Chapter 2: It's Only a Street Vender
I walked down the street with my hands in my pockets. I wore a simple black long sleeve shirt and some blue jeans. Most detectives wore a trench coat and a hat of some sort but I never did, never had the money to afford it. So I made due with what I could buy: second hand pants and the clearest thing I had.
"You really need to get something flashy, boss." Evelyn said and adjusted her sweater. It was one of those small white sweaters that girls wore, pointless except that it made girls' upper half look good, she surreptitiously checked her phone for messages once in a while. Malorie Grant clicked along in her heals while she held her slender hand inside of her smart suit's pockets.
"So what's Nightingale?" Evelyn asked again. "I've never heard of it."
"Are you sure you want to bring her along?" Malorie asked me.
"I'm not even sure that I want to bring me along, to be honest." I said.
"Too bad, you're stuck with me, what's Nightingale?" Evelyn asked again.
"I just don't think that it's a good idea." Malorie nagged.
"It's not." I agreed.
"I can take care of myself, what's Nightingale?"
I sighed. Nightingale was never easy to explain to anyone who was limited to the "real world" as Evelyn. You could find what you want and need in Nightingale, assuming that it doesn't find you first. It has been around for as long as anyone could remember, and some people remember a lot. Someone once hired me to find out when exactly it was made but the client just mysteriously displeased half way through my case so I never finished it. Nightingale is commonly referred to The Aether or even Hell and Heaven by some. There are men and women and things that appear to be either or both or none, with any degree of accuracy. Monsters and gods roam free and nobody expects you care one way or another. A lot of people have gifts or talents there; I know a man who can move in the shadows, a woman who can quite literally steal your heart with a word. If you can imagine it...fear it...then its in that circus act of a city. It was dangerous beyond belief and tourists are discouraged as well as other things.
I explained that much to Evelyn and she stared at me as if I was insane.
"So we're headed into a real life freak show." Evelyn asked. "Is that why were at the circus?"
I stopped and stared at the entrance of the town circus. It was a carnival style circus with rides and stripped tents here and there. It was after hours so there were only the few employees charged with cleaning and the actual performers. Most of which were dressed as clowns, nasty bastards.
"We're closed, sweetheart." A woman said from behind a ticket booth as she smoked a cigarette.
"I know, Lyanah, just heading to youknowhwere." I said and placed a pack of Marlboro Mental Lights on the counter in front of her. The pack was half empty, but she didn't know that, and I doubt that Malorie will notice me swiping it from her until way later.
"Oblivion, you're welcomed here any day." She said and hit a button so the gate would unlock.
I walked up to the gate and pushed it open slowly and slid in. Evelyn and Malorie followed.
"There are several entrances to Nightingale; some are safer than others and some are easier on the mind. Places like this always have an entrance if you know where to look." I explained.
"Really?" Malorie inquired.
"Oh yes." I replied. "I take it that you came through the train?"
"Wait. If you pass through the train then won't people notice this mysterious place you speak of?" Evelyn asked and hoped slightly as she stepped on a half eaten corn dog.
"No, actually. Nightingale is available for anyone looking for it. If you don't know how to get there then you could travel every train to every destination and never find it. It's only available when and for the person is looking for it. Strauss end up there sometimes by mistake."
"But if they don't know it exists then how do they end up there?"
"Some people are looking for something that will take them away from their troubles. Nightingale is just lousy with people with personal problems."
"So where's the entrance?" Malorie asked.
"Through here." I said and opened the snack bar door and motioned them for the two of them to enter.
They looked at me then at each other but walked in anyway.
The fluorescent lights illuminated the room as I closed the door behind us and led Evelyn and Malorie deeper. The faint voices of talking people got louder as we turned the corner and headed into the main room where clouds of smoke gathered in the air.
Clowns, in all mater of costume, were sitting around and speaking in Russian. Some of them laughed while other simply chatted. They all turned to look at us as we walked closer.
"Who are you?" A clown in blue asked.
"Don't mind us, just passing though." I announced and walked in-between the rows of tables being used up by clowns.
"We're closed." A clown in purple said.
"I know. We won't be long." I ensured them and kept walking until we got to a door that led into the janitor's office. I motioned for the women to walk in before I closed the door behind me. We stood in the dark room as I locked the door from the inside and just stood there.
"Well?" Evelyn asked after a few seconds.
I flipped the light switch and yelled boo which made both females yell. I smirked as Evelyn punched me in the arm.
"What are you doing in there?" One of the clowns asked from the other side of the door.
"This is stupid, I'm out of here." Evelyn said and tried unlocking the door as I turned the lights off again.
