Some Place To Be

Everybody needs some place to be. A place to be themselves. Especially if, like me, you are different. Even more so when you are different in a  way that makes other people, ordinary people, uncomfortable or even afraid. Those of us who are touched in some way by magic. The fae, the shifters, the drinkers of blood, the users of magic and such like. For all the advantages we have, we don’t always fit in.

But sometimes we are lucky. Sometimes we can find a place where it doesn’t matter what or who we are. I was so blessed and so could you be. My name is Aodhán O’Súileabháin, and I was lucky enough to find some place to be.

If you are so inclined, here, you can read some of my stories…

Someplace – Jake Bugg

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Only one Z

I miss lots of things about White Owl Island. At the moment, I definitely miss a reliable net connection, and the high quality of tech support offered by Skeleton. There are other things I miss about her too, but a gentleman doesn’t tell. For now, I’d prefer her technical ability, which has to be a thousand times better than listening to some whey-faced child asking me if I’ve tried switching it off and on again. “Yes, fuckwit, I have, and a few other things. If it had been that simple, I wouldn’t be fecking phoning you.”  Or words to that effect. Eventually, the bastards agreed it was a fault at their end, but couldn’t tell me when it would be fixed.

I took myself and the laptop up to the Grotto, figuring I could at least mooch off Vasa’s wifi there to get things done, and get a coffee while I shouted at KeysComm’s so-called Customer Service department. And that is what I was doing, with some fairly colourful language, when the reporter walked in.

Of course, I didn’t know that’s who she was, but she introduced herself as Jaz – only one Z, as I learned when I asked if that was like the music – and I recognised the name from the discussion at the bar the other night. I apologised for my language and complained about the slow pace of life, well, at least, when it comes to getting your Internet fixed here. She agreed that life could be slow on the island and asked if I was new here. That I had to admit, and told her I had taken over running the ferry and boat business.

She got herself a coffee and went straight into journalist mode, asking me about the incident with the new elf and the orc. That confirmed what the others had said about her the other night. I wasn’t about to give anything away. Too many years avoiding questions about White Owl Island. And besides, I didn’t really know much, other than what I had seen that first night. I told her that I had only seen one orc since I got here and had heard that another worked out at the gym, possibly the same one. Likewise, I had seen a couple of elves around the place, but didn’t know about any incident.

She said that the elf was called Laila and she had had some sort of accident near the gym. I shrugged at that. I admitted I knew Laila with an I, and that I had walked her home the other night, since I was going the same way. Beyond that and knowing she ran an antiques shop, I couldn’t really say much more. That’s the best way with reporters, tell the truth, or at least, part of it. I wasn’t going to mention the offer of business transporting merchandise for Laila because it was none of her business, and nothing to do with the alleged accident. Besides, I had promised Laila discretion.

She switched track then. I guess she decided I had nothing to tell on the accident. She started on me instead. Where did I come from, what did I do, was I planning on staying or was I just a summer visitor. I wasn’t sure what to make of that. I’ve heard of snowbirds who come down here for the winter, and sunbirds, who bugger off north to get away from the summer here, but I didn’t know any words for summer visitors. Other than the generic tourist. Either way, I wasn’t any of those things. I told her I guessed that you can’t take the reporter out of the girl and gave her the business card, which I reckoned should answer most of her questions. I told her I was Irish, but moved here from Seattle and had purchased the ferry and pleasure boat business, and that I was a pretty good mechanic. Anything else, I asked – my inside leg, star sign, favourite Corrs sister?

That got a laugh and she admitted that her curiosity sometimes got the better of her. Odd thing to say, I thought, since curiosity is what reporters do. She said she had recently done a piece on the cruise ships and maybe she could do one on me soon, once I had settled in. I didn’t get a chance to answer that because her phone rang. Apparently, it was exciting news that a whale had come close enough to a boat to let people touch it, without upsetting the boat. She had to go and cover that and asked if I wanted to come. I said I had seen whales a-plenty back in Puget Sound, and anyway, I had to stay and complete the work I had been trying to do before my net went down. Some other time, I told her, and offered to take her out on the Seamaid to see if we could find a whale some day. She thanked me and disappeared off, presumably to find some people who were excited about the whale. I waved and got back to my work. As it happened, the ISP fixed the problem inside of the hour, so maybe I had been a little harsh on them. Or possibly they fixed it that quickly because I had been harsh on them. I don’t know. I still prefer Skeleton’s approach. I wonder what she’s up to now.

