August 18th 2014 – Molly
I opened the door, and I was home. Home was, well, home. My apartment wasn’t lavish, but it wasn’t exactly a shit-hole either, though several of my neighbors either dealt or worked in the oldest profession. Honestly, I kinda preferred the dealers, shootouts were pretty uncommon and there were fewer sex noises coming from their places. They were also pretty good about not calling the police. 550 a month didn’t buy you much in Dallas, especially if you were dead set on living alone and didn’t have references, or a legal income. Turns out, landlords in fact care about that stuff. My home for the last twelve months was a studio apartment with a separate bathroom and closet, and a lot of cockroaches for roommates. Fancy, I know. I actually slept in the closet, I kept a futon on the floor and made a little nest for myself out of blankets every night before bed. It was actually surprisingly comfy, and far easier to take with me when I inevitably moved than a bed would be. It wasn’t like I was using the space on the floor of the closet for anything else, and this arrangement let me keep the front room as a laboratory and workshop. Well, those words might be stretching it.
The front room was technically my workshop, but it wasn’t much of one. It looked more like a terrorist’s garage than a proper mage’s sanctuary. This wasn’t supposed to be a long term living situation, so I hadn’t gone through the trouble of pulling up the carpet to draw glyphs on the floorboard, or getting my hands on a set of proper woodworking tools. I’d been ready to leave at any moment for the first eight or nine months. Honestly, the fact that I’d managed to stay in one place long enough to avoid breaking my lease early was still surprising to me. Anyway, my front room was filled with three tables and a workbench, containing a whole variety of chemicals, cheap semi-precious stones, and magical projects in various stages of completion. I had an entire drawer of butane lighters, a welding torch, and bottles of pretty much every accelerant a private individual could easily purchase in the United States lying around. One of the tables had several uncarved blocks of oak and the rest of the Guenwhyvar-prototypes lying on it, along with several small jars of my blood and some paintbrushes and knives. Just looking at the table made me a little sad, I missed my flaming kitty. Another table contained the firebombs I’d been working on. Ideally, the three repurposed candle jars filled with flammable chemicals were supposed to burst into flames upon contact with oxygen. Realistically, they’d probably just give you a concussion and douse you in petroleum solvents, which honestly works just as well if you’re a pyromancer. I’d forgone typical Molotov-style detonator rags in favor of just using magic as a detonator, that way they’d still pass as candles under casual inspection.
The third table was for eating at. Sorry, nothing impressively magical going on there, I just don’t feel comfortable eating where I mix toxic chemicals. I mean, my cooking is good, but it’s not magically good. That’s more fae territory. Actually, in the eleven months I’d lived here, I’d never had a single guest. Which, honestly suits me just fine. Guests asked questions about the blood, and the petrol, and the knives. My setup made dating pretty hard, most boys would go running for the hills when they see the jars of blood and the hacksaws. And, well, those that didn’t go running weren’t the sort you wanted hanging around unsupervised in an apartment filled with explosives and hacksaws. So, no dating, or close friends, or hosting parties. It sucked, but it meant survival, and it was hopefully almost over.
I’d always wanted to get a real potion lab going, but that would probably need to wait until I was sure I’d be living somewhere for at least a few years. Cauldrons are heavy and expensive, and so many alchemical reagents start rotting if you leave them in the Texas heat for a few hours. I’d already lost the contents of my fridge to power outages one too many times to dare invest in expensive magical perishables. So, sadly no healing potions for me, I didn’t have half enough money to be able to buy them on the black market.
The other portion of the main room was my little kitchenette. It wasn’t much, though I kept it pretty well stocked. I don’t like going to the grocery store, it involves talking to people. I cook a lot, because delivery is expensive, and I keep it pretty clean. I also keep enough food frozen to last me through a short zombie apocalypse, not that I’m hugely worried about that sort of thing. There are plenty of contingency plans in place to make sure zombie outbreaks stop before they reach critical-horde-mass. Most necromancers have gotten the whole zombie-related-attempts-at-world-domination-will-get-you-a-hellfire-missile-to-the-face memo by now. Not even kidding about that, that was the actual working title of the original memo, drafted after the zombism outbreak in Laos back in ’93. That was before my time of course, but my master had shown me some of the videos.
