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Atlas Park: The War - Issue Four

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In the Dark

The first time Blebbeh ever met Dae was only moments after he and Wrait split ways. Wrait was a person that she wouldn't have the pleasure of association with, at least not for a long while, but she was present for the last conversation he and Dae would have for five long years and then some.

It was night. The streets were so quiet that a leaf blowing in the wind would cast a sound throughout the city like a distant storm on the horizon. Blebbeh was hidden in plain sight, in the form of a raven, perched on a window ledge next to the two longtime partners.

"So, that's it. You're just gonna leave." Dae made every effort to come off strong, but the pain conquered his voice like he had never experienced anything else.

"You saw this coming, Dae. I made sure of that. You waited a long time to guilt-trip me." Wrait's words braved the same emotions.

"After all we've done together? Everything we've accomplished? You'd just walk away?"

"What did we accomplish? Yeah, we made some memories. We got shit done. We wore our lives on the sights of our pistols and for what?! The world isn't any better for what we've done and neither are we. Everything that we fought for and trolls still plague the world. People still starve in foreign countries. Working class citizens still struggle to pay rent. I have given everything and I have gotten nothing!"

"That is what you think?"

"Yeah... that's what I think.

Dae paused. He looked at every surrounding he could, from the cracks on the sidewalk to the leaf in the wind to the crow on the window ledge. Anything he could stare at to avoid eye-contact with Wrait, because it was always clear by the look in his eyes what he was thinking. Then, he brought his gaze back to the conversation.

"Wrait, you have burnt it into your mind that the world, since the moment you were born, has owed you some sort of debt. When you didn't get what you deserved, you felt cheated. Cheated out of something you were never promised in the first place. You can keep looking for fairplay, but you won't find it here."

"Then what's the point?"

"I am trying, trying so hard to tip the scales. I am trying to even the playing field and if I expect some sort of payback for that, than I defeat my own purpose."

"Keep trying, Dae, but I'm done." Wrait turned and walked away, all the while taking a long drag from his cigarette.

"Wrait!" Dae called after him.

He turned around. "What?!"

"Don't become nothing..."

Wrait left.

So, there was Dae. Alone on empty streets in the middle of the night. To Blebbeh, he might as well have been a lost dog with a wad of cash in its collar.

She made her move.

In one fluid motion, she morphed into her human self and matched his pace. As he turned the corner she followed close behind, silver dagger in hand. Her movements were inaudible, even in the dead night. 

He made it a block before he stopped, adjacent to a 'No Loitering' sign, and lit a cigarette. Blebbeh stopped with him, still certain that he was oblivious to her presence. She was a professional after all.

"You know, ravens are fascinating creatures." He spoke into the dark nothingness before him, with his back to Blebbeh. "They are extremely intelligent and have been known to imitate human speech. Amazing isn't it? Also, the last raven on this planet died half a century ago. The first one to show up is not going to do it in Atlas Park."

Blebbeh was frozen.

Dae continued. "Which means that you are something else entirely. You have to be."

Blebbeh painstakingly worked her voice out of her throat. "How did you know I was here?"

Dae didn't flinch when she talked. Instead, he seemed to not acknowledge her at all. "Ravens are fascinating creatures."

Blebbeh increased her volume. "I asked a question."

"I suppose you are a young skinwalker. A raven being your only alternate form. Otherwise you wouldn't have need of your human self. At least not practically."

Blebbeh was amazed at his knowledge on the subject, so much so that she couldn't manage further words.

"Had you been a more... seasoned skinwalker, you wouldn't need a dagger to kill a man. Although I do have to wonder why you would choose such a conspicuous silver one. One that could catch the light of a streetlamp and reflect in the windows. Must be sentimental. You aren't as professional as you think."

"And you are?"

"I am experienced." With that, Dae tossed his half-finished cigarette into a stormdrain and walked off.

Five years Later...

Blebbeh's body transmogrifies into that of a raven's in less than a second, with a cloud of ash to follow. Dae sprints unthinkingly towards a sudden and brief shriek captivating the barren streets of Atlas Park. Into the woods he goes, high above she flies.

As she takes wing, she bellows an adrenaline-induced cry from her elongated beak. But her readiness quickly dies down as she watches in horror, only minutes later, as he is demolished by trolls.

Hordes.

Fleets.

Armies.

She had been good friends with Dae for five years. In a way, she had served as a replacement, because those were the five years that Wrait went underground, figuratively speaking. She hadn't minded filling in, because even though she helped fill a void, she knew that to him, she was her own person. 

Now he was dead.

Then came the mushroom cloud. Orange and red and blistering with heat, it leveled nearly a quarter of the forest. Its vindictive flames enveloped the hordes and fleets and armies... and Dae. The air alone that it pushed away in its wake was enough to send Blebbeh into a free-fall for a few short seconds.

She caught herself and reassured the part of her mind that told her she was dead with a quick screech.

Even with all of the havoc that woke up the city in this one night, all Blebbeh could think of were those words that Dae had spoken to her when they first crossed paths.

'...You are something else entirely. You have to be.'

To be continued...

(Next Issue)

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