Chrysanthemum looked at the strange man. Standing with a crooked back, the stranger looked more like a vulture than anything. His hair swept up into a spiky mohawk, and tattoos scrawled every inch of his exposed skin, as if he were afraid of being naked.
The strangest thing, though, of course, were his ears. They were but stumps on the sides of his head, covered by a white gauze strap. Chrysanthemum tilted her head to the side, reminiscent of an owl, as they walked into the man’s house.
Chrysanthemum’s boots thudded against the wooden floor. She took a few steps and her foot hitched on a piece of brass lying on the ground. She picked it up, and it gleamed with a golden heat, as if a flame had burnt it off of something. She placed it back and looked around her even more. The only mundane thing was the random clothesline strung across two wooden poles, and dry articles of clothing hanging from it. There were floating balls of brass, moving about by some impeccable force that kept it levitating. One bumped into Chrys, and she let out a small squeak. “Oh, much apologies,” she said.
The ball looked up at her, nodded once, and then turned and floated over to where the no-eared man and the two Collegium people spoke.
She kept looking around. She found a couch with one of its springs jutting out of the foam, a turned off television, and a peculiar flower that bloomed petals without any connection to the stem. They floated like little flower-shaped planets orbiting a star. She furrowed her delicate eyebrows at this. She gazed longingly, and then, without warning, a flash of memory.
She gasped and stepped back. Three more flashes of memories long-gone. Delusory, illusory phantasms of a life she never lived.
An entire garden of these kinds of flowers. Silhouettes of tall figures with antlers on their heads. A large archaic sword being brought down a poor old creature that looked like those flowers.
“Are you okay?” Oberen stood above her, shaking her, gripping her hand.
Chrys nodded tentatively. Oberen helped her up, and Chrysanthemum let herself be whisked away by this dark-haired, ocean-eyed boy. “Thank you muchly,” Chrys said, smiling up at him.
Oberen gazed into Chrysanthemum’s eyes for a split second. A second that seemed forever. The unnerving sight of another soul looking into her own froze Chrysanthemum. There was a fleeting, wistful memory. A whispering reminiscence that echoed down the floods of her soul, echoing feelings of alienation and vehemence. She stared into Oberen’s soul, so well-structured.
So delicious, she thought.
The second ended. Oberen blinked. His worried expression melted into a smile. “Quinen’s looking for you.”
Chrysanthemum blinked. “Right, right. Yes.” She nodded, turned and walked across the wooden floor of the slum house.
Quinen was looking down at the no-eared man as he worked. He turned and saw Oberen assisting Chrysanthemum, sharply inhaling when he saw Oberen gripping Chrysanthemum’s hand. Oberen, seeing Quinen’s disapproval, broke away and walked up to him, still smiling.
“So what information have you gotten so far?” He asked, a smooth transition. An abyssal black crept across the white of Chrys’ eyes as she looked at Oberen. Quinen exhaled, and Chrysanthemum gasped. The black receded, and vanished.
Quinen blinked and turned to Oberen. “Akyrie doesn’t make Angel Dust.”
Akyrie nodded, turning to Quinen. “That’s right. I don’t make those — those are made by Alchemy. I only do Chemistry, see? Only mundane drugs, nothin’ magickal. But I have experienced it before.”
Quinen gesticulated for Akyrie to continue.
“Okay you see things, man. You see things.” A flash. A color pulsed through the vine-like markings that criss-crossed the aflr’s skin like railway lines of a city. A pink color of reminiscence and memory. Then, it faded, the color turning into the black that made it blend so well with the rest of his tattoos. “You go to sleep, and you go through this place of pure chaos, man. Like, you don’t remember what happens, just that it felt fuckin’ good, right?”
Chrysanthemum listened, her eyebrows furrowed. “I don’t know what place I went to, and I’ve only done it once.” Akyrie continued. Quinen raised an eyebrow. “That’s because I also remember the feelin’ o’ bein’ chased, you know? It’s like in those dreams where you’re bein’ chased by some black shadow, but this one felt real.” A flash of color again through the markings that weren’t his tattoos; A dark blue: fear. “It felt real. I still feel it ‘til now,” he gripped his arms, hugged his chest. Some very anthropic gestures. The cold dark blue color hummed darkly within his markings. “I feel like it’s gon’ jump out anytime and get me, you know?”
“You get this from just one instance of taking the drug?” Oberen asked.
Akyrie nodded. “That place isn’t something you go back to. Half the people I know that took Angel Dust never came back.”
“What happened to them?” Quinen asked.
“Well,” he began. He scratched his mohawk. His glowing markings slowly faded back into a neutral black, but not before one final, intense flash of dark blue ran through them. He shivered.
All this time, Chrysanthemum realized, Akyrie had been conveying his emotions through his markings, but he still performed very anthropic gestures like scratching the back of his head and shivering in fear.
The alfr she remembered never showed emotion — their markings did that for them. She also remembered that alfr had pointy ears.
“Well?” Quinen urged the alfr to continue.
“Well their body parts would turn into different things, like animal parts or plant parts, just sprouting out every part of ‘em.”
Oberen’s eyes widened. He turned to Quinen, who had squinted and just nodded. “Do you know any alchemical drug dealer?”
