Amidst the wonderings of the haggard, in the mindful keep of solid walls and pillars so secure, they weathered storm after storm. Somewhere in the cloudy, rainy, South-East English coast, there was a mansion, half protruding off the cliffs. Inside such a structure, of castle towers and long windows, there were not one, but two wizards.
One was older than the other.
Steam billowed from his naked hands, hanging over water while his body lied submerged. Peaceful. Tranquil. He stared at the ceiling light for hours, as if reflecting on something, but the water still steamed. If one didn’t look at the face drenched in worry, one might assume the man in the hot tub was relaxing. Arkadiusz Fringe inspected the lines on each of his fingers, the rings on his fingertips, the wrinkles hard to the touch. As soon as his interest in them waned, his hands swooped down splashing into the water. Droplets dripped down across his forehead, down his nose. He sneezed from the sensation. Sliding deeper into the tub, fully submerging himself in the hot water. There was a hum of nothingness, the waves in the tub hit against its sides in the current from the pouring faucet. There were three knocks on the bathroom door. Arkadiusz rose up from the depths with the water crashing all around him. Silent. Waiting.
‘Arek.’ A voice from the other side said.
But there was only one man who called Arkadiusz that.
‘You’ve been there for hours. I need your help with… well…’
It was a scruffy northern accent that was at points sharp in diction, while in moments of frustration switched to a guttural tone. This had been one of those moments, where the man who shrugged out those words, sounded very frustrated indeed.
But the man in the bath did not care.
Too occupied with the thoughts of madness still echoing in the back of his mind. Arkadiusz fell back into the tub, splashing water all over the amalgamation of white porcelain and cedarwood that was the bathroom and its quaint, archaic drawers and cabinets.
Something climbed and dropped into the bath, scurrying at the bottom until its pincers snapped at his buttocks. The man grabbed it from beneath the water, it was a collection of rocks resembling a lobster.
‘Damn it Fred!’ Arkadiusz threw the rock lobster across the room.
He rose again. Reaching out with his wet hand into empty space, he grasped at something that wasn’t there. Out of nothingness, there came into existence a piece of cloth increasing in size with every second of its stay in the material plane. When it was large enough to envelop the entirety of the man, he grabbed it from the air and used the newly conjured towel to pat himself into a state of dryness. Stepping out onto a wooden pallet on the tiled floor, the water flowed out of the tub, down the drain, with a choking gargle.
As he walked towards the mirror, Fred scurried about his feet, massaging them with its smooth stones.
In the mirror, Arkadiusz looked at the reflection of himself, and the face of a decrepit, wrinkled, balding creature stared back; the face of an old man he always dreaded looking upon. Remnants of hair not only thinning, but also the brightest hue of soulless ginger.
He opened a cabinet, taking from the inside a vial of orange liquid. After drinking it, the wrinkles on his face shivered, inverted, folding into the skin’s inner layer, turning into lines which flattened, as if ran over by an iron, or a rolling pin. Along with his face looking youthful once more, dots appeared, sprouted into growing strands which advanced on his head. His hairline returned. A miraculous miracle, yet it stayed orange. Thus the man, looking as if in his mid-twenties, put away the now empty vial back into the cabinet, taking out a little box of hair product: L’Oréal Paris, Excellence Crème Permanent Hair Dye. Specifically the: Natural Frosted Beige Blonde shade.
Once the wizard finished grooming, he draped himself in a bathrobe and opened the door, venturing out into the empty dark hallway. Within moments he found himself through the threshold of his room, into his walk-in closet picking out his evening clothes.
There was a knock at his door, but he had left it open behind him. In the darkness he could see nothing, until he turned around. A floating, shimmering pale ball of light by the door almost blinded him.
‘Edward?’ said Fringe, his voice was quiet, as if he were loath to find out if it was “Ed”, or if one of the “old man’s” creatures of chaos, shadows or darkness broke out of the mausoleum beneath the cliffs... Again.
