“Oh you not coming up in here like that,” she said, wagging a finger at him. “Do you even got bus fare?”
It was a Tuesday. One day is much like any other, really. Except with buses. The day had a lot to do with buses. The city mattered too.
Corvis was feeling a little rough on that day. His cocked hat had been fashionable when he’d bought it, in London, in 1772. His coat, frayed around the edges, pockets overflowing with various trinkets, was a little newer than his hat, but not by much. The illusions that made his boots were at least left an right, but one was white leather with golden swirls and the other was something he’d seen at Verdun in 1916. He coughed, a fist holding a Beatles tee-shirt to his chest, but not keeping any of his illusions in place any better. He just didn’t have a lot of effort in him at that moment. He sighed, stared up at the bus driver lady with his most adorable puppy dog eyes.
That might have worked better if his eyes hadn’t been alien puke purple set in a dark-skinned face, at least dark where the swirls of white feathers hadn’t blended in to make nice white skin where it really didn’t belong. His hair was entirely too wilted to catch fire, but was still red, fluffy red dreadlocks. One hand held onto a trunk of ruddy polished wood, he motioned for the lift, barely even minding that his fingers were more talon than fingers. “I will give you a wish,” he said, his accent mixed and ancient as his wardrobe.
“You ain’t got nothing I want,” she said, reaching to close the doors. “This sure as shit ain’t Halloween still.”
“Madam,” Corvis said, feeling his stomach growl. “It is utterly imperative that I reach the Getty.”
“Fucking nutter,” the bus driver snapped.
The surprise of his failure, after having politely waited for the bus, after offering to pay in the highest currency he had, shook him to the core and he lost the illusion on his teeth, leaving his mouth full of razor sharp piranha teeth.
She squeaked, slammed the doors shut, and sped off.
He stood there in the pale dawn, blinking, talons out. Humans! They deserved every bad thing that could be poured out upon them!
From behind him, headlights bathed him in light and he turned to hiss at the monster, arm up to block the light.
“Hey man! You want a ride? It’s the Uber pay it forward program. Someone on the bus thought you could use a ride.”
Corvis stood there shoulders hunched, face scrunched up. “I wish to go to the museum! To the Getty.”
“They are closed today,” the new woman said. “It was something about setting up for a special exhibit.”
“My friend is coming,” Corvis said. Cars were good though. He liked cars, mostly. “Are you going to ask me for money? What kind of money?”
“No money,” she said. She turned on flashing lights and then came to help move his trunk. “Come on. I’ll get you some breakfast too. You hungry?”
“Hungry,” he agreed, drawing the word out as if the simple act of saying it conveyed so much more meaning.
“Yeah? You sound like you could eat a horse.”
“No,” Corvis said. When she grabbed his trunk, meaning to drag it the back of her car, he made a motion with his hand and it shrank to mouse-sized and dropped into one of his huge floppy pockets. “Horses are nice. I like them.”
“Right then,” she said. “So I’m Yenivieve.” She held out a hand to shake. “You are?”
He caught her hand, drew it slowly to his lips for a kiss, giving her plenty of time to pull back, if she wished. “I am Corvis.”
“Great, Corvis! Where ya from?” She said, opening the back door to the car for him.
“I am from smokeless fire,” he said, smirking a bit.
She shut the door in his face, hoping the smoked glass would keep him from seeing her roll her eyes.
Driving Uber got a person all types. She slipped into the driver’s seat, flipped off the hazards, and there he was in the front seat. Her heart about dropped out her nose. “GeezuS! How did you do that? Are you a magician?”
Not only was he in the front seat, but he was wearing a black leather jacket, turtleneck, and slacks. “I am a wizard. You didn’t seem like a terribly religious sort to me. I really am not up to dealing with that, if you are. You should tell me know.”
“Uh,” Yenivieve studdered. “It is L.A., I guess. Still want food?”
“More than I can possibly express,” he said, smiling, careful to keep his real teeth hidden behind nice white even versions.
“Put your seat belt on then.” After a moment, she touched her own seatbelt to get his mind going.
He made a face, then followed her pointing fingers out to his own seatbelt. “Gael never had these.”
“Yeah?” She said, pulling away from the curb. “I bet he shops the same places you got your first costume at.”
“I never liked his tailor.”
She rolled her eyes again. “So your accent? Where is it from?”
“I learned to speak English in the Second Crusade, though I also very much liked conversations with Elvis.”
“That explains everything,” she said, nose twitching. “What kind of music do you like? No, wait.” She tapped her phone and Elvis came through the speakers.
“Very nice. Does your father know you’re driving strange men around?”
“OH sweetie,” she said, giving him the eye, “You are from out of town, aren’t you? Don’t get freaky on me. I got mace.”
It turned out the little diner that she was taking him to wasn’t far. It was also decorated like a sandcastle, something about as out of time as he was.
“This is where I have lunch. The owner is a bit eccentric. Maybe you’ll like him.”
