by Janelle Hara

Squid chewed on her raw lips, cracked open and bleeding from the sudden change of weather as she walked down the streets of Necropolis, contemplating piercing her cheek with a dart from her blow dart gun. Her Chimerical plane had just crashed into a very large building, causing no damage in the real world, being only a little styrofoam flier, which was by now being eaten away by the rain. She pulled off her aviator cap and looked it over as she thought about the way she had recently discovered the way the real world was. Banality, Glamour, all the other words she couldn't remember, that still didn't mean too much more to her than a giant aeroplane crashed into a building. She saw the dreaming as no more than a big orgy of hallucination, because to her, that was what made sense. She turned the flightcap over and ran her fingers over the initials carved on the inside. D. A. S. Her initials, Dever Anne Syders. "Vet was a long time ago" she said out loud. But it only seemed further away than it really was.

Just a few months earlier, for her eighteenth birthday, Denver found herself begging her father to let her go to New Orleans. She had saved her money, found out how to make hotel reservations, and buy bus tickets. Now the only thing remaining was to convince her step mother, Betsy, and she would leave that to her dad. Betsy hated smelly cities, crowded buses, fast cabs, trains and planes. She married Denver's father only on the pretense that they would move from the city to a suburb. That was Denver's first reason for hating Betsy. She was told about the move and not consulted. All her friends were in the city, and as dangerous as it could be, she had street smarts, could protect herself, and learned how to out right avoid trouble. She liked the lights at night, and the variety of people one could find in such a place. There was always something interesting to do, a new adventure to find, or create.

She figured it would be a long time, if at all, before her step mother would be convinced to let her go, but it was her father who almost stopped her from going. Her step mother shrugged and said

"She's your child not mine, if she doesn't return no gene pool loss here."

She smirked, trying to make her coldness seem like a witty joke, but Denver, eavesdropping, as usual, knew she just didn't care. She ran up to her pink painted room with the heavy flowery curtains, (Betsy's idea) and cried herself to sleep. When she woke up it was three in the morning. She had dreams of New Orleans, being both exciting and dark and disturbing. She went back downstairs where her father was sitting at the table drinking coffee.

"Hey dad, so can I go?"

Fighting a tear from rolling down his cheek, he loked up at his daughter with her pretty long brown hair and her blue eyes, and with a frog in his throat and said, "Yes honey, you can go."

He looked away from her and drank his coffee, a singal she knew mean he wanted to be alone. She went outside and stared up at the stars, hating Betsy, missing her old home and friends, and anxiously thinking of Mardi Gras.

A few days later she was on a bus to New Orleans, comparing what she had seen on tv to how actually being there would be. On the bus was an old man, who appeared to have rabbit ears, soft white fur growing in with his beard, whiskers, the pink eyes of an albino something, and even a somewhat rabbit looking nose. She blinked, rubbed her eyes and in disbelief continued to stare at him as he gazed peacefuly out the window. He didn't sem to notice her, infact, he didn't notice much of anything going on on the bus. She forced herself to look away from him for a moment, and her eyes were drawn to a movement on the back of the bus.

Squid looked down the next block where her eyes fell a chimerical building, something called...."a freyhoyld" she said aloud in her Johnny-Rotten-Brooklyn voice. To fae eyes and the enchanted it was a charming Bed and Breakfast, overcast by a shadow, or ghost of what was in the mundane world, an abandoned warehouse, it's roof probably letting in rain by now. She approached and opened the door, not ever having been in a freehold before. She looked around and glared at everyone. A Nocker Grump in the corner glared back at her and swore under his breath. She flashed him a sassy smile with her pearly white teeth, sharp and pointy as tiny ivory daggers, not very crooked, and only a few missing.

A young boy in the back of the bus was eyeing Denver, and instead of scaring her, his stare lured her. He was rather odd looking, like the man, and the longer she looked at him the more he seemed to change before her eyes. When she first looked at him his hair was short and brown, he was tall and somewhat skinney, and his eyes were blue or green, she couldn't tell because he was too far away. But after she looked at him for awhile another image of what he was came forth, seeming to be transparent, like the old man's rabbit ears. She stared at him, waiting for what she was seeing to go away, but it only became more clear and less transparent. By the time the image of his fae mien was done coming through like a developed photograph, his origional looks were hazy, and now they seemed like an alternate reality to her. Now his hair, falling down to his shoulders, some of it held back in a pony tail, was blue green and red streaks. His face had swirls of wild make up on it that matched his hair. His ears were long and pointed, the way she always pictured a real elf to look like. His eyes, undenyably blue now, were glowing, and sinking deep into hers, like a rock in mud. She wanted to scream out, in horror, perhaps to make realitly come back, to make her see rality again. She wanted to shut her eyes, blink even, and after staring at him for what seemed forever, she realised a strange type of haze taking over the entire bus. She turned around in her seat, closed her eyes tightly shut and passed out.

