Heat and ash and hate and hunger. Even to his human body’s less acute senses, a pregnant tension charged the air. To the Wendigo, the air tasted of death and laudanum, stale in its doldrums and disquieting the humors. He hoped that this was an uncommon air at Le Cirque, because so far, Vaughn was not impressed. Visitors to the Mirror Labyrinth seemed on high alert, as well. They were unaware of the reason, but he could see it in them through his empty eye sockets, smell it on their breath and in their sweat. They were afraid. They felt the wrong. They were jumpy. Cortisol and stress hormones made meat gamey. The thought of a meal he’d have to work harder to obtain for a meager payoff appealed to him about as much as prying off fingernails. It had been done before, between the swirling mirrors and trick hallways of the mirror labyrinth, if the five-tiered scores etched into the floor to and fro were to be believed. Signs of struggle marked every corner, like a serial killer’s private trophy hall. His predecessor had been prolific. Unfortunately, he would not add his first marks tonight.
As his first night on the job had failed to net him a meal break, Vaughn left his post unfulfilled, his stomach complaining. Nearing the village, he redirected to make a stop at the dining hall before closing. With luck, he’d be able to swipe uncooked rations.
As expected at this hour, the place was nearly empty. Across the room, a figure sat atop a table. He wondered if it was one of those weird Swami meditation type people. Did people like that join circuses, or just live in hostels in tropical places where no one cared if you lived in Birkenstocks and smelt like shitty essential oils? He didn’t much care. His hands patting at the back pockets of his jeans to make sure he’d grabbed his trailer keys, he was making his way around the shadowed edges of the hall when he recognized the Swami person. The Bee woman. Another shape moved peripherally. The other whispered a name. Marisol. Right, that was it.
It was best to apologize for having been an ass on the boards, even if only a gesture. He cut across the room, navigating between dining tables. The screech of chairs against tile as he nudged them aside distracted him enough that he didn’t take in the state of her until he stopped several feet behind the newly arrived woman. He stopped, eyes flicked wider for a moment before settling. The disgusted noise that rose in his chest couldn’t be stopped, however. “That’s... not okay.” His attention narrowed on the Bee perched in Marisol’s mouth. Vaughn swallowed hard, shifting focus to the other party so that he could stop seeing that. He recognized her, too. “Evenin’ Doc.”