My bathroom was a bathroom. Other than the wand in the medicine cabinet, there was nothing magical going on there. The bathroom was the only room I kept a spare wand in, pretty much everywhere else I had my handgun for dealing with mundane home invasions. Technically a 17 year old couldn’t own a gun without parental permission, even in Texas, but I made a point of not pulling it out if I didn’t intend to kill someone. Dead men tell no tales, unless the policeman is a necromancer. Since showering with my gun seemed like a poor idea, I kept a wand in the cabinet. It also worked well for cleaning my ears when I run out of q-tips. I also kept my colored contacts and my hair dye there. The crimson eyes were natural, and frankly, kind of concerning, the white hair wasn’t. I just liked my hair white, it was a pain to do the first time, but once I got it down it just takes an hour of work every few weeks to maintain. As far as crimson eyes went, I usually just covered them up, or pretended to be an albino, another benefit of white hair. That’s the sort of thing I would’ve asked my parents about, if I wasn’t adopted and no longer on speaking terms with my adopted father.
Anyway, that’s my apartment in a nutshell. Warm, safe, filled with food, surrounded armed by drug dealers, and filled with enough accelerant to send the whole complex up in flames, or incinerate a zombie army. I like it well enough, though I’m looking forward to having enough space to swing a cat without hitting something. A functional water-heater would also be nice. So would time-stop wards and a small army of golems with assault rifles for hands, but that wasn’t happening. A girl could dream though.
I settled in quickly enough. I’d been gone for almost two weeks, between the three bus rides, two taxi trips, five plane flights, one tomb raid, one hospitalization, and two kidnappings. And absolutely nothing had changed, other than the light coating of dust and the vaguely rotten smell coming from the fridge. I really needed to fix that, once I’d had a shower, rotten food gave me worse heeby-jeebies than mummified irishmen.
Everything could wait until after I’d had a shower. Well, except hiding the money. As soon as my apartment’s pitiful excuse for a deadbolt snapped into place I rechecked every window, making sure the blinds were still down and the warding evocations were still in place. That didn’t take long, seeing as I had two windows, and wasn’t very good at warding things. They of course were, since I live alone, but it’s never paranoia when you’re carrying this much cash in this neighborhood. With the blinds closed, I finally unpacked my prize and spread it all out on my dining table. I’d bought a backpack and new clothes when my bus stopped in Montgomery, but carrying that much money around had wreaked havoc on my nerves. I hadn’t been able to sleep at all during the twenty-odd hours of waiting and bus trips for fear of suffering the most expensive theft of my young life. It felt unreal to finally unroll the bills and do quick count. There were eight rolls of bills, once I stacked them the resulting pile of dollars was so thick I couldn’t even hold it with one hand. One of the rolls was still mostly twenties, the rest had twenties on the outside, but fives and tens on the inside. Apparently the white-trash vampire had been making up the volume of the twenties he spent with smaller bills.
It was still more money than I’d ever seen in one place in my life. Each rolls was probably about 120 bills, so that was just shy of a thousand individual bills total. I grabbed a pen from the countertop and a pad from the floor and did some quick math. About ten percent of the bills were 20s, around half were fives and the rest were singles. One hundred times twenty plus twenty-five hundred plus four hundred was… Damn. That was almost as much as I expected to be paid in the first place, four thousand nine hundred dollars.
I threw a pile of bills in the air, watching them float to the floor. And I might have danced a little. That was an entire year’s rent, more than a semester’s tuition, hell that was enough to survive for ages outside the United States. I lay down on the carpet and watched the bills land on top of me. I just lay there for a while, feeling safe for the first time in a long while.
