Raine August
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Chapter Three: Fanning the Flame

Chapter Three: Fanning the Flame

Oct 09, 2021

The sound of receipt paper printing, the hose in the dish pit, and the fryer alarms going off were drowned out by Kendra explaining in a bored tone how to navigate the ancient computer program. Apparently, basic hygiene and food handling were skills not everyone possessed.

"You're going to click this doo-dad, and then it'll take you…" Her voice trailed off, eyes locked on the screen as an arrow in the center spun in a circle. Finally, the browser loaded, and she sighed, "... to this page. Then—"

"Afternoon!" Ari whipped her head to see a fire sprite with shaggy red hair poking his head into the office. His skin resembled that of a burning log in a campfire.

"Hey, Flint," Kendra made no movement to introduce the two, glued to the computer. Flint extended a scaly hand which Ari shook firmly.

"Ari." She offered him a small smile.

"Flint. Pleasure." His voice was lower than any sprite she had met before, reminding her of Thomas Hayden Church from ancient movies like Sideways and Tombstone. It was jarring, but also made her stomach grumble for pizza. "Welcome to Moody's and… uh, yeah, try not to burn the place down."

"Flint's my Assistant Manager, but he mostly works nights so you won't see him much." She made an exasperated noise, before clasping her hands together. "If I wasn't on probation, I could speed this damn thing up." Her hands looked like claws as she spoke before returning to their normal form. "Here we go!"

After another thirty minutes of Kendra walking her through the menial steps, Ari was left to complete the dull task. Hours seemed to pass as the chirping voice of the videos taught her the proper handwashing techniques and how to build each hot dog, burrito, and uncommon food items like the mystery meat pizzas and deep-fried dragon tongues.

The week dragged on and after two days sitting on a squeaky chair and staring at the dusty screen, the tips of her fingers began to tingle. By day three, her chest felt heavy, and her skin stretched across her bones. She needed to let off some steam, and soon.

One night, after coming home from another day sitting at the colossal antique of a computer, she removed the restraining Moody's uniform and pulled on a loose black tank top and jean shorts. The desperation in her blood for something—anything—to happen was too great to quell.

Hopping down the fire escape and onto the street, she wandered aimlessly. The Otherkind seemed to be just as restless, not a single alley or street she walked was empty.

A low groan started and she looked down at her stomach, "I hear you. Just let me spark something first." She moved her fingers rhythmically until the warmth in her fingertips became white hot and a ball of electricity formed. The siren and vampire at the other end of the road were too enamored with each other to notice her. The drunk shifters outside the bar weren't likely to see straight, given how much they leaned on each other for balance.

She fixed her gaze on the glowing blue ball, walking trepidatiously until she found a quiet alley. There was a large cage lined with blankets, likely housing a vagrant, and a dumpster that smelled of rotting corpses. Ari slunk down the alley and raised her free hand, palm up.

She lifted the dumpster lid with her magic, a bead of sweat sliding down her temple. She charged the blue electric ball, the blood in her veins coursing with the power she was finally utilizing. With as much force as she could muster, she pushed the ball towards the dumpster and it hit the lid, igniting it immediately. She flipped her palm down and the lid slammed shut obediently, trapping the ball. A muffled screech from within the dumpster played a sweet tune for her as she staggered backward to lean against the brick wall.

The tightness in her chest eased, but the tingling in her fingers still hummed and her nails vibrated uncomfortably. It had been too long since her last spark, and the aftershocks were always jolting.

There was another rumble from below. She eyed her stomach when the ground trembled beneath her feet. A cry erupted from the street. She wasn't the only one to feel it, it seemed, and for as long as she lived in Idlewild, there had never been a Quake.

Before she had a chance to form a mere thought, a man rounded the corner into the alley, colliding with her. They were both knocked to the ground, his elbow lodging into her stomach. Ari groaned as the man scrambled to his feet and made to run, when he hesitated.

"Here, sorry!" He panted, grabbing her by the arm and lifting her to her feet with ease. She scrunched her nose, recognizing his honey-like eyes and full lips. "Ow!" He recoiled from her, her skin still coursing with electricity. He examined his hand and looked at her with furrowed brows.


"Human?" They spoke simultaneously. Ari pursed her lips, stating, "you know you can't outrun a Quake." He tilted his head, confused.

"We don't get Quakes… oh!" He started to chuckle when his face dropped. "I gotta go." He turned on his heel and ran to the brick wall at the end of the alley. The muscles in his arms bulged out of his charcoal t-shirt as he hoisted himself up, finding crevices in the bricks for his hands to grip. She watched him climb until the ground beneath her shook again, more violent than before.

She gazed at the ground, mesmerized by the pebbles bouncing around her boots like rubber children's toys. "Ari!" The human shouted. "Run!" She looked from him, gripping the ledge of the building, to the entrance of the alley. The lights of the street before her dimmed as the rumble grew louder, more malicious.

