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February 19, 2024

When Fairy Tales Come Alive 34

By Lydia Manx

Without thinking much about what just had happened, I continued to stride down the sidewalk leading towards the heart of San Diego. The city blocks in this section of town were longer than the ten or so houses that made up the blocks in the other sections of town. When I'd been going around the city, I had noticed how short the blocks were in the newer luxurious neighborhoods. Musing on that, I noticed to my amazement that Eddie was closely trailing me, not talking for a change. He kept glancing back over his shoulder when he thought I wasn't looking. I continued my hike as the rolling hills of San Diego were a challenge at best, and with the fog still hanging along the coastline, thankfully not overly warm. The marine layer kept foot traffic to a minimum. Other than some stray joggers and out-and-out runners, there weren't a bunch of humans scattering the scenery. The athletic souls were tuned out and tuned into their personal world. Some had earplugs and headsets further muting the world while others were intense on mastering the hills and not stumbling while puffing out as they ran. I was grateful for this, because Eddie was still glowing out that deity sheen that I'd noticed when he started attracting attention from the bar patrons.

We had come to a flat section of the street with a vacant lot on the right of the sidewalk -- dirt and weeds seemed to be the overwhelming theme -- and Eddie spit out, "Stop, I give."

Furiously I spun into his face and said, "What the hell were you thinking? You basically enthralled anyone with a pulse, then pushed at a local supernatural creature just trying to have her damn meal! We may need help finding your lost souls and why would any of them help you if all they are thinking of is cossetting you and giving you anything that pleases your every desire?"

Okay, I was fuming mad at the most-likely-immortal idiot before me trying to catch his breath. But he was being a jerk. I don't know if he'd even know what that word meant, but my glare must have let him have an idea of what I was thinking if he wasn't busy eavesdropping on my thoughts as usual. It didn't matter because either way he knew I wasn't happy with him. There was a lull in traffic, both vehicular and human. The fog was thicker around us and nearly clinging to my very soul. I found it disturbing, but Eddie didn't seem to notice yet. I guess he wasn't used to staying in human form and doing anything more physical. Circling a finger to order another round or flicking his fingers for a woman to come service him exhausted his knowledge from what I could tell. I didn't see him pleasing anyone but himself whatever the era.

He huffed out, "Not true."

I waited for him to stop panting long enough to complete the comment.

Standing upright and pulling himself taller than I thought he'd been, he said, "I care for humans or I would've left the four here to decimate your world before pulling them home."

Had I not been privy to his world and his plea earlier for my help, he really would have convinced me to doubt my base instincts, but that wasn't the case.

"Bullshit," I said succinctly, calling his bluff.

His eyes flashed that nasty green -- then he caved. "You are right."

I didn't gloat but instead said, "So let's get to where they are and start getting them back to where they belong."

Sheepishly nodding, he said, "Okay, lead on, Delilah."

So I led him carefully down the hills to the hub of San Diego. The fog kept us shadowed and I felt that was critical. There were far too many things that could go wrong and I wasn't up to any more challenges.

Once we got to the transit station, we caught one heading north and finally got on the train. I felt that there was something along the coast calling me. I trusted that gut feeling more than I did anything Eddie was going to spit out.

The train was clean and almost relaxing. Eddie seemed fascinated by the surfers and the nearly naked girls sunbathing on the sandy shores that were on the beaches we flew past on the train. It didn't seem to matter that the fog was still spotty at times; the sun worshipers were scantily clad and heavily oiled with whatever brand of sunscreen that they felt would bronze them to a crispy crunch.

We'd purchased tickets to Los Angeles, but as we got closer to the city of Encinitas, I found a flutter guiding me and told Eddie we needed to stop at the next place. He shut down literally for at least two minutes then said, "You are right. It's around here." So as soon we hit the Encinitas train station we got off.

Not bothering to ask him anything more, we left the depot with our meager belongings and found ourselves in a different kind of town than what we'd seen in the downtown section of San Diego. Bohemian with a metro pulse was the best way of describing the vibe. There were business casual men and women mixing with surfers and what I'd call the modern day gypsies. A hodge-podge of soccer moms and some college students added into the mix. Eddie beamed at me saying, "I like this place. There is something different than where we just were, in the city part. There is something about this spot."

The main street was part of the 101 highway that ran down the West Coast of California, and both sides of the street were lined with cute shops and businesses alongside some known chains. Nowhere near the number of chains that I'd noticed when we'd been downtown, but still there were a few. The people smiled at us, but I could see they were self-absorbed and not really focused -- which I found helpful since I didn't need to see Eddie work his powers on the masses.

