Late For His Shift
By Peter G. Reynolds
Mary motioned Ron to follow her to the dining room table. "This is a singing chalice; Children Beyond the Veil use it to communicate, or to learn things about the world."
"Children Beyond the Veil?" Ron asked.
May's expression went from exasperation to amusement in less than a heartbeat.
"Ok. Ok. I'll play your game, Mister. She said, smiling. "Children Beyond of the Veil. Magical creatures, like yourself, who centuries ago came to this world from beyond - you guessed it, the Veil.
Ron nodded knowingly, even though he had no idea what she was talking about. He'd never heard of his kind being called Children Beyond the Veil. Faoladh, yes. Lycan and Werewolf, sure, but never that.
Mary wet her finger and began circling the rim of the chalice with it. It played a single note and began to vibrate. She then leaned forward and whispered, "Kay." Immediately the liquid started to swirl and change colour. Ron saw colours coalescing into cloudy shapes and finally sharpening into an image. It was Kay, standing on the street in her pajamas, arguing with a man on a bicycle holding a series of pizza boxes.
"Magic," Ron said under his breath. He reached out and touched the chalice. The pressure of fingers stopped the vibrations, and the image disappeared, the liquid within becoming clear.
"Pretty cool, huh?" May asked, still smiling. "It's not as reliable as a smartphone, but the data plan is waaay cheaper.
"So you're shifters too," Ron said. It was half statement, half question.
"Well, no," May said someone sheepishly. "We're…"
"May! "Kay said sternly, cutting off her sister. She stood by the open front door, arms full of pizza boxes. Ron didn't need to inhale deeply to know there were two meat-lovers with extra cheese and two vegetarian with cauliflower crust. "He doesn't know."
"Doesn't know what?" May and Ron said in unison.
"Anything," Kay answered, putting the pizzas down on the counter.
"Ron," Kay asked. "Name another magical creature other than werewolves."
Ron was thrown by the question. He knew the correct answer, but it was so obvious, he didn't know if this was a test or something. Before he could answer, May said what he was thinking.
"I don't understand."
"Sister," Kay said, shaking her head, "he thinks werewolves are the only magical creatures that exist.
They both looked at Ron, who suddenly felt like he was sitting inside a Petrie dish.
"Well, aren't they? Ron asked.
Ron had grown up hearing stories of the Veil, that place of great power that gave the Faoladh their strength. He also knew about magic, though he’d never seen it in action. Just stories of clan soothsayers healing the sick or communing with each other over great distances. But for all he didn't know, there was one thing he was sure about: there were humans, and there were werewolves. Everything else was something out of a storybook.
Ron mentally corrected himself. Yes, Mary had told him about the Inn and how it was "alive," but wasn't that just magic as well? It hardly meant that dwarfs and ogres were real or that you'd find a leprechaun guarding his pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.
"Ron," Mary asked, her eyes wide with concern. "Did your family never speak of the other children? Of mischievous sprites and playful Selkies?
Ron shook his head.
"Fairies?" Kay asked.
"Banshees?" May asked.
"Just a sec." Ron interrupted. Are you trying to tell me that magical creatures are real? Like vampires or dragons?
Both May and Kay laughed in harmony.
"Don't be ridiculous Ron," admonished May. "Dragons don't exist."
"Thank god," Ron sighed.
"And we haven't seen a vampire in forever, right May?"
"Yes." Replied May, "Not since… Oh, what was his name?"
"Vlad!" They both said in unison, dissolving into giggles.
Ron was stunned. He wasn't so naive that he automatically believed everything the two sisters said, but it smelled truthful. Bald-faced lies had a distinct odour to them, and he could smell none of that here. There were faint aromas of guile with notes of pepperoni…Err…evasion, so he'd have to be wary.
Ron stood up and opened the door to the balcony. The air was wet and fresh and felt good on his face. "Even if all stories are true, it still doesn't explain what you want from me."
May and Kay joined Ron at the balcony entrance. A gentle fog lay like a blanket over the city.
"We know why you've come to Waterford," May said, "We know that the women of your clans can no longer have children."
"And we know what you're going to do to fix it," continued Kay, "but it will kill everyone else."
Ron looked incredulous. "Kill every… No way. They wouldn't do that". But Ron's words rang hollow in his ears. While his people weren't cruel, Ron knew they'd do whatever it took to save themselves.
"We need you to talk to your people," May said, interrupting Ron's train of thought, "especially to your Alpha, to tell him there's a better way."
Now it was Ron’s turn to laugh. "Me? Even if I had any idea what you're talking about, which I don't, why would they listen to me? I'm nothing, a Shiftless; they'd never listen to me.”
"You’re not Shiftless, Ron," May said. "Last night proved that. You just needed the proper…."
"Stimulation," Kay said, finishing May's sentence. "And we don't need you to convince them, just get them to agree to talk with us."
"Talk?" Ron asked, his eyebrow arching in surprise.
May nodded. "Talk,"
Ron and May both looked at Kay.
Kay looked incredulous "What, we all have to say it? Fine. Talk."
This is crazy, thought Ron, but he knew he couldn't have it both ways. You either grab the brass ring or continue to ride the merry-go-round. He didn't really know if that was the right saying, but it sounded good.
"Ok. I'll try." He said at last. "But I need one more question answered first."
"Anything, Ron," May said.
Ron looked at May, "Are you wearing my shirt?"