When the pale light disappeared and the room lit up with the electrical surge of the lamps on the ceiling and the lamps around the end tables and his desk, there were shiny black leather shoes before him. His eyes followed up from the shoes, up to the grey striped suit—It was the other Fringe, Edward Fringe.
The man appeared no older than 50, three or four inches shorter than Arkadiusz. Edward had a thick brushy mane of grey atop his head, and atop his lip was a black moustache. His eyes an azure blue. The shoulders looked wide though that might have been due to the suits he wore. And the suit he wore now was double breasted, underneath it an almost black shirt with a black tie. He took a step forward and it was as if the whole house creaked beneath his feet. The man said nothing. Only raised his finger and beckoned Arkadiusz to follow him outside.
While Edward waited, Arkadiusz draped himself in a cloak of deep dark purple, following him into the hallway.
‘It attacked again, Arek!’ said the other Fringe.
Arkadiusz was about to say something, but Edward raised his hand:
‘It murdered another child, tonight, the parents have yet to find out but the ravens and crows bicker amongst themselves as to who will get the eyes—the murderer left the window wide open.’
‘I haven’t been away that long… Are you ok?’ Arkadiusz scratched the top of his head.
Edward moved further down the hallway, conjured another ball of light from the palm of his hand, it followed him across the darkness. Arkadiusz followed the old man too. Down the hallway the two wizards walked, their footsteps were silent. The silence was broken by the thunderous scream out from somewhere North, in the hills, proceeded by a bright flash of white cutting through the darkness of the atrium. They descended down the stairs towards the front door, to the side of which was a coat hanger with Edward’s navy-blue trench coat. After he had put it on, he spoke:
‘I have never been this close, but I will need your help. You still do magic, right?’
Arkadiusz nodded. They stepped out into the dark wild, though they walked at a normal, human pace, the world turned miles and miles with each of their steps, before Arkadiusz figured out what kind of spell the old man cast on them both, they were already in the quiet suburban neighbourhood. The bright yellow lamps illuminated their faces, a little of the road, the parked cars and barely anything else in the dead silent dark street. Neat parlour trick.
‘We could’ve died just then.’ Arkadiusz said.
But Edward moved towards a house at a pace of a normal human being.
‘First of all,’ the blond wizard continued, ‘how did we not hit a tree, or a car, or walk into the side of a hill?’
Following the old man, he found that he too could walk normally again. His questions weren’t answered, instead Edward simply shushed him down, hovered his hand on the door handle. There was a click behind the door, he opened it and the two of them went inside. But before he passed through the doorway, there was a cackling laughter of crows, up from the branches of a nearby leafless tree.
Inside, they went up a staircase, past a few closed doors until they reached one where Edward stopped. He opened the door into a room filled with boxes of computer components and G.I. Joe action figures, walls plastered with posters of foreign bands and monster trucks, the window on the opposite side of the room was wide open, the drapes were still in a swaying position, as if frozen mid-motion in the wind. The door behind them closed. And the drapes were blue.
A woman in the room already stood over the body—A woman with long red hair collected into a ponytail. A long coat, like Edward’s, hanged down her shoulders, but hers wrapped all around her with a belt, tight, secure. She stood over the obese body in the corner of the room. She hopped and faced them, her hair swinging behind her head as she did so.
‘Get out of here Fringe, this is my case now!’
‘Verra Van Viurra,’ Edward started, his voice so dry it almost cracked, ‘I don’t recall this area being under the jurisdiction of the half-minotaur-half-mermaid consulate.’
Verra hissed, ‘a family of half-minotaur-half-mermaids living across the street makes this a threat to them, therefore under our jurisdiction, now get out of here before I report you to the Half-Circle.’
The obese boy’s body lied on a Ferrari shaped bed; mouth gaped ajar, toothless.
‘You’ll never catch who did it.’ Edward snapped.
Verra Van Viurra stared at Edward.
Arkadiusz looked around the room, at the messy drawers, at the shimmering glow from a nightlight by the bedside, up at the plain ceiling. Turning around he looked at the door. ‘The kid, he’s really dead?’
