When the Day Sun left, melting down the crumbling red bricks like butter, and the Black Sun had nighted us all, smothering them wicked velvet, I walked down Poncey, clipper-clop, to the Graveyard Inn. My boots cat-leaped over every pimple-face and jackrabbit junkie hunkered down on the loveless pavement, passing them by like a dry summer wind. They don’t look up at me ’cause Picker swings at my side like a bastard telling them here comes Lilyboy walking by, all in black and red.
All in black and red, you bastards, but they don’t know that my heart is chiverin’ to and fro ‘cause I’m running for Sammikins tonight and likely to have trouble.
Now, on Poncey they call me Lilyboy, but in East Old Atlanta where the Crackwhore Wars still rage and the Pluto’s stay away, they call me Moon ‘cause my hair is silver-straight and shiny. I killed a couple of denizens there, assassin-like, for Sammikins and I like it that I have different names in different parts ’cause the Protector’s Squicks can get mighty diligent when they get the energy up to track down some boy for murder. No one uses their real name on the streets of Old Atlanta, anyhow..
Old Atlanta just sits and waits, lazy smokes filtering through the kudzu on her walls, watching for something that seems important but never comes. She’s waiting for trouble.
Or maybe She’s just waiting for rain.
I walk on down past the denizens, smelling the smokes from the rat-fires they use to melt down jackrabbit potion. Thugees in front of The Clermont nod as I traipse past. “That’s Lilyboy, black hat and all’ I hear, and nod back. Social lubrication, Sammikins calls it. The better to get by in life.
Now ahead of me I see the Graveyard lit up with tarry torches at it’s entrance. It’s a good and nasty place with tons of Pluto’s rich and happy lying dead under the broad tables and Old Family markers. In the days before the first Protector came to squat in the big towers, the Pluto’s liked to stick their dearly departed in vaults along with the family jewels. Now, they don’t remember the combinations anymore and the crylo-titanium sides are too thick to bust. The proprietor, Kats, sits over those broad tables dreaming of cracking the vaults and walking away with generations of metal. He’ll likely die upstairs from the Asian Scald if there’s any justice in the world, which their ain’t,-and a good thing, too.
I walk through the granite entrance and it’s stupid carved grapes looking straight ahead but really smoothing over the whole courtyard with my eyes checking for Minders. On the ancient walls in back, barely lit, I see more fruit carved in stone. Maybe that’s how we got to the Age of Shit from the Age of Gold-carving real things on dead walls like they were alive just because we put them there. People putting themselves on top of the whole world like we’re the Protector of it all or something. That’s what the books in Sammikins library say. That’s what Julius E says too. It was people squatting on nature that put us where we are now. Me, I think it doesn’t really matter ‘cause you have to live where you live and if there is something to reach for that’s special then you just reach for it. I think that in the past it was like reaching through clear crystal water but now it’s like reaching through mucky molasses, dark and thick. Either way you’ve got to reach for it and not let go. The real trick is knowing what’s special in the first place.
Anyway, I walk past the supper-goers with their tables all slab- granite and full of food and candles and the names of dead Plutos. Some denizens are eating and one of them props his boot against the angels under the table, leans back, and tries to get me to buy some jackrabbit chaw but I don’t take the stuff anymore so I walk on by. Soft round flickers of happiness and light massage my eyes till I get past them to the trees in back. Not so much light here but I see my quarry. It’s Mikkiboy leaning against the old stone wall like he was an elf with a secret. In fact he does have a secret and that’s why I’m here in the dark back run of the Graveyard Inn. He sees me and preens like a pre-cooked rooster. I walk over with my best fuck-me face on:
"Lily.” He was wearing a flouncy skirt and silly black kepi. I didn’t see one but I knew he had a knife handy. Probably under the skirt.
“Mikki.” Hip-dip and sweet smiles. Picker’s point drags the ground from my lustful pose.
“ What does the night say Lily? What does Sammikins say?”
“About your oh-so-generous offer of information? Your high-road hints of nocturnal gnosis?”
Mikkiboy frowned, screwing his nose into a plug-ugly wad. I never thought he was likely to set anyone on fire anyway but now I was glad he was turning ugly. It made things more enjoyable.