Then I finally got up and headed to the damn shower. On my way, I hid the portion of the bills I hadn’t thrown underneath my bathroom sink. The fact that this portion was larger and contained almost all the twenties definitely wasn’t a coincidence. Again, it’s not paranoia if you live where I do.
Money safely hidden, I started stripping. I wasn’t looking forward to finding out exactly how badly I was scarred under my bandages, but waiting wouldn’t improve the situation. Well, I suppose technically it would, but not in the timeframes I had in mind. It only took me a few moments to slip out of the sweats I’d bought on the way home, and what I saw wasn’t exactly encouraging. I’m not beautiful at the best of times, the most generous things you could say about my appearance was that I was exotic, or cute. I was definitely not cute at the moment. Maybe exotic if you had a fetish for sunburns. My legs were splotched with red, whole sections of my skin were peeling off. I had more random splotches of color than a Jackson Pollock painting strewn across my body, blue and purple bruises competing with shiny red burns for the little non-bandaged real estate available. The bandages across my abdomen and arms were dyed black and maroon by the smoke and blood, and so thoroughly crusted that trying to remove them with my fingers didn’t do much more than get dried blood all over the floor. Wincing, I grabbed a knife from the kitchen and started carefully slicing through them.
And then there was my hair. When I left for Ireland, I’d had pretty shoulder length whitish blue hair. When I’d gotten back, I’d had messy but potentially salvageable short white hair. Now… Well, it was a dingy gray color, unevenly burnt, and short enough to make people wonder which team I was batting for. Basically, I was going to need a wig or a miracle to get to college without looking like an idiot or a lesbian.
Come now, it’s not that bad.
Before the voice reached it’s second word, I’d grabbed my wand from the medicine cabinet, slammed the door and retreated behind the shower curtain. I kept my wand up and my knife back, trying to figure out how they got through my wards.
It took a moment before my frazzled brain finally recognized the voice and realized that two plus two equals demon.
“Oh, fuck my life.”
I suppose, from your perspective that’s pretty much exactly what I’m doing. I would have expected you to ask me to stop though. But if you insist I continue… Casimir’s disembodied voice said.
“Just shut up.”
Casimir kept on talking, I didn’t pay attention. It was the straw that broke the fucking camel’s back. I left the bathroom, put the knife away, and grabbed a bunch of pills from the little plastic medicine organizer I kept on the food table. That little box was the product of years of negotiating with dealers, ending painkiller prescriptions early, and stealing from hospitals. I paid much less attention than I normally did to what they were, I just made sure there was a lot of painkillers and that the combination wouldn’t kill me. Then I downed them all. Casimir kept talking. I staggered over to the freezer, and pulled out the liter of vodka I kept in there for times like these. I drank until I gagged and a little came back up. I tried to wipe my chin, but the frosty bottle of vodka slipped out of my hand and shattered on the floor.
Fuck. Fuck fuck fuckity fuck fuck. Everything still fucking hurt. All the little burns and bruises, the pounding headache from staying awake the entire bus ride, all the halfhealed injuries from when the golem beat me. Light hurt, sound hurt, the bandages chafed. The cold alcohol between my toes made all the blisters on my feet sting. Everything hurt. I staggered to my closet. I collapsed on my pile of blankets, and started crying. Casimir finally shut up.
I cried for a while, twisting the blankets around myself until nothing was sticking out and no light was creeping in. I lay there for a while, just crying. Everything still hurt, but my head was empty, I was warm, and my blankets smelled like home. Everything was going wrong, my carefully laid plans coming apart at the seams, and I had no idea what the bloody hell I was going to do about it. Eventually the drugs and the booze finally kicked in, and the hurting stopped. I kept crying, even though I couldn’t really remember why, until I finally drifted off into a blessedly dreamless sleep.