Verra snapped, ‘this your new assistant? Is he blind too?’
‘Get out of here V, this is my case—I’ve been tracking the killer down for months.’
‘You haven’t been doing a good job of it, have you?’
Edward looked at the shadows, at the darkness engulfing the dead child.
‘What about the parents? Where are they?’
‘The consulate’s chronomancers prevent them getting in the way and keep the evidence… fresh.’
‘I didn’t know the consulate had time players.’ Arkadiusz said.
‘Not exactly “time”, just a small bubble of it, only under specific parameters, only affecting the Mundanes.’ Ed started, ‘No need for something more powerful when it’s just a Mundane, right?’
‘Still, the consulate wouldn’t be so kind as to keep such a powerful spell going for a freelancer, would they?’ Edward raised his eyebrows.
‘No.’ Verra’s voice was steeped in quiet defeat.
After she left, the air around became lighter, specs of dust flew about in the rays of blue moonlight coming from the window.
‘Is this all you needed me for, old man?’
Edward looked at the blond wizard, ‘Don’t call me “old”, Arek.’
‘To get rid of whoever got first dibs on the case?’
‘This is my case. She’d only have gotten in the way—your mere presence meant she had no choice but to leave.’ Edward raised the pillow beneath the boy’s head, there was a see-through little bag with a little tooth inside. He left it there, placing the pillow and the boy’s head back down.
‘No sense in putting up a fight when it’s two against one?’ Arkadiusz smirked, looked at the body of the child and shook his head.
‘Even with the chronomancers’ help, it’s elemental. Their spells are unravelling now.’
‘Hold on.’ said Edward, walking up to the bed.
He took out a vial of green glowing liquid from his trench coat pocket. But pouring it into the gaping mouth of the child, Arkadiusz grabbed at his hand, caused him to spill most of it. A little still dripped into the mouth.
‘Necromancy?’ Arkadiusz scoffed.
‘You have no idea how many have died before I managed to scrounge enough power to earn this. The deals I had to make.’
The eyes of the carcass glowed green, like a cat’s, the child’s face became white like snow, his skin cracked around his mouth and nose.
‘Damn it Edward!’ Arkadiusz pulled the old man away from the bed.
‘Tell me what it looked like.’ was all the old Fringe said to the nightmare waking up.
The boy sat up on his bed, tried to say something, whatever part of him was still human panicked at the realisation of having no teeth. The boy wept covering his mouth.
‘What did it look like!’ Edward screamed.
‘This is torture!’ Arkadiusz snapped.
The boy’s mouth shivered; the crumbling skin flaked away beneath his lips.
‘What was it? A bright light? a dark thing shrouded in a black cloth? A sprite of fire?’ Edward shrugged the other wizard away.
‘G-a girwl...r…re…ha…r’ The boy’s speech muffled, impeded by the lack of teeth.
The green faded from the boy’s eyes, and the pigment of his skin returned from pale to fair, and the boy fell down back onto the bed.
There was shouting, a scream from the other side of the door.
‘Teleport.’ said Edward to Arkadiusz.
When the door burst open, the two wizards were gone.
The blond Fringe’s first thought was that of home, but even when he appeared at his own doorstep, there were faint screams of a mother running to her child, fading, and then gone.
‘What was the point of all this?’ he looked around, but he was alone on the porch of the mansion.
The night was dark, clouds hid away the moon. The whole structure before him creaked, the beams supporting the mansion on the edge of the cliff groaned. He took a step forward. Tried to. His boot was stuck into the floorboard—just the slight bit of the sole he had to unwedge from the now permanent heel imprint on the porch.
Lamenting on how he’d never again use teleport magic in a rush, he went inside.
Edward zapped past the stairs, heading towards the library. Arkadiusz followed him further in. Now the interior was well lit in the electric yellow, energy-efficient dim lights upon the walls not covered by paintings or taken up by windows.
