I’m not going to lie, I half expected her to take me to the bat cave, or fly me off to the Fortress of Solitude where I’d freeze to death while Alina perused her spandex sidekick costume collection. I mean, no one thought Faeries were real until a few years ago, so I figured anything was possible.
Turned out she lived in an apartment. The only improvement I could gauge over the place I’d been staying in was a fridge with fresh food and wards so strong I thought I stuck my finger in a light socket when I went through them. I still felt oddly charged.
“I didn’t think wards were supposed to hurt people unless they are breaking through them,” I groused even as she passed me a can of soda, the oh-so-bad-for-you good kind.
“Humans are so whiny.” She picked up an apple from a basket off her kitchen counter. “You’re still breathing.” Alina took a bite out of her apple, crunching for several seconds before saying, “It didn’t hurt you, it charged your powers. I designed it to do that. Enemies get drained. Friends get a pick-me-up.”
“Naps and caffeine are little pick-me-ups. That was…intense.”
Alina just laughed and finished her apple, leaving me to poke about the place. It seemed so ordinary. She had a computer, a comm unit, a pile of dirty laundry in her bedroom, and an empty spare room. Unlike the homes I had squatted in, her apartment had no decorations, no pictures or knick-knacks.
“How long have you stayed here?”
Alina glanced up from the computer, “I’m not good with time.” She shrugged a shoulder. “Not as long as the war, but not that much less either.”
A few months ago I would have laughed at that response, but I got it. After the UnSeelie unleashed zombies everywhere infrastructure went to shit. Humanity went from just shy of launching an interstellar space program to just trying to survive. Not everywhere got hit that bad, but the areas spared weren’t the centers for technological marvels either. Sundown and sunrise became the only really important times. It wasn’t that you were guaranteed safety during the day, but the ghouls and especially the UnSeelie preferred the dark. You had the hours in between to find food, water, and whatever else you needed and the rest you stayed in whatever safe haven you had. Wednesday or Sunday, it no longer mattered very much anymore, at least not to me.
I walked over to Alina and looked at the news video she had pulled up. The nice looking blond dude smiled at the camera as he babbled about supply depot hours and shuttle rails resuming service. I suppose time always meant more to some people. I jabbed a finger toward the screen. “Mr. News Anchor there has a job, but how do they expect people to pay for supplies or rail tickets?”
“Computer, deactivate.” Alina yawned, turning toward me. “Don’t know. I’m a Faerie. I hunt and I play. I leave the running of things to other people.”
I wasn’t sure if I was appalled at her lack of concern, or unnerved by how much that sounded like my existence up until I took off that ghoul’s head, well mostly took off.
Alina clapped. “Speaking of which, time to play!”
She snatched my hand and pulled me into her bedroom, toward the closet. Visions of horror movies ran through my head. Maybe she had a dungeon behind a secret door and planned to tie me down and do evil things. My eyes unfocused as I started to panic. I yelped when something hit me in the face.
I pulled the material off my head. I held a frilly pink skirt. “What is this?”
“I told you I’d get you a costume.”
I stared at her. Was she serious?
“Costume. Clothes. To WEAR.” She said the last word slowly, as if I were possibly demented and couldn’t understand her.
I held up the skirt which probably wouldn’t even cover my ass. “Wear doing what?”
“Accompanying me, of course. I have some errands to do.”
“What sort of errands?”
She rummaged in her closet. “Feed Norm, check wards around the city, pop into Marseille for a manicure, get some chocolate from Ghana. The Queen likes it and is too busy to go herself.”
My jaw dropped. “Marseille? Ghana? Those aren’t errands. Those are round the world trips.”
She paused, holding out a black sheer blouse. “I forget. You humans are stuck in your little three dimensional existences.”
“Yeah, oops, silly me, plodding along in three dimensions.” I tossed the skirt back at her. “This three dimensional being doesn’t do pink or frilly.”
She held out the black blouse. “As I thought, Goth?”
“Don’t you have jeans and t-shirts in that abyss?”
She wrinkled her nose. “No. They are so plain, so lacking in style. “
Great, my faerie keeper was a fashionista. I suppose the mention of a manicure should have clued me in. I took the blouse and layered it over the black tank top I was wearing. I glanced down. It looked decent, if perhaps a bit snug across the chest. I had a fuller figure than Alina. “This will work.” I raised my head only to have black pants shoved at me. “No, I’m good.”
