This is the post-conclusion to the 6-part serial "Something Like Midnight." If you've read this far, thank you very much. If you need a refresher, follow the provided links. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, and Part 6.
The shopkeeper looked out at the bustling city through the streaked glass of his tiny shop. Buildings called skyscrapers literally pierced the clouds, constructed by machines of impossible power. Automobiles clogged the saturated roadways, ubiquitous and loud. Great, flashing screens covered nearly every flat surface, displaying advertisements for various and sundry goods. It was a city like so many others, filled with modern people with modern ideas and modern values.
The shopkeeper had spent the better part of the past century living in obscurity. His only companion had been a half-demon with a heart of gold. They would spend a few years here and there, lending a hand however they could. The full-man wanted to make amends for his past deeds; the half-man just got a thrill out of helping. But they could never stay long or the locals would notice their anomalies: neither of them aged properly.
The citizens of the current city barely paid him any mind, and the ones that did only thought of him as the eccentric owner of the convenient store at the intersection of Fate and 15th Streets. When asked he would happily talk about life in the Old Country Across the Seas and tell stories to any open ears. But more often than not customers spared him not a word and sometimes not even a glance. All were too busy, too wrapped up in their own devices and their own stories. He didn’t blame them.
He stepped away from the window and surveyed the store. He had not sold much merchandise, not that it mattered, but it still had been a good day. He had shared a fable with a child with sticky fingers, explaining the importance of honesty and the rewards of hard work. He told the boy that he would not call the constables as long as the boy promised to never steal again. “And by what do you promise?” he’d asked.
“By the, uhm. I don’t know. What do you mean?”
“Promises are very important. Making a promise is one thing, but keeping it is something else entirely. When you promise by something, then you give meaning to the promise. The stronger your words, the more powerful your promise.”
“So, like, I should promise by the money in my billfold or the shoes on my feet?”
The shopkeeper scowled. “Money is a temporary thing, child. It has no worth. And shoes wear out and rot. No, promise by something that means something to you. A friend, a relative, a body part, an ideal. Something with life. Then I will know that you mean it.” The boy looked uncomfortable. “It’s either that or I call the authorities. Your choice.”
“So like a pinkie promise?” The shopkeeper’s frown deepened.
“That no longer has any value, either, I’m afraid. Try again. Think hard.”
“Okay, okay. I, uh, I promise by my, uh, by my quick right hand that I will never steal from you again.” He looked sheepish.
The shopkeeper removed his glasses and rubbed his eyes. “You’re a clever lad,” the shopkeeper said. “Don’t let it get to your head. Remember your words, son. Don’t you dare try and break ‘em or you’ll rue this day. Now scamper on.”
The boy had jumped up from his seat and scurried from the shop as quick as old Jack Robinson. Ancient copper bells rang out announcing a customer, pulling the man from his reverie.
“Hello,” he greeted, smiling wide and inviting. “Can I help you find something?”
A young girl, perhaps thirty. Her eyes were tired and her face thin and ragged. The unmistakable look of a person searching hard for something hard to find. “You Corgan Mercy?” Her voice wavered.
The shopkeeper dropped his smile. Few people knew that name. “I am. And you are?”
“I’m in the business of storytelling,” she answered. “And I hear you’re one of the best in the world.”
“Flattery is ill-becoming, dear.”
The girl blushed, but continued. “A truth, though, surely. Least that’s what I’ve been lead to believe. Been hunting you for quite some time now.”
Corgan raised an eyebrow. “Is that so? And how, may I ask, did you get my name?”
Her eyes flickered around the shop. Satisfied they were alone, she licked her lips and dropped her voice. “A demon told me.” Her face darkened to an even deeper shade of red.
“A demon, huh? And why would a young lady such as yourself be on speaking terms with a demon?”
“I’ve got my reasons, same as you have yours for keeping your identity secret.”
Corgan studied the deep bags under the girl’s eyes. She doesn’t look haggard, he thought. She looks haunted. “I suppose that’s true. Why are you here, miss? What sort of story you chasing?”
“I need to know everything you can tell me about the Gyarmr,” she said, her voice now desperate. “I need to know how to escape it.”
“Oh child. What have you done?”
Word Count: 827
Total Word Count: 6372
First, a sketch of the Draughters. They look mostly humanoid, but with slightly pointed ears and diamond shaped noses. Weseley definitely has an aged look about him, and Wenton seems to be a bit fleshy, almost like he's been eating a bit too much...
Overall I generally enjoyed this story quite a bit, especially the worldbuilding going on in my head. Some of that made it out into the story, which was nice. As for the epilogue, I was conflicted. The first draft had quite a different ending, where instead of the girl responding about a demon she said something like "A man named Dillon sent me." This twist ending was abandoned however, and I think for the better.
All in all I'm not sure that the epilogue is entirely necessary. It does provide a little extra characterization for Corgan, as well as a "happier" ending than that of Part 6. Like I said, I was conflicted. Nevertheless, I figured I'd go on and put it up here.
Thanks to all who've read.