The library itself was a warehouse of tall birchwood shelves, lit by diamond chandeliers hanging from the ceiling scattering the light in all nooks and crannies below. The first row of books blocked the view of the rest of the library. However the mirrors at the corners of the warehouse, to his left and right, revealed row after row of bookcases—Arkadiusz could even see a reflection of himself. The air inside the library was musty with an aging, possibly moulding paper. Edward stopped by a desk at the front with a single lamp on it.
‘It was a girl!’ Edward sounded baffled, but Arkadiusz wasn’t sure if in fury or in excitement at the discovery.
‘You brought that boy back, ripped his soul from the ether, just to ask questions?’
‘You don’t understand!’ Edward screamed, while his hands waved about, the books and tomes flung themselves off the shelves and down to the desk, ‘it obviously isn’t a girl.’
Arkadiusz had enough of this.
‘Something that presents itself as feminine.’ Ed muttered, ‘Why? To be perceived as trustworthy? We don’t live in those kind of times anymore.’
After a brief pause he continued, ‘all this time I suspected some demon with a human tooth fetish… or some disgruntled spirit, but I think I know who murdered all those children now.’
One of the tomes on the desk cracked open to a page with a sketch, drawing the attention of the blond wizard. The sketch, it was of fluttering wings, long smooth legs, alluring thighs and hips, motherly shaped bust and chaotic, frizzy hair covering the entirety of the area where the face should have been.
‘Are you serious?’ barked Arkadiusz.
As if by some omnipresent realisation, he widened his eyes.
‘We’re not alone here.’ Arkadiusz ran out of the library and back into the main hall.
Shattered shadows flickered about on the floor, caused by something in place of a body or something no longer present in the room. Whatever lingered here moved on, its shadow remained.
Arkadiusz conjured up a gleaming ball of bright light, it hovered above the palm of his hand. The shadow on the floor scattered into a thousand pieces, faded like fog, then regaining its intensity formed into sharp lines like daggers pointed at his feet, as if in a threat. The light he summoned up wasn’t strong enough. He was never good at that sort of magic; he underestimated the power of this… shadow… He wasn’t sure what he faced now.
‘Ed!’ his lungs filled with choking terror as his voice died out.
The shadow engulfed him, swallowed him whole, the weight of it climbing upon his shoes, he could barely walk. The scattered shadows, like snakes, wrapped all around him. The grip around his neck tightened. It got into his mouth. His teeth were pulled at, one by one. Tested. Then one tooth, searing pain, taste of blood in his mouth. The blond wizard’s arms flailed as he fell to the ground. The one light he had created floated up, dispersed into the darkness. He was alone, weak, unable to cast another spell—not like any came to his mind. Before his vision faded into the haunting familiar void, there was light.
A dim, distant speck of dust, a shining diamond reflecting the rays of the sun in the sea of black, at first. When the raging fiery ball grew to the size of a fist, the shadow killing Arkadiusz weakened enough for him to free himself from its grasp.
Edward stepped in, banished the shadow. Arkadiusz did not see exactly what happened, his vision still a blur. His mouth in pain.
‘I don’t think that was it.’ Edward offered a hand to help the blond wizard up, along with his words, ‘it’s certainly not a coincidence, however.’
‘My tooth! It’s gone.’
Edward looked about the place, scratching his moustache.
Arkadiusz searched the floor and carpets yet could not find the tooth anywhere.
Once he was on his feet again, the old man walked back into the library. But the young wizard went first to the bathroom, to inspect the damage. His back right molar was gone. Blood oozed out of the gap where it was, he washed it down with water, at first. Gargling the miracle of science, Colgate Plax mouthwash, it stung his mouth. His eardrums rang with pain. He was no good at biomancy, so creating a new tooth was out of the question. He’ll need to get that checked. Later.
Before leaving the bathroom, in the pale light there was a hint of ginger return to his blond hair. He winced.
‘What the hell was that?’ the young wizard asked, once he made his way back into the library.