Cats and TNT

YS SPTB4I think The Grotto will do as my main drinking establishment for now. The drinks are ok, and the people are great, if a little eccentric. But then, I’m hardly one to speak. I had an amicable and sociable evening there, and there might even be some business to come out of it.

Vasa and Elayne turned up first. We got to talking about this infamous Aunt Giddy, who had run the place as a “house of pleasure” before Vasa inherited it. It seems like they are still trying to find her old papers and stuff. Those sound like they could be interesting. I said I didn’t have any family records, papers etc, what with me Mam still being alive and all and the minor detail of her having disowned me for marrying out.

Vasa asked about the ferry. I told him I’d been working hard on it, undoing a few years of neglect, and a few bolts that had rusted shut. But I had her running pretty sweetly now, and had even taken a couple of coffin-dodgers from the Bellerophon out on a fishing trip. I reckoned there would be more business from the drinking and shagging crowd when the Princess Anneka gets in next week. Elayne gave me a bunch of vouchers for free drinks to give to passengers. Sounds like a plan.

Vasa and I talked about Nagas for a while. I think I confused Elayne because I wondered what happened to Padma when White Owl Island disappeared. For a moment, she looked around as if she expected this island to start sinking. There was also talk of a reporter called Jazz, who was trying to follow up some story about an incident involving an orc and Laila with an I.

Laila turned up needing a drink. She had some weird tale involving the orc, but not the one that Jazz was interested in. Apparently, there was a cat running around with what appeared to be a box of TNT and he dropped it and the orc threw himself on it to stop it going off. I’m not sure why. I’m no expert on explosives, but I am pretty sure one of the advantages of TNT is that it isn’t prone to going off when you drop it. Turns out it wasn’t even TNT, just a box of fireworks.  Personally, it all sounded a bit preposterous and should have featured Wile E Coyote and Roadrunner. Oh, and I gathered that it was a feline shifter, rather than an actual cat. I did wonder what a cat might want with TNT.

Talking of shifters, a lycan came in to watch the floor show. Chap by the name of Kurzar, apparently. Something about him looked like it bothered Elayne, but she tried not to show it. He was more interested in the dancers – a satyr and a drow – than drinking with the rest of us.

Much as I wanted to carry on drinking, I figured it was best not to, so I would be fresh for an early ferry booking in the morning. Laila asked if I would walk with her, as her apartment isn’t in the best neighbourhood. That surprised me. I didn’t think the place was big enough to have a bad district. It’s barely big enough to have districts. Heck, Seattle is a decent sized city, and while you might possibly get mugged round 3rd and Pine, I wouldn’t call say it has bad districts. I was happy to walk with her anyway. Thus far she seems pleasant company.

While walking, she asked me if I transported things other than passengers. I told her sure. I’m back and forth to the mainland all the time, so deliveries, supplies, whatever. I told her I’d transport anything, provided it wasn’t hard drugs, firearms and the like. I’d even transported a vampire in his coffin once, as a favour to Writer-boy. She seemed surprised by that and was more surprised I wasn’t bothered by the vamp. Heck, I don’t like the buggers particularly, but I’m not bothered provided they stay away from my neck. Unless they’re really cute. Anyway, it turns out she sometimes needs discreet transportation for her antiquities, for clients who would rather people didn’t know their business. I told her I wouldn’t last long in business if I wasn’t discreet. It was the same with passengers taking a boat ride with somebody who wasn’t their spouse. Me, I’m just the Paddy driving the boat. I don’t ask questions. She seemed happy with that.

And then, I outed myself. It’s not that I am particularly fussed about keeping my identity a secret, but it’s not something I advertise either, in case of unreasonable expectations. My ears are usually hidden by my hair and I work with engines and other things made of iron all the time. It’s rare among elves to be less sensitive to the stuff, but not unknown. We passed by her shop and I mentioned that I would be interested in any maritime antiquities, particularly anything related to the ship I came over on in 1839, the Bowditch.

