I put on another layer of repellant and starblock. Fabio leads me from headquarters,
then jaunts off on his rounds. His arm points me down the path toward the newest find.
What hits me first: the lurid red faces, a striking contrast to their black bodies.
Not like other ones I’ve seen. Am I in the Amazon or outer space?
When I approach, some stay in the back upper corner, legs pulled up tight.
Others hang suspended from the ceiling. All of them stare, black eyes positioned
too close together on their crimson faces. Black hands wet with chunks,
fruit dumped in their trough, orange preferred over yellow or green,
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It was the kind of nightmare you wake up from with something on your chest. Literally, it felt like this time. I let out a short gasp and coughed; I smelled old cigarettes. I don’t smoke—had I had anyone over who smoked lately? I was too groggy to remember much beyond the fact that I do not entertain at my apartment very often.
Blackness gripped my vision. It was dark enough that I could not see across my bedroom. Normally, slanted bars of light cast from the streetlight pierce my blinds. But not tonight. Tonight, the air was opaque and stale.
I rolled over onto my right side and craned my neck to see my alarm clock; it displayed a sickly green 3:13. Witching Hour, just great. One of the first things you learn in The Program is how time and space affect magic, and the spells that were particularly nasty had a proclivity for the Witching Hour. I felt fearful, perhaps remembering dregs of my dream. But even if that was not the case, the time put me on edge. My mind wandered as I roused myself further—how many bad things happening could I imagine at once? What if someone was breaking in? What if it was someone who would not hesitate to harm me in their pursuit of my crap? What if it was a lunatic casting shadow magic?
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Fabulous legs or not, these stiletto heels were straining and pulling my calf muscles tighter than an elf’s asshole. Word travels fast in the underground, especially when money is involved and I had probably less than a half an hour before some halfwit-junior-bounty-hunter was bound to stumble into me. I had to get out of this outfit and fast. Luckily the Academy’s general store was nearby and still open.
I grimacingly finished strutting my way across the grounds of the Academy and into the store whereupon I headed straight for the clothing section. I grabbed a set of gold and orange robes, a big pointy-ass wizard’s hat, and a set of nice, sturdy boots with belt-buckles and changed outfits in one of the store’s private closets.
Sweet merciful arch support of the gods! This was so much better. I packed Allie’s clothes into my backpack and made my way to the cashier where I grabbed a pack of smokes, some elk jerky, and some green, bubbly sugar water off the countertop.
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