|Frankie Bishop (gaeilgebriste) wrote in nevermore_logs,|
@ 2022-08-11 19:29:00
|Entry tags:||frankie bishop|
|It was the knock that gave it away.|
People didn’t knock on a door like hers. Loiter outside, sure. Hover, absolutely. A tap on the window, a ‘hello’ that trailed up and around into a brittle question mark— or, if it was a fun day, the rap of approaching footsteps that would not wait to be invited— all pretty standard. Nobody’d tried to kick it in yet, though they sure liked slamming it on their way out. Turned out, not a whole lot of satisfied customers in this line of work. Not even when you turned up exactly what they’d asked for. (Sometimes, especially when you turned up exactly what they’d asked for.)
But they didn’t knock, not that way, soft and courteous, with due respect to the dead tree the door had come from. Only one person Frankie knew knocked like that.
She made a clumsy grab for the assorted takeout cups littering her desk – she had to press down the contents of the already-overfull trash basket to make room for ‘em, but they more or less fit, even if one sandwich carton slipped precariously over the edge – and swept the mess of papers to one side, into what might dubiously pass for a sort of pile. Professional, she was so fucking professional. “C’min, G!”
Guanyin slipped through the door, looking like a literal ray of sunlight in a floaty butter-yellow summer dress. Radiant, of course, was Guanyin’s default setting. She couldn’t even help it. Frankie had a theory she could spent the night in a back-alley dumpster and she’d still roll out in the morning looking like a million bucks, smelling like roses, and greeted by a retinue of cartoon Disney birds. It’d be un-fucking-bearable if she wasn’t also the (actually, literally literal) earthly embodiment of all compassion. (It was, Frankie had learned long ago, real hard keeping up the energy to resent somebody who was so stubbornly committed to giving a shit about you, no matter how many times you threw their care back in their face.)
But the thing about rays of sunlight was that they had a way of bringing your attention to every speck of dust, every stain you thought you’d covered over. You spent too much time in the sunlight, eventually it got uncomfortable. Eventually, you had to either clean your shit up, or reach for the blinds. Frankie liked the dark. It was safe there. Or, at least, it was familiar, which was most of the time was as close as you could get to safe.
She was still human, though (demi-human? functionally human, whatever), and when the Bodhisattva of Mercy smiled at her with unfeigned fondness, she felt it like a warm glow against her skin. (People couldn’t help craving the sun, it was hard-coded into their DNA.)
“Hey Frank!” The raspy voice came not from Guanyin, but from the white cockatoo hitching a ride on the goddess’s shoulder. Bai Yingwu, the Filial Parrot, immortal disciple of the bodhisattva’s holy retinue— Ying, to his pals. Fluffing out his impressive crest, the bird launched himself forward to land skidding on top of the disordered pile of papers, which spilled across the desk once more. “You don’t call, you don’t write,” he tutted, hopping neatly over the ash tray to climb onto her arm. “Not even a postcard or a how ya doin’? I was starting to think you’re seein’ other birds.”
Frankie snorted and scratched behind the cockatoo’s neck. “Missed you too, asshole.”
“We’ve both missed you,” said Guanyin, who’d followed Ying into the room more gracefully (she did everything more gracefully) and rested her hands against the back of a chair. “Do you have time for lunch? I was hoping to take you out. A new business deserves a proper celebration.”
“Ah well, y’know, I’ll have to consult my calendar.” Frankie leaned back in her seat, with a sweeping gesture that took in the bare grey walls, the empty pinboard, the trash basket full of takeout crap. “As you can see, we’re practically overflowing with prospective clients.”
Guanyin’s face fairly beamed. “Perfect. There’s a Tibetan place I’d love to show you.”
She had missed them, that was the bitch of it. “You’re helping people,” said Guanyin, as Ying tore his beak into a vegetable dumpling the size of his head. It wasn’t a platitude; it never was with Lady G. Her approval when she gave it was always the real deal and it always hit the same, a flutter in the chest like feathered wings that made Frankie wanna squirm, wanna run, wanna curl in close to it like the filthy liar she was.
“Helping ‘em to a messy divorce mostly,” Frankie shrugged the feeling away. “Narking on dumb kids. It’s not exactly Walter Mosley shit.”
Guanyin’s lips curved softly. “Maybe not. You’re still solving their problems.”
“And getting in people’s business,” Ying added around a beakful of cabbage. “You live for that crap.”
“Wow, Ying. Calling me a nosy bitch already? We didn’t even make it to dessert.”
“Hey, your words! I just called you nosy.”
A knock on the door. It’d been so predictable, from the gentle rap to the dumplings to the bird sass, she’d thought she’d known exactly where it was leading. And ‘cause of that, she never saw it coming.
Doom was everywhere, all the time. That wasn’t fatalism talking there, it was just a fact of the world, a simple numbers game. At every given minute, a hundred people round the planet were dying. On any given day, thousands of people were having the worst day of their lives. And Frankie knew that for a fact, too, because the singular thing she’d inherited from her psychopath mom other than a killer head of hair was a washerwoman-at-the-ford-ass sixth sense when it came to impending damnation.
Dooms were personal, they were concentrated. They clung to a body like a blood stain on a white shirt, like dog shit on the bottom on a shoe. Not this one. This fate loomed, hanging above the building like a pair of black wings, felt more than seen.
They’d been heading out of the cafe. The light at the crosswalk had gone green, and she’d stepped out onto the street with barely a look or a thought. Had made it almost the full way across when it hit her, like stepping out of a crisp air-conditioned building and into a tropical soup.
Frankie tipped her head back slowly, taking in the full, doomed height of the building. Birds squabbled on the fire escape, black feathers and beady eyes and harsh croaking calls. A whole goddamn conspiracy of ravens.
“Ah.” Guanyin had stopped beside her. Her voice, at Frankie’s shoulder, was troubled and soft and not even a little bit surprised. “You see it too, then.”
“Yeah, no shit,” Frankie murmured. Her legs had the right idea; tense and twitchy, they were saying run, run right-the-fuck-now, but her eyes hadn’t got the message, transfixed by the imminent train wreck. Ying was right; she was a nosy bitch. “What the hell is it?”
“I don’t know,” said the goddess. “But— if you’re willing to take it, it’s a case.”