Yeah, it was that easy. I was relaxed and let something slip. She looked shocked and asked if I meant 1839 as in nineteenth century. I did my best ‘aw, shucks’ impression and admitted my heritage, lifting the hair to show the ears. I told her I was aos sí and that I had been disowned by my family for marrying out. I asked if that was a problem, glancing at her ears, but she said it wasn’t and apologised for making assumptions. She asked why I kept them covered, thinking it might be to my advantage to have people know what I was. That was hard to explain. How could she know the “other” history that my memory knew, when we had to hide ourselves away? I prevaricated and told her things were different in my day. I mentioned that it was bad enough just being Irish back then, and told her about NINA. As for advantages, I said I would rather be judged on my merits rather than my race, but, since we were going to be partners, I figured she should know.

I asked about her story. She said that her father had spent his life searching for magic, and it had been magic that killed him. Her mother was lost without him, and lost herself over time, and was now in care in New York, not even knowing her own daughter. That was why she was down here now. She closed up her father’s shop, loaded everything into a U-Haul and moved down to the Keys. She didn’t say anything about what her father was, or indicate why she had the ears. Fair enough, that’s her business. She’ll tell me when she wants to. I sympathised about her mother. I’ve lost friends that way too. That’s the trouble with an extended life. Long Fox didn’t really know me at the end, and we had spent many years together. I suggested that maybe her mother would have wanted her to get on with her life and she agreed that was likely.

We were at her house by now, so we parted company. I think she appreciated my sympathies and even seemed a little cheered by them. We parted, I hope, as friends. And some time soon, we can do business too.

 

Orc Sweat and Coffin Dodgers

I’m becoming acclimatised, slowly, to this damned sauna they call the Keys. It’s not too bad on the water, piloting the ferry back and forth, but it’s still too fecking hot in the workshop. I can have the fans on overhead, but anything more than medium speed, I gets paperwork, rags and bits of detritus flying around everywhere. Maybe when business picks up, I can afford to get aircon put in. In the meanwhile, I have to rely on frequent showers and a cold beer at the end of the day.

I have yet to discover if there are any other bars on the island, but The Grotto is an amenable place, so I haven’t really tried. I went over after work and ordered a cold one, and, since the sun was definitely over the yardarm, a large whiskey too. I had just started applying myself to the business of drinking both when the blonde lass from a couple of nights ago – Laila with an I – turned up, looking a little hassled. She sat down and asked Henry for a drink. Well, what she said, as near as I can remember was  “Gimme the oldest single malt you’ve got, please.  I need to wash the taste of orc sweat out of my mouth.”  She then saw me and looked mortified. “Oh shit, not like that,” she said.

I almost choked on my drink. When I could speak again, I commented about this being a really swinging place. I asked Henry for a top-up and indicated I’d get Laila’s drink. I asked if she wanted to try for an explanation or just let my imagination run riot. She laughed and assured me it was strictly business. I opined that I hadn’t imagined antiquities to be a particularly sweaty profession unless you were Indiana Jones, or possibly Lara Croft. Lifting a 1000HP engine off its mount, on the other hand…

We were interrupted by the arrival of Elayne, the lass who runs the bar, who I had met a couple of nights ago. She looked like she had had an accident in a paint factory or she had been to a particularly abstract pride event.  I guess I didn’t make much of an impression, since she just about remembered that she had met me before. We reintroduced ourselves and I bought her a drink. I like this lass, she drinks whiskey.  I remembered going to a Hindu festival in Seattle a few times, where people ended up covered in different colours, so I joked that I thought Holi was in spring and asked if she had been playing at painting with some kids.  She admitted it was paint, but didn’t elaborate further. I turned back to ask Laila if she wanted another drink, but she had slipped away, possibly too embarrassed by the orc sweat comment to hang around.

Elayne and I continued chatting about jobs. I told her I could pretty much fix anything mechanical, citing Coke vending machines town square fountains and pub beer pumps as examples that weren’t an internal combustion engine. She said her other half, Vasa, had a couple of motorbikes, which she was sure would need the services of a mechanic soon, given the way he drives. I could see that. I reckoned it must be tricky operating a bike given the different articulation of a satyr’s legs. When Vasa came in later, I gave him my business card too, as he was quite keen on the idea of having somebody around who could fix mechanical stuff.

