Feathers [Flash Fiction]
The sign appeared comically placed. “Come In, We’re Open”—positioned right at the end of the pier, where the rotting white boards ended and the seemingly endless ocean began. To the casual observer, it was nothing more than a poor joke; to the right eyes, the sign hung in front of a building rendered invisible by a powerful soul-spell. A safe-house for me and mine.
I ran my thumb along the grip of the pistol holstered at my hip. Reynard had asked for parley, but that didn’t mean others wouldn’t try to take advantage of the moment. My fellow sorcerers weren’t known for their restraint.
The seconds ticked by, and in the distance, one of those enormous luxury cruise ships sounded its horn, its passengers no doubt en route to some exotic destination where they could fritter away their money on tacky souvenirs and overpriced meals. Not that I’m jealous. I enjoy surviving off Ramen and Pop-Tarts.
The ephemeral outline of the safe-house shimmered in invitation. Now or never. I would’ve preferred never, but I couldn’t afford to ignore this. Reynard and I had been at each others’ throats for a very, very long time. Only the fact that we each had bigger fish to fry had stopped us from killing each other. If he was asking for parley, it meant something big was happening. Something cosmic.
Closing my eyes, I let a tendril of magic unfurl, let it drift out on the breeze and brush against the outline of the invisible building, and with it I sent a single thought: I desire entry.
The building responded. It didn’t become visible, because nobody wanted the mundanes to lay their eyes on it, but I felt it become more tangible as it opened itself to me. Instinctively, I brushed my hand across my pocket, where an angel feather tingled and pulsed with magical energy. Going into this situation, meeting Reynard… the urge to use the feather was almost overwhelming. But it was my last one. After this, I’d be forced to rely solely on my own power. Bad as things were now, they could be worse. I pulled my hand away from my pocket.
I took the stairs slowly, and found the invisible door open. The second I crossed the threshold, a surge of magical energy washed over me, accompanied by a sensation of moving without movement. Shit! I tried to step back, in vain; a barrier had formed across the door. I’d become the victim of a transportation spell. Should’ve known Reynard would make things difficult.
The sensation stopped, and a door appeared before me. Behind it, I heard music, a sedate, piano-bass-and-drums jazz arrangement. Same kinda music I’d heard from Kansas to Kathmandu. I have no idea why proprietors of magical bars love jazz so much.
Still fighting the urge to use my angel feather, I reached out and pushed the door open. I’d never been to this particular establishment before, but it wasn’t too dissimilar to all the other magically-inclined bars I’d visited over the years. Bottles of strangely coloured liquids stood half-empty on the shelves, furtive-looking denizens sat in small groups at their tables and booths, and a scowling barkeeper kept his watchful eyes on his clientele.
All three of his watchful eyes. Great. I hate telepaths. Even by our standards, they’re creepy.
The telepath glanced up with his two regular eyes as I approached the bar. His central eye gleamed red so briefly that I might’ve imagined it, and he said, “Booth number three, at the back. And I trust you’ll keep that feather in your pocket while you’re here?”
“I’m not here to cause trouble,” I told him.
“No, but with that feather, you might finish it.”
I couldn’t argue with that, so I left the barkeep to his surveillance and made my way through the swirling miasma of shimmering magic—to the mundane eye, it would’ve looked like the Aurora phenomenon, but indoors—to the back of the room. I drew a glance or two as I walked, but didn’t sense anything untoward around me. Maybe everything really was as it seemed, and Reynard had just come to parley.
There he was. Booth three. When he saw me approach, he put his hands on the table, so I could see he wasn’t carrying anything that might vapourise me on sight. I slid onto the seat opposite his, and made sure my hands were equally visible.
“Mirelle,” he said, inclining his head in greeting. Then, as he gave me the once-over, a shimmer of gold flickered across his eyes, and his brows lowered into a deep frown. “You know, the great majority of angel feathers aren’t given willingly. They’re ripped from the wings of an angel who’s undergone agonising torture.”
Great. Should’a known Reynard would sense the angel feather. Nephilim were always touchy about angelic artifacts. Knowing my luck, this bloody feather came from Daddy’s wings.
“I bought it legit as an in-case-of-emergencies thing,” I told him. “I didn’t intend offence. But why have you asked me here? Last time I saw you, you said… how did it go? ‘I would never sit at a table with a sorcerer as evil as you, much less work with one.’ What’s changed?”
I could tell by his scowl that he was still hung up on the angel feather, but his eyes lost their ready-to-smite glow as he looked up to my face. “Everything’s changed. The Alchemist… he’s alive.” Before I could even open my mouth to demand an explanation, Reynard winced and brought his hand to his side, beneath his coat. When he pulled it away, it was slick with red. “There are people who will kill to keep this knowledge secret.”
“Yes there are.” The familiar voice of the barkeep held a sinister tone. I glanced over my shoulder. The telepath, and three of his sorcerer pals, versus me and Reynard, who was already injured.
Time to decide how to best use that angel feather.
Words: 999 • Themes: Urban Fantasy, Magical Realism • Cookies consumed while writing: 4
This fine fellow, known to the internet as Chnurk Mandog or something, demanded stories to be sacrificed to XENDOR, the fearsome, many-armed story god (I believe XENDOR looks something like a cross between Cthulhu and Ganesh, but don’t quote me on that). This weeks’ Friday Flash Fiction Challenge prompt was to go to a Google and and do an image search for “strange photos”. I went to a Google and I did an image search, and selected the photo which is the featured image of this piece. I was tempted to revive a character from one of my many other flash fiction stories… my kick-ass angel (bonus points if you ‘get’ that without Googling it), my urban fantasy dragon-hunting detective, my absorbing-the-memories-of-serial-killers sci-fi detective, or even my crime-fighting vigilanté luchador from waaaay back when… but in the end I decided to just mash them all together into a new character and setting, and I’m not entirely unhappy with the result. Though I did just realise I seem to write a lot of crime-fight/detective type characters. I shall have to reflect on that.
I got the image from (DO NOT CLICK THE LINK YET) here, and it’s credited to “FrancescoCorticchia/Shutterstock“. Be careful if clicking the link, because when I clicked it to find my photo source, it made my anti-virus software sit up and growl angrily.