Ari was conscious of the fact that the human was screaming at her, but she couldn't hear what he was saying. Her feet felt like they weighed a hundred pounds each as she shuffled to hide behind the dumpster.

Then she saw it. A beast she had only ever read about; a giant black dog with two vicious heads, and fur ablaze. It sniffed around at the edge of the alley when it's jaws snapped shut, whipping its heads to the top of the building directly behind Ari.

Before she could weigh her options of escape, she lay her back flat against the wall beside the dumpster. She called upon her magic once more, willing the power back into her fingertips. Another glowing ball formed, growing larger and larger. She used her other hand to stabilize the electricity as the hounds' paws padded down the alley.

As if in slow motion, it's heads appeared, fangs dripping with acidic drool, leaving sizzling burns along the pavement. Its jaw snapped shut again upon seeing her, growling ferociously. She pushed the ball and it encompassed the hound. It whimpered with each shock, collapsing onto its side and convulsing. Were it an ordinary dog, it would already be dead, but it wasn't in Ari's nature to kill the innocent. Just slightly maim. This beast, on the other hand…

"Let's go!" A firm hand gripped Ari's bicep and pulled her to her feet, leading her out of the alley. She didn't know how far they ran or where they were headed, as the power in her waned. Her vision blurred until the smell of salt and fish assaulted her nostrils. Their shoes hit the wooded pier and suddenly it made sense.

"Hellhounds hate water." He said, finally catching his breath. He slipped out of his shoes and socks, sitting at the edge. He gasped as his toes touched the water. Submerging his feet, he let out a sigh.

"Why-how… What the fresh f—?"

"Come sit with me," he interrupted. He craned his neck to look at her, a grin spreading across his face. "I won't buy you a drink this time, promise." He leaned back on his elbows, facing the sea again. Ari remained where she stood, her feet planted firmly on the pier.

There was a howling in the distance, undoubtedly her magic had lost its effectiveness. How long until the hound would find them? Even if they were afraid of water, they could lie in wait and snap their jaws around Ari's torso with ease. She needed answers.

"Their master will have called them back by now." He reassured her. A head popped out of the water next to the pier, followed by an arm shifting the blonde hair out of the way to reveal a beautiful mermaid. Eyes locked on him, the mermaid reached for the pier to lift her body out of the water. Ari strode forward, letting her boots clunk loudly. The mermaid whipped her head, eyes wide as they landed on the pixie. Without a word, she sank back beneath the water's surface.

"That must have been a killer look." He chuckled.

"Why were you being chased by hellhounds? How do you know their master called them back? What kind of trouble did you get into to warrant… that? Who even are you?" The words left her mouth before she could stop herself.

"I told you, I'm a delivery guy."

"No." Ari said flatly, her eyes boring into him. He quirked an eyebrow up at her. Narrowing her eyes, she sat cross-legged, refusing to take off her boots. "Fine. Now. Answer."

"I'm Cillian." Without another word, he stood up and removed his shirt, revealing a bronze abdomen. Dark brown hairs trailed down his chest and his stomach, disappearing beneath his shorts. "When's the last time you went for a swim?"

"I don't swim." She replied flatly, turning away as he stripped the rest of his clothes. She heard the soft thump of his belt hit the wood, and she could feel heat rise in her cheeks that had nothing to do with magic.

"In your hundreds of years, you never learned?"

"I know how, human. I just don't." She retorted. "Besides, I don't like places that have even more enemies lurking in the dark." His feet patted against the wood until there was a pause and a splash. Ari got to her feet, scanning the water. Within seconds, his head emerged. He waded, looking around before his twinkling eyes landed on hers again.

"If you're worried, maybe you should come in and protect me," he teased. "I'm sure there's a dozen merfolk near that wouldn't mind a bit of my flesh." He leaned back and Ari turned away just in time for the rest of his body to surface.

"Bite me." She considered jumping in, but something told her he wasn't in any real danger, that maybe he knew exactly what he was doing. With the mermaids, anyway. The hellhounds, on the other hand…

"Is that an invitation?" His voice lowered. She covered her eyes and turned in his direction.

"Why were they after you?" For a moment, the only sounds she could hear were the distant police sirens and the water shifting from Cillian's wading.

"Debts," he replied.

"Here I was, thinking you'd be vague. Thank you for the elaboration." She retorted dryly. "Fine. Don't tell me. But if the first thing on the Zimri and Bill show is about a brutal murder at the fins of the mermaids with your face plastered on the billboards, don't expect me to feel bad."

She turned on her heel and briskly walked off of the pier when she heard his call, "Wouldn't dream of it." Stupid human. Cillian. Stupid Cillian.

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