The old wizard had stood over the desk with tomes of books. Edward flicked a page before answering:
‘I don’t know.’
‘But the protective spells, the myriad of cloaking enchantments?’
‘Perhaps one of the runes is broken?’
‘I’ll send Fred to check.’ said Arkadiusz.
‘I wouldn’t be surprised if that pet rock of yours was the one that broke the cloaking runes.’
‘Pet rock lobster.’
Edward shrugged, ‘I’ll find out what this shadow creature was, you check the runes.’
With a heavy sigh, Arkadiusz walked out of the library.
There were potentially four places where his rock lobster could have caused damage to the runes—there were rocks outside placed surrounding the mansion, in a half circle where there was ground. Their protection extended to the cliff-hanging side of the building. Each one had a rune of its own, a protective word. Leximancy. Then there were runes on the doorframes to the exterior: the front door, the kitchen back door and the hidden exit. But getting to the hidden exit was a rather painful experience because he’d have to walk down the hallway of “shame” to get to it. He didn’t know why Edward was so keen on installing the thing.
The moon glowed bright through the clouds now. When the clouds dispersed the entire front yard of the mansion revelled in a dim, blue light. But the stones outside the mansion were fine. Untouched, the words were clear, so their magic should have been strong. Looking further afield before a patch of forest there were three wells side by side, no more than a meter apart. Odd—he looked around and couldn’t remember what he was thinking about. He turned back to the mansion. So the stones outside of the manor protected it still. The front door was protected, also, so was the kitchen entrance—unfortunately. This left only one possibility.
Arkadiusz walked down the hallway of shame.
‘You’re a failure!’ came a disembodied voice from the darkness.
But Arkadiusz could almost see the door on the other side of the hallway—perhaps that was enough? How else could something have snuck into the place? That must be it!
‘Killer!’ the disembodied voice screamed at the wizard.
‘They’re still waiting for you!’ An echo pierced through the wizard’s eardrum, before he closed the door, back in the mansion proper. He never killed anybody, yet those accusations still stung.
He sighed, relieved. He didn’t check the hidden exit, but after checking everywhere else, it was the only place that could have been compromised. Possibly. Certainly. He was sure of it.
‘You didn’t check it.’ was the first thing Edward said when Arkadiusz came back to the library.
‘I couldn’t find Fred.’ said the blond wizard.
But upon Ed’s desk there were now four or five different books and tomes, open on different pages containing hundreds of lines of tiny text on each. But he read out of a scroll, some ancient scribble and drawing, that looked vaguely like a shadow dividing itself.
‘You think the shadow is connected to the killer?’ the young Fringe asked.
‘It followed us here?’
Edward nodded again.
‘But we teleported!’
‘Yes.’ Edward said, ‘I know.’
The lights went out, the whole place around them creaked, the floorboards beneath them groaned. Edward conjured a small ball of light and continued reading.
‘So…’ Arkadiusz almost jumped up when the lights came back on for a second, everything except for the floating ball of light went dark again, ‘it’s tearing the place apart, whatever it is.’
‘It’s a being of great magical power,’ Edward started, ‘to be able to trace the residual meta-particles generated and leftover by the human use of magic. What we encountered out there was but its shadow.’
‘What is it?’
‘It’s a fairy.’
‘No.’ Maybe Arkadiusz misheard.
‘A tooth fairy, to be precise.’
The lights went back on, stayed on. Both wizards looked into each other’s eyes, as if deep in conversation through them.
‘It being a fairy, a being of pure magic, it can take any and all forms. According to this book.’ Edward held up the tome with the sketches, surrounded by text. ‘And yet, it chooses a specific appearance. Vanity? Perhaps?’ he put the book down.
The two wizards inspected the damage around the mansion. A few broken floorboards, a few burned out light bulbs, the china set ruined.
But the young blond wizard could not find his pet rock lobster anywhere.
‘Arek!’ screamed Edward. He was outside, waiting at the porch.
The young wizard ran out to find him standing over a box.
