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from The Gods' Own by Alexis Cunningham

Copyright © 2019–2021 Alexis Cunningham

Chapter 6
Holes in Empty Air

Ludo stopped the car at the curb in front of a derelict building site. A broken retaining wall, rubble and a skeletal framework of metal beams was all that remained of whatever building had once stood on this spot.

             Yasha looked around. A group of greys huddled in the shadow of the scorched wall, watching him. They were a sorry sight, like a group of shrouded mourners, their red eyes blinking from the depths of naked dome-like heads. They were illuminated from within by the radiance of their souls.

             The gravel and burnt debris crackled underfoot as Yasha tromped toward the greys, the bag swinging from his left hand. The air stung with the prickly, almost antiseptic tingle of purifying magic. Yasha didn’t know what had happened here but whatever it was had been bad enough that someone had torched the whole place in magic fire, leaving nothing left but the dead.

             The greys watched his approach, huddling together until the contours of their bodies merged into one. They blinked in unison, quivering.

             ‘I’m not going to hurt you,’ he said stopping about five feet from the huddle.

             One of the greys, whose bald high domed head rose above the others, oozed to the front of the group, detaching like mist pulling apart. His long spindly arms tapered into shovel hands and trailing claws. His torso was bent, spine bowed, lower body devolving into a loose column of vapour. The grey’s soul lit his torso from within, a captive star in a cloudy night sky.

The grey’s form was almost entirely androgynous but something about the width of its shoulders and torso hinted that in life the grey had been male.

             ‘What do you want?’ The grey asked. His voice sounded like a scream underwater, distorted almost beyond comprehension.

             ‘I’m about to perform a bit of magic,’ Yasha answered raising the bag. ‘Need some eyes to play look out for me. I’ll pay.’

             ‘What will you pay?’ A second grey peeled away from the huddle and floated over the blackened ground toward him. This grey was shorter, moving like a stray breeze. Its voice was clearer than the first, retaining a faintly feminine lilt.

             Instead of answering Yasha squinted into the gloom at the rest of the huddle. ‘How many of you are there? Four, five?’

             ‘There are five of us,’ the male grey intoned.

             ‘Alright,’ Yasha nodded. ‘If you keep watch and stay out of my way while I open my bag, I guarantee you a meal to keep you all fed for a week.’

             A little ripple ran through the trio of huddled greys. ‘Oh,’ they cooed with one voice. ‘Please, we’re so hungry.’

             The male grey didn’t exactly glare them into silence because he lacked the facial features to pull it off. He did swing his torso around, red eyes flashing warning even through the back of his head.

             The female grey appeared to be looking at his bag. ‘What sort of magic?’ She asked suspiciously.

             Yasha was impressed. Looking the way she did he’d have thought she’d been on the bag in an instant, she looked starving. That the grey was suspicious meant she wasn’t as far gone as she looked.

             He smiled. ‘I’ve got a familiar in here,’ he lied, because what he had in the bag was a bit more complicated than that. ‘The bit of magic I need to do to‚Ķliberate her will leave quite a bit of magic in the atmosphere. It’s yours.’

             The female grey’s eyes flashed. ‘Will you hurt anyone?’ she asked surprising him. Greys were not cruel but it was rare to find one who cared about the living all that much. Most of them were too hungry and desperate to have compassion to spare.

             ‘No one,’ he promised.

             The female drifted toward him. The motion looked almost accidental, as if she’d just been pushed by an errant breeze but Yasha knew better. ‘Stay back or the deals off,’ he warned, holding the bag behind his back.


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