I crouched by the edge of a pier, my back stiff towards the rotting scent steaming out of the Hudson River. New York City was the perfect place to be for anyone hiding from creatures who needed to track by scent; especially at night, when lights and sounds came together to add all sorts of mirages to the living smells of the Big Apple.
The Scout stopped, turned his face in the direction of the wind and sniffed. I watched as the Hudson’s fumes tricked his nose, and the man started in the wrong direction.
Uttering something trapped between a sigh and a hiss, I pressed the heel of a hand against the concrete under my feet, dragging soft flesh back and forth, back and forth… until my blood left a smudge that looked dark and wet under moonlight.
The effect of irresponsible dumping and too much city was strong in the waters behind me. But at such short distance, not even the youngest of Scouts could miss a bleeding Crafter.
He ate the space between us in a single leap that landed his black combat boots with a smack right in front of me.
“Skin,” he said, adding all the weight of the loathing his kind had been taught to feel for mine.
“Corpse,” I said, standing up to my full seven feet.
My statement about his immediate future made him try to take a step back, but on my way up I had punched a fist through his abdominal wall, pushed up under his ribcage, and was now squeezing his heart between my fingers and the raw meat of my palm.
While the ink of his blood and everything he had ever been told was being sucked through the wound on my hand, the Scout’s expression turned into contorted terror that made me want to sing. I clenched my teeth to suppress the natural desire. The energy of my song would have shown my location to every Trad and Scout in the area. Besides, creatures who aren’t supposed to exist should abstain from making loud noises in the dark.
After a few seconds, the Scout’s stale blood filled my mind with the information I was seeking: I saw a reproduction of Van Gogh’s Starry Night, where a yellow crescent moon shined behind the Bat-Signal. The image of the parody was followed by an address between Yonkers and the Bronx, plus the face of a young man who wore a purple, paint-spattered t-shirt that told the world, in huge red letters: I know fantasy is real.
“Ah,” I said, and let the Scout’s husk fall at my feet.
The remains of the Scout flickered in and out of sight before fading back to his own reality.
With my intent focused on the concrete floor, I hummed low and soft until the red fringes of my floor-length white dress absorbed the blood I had rubbed into the pavement. Once my essence was back where it belonged, I jumped into the murky waters of the Hudson, assumed a shape that matched my environment, and swam towards the home of an artist who had to be told that he was a Story Crafter... before what he was got him, and too many others, killed or enslaved.
Note: This short bit is set in the Thorn in Red world. If you’ve read the novella, you might be all excited about getting another glimpse into the life of a character you love (or are totally creeped out by). Please don’t mention her by name in your comments. You wouldn’t want to spoil someone else’s enjoyment of the tale, would you?
for Magpie Tales 234
Gotham Starry Night, by 1funnyguy