Vex glowered in the harsh, bright lights of the exit
reception office of the Tempe
Beyond the metal grid an overweight policewoman chewed gum, rattled on
ancient keyboard, and sifted through plastic bags. A few moments
sifting, a few
moments typing, a beep from the computer…
“Can you go any more slowly?” Vex said.
“How do you spell your last name again?” the
in a nasal tone. She sounded irritated. Vex would be too if she had a
“H-A-R-R-O-W.” Vex held the anger out of her
voice. It was
bad enough that the cops virtually stripped her before they threw her
holding cell, but now to get her stuff back she had to wait, and spell
over and over.
“Oh, there it is,” the woman said. “They have it
system without the double-u.”
“Great,” Vex said.
“I’ll get your stuff… Just wait a moment.”
“I’m getting good at that.”
Keys jingled nearby and Patrick leaned on the
shelf of the
exit desk. She looked up to see his blue eyes gleaming in his handsome
Vex nearly beamed at him. Her savior. Though, the first knight in
she’d ever known to wear leather pants and a ripped up biker’s jacket.
finished off the look with a pair of heavy boots.
Thunk. “Two black boots,” the policewoman
smiled. Finally: her boots. She couldn’t quite understand why the cops
her to take them off and then took them away, but she felt naked
“So,” Patrick said, sporting a handsome but
smile. “What did you do this time?”
“Four silver rings with spikes, two spiked
a silver necklace with a pentagram medallion,” the woman announced.
Vex reached up to the counter and dragged the
holding her jewelry off of the counter and down next to her boot. She
the task of lacing them up while Patrick chatted with the woman; he
better at handling people than Vex was.
It took her an aggravatingly long time to lace
back up, put all of her rings back onto the right fingers, and wrap her
bands back onto her wrists. Of course, when the cops asked her to
boots she spent as long as she possibly could to remove them. Probably
score her any points. Vex didn’t care, they didn’t have to put her in
Finally whole again, Vex stood back up.
“Thank you for the lovely accommodations,” she
bowing. “But I am afraid that I really must go now. Ta-ta.”
“Whatever, toots,” the policewoman said. Then
for a moment before going back to chewing on her gum.
Patrick just nodded and held the door open for
Vex as she
“I can see you’re upset,” Patrick said.
“They didn’t have to hold me over night,” she
“It was cold in there too. They took my boots.”
“They didn’t take your sense of irony, I hope?”
“No, that’s completely intact.”
“So, what landed you in the clink?”
The bright Arizona
sun baked the back of Vex’s head as she placed her boot against a white
planter, an ugly piece of urban artwork made to look like Hopi pottery.
Whatever had been growing inside had long since shriveled and turned
brown from the desert sun. The planter sat well within a deep shadow,
heat was still noticeable and Vex could already feel sweat beading on
forehead. She tugged at her boot laces
to snug them tighter; then leveled her gaze at Patrick.
“You are in for a
story, you know,” she said. Patrick pulled himself into his jeep while
stopped to eye herself in the side mirror. “Aw, crud, my makeup is all
“What, no bathroom breaks in the Tempe
gulag?” Patrick joked. “And, I’m all up for a story. I expect no less.
the seatbelt might be hot.”
“I know, I know,” Vex said as she used her shirt
the buckle. The metal still nearly burned her through the cloth. “Think
could take me to my cab, Patty? I left it in the Gradi Gammage parking
“How about we get a burger first?” Patrick said
flipped through his keys. “If it’s a long story I think we should get
“Ah yeah, the height of humor as always.” Vex
head; then she grinned. It was hard not to like Patrick for his suave
about the world. “Just drive, you big lug. I’ll do the talking.”
“As you wish.”
“Stop kicking the table, please,” David snapped at the
sitting next to him.
“Oh, sorry,” the reply came back, more shallow
This was the third time that David had to ask
Tom, to stop kicking the table. It was seriously ruining his
that David knew his concentration mattered; he was going to lose this
The sounds of cards being slapped onto the
being called, and tokens representing damage and health moved around
echoed at David’s side. Although it was his turn, he stalled to take a
at the layout next to him. The girl sitting there, Megan, had only
few minutes earlier and only had two island and one swamp cards down.
expectedly, she had two blue creatures in play.
“Going to go or what?” his opponent, Mark, said
David sighed, rubbed his nose, and nodded.
“Yeah, just a
second.” He put a mermaid into play. A weak creature, but it would help
the onslaught when Mark’s horde of creatures decided to attack. “I’m
“You’ve been really twitchy, dude,” Megan said,
card on the table with a flick. She grinned when her adversary, a
fourteen year old redhead named Zack, winced. “Something going on?”
“I guess that I just had a bad night,” David
“I’ll say,” Mark snickered. “Your game is off. I
with goblin, goblin, and dragon.” David pointed to a few cards on the
after a few moments they were removed as well as one of Mark’s goblins.
three points of damage. What are you at?”