Squid turned away from the Nocker and to the balefire, something which she had never seen before. It glowed brightly with glamour. She walked over to it and looked around at all the people. By now she had gotten used to seeing Fae, and had known what to expect. Inside the freehold was a few childlings of different kiths, enjoying playing together. Then she spied him. A Slaugh in the corner, starkingly handsome, with long hair and large bat wings folded around himself coldly. He looked very unemotional, and in a sour mood, which was why she approached him.

When Denver woke it was because a hand was on her shoulder. It was a boy she had noticed out of the corner of her eye earlier when she was staring at Mr. Raibow hair. She opened her eyes and looked at him. It wasn't instant, but it came faster than before; a haze around the boy turned into an image, until the image swallowed him whole and he change completely. Rainbow Hair was on the steps of the bus smiling at her, waiting to see her get up and get off. She looked around, confused, and studied the guy touching her shoulder. He was very sweety looking, with short dark grey hair, that accented his soulful eyes, those of some unknown animal, and long whispy whiskers. She looked down at his hand, the back of which was lightly covered in a very warm looking grey fur. Then it hit her, he was a seal. She scratched her head and looked beside her. The rabbit man was gone. How long had she slept?

"Well are you f*cking coming or not?" said Rainbow boy.

"Don't worry about him. This isn't your stop." the seal boy said.

The bus was idling and the driver was in a shop inside the bus station getting something to eat. They weren't in New Orleans yet. She looked in her bag quickly at the note of paper she had with all the information she needed. The two boys exchanged looks. She shoved the paper back in her bookbag, grabbed her suitcase and stood up.

"Well, I am getting off Rainbow Brite, but where are you going?"

He raised an eyebrow, smiled, and exchanged glances with seal boy again.

"Mardi Gras, where else would all of us be going?" He swept his arm to the scene behind him, the bus station, filled with all sorts of people who looked part animal. Her head felt swimmy again, she hoped she wouldn't faint.

Squid approached the Slaugh very slowly and leaned against the table he was sitting at.

"Ello vair. You taste like chicken? You do got wings an all." She smiled evily at him.

He didn't warm, just looked at her and shifted in his seat not knowing what to think of her question.

"I don't know. I've never tasted myself," the Slaugh said quietly.

"You's got nice eyes, vem bein' sunken in an all"

"Thank you, It takes me hours to do my make up."

She twirled her hair around her finger, some yellow, some orange, ripped it out of her scalp and handed it to him. He wanted to smile, but was emberassed to because he didn't have any teeth. He looked at her, and she looked at him, both of them somewhat clueless as to what to do next. Trying to impress him she blew her nose on a hankie she pulled from her boot, turned to him and popped the hankie in her mouth, chewed for a second and licked her lips.

"I's lose more hankies vat way." She belched.

She then walked over to the bar, hoping he was watching her, hopped up onto the bar, poured herself a drink and layed across the bar on her back as she sipped it with a straw. She raised her knes, exposing her disgusting underwear to anyone who was at just the right angle. The Nocker Grump glanced, but quickly turned away. The Slaugh looked, and looked. Then she sat up quickly and in one quick motion she hit the Slaugh in the shoulder with a suction cup dart. He slowly looked at the dart, then to Suid, who was now laying on her stomache on the bar, exposing her clevage as he handed her the dart.

"Would you like this back?" he whispered.

On the next bus, a school bus converted into a privately owned and operated tour bus with special rates, run like a cab directly to New Orleans during Mardi Gras, Denver sat in her own seat in the back of the bus surrounded by strange looking people.

"Welcome to the real world. I take it you just woke up from a really nice dream. I'm Seal, you know, the singer, and this is my side kick, Al, he does time traveling... and we're going to a party. Wanna come?"

He smiled warmly, and she could see tiny sharp teeth beyone his fuzzy nose. The bunny man was back on the bus, still sitting in the front though. She turned to the Nocker.

"Okay, you seem to be able to communicate well..."