She told me she did pretty much everything, tending bar, being general manager, and dancing. I got the impression that was her favourite part of the job. She was hoping it would bring the tourists in. I wasn’t so sure, given the preponderance of pensioners that inhabit this part of the world. That isn’t to say that some of the old farts wouldn’t enjoy a few semi-naked lasses dancing around a pole, but it might be dangerous for their hearts. Vasa might have to up his public liability insurance.

A big fellow came in, who introduced himself as Louen, a local drinker, scoundrel and ne’er do well.  My kind of person, I said, raising a glass. Elayne suggested that he should remove his shirt, but Vasa arrived and told that was the job of the dancers, not the customers.  We got to talking about the bar, which had been owned by Vasa’s Aunt Giddy, and, in those days, had been a house of pleasure. A rather quaint way of describing it. From the way the discussion went, it sounded like this Aunty Giddy had been somewhat of a character. Louen even asked if he could interview Vasa about her, so I guessed he must be some sort of writer. Apparently, he was; a published one even. Vasa was more than willing to share tales of his aunt over a drink or two. Though, judging from the amount I had seen him putting away, I suspected more than two drinks would be involved.

Louen asked about the cruise ships and when the next one was coming in. Now that I could answer, as I keep a very close eye on cruise schedules so I can predict demand for the ferry traffic. I pulled up the app on my phone and told him that the Bellerophon was due in on Friday, loaded with coffin-dodgers on their way back to Miami from the Caribbean, and the Princess Anneka would be in on Tuesday, full of younger people. That seemed to answer his question. I had barely put the phone away when an alarm went off, reminding me of some stuff that needed doing back in the workshop. I made my excuses and left, intending to come back for another drink later. Of course, I got absorbed in things mechanical and never did get back the bar, at least, not that night.

 

Angels and Antiquities

Well, as I expected, it’s fecking hot down here in Florida. I expect I’ll get used to it. It helps that I’ve found myself a place to get in a drink or three, and I’m getting to know the natives. And what an excitingly diverse bunch they are.

I set out in search of refreshment, but managed to get myself lost. I know, the great explorer, lost on a small island. Give me the great wide open, on sea or land, and I’m fine. Stick me in a strange town, and well… Anyway, I was wandering around in the hope of finding a bar and ran into a bunch of people hanging around on a street corner. I thought I had walked into some sort of situation, given the tension I felt, but one of the group, an orc by the look of things, trotted off. Don’t think we ever had an orc on WOI. Did I say this was a diverse place?

Anyway, whatever had gone down, it was over by the time I turned up and asked about getting a drink somewhere. One guy looked a little worse for wear, Cal, I think his name was, but from conversation I heard later, I think that was down to sleeping rough rather than any altercation. He seemed attached to with a young lady, Glory, I later learned, who looked like she had fallen out of a Renn Faire, or possibly a Jane Austen novel. Hey, I’m no fashion expert, ok, or history expert, come to that. Well, save for my own personal experience over the past 200 odd years, but that probably doesn’t help. And there was another lass, blonde, pretty one with pointed ears, so I guessed elven or fae. She also looked like she had been in the wars, with her arm in a sling. Why, I didn’t find out.

I asked about where I might get a drink and the blonde one gave me directions. I was feeling in a sociable mood, so I asked if anybody else was coming for a drink, since I wasn’t in the mood for drinking alone. They were obviously also feeling sociable as they all came along. The blonde introduced herself as Laila, like in the song, but with an I instead of a Y.  Well, that’s one way to make sure I remember. Duly noted, Laila with an I. I learned later that she was an obtainer of antiquities, only better looking than Indiana Jones. Or possibly she ran an antique shop on the island, but that doesn’t sound anywhere as near as exciting.

The drinking establishment turned out to be a strip joint, or pole-dancing joint, possibly both. Not quite my normal scene, and for a few moments, I missed Jerry’s place, Raftery’s, back in Seattle, which was a much higher-toned bar. Well, Jerry liked to think so anyway. Ah well, I’ve no objection to the lasses dancing, with or without their clothes, and the place seemed to have a well-stocked bar, so, what the hell? The lass in the dress, Glory, thought it looked like a faerie cave. I told her it wasn’t like any faerie cave I knew, and I’ve seen a few, except for old Theovoire’s. That was more like a BDSM club, but I didn’t pass on that tidbit of information. Glory looked overwhelmed by the place as it was and probably didn’t need that image.

