Charlie has two different laughs. There’s her happy laugh (which is sometimes her mean laugh, but Honcho always said I could file that under ‘Charlie’ so I do!) and her not-laugh, which isn’t a sad-laugh but it’s when she’s trying to laugh and not laughing and it’s not a broken binding but it’s close. Her laugh has been like that for three days now as we drive about. Charlie eats gods, and she does exorcisms, but there isn’t much money in either of those things. She doesn’t talk about it, but I’m not stupid! Charlie calls me stupid a Lot but Jay isn’t the same word as that at all!
Jay is me. I’m Jay. Sometimes. I’m figuring that out, because I’m not the Jay I used to be but I’m still called Jay and it’s weird in a lot of ways. I think that’s why Honcho left us, but I don’t know and it makes me sad because he is my friend and I don’t like being sad. Being sad isn’t fun. Fun isn’t sad because fun is fun! I used to lisp. I don’t as much anymore. I even used to suck my thumb in stress evne thought I look like I’m ten (I have a secret: I’m not ten. I’m Jay.). That doesn’t do anything for me anymore but the lisp was always part of being Jay ever since I same into the universe and bound myself to Honcho.
He’s gone away, because he hurt me a lot and he can’t deal with it even if I can and that makes no sense. Not at all. But it must make sense to humans. Anyway, Charlie is broke and Honcho always had money because magicians find money when they need it and I am very good with bindings and I could unbind an ATM for money but then the Bank would yell at us and maybe try and kill us and Charlie might get mad at me. I don’t want that, so I’m looking for help while she sleeps.
I’m scared. I’m scared all the time about being eaten, but this is different-scared. This is I-Don’t-Know-If-I’m-Jay scared, which isn’t like other scareds I’ve been. It’s late and the city is dark but I’m not scared of that because I’m tough. And I’m fast, but fast doesn’t work right now because my eyes don’t work right anymore. I can see blurry things really close but that’s it and I get headaches if I try and see more than blurs. I had to see something really big, the bindings that made it up, to help Honcho, and it hurt so much it changed me.
So I go walking in the dark, because it’s kind of always dark to me and there’s not much that can really hurt me lots anyway right now and I can sneak through cracks in walls and fences and I can be really quiet and I seem human to anything I meet because I’m awesome like that. My eyes don’t look human anymore, so I’m wearing dark glasses or people do notice me. I can’t wait until my eyes stop looking weird and I’m thinking about that when I find the biggest binding I could sense in the entire city.
It is in a human-shape, big and strong and at least twice as big as me in a smelly place under the city. I can see bindings just fine, but not other things. So I can see the bindings that something is, but not what it looks like. I’m learning to not look as deep as I can – which is really silly deep, according to Honcho – so I can tell what is just a wall, and a floor, and things on walls. I’m getting better at it, which is why I stop before the huge binding things lands on me.
It stops in turn. It is really smelly, like Charlie’s socks after four days but worse with dead meat in its breath and I think maybe between teeth and it squelches as it walks. I’m kind of glas I can’t see it like humans do right now, but I hope it can’t tell because that would be all kinds of rude.
“Hello.” It has a deep, rumbling voice like broken things inside washing machines and cars grinding together in computer games.
“My name ith Jay,” I say, and my lisp comes out. I still lisp a little, but not that much. My tongue is still figuring out who I am, I think, and that’s okay too!
The next moment is not okay at all because the big thing moves down almost as fast as me and clamps its mouth right over my head!
“Eeww!” I unbind its jaws and it jerks up and away as I make it let go.
“You smell human. You look human, boy.”
“Duh! I’m good at hiding,” I snap. “You try and eat humans all the time? That ith very mean!”
“Mean.” The creature sits back. I’m pretty sure it is checking out teeth because a few bindings in it loosened. I am tough, after all. “You are from Outside the universe, then.”
“Yup! I’m Jay!”
“You said that. I am afraid I do not know what that it.”
“Of courthe not; it’s me and we just met.” I grin, because I like making friends, and it seems to be confused. A lot of people get confused by me, but lots of humans and monsters don’t seem to like making friends at all.
