I guess you could say I was new in town, and I wasn’t liking it much. There was just something about this little town in some undisclosed location that unnerved me. Don’t get me wrong, I had done my research. This town had passed with flying colors; it was dark, dreary, and had a high enough population that if a few went missing here or there, no one really cared.
It should have been perfect, but as I walked down a dank alley towards my house, I got the feeling that something was off. The white picket fence and the mat in front of the doorway which proclaimed, “All are welcome!” in a cheery font didn’t put me at ease, surprisingly enough. Even the garden gnomes and pink plastic flamingo seemed to be eying me with a cold, glassy gaze in the dim light bleeding from the lampposts.
I suppose I should clarify; this was my house now. It hadn’t always been. The house had once belonged to a charming couple named Mr. and Mrs. Travers. They had three kids who had moved upstate - but still sent greeting cards at holidays - two cats, Peter and Patricia, three fish, names unknown, and one iguana, Mr. Xavier. Mr. Travers used to be classified as one of the top insurance brokers in the country. Now, both he and his wife are classified as corpses and his corner office turned into a corner of the basement. Oh well. Sacrifices must be made.
Anyway, back to me. I rested my hand on the doorknob and paused briefly before opening the door and stepping inside. The room looked normal, but it didn’t feel right. There was just something off about tonight, and it wasn’t the fact that the bodies in the basement were going on a week old. No, there was a disturbance in the shadows; I could feel it, the agitation, the unrest. Something was wrong.
I listened intently without moving from my spot. Nothing. I sniffed the air. Mr. and Mrs. Travers. But other than that, nothing. I licked the tip of my index finger and held it up. And suddenly I got it.
I spun around with a snarl directed at the man standing in the doorway, his skin literally glowing with a faint white light. He smiled, his teeth straight and perfect, and his dimples accenting his face in a way that just perfectly balanced out the high cheekbones and narrow, strong chin. His eyebrows painted a glorious arch over his shining eyes, and all in all, his face was really rather handsome. It was like looking in a mirror. Actually, that’s a lie. I knew I was more attractive than he. To be more accurate, it was like looking at my twin brother. “Sirio,” I spat.
“Baxel,” he returned with an annoyingly charming smile. He straightened his suit jacket and cocked his head. “Well? Aren’t you going to ask me in?”
I knew something was off about this place tonight. Turns out that there was nothing wrong with the town. There was just something temporarily wrong with one particular person in it. “I wasn’t planning on it, no.”
“How inhospitable,” Sirio commented, stepping over the threshold and brushing past me. I could’ve stopped him. Of course I could’ve stopped him, but I made the conscious decision not to. “We could do with a little light, don’t you think?” He snapped his fingers and light streamed into the room, sucked towards the lamps as if drawn by magnets. The shadows were dispelled, pushed into corners, under couches, and in the far reaches of the room.
No, I said mentally. I totally would’ve challenged him out loud if I wasn’t too busy despising his presence. “How did you find me?”
Sirio ignored me. The bastard. “What a nice place you’ve got here,” he commented, strolling towards the fireplace. His dress shoes were shiny and bright, but left dirty footprints on the plush white carpet. I balled my fists, feeling the shadows swirl around my feet. I wanted so badly to snake a trail of shadows out and trip him. Sirio stopped walking before I could (and I totally would have, too) and peered at the mantle. “These lace doilies are the perfect touch. They really suit the grandmotherly theme you have going on here. It’s very you, Baxel.”
I was beginning to think I might aim the shadows a little higher. Around his neck, perhaps. “Why are you here?”
“What, can’t I just drop in and see how my little demon of a brother is doing?” Sirio turned around, grinding his heel and the dirt underneath it into the carpet. He brushed a lock of straight blonde hair from his eyes and smirked.
“Sirio, last time you and I were in the same room, you tried to kill me,” I pointed out in what I considered to be an extremely level tone.
Sirio waved a hand dramatically, stepping to the side so that he could sink into the leather armchair by the fireplace. He crossed his legs and steepled his fingers, looking every bit like the sinister angel of dubious intent that he was. “Come now, brother. That was over two centuries ago; are you really going to hold a grudge for that long?”
I blinked. “You were trying to kill me because of something I supposedly did nearly six hundred years ago!” I sputtered. Talk about holding a grudge. As a side note, I added, “The details of which I am still unclear about.”
“Yes, well, the past is in the past, right? You’re not dead, I’m not mad, let’s just move on, shall we?”
I accepted this and chose to move on not because I had forgiven him, but because he did have a point. I wasn’t dead, which was a testament to my brilliant wit. Sirio had failed to kill me, and he knew it. Therefore, I figured I won that round. Sighing a little in exasperation, I asked again, “Why are you here?”
“Alright, alright, you got me,” Sirio said, spreading his hands. Each of his motions was slow and deliberate; the epitome of grace. “I’m not just here to say hello. As it happens, some… intelligence has come into my possession. Intelligence of the sort you might be interested in.”
“Oh?” I asked casually, studying my fingernails. The black nail polish looked wicked against the deep red of my skin. I could almost see my reflection in the glossy surface, so they were doubly cool. “About what?”
Sirio leaned forward, resting his elbows on his spread knees and joining his hands in between them. When he spoke, his voice carried a certain weight, and spark of hunger shone in his eye. “The Bane of Mortals.”
I lowered my hand and raised my eyes to meet Sirio’s. If I had a heart, it would certainly have been pounding. “I’m listening.”