The barkeep, by the way, was something else. He goes by the name of Henry, but what manner of critter he was I did not learn. I suppose he could be some kind of satyr, but resembled Dyisi about as much as a Great Dane resembles a poodle. Personally, I thought he looked like Ambassador Kosh from Babylon 5 had fucked a goat and this was the offspring. Not that it matters. He turned out to be amiable enough and pours a good drink, and that’s the important thing.

We got to drinking, well, some of us did. Glory confused the barkeep by wanting juice of some sort. He eventually found some, but wasn’t overly impressed with the concept.  She and Cal were mostly concerned with finding somewhere to stay. From what I had heard, they may have spent the night on the beach.  I could have advised them on that, having done so many times, but then, I was once a pioneer. I don’t think either of them looked like they knew what that was.

We were joined by Vasa, an actual satyr, albeit of a somewhat more impressive stature than Dyisi. Maybe that’s the way with their kind, males bigger than the females. I’m fecked if I know. Up until I met Dyisi, I didn’t even know female satyrs existed. His lady, Elayne, looked human, but then, most of the time, so do I, so that’s no guide. She also looked like she could do a mean turn on the catwalk or dance pole, and from later conversation, apparently she does. As, come to that, does Vasa himself.  Turns out they own the joint. That’s fair. Satyrs, my friend Dyisi excepting, are known for being horny and playing music, so a strip joint/pole dancing club is entirely appropriate.

We drank, we chatted about various things, including why I became a mechanic, the obtaining of antiquities, dancing and stuff. Somebody called Vrice, who looked like an angel, turned up and offered Cal and Glory jobs at their restaurant, a place called the Elemental Hearth. Thinking about it later, maybe it was an elemental rather than an angel, hence the name of the restaurant. In my defence, I’ve never met an elemental, so I can’t really be blamed for not knowing. I’ve never met an angel either, but at least I know what they look like.

I would have stayed longer, but I got a call from the mainland; a late arrival needing the ferry. Far be it from me to turn down the extra money, even if it was interrupting my drinking time.  I bade my new friends farewell and headed for the boat. I think I’m going to like it here.

 

Living on an Island

Change happens. When I was young, and learning my magic, albeit to the limited ability I had, my mentors would tell me that change was the essence of magic, and that magic was change. That degenerate rogue, Aleister Crowley, defined magic as “the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will.” He wasn’t wrong, but even he had only a bare inkling of the truth. What magic changed the world I knew, I do not know, but magic it must have been for I can think of no other explanation. The island that has been my home for the last 150 odd years has gone, vanished into some alternate reality, and in this new reality, it never existed. The world I once knew, where those of us who are other than human hid ourselves from the public’s gaze is no more, and now the faeries, the elves, the orcs and others walk among mankind, no stranger than a visitor from Japan or Peru in Seattle. It is not the world I knew, and I did not know what to do about it.

Most of all, my home is gone. Some things remain. The Faerie realm survived the change intact, and though it is pleasant there, it is not my home. The ever lovely Gwyneth reigns there, with Nathaniel at her side, though both spend a lot of time travelling. They, and some few others that, like me, remember the world as it was – Dyisi, Skeleton and others, remain, but I feel lost. Gwyneth intends to open the realm to the human folk as a holiday destination. Normally, I would be all about that, but they will have no need of a boatman to pilot any ferry, nor any need of a man skilled with engines and such like, and that is what I know.

So, it was time for a change. Some searching on the net, and whispers from my contacts, led me to a very similar business to my own for sale, all the way down in the Florida Keys. That’s a damned long way from Puget Sound, about as far as you can get without leaving the country, and, I am told, fecking hot. But, perhaps that was what I needed, a complete change. I flew down to Miami, drove up to have a look and decided, yes, this will work for me. I had the money, I had the experience, and it was pretty much a perfect fit. The workshop needed updating, and, ye gods, the boats needed a lot of work, but what the feck, I like a challenge.  And, it is on an island, so I should feel at home. Plus, there will be tourists, cruise passengers looking for a side-trip, coffin-dodgers looking for a day out of Miami, and any number of hipsters and such like looking for an alternative holiday location. That’s all good for business. And so, I returned home to gather my things, put my affairs in order and bid farewell to my friends.  It didn’t take long to pack. Next stop, the 12:51 American Airlines flight out of Sea-Tac, destination, MIA…

Living on an Island