This is an extra April 1st story I received from the April Fools Writing Swap this year, written by Chris Poirier
“You’re late,” he said, without turning. Nearly halfway to his panther form, his black fur made him almost invisible in the dark shadows where he crouched. I’d only found him by following the eddies from his breath as they rippled out through the air.
I crouched down beside him, and found myself suddenly enveloped in his scent. Fresh, clean sweat, with a faint musky edge; human, but not; masculine, raw…powerful. He must have been crouching in still air for a while for it to build up so much. I’d never noticed it so strongly before.
“Came as fast as I could,” I whispered, being careful to keep any hiss off the “s”. After a moment, I sidled a bit closer to him. There was no one else nearby, but you can never be too careful.
“They’re inside. Mafic and Felsic. Somebody else I don’t recognize. I’ve been around the building, but they must be in the vaults. They’ve left one lookout, across from the north side of the building. And there’s no other way in. Not without setting off alarms. Use your air sense, find out what you can.”
I nodded and reached out to follow the wind around the museum—down alleys, over rooves, through cracks in doors and windows, into the foyer, up and down staircases….
“There’s someone inside,” I said. “On the second floor, walking toward the rear of the museum. He’s not moving quickly. Swinging something. Security guard, maybe?”
“Maybe. There should be one.”
I listened more.
“Nothing from the basement. There’s something stopping the air.”
“Figures. The vaults are probably humidity-controlled. Closed circuit.”
I nodded. Made sense. I shifted my focus up, to the roof, and reached down through the ventilation system. But the fans cut the air into tangled ribbons, and I lost the thread long before getting down to the basement.
“Nothing. It’s too far; too much interference.”
“It’s fine,” he said, and reached back to gently touch my knee. “I didn’t expect much,” he said. “But we need to know what they’re up to. I’ll go to the north. Stay here, follow them if they come out this end.”
He turned then, and added, “I know it’s late and I got you out of bed, but stay alert.”
I nodded and he was gone, loping silently off through the shadows along the alley toward the north end of the museum. His scent faded quickly, scattered by his wake in the air and stolen away by an untimely puff of wind. In only a few moments, I was alone.
What seemed like an hour passed, as I struggled to stay awake. You’d think the cold would have helped with that, but it only made it worse. My teeth started to chatter, which I concluded was hardly stealthy, so I crept further into the shadows of the alley and dropped my own darkness, to give my clothes a chance to do their job.
The scraping of metal against concrete woke me with a start from what I’m sure was only a momentary lapse of consciousness. A surge of adrenaline slammed my heart against the inside of my chest, and for the first time since Savage had called, I was suddenly fully and completely awake. Barely twenty feet away, I saw a hand pop out from the ground, followed by a head I recognized as Mafic. I quickly recloaked myself in darkness and pressed myself flat into my hiding spot.
Felsic followed Mafic out of what I concluded must be a manhole, followed by a third person I didn’t recognize. He passed Felsic something long and narrow before climbing out himself. Mafic waved his hand and this time I could see the metal of the manhole cover crawl back across the concrete and onto the hole. It settled with a loud clunk. The three looked around furtively, then, apparently satisfied, set off down the street. Not far away, I heard a car start.
Savage! I mouthed urgently as soon as it was safe. They just climbed out of a manhole.
Damnit! Did they get anything?
Felsic is carrying something in a long cylinder. I reached out for it in the air, but to no avail. It’s sealed. Can’t tell what’s in it.
On it. But they’ve got a car.
Silence. Then: I’m coming. Try to mark them. But don’t be seen.
The air told me I had only seconds to catch them. They weren’t moving quickly, but their ride wasn’t far away. It also told me the only cover was a few raised planters and a newspaper box.
It would have to do.
I slipped around the corner into the street, holding to the building’s shadow as long as I could before rolling across to the nearest planter. My darkness left a tattered, wispy trail across the sidewalk behind me, but it wasn’t likely anyone could see it, even if they looked. Their gait and the breeze told me they hadn’t heard me.
I was just about to move again when I noticed a piece of gum stuck on the side of the planter. Disgust barely formed before it was pushed aside by an idea. Dense but soft—it would fly well but wouldn’t make much noise on impact. It was perfect! I pried it off the concrete and wrapped it up in my darkness. From my position crouched on the sidewalk, I took my best aim and threw the gum as hard as I could in the direction of the car. I stayed with the mark as it sailed through the air, holding my non-breath. Further…further…just a little further… I felt it land with a quiet, wet thunk…behind their car! My heart pounding in my chest, I pulled myself through.
Okay, now what? There was little chance I could tap one of them as they got into the car without being noticed. But that’s all I needed. Just one little mark.
But what if I could get them to mark themselves? Dammit, I thought, this might just work!
Staying low so I couldn’t be seen in the side mirror, I crept around the car and brushed both passenger-side handles with my hand. What was left behind was exactly what I wanted: a thin smear of viscous, dripping darkness.
Rolling back behind the car, I reached out for a mark I could return to and found an unexpected one nearby.
Savage! Stop! I need to jump to you! I shouted voicelessly into the subvocal receiver, then jumped. I materialized almost under his paw, my mark still clinging to him where his hand had touched my knee in the alley. His back legs, still moving, mid-bound, landed on my thigh and he nearly collapsed before he caught himself and jumped off me. Spinning to face me, a growl died in his throat as he realized what had happened.
Sorry. I said, and reached out to touch his head. But I was still waiting on an answer. Would it work? It had to work.
And then I felt it: one hand, then another, press into my marks. Both stuck. Mafic, and the one I didn’t recognize. I almost giggled out loud.
One door closed, then two more. The engine got louder, then faded into the distance.
“You set a mark?” he asked, as he shifted back toward human form.
I smiled, euphoric, and ran my hand up his bare chest as it came upright, tracing my finger along the dark, glistening fur between his pecs. I placed my other hand high on his thick, muscular thigh and pulled myself closer. His short fur felt sleek and satiny against my palm. He smiled and shook his head slowly, but did nothing to stop me. The smell of his sweat was stronger now—so much stronger, and far more intoxicating. He raised his hand to my face, and I drew back my darkness to let him in. Our eyes met, mine dark and human, his bright and feline. I slipped my hand behind his neck and pulled him in.