This is Charlie. I keep a diary, sometimes just to remind myself that my life really is as weird as I think it is. I saw that Jay posted his view of an encounter a couple of days ago, so I thought I’d add mine. Jay still doesn’t know what we really ran into, or why it shocked me as much as it did. I haven’t called the magician to ask him about this, mostly because I think I won’t like his response. Right. Here begins the entry; I try to write them in present tense even though I’m writing after it happens, since that helps me recall everything better. Personal choice. Deal with it.
Almost two feet of snow have been dumped on the town we’re in, but it’s not actually cold. Dress warmly and keep away from the more bitter winds and you’re mostly fine. Nothing has turned to slush, there are kids with the second of a probably few days off school having snowball fights and building snowmen and we’re still in that part of small-town American where parents actually let their kids play outside.
It’s a lot rarer to find than you’d think, and probably would be almost unheard of if most people knew the kinds of entities humanity shares the world with. The kid beside me being one: Jay looks to be eleven, but is from far Outside the universe. He senses everything in terms of bindings, at levels even magicians consider impossible to detect but to Jay it’s as easy as breathing. Also as easy is hiding his nature so he appears to be a normal human kid despite being quite tough. That he is unable to see for the foreseeable future (owing to being used to stop something really nasty from happening) hasn’t phased him in the slightest. Which probably says all you need to know about him.
“Charlie,” he says, not quite bouncing through snow over to me from across the road. He’s using his white cane because humans would pay too attention to him otherwise, and dark glasses because his eyes are full of falling stars and fractured light – which would cause people do more than just stare at him. He offers up a huge, happy grin that is entirely Jay and also sets my Jay-sense to tingling.
The huger the grin, the more dangerous the fallout might be. “Kiddo.”
“I’ve been making secret friends today,” he says proudly.
“With rocks or snow?” I try, because one never knows with Jay. He once spent an afternoon making friends with every atom inside a piece of lego.
“Nope, people. The human kind.” And he moves, quicker than humans can – his other trick – and then grins even wider up at me, radiating pride. If Geiger counters for pride existed, Jay would make them explode. Not that his pride was for him, mostly for what he did for others and to help them. “Your left pocket,” he says when I don’t move, poking it with his cane and practically dancing from foot to foot.
I reach in cautiously, expecting to find a snowball, gremlin, or some small animal Jay has decided should be kept warm. Instead I pull out two new twenty dollar bills. I look at them, then down at Jay. “Can I ask where you got this money?”
“I did a favour for the fae last night when you were sleeping and they paid me in cash and I’m all using it to make friends!”
“You don’t make friends with money, Jay.”
“I know that, Charlie. I mean that I make them all happy and they never know it was me because I’m totally a Jay-boss!”
“I listened to videos on YouTube and they were helpful so I get to pass that on and help people. It doesn’t take much money to make a person a little happy; sometimes it’s even better thana hug, which is pretty weird.”
“Well, it is better than other things you could be doing,” I say, and he just sticks his tongue out at me at that, then reaches up with his right mitten and grabs my hand, tugging me toward the proper downtown core of the town and telling me he also made a new friend and then about the eight people he’s all helped this morning. It occurs to me that he did the reverse pickpocketing while wearing the mittens, but I decide not to wonder too deeply about that.
I’ve spent my morning migrating gods to new businesses from old or failing ones and generally put the word out that there is a god-eater active in the world again and gods wishing to abuse their powers had best not do so. It’s been pretty easy work: most gods are small and most of those are wise enough not to attract untoward attention. Mostly because powerful gods tend to cannibalize smaller ones. I don’t really know that much about gods: magicians have few dealing with them save to destroy them if they need to, though Jay claims that the gods are part of a network of energy holding the bedrock of the world together.
All I know is gods make themselves when needed, adding energy and strength to a business, home, whatever the location is. As that expands, the power of the god can well, but most gods can only expand so far and few can move from their place of birth without a god-eater helping them. I destroy dangerous gods, I help the others migrate. It’s a learning curve all around, since most gods aren’t that old and no one seems to know what really happened to the order that used to train god-eaters.
I’m busy thinking about such things as Jay drags me to the back alley behind the downtown McDonalds. “I made a new friend, who is all surprised I saw him because humans can’t see him!”
“You can’t see,” I say dryly.
“Well, yes, but I all noticed weird bindings and it’s a new friend,” he says as if that makes it all okay. I refrain from pointing out that Jay would probably react the same if he ran into Cthulhu. Mostly because I don’t want to learn that Lovecraft wasn’t making shit up. He continues to pull incessantly, holding my hand tightly and we move past the dumpster.
The creature behind the dumpster is almost as big as it the dumpster, all dark brown fur, a long trunk, wide eyes. No ears, a pointed tail. I say several words they probably wouldn’t even air on Sesame Street Uncut. “Snuffleupagus?”
“You know him?” Jay asks excitedly. “I know he’s big, but he told me he doesn’t want to eat people at all!”
“Humans do not see me.” The voice is deep and gravelly, not like on the TV.
“Jay isn’t human. He’s helping me see you,” I say, and my voice is almost even, definitely from shock. “Jay, is Mister – is he an Outsider?”
“Nope! Nor a monster,” Jay adds. “He is really cuddly though! He feels like warm laundry.”
“Of course you hugged him.” I rub the bridge of my nose. “Ah. What do you want?” I ask it. Thinking of the creature as an it helps.
Or it did for a few seconds. “What?”
“Birds taste very good. Feathers. Bones. Muscle.” It smiles, and the teeth are many but not as sharp as I was imagining. “I clean the feathers off with my snout, snuffle them up and eat the rest. There are not many birds in the winter.”
“No, no there aren’t. You can read, yes?”
“A is for...”
“Right Okay,” I cut it off, certain I don’t want to hear this creatures alphabet song. “There is restaurant down the street, KFC. Kentucky Fried Chicken makes chicken. You could sneak in there and eat chicken as long as you don’t eat too much. Or perhaps just all the chicken people throw away into the dumpster?”
“I can do a binding for that,” Jay says, and the creature goes still a moment, and then inclines its head in a nod to Jay.
I have far too many questions. I’m not about to ask any of them. I just smile at it and pull Jay away, and head back toward the hotel. “Jay. You’re sure that wasn’t a creature from Outside the universe?”
“Yup. You knew him, so he is a friend?”