“Slept in again, huh?”
Connor hated to leave the comfort of his bed but knew that unless he began his day, he’d either have to suffer Harvey kicking down his door and dragging him out of bed or a fate far worse per his history. Hence why he was in their shared living room with a spoon in his dominant hand and a tub of ice-cream in the other.
“Are you seriously surprised at this point? When haven’t I slept in?”
“You may want to consider eating something else for your brunch, buddy.”
“Harvey, unless you want some of this ice cream launched and stuffed where the sun doesn’t shine, then shut up.”
Harvey smirked but stopped before brushing one of his long locks away from his eyes. Why did he never seem take care of himself? Seeing him in this frazzled state always seemed to bother Connor in a way that was almost beyond words. With hair so overgrown that it almost looked like a bush, ripped jeans and a heavily creased long-sleeved t-shirt, Harvey was the exact opposite of himself, Connor often thought. A complete mirror image of his short black-haired, neat trousers and cotton shirt self.
Harvey’s effort to tame his hair became more and more arduous as his hair descended into deeper chaos than originally. Watching as there became more locks that fell than there were that stayed, Connor slammed down his ice-cream before heading over to the nearby cupboard and ripping it open. “For the love of god, here.” He wailed. A band of brown zipping through the air from his hand to Harvey. “Tie it up with that.”
Harvey laughed as he picked up the band, looping it around his stack of fine thread and making a ponytail. “Always knew you loved me. So, what kept you awake this time? Anything interesting this time around?”
Having returned, Connor sat down and finished his ice-cream. Why couldn’t he have gone and taken back that deal a year ago? He’d be rid of this moron at the very least. “New trades up for grabs. Bunch of exclusive stuff available until the end of the month. Spring sale or something like that. People going crazy with the change in hours.”
“Well, did anything catch your eye? Oh, wait, let me guess-”
“Tomes. Why am I not surprised?”
Connor winced, unable to deny him. Yet another reminder as to why he’s able to tolerate Harvey. Despite his laxed self, Harvey was deceptively calculating and intelligent, both of which was something that Connor admired in a person. Though it didn’t really require intelligence to guess Connor’s interest.
“Did you buy any of them?”
“No, I didn’t really have time to look at all of them and the one’s I did see didn’t interest me. But even if I did—”
“Great, here we go.”
“—there’s nothing wrong with being a little bit interested in what they have. There’s no harm in knowing, Harvey, being ready for whatever is waiting.”
Harvey rolled his eyes. “Dude, you make it sound as though there’s a kill truck waiting outside with a shotgun aimed towards your head. There’s no harm in not knowing. Hell, like they say, ignorance is bliss.”
“Ignorance is fatal if anything.” Connor growled, throwing his empty tub into the bin and his spoon into the sink. “Knowledge is power Harvey, and I can’t really afford to be powerless.”
“Well, you will end up powerless if you keep going there. How many hours did you trade this time? Six? Seven?”
“I don’t need to hear this right now.” Connor sighed impatiently, walking over to the corner, his trainers slipping over his socks. “For your information, I keep track of how much I trade away. It’s not a coincidence that I woke up in the afternoon. I planned that.” The tail of his trench coat swept through the air before settling on his backside, its warm embrace outfitting him.
Laughter escaped the poorly sealed lips of Harvey. Not the amused, happy, bell chime laughter he usually heard, rather it was the cold, cynical, almost a cruel laughter, like he heard something and knew otherwise. “Pfft, I would expect nothing less of you, ya control freak. Where are you going now? Off to make someone scream in misery?”
“You know me so well.”
“Dude, that was a joke. What the hell do you plan on doing exactly?”
“Off to Campus. There’s a little bit of work I need to do in the labs with the hydro-pump and the generator. Speaking of which,” Connor leaned down and picked up a case next to his shoes, “I need this. Whilst I’m at it, there’s something else that I need to drop off.”
Harvey continued staring at Connor expectedly. “And?”
“Don’t give me that. What else?”
A thin and cruel smirk stretched from the corner of his mouth. “Let’s just say that I don’t appreciate Karen taking my materials for her work.
“Oh, boy.” Harvey began praying.
“Hey, if the board isn’t going to do something, then I am. Now then,” Connor grasped the handle to the front door, “see you here tonight?”
“Yeah, sure. Just take it easy on her, ok?”
Harvey wouldn’t have believed it if he hadn’t seen it for himself, but Connor’s smirk seemed to evolve into an inhuman, almost devil-like grin. “Hey, if anything, she should be thanking me for my gift! Great deal, too! The full set for the price of one!”
“Okay, just go already!”
“If she want’s my stuff so much, then that’s what I’ll give her!”
