Sunday, January 6, 2013

Before Finnegan Wakes

Oliver Row had spent a lifetime seeking out the modern world's monsters.  He had obtained a book that outlined everything he needed to know, including their origins in the days before the flood.  Each of them had found their way into legend, but they also existed in reality, or at least so Oliver attempted to prove.

One day he heard of the existence of a centaur.  Like all monsters it had acquired the ability to hide its true nature from the world, a trick of the eye that hid half its body from observers, so that only its human half was visible, the equine somehow tucked out of sight.  Oliver didn't know how it was done, perhaps the gift of a higher power, or perhaps something lower.

The centaur worked in a bookstore, hidden away in one of the fringe commercial areas of a minor city called Colorado Springs.  Her name, at least as of the moment, was Eva Dallas, and when Oliver entered the store he found that he was as convinced as anyone that she was only human.  There was nothing to give her away.  Knowing better, however, he decided to approach with caution as well as calculation.

"Tell me what you have on mythology."

"We have a fine selection," Eva replied, seeming to give her full attention to him in an instant.  "I can show you if you'd like."

"I hoped you would be so kind."

"Of course," she said.  She was apparently a woman of her forties, pleasantly filled out with the world's pleasures, cheery as you'd expect from a typical sales professional.  They headed toward the back of the store, past rows and rows packed full of books.  Oliver skimmed the shelves, grimaced inwardly at their untidiness.  But his standards were more precise than others, and he came from a very different world.

They stopped in front of a wall dominated by the same kind of bookcase that populated the rest of the store.  Eva gestured at the mythology section, pitiably small by Oliver's strict standards, but this was not an occult shop, so he cautioned himself to not be so surprised.

"Thank you."

"If there's anything else...?" Eva offered.

"Now that you mention it.  I want to see you."

"I'm afraid that's not going to happen, but I am flattered, I really am," Eva said, maintaining her chipper demeanor.

"That's not what I mean.  I think you know."

The woman hesitated for a moment, then motioned for Oliver to follow her a little further.  Apparently the employee area was not far away.  As soon as they left the common area Eva's true form began to reveal itself.  Her back legs bucked as if to assert themselves.

"It's true, then."

"You weren't certain?" Eva said, finally dropping one level of her jauntiness.

"I'm never certain of anything.  It's what makes my line of work possible.  I've always been fascinated by centaurs.  You'll forgive me if I stare."

"You can't tell anyone," Eva said, losing another level.  There was true concern lurking behind her eyes.  It was unmistakable, at least to as keen an observer as Oliver Row.

"If I weren't careful, the world would know a lot more than it does.  You needn't be concerned.  I don't want anything from you.  You were merely a curiosity.  In truth I've got a more important matter on my mind, a far more troubling one.  There is a man, a priest of all professions, who is also a dragon.  Don't ask me to explain it.  I don't think even he understands it.  I expect your kind has had a very difficult time of it.  You've buried your true selves for too long.  This man is in desperate trouble, and it has nothing to do with his true nature, though I suspect it has everything to do with it.  A vampire has attached itself to his sister. I think the vampire is trying to accomplish the very thing I've dedicated my life to learning, what it means to exist in this world when the world says you shouldn't exist.  It's such a complicated matter.  Again, I apologize.  I'm now beginning to suspect I was rather rude in seeking you out the way I did.  It's just, I'm nervous.  I'm afraid of what I will discover, what will happen, if I pursue this.  The man needs me.  His sister is in danger.  I may be the only one capable of sorting it out, but it will come at a great cost.  You've confirmed something for me today, and because of it, I'm afraid I will reveal the layer of the world that separates all the truths we've attempted to deny. I am not a religious man.  I believe in too many things.  But only faith will help me now.  This is something I've already learned from Plato Finnegan, the man I've been speaking about.  I'm sorry.  Please excuse me."

Oliver walked all the way out of the store and didn't look back, and couldn't bring himself to even speculate on what the centaur might now be thinking.  The day was drawing to a close.

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