Eventually, I had the sense that the bird had left to find easier prey. I tossed the empty froyo carton in the trash from, perhaps, a further distance than would have been wise. Keep a low profile, I told myself. Keep a low profile.
Out into the street as the air began to cool a little. A little. Or maybe most of it was the froyo. It was certainly the weather for it; over a hundred degrees and sullen, the air heavy and full of moisture, the sun veiled. I wasn’t quite used to it. Wherever I was from was cooler than this.
I had a dim memory, for a moment, just a flicker of snowcapped mountains and quiet, rolling meadows. Norway? Sweden? Colorado? I had no idea. Another planet as I’d wondered earlier?
There was somebody following me. A thin figure, birdlike, and I turned. I’d been joking, but it was definitely the same being.
“Interesting,” it…he…said, drawing the i out into several syllables. “Parts of you don’t match.”
“Is that why you tried to eat me?”
A sardonic smile that reminded me of Mr. Otter, except I didn’t feel as safe with this…being. “I wasn’t trying to eat you. Or you’d be dead.”
The threat was delivered so deadpan it made me shiver. There was no emotion to it. His eyes showed cold fascination. I realized after a moment there was no difference of color between iris and pupil.
A fairy, Thea had called it, but I wondered if it wasn’t more like a devil. Even the male gender did not want to settle in my mind. “Then what do you want?”
“A truce. Leave me alone.”
So, he felt threatened by me. Straggly dark hair. He looked like a starving Goth poet, I decided. “Why should I?”
“You ran fast enough.”
I lifted a shoulder and tried to channel Thea. “Broad daylight? Come on. I’m just waiting until I can find you without witnesses.”
“There are always witnesses.” One bony shoulder lifted, a suggestion of wings. “The humans are everywhere.”
Part of me wanted to retort that I was human, except that right now I wasn’t sure I actually was. “Point. Maybe we should take it outside.” I wasn’t nearly as confident as I sounded. I really, really wanted a sword right now.
Or a source of fire, some instinct suddenly rising up within me. Birds have feathers. Feathers burn. But he was not just a bird. He was something else, something of water.
“Maybe we should. You’re going to keep getting in my way and I want dinner.” He smiled, showing sharp, pointed teeth, more like a cat’s than a human’s.
“Not on my watch.”