I was a 'disappearing' human. Yep, me; that was me in a nutshell -- little old Esmeralda Meredith -- I was human sort of but mostly not. I mean look at it for what it was worth. I popped in and out of places without notice -- mostly -- I was able to touch forbidden things without harm and charmed my way out of those situations when I was confronted. And from all I'd been reading and finding in hidden books, it seemed that there were others like me that had existed centuries ago, in diaries and anecdotal urban legends passed down through the decades. I had begun digging in earnest when I chanced upon that little bright and shiny trinket down in the Kentucky and Tennessee caves. I'd already convinced myself it was something to do with my past, but quickly found out that I had been severely mistaken. It wasn't a link to my past, but that of others with even more secretive natures than mine, and add in that there were far more of them than me, I knew I was pretty well screwed; so I ended up begging Uncle Harry's help once I couldn't get the cursed bracelet off my wrist. Enter Riley the werewolf and his slabs of raw bacon -- yeah, they both helped me and got the bracelet off my wrist but I ended up having to be a 'good girl' for a bit. I wasn't fond of playing nice with others. I mean, really, who does?
But what did all that get me? Uncle Harry decided that it was time to set down the law, and he said that I needed to get back to the human side of my roots and travel like a normal American. He had explained that I was getting too old to act like a stubborn teenager -- defiant and oblivious to the consequences of my own stupidity. So I was forced by him to take my real virgin passport and had headed out on what I thought was going to be a pretty nice trip to Indonesia. Naturally that was where I ended up being discovered by some witch woman who was hauling potions and lotions up the road. She'd been called over by the guide to treat some really stupid Americans who'd skipped their malaria pills -- because, as the substitute teacher informed the tour group in condescending tones, she knew that malaria had been wiped out. The idiot had mistakenly gathered that bit of 'fact' from a luxury cruise doctor who was trying to explain that on that ship there weren't any bugs. She decided to skip the pesky pills the rest of us gobbled as directed by our hometown doctors. Malaria was nothing to screw with. So then I was noticed by that wizened betel nut-eating witch woman who told my tour group, thankfully in her native tongue, that I wasn't 'normal.' Oh, that ended up so pleasantly for me. Not.
Shaking my head, I cursed my wicked little chaotic life. After abandoning my tour group on the grounds I thought they weren't as fond as me as they should be -- what with the woman freaking out and acting like I was a two-headed troll -- I took a walkabout in the lush tropical forest outside the wide spot in the road our tour group had been lured to in order to buy over-priced pieces of local crap. Then I ended up discovering a hidden temple that was apparently used to kill supernatural creatures. Not that I saw anyone being hacked to bits and slain, but the art on the temple walls, coupled with the scent of death pretty much spelled out that little fact. Okay, that and that big ass altar that was dead center in the middle of the temple with deep etchings of supernatural creatures carved into the top along with the blackened ring of death that surrounded the whole tableau. Right after that I was warned out of Indonesia. Cut to a few weeks ago when Uncle Harry bailed my tush out of that country and I ended up licking my wounds stateside while crazy puppet-like folks were looking for me across an ocean.
But I eventually convinced Uncle Harry that I needed to get back to my normal life. He kept telling me I didn't act like a normal human, so I figured if I was able to convince him that I needed to go play in the quote unquote real world again he'd figure I was being good. He also had that threat of Riley to keep me in check. That werewolf was more than a bit intimidating. Uncle Harry was family -- even if he was a vampire -- so he wouldn't harm me, but I wasn't so sure of Riley. Not to mention that the werewolf knew who I was. And if he knew who I was he also knew I was worth a couple million dollars dead. That still pissed me off. Why was I only worth two and a half million dollars dead? I mean, why wasn't I worth like maybe one million alive? I didn't have any real skills other than popping around from what I knew. I didn't fang into someone's neck and drain them dead. Or like weres, slash, gash, trash and toss humans to the wolves -- so to speak -- for scraps.
It was so unfair. I just wanted to keep my pretty little things and visit dusty old places undisturbed. The place I rented in Michigan was in a pretty quiet neighborhood. Lots of abandoned houses and vacant lots surrounded me. The last round of layoffs in the factories pretty much gutted much of the town. The economy hadn't helped any. The promised recovery wasn't arriving quickly enough to save much of the city. The refugees ran while they had money, and others just pooled their resources and learned to live on nearly nothing. More than a few families lived together in some of the larger homes scattered on the outskirts of the city.