“Don’t know what you mean LilyBOY!” His square face turned into mute stubbornness. “Does Sammikins want it or not?”
“Oh, he wants it MikkiBOY!” I mocked. I hated him for his dumbness then, his illiterate existence.
Mikki’s next sentence was cut off as I grabbed his right hand hoping it was the knife-side one. I jammed his little red head against the wall and thrust my pelvis against his with a grinding motion. He yelped a little and I put my face against his ear. Popper was there, all eight inches, point against eyeball to make him docile.
“What? Why-what do you want?” Mikki writhed as a pelvic thrust ground his ass into the wall. There must be a sharp stone back there.
Tufts of his hair waved in time with my breath as I hissed. “The Hydrolith, Mikkiboy! The-fucking-Hydrolith! You know where it is and Sammikins wants it. Hell, they ALL want it, don‘t they?”
He twisted, regardless of Popper’s sharp tongue. His hands scrabbled at his skirt. Popper moved a fraction closer, the blade touching the wet part of the eyeball. He stopped squirming then.
“I don’t have the Hydrolith.” A hoarse whisper.
I could feel him tremble beneath me. “I know you don’t have it, sweet, you’re too stupid to have it. Sammikins knows you don’t have it. He just wants to know who you’re runnin’ for.”
Mikkiboy’s breath came in rasps while his tiny brain worked. I knew what he was thinking: If I tell they’ll kill me. If I don’t tell he’ll kill me. Mikkiboy’s offer of Flamel’s journal was just designed to draw us out in the open. Someone else wanted to get near Sammikins. Sammikins had lots of nice stuff, fancy virgin-skin books with clues for finding the Stone. Bastard that he was he was still closer than most to finding it.
I felt jittery and Popper trembled in my hand. Just because I didn’t see any Minders didn’t mean they weren’t here. Sammikins was a red-brick bastard for sending me in alone. I felt a rising excitement along with my nervous fear.
I waited for Mikkiboy to spill it. He didn’t.
I got tired of waiting on Mikkiboy to make up his mind. Fuck Sammikins, fuck whoever Mikki was runnin‘ for, and most of all fuck Mikkiboy, who I never liked anyway. I may be a Boy but I’m not above sucking down energy even from a stupid piker like Mikki. Mikki sensed my change of attitude and his body shouted fear. I sucked it up greedily as I prepared to do him.
I kissed his face where the tears had already begun to roll. They tasted good. They tasted like Mikki’s last seconds of life.
“Say goodnight baby boy-”
His body shifted slightly and an eye rolled to the left. I directed my attention to the shadows behind me without looking.
“Hello, Lilyboy.” A rich voice for a rich lady. A Pluto for sure, with two bulking Minders. Since they knew my name I knew they were here to watch Mikki. I also knew I was dead.
Mikki knelt sobbing at the woman’s feet. She clicked a collar and lead around his neck, one-handed without taking her eyes from mine. She was one alright- a beauty, that is, with short dark hair and curves and tall black boots with bronze clasps that looked like they ran up to her neck. But that was only a trick because of her eyes. Even in the backyard, graveyard, darkyard murkiness her owl eyes shone green and brown and nailed me to the spot. I tried to look away but it was like jumping into a pool on a moonless night. I couldn’t tell whether I was on top of the water or under.
Breathe, Lilyboy. Now you know who Mikki was working for. A Pluto and two minders. What’s a Pluto doing at the Graveyard? Not having supper with the Poncey scum, that’s sure. Breathe, Lilyboy. You might be dead but you’re breathing yet.
“Where’s your collar, Lilyboy?” Smiles. Teeth. My innards turned to mush and trembling. She was using something on me. If she was an Adept like Sammikins I was screwed for sure.
“I don’t wear one anymore. I don’t belong to anyone now.”
“Hmm, Sammikins doesn’t own you then?”
“No.” I sounded stupid. My tongue was thick, smacking inside my mouth.
