely touching the ground. It was real speed, without illusion and I was not sure that I had been faster at any time. It was need that drove me, and I thought a lot about it later in the safety of my own little dingy apartment, thought about the words of that Gypsy fortune teller. I didn’t have a lot of options, there was only one way across, and then all of those shadows slowed. It only took me a minute to understand why. I could see across the bridge and there were even more there waiting for me. So I moved down, running through a chain length fence to run under the bridge. There was a howling behind me somewhere as the demons following lost sight of me. They might not have been bright but they knew I was not on that bridge. That only made the ones across the bridge angrier. The howls had more menace to them, that’s how I could tell. As I made it finally to the water’s edge I wondered what I was going to do. I thought that I might have been a little premature to send Amy on with the car. The emergency room or even just seeing Amy’s expression at what I really was would not be near as bad as this doomed feeling that I had.
That was when I heard it. A single chime came ringing through the air, from the water itself. I had heard that chime all evening. My mother had been wearing those chimes and now she was somewhere out on the water. Easy for her, she was dead after all. The howls though indicated that the demons seemed to sense it, seemed to know that she was out there. It made them angrier. What came next surprised me even more. At first, I thought something had churned up some sea algae, like you could sometimes see when the really big ships passed. This was smaller, a trail leading from the water’s edge out across into the darkness, into the water. I smiled. The demons were not going to come near the water. I took a step out onto that luminescent green trail, gingerly and then with more confidence. I was walking on the water. I didn’t get cocky, too many past experiences taught me better, but I did start to move a little more quickly. I was running out of time. Now that feeling of lightness returned and I fairly glided across that water leaving the smallest of wakes behind me. If I had not been so afraid, I would have laughed with glee.
As I neared the other side I looked up and around searching for any sign of that demon army. They were still there, up on the bridge and plenty agitated. I didn’t slow as I got to the shore, keeping out of sight as much as I could. Even as I moved away from the bridge I never slowed, never even looked back. I finally paused as I neared my apartment building. I made it to the back of my building, hesitating before entering. There was no sound of pursuit; in fact hardly any little shadows flitted about at all. I entered like a wraith and made it up to my apartment. I closed the door behind me and leaned against it. Dawn was only minutes away. Somehow it had seemed like minutes, but it had taken me all night to get home.
“Have a nice run?” Amy said from the dark.
I could see she was sitting on the couch. I started to say something, but did not know what I could say that would explain what I was.
“It’s ok,” she said, “I’m a Gypsy too.”
I don’t know whether I fainted or just woke up confused. I did know that everything I thought was so chaotically right about my life was now turned upside down.