Detroit wasn't any different than parts of Florida. The rough economic times had reduced the nearly-middle class to not quite poverty level. More temperate climates like Florida didn't have many more job opportunities, but they didn't have brutal winters and blizzards to contend with when trying to survive. Florida got battered with hurricanes and tourists. Michigan contended with tornados, blizzards, heat waves and severe winters. I could understand the exodus.
I looked around my little house and was glad that it was on one of the quieter streets. There weren't many folks I saw during my wanderings to and from the store. No nosy neighbors asking me invasive questions about where I was going and who I was. I felt normal -- at least by my standards. Uncle Harry had sprung for a new ultra-complicated cell phone saying he preferred me to call live, not inside his head for a while. I think my troubles in Indonesia had scared him a bit. I know they'd scared me a lot!
Thinking about Uncle Harry, I glanced at the phone. It wasn't late yet. It was barely after dinnertime in Michigan, which put it late afternoon in California. Knowing Uncle Harry he was already awake, I tapped the phone awake and selected Uncle Harry's number. I knew from a previous call that if he wasn't awake, he'd let the call go to voicemail
He answered on the ring.
"I was just thinking about you, Emma." His smooth voice rolled through the distance making me feel safe.
"Really, anything good?" I laughed, knowing his usual thoughts about me were because he was worried or felt my panic over something.
He laughed and answered, "Actually, I was thinking I better get my phone out because you were going to call."
As usual, the vampire I called my uncle was right. He was unfailingly right most times. I knew he had some hush-hush job with the government and his own particular skill set was part of why it was so private. Vampires weren't 'out' anymore than werewolves and other supernatural creatures but at the same time the military and government think tanks knew better than looking too closely at some of the more unusual aspects of their employees. Uncle Harry'd been around the fringes of some incidents that nobody wanted to see the light of day or night anytime in the near future. Humans liked denial thankfully more than being as supposedly well informed as they deluded themselves into thinking they were.
Laughing I said back, "Right as usual."
"So what are you fretting about?" Again he was right.
Sighing, I sat back on the couch and curled my feet underneath my tush while yanking up a thick blanket over me. The house wasn't airtight and the landlord had gave me some longwinded vaguely suspicious explanation that if the radiator was set too high there would be more cracks in the weather-stripping and the cold air would get in quicker. I think he was just a cheap bastard who didn't want to pay a higher bill because I turned the furnace past sixty degrees. The cold still crept inside and I found that blankets worked fairly well as long as I didn't move around too much.
"Other than freezing my ass off?" I looked at the front window and saw that the promised snowstorm had arrived. Big fluffy flakes were falling quickly, adding to the already snow-covered area. I think there was nearly a foot already on the ground so the predicted six to twelve more inches would shut down the city. I didn't usually stay long in the colder climates. Florida wasn't exactly known for snowstorms.
"Yes, Magpie, other than freezing. What's wrong?" His voice sounded amused. I groaned, knowing he was comfortably warm in his Southern California lair and didn't see much in the way of snow there either.
"It's this mine. I keep finding contrasting bits of information." I whined while pulling the blanket further up onto me. I momentarily considered getting off the sofa and going over to the wall to raise the temperature on the thermostat, but I had the sneaky suspicion that it wasn't even hooked up. I'd tried to raise it three degrees two days earlier and I didn't see the temp rise on the wall-mounted thermometer.
"And how is that different from any other time you've researched places, hmmm?" Again he sounded greatly entertained by me.
I sighed again and said, "Well, most places I visit aren't over a thousand feet below the earth."
"That's true. But Emma, you aren't being forced to go down there." He seemed to have failed to understand my concerns. I bit the bullet and further explained.
"Uncle Harry, I am not saying I have to go down there. I am saying I want to go there. The problem is conflicting information of the depth to the mine tunnels. That could prove problematic, if you know what I mean." I didn't like to spell out what I did over open phone lines and Uncle Harry knew I wasn't talking about taking the elevator down to the tunnels. It would be the furthest into the earth I've ever gone and I wasn't sure if I could make it. I welcomed the challenge but wanted an exact depth. My little talent didn't need exact distances but my natural sense of self-preservation was more than a bit curious.
Outright chuckling, Uncle Harry pointed out the obvious to me. "Magpie, you have gone half way around the world, up and down various mine shafts and never once did you fail to make it home. True?"
"Yes," I replied sullenly, still not able to articulate what I was feeling. There was this sense of unrest when I contemplated the journey.
"Spit it out then," he said softly with a bit of his vampiric command in his tone.
"Okay, what if the mines are truly cursed?" I spit out.
That stopped him. He knew the bracelet he'd helped take off my wrist had been a cursed item so it wasn't like they didn't exist.
"Then pop out," he finally said.