Late For His Shift
By Peter G. Reynolds
In the span of eight slices of pizza, Ron learned more about the world than he had in all his seventeen years.
Beyond the Veil was a place filled with all manner of magical creatures. Thousands of years ago, many had travelled to this world to live among humans. They were the origin of the world's folklore and fairytales, from the Chinese Fènghuáng, who gave rise to tales of the immortal Phoenix, to the Jötunn ice giants of old Norse mythology. They helped shape the culture of humanity, living in peace with one another, including the Faoladh, until something changed.
"You decided to kill us," Kay said, curled up once again on the couch. Ron could smell the bitterness on her breath.
May gave her sister a dirty look. "Stop it. We don't know that for sure." She was indeed wearing Ron's shirt, though he didn't know why. It was torn in so many places it seemed to be holding itself together only by the sheer will of three brave buttons.
"Naïve much, sister? How do you explain what's happening then?
The sisters glared at one another, and Ron got the impression this was an ancient argument. When no one spoke, he filled the silence with a question.
"How are we killing you?"
May spoke first, cutting off Kay mid-inhale, who then retreated to the endless scroll of her phone.
"There's an energy that sustains us, Ron," May explained, neatly brushing pizza crumbs from her pajamas into an empty box. "It allows us to live beyond the Veil. We call it The Harmony. It's like music, a note for each of us, feeding our souls. But twenty years ago, the song changed, and magical creatures worldwide started dying. Some who had lived for centuries died immediately; others simply could no longer have children."
"But that's what's happening to us!" Ron shouted, slapping his hands on the couch. He immediately realized he'd said too much and tried unsuccessfully to will the words back into his mouth.
No wonder his brother didn't trust him.
"We know Ron. That's why the thirteen clans are here. To try and fix something you did twenty years ago."
"What did we do?" Ron asked
"Tried to kill us," said the voice behind the screen.
Mary sighed, her body seemingly weighed down by Kay's statement.
"We don't know for sure, Ron. Nobody does. But whatever it was, it disturbed The Harmony. And if it's not restored, none of us will survive.
As he sat across from two girls he met only last night, the truth he had known his whole life rubbed away like sleep from morning eyes. He was finally awake, yet a small part of him wished he could roll over and enjoy the ignorant slumber of yesterday.
Words have power. Ron's mother had taught him that. Now he had that power, given to him by two strangers, but what was he going to do with it?
As he left their apartment, Ron's anxiety returned almost immediately. His mind racing with everything that had happened to him since last night. It was strange; everything made sense when he was around those two. He felt powerful and safe like there was no problem he couldn't handle. Now, all he could think about was what Gary would say.
He's going to be pissed.
The streets were quiet as Ron made his way back to the Inn, his nose acting like Google Maps. As he breathed, the city unfolded before him like a pop-up book of three-dimensional smells. A fish market to the South, a bakery to the East, McDonald's… no, Burger King to the West.
He shivered. The warm afternoon sun had failed to penetrate the thick fog that still covered the city, and Ron could see his breath. His clothes weren't helping much either, all donated by May and Kay. A faded pink hoodie with the words Girl Power embroidered on the back, baggy track pants and an oversized pair of running shoes. Ron was sure Kay had simply stolen the pants and shoes from an overweight neighbour's balcony. Still, he hadn't been in a position to complain.
Like the air around him, Ron's thoughts were clouded and filled with questions. He didn't know what was more unsettling, that magical creatures existed or that his family had been lying to him about it.
Gary's going to be pissed.
The thought persisted, and Ron slowed his pace. His brother was bound to suspect something had happened to him yesterday and that one of the other clans was responsible. They'd probably been out all night looking for him.
Ron made a sharp turn down an alley. His nose told him it was in the wrong direction, but he didn't care. He wasn't looking forward to his brother's inevitable use of words like useless and irresponsible. Plus, he should probably check out that park where, as Kay put it, he went all furry hulk. There were still six days left till the Blue Moon, plenty of time to save the world.