Despite his change of clothes, Corvis was still pretty rough and hungry. So he followed her in like little wolf puppy that had forgotten he had teeth.
The place was blue and yellow on the inside, vinyl and hippy, with the Beach Boys playing on old speakers that were probably fantastic when they were new.
“Ray!” Yenivieve yelled playfully. “I found someone from your generation.”
“You’re late, Yeni!” he said, coming out of the back with his back to the swinging doors. “How did your final go?”
“Oh it was great,” she said, pulling up to the counter, chin in her palm. “So this here is...”
“Corvis,” Ray finished, only barely managing not to drop the tray of donuts and pastries he was carrying. “Holy shit! Corvis!”
He pushed the pastries out of the way and reached out for Corvis’ hands. “Old friend! How are you?”
Corvis hadn’t stopped looking around. He didn’t resist the older man holding his hands, but he didn’t grip back either. At the question, he looked Ray in the face, kind of present, not really though, and groaned, “Hungry.”
“I guess! Let me get you something, my friend!” Ray quickly put several plates of pastries in front of Corvis, grabbed a pie from behind the counter, and then a pot of coffee and a cup, a small pin of creamers. “You want some steak? I got some steak and some roast chicken.”
“You know him? Really? He’s... strange.” Yenni said, pulling a pastry towards herself. “Can I have a cup too or is everything for him today?”
“Put the pastry back,” Ray said, an edge of warning. “I’ll get more from the back.” As if to prove he meant it, he grabbed the pastry plate from Yenni and set it back in Corvis’ space. “Go look at that photo of me and Elvis, Sinatra. Look at it.”
“OH my god. Old men,” she groaned, but slipped off the stool and went to look. Time was not kind to human beings, but then this time it had more meaning. She leaned closer, staring. Her passenger was there. He smiled brightly and like one of those old shifting pictures that were popular in the 60’s... he had fangs, or didn’t depending on which direction you were looking. “What the hell, Ray? What is he?”
Ray was just showing Corvis how to open the little cups of creamer, putting like half a cup of creamer in the coffee. “Yenivieve, he’s a genie, a jinn.”
“So like wishes and shit?” She sat back down at the counter, but a couple stools down. “Magic, real magic.”
Ray looked sideways at her, gave a curt nod, “And shit. You should probably go.”
“Is... is he dangerous?” she asked, stubborn. “Old man, I am not going to leave you with trouble on your doorstep.”
Then she gave Corvis a glance and all the pastries, and the plates they were on, were gone. “Let me get you that steak. I’m so glad to see you!” Ray grabbed Corvis’ arm in genuine friendship, genuine warmth.
When Corvis smiled back, his face was relaxed, his eyes open with a childlike innocence. “Leonardo is coming today.”
“Just pictures and drawings, Corvis. It opens tomorrow. I’ll take you to see him.”
“Will you? I miss him!”
“We’ll go see him together tomorrow.”
“This is like some cult shit, right? From the Summer of Love?” She grinned and reached out to shove Corvis in the arm. “Come on! You two were a hot item at Woodstock, weren’t you? Come on, tell me everything! You two did a lot of drugs, didn’t you?”
Corvis’ favorite dread seemed to sparkle, fizzing with little floating flecks of light. “Do you wish for me to tell you everything? Everything?”
“No, no she doesn’t,” Ray said. “No wishes.”
“But I’m hungry!”
“Be patient, Cori! I’ll take you someplace where there are so many wishes, you can get drunk without even doing anything. I’ll take the day off.”
“I promise.” Ray said, running fingers down the side of Corvis’ face. “I really have missed you more than I can possibly say.
“Oh this is like... you guys are taking this a little too seriously. It’s kind of creeping me out.”
The doors swung open and another driver swaggered in. Ray was already around the counter. “Actually, I’m sorry, we’re closed.”
“You don’t look closed,” the man complained. “Come on, give me some coffee and a danish!” He reached out for one of the ones still in front of Corvis.
Ray reached out to stop him. Corvis reached for the man.
Yenivieve just sat there watching it, until the other driver seemed to fall down a bad funhouse mirror. He just became smaller. His action didn’t change. He was still walking forward, until the very last minute when Corvis dropped him into his mouth and swallowed.
She fell right off her stool, crawling backwards and she was sure this is how yo get to be a monster in a story. “Shit! Shit! Oh Shit!”
Ray locked the door, turned the closed sign. “Let me get you something to eat.”
“He’s still fucking hungry? He just... he just ate Sam! HE ATE HIM!”
Corvis turned his innocent violet eyes on her, trying to smile. “Hungry.”
On her feet again, a hand pressed to her forehead. “Is it on the tape? The tape? Did it get that?”
Absently, Corvis caught some of the sparkles floating around the end of his dreadlock, rolled them between his fingers, then tossed them to Yenivieve. “I give you three wishes.”
She moved to bat the fluttering firefly thing away from her, but it wrapped itself around her finger and became golden, just a simple gold ring. “This is good? This is good, right?”
Ray shook his head. “No.”