I show the bus driver my sword and he puts down the gun and lets me get on. He’s not happy and the ticket curls in my hand like sharp-edged glyphs. I’m sitting down next to a dead man coming from the hospital, he has blue eyes and tattooed hands. I don’t want to speak to him, put the sword between my legs like an umbrella and pretend to actually read the ticket I got. Like there will be something new on it. (I won’t wear headphones. Need the awareness.) Driver hacked the syntax (they do that now) Enochian tripwire off-peak return runs over my hand and under my nails like ink. Negative-image paintball-eightball fluorescein-haemorrhage eyeball winks out behind a cloud somewhere on my visions edge and I know it has been summoned and a daemon will come for me soon. That’s another thing added to my schedule. I could call customer services, but who does? And probably the daemon will be late.
I going to kill a man in a car-park in the centre of town. He’s evil and practiced in one-hundred martial styles. It makes sense. ‘ninety-nine’ and ‘one-oh-one’ are both good numbers to have. So if you sit in the middle somewhere you can learn one more style, if you need it, or forget one and you still sound like it’s part of a plan you already had. I took the contract in a dream. Now you’ve heard that before but wait. This one was legit. And dull, see? I dreamed an interview, and there were multiple people there, and I dreamed grey desks, waiting, old computers brittle smiles coffee offers a powerpoint presentation and multiple forms. And no-one mentioned the pay till the end. When I woke up I texted a guy I knew that I saw in the waiting room and he had the same dream to a T. So I think it’s real. It’s a real as anything else anyway.
I suppose I’ll know for sure when we start fighting. The man in the powerpoint slides seemed pretty bad.
I should talk to the ghost but he’s dying again in a memory I can’t see and the tattoos on his hands are blurring. But the tattoos are the watchful eyes of sailing ships in sealight blue. And stygioabyssal seamen wear them as protection from the Deep. And then I crack that the bus is under attack. And the ghost is getting pre-traumatic-stress from his tattoos, men will die here soon. So I’m bracing when the windows crack and the axel rips and space inverts as the torn-up bus goes flying through the air. Fucking glass. Back hits the seat. Don’t drop the sword. Screaming, but not much. That’s how it is here. I hope it’s that fucking daemon as it serves the driver right. Push past the ghost, wrap my hands in my coat and heave over the glass-edge.
It’s the guy.
Did he fucking chi-kick the bus out of its lane? That’s not a martial style. No. He blew it up. Because he’s spas-flicking the detonator in his hands like a retard trying to wank and nothings going off. More bombs somewhere probably. This whole thing is typical of evil people and I should have thought ahead. Public transport in this city is bad enough. Too late now. I stand up on the ruined bus and unsheathe Yggdrasil, my sword. The firelight from a burning tyre catches on the bronze of the military horseman whose plinth has caught the bus. The pigeons have the decency to flee, for once. An ashy curl of wind plays with my scarf as I level Yggdrasil and shout. “You! The cunt in the red trackies! I fucking challenge you!” Say what you like, the city still knows how to put on a show. The shopkeepers and crowds can see it’s going down, they look depressed. Owners sneak outdoors to slowly lower protective metal sheathes, Tesco workers run. If I can burn down one fucking Tesco during this fight I will have done well. The fight begins.
Guy leaps back behind the wheel of his nox-pink phobodelic smartcar and cranks it. I think he’s going to run but no. Slimline pins ease out, crabclaws unfold, it’s a mech. A small one, nine feet high, but still. This is even more typical of evil people. I dive from the bus, crash roll forward and feel Yggdrasil’s tip scrape sparks off the ground as I semi-somersault forward. I’m sure it looked really cool. He’s twisting a big console-control up there in the cab of his gay car. (I’ve tried to stop calling things gay but this car is fucking gay.) Overarm blow sends nine-inch scissor blades hammering to pin me like a fly. Predicted. I dance-move right and swing. A ‘ping ping ping’ and three cleaver-fingers spang through the air. (Yggdrasil hates evil and grows sharper in the presence of the bad. They say if a good man holds her she goes blunt. This hasn’t happened to me.) If I hadn’t cut his carfingers off that hand would probably still be lodged in the tarmac.