The shadow world is something hard to explain to baseline humans, it sort of exist along side ours, impossible to touch to those not blessed or cursed by the awakening. There are very good reasons I don't often use it as a shortcut. For one it's possible to track entries and exits and for second, it is not empty, there is something in there, waiting, watching, calculating. Bidding it's time, maybe awaiting the stars to go right. But everyone has heard of an awakened that slipped there and came back wrong...
I was plenty happy when I reappeared in the bathroom of a little Italian dinner only a few minutes away from where I lived. Stepping out of the shadows in my own flat was just inviting someone to track me. I stayed for a few minutes, ordering creamy pesto gnocchi to take out.
When I finally got to my flat, I let the plate on the counter and went through my little ritual, removing my gears and emptying the many pockets of my coat; four spare magazines, a survival knife, my tool kit, a half-dozen syringe with drugs, a small lump of c4 and a blasting cap. And then I found something that didn't belong. It was scribbled on a folded post it note, just a phone number.
The only person that had gotten close to me was that girl, had she slipped it when she held my hand? My interest was piqued. I waited for about two hour before deciding to call from a public phone outside. The phone rang a few times until someone picked up.
"Hello?" She said.
"You're quite persistent you know that?" I said, leaning against the cabin. "Nice job, palming me your number. I figured you deserved a reward for that. So tell me, what do you want?"
"Just to talk with you."
"Fine. Meet me at Noir, it's a little cafe on the corner of Gresham and King Street in about an hour. I'll be waiting." With that I hung up.
Noir was a small independent coffee shop that catered to the alternative crowd, it was also one of the few place where metahumans were welcome without even as much as a side glance. The manager was a huge metrosexual troll, usually wearing a neatly folded suit and silver framed glasses. Before the awakening he'd worked as Sheriff for the City and when his term was over, he'd settled in quietly running a shop, he also had a hand in lots of pies around town. And he had huge fucking hands.
I sat down in one of the leather chairs, and it didn't take time for one of the waiter to come over, deposing a real bucket of a cup in front of me. I knew him very well, the way he walked in those extremely tight jeans, his bare paws smoothly hitting the floor, his flowing pink top cropped at to collar bone.
"Evening, mate. You've been a good boy tonight?" He asked. "Nobody's been drained?"
"Oh shut up, Vix." I said with a chuckle.
He snapped a finger at my forehead. "I brought you your usual, with a shovel worth of sugar and a gallon of cream, just as you like it."
Vix was the closest thing I had to a friend, we weren't all that different really, he'd grown up alone, rejected after he'd transformed into a therian at puberty. I'd just kind of had no luck and survived as I could. He's been taking in by a nice bunch of metahumans, I'd been taking in by the mob.
"Thank you." I said, opening the cup and sipping the concoction.
"What brings you here, today? Were you missing me?" He spoke playfully, his tail waggling behind him.
"You wish. No, I'm meeting with someone."
"Oooh." He exclaimed, now curious. "Is it one of your scary work partner or maybe a nice little friend?"
"Just an acquaintance." I said. "Say, don't you have work to do?"
"I'm on break." He said removing the apron that was belted around his waist.
"Of course you are."
"So, how was your day, anything interesting?"
"You know I can't talk about these things."
"I figure one day you'll cave in to my request." He said, leaning on the table.
Vix was one of the few people that knew what I did. Didn't seem to care, he probably understood that it's a dog-eat-dog kind of world or maybe he thought it was glamorous or something, I was the loner with a dark and troubled past.
But there's nothing fun or glamorous about violence. It's quick, brutal, dirty and it never ends well. People develop methods to cope, or try to attach themselves to a cause or convince themselves it's the right thing, that they need the money or that they have no choice. The reason I didn't wasn't out of loyalty to the McKenzie family, it wasn't for the money nor was it for the challenge. I was a murderer because that's what I did. I was fully aware of the mortgage on my soul and it was a good thing I didn't believe in gods...
I sighed. "Maybe one day I will." I said with a shrug. "Just don't count on it."