“I brought another one with me. An extra. Do you want to be an extra Lilyboy? It might be the smart move.” A second collar dangled from her free hand like a noose. I looked into her beautiful blinkers and for one second had a vision of a single night of ecstasy and pain in her strong hands. It pulled at me hard but I broke it off. One night, that’s all it would be. She wanted the Hydrolith like everyone else, of course and she’d cut open my innards if she thought I had the Stone inside me.
She pursed her rounded lips in regret. “You can feel it can’t you Lilyboy? You can feel my touch but you’d rather not have the collar? Too bad, so sad.”
There was no signal but the two Minders on either side of her moved towards me quick and sure. I drew Picker as smooth as silk and held him out in front of me while I backed against the wall where Mikkiboy had been. Sure enough that rock jabbed straight into my kidney. I tried not to let Picker wobble ‘cause I decided long ago that if ever I’m to go out I want to go looking good. The two bulked on towards me like they were walking in the park. One of them drew a long sleeper stick from under his coat. Damn Pluto’s and damn their Minders too!
“Howdy, Lilyboy.” The voice was like a big cat moving in the trees at night. It drifted in slowly over the sound of crunching boots and Mikki’s sobbing. The Minders stopped but the Pluto was too proud to look. I wasn’t.
It was the Blue-haired Immortal. His nickname hung down his back straight as a razor over his long, black bike-coat. I knew him a little. They all said he had the Stone, that he’d swallowed the Hydrolith and could live forever. In any case no one messed with him. He lived up in the mountains way past the snake-handlers and the Hoppin Brethren in a castle of some sort with old contraptions, machines, and stuff.
That’s what they said, anyway.
He turned his back on the Minders like they weren’t there and walked up to me best friend-like with a sway in his hips. I didn’t see any weapon on him.
“How are you? It’s been forever.” He leaned down and his long angular face was an inch from mine. I tensed up but he kissed me soft, then harder while his hand traced a circle around my throat. “No collar for Lillyboy?”
He kissed me again and I felt something grip me deep in my chest and suck the life out. My hands went numb but for some reason my legs stayed up for him. A blue veil drifted over my eyes but I could tell that somewhere over there she knew he was using his power and lots of it. It stopped and he asked me a question:” What do they want?”
“The Stone-the-the Hydro-” I couldn’t say anymore ‘cause now my legs were getting weak.
He kissed me again and this time I felt energy flowing into me like molten metal in a furnace. It went down, covered my heart and rested in a pool under my belly, warm and nice. I felt like I had just taken two cans of jackrabbit but not jittery like jackrabbit just more steady, like the sun at noon. I thought maybe I could take those two minders now but that might just have been wishful thinking.
The Immortal whispered in my ear. “Come visit me. I’ll show you the Stone.” Then he turned to face the Pluto but looked past her at the darkness.
She was slightly annoyed, mouth twisting upward in an attractive way as she lifted a finger to call the Minders back. They looked relieved.
“See you later Lilyboy.” The Pluto’s eyes bored holes into mine but this time I could stand it. Long black boots moved slowly away to stand before Mikki where he crouched whimpering.
“ Bad, Mikki. Bad. Bad Mikki.” She nodded and one of the minders threw down a small shovel in front of the quivering Boy while the other drew a Firedart, cold and steely, from his pocket. Mikki’s whimpering took on a different note. I wish I could have stayed to see Mikki satisfy the Pluto’s frustrations but I thought I’d better follow the Immortal outside.
He walked up cool as ice to the dragon parked in the yard. He didn’t say anything as he threw a leg over and kicked it into life.
He didn’t answer but two sea-blue eyes looked out from a pale, white face. Then azure jets lifted the dragon up, soundlessly. I watched as the bike drifted away, a pair of blue candles riding the night. Then he kicked it and screamed off north towards the mountains. I walked out as quick as I could with Mikki’s cries of agony and despair drifting over the Graveyard’s walls like snow in August.
I had a feeling I’d be seeing that beautiful Pluto again if I didn‘t watch out. I might have to take a trip up to the mountains, soon. Yes, indeed.
Original story by Carnuntum posted on July 10, 2008. Used by permission.
Original story by Carnuntum posted on July 10, 2008. Used by permission.