I leave the bedroom slowly. There is a magician sleeping on a bed, satiated and passed out, and every part of me aches in ways entirely pleasant. When first we met, he was potent enough to bind me, and Walkers are not easily bound by any magic within or without the Universe. His price for freedom had been a night together, and the next time had not been long after. It had been months until this time, and this had been – slower. Less desperate. More human, less magician. I am not sure what to make of that.
The cottage the magician asked to let him and the boy stay in is small; two bedrooms, a living area with a kitchen, little else. It is hardly what a magician could command, but perhaps that is the point. I do not know. We don’t talk, in the times we have spent together. Not in words.
The boy is sitting on the couch, playing a fighting video game on the tv, controller in hands. He looks to be ten, as humans count years, but is not human at all. Once I thought him to be a potential Walker – magicians consider us the magicians of the places outside the universe, and they may not be far wrong – but now I am not sure. He hides his true nature as anything other than a human boy even from me, and Walkers can go anywhere. That is what we are, and anywhere includes the hearts of others and their deepest truths as well.
I can find no way into the creature called Jay, not through himself. He looks up at my regard, mouth a fiercely thin line. “He thummoned you; it’th done tho you can go now.”
And there is something under the words. Perhaps it is the lisp – damage from entering the universe badly – but I catch something I doubt he wishes me to. I smile, feeling my body shift and change to match Jay’s own desires. And pause, changing back as I feel the trap under that, the binding existing under the desire. “Clever.”
The boy grins. “You would have made an awethome Pokemon,” he says proudly.
“I imagine so. He would not have approved.” Nothing. “And will call me again, you know.”
Jay pauses the game, setting the controller down. “He doethn’t need you!”
“I imagine he does, or he would not have called me to this place.”
The boy attempts no further binding on me, just looks – small, hurt, trying to hide it. “I’m hith friend.”
I pause. I should leave, but his hurt is a real thing I doubt the magician will ever see. I sit on the couch. He starts, eyes narrowing. I speak my true name, offering it up to be bound with. Not all of it, but enough that Jay skitters back in shock. I had intended for him to be less afraid, and he is afraid of why I offered it. Clever indeed.
“Do you know what I am?” I say softly.
“A Walker, who walkth inthide and Outthide the univerthe whenever you want,” Jay says, making a face at how hard it is to get all that out. “Even I know that, but you altho like to have thex with people and I don’t know if motht Walkers do that?”
“A Walker is a title. We are made far more than born.” It is a secret, and not one as well. “We are servants of the Lords of the Far Reaches.”
Jay goes still a moment, colour draining from his face, then shoves his right thumb into his mouth and begins sucking on it nervously, squirming over to the edge of the couch. The Far Reaches are, next to this created Universe, the only stable place in Outside, an idea as much as a location. They are far from everywhere and the Lords of them are the great forces, the survivors from long and long ago. They are powerful beyond belief, and there is no one who does not fear them.
“Their only enemies are each other, the most Ancient, and they play games will all other creatures that exist because direct battles between them are forbidden among them. I am a tool one uses in this universe, to explore it and try to understand how such a place was made at all. In all other respects, I am still what I was before I became a Walker, with the needs that entails.”
Jay says nothing, sucking harder on his thumb.
“You do not think the magician knows all this and uses me as I use him?” I say softly. “That if I am focused on him, I cannot report on you?”
He pops his thumb out of his mouth and just stares at me.
“You never considered this.”
“I uthe the internet; humans like thex,” he mumbles. “And you are what he wantth becauthe you’re nothing at all.”
“You think any magician believes any entity is ‘nothing at all’?” Jay says nothing. “We are different, but we are also the same, boy. Both from far Outside the universe, both unlikely to trap the magician in ways humans try to with love and need. You are his friend. I am not.” And I smile then, slow and sure, letting my nature spill out into the room. “I am desire. I am want. I am fulfillment,” I whisper, reaching out a hand to raise his chin. “No one is protected from that.”
Jay blinks. “Hello? I am ten,” he snaps, “and I don’t have thex partth that humanth do, tho there!”
“You look young; that is all. And you are very, very naive.” I have judged well; the thumb-sucking is from fear and nervousness and I move between moments. Replace his thumb with my own. Jay sucks, gasps, jerks back enough to fall right off the couch and scrambles to his feet. He is panting for air, entire body trembling in shock.
“I –.” He licks his lips, then bares his teeth in a tight grin. “I’ve got more of a buzz beating video gameth.”
I pause at that. “You resisted my nature.”
“What are you, to do that?”
“Report me to yout mathter and you’ll find out,” he says, sticking his thumb back into his mouth and grinning around it. “Becauthe you tried to bind me, and I know you in turn and if you don’t go away I am going to thhow you how same we really are and do really horrible thingth to you because my friend doethn’t need you at all!”
I pause to wonder how much of this the magician allowed for, how much he intended to happen, but the cold resolve under Jay’s words is enough to put thought aside. He said the word ‘same’ without the lisp, though I doubt he noticed. I step sideways, and far away from the universe.
And I consider options.