Evelyn struggled with the door in the dark as I concentrated in a way that I haven't in years. The dark room illuminated in dark neon, in my head, and I saw a button on the side of the door right next to the pink and silver aura that that encased Malorie and Evelyn respectively. The words EvelynSoriaBaldoki98233314Ev elynSoriaBaldoki9823314 were tiled around her body as if it was her skin.
My name is James Leo Patricke Oblivion. I'm a Seer. Just like my parents were, or so I'm told; I never really knew them. They disappeared from my life when I was four and I never saw or heard from them ever again. I can't remember their faces or names or even how they sounded. I do remember the work Seer being written down on a document I found years later. In short; I am a Seer. I can see what I need to see. I used to be able to find anything I set my mind to, that was eight years ago. Now it took all my concentration to simply awaken my skill, my power, my gift.
I pushed the shimmering button on the wall and the world seemed to give way slightly as I disabled my powers. The darkness of the room seemed to deepen as the yells of the clowns faded rapidly and was gone in less then a second.
Evelyn yelped and pushed back onto me.
"What happened? What's going on?" She asked as I stepped to my left and stood there.
A loud horn blared as the cabin of the train, that we now stood in, lit up as it left the compact tunnel it had entered.
Evelyn, being surprised, yelled loudly as she wasn't expecting that.
She stepped back rapidly and fell onto the lap of a gentleman made of, what looked like, strawberry pudding. Evelyn quickly melted into the man until she was inside of him. His ruby transparent skin showed her terrified look as he stood up in surprise and jumped around and swung his limbs wildly to try and throw her out but Evelyn was simply forced to mimic his moves.
My assistant tried to yell then made awkward choking noises as she had swallowed some of, whatever, the man was made of.
A woman that was made, of what looked like, a similar material but dark green, stood up and hit the the man with a purse made out of dragon finger bones.
"What are you doing?" The woman creature asked the man.
"I'm trying to get her out, you're not helping woman." The man creature said as he thrusted left and right as Evelyn was forced to mimic him.
It would be comical if she didn't have a terrified look on her face...hell it was still hilarious.
People, and others, laughed as Evelyn stared around in horror, from inside her living encasement, at the things that we shared a ride with.
There was a purple man with ten fingers per hand and jet green hair laughed at Evelyn and solving a ten sided rubrics cube.
A silver hair girl ignored the free entertainment and read a copy of People Magazine, Nightingale edition, with the picture of a transsexual Elvis in the cover.
An alien gray stood up and pointed a very alien looking gun at one and all. It must have been his first time on the train or else he wouldn't have even thought of doing anything like that. The train's inner defences kicked in and a giant mouth, with more teeth than comfortable minds can cope with, opened on the floor and swallowed the alien gray. Five seconds later, he spat out the aliens bones, as well as the alien gun, and disappeared. A shady looking man stepped forward and took the gun and made disappear inside of his jacket.
A pair of boys were huddled around a small salt circle that was drawn on the floor and cheered on their favorite petite demon that was conjured up inside the circle. There we're three generic demons, armed with pitchforks and other items as they fought to the death for the kids amusement.
I sighed, stood up, and reached my hand to the transparent man who stopped dancing around and reached for me, and in turn so did Evelyn. I reached inside the man's hand, which felt like liquid grease, and grabbed my assistants hand and pulled her out. She gasped loudly and held onto me for dear life.
Some passengers made disappointed noises and paid bets. Apparently some had starting a betting pull on how long it would take Evelyn to drown inside of the man. A smaller betting pull on the chance that she might eat her way out.
"You okay?" I asked my terrified assistant.
"I-I-I-I... Where are we?" She sputtered. "I feel violated..."
"Well you are covered in some strangers bodily fluids." I said.
"You feel violated? I just had a glorified primate inside of me. How do you think I feel?"
Evelyn slowly turned and stared at the man. "S-s-s-sorry."
"You'd better be sorry." The man spat. "What are you a tourist?"
"Yes, and I'd appreciate some understanding." I said.
"And who the...oh... Oblivion. It's you... Yes, I'm sorry I overreacted. Please, miss, accept my apologies." The man stepped forward and bowed slightly then walked away.
"Okay..." Evelyn whispered then looked at me.
"The Nightside, Eevee." I said as a blob of, whatever the man was made of, slipped from her head and splattered on the floor. "We're in the belly of the beast. Sin, money and interests rule down here, you have some...stuff coming from your..."
Evelyn flinched and wiped her nose as red goo dripped out. She blew her nose and even more goo fell.
The man stepped closer, cautiously, and reached his foot out so his substance merged with him again. "Sorry," he said. "That looks like its most of me." Then walked away and joined the dark green woman and talked for a few seconds before she looked up and looked at me.