The alfr shrugged. “I’m sure lots of them were from the Collegium.” Chrysanthemum found herself watching Quinen as he listened. His eyebrows were furrowed — there was a slight part in his auburn brows that weren’t quite right. As if something had cut him. His eyes were strange too. Dark brown, as black as angels. She bit her lip. She furrowed her eyebrows. She remembered her dad telling her that — that only angels had the blackest of eyes.
Wait. Did she have a dad?
“Thank you very much,” Quinen said, bowing a bit. “You’re a great help, Akyrie.”
He grinned. His teeth were surprisingly well-cleaned. “Don’t mention it. If ya need anything, especially concerning stuff you need to get fuckin’ blasted out of your mind, I’m right here.”
Quinen managed a soft smirk. “Yes,” he said, nodding.
They went out of the slum city and picked up another brown cab. Quinen told the cab driver their destination, as if he didn’t want Chrysanthemum to hear their destination. “Where are we going now?” Chrysanthemum asked. Quinen’s eyes widened a bit, and he nodded. He turned to her as the brown cab moved forward. He sat between Oberen and Chrysanthemum.
“Listen, Chrys,” he whispered. “I think you should go back home right now. I don’t think you should be coming with us anymore. It wouldn’t be safe.”
Chrysanthemum furrowed her eyebrows. “What do you mean?” She asked. “Are you going to murder?”
Quinen breathed, and he shook his head. “No. No don’t think that. I won’t. It’s just… there might be some stuff that wouldn’t be too good to see, you know? I don’t think you should come along. I just want you safe.”
Chrysanthemum stared into Quinen’s eyes, as he gazed into hers. There was nothing for a bit, before a vicious lust and desire consumed her. Her heart and spirit hungered for his lifeblood, for his essence, for his very core. Her mouth hung open as she slowly leaned forward into Quinen.
Quinen blinked thrice, and then Chrysanthemum came to. She had to shut her eyes tight as she realized what was happening. She pressed her lips together. She could feel Quinen’s cold hands cupping her cheeks. “I’m sorry.”
Quinen didn’t answer. When Chrysanthemum opened her eyes, she saw Quinen looking down, still holding her face, but he wasn’t meeting her eyes. His own eyes were closed, and his teeth were gritted. He puffed through his nose and looked up again at Chrysanthemum.
Chrysanthemum’s eyes defocused from Quinen for the quickest second, looking over at Oberen, who gazed out of the window with his chin on his fist. Quinen shook her, and she looked back at the Magicker.
Quinen gripped tighter.
The Warlock snarled a word, incomprehensible and basso. Power surged through Quinen, tempered by knowledge and directed by his Will. Then, Quinen stared intently into Chrysanthemum’s eyes, gritting his teeth. Chrys looked into Quinen’s eyes and was immediately struck by a vision of the void. She saw a pure blackness in Quinen’s eyes. She saw herself gazing at the void, and the void gazed back at her.
She gasped. It looked like she was going to scream.
Then, Quinen reached up, and opened the cab door. He turned to Oberen and said something Chrysanthemum couldn’t make out — their voices muted. As if she were listening to them through a feathered pillow.
Oberen just nodded. Quinen helped Chrysanthemum up and out of the brown cab, and it drove away from the curb of their apartment. Quinen gripped Chrysanthemum’s arm, bare skin gripping bare skin, and a white heat burned on her flesh.
Quinen popped open the lock of their flat with a handwave and a magickal Mantra. The door closed, and Quinen locked it behind them. Then, the Warlock slammed Chrys against the wooden door. Chrysanthemum felt no pain.
Gritting his teeth, he said, “I’ve always hated this part.”
Chrysanthemum’s eyes were wide, with her sclera turned into the most abyssal of blacks, void of stars. Quinen gripped Chrysanthemum’s arms. “Why’d it have to be now?” With another, snarling incomprehensible word, there was a popping sensation. Chrys looked into Quinen’s eyes and found his soul once again, filled with the Creational Force of Diwa. The beautiful essence of the very universe. The only thing that could sate Chrysanthemum’s hunger.
Quinen knew why. The Angel Dust. It must’ve triggered something within her, to spark off her monthly Hunger.
She growled an inhuman growl, deep and scratchy, making Quinen wince.
Then, Chrysanthemum leaned forward, and their lips touched. Quinen’s heart skipped. His vision swirled about him, the picture of Chrysanthemum on him swirling out of view. He had to close his eyes. As they held their position, an iridescent smoke wafted of their kiss, floating up and disappearing, as fleeting as it came. Quinen gripped Chrysanthemum as his legs buckled. He fell to his knees, and Chrysanthemum followed after him, their kiss unbroken.
Quinen opened his eyes, and before him flashed the locus of beautiful madness. Their ritual was completed, and he collapsed onto the floor. A little piece of his soul eaten away once again.
Quinen slumped onto the ground, while Chryanthemum stayed up, on her knees. The spots from where Quinen had been gripping her burned with a white hot glow, like the surface of a star. Her arms fell limp. She looked up, and her eyes burned technicolor neon, as if the black in her eyes had been tar set ablaze.
She looked up into nothingness, as she ate yet another part of Quinen’s soul.