Act 1: Chapter 6, Part 6

Posted on September 10, 2017

In Which Evan Takes a Walk

Angie. First Day of School. Full Twilight.

They’d watched TV for a little bit, then gone downstairs. Angie had spent a while with her feet across Ryan’s lap, reading a manga while he played video games.

Eventually though, Ryan paused the game and said, “Is he still in there?”

“Probably,” Angie said.

“I’m going to go check on him,” Ryan said, getting up. She moved her feet and looked up at him as he said, “I’m starting to wonder.”

“Wonder what?” Angie asked, confused.

He didn’t answer, just heading up the stairs. After a moment she bookmarked her manga and followed him, asked again as she climbed the stairs, “Wonder what?”

“If he’s even here,” Ryan said, from the top of the stairs. He didn’t wait for her, he just marched over to Evan’s room and knocked while saying, “Evan, I’m coming in. Put your pants on.”

Angie giggled despite herself as she reached the top of the stairs and Ryan pushed open the door to Evan’s room. Then she felt bad as she caught up, because he definitely wasn’t in there.

She stood behind Ryan, and they both surveyed the room, which was surprisingly clean, considering that Evan didn’t ever really leave the door open or let people come in anymore. His laundry was all in hampers and there weren’t any dirty dishes or pieces of trash anywhere. What there was were books scattered all over the place. Reference books, mostly: books about Beasts, books about the Dungeons, books about demons, books about magic, and books about guns. Many of them had ad-hoc bookmarks in them or were simply flopped open, with both face-up and face-down examples in ready supply. In the corner, Evan’s old acoustic guitar was literally dusty, it’d been so long since he’d picked it up.

“Hey,” Angie said at Ryan’s back. “We, uh, spend a lot of time together. When is he doing all this reading? Does he ever sleep either?”

Ryan glanced at her as he picked his way across the room to at Evan’s bed. “Not much?” he said in an uncertain tone, voice low. “Half of these are my books.”

Spread out on a towel on Evan’s bed was his gun cleaning kit. It had clearly been used recently. The case for Evan’s .44 caliber magnum revolver, the Winchester Beast Hammer, was on the bed, closed.

“Shit,” Ryan said, leaned down, and opened the case. The revolver was still nestled in its case. “Shit,” Ryan said again. “I don’t know if that’s good or bad.”

“You think he’s actually out there? With just the three-fifty-seven?” Angie asked softly.

“Well, shit,” Cali said from where she was peaking around the doorway. “He’s not fucking in there?”

Ryan contemplated the cleaning kit and the revolver for a long moment. “He’s not happy with his rate of fire and accuracy with the the forty-four yet. He feels like he either has to shoot too slow so that he’s accurate or that he’s not accurate at the rate of fire he wants.” He sighed. “That thing is not going to have the stopping power he needs for any Beast he might find without a Bearer’s Light to lure the weaker ones. If he finds a Beast it’ll be one that’s fed, and by himself his chances aren’t good.”

“What do we do?” Cali said, expression stricken.

“Yesterday, I wouldn’t have known what to tell you. Today…” Ryan had already gotten out his phone. He looked at it, and the screen flickered as the message app popped up. He turned and picked his way back out of the room.

Evan. First Day of School. Earlier, Just After Sunset.

It hadn’t been hard to walk quietly past Cali without her noticing. Ryan and Angie had just gone downstairs.

Evan Cadell steeled his resolve, and stepped out to face the dusk.  

For years now, he hadn’t been able to stop obsessing over a handful of scenes from his life.

Virginia, his older sister, taking up the lantern, the flame flaring white as her hand wrapped around the handle. The excitement and fear his parents radiated, both in equal measure, as they beheld her silver-tinged flame. It was, of course, her eleventh birthday. He’d been five and three-quarters, California four and change.

Virginia training, the lantern at the top of her Bearer’s Pole1 swinging back and forth as she leapt and twisted, practicing the spear carrier forms and techniques. All those years of his childhood, watching her play catch up as the first and only Light Bearer in the family, attending his own lessons, hoping that he’d be one too.

His father’s face, Virginia’s face, Cali’s face, as the lantern stayed orange and low when he picked it up.