"You mean other than the bitching and swearing all the damn time, just the fact that I don't speak in riddles like this dunderhead has been for the past five minutes since we boarded the bus, you think you can play twenty questions with me? Okay, but let me answer them before you can ask. First off I am Car-Lee Nocker" He spoke skillfully fast.

He extended his hand in salutation, which she uneasily took. He then pulled out a cigarette and lit it. When the wind blew in the window and hit the match, the flame touched his fingers and he threw it down cursing under his breath. He looked to be about 16 or 17, street wise, maybe a runaway, but his mannerisms were that of a man who had lived man previous lives and had seen and learned a lot.

"Unusual name." Denver said.

"Yours will be too"

"I'm Denver..."

"What do you know my name's Denver too!" piped in Seal, and he produced a hand as well.

"Don't listen to shit for brains here. Nobody really knows his name, so we just call him Seal."

Car-Lee paused a moment and looked thoughtfully around.

"When we get off this oversized twinkie on wheels you wanna get something to eat? I'm so starved I could eat a p*ssy!" he stated bluntly.

"Eat! Yes, Eat, Hungry!" said Seal excitedly, clapping his hands together.

Denver didn't say anything about her craving meat, and even blood, the taste of which she had experienced when she was small, as do most little kids who cut themselves up from time to time. She didn't even say she was hungry, she just looked out the window and pondered again what had happened to her. When they arrived in New Orleans two hours later Car-Lee took Denver's hand and led her to a deli shop right across the street.

"I'm going to explain something. You have to dream up a new self for yourself. You're not who you were anymore. Do you get it?" She shooke her head no, even more confused than before.

"Have you looked at yourself lately? Looked in the mirror? I know you can see me because you called me Rainbow Bright. You, my dear, have a new look, and it's time you elaboated on it. I have a lot to teach you in a few days."

She nodded, still not knowing what he was talking about. She looked at her arm, and it didn't look any different, except her skin was a little greyish, but she figured it was from the weather change, or stress. Inside the Deli, he pointed her to the bathroom and told her to take a nice long look, and dream up what she'll decide to look like. She opened the door to the bathroom, and right inside the, on the wall facing her, was a huge mirror. Her skin was pale, and grey, she had orange hair with yellow strands throught it, and even her teeth seemed to look and feel different, smaller mayber, and lose in her skull. She had a wart on her chest, and her face somehow contorted, and looked much different than it was before. It was longer and skinnier. She stuck out her tongue, which was very pink and unusually long and pointy. Her clothing was the same, but a bit dirtier than she could have imagined it had got on the bus. The whole image was hazy over the Denver she was used to looking at every morning, but it was there, just like all the people from the bus. Maybe it was witchcraft.

She came out of the bathroom and gave Car-Lee a narrow-eyed stare.

"What did you do to me! I'm a friek like you now!" She yelled this in the middle of the sub shop.

"Squid Roe, named for what I dreamed of when I was chrystalized. And you?"

He smiled now, showing those toothless gums,"Aereth"

"Areff? Vat's real nice vair. You's should be glad you's ain't got no teef. Oderwise I's'd suck em all right out of your mouf."

Although taken aback by this, it also intrigued him. He raised an eyebrow, flattered by the Redcap's now obvious attempts to flirt.

"I'd like to see that." He smiled again.

She hopped off the bar, and took a few step towards Aereth, slowly, not really knowing what to expect, only that she had seen others talk like this, only to dissapear in a commotion of a crowded room. She wondered where she would dissapear to. When she was standing in front of him, a sly smile across her face, his wings unfolded suddenly and wrapped around her. He pulled her close and gave her her first kiss.

Confused about the warmth she felt inside her heart, and being a redcap wanting to fight it, she winced for only a second before she was overcome by the calming feeling his lips brought to hers lips, heart and mind. Then he opened his mouth and tangled her tongue with his own. This, she realised, was her favorite part. It made her hungry, but she denied herself the pleasure of biting his tongue off. She broke away from the kiss and looked into Aereth's eyes, smiling. She longed to be in his arms, already convinced she was probably in love, denying it, and wishing she didn't have to all at once.

"I's godda few fings I gotsta do Aereff. I's'll see you's later. We kin play more tongue hockey ven." She turned around, not making much of an exit for a Redcap, and walked out quietly, touching her fingers to her lips in bewilderment.

Carr-Lee cooly brushed off Squid's yelling.

"You did it, not me. You dreamed up a new self cuz your real life sucks hot donkey. Whatever it was...and the dream became real. Soon you'll start acting funny, and you'll turn into someone you barely know, even when you're in the mundane world." He smiled at her, liking her, but now realising it would be his moral duty to show her the ropes.