"What just happened? Oh God I need a shower...and new clothes."
"Once we get off this train, I'll take to Little Hydrotia so you can clean up." I said and sat down on a metal bench and gestured for Evelyn to do the same.
"So we're in Nightingale?" She said and joined me.
"And all these strange people are common here?"
"To these strange people, Eevee, you're the strange one."
"Because you're a tourist, they really hate those. It's not like it stops tourism, though. It's more exiting to visit a sinful cesspit like this than actually live in it. Don't worry though, the train enforces full neutrality and anyone who tries to break that simple rule gets either killed or removed from the train, suddenly and in an almost excessive manner."
"How does the driver know when something is happening? Cameras?"
The train creaked lightly as in protest.
"No," I said. "There are very disturbing rumors that there are no drivers, or if they are then they're controlling the train from a distance. Some say that the train is alive and just going trough the motions, others say that the train isn't even a train but a living creature that takes the shape of a train."
"I need a drink."
"I didn't know that you drank."
"I don't, but it's a really good time to start." She replied and folded her arms and flinched as her shirt made a small wet noise.
I pulled out my cell phone, which now had three purple bars and the provider now read NCPP and checked my text messages. I had one from my bank, which was never a good thing. It said, in a nutshell, that I was $-137.92 and to have a nice day.
"Great..." I mumbled and put my phone as the train silently began to slow down and came to a stop.
Evelyn, Malorie and I walked over to a door as casually as we could, with half a pack of werewolves behind us. Evelyn reached the door first and tried to open it.
"It won't open." She said and pulled on it frantically. "It won't let us out!" She breathed heavily and looked around terrified.
I turned and looked at the werewolves looking curiously at Evelyn assistant so I sighed and moved Malorie aside and took hold of the door and slid it to the right.
Evelyn panted loudly as her breath returned.
"You're holding everyone up, Evelyn." I said and gestured for her to move forward.
She took a deep breath and walked out of the train and onto the biggest tourist trap in all existence: merchants, big and small (sometimes literally), tried selling their wares off of tables and shelves and suitcases to the unsuspecting public. All sorts of items were on display, from horn of a unicorn to the eye of Isaac Newton. All with no guarantees that item will work or that they'll be there when you came back complaining.
A young couple looked over a street merchants jewelry as the woman picked up a heavy looking necklace with the center jewel missing.
"What is this, another piece of junk?" The red haired woman asked.
"That is an aboriginal manifesting device. Egyptians thought that they could turn their souls into a jewel and set it in there and they could transfer their soul onto another person after death to live forever. It must have not worked."
"Try it on, baby." The slender man said and helped the woman put it on.
The necklace fit lovely around the woman's neck as she displayed it.
"Fine… It better be worth more than it lets on though. It's a little heavy." The woman said.
"It gets easier once it carries you." The trader replied.
"What?" She asked then gasped when the necklace flipped over with the jewel holders sticking out as they stabbed her in the chest. She gasped and fell over as she twitched and jerked but slowly shrank. Her limbs slowly shrank into her as she contracted until only her hair was left, which slowly sucked in too.
The man picked the necklace up as the jewel holders folded to now hold a skin collared oval jewel with hair sticking out of the top of it. The hair slowly melted into the jewel and a red coloring slowly encased the jewel making it look list it was a an oval garnet.
"Finally!" The slender man said. "Let's see her bitch about anything again. How much do I owe you, Ben?"
"These are getting harder to find, Andrew, imma have to double the price of the last one to 250."
The man slowly put the new necklace in a fancy jewelry box, that he pulled from his inner coat pocket, then closed the case and put it in his inner coat pocket.
"Fine, here." He said and handed over a wad of money that looked like a lot more than $250.
"If you don't mind me saying, Andrew, most guys dump their girlfriends not turn them into jewels." The street vendor said.
"I know. But I don't want one trying to get back at me for dumping her. Plus I know a guy who will pay through the nose for these, but he wants the entire zodiac set, which means that I need one of each color. My newest ex will pass as the garnet, which means that I only need a topaz, do you know any single orange haired girls?"
"Are they all women that you once dated?"
"No. Aquamarine, Blue Zircon, and Alexandrite are the real thing. The rest are girls that I've turned."
"Any of you girls want some jewelry?" I asked.
"No..." They both said in unison as we kept walking.
I smiled and kept walking but stopped when I saw a man who looked very familiar. He was a middle age man with balding hair and a face as red a tomato. He shrunk onto himself when he saw me then smiled unconvincingly. He had all sorts of rings and jewels and charms on display, Malorie and Evelyn made sure to not touch anything.
