The next person Bri hailed was walking his dog. Malak held small interest in either, both human and canine newness had never fascinated them. More items in the world that would be gone within a blink of an eye.
“Sorry for bothering you, but my friend and I are new in town and we were hoping you could help us with some directions?”
“Sure thing! Lived here near all my life.”
“Really? That sounds amazing. I barely know what’s outside of my apartment in the city sometimes and I’ve been there a couple years now.”
“There is certainly something to be said for travel, but having a place you know to return to’s always the clincher.”
Malak stopped paying attention to the benign conversation, stopped staring at the old tree which had somehow managed to stand outside of the town library despite the town around it, when something tread upon their foot. The dog, of course.
“At the least we know not to leave the area yet.” Bri stretched, shirt lifting slightly to expose a bit more of her skin and the dull silver she had inserted into herself right at the navel.
Malak wondered at that, having seen Bri’s collection of much flashier inserts, but they had never seen her wear them. Much like they had never seen her wear something that would prominently display that portion of her body in a way other than through the accident of a motion, like a stretch.
Bri tugged her shirt back down. “I hope they’re okay.”
They sighed. “Gabrielle, I think you know better than anyone. No one who has fallen can be okay.”
She gave him a look. Eyes which opened up as if to show a soul welling deep within. The eyes were not windows to the soul, Malak knew what a soul looked like. The impression of the understanding and empathy that Bri could portray with a look, without even controlling her own subtle features, was something they’d never been able to comprehend.
“Want to lead the way?”
Malak didn’t reply and with a bright smile, Bri continued to drive their investigation.
“Look dad, I know it’s about midnight. But this is an emergency, so if you’re listening to this please pick up anyway.” Tim swallowed and waited, chewing at his bottom lip. He knew he could wait long. “Of course you’re sleeping right through this. Great. Okay, I’ll try to keep this short and sweet. Saltdale looks to be the centre for a zombie apocalypse and we could use an actual necromancer to stop it before it actually gets out of ground.”
He let silence fall again, wishing that his father was awake enough to hear the message and perhaps about to stumble over to the phone and start responding. One could dream, right?
“Well, shoot. Um, if you’re getting this message much later, I wouldn’t worry too much. I guess I have an idea what to do. And before you get excited, I don’t mean as a necromancer. The fact this is hereditary is bullshit. None of your lessons stuck, we both know that, and I won’t pretend, make it worse. I can still solve this, because there’s only one other necromancer here in Saltdale. And he’s heads over heels for Irish still. So I’m gonna get her.”
Tim ran a hand over his shorn head, stopping himself from doing further damage to his lip. “So I’ll talk to you later, I guess. Night dad.”
Got to smile, the grey man said
Resting his hands upon his head
Ingesting the world with a big old smile
Nipping on reality’s while
“In any case,” Malak continued, “it does appear that we don’t have to continue further west. This is the strongest lead we’ve found.”
“And one of the strangest. I don’t think I’ve ever known a messenger to start causin’ so much ruckus so fast.”
“You mortals allow for much more oddities to prevail the larger the population there is to deviate from,” Malak explained. “The less people there are, the less tendency there is for a stark contrast from the normal to be acceptable.”
Bri corrected them. “We mortals.”
At one point, this would have offended them. They might have become angry, stormed away, ignored her. Now it simply resounded with the feeling of hollowness that Malak hadn’t become accustomed to yet. Part of the human condition, they supposed, but it had never been an interest of their before, which left them at a loss to comprehend any of it now, no matter the years.
“Anywho, people congregate with like minded individuals for similar goals. I think that’s something everythin’ does.” Bri nodded, agreeing with her own sentiment. “Where should we go from here?”
Malak closed their eyes, shaking their head. “If we had come across anyone other than a human being walking on two legs, I believe the both of us would be on the same page.” Bri was just as capable, if not more so, of realizing what didn’t belong in the world. If she hadn’t been, the both of them never would have met. They would not be doing this now.
Who knew where Malak might be. Or Gotzone. Inglebert. Vangelis.
When Bri approached them again, they had taken to putting their hands in their pockets. An empty wallet filled their left hand and a full mobile phone filled the right. Their left fingers rubbed against the edges, the texture of a zipper and the newness of it all, slowly being rubbed away with the repetitive motions Malak submitted it to daily, when they remembered to hide their newly developed nervous tics.
Malak had never been nervous before in their life. At least, not when caused by what should have been nothing. These days, everything was nerve wracking.
This was how the mortals lived.
“Well? Did you find anything out?” The sheen of her eyes suggested she believed they hadn’t.
Malak’s lips twitched. “The relative peace of this small town was broken up three days ago by a person who didn’t follow the human standard for social norms – both in dress and in speech.”
“So you’re just eavesdroppin’ me. Gotcha.”
Malak rolled their eyes.
The zombie apocalypse would fall directly on Halloween.
Tim didn’t know that someone would deliberately plan it like that, but he wasn’t really in the mood. It being the 30th already, there wasn’t much time for him to call someone in to handle this mess. But all the signs were there.
Not certain what to do, he tried to call his father. The phone rang eight times before moving on to his father’s prerecorded message.
“You have reached Martin Carrington’s phone. Sorry, but I’m unavailable right now. If you leave a message, I’ll get back to you when I can. If that’s you Timmy, please stop calling at strange hours.”
Hands cover up the opening
Oral sounds to auditory accepting
Leave me alone, I’m trying to sleep
Every morning, the noise comes to keep
Bri may have wanted them to pay less attention to their more inanimate surroundings, but when doing so, all their attention moved to Bri. They watched her arm move toward them, then fall back at her side. Her sleeves were short for the cooling autumn, displaying the rough skin of her arm, colour even darker than Malak’s. It was littered with imperfections, caused from internal and external sources. There was the long white line from when the cat fell on top of her when Malak wasn’t paying attention a couple weeks ago. The dark splotches from childhood acne. The reddish scar from a gouge that Malak didn’t know about.
Malak and Bri had a similar ability of being unaffected in their approach toward other people. However, Bri confronted the next person with a smile, leaving Malak to either follow her or approach another person with their less than approachable technique.
Malak never had to be approachable before this point in their life. Before, approaching a human being had always been considered a miracle, and it didn’t matter how they came off. All that mattered was that they were a messenger. No one could see that now. Apparently the aspect which had always made their status obvious had been wiped away with everything else they had lost in their fall.
They listened to Bri’s conversation instead.
“I am always paying attention,” Malak replied. They adjusted their suit collar, perhaps the reason that people stared at them and Bri as they walked through this place. Not that there weren’t businesses in this place, but Malak’s suit suggested the city they now heralded from. “Nothing is new.”
Bri smiled, well worn lines appearing at the edges of her mouth and eyes. “You aren’t lookin’ close enough then.”
Malak then moved to adjust their cuffs. There was little point in it, except for the fidgeting nature they had developed since the change in their life only a few years ago. “There’s nothing we’d be able to see. No one has told you anything of interest. Until such time as which we hear useful information, nothing is new.”
“If you wanted to help out a little more.” It was a rib, as Bri might say. She nudged them with an elbow, something Malak didn’t have the capacity to react to.