“Just go already!”
With the final droplet of copper sealing the two wires together, Connor dried the soldering iron on the sponge before placing it back into its holder. All things considered, that was much easier than usual.
“Come to make some magic, Mr Lie-man?”
Connor twisted around before immediately relaxing at the sight of the Professor and his powerful goatee. “Jeez, sir, don’t you know it’s dangerous to sneak up on someone whilst they’re working?”
A faint chuckle escaped the old man’s lips. “Young man, I’ve been in charge of this department for years and have seen the worst of mistakes. At this point, nothing can kill me.”
“I’ll take your word for it, Professor.” Connor reached for the toolbox behind him, grasping a screwdriver and continuing his tinkering.
The Professor gently pinched the tip of his long facial hair. “What are you up, boy?”
A silver rectangular piece was gently toyed with as Connor showed him his piece of machinery. “A little bit of innovation.”
“That’s quite the upgrade you have there.”
“I know, right!” Connor’s face seemed to almost morph from looking focused to looking like a child being told he’s allowed candy for dinner. “Got this baby at a Spring Sale! Ten times faster processing in memory access and analysing. And I got three of them. Boom!”
“Ah.” If the Professor was uninterested, he was hiding it very well. “And what did it cost, my friend? Because the department can cover any expenses that- “
“Nothing that I’ll lose any sleep over.”
“Really? Because you seem very manic today.”
Connor smiled coyly. “That’s not sleepiness or insanity, Professor.”
He frowned. If that was some inside joke, then he wasn’t a part of it. “So, you’re—”
“Just modifying the circuitry on the motherboard. My data dump shows interesting result, so I thought that if—”
Whatever it was that Connor had seen in his results, or had hypothesised, The Professor wouldn’t find out until the next day. It was like a canary singing a tune of pure fear and despair. Or a shopper in anguish after finding out they were almost broke from their long day of purchasing. A shrill and resounding scream raced down the white hallway, bouncing back to the lab it started from. Connor ran to the neighbouring room, the Professor racing behind him. What awaited them was almost stupefying.
On the floor was a woman, her blond, side parted hair frazzled as though each greasy strand had been delivered a frightening shock. Both the Professor and Connor were at her doorway, yet she gave no sign that she knew they were there. She remained on the floor; her eyes transfixed on the opposing wall.
“Karen, what is the matter?”
Karen snapped out of her trance and turned her head to Connor. “I thought…I thought that…I saw…horrible…”
The Professor knelt down, gently shaking her shoulder. “Are you alright, my dear? Connor, why don’t you leave this to me? We can talk again at a later date.”
“Understood.” Before leaving, Connor followed Karen’s frightened gaze, aimed towards the wall. “Interesting mirror you got there. Have you always had that?”
Karen’s eyes seem to shake, as though unfamiliar with the reality that she was in. “Yes, I got it from…I-I mean-I meant that…no…I’ve had it for…no…”
Connor’s face was stoic. “I see. Well, I will see you tomorrow Professor. Let me know if you need anything.” He turned and took his leave, the shadows of the late afternoon kissing his feet upon his departure. It was still quite early after all. He could browse around before heading off and maybe see what the rest of the day had to offer before looking for bigger deals to bag.
“What the hell is this?” When Harvey had left that afternoon, the living room in their shared flat had been moderately filled, with a few shelves, a table and their respective desks, with enough floor space to walk freely. Now it was like playing hopscotch over several dozens of bags to try and get your wallet. “And where the hell have you been? I swear it’s only been a few hours.”
“Indulging myself a little bit.” Connor responded, sitting hunched over a very thick stack of paper. “Couple of things up for grabs, might make my space a bit roomier. Also,” he pointed to the pile of t-shirts with rock stars, cartoon characters and weird slogans and catchphrases, “these were selling like hot cakes online, so I got them whilst I was out. Can you believe it? Fifty percent off on all limited-edition sale merch. Barely cost a damn thing.”
“I’ll take your word for it.” Harvey muttered. “It’s almost sundown. Had a little something to eat whilst out so I’m gonna take a little nap before I… we take off. Be ready in an hour and half?”
“Sounds good.” Connor didn’t break eye contact with his papers.
“‘Kay. Night, honey! Don’t work too hard, okay?” Harvey laughed as a screwdriver bounced off the wall, missing his head by a few centimetres. He closed the door behind him as he left the room. Glancing to make sure he was gone, Connor reached behind him, pulled out a small notebook, and jotted down a quick note reviewing all he needed in that night’s endeavour:
Next day events:
Lecture 12:00 – 15:00.
Part time job 16:30 – 22:00.
Sleep available for trade: 3 – 6.