Edward opened it, peeked into it, turning away, closed it.
‘What’s in the box?’ asked young Fringe.
Edward stood in his way, with his arms up preventing him from getting any closer.
‘What’s in the box?’ the blond wizard repeated.
Arkadiusz pushed through, running up to the box, opening it, eyes widening at the sight of what was inside. A bunch of rocks, a stone pincer still clapping a little, it slowed down, stopped. Its little head, shiny beady black rock eyes, looked up as if in recognition of its human. Their shine faded, gone.
‘Fred…’ the blond wizard cried. However, something caught his eye, inside the box—a long, single strand of red hair.
‘Get over it.’ said Edward, ‘We need to do more research, otherwise it’ll kill again.’
The old wizard turned in place, staring at Arkadiusz.
‘It knows where we live now. It’ll attack again. Think about it, we know what it is, we know where it is…’ the blond wizard looked up at Edward, once again it was as if they talked through their eyes—they may have spoken their words, but their eyes contained the true meaning.
‘Yes,’ said Edward, stroking his moustache, ‘we do know where it is. It’ll only take us moments to track it down and catch it, at long last!’ he spoke loudly, as if for someone else to hear their conversation.
‘And it’s all thanks to Fred,’ Arkadiusz stood up, looking around, ‘the little rock managed to pincer off a hair from the killer!’
‘Well, well, well!’ a vertical line of a person wrapped in a grey trench came out from behind three wells.
She approached them, stopped, resting her foot atop one of the rune stones. Her hair, long and red, flowed chaotically in the wind, even when wrapped in ponytail.
Arkadiusz recognised her—couldn’t place her name.
‘You’re… that investigator…’ the blond wizard said.
‘Arek.’ Edward placed his hand on the younger wizard’s shoulder.
Verra’s face cracked into a smile, one that drew a deep, dark line beyond her lips.
‘You killed my shadow.’ she shouted across the field at them, face darkening in the pale moonlight.
‘Wait,’ Arkadiusz put the pieces together in his head.
‘Yes, well…’ Edward crossed his arms, speaking louder, so Verra could hear, ‘you sent it to kill us, and how many children have you killed?!’
‘I can’t believe it worked.’ Arkadiusz had an almost entirely different conversation than the one between Verra and Edward.
‘More than the combined age of the both of you—’ Verra spoke, but Arkadiusz walked towards her.
‘Are you stupid?!’
Verra gasped, but the sound of her voice broke into a stinging screech. A combination of a sponge scraping the surface of a blackboard and a low bass growl.
Arkadiusz cringed, covered his ears.
Verra raised her hand, placed it in front of her, hitting the barrier—the protective invisible shell in place thanks to the runes. But something seeped inside, through a cut in her hand. A shadow, a darkness. She took a step into the barrier, and the body of Verra leaned into it, as if one were to lean on a window. The darkness spilled from her body, onto the patch of grass beyond the barrier. It grew into an amalgamation of all engulfing darkness.
‘Arek, now’s not the time!’ Edward summoned up a bolt of lightning within the palm of his hands, stretching it into an unstable spear.
‘It was a bluff! You fell for a bluff!’
‘Damn it Arkadiusz, get back here!’
But the darkness swallowed Arkadiusz whole—a ball of utter void had formed around him.
A low growl burst into a deep laughter.
Striking the thing with lightning could kill Arkadiusz inside, Ed couldn’t do anything—not until Verra changed into a tangible form and spat the fool wizard out. But how could he force it to change?
‘What the hell are you?’ Edward screamed at the darkness surrounding the mansion, himself near swallowed up by the void.
‘I’m the motherfucking tooth fairy!’ the void replied.
Edward ran inside, the doors would only hold it back for so long. Making his way to the library the door thrashed and crashed behind him. He was in the library now, he ran into the corner, to the mirror reflecting the rows of bookcases, making them visible from the entrance. He grabbed the mirror by its frame, and as the floorboards creaked behind him, he turned at the void.