"How do I get back?" she continued loudly.

"You don't get back. There is no f*cking back! Deal with it and learn what you are, meanwhile you have fun in New Orleans with me and Seal. Cool your hot ass."

A number was called and Seal went up to the counter quietly and got the food. They sat down at a table while he started melting the tip of the iceberg. So that she could save money, she romed with Car-Lee and Seal, one of which always slept on the floor so she could have a bed. They were polite and never intrusive. There was something about Car-Lee that made her trust him, even want to kiss him sometimes.

By the next night she dreamt up a new look and some new clothing, quite by accident. She dreamed of a picture of her father and mother on their wedding day. She wore a beautiful white wedding dress, he wore his Army outfit. She also dreamed of a flight cap her Grandfather had once upon a time, that her mother had, and was sitting at home on Denver's shelf. She dreamed she was a hobo living on th streets of Skid Roe, but somehow it was a large ghetto town in the middle of nowhere. When she woke Car-Lee was standing above her and smiling. He took her hand instantly.

"Congratu-f*cking-lations! Ooh, a redcap! Maybe we outta back off Seal," he giggled, teasing her.

The first thing that caught her eye was that she was wearing her mother's wedding dress, only it wasn't her mother's, it was hers. It was tattered, and dirty, torn along the knees, as if to expose her father's Army boots, which she sported on her feet. Sitting beside her was the flight cap of her grandfather's, except it had splotches of red spray paint all over it. She picked it up and turned it over. Her initaials were carved into the inside. Confused, and still sleepy, she crapt over to the mirror and looked herself over. Her mouth felt strange, so she bared her teeth, exposing tiny sharp teeth, which she took with a grain of salt and giggled at. They looked comical to her, like narrow shark's teeth. She was a new person.

"You're a F*cking Faerie!" Car-Lee roared with laughter and patted her on the back. It was time to explain a lot more than clothing.

She dreamed up more and more and more everyday, gaining a blow dart gun, a suction cup dart gun, and a hobo sack, complete with a stick useful for beating people with. Her personaltiy changed. She swore a lot more, her temper grew short, and even more startling was that she became very violent. By the end of Mardi-Gras she was a full fledged Redcap, with a good enought bit of knowledge to strike out on her own. She was talking in an accent, couldn't pronounce certain words and barely could read. She understood what she was, but she still didn't understand all of it.

All the bags were packed and the three who had become very close were all standing around the bus station sadly.

"I'm glad you can't come with us," mumbled Seal, unheard.

"I don't know what to tell dad when I get home. I don't think he'll ever believe me," Denver said, trying to keep off the sad subject of the parting.

Car-Lee couldn't believe what he was hearing. He paced as he tried to talk her out of it.

"You can't go home. You can't. You have to learn more, be yourself. You have to stay with Fae, protect yourself. Your dad'll never understand. You're a new person. And besides, if you want to go home so badly, then why did you dream of being someone, something else, so far away? Why did you come here alone? You want to be in the city. It calls to you. You told me you dreamed of Skid Roe a few nights before you stepped onto the bus and into a different world." He grew quiet, and oddly emotional. "You can't go Squid. Go to New York. There's a building up there you can stay at for free...learn things, meet people. But don't, don't go home, G*dDamnIt!"

He took out a piece of paper scribbled an address on it, a description of the building on it, and even a long number and his name. Her hugged her and whispered into her ear as he slipped the paper into her hand.

"Cell phone, call collect." He gulped heavily. "Goodbye Squid Roe, my friend."

As if on que, the bus came and they boarded. Mostly silent the rest of the way home, Denver got off at the same bus stop she boarded. She waved, and Seal partly out of instinct, waved back, his nose bobbing up and down, but Carr-Lee, angry that he didn't get through, stared straight ahead, tears in his seering blue eyes.

As Squid Roe walked out of the freehold, she looked towards the sky at the stars, wondering which star was her mother, and which star was actually an airplane, a red stunt plane, two-seater, with a shriveled old man sitting inside it, looking down at her, being distracted by the lights of the city, the nudie bar signs blinking and the traffic lights changing color.

She pulled a crumpled piece of paper out of her pocket and walked to the payphone. She picked it up, cradled it on her shoulder and dialed the faded scribe. The phone was picked up and in the foreground a clang of metal against metal was heard. A loud escapade of four letter words echoed in the reciever. A moment later a chipper voice answered.

"Goodbye?" It was Seal.