"Oblivion... H-how are you? It's been years..." The man said.
"Eight years, Riggs, eight years. I see that you're looking like yourself. What happened? The shape shifting furniture business didn't work out for you?"
"Shape shifting furniture?" Evelyn asked. "What you get girls to try out your rings them sell them as sofas or love seats?"
"What? No, nothing that cruel, it was simply a couch that you could turn into a mattress or a chair with a push of a button." Riggs explained. "One woman did want me to make her a love seat that turned into an Arnold Schwarzenegger. I decline of course.
"What happened?" I asked.
"Damn things had a mind of their own and started changing to what they want when they wanted. There's nothing that gets you more complains as you using it as a chair then all of a sudden it turns into a water bed. No, I'm a tax accountant now. This is just stuff that I happen to own. I promise that none of these will turn you into anything, my dear."
I put two slim rings on. They were no thicker than an eighth of an inch but it wasn't the size that mattered, it never is in Nightingale. I examined the rings and some blank dog tags. They seem familiar so I picked them up and turned them over. The initials S.O. were engraved into the back.
"So you're making some quick cash by selling some stolen goods?" I asked him.
"Stolen? These aren't stolen. I acquired them whole sale, all legit." He replied.
"From who? Miles?" I replied and smiled when he didn't reply. "Miles will sell you his mother's, husband's, brother's left testicles for five bucks, Riggs. I thought everyone knew that. He's a fence for anyone with sticky fingeritus."
"Well even if he did steal them, so what? They're all authentic."
I turned the dog tags over and showed him the engraving. "Samuel Oblivion, my father."
Riggs went pale then sputtered a reply. "I-I-I-I'm sorry, James. I didn't know. Please just take it free of charge."
"Damn straight it's free of charge. I'm taking these too." I showed him the two thin rings on my finger.
"Sure, sure. Whatever you want. Here, have this one for the young lady."
He offered Evelyn a silver ring with a three small silver jewels spaced about an eighth of an inch apart.
Evelyn flinched back and hid behind me, as a frightened child would.
"What does it do?" I asked, Riggs.
"Ah. That's father time's ring, before he retired of course. That ring will rewind, freeze, or speed up time for three minutes. Usable three times of course, unless you find father time and have him replenish it."
"It won't turn me into anything, will it? I don't want it if it does..."
"No my dear. I promise, on my honor, that it won't alter you in any way, shape, or form."
"You have honor, Riggs? That's news to me. So it won't alter her at all? Mind and body?" I asked.
"Mind, body, spirit, or in any way conceivable. There is a catch though." Riggs said.
Evelyn, who had picked the ring up, immediately dropped it onto the table and backed away while wiping her hands on her jeans.
"What?" I asked.
"Just don't tell Father Time where you got it, if you meet him."
"Would he kill you for having it?" Malorie asked.
"Most likely not. He might go back in time and fix it so I turn out different though. Remember Aeine Fisher? The first woman to go to the moon and cure cancer?"
"No..." I said.
"Of course not! Father time went back and changed that. Nasty bastards, that one."
"Thanks for the stuff, Riggs. "I said and took the ring and tossed it to Evelyn and began to walk away.
"How does it work?" Evelyn asked and slowly put the ring on.
I stopped and thought about it. Riggs never told us how to activate the ring.
"How do we use the ring, Riggs, you never..." I said and slowly turned around but stopped when I noticed that Riggs, and all of his wares, were now gone.
"Son of a bitch..." I mumbled.
A plump reptile man quickly moved in front of us and tossed a cloth over the empty space, which now seemed to cover a hot dog like stand that wasn't there before.
He removed the covers and steam appeared from the open lid of the steamer inside of the hot dog stand.
"Oblivion?" He acknowledged. "Here, one on the house." He put his hand in the lid and pulled out a, twitching, steamed lizard like monster with a stick through it and held it out to me.
Evelyn made an awkward noise and ran off to the side of a building and projected every meal she ever ate.
"What's wrong with her?" The reptile man asked as I placed the impaled lizard on one corner of the stand and took the plain hot dog that he had ready for me. "One for you too, miss? Also on the house.
"She's thought that you were one of those 'things on a stick' venders, Arule." I said and bit into my hot dog.
I thanked Arule and walked towards Evelyn who was bent over and coughing.
"So where to now?" Malorie asked.
"Evelyn is going to want a shower. Let's go to Hydrotia."
"Really? What do you want to do? Frighten the girl so bad that she loses all her sanity?"
"No… If she does, I'm sure we could buy someone else's sanity for an only extravagant fee. I get expenses right?"
"Not anymore you don't."