The darkness let out a shriek, shattering any glass nearby, cracking the mirror in Edward’s hand, but it was enough. The form corporeal: a woman with rags wrapped tight around her body, with giant butterfly wings, eyes burning fire, bracelets and necklaces made of teeth. Of course. Arkadiusz was on the floor, whinging in pain, mumbling, toothless.
Edward winced for a moment, the corporeal woman smiled, revealing rows of shark teeth. He conjured a bolt of lightning, stray sparks flew around him, he was sorry to use any kind of destructive spells around his precious books, but the thing in front of him deserved no less than a bolt through its heart!
He threw lightning like a spear at her. It went through her, scorched her rags and skin, revealing naked breasts. But she laughed.
Before he could summon another bolt, she came up to him, kissed him.
‘You’re the only one that ever got this close.’ her voice was the hissing of snakes, ‘die!’
He was powerless. Her shadow engulfed him, made him watch as she laughed, as it pulled his teeth out one by one. Yet he still heard her laughter over his agonising screams.
Everything around them stopped.
Arkadiusz froze, Verra’s image burned into Edward’s psyche, frozen too. The dust was still in the air as the rays of moonlight burst through some hole in the ceiling, or a window maybe. He couldn’t breathe, but it was like he didn’t need to. They all stayed, keeping their expressions, stuck in time until through the doorway came a pack of robed figures. Some heads were of bulls, hopping on fish tails, others looked completely human. All wore burgundy and magenta robes with salmon-coloured linings. They wrapped Verra in chains of ivory, tangled her in a web of silk spider-web, for good measure wrapped her in post-it-notes covered in ancient sealing runes. One of the bullheads came up to Edward and spoke in a gruff human voice:
‘The Half-Minotaur-Half-Mermaid Consulate appreciates your cooperation in apprehending a suspected serial murderer. For your aid we will not charge you or report you to the Society governing body for violating several of Laws of the Magi. Have a nice day.’
They came, they took the tooth fairy, and they left.
Time flowed, slowly at first judging by the dust falling as if in slow motion. The pain in Edward’s mouth returned. Damn it. The consulate took the murderer, their teeth too.
The bright pink and orange disc hovered about, above the horizon of the channel as the waves crashed into the cliffs, somewhere in the south of England. Edward and Arkadiusz sat on the steps of the mansion hanging off the edge of the cliffs.
‘So is this it?’ Arkadiusz struggled to mumble with his mouth, toothless. ‘Will you retire in peace now, Ed?’
Edward responded, mumbling more, ‘I could make myself younger again and keep at it.’ Even through their toothless conversation, they could understand each other through their eyes.
‘It’s not like I haven’t done that before.’ Edward continued, ‘today is a great example of why I should. If I am only 75 and feel so tired and drained, I cannot imagine what others like us must feel.’ Edward rubbed his hands together, as if trying to warm them up by a fire that wasn’t there.
‘We’ve done good work.’ Arkadiusz, still mumbling, ‘Though I don’t doubt endings like these are commonplace?’
Edward shook his head, with a smile revealing his gums.
‘This isn’t what I want to do—’ Arkadiusz started.
‘Catching murderers? Helping people?’ Ed cut him off.
‘Who did we help?’ the blond wizard continued, ‘I have no idea what I want to do. Whatever it is, won’t include stooping to necromancy.’
Hearing those mumblings, Edward’s smile upon his lips vanished. The old man looked at the horizon, at the sun coming up in a red boiling orb bathing the sky scarlet.
But Arkadiusz kept mumbling, ‘not that you’d have any reason to care—but it’s not been easy for me lately. It’s like there are these voices inside me, conflicting personas of who I am, who I want to be and who I was. But I can hardly recollect any of them. I’m losing myself. Every day feels the same, yet the agony and anger dwell inside, and I know I shouldn’t feel this way but I can’t keep going like this. Something has to change.’
‘I couldn’t care more.’ Edward twirled his black moustache, ‘that is to say, I really do care.’