• 500 Units of Ancient Currency.
Available information for exchange:
Witness report, case 305 (Missing Person)
Suspect sighting, case 606 (Grand Theft)
“Not much,” he muttered silently to himself, “but I can make it work.”
“I thought you said that you’d be ready?”
“I lied, okay? Jeez.” Harvey rubbed the sleep out of his eyes before climbing onto the back of Connor’s Harley Davidson. The sun was setting fast, as it usually did for those who wanted to enter. “I hate to tell you this, dude, but most people enjoy sleeping. They consider it relaxing, even if you don’t.”
“Shut up.” Connor started the engine. “We have two minutes, let’s get moving.” Twisting his throttle, they lurched forward, the sun sinking and disappearing from the heavens. The moment it did, shadows stretched from lampposts and buildings. They continued spreading and crawling, the light growing dimmer and faint until…nothing. There was no light, no buildings, only emptiness. The motorcycle? Gone. Harvey wouldn’t have known he was on one if he couldn’t feel it rumbling beneath. He wouldn’t have even known that Connor was in front of him if he hadn’t been holding him. Suddenly, it all came back. A bazaar lit only by the single planet sized crystal star in the sky, vendors and street stalls all around, hoping to make a sale. In the dark alleyways were a number of shadier people who were hoping to make a sale whilst remaining unknown. The two of them dismounted from the bike.
“Ah, The Midnight Market. It’s been too long.”
“Shut up.” Connor growled. His bike disappeared as it always did, knowing to reappear only when they wanted or needed to leave. The mirrors hanging from a stall caught his attention as the two of them were about to depart.
“Exotic mirrors for sale!” Bellowed the salesman, his turban bopping joyfully with his dance. “Great deal only available for three more days! The entire three-piece collection for the price of one! Suits all of your purposes! You see more than just your reflection, trust you me! I’ve had more than my fair share of scares! Ho, ho!”
“Nuh, uh.” Harvey grabbed Connor by the collar, dragging his towards the stall. “There’s something you need to do.”
“What the hell are you talking about?”
“You know what.” He glared.
Harvey growled, his lips twisting with disgust. Why should he let it go? He’d already tried talking to the top dogs in charge and nothing changed. In the end, it ended like it always did, relying on his own devices. “Why should I?”
“It won’t solve anything. You need to appeal to the board again, not torture her. You gain nothing but sick satisfaction at her expense.”
Connor looked at him indignantly. “That’s the whole point.” He turned and faced the vendor, the turban bouncing lightly. “Hey, boss.”
“Back so soon, young man? What can I do?”
Connor sighed. This was going to be painful. “Those mirrors I bought, how long do the visions last for?”
“One month! Is that not to your liking?”
“Oh, I do this with great reluctance, trust me.” He gritted his teeth. “How much to stop the visions?”
“You can’t!” The vendor smiled brightly. “But I can lessen the time. For the right trade, of course.”
“Nine days.” Connor declared.
Harvey looked insulted. “Connor!”
“Fine, one week.” He kept looking at the vendor. “In exchange, the visions intensify to physical sensations. Fair?”
The vendor stood motionless, as though meditating. “Hmm…”
Connor groaned. Should have seen this coming. “I’ll throw in 50 units, 3 hours of sleep and my empathy for the day.”
He smirked as a purple light flickered for a moment before turning to Harvey. “Happy?”
“Not really, but it’s something.”
“Mr Lie-Man! My favourite customer!” At a stall on the far south side of the bazaar, a young woman bounced in childish glee, her mocha skin and her wide smile illuminating in the star light. “What can I do for you today? You need another memory enchantment? Another RAM chip? I’m afraid we’re sold out of that today. A date?! I’ll gladly provide a date for you!”
“Is there any way you can refund me for this idiot?” Connor ignored the fact that Kana was less than a centimetre from his nose and pointed to Harvey picking his nose.
“You know the rules, Connor. No refunds. Besides, you got what you wanted.” She said, leaning back.
“I asked for something that would make me happy, not give me a migraine.”
“He will make you happy,” she smiled cheekily, “it’s only a matter of when, which you didn’t specify at the time.”
“Fair enough,” he sighed, “let’s get to business. What you got for me?”
He prefers to just be called Hinh. The one that never shuts up in class. The first to start discussing/speaking in class and mostly likely to be the last to hand in his assignments. It was the mythological works of Rick Riordan and how he created entire new, divine, worlds from telling his son stories that sparked Hinh’s interest in writing. His preference in writing leans towards comedic, mixed with some sass, sarcasm and truthful insight as whatever stories he comes up with will most likely never reach the public – his latest being a story around the constellations.