✾ UNREST ✾
》 BURGER QUEEN || 1 AUGUST 2019 || ~9:00 PMDave had never been one to complain. He hadn't said a word when he was expelled from his first high school over a misunderstanding, and he never groaned about the lack of job prospects in Bloomfield Bay. There were jobs, but there weren't any he could fill with his high school diploma. The service industry jobs went to younger, better-looking people who could put in more hours instead of a hobo living out of his car. He had tried applying for janitorial positions, too, but found that even there the applicants were usually plentiful and overqualified.
Occasionally, customers at the Burger Queen would mock him for having a cell phone despite being homeless, before they returned to their own brushes with poverty in every bill that needed to be paid. He understood that it was their own fears they wanted to avoid, and having him around made it easy to forget how precarious their own positions were. So he never complained when they made those comments, just like how he wasn't complaining now, as a snot-smeared kid wiped her little hands on his ragged coat in complete defiance of her screaming mother. Eventually the woman dragged her child away, scrubbing the toddler's hands furiously with wet wipes.
He noted with resignation that the lady never bothered apologizing to him. She was probably more horrified that her daughter was touching a homeless person.
His phone rang at that moment, the screen flashing while on silent, so he left the fast food on the table with a nod at the cashier and a quick look towards the restroom to indicate he would be back soon. Inside, the sterile lighting and white linoleum revealed too many piss stains to count and several dark brown spots peppering the immediate vicinity of the toilet.
"Hello," he answered, already knowing who it was.
Jared's chipper voice answered from the other end of the line, "Hey, Dave! Sorry about the late pay last time--I got a new accountant and he thought the monthly payments sent to you were 'suspicious' so he flagged them and forgot to check with me. Honestly, I appreciate the meticulous work, but the guy really grilled me about who it was going to and why--"
"They're getting numerous here, Jared," Dave cut in. It was Jared's nature to talk and talk often, the well-bred sort of assertiveness that resulted from years of trained socializing and careful sidestepping of awkward silences.
"...Is it bad? I don't think I'll be back in Bloomfield Bay for at least another month or two, and I just killed a pretty beefy one two days ago here," Jared's voice dropped, though from the stark silence in the background, Dave could tell he was already somewhere private.
"Even if you were, I'm not sure it'd make a difference. Some new type of Elegy these days. Sends lots of little things skittering around causing discontent and misery, but the big one's hiding somewhere I can't tell. Bell sounds have been maddening lately."
"Do you want me to call someone? I think Anna and Leelee are still in the area, and Anna's got that tracking ability--"
"Yeah, if you could," Dave agreed, "that'd be great." He paused a moment but continued when he heard the sound of Jared's mouth working up another silence-filler. "Hey, Jared? I know I say this all the time, but I really appreciate what you're doing. For me. And by proxy for everyone else. I know it looks weird to be helping a random hobo all the time--"
"Stop, I should be thanking you." Jared cut him off this time. Then the sound of something muffling the receiver end while Jared shouted at someone ended quickly. "Sorry about that--I was saying I should be thanking you. Most of us don't want to give up anything, even when we know the world's at stake. I'm not going to make the excuse that it's human nature, because we should know better than primal urges by now, but you're stronger than everyone I know. Don't think you should be ashamed of that. I'm not."
If there was anything Dave had to say in response, he held his tongue, afraid Jared would hear the slight stuffiness of his voice when he tried to hold back more emotions than he could.
"But hey, I've gotta go now, my secretary is absolutely reaming my ass right now, I'll call you again later if I can duck away." The call ended on a merciful click and Dave calmed his reddening face with splashes of water. Jared was wealthy, but not as much as he could be if he erred more on the shady side of business. That he had always refused to partake in tax evasion schemes and corporate exploitation meant he was often away checking in on various branches of his family's hotel chain and making sure someone else wasn't shaving off profits in his stead. It also meant he was cutting back himself in order to support not only Dave, but various other Crowns who had come to him for assistance.
When Dave had calmed down enough, he walked out as quietly as he had entered, finishing his meal and cleaning his table so the Burger Queen staff would have a little less to do.
When he was away from both security cameras and human sight, he called forth his Crown and stepped into the Greyspace. It shrouded his body in an ink-dark pallor before shaping into a thin layer of black armor over his now ash-gray skin that faded into a blue translucence around his legs and arms. It seemed to reveal much of his new body, but the texture of the new skin was hard as steel. The Crown became a horn jutting from his forehead and furled out two sharp tendrils of pulsing blue on either side of his head. The top half of his new, inhuman face was shrouded now by a sheath of that same black carapace and small divots of blue light glimmered to life along the face and collarbone of his new form.
Floating now, he turned towards the nearing sound of tiny bells, already expecting the swarm of vermin. It would take a coordinated attack and a careful tracker to reveal the main body of the Elegy and he could only wait until Anna returned to organize the friendly Crowns.