She tsked. “No. Those jeans are threadbare.”
“They are comfortably broken in.”
“They have holes in the knees.”
“It’s a fashion statement.”
“They are light colored. Blood will ruin them.”
I opened my mouth, but had nothing to say in argument. I took the pants, mumbling, “They probably won’t fit. My ass is bigger than yours.”
She grinned at me. “Honey, I’m a faerie. I can manage a bit of alterations.”
Of course she could.
By the time she finished playing dress the human, I felt like a life-sized doll. She insisted on doing my hair and somehow managed to make it sit in some braided twisty thing on top of my head. I felt oddly grown-up, not that I wasn’t an adult, mostly, but my last normal day had been spent in a college classroom frowning at calculus equations that made my head want to explode. The most important responsibility I’d had at the time was showing up for my work-study job on time, and that just consisted of answering a phone. I went from that to surviving. All the other stuff, getting a degree, holding a job, going on dates, learning to dress like an adult and do something with my hair other than shove it in a ponytail…sort of derailed when the world turned into a zombie apocalypse.
I didn’t know what to expect when she grabbed my hand and poofed us out of my comfortable three-dimensional existence. I wanted to hurl and scream, explode and implode all at once, but could do nothing. Having one’s body and mind translated across space was not the least bit fun. The moment reality became familiar again, I wretched, barely avoiding my clean clothes.
Alina patted my back. “It’s always disconcerting the first time. It gets better.”
She wanted me to do that again? I was about to argue that when a lizard looking creature with large pointed teeth and double spinal crests waddled up. It looked like a dinosaur, kind of, but not quite. “What the fuck is that?”
“Norm. Finn’s busy. He asked me to feed him.”
I looked at those teeth. I wondered if he ate goth girls.
Alina walked right up to him and patted his head. His fat tail thumped the ground and he waddled after her as she went through a sliding glass door into a huge well-furnished house with lots of leather, real wood, and rustic nature décor. A smashed computer lay on the ground. Someone had a temper or really didn’t like electronics. I couldn’t particularly judge. I’d felt like smashing a few computers now and again.
By the time I quit gawking, because whoever lived here had to be filthy rich, and joined Alina in the kitchen. Norm was munching on a pile of raw ground meat. My stomach heaved, threatening to bring up whatever was still in there, but Alina grabbed my hand. “Done here. We’ll get the chocolate and the manicurist should be open by then.” She popped me back into that quasi-existence before I could protest and I resigned myself to a day of hurling.
I’m not even sure where exactly we popped to, as she left me to retching and popped us off again before I could take a look around. The smell of acetone and polish hit me like a wall, doing nothing to help my stomach.
A gentleman in a flamboyant lavender suit waved Alina into a blush red chair and prattled at her in French. I plopped down in the small row of chairs arranged in front of the counter, as far from the smell of nail crap as I could get.
“Paul says he’s happy to do your nails too.”
“No, thank you.”
I dozed off, exhausted by all the dimensional yanking about and hurling. I blinked, wondering what woke me when a moan answered that question. I expected to get blinded by the sight of naked bodies. Instead Alina sat drying her nails with a smug smile on her face. Beside her Paul writhed, fighting bonds holding him bound to the chair.
“Uh, did Paul piss you off?”
Alina laughed and waved bright purple nails at me. She leaned down and whispered something and he jerked in the chair and then relaxed. She laughed again as I watched the bonds disappear and Paul grinned up at Alina like she was a goddess.
She waved and left him without a second glance as she came to retrieve me. “What did you do to him?”
“I traded one service for another, silly.”
“You weren’t even touching him.”
Alina grabbed my hand. “I don’t have to. A bit of energy applied with just the right intent and humans turn into mindless puddles of orgasmic bliss.”
“What was with tying him to the chair?”
She shrugged “He likes that sort of thing.”
Reality poofed again and this time I managed not to hurl, perhaps because I was a bit preoccupied with wondering what sort of crazy freak I was now associated with. As if reading my mind, the moment we were solid again she winked at me with a grin.
“You’re associating with a Faerie, honey. We invented freaky.”
Great. Just great.