The Daemon Yeshiva by David Hartley Mark

The sun was setting as I took my black-goat’s-leather briefcase and made for the door of our apartment, there on Spindle Street, on the Lower North Side of Kroy City. My mother was there to say goodby, as she always did:

“Kiss the zamzumet with your left hand, and step out on your left, as you always do,” she said, smiling just enough for me to see the shine of her teeth in the yellow light from the hall.

“Don’t I always?” I groaned, just enough to play the part of the put-upon son, but knowing full well that she loved me, and cared enough for me to go out and come back in an evil way, untainted by the good of the earth and the lives of others.

“Yes, my son,” she whispered, and kissed my cheek, lightly enough, but still close enough for me to feel the sharpness of her fangs.

I sighed, and made for the stairs: was ever son afflicted so by a demon mother?

The concrete steps echoed and re-echoed as I clattered down; I wanted to make the 5pm bus, and was still a bit of a walk away. I clung to the side rail, as an eldern kobold came by, redolently smelling of the roots and ashes he had gathered from the North River Drive. His clayey boots left a puddle of mud on each step, and his horns gleamed greenily in the reflected torchlight. I had no time to stand at gaze; I might miss my bus.

The streets were full: wizards hovered a full foot off the pavement; witches on their broomsticks zipped from rooftop to rooftop. Elvenfolk scurried by underfoot, and pixies flashed by, dazzling my eyes, their gold-dusty exhaust making me sneeze. It was rush hour, the worst time to be out and off.

The sun was setting, as my mother had warned; soon the night-folk would be up and about: vampires smacking their empty jaws, longing for a draft of fresh human blood, especially that of a youngling like me. I clutched my brief to my chest, and ran the remaining two blocks down to the foot of Gramercy Alley, where the bus stop was. A motley mob of commuters, but not many: two centaurs, a sphinx finishing her afternoon’s snack of Greek legionary who could not have known the answer to her riddle—she leaned against the BUS STOP sign, idly, thoughtfully licking his thighbone, blood slipping down the corners of her lionsmouth; one estrie, changing her shape as I watched, from sweet young girl to old woman to Merlin-figure to eagle to—I closed my eyes in exhaustion.

Luckily, the bus arrived, all drawn by swans and belching grayish-pink smoke from its several stacks, with KROY CITY TRANSIT INC stenciled on the side. As I watched, the estrie changed her mind, turning into another bus, and flying off along the route; the centaurs clung to the back by their hooves, and the sphinx climbed aboard. I followed, flashing my college bus-pass at the driver, whose hairy countenance showed him to be a werewolf. He licked his lips as his eyes passed over me

Almost as if he were eating me with his eyes, I thought. I took a seat in the back, just to make sure, and reached beneath my scapular to clutch my hamsa, just to make sure. As a City employee, the weary surely had to be aware of Dibra Number Six (“No City Employee shall, during the performance of Its Public Duties, interrupt to trap, smother, or otherwise kill for purposes of devourment any less evil or more edible species”), but I had to be careful. Since the Eyrev Rav (“Mixed Multitude”) Party had taken the majority vote in the last City Elections, it was no longer totally safe for us Semitivampires.

The bus belched and wheezed, propelled by faery engineering: I saw faes and lutins attach and detach themselves from the outer rails, and, at the corner of Pardes/Orchard and Ramban Circle, a Re’em a full parasang long hooked its horns to the rear bumper. The bus gave a lurch as the enormous beast settled onto the rear bumper for the long ride to Ashtaroth Heights, and the werey driver turned around, flashed his scowling eyes onto the gigantic beast, and growled a warning. He knew there was nothing he could do about the Re’em; it was in the category of Celestial Beasts, and therefore protected; frustrated, he used a thumb-claw to flick a hapless fae who was putting her drop of dew into the farebox. The fae spun once around the car, like a sparkler gone haywire, burst into a momentary flame, and was gone.

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