"I really think you found the place to start our search," he muttered while he was smiling at a pretty blonde with a small dog cuddled in her arms. She was wearing a very tiny yellow and white sundress and huge dark sunglasses. Every inch of her body that was showing was golden tan, natural, not spray-on tan, and her legs were enhanced by three inch yellow spiked heels. She was too busy cooing at the mini-dog and never noticed his attention. I bit my cheek at Eddie's ready acceptance to stopping in Encinitas instead of going on to Los Angeles, but I figured he was being agreeable so it was a good thing. That said, I wasn't willing to relax my guard. He was out of his element but growing in power despite that -- scary, no?

We strolled casually down the streets, unburdened with things like my luggage, due to Eddie's popping them elsewhere. He claimed he sent them to the cavern where I had been asked to help him and his quest to find the four banished, but he could be lying. It wasn't like I would know. I already noticed his tendency to twist things towards his favor; rather than asking he just made it happen. I was somehow immune to his gaze, and felt none of the pressure the mainstream humans had to worship him and do his every bidding. That he'd already been seen and gathered supplicants quickly was another hot spot for me. I wished I could get a hold of Sam.

"Who is this Sam you keep thinking about, Delilah?" Eddie sounded disturbed by my thoughts. The blonde faded out of sight and her dog looked over her shoulder at us and uttered a high pitched bark. I wondered if Eddie looked like a cat to the dog. I shook my head to clear my thoughts and focused on Eddie's nosy question.

"A friend. Stop poking around my mind." I didn't put much energy into my words, knowing it would just make him whine for more information.

In a tight voice he snarled, "I do not whine."

I bit back the smirk from my lips quickly while looking around the street. Not answering him, I simply walked away from him and tried to feel for oddities in the air. Encinitas was pretty odd and the vibe definitely wasn't normal. I let my eyes blur and fall out of focus. It didn't take more than a minute for the otherly world to coat my view with vivid colors and swirls of danger and drama. The humans walked through sick spots of poisoned air with nearly no break in their steps.

Eddie swung his eyes around frantically and hissed, "What are you seeing that I am not?" I guess my vision was amped up differently than his. Some of what I was noticing had to be in my mind, and that was what he was searching for on the street before us. He couldn't see the forest from the trees, or the spiders and snakes hanging in the sky.

I didn't answer him, but continued to walk down the streets taking care to avoid what I thought of as the 'hot spots,' and at the same time I was noticing that the city (hell, who was I trying to convince -- the town) was flooded with elements I rarely saw combined. Humans walked unknowingly with shadows, supernatural creatures, and others best not named. I was seeing a concentration of sprites, spirits and supers that defied all logic. Masking my thought of Sam, I really was getting worried. Whispering softly at me, Eddie said, "This is not normal."

He wasn't asking, but finally using his own skill-set to see what was surrounding us. Yeah, I was pretty sure his trolls and the other escapees were near us. His eyes glowed that gemstone green and I knew he'd seen some of what I'd noticed.

"But this is the right spot," he finally conceded.

"It is. But we need to find a place immediately. I need to sleep and you need to let Jeff out and go recharge your battery far, far away." I looked at him and shrugged.

"You are right. Let's find a place." He was looking a bit lost, so I took pity on him and went to the nearest non-chain coffee shop.

We walked inside and I felt my jaw drop. All four of his lost creatures were inside -- either working or lounging. Eddie looked at me and quietly said, "You have to be kidding me."

I didn't see any reason to reply, so instead I went over where there was a suspended sign with the word "Order" on an arrow and asked for two espresso drinks. Knowing Eddie, I simply asked for two shots of espresso with a twist of lemon, and I asked for two shots of espresso poured through steamed foam. The human before me was completely unaware of how many non-humans filled the small cafe. Eddie's eyes were huge as he glanced around and saw some of what I did.

Our drinks were served quickly, and we sat down at one of the high top tables that were scattered around the small store. There were a few people on notebooks furiously tapping and murmuring so I figured they had free Wi-Fi in the coffee shop. Eddie was looking at me with wider eyes than a few minutes before, and I could feel him trying to push into my thoughts. I wasn't willing to give him access, so instead I just told him to calm the fuck down in my thoughts and let me explore. He dipped his head and the pressure of his attempt to invade my mind dissipated, and I let my thoughts flow around the room to see if his escapees had any sense of who or what we were.

Everything was nearly electric with pulses of magic and other-ness. I pulled back as I felt something try to probe me. This was not going to be pretty.

Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2015-08-24
Image(s) © Lydia Manx and Sand Pilarski. All rights reserved.
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