There was a cat in the park in the middle of the city.
There were always cats in the park – in all the parks, but in this one, crossed by two paths and so thick with spirits and ghosts, history and legend one could barely move for it, the cats congregated.
There was a cat in the park in the middle of the city.
There were always cats in the park – in all the parks, but in this one, crossed by two paths and so thick with spirits and ghosts, history and legend one could barely move for it, the cats congregated. Continue reading
The park in the middle of the city had always been creepy. In this city, that was hardly surprising, especially for the thousands of people who had no power of their own but enough of the blood to sense what was going on. The park had power, power by the boatload, and it had danger and ghosts twice on top of twice the power it had. For a small thing, a city block crossed by stone, it was fraught with history and with meaning, and it was so overgrown as to be more of a tangle than a park.
It would take careful handling, but Whitney had found that many things did. She started in the library, reading every article the Local History librarians could find her, down to the smallest clippings, single lines in the crime blotter, short paragraphs in obituaries, mentions in the Floral Column when she went back far enough.
She got permission by submitting a form that was ignored — that being the way of city bureaucracy — and she started slow, taking the earlier bus so she could have an hour in the mornings to work, carrying tools and plants in her gym bag.
“On this spot,” she told the dandelions and the thistles, “Emory MacDonald proposed to Dahlia Stonemason. He knelt here, in the alyssum, and her tears fell on the sidewalk.” She pulled weeds and smoothed down dirt, finding, under all the overgrowth, the marble border some long-ago gardener had placed with care. Into the fresh dirt, she planted some alyssum and watered them with bottled water.
“On this spot,” she told a particularly nasty weed a few days later, “Sally Hennings vanished. They say she’d collapsed, been hit so badly she had had lost consciousness, but when the police arrived, she was gone, never to resurface.” There she planted lilies, setting the bulbs in little circles so she could dig them up for the winter if she needed.
That was a Friday; in one week she had cleared an area 2 feet deep by five feet wide. But when she returned on Monday, she found she was not working alone.
“Here,” the translucent man told her, “a woman kissed her lover for the last time before the war.” He knelt down and dug, translucent or not, and daffodils — bright and flowering and out of season — replaced the matted weeds.
“Here,” a slim creature who had never been human sang, “They buried a diary. The book is gone, but the story remains.” Ivy twined from its feet, filling the shaded area with brilliant greenery.
Whitney did not turn, but she knew the voice that had come behind her. “This place has many a story, woman of the city, and you have no debt to it nor to its denizens. You will be a long time at unearthing them all, even with the help.”
“It needs to be done,” Whitney replied, although she could not have said why. “So I shall do it.”
“Very well, then. You will have the time and the space to do it in.” His voice had the finality of fairy gifts, but still, he sounded kind.
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After the Fairy Road from the last Giraffe Call.
The park in the middle of the city had always been creepy, but, in its heyday, it had also been beautiful. Children had, once, played there, and the overgrowth that filled up its four quadrants had once been tamed, with tiny footpaths wriggling through like snakes. Now, only the desperate or rushed used the main roads, and only the fairies could find the foot-paths.
The apartment building on Milton, overlooking the park, had also seen better days. In its heyday, it had been a fine luxury building, and the suite size and facade still showed that. The rooms were large, the building was passably well-upkept, but the rich neighborhoods had moved North, leaving the Stanton Arms behind.
The tragedy of the park hadn’t helped, of course; no-one with children wanted to be near there. Anyone with sensitivity either was drawn there or repulsed, like magnets, depending on pole. And normal people, inasmuch as there were such things as normal people, for the most part had either heard the rumors, seen the crime rates, or just “knew” it wasn’t a good place; the reputation of the park clung to the building like coal dust from a smokestack.
That left the Arms to college students who couldn’t afford better, out-of-towners who didn’t know any better, fae who knew things about the park even the most sensitive human didn’t, the sensitive who could stand the ghosts, and Errol’s cousin Carolina, who ran an Etsy shop specializing in “genuine” fake magical artifacts with real punch.
That meant, of course, than anyone who had any sort of shady magical deal they wished to engage in ended up at the Arms and the park, seeking someone with just the right twist for their corkscrew. Which was, as Errol and his cousin well knew, one hell of a self-fulfilling prophecy.
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It was only a city block wide, but it had been allowed – some said by design – to become overgrown and wild, so that there were only two clear paths through the whole thing, an X crossing the park, the center a circle where, once upon a time, a merry-go-round had stood. People hurried through the center now, even in the middle of the day. The ghosts of the children were too densely packed there, and too loud.
Whitney cut through there every day. It took five minutes off of her walk, if she did it right, and that meant she could catch the 6:30 bus instead of the 5:30 bus and still be to work on time (instead of fifty minutes early), which meant another hour of sleep or reading or drawing in the morning and being able to actually stay up in the evening; on the way home, it meant she could take the 5:15 instead of the 5:45 home. She walked the park from the Northwest corner to the Southeast corner, which to her was a matter of practicality, but to our story means everything.