Still a little out of breath, I threw myself on the light blue couch, rustled my sweaty hair, and stared at the ceiling for a moment, before unplugging my headphones from my ears and laying my iPhone next to me.
<You don’t seem to be in the best of spirits this morning,> Rebekah said, speaking from the pink obelisk stone in my black nylon gym shorts.
<Twenty miles is a record for me,> I said. <Just need a little time to gather myself.>
Being a Decanter—or a shapeshifter, as Rebekah liked to gall me, not call me—I’d gained a summoner’s abilities some months ago, and I found it quite useful that I didn’t have to be in my summoner decanted form to communicate with her, only to summon.
<Mmmhm,> she quipped. <When you got up to fifteen miles a few weeks ago, you didn’t seem so heavy.>
<There’s just been a lot on my mind lately. It’s why I started biking in the first place.> I picked up my phone from the coffee table and mindlessly swiped through a few of my favorite sites—REI.com being number one on that list.
<A lot of stuff like what? Like not being able to find a job?> Rebekah asked from the obelisk. <Quitting third shift was the right thing to do. Those hours were killing you. And you still have a few months of income saved up, right? Maybe you should take a little more time off after everything…that happened to me.>
<I’m not trying to be insensitive,> I said, <but it’s exactly you that’s been getting to me. I mean…> I fumbled over my words, realizing how harsh that must have sounded. <…not that what happened to you doesn’t still get to me, because it does. I think about it a lot actually. Probably more than I should. Wait. That didn’t come out right. Not more than I should. But just enough.>
<Lyle…you’re digging yourself into a hole here.>
<Look,> I said, letting my phone rest in my lap. <I know that the news crews surrounding Marcus’s death have all dwindled out, but I’ve got a bad feeling about this. I saw something similar when I was in El Salvador. A big-shot paranormal was taken down, and it created a vacuum of power. Literally every paranormal within a hundred miles or so came peeking their heads in just to see what lot of power they could hoard for themselves.>
<…> Rebekah was silent. <You think too much. For one, this isn’t El Salvador.> She enunciated it with a rich Hispanic accent. <And for two—>
<So you’re gonna’ start your counting again? All I’m saying is that it’s got me a little concerned; that’s all.>
<And for two,> Rebekah continued, <as I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted, there’s nothing of interest for a paranormal here in Raleigh, not after the dregs Marcus left behind. All of his employees were paid handsomely. No one in this town has that kind of pull or financial backing. I’m willing to bet that all the paranormals we saw at Marcus’s place a few months ago have already found other work up north or out west. If it were me, I would’ve withdrawn a boatload of cash and sowed my oats down in the keys somewhere.>
I turned my iPhone around in my hand a few times, feeling the obelisk heat up on my thigh as Rebekah became more exasperated.
I said, <For one, girls can’t ‘sow their oats.’>
<Oh, so now you’re counting?> Rebekah said.
<I’m just saying that you’re making my point more evident. If so many paranormals are moving out, then it only makes sense that just as many are looking at moving in.>
My phone buzzed in my lap. Since I didn’t recognize the number, I only stared at the screen, but chose to answer it before it went to voicemail. This had better not be a telemarketer. “Hello?”
I heard a flighty girl’s voice on the other end, though it seemed a little out of sorts. “Is this Lyle?”
“Yeah. Who is this?”
“Rebekah’s friend. Stephanie. Stephanie McPherson, the Druid Healer. We have to talk.”