“I’m a little new to this whole ‘magic is real’ thing,” I said.
“Are you now?” Cara smirked. “Well, looks like we’ve got lots to catch up on.”
“Maybe we should both be sitting, then.” A glance towards the couch full of unfolded clean laundry told me that wasn’t an option. We went into my bedroom instead.
Unfortunately, my bed was only marginally better.
“Sorry about all the mess,” I grumbled, grabbing a dirty bowl and bag of oreos from my bed and putting them on the nightstand.
She elbowed me in the rib before sitting down in the now clear spot. “I knew there had to be a reason we only ever hung out at my place.”
“Well, yeah. Plus we couldn’t exactly pick on your little brother if we were at my house.”
Cara laughed. “It’s the solemn duty of the older sibling to bring their friends over and harass the younger one.”
“Especially when that friend is an only child.” I laid down on the other side of the bed, which she took as a cue to do the same. “How is he, by the way?”
“Oh, Bax is great. Sophomore in high school now. Same age we were when we started dating. He’s still a big nerd, unfortunately, but I managed to get him on the lacrosse team. I told him it’s a good way to meet girls.” She looked at me and winked.
“I wouldn’t advise him to introduce himself the same way we met. That bump never went away, by the way.” I rubbed the back of my head in the familiar spot.
She rolled her eyes. “How many times are you going to make me apologize for that?”
“Oh, I forgave you years ago. But it’s still funny. You’re not going to live that down anytime soon.”
She jabbed me in the gauze hard enough to hurt, but still in jest. “Didn’t you have a bunch of supernatural questions you wanted to ask?”
“I did, it’s just… You know, when I recognized you back in the Passway, I expected this conversation to be a lot more awkward.”
She nodded. “Yeah, me too.” The moment passed, and she sat up with her legs crossed. “So anyways, like I said, most humans are born Wizened. It’s sort of like how you tell your kid that Santa Claus is real, only you then go to Santa Claus’ house for Christmas. It’s s—”
“Wait,” I interrupted. “Santa Claus is real?”
She laughed again. “No, no, no. It’s just an example. You tell your kids fairy tales, only when you grow up in a Wizened family, they tell you true stories. Most Wizened people belong to guilds that serve different purposes. Some are mercenaries, some are intermediaries, some are commerce oriented, that sort of thing. So since you’re born into being Wizened, most people are also born into their guilds.”
“Hold on for a second. Every person I’ve met in the supernatural has used the term ‘Wizened’. What does that mean exactly?”
“Oh, that’s just any person that is aware of and involved in the supernatural community. It pretty much exclusively refers to humans, because obviously faeries and goblins and whatnot are, you know… supernatural.”
“I’ve never met any of those. Only Doc.”
“Doc?” I called, raising my voice. “You here, buddy?”
“Yes…” his little voice replied. The little blue spirit crawled out from underneath my side of the bed. “Sleeping…”
“Don’t… know. Maybe?”
I lowered my hand to the ground and he hopped onto it. His little feet felt like ice cubes without the wetness, and I lifted him onto the bed with us.
“What the hell? You have a pet leech?” Cara asked, making a face.
She folded her arms. “That’s a leech. Basically spirits that have lost so much of their humanity they’re dumber than a wolf hunting a squirrel.”
“What’s wrong with that? We can’t all be smart. Plus, I think he’s cute.”
“They obsess over humans because they miss being alive, so they crave attention and human interaction. That’s pretty much all they know once they get to that stage. You keeping one as a pet is like feeding a rat that lives in your home instead of exterminating it.”
“I think that’s a little harsh, don’t you Doc?”
“Hmm… Harsh,” he nodded before lying down on the bed like a snow angel.
“Besides,” I added. “He’s taught me lots about the supernatural, since nobody else would.” I couldn’t think of any examples off the top of my head, but he had taught me… some things. I was sure of it.
“Well, it’s extremely rare that some random person just becomes Wizened,” she said. “You can’t even see spirits like him until you are. How’d you do it?”
“Funny story,” I said. “This guy walked into my apartment through my closet one day.”
“Your Passway?” she offered.
“Yeah, but I didn’t know it was there, obviously. He had a dog mask on his face and was looking for my mom. He gave me that magic Sharpie.”
Her eyebrows raised at that. “Black and white robes? Tall and gangly? Looks like a grim reaper wannabe?”
“You know him?”
“Oh, that’s one of the guilds I mentioned earlier. They’re called the Scavengers. They’re sort of like the black market of the Wizened world. There’s two things that are really weird about that story.”
“Well, first is that he knew your mom. That means she’s Wizened. And didn’t tell you about the supernatural world.”
“Yeah, I got that far. My parents moved to London several months ago, though, and this Scavenger guy thing happened only like last month. I’ve tried contacting her, but she’s been even harder to reach than usual.”
“That part’s not surprising,” she said. “Magical beings don’t like technology. Lots of liasons to the supernatural world are practically Amish. But anyways, second important thing. He gave you that Sharpie? No deal, no contract, no money?”
“Nope. Just told me to give it to my mom next time I see her.”
“That’s weird. A magical artifact like that is bound to be insanely expensive. I wonder why he gave it to you. He must have owed your mom a huge favor or something. Or maybe it’s cursed.”
I paled at that. “What would that mean?”
She shrugged. “Dunno, could mean a lot of things. Maybe after a while it’ll start using your blood instead of normal ink, and it will slowly, bit by bit, start consuming your soul.”
I gulped, looking back to the nightstand where the Sharpie sat. Such a powerful object, yet such a high price.
But when I turned back to Cara, I could see her stifling laughter.
She got a pillow to the face.
“You’re such a jerk,” I said.
“Yeah, well, you know. Oh. Actually, there’s three weird things about your story.”
“Where did your door to the Passway come from? They’re usually made by the Locksmiths, which is another Wizened guild. And they have real, magic locks on them, not like your dumb padlock.”
“Hey, I did what I could!”
“Sure, it works for weaker stuff, but if a vampire sees a door without a proper lock on it, you’re screwed.”
“Well, that means I have to go find a Locksmith, right?”
“Sure, but that doesn’t answer the question. This guy. This Scavenger came into your apartment through the Passway. Before you bought a lock for it, your door was completely free to be opened at any time. It was only a matter of time before something came through, you were just lucky enough to have it not want to eat you. But it begs the question of how long that door was there, and who put it there.”