Virginia, her face smooth and unmoving in the coffin, not long after her seventeenth birthday. She’d delayed, and delayed, not sure she was ready. She hadn’t gone out until past her sixteenth birthday, well over a year behind most other Light Bearers. She’d had some success, bringing home eleven bounties, ostensibly for herself, though of course for the family. She’d gotten more confident with each one. Too confident, as it turned out. They’d had to keep the lower half of the coffin closed.

His father’s grave marker, the slab of stone gleaming in the sunlight, in among so many others, in the portion of the cemetery devoted to those slain in the line of duty, in the portion of that for those whose bodies had been lost below or cremated on a pyre of Bearer’s Flame, as his father had been.

But right now some new scenes were replaying in his head, fierce and bright, having joined those older and colder. “Damn, just missed Chris, huh?” “Isn’t he choice?” “Tell us about them, you goof!” “Aw, nah. Gramyres hunt alone. You know how it is.”

He set off down the lane without any destination in mind. He’d lived in the area since he was a small child, so it wasn’t like he was in danger of getting lost. The sun, below the horizon though it was, still bathed the sky in reds and purples. He’d been out later than this. But the gaslights that flanked the lane were already on, the flames glinting off the streetcar rails in the lane’s center.

There were still others out, even after the sunset in this residential area. The trolley’s bells went off while he was still on his own block, and it hummed by up to the stop on the corner ahead of him. Various salarymen and women got off after it hissed to a stop, mostly young, single professionals in this corner of the neighborhood; the area was mostly boarding houses and apartments, as close as it was to Bellevue and as far from the schools. He recognized many; as many of your neighbors as you ever recognized in this modern era. He nodded to those he knew as they passed him on their way home; their eyes flicked to the pistol on his hip, each comparing it to the one they carried, in hip or shoulder holsters, and they didn’t stop to question his presence out on the lane after sunset. No one was that invested in the residents of the old city-owned boarding house in any event. They knew what that meant. Survivors. Next of kin. Nothing they wanted to think about too long.

He walked for a time, picking turns at random, knowing well enough where he was, as the glow of the sun waned and the shadows deepened in the eaves. The last of the golden light pooled in the solar panels on the tower houses’ roofs, gleamed off the wind turbine blades on their tall flexible spires rising up from each tower house, right up until it no longer did, fading orange to rose to dusky purple. He paced through more residential areas, avoiding major lanes and their accompanying trolley lines, trolley stops, and guard towers at said stops.

Gradually, he passed from the southern edge of the Olympus neighborhood up through the core and into the fringe bordering Bridal Trails. He avoided moving lights in the distance indicative of parties of late commuters getting escorts home from the nearest trolley stop; he kept to areas of shadow where low hanging tree branches blocked the radiance of the gas lamps.

The sounds of people faded; the murmurs of folks talking on their treks back to their homes from the trolley had been constant when he’d left. Such murmuring had dwindled to the occasional indistinct voice or two in the distance, and now there was only the night, the sounds of a few night insects, the sounds of trolleys passing every few minutes a few blocks away, an occasional voice drifting out of open windows.

No one noted him, challenged his presence out in civil twilight, that close to his curfew. No one noted him after civil twilight had passed, after the curfew had passed, and the young night had settled over the neighborhood. He’d never been out this late; not without others around him, without that circle of light cast by a lantern, whether a militia escort’s or a Light Bearer’s. The even more heavily tree-lined streets around Bridal Trails were extra well-lit by gaslights, the shadows beyond them cast deeper by the foliage of trees and the passage of time. 

Beth and Katie Kay lived up this way. He imagined Gramyre might too.Unless they'd scored a plot on one of the Points. Would make sense if they lived down the street from Lauren on Hunter's Point.

A bitterness streaked through his mind as his thoughts touched Lauren, Lauren's posse, and Chris. He turned back south.

  • 1. A pole attached to a Light Bearer’s back, from which hangs a lit lantern to always provide a Bearer’s Flame. Used in conservative styles favored by those who never intend to do more than patrol the streets at night, and wish to avoid the risk of lighting fires entirely.