“Oh.” It lets out a low rumble of a laugh. “I see. You came looking for me, then?”
“Uh-huh. I have a friend named Charlie and we need money and I thought you could help and! we could be friends.”
“You – want to be my friend.”
“If you don’t try and eat me again because you ruined my shirt.”
It falls silent at that. Lots of people I talk to get quiet sometimes. But it’s OK since I can talk for both of us.
“I don’t mind the shirt but Charlie wants money for us to travel and I thought a monster who is big – and you’re really big going by bindingth – would have money or know where I can get some and be my friend.”
Feet scrape along cement in the sewers. “And if I say no?”
“Then I find someone elthe and ask them.” I don’t say ‘duh’ because friends but really big monsters tend to be kind of stupid because they never need to be smart or make friends at all. I’m glad I’m not big at all.
The monster is silent for a long moment, staring down at me. I grin again, and the grin works because I want to be its friend but Charlie would say it probably just wants me to go away because it tells me where to go in the city, and I make a binding to that place and walk sewers and a few streets for almost ten minutes before I find myself at the spot the monster told me to go, which is behind some fast food place that smells really yummy but I don’t have any money right now and Charlie refuses to let me eat out of dumpters even though there is food in them.
Humans are weird like that.
The monster that the monster knew turns out not be a monster at all but a fae hiding as a human. Fae do that, because they help monsters hide in the human world and bind them with magic as a result. I don’t know much about it because they keep it really hush-quiet and I think they might get really mad if I find out about it all so I don’t. Well. Until Honcho or Charlie ask, and they haven’t yet.
“Hello.” The fae sounds like a human woman and probably looks like one. “It is not ofer the albino shark-man contacts me for anything, let alone aid. You require help, child?”
“If you could?” I explain about Charlie and money and how Honcho went away and that he’s a magician and my friend and he’s travelling with another fae so fae can be my friends, too.
“Oh,” the fae says once I finish. “I can give you some money, but it wil not be free. There are few of us fae in the world keeping an eye on monsters who break their bindings with us; you could fix those bindings in monsters you find, yes?”
“Of courthe,” I say. “Bindings are important!”
“Indeed they are.” The fae offers food, and I’m not going to say no so we eat KFC and the fae is mostly quiet as I finish my pop and make sure my face and fingers are all clean by binding grease to napkins. “Will you accept that offer of food as a binding?” the fae says after.
I blink at that. “What kind? Becauthe I am bound to Charlie and Honcho and lots of friends on tumblr too.”
“Merely conversation, if you would. How many fingers am I holding up.”
The fae reaches over, removes my glasses, then puts them back on. “We see more than even magicians do. The damage is extensive, but it will heal in time. You will need to find ways to manage until it does.” The fae is silent a moment. “You know what those are.”
I squirm a bit because that’s a mean binding but a true one and nod. “Humans will notice me,” I say, and I’m definitely whining and I can’t not.
“You are hurt, and the magician who caused it had to go away. You will heal faster if you begin to heal yourself. This will be part of that.”
I gulp loudly. I’m out of food and drink and the fae is really good. “Okay.”
The fae nods and there hands me a stick and new glasses as we leave the restaurant, binding them into the universe as real without even trying, because fae can do really scary things like that. “A white stick and dark glasses. You will need these.”
I bite my lip hard, but I’m too tough to break my skin with teeth. “I don’t want to – to be theen,” I mumble.
“This will hide you as well from many humans in its own way.” The fae presses the stick into my hand. “You need to learn how to use it. The healing will be faster if you close off the bindings you can sense. But you knew this already.”
“I will arrange for money for you with others of my kind. Do what you can for us with your friends, and we will aid you in this small way.”
“You need lots of help?”
The fae hesitates, then: “We do. We have shirked our duties for some time.”
And the fae is gone, folding the world and going to some fae place as I head back to the motel we’re sleeping in. Charlie is asleep in the other bed and I crawl into mine and set the white stick and glasses beside the bed. My eyes don’t work right for crying but I feel really sad and I don’t know why.