Beyond the Veil
A shaggy-haired teenager with a skateboard in his hand leaned against a lamppost, waiting for the crosswalk to change colors. Observing the boy, Isley kept hidden out of sight, drinking from a flask when her phone buzzed. Emily lit the screen.
Without hesitation, she pressed ignore and shoved it into her pocket, grumbling about her gatekeeper’s second call in the last three hours. These discernible attempts to bust her drinking on the job were almost becoming funny at this point. Did Emily think she could catch her by calling and listening to her voice? If she wanted proof, she needed to try something much more cunning than this.
Isley took another sip and put the flask into her pocket. Since this was the last assignment of the night, she could blow Emily off until morning with plenty of time to sober up before morning rollcall.
Her phone buzzed twice and Isley pulled it out expecting a voicemail, but saw an appointment reminder instead. It was time.
The crosswalk light turned green, and the teen stepped onto the road without noticing the black truck barreling through the intersection. At the last minute, the truck hit its brakes but it was too late. The teen didn’t even look up.
A woman screamed. People rushed out of a nearby restaurant to check out the commotion. Maneuvering around the gathering crowd, Isley walked across the street and stood next to a lone figure, staring at the lifeless body.
“That’s me, isn’t?” the teen asked, emotionless. “I’m dead.”
“I’m afraid so.”
Sirens sounded in the distance, and Isley knew it was time to leave. It wouldn’t help either of them if she waited until the paramedics arrived to try and resuscitate him. All it would do is drag this whole thing out and get this poor kid’s hopes up, just to slip away. It was time to do her job.
Twirling her fingertips, Isley summoned the bright blue light of a portal, then grasped the boy’s hand. At first he hesitated. But with a little persuasion, he walked with her willingly into the light.
Delivering him to his final destination took a minute, like it usually did with ones who went to the great sky above. Those appointments were always the easy ones. It was those destined to the abyss below that were the real trouble. And those damned souls that tried to escape the lock.
Isley reappeared in a residential area, the swirl of the portal fading away behind her when she reached for her flask. Pulling the cap off, she raised it in the air.
“Here’s to another night without getting caught.” Isley snorted, and laughter escaped her lips. Was this the best they could do? If this was all they had, then they were in for a long campaign to bring her down. Besides, how else was she supposed to get through this miserable half-life? Take up yoga like, Emily? Yeah, right.
She laughed until her eyes watered and side ached. Once the hysterics subsided, she heard clapping.
Her head snapped up toward the noise, her eyes catching up a second later. Stepping out of the shadows, a man in a wool beanie and flannel shirt glided toward her. “Are you done now, sweetheart? Not sure all of the neighbors heard you yet.”
His tone was smug, with a distinct New Yorker accent. Annoyed at the insult, she glared at him. Someone like her didn’t have to be afraid of the danger lurking at night. “Fuck off.”
Shaking his finger at her, he swaggered closer. “Now, now, is that anyway to speak to someone who came to check out the noise? Just making sure a baddie hadn’t gotten his teeth into you.”
Isley looked him up and down, judging the man in as a demeaning way she could. He stood there laughing at her attempt at intimidation, but it didn’t matter to her. He was maybe a couple of inches taller than her. She could take him. With the right leverage, she would have him out before he realized she’d even moved. Well, as long as her balance held up. “Like I need any help from the likes of you. I can take care of myself. Now run along.” She shooed him away like an annoying pest. “I’m sure another helpless victim could use the hero act.”
A sly curl formed on his lips. “Oh sweetheart, by the looks of you I’d say you can handle yourself.”
She growled. “Stop calling me sweetheart, asshat. And stop hitting on me.”
He held his hands out, surrendering. “I wouldn’t dream of it. Don’t exactly make it a habit of seducing women who are completely sloshed.”
She huffed, her hands moving to her hips. “First of all I’m not sloshed. Not even close. And second, well… You’re following a girl down the street at night. Stalk, much?”
She didn’t wait for him to speak, turning away until his hand touched her shoulder. Without thinking, she swung her elbow into his ribs, and he doubled over, taking a step back. Isley marched over to kick him in the jewels. But instead of the clean hit she anticipated, he grabbed her foot and tossed her away.
“What the hell, woman?” he yelled in surprise.
“Don’t fucking touch me again.”
“Fine.” He scowled, his tone losing its smugness. “Just need to say something.”
Her cheeks reddened. Something about this exchange didn’t feel right. No human could counter her so easily, even with the drinking. This guy spelled trouble. “And what might that be?”
“I’m your new gatekeeper.”
Her eyes widened. “You’re kidding, right? This has to be a joke.”
“No joke. You’ve been caught, Ms. Isley Paris. Did you not think the Eidolon upstairs didn’t know?” He laughed. “Come on, you have to be smarter than that. There’s nothing you can hide from them.”
“And what do you think I’m hiding?” Her voice quivered. Dread slunk its way inside of her, scrambling to take away any hope. This all had to be a mistake.
“That you delivered the boy after drinking all night for starters. Oh, and you can’t handle the job without a drink in your hand.”
Before she could blink, he came after her and punched her in the side, hard enough she wobbled backwards. It gave him the edge he needed. Grabbing her by the shoulders, he threw her onto the grass, keeping her out of the streetlight. She jumped to her feet, ready to lunge when he threw her back to the ground.
They continued the dance, Isley unwilling to give up and admit defeat. Each time she stood, he tossed her around like a ragdoll. All while her stomach sloshed from side to side, the waves rolling until she couldn’t keep it down any longer.
She coughed and rid herself of the contents of her stomach, forgetting at once about the fight. Right now all she could focus on was spilling everything she had on the ground.
Once the dry heaves ended and the tremors began, she wiped her mouth and looked up. Her attacker leaned against a tree with both his legs and arms crossed smoking a cigarette, a smirk spread across his lips.
It did nothing but piss her off more. “Who the hell are you?”
His eyebrow raised and he took another drag from his smoke. He exhaled, letting the tension linger. When she was about to question him again, he spoke. “I thought we already went over that.”
“Your name, jackass. Or do you prefer the profanity?”
“Oh, that? My name’s Silas.” He grabbed his phone out of his pocket and shook his head. “Look princess, as much as I would like to talk all night about this, we need to get a move on.”
Isley crossed her arms, and turned away from Silas. Her voice barely came out a whisper. “And if I refuse?”
He looked up at the night sky, rolling his eyes. “Then I guess you go to the Eidolon for them to decide.”
Isley lowered her head, not wanting him to see the tears filling her eyes. This was it for her, and she had to decide now. Could she live this life without her safety net, or did she have the courage to face the consequences with the Powers Above? The thought of damning souls without numbing her emotions was almost too much to bear. If only there was a way to hide, and make this all go away.
“Time’s ticking. What’s it going to be?”
She closed her eyes and let out a deep breath. This was going to be awful, but there wasn’t a choice really. She couldn’t hide from the Eidolon. “Fine, I’ll go with you.”
He clapped, grinning like he just won something. “Smart girl.” He held his arm out for her to grab, but she pushed it away, walking pass him. “Is that anyway to treat your new boss?”
“I’m not calling you boss.”
Story by: Wednesday Churchill
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