“Ten now,” David said, taking away a few tokens
“Tell me about it,” Megan said, now with another
the table. She pulled her long brown hair away from her face and tucked
behind her ear and frowned at her cards. “Last night sucked majorly. I
“I stayed awake all night,” David said. “That
“What happened?” Megan asked.
“Me and a few friends of mine, we decided to do
ritual thing that one of them had found—to help us with our grades. All
voodoo with candles, chanting, singing and such. Didn’t quite go as
“Oh,” Megan said and shook her head. “It’s not a
to play with things like that, you know, craft magic.”
At that moment, exhausted from the night before,
couldn’t have agreed with her more. The screaming, then the relighting
and things flickering in his vision, all together they were enough to
not want to sleep.
He went to reach for his deck of cards to draw a
when he saw something strange. One of the cards in his hand—that
creature with a long face and very large eyes—turned to look at him.
the cards face down on the table, rubbed his eyes, and picked them up
The picture had not changed.
“I think I’m seeing things,” David said.
“How long since you slept, dude?” Megan said,
over. “Not sleeping can make you see things.”
David drew his next card and smiled. He turned
most of his
cards on the table to the side and laid it down. Finally, the miracle
had been waiting for had risen.
“Tidal Kraken!” David announced to Mark. “A
“Wow,” Zack said.
“Can I see that?” Megan said. David nodded and
card to her.
The moment she took the card, however, David
felt a chill
pass through him, like a sudden gust of cold air. She seemed to feel it
because she jolted for a moment and then glanced around like something
her. When she didn’t mention anything, David decided to remain quiet.
“That’s pretty cool,” she said, handing the card
“Yeah I like—” David started to say when he
in the card, like light shifting on the surface. The painting of the
shimmered for a moment as if they were crashing down on the painted
and the giant monster’s head turned towards him. A great maw filled
and yellow glowing eyes filled his vision. Stinking breath brushed warm
his face…giant claws reached for him—and he dropped the card.
David was standing. He didn’t remember standing
the chair he was sitting in had fallen over backwards and Megan, Tom,
Mark were staring at him.
“You alright?” Megan asked.
David shrank away from the cards as if they were
and stepped away from the fallen chair. “I think, I need to use the
I’ll be right back, someone watch my cards?”
He started to turn toward the bathroom in the
Mark spoke up. “That bathroom has an out-of-order sign on it.”
“I’ll go to Borders,” David said and turned the
He barely heard the other voices that followed him out the door as he
the Coffee Plantation.
“That puts me at negative twelve life,” Megan said,
cards on the table. “You win, Zack. Good game.”
“Thanks,” Zack said. He began to pick up his
the table and shuffling them back into his deck. “You had me going
the last part, I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to win that one.”
“Maybe next time,” Megan said. As she shuffled
cards back into her deck she glanced over at David’s cards. “How long
“Twenty minutes maybe?” Zack said as he shuffled.
“Longer,” Mark said. “I’m getting bored, anyone
play a game?”
“I’ll play,” Megan said eyeing the remaining
put David’s cards away…” She glanced under the table. “He left his book
behind too, he’ll be back for it, I’m sure.”
“Have at it, Meg,” Zack said and glanced across
Presently, a small girl with bright yellow hair
green streak down the center slipped through the front two glass doors
coffee house and glanced around. Spotting Megan, she fluttered over and
both hands on the table.
“Hiya,” she said.
“Hi Karen,” Megan said with a wave.
“Has anyone seen Osiris?” she asked. “I’m so
“Have you checked eJoy?” Megan asked. The
David’s magic cards, a hard cardboard box, seemed a little too long to
into his already stuffed backpack, so she just let it stay unzipped
corner of the box sticking out.
“Yeah,” Karen said, rubbing the back of her head
hand. “Nobody there has seen him in almost three days.”
Mark and Zack both shook their heads.
Megan nodded. “I haven’t seen him since Monday.”
“Weird,” Kate said. “I was supposed to meet him
today. Anyway, I gotta go—” She tilted her head towards the door. “—my
waiting for me.” She rolled her eyes. “I’ll see you all at drum circle
“Sure thing,” Megan said and watched Kate bounce
of the coffee house and get into a waiting car. When she glanced down
the table she noticed the Tidal Kraken card still there. “Funny, I
already put that in the backpack…”
Megan reached for it and picked it up.
Suddenly she was alone.
The world was grey and scratched like an old
was Mill. She could see the stores, The Hippy Gypsy, Urban Outfitters,
Ruby Tuesdays, each one strangely empty and lifeless. People ran
streets in terror, their hurried footfalls silent. She could see them
and looking back at something.
Megan turned to look at what people were
She could see something orange from the corner of her eye then—
“What?” Mark said.
Megan shook herself and blinked a few times.
“Did you say something?” Mark asked.
“Uh, no,” Megan said. The card was still held
fingers. Without wasting another moment she simply slid it into the
not wanting to touch the thing any longer than she had to.
The worst part about the entire experience was
of déjà vu, for some reason it felt like touching
the card the first
time. And worse, the voice calling for help sounded exactly like David.