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In a short period of time, my reality changed.

The impossible became possible, the unreal; real, the fantastic; common-placed. I had seen murder and deception, bore witness to the strange, inexplicable deeds committed by strange, inexplicable creatures—had shot a man in the chest and had survived a stabbing by an actual dagger. Days ago, I sat in the chair I sat in now and did nothing more than stare out the tinted windows of my glass cage thinking about dreams that had long since passed me by. I had been a jaded, depressed woman without prospects and now I—.

I couldn't rightly say what I was. Perhaps still a jaded, depressed woman without prospects, with accompanying gut wound, revenge plot, and dwindling life span. Surreality tinged normal life like sunlight through sea glass; nothing had changed, and yet everything was different, blurry and off-color. Nothing would ever be the same again.

When I woke and realized the date, the otherworldly squatter stealing space in my home had asked if I had "a job that needed attending," and if I shouldn't be there instead of at home. Having only just dislodged myself and Tara's clingy feline from my bed, I stood in the hallway—dressed in old pajamas, disheveled, with horrid morning breath—and glared at the Sin until he'd returned an unimpressed glower.

"This contract could take months. I will begin by searching for this Mitch of yours, but I've many others to hunt as well," he said to me. "If you mean not to starve in the interim, you will need to continue your employment. That is...if you can retain it." The unspoken sentiment being he doubted any employer would put up with me for long.

The bastard.

No small amount of rage spurred me through my morning ablutions and out the door, muttering curses under my breath the entire drive from Evergreen Acre's secluded suburbs to Verweald's industrial heart, at which point I took note of my surroundings and parked in the structure a block down from Imor Advances.

I sat behind my desk in the gleaming lobby and tried again and again to concentrate, to focus, and again and again, I failed. A loose cardigan and copious amounts of slightly off-color makeup hid the majority of my injuries from all but the most prying eyes, and those polite but otherwise disinterested inquiries that did come were easy to misdirect. A woman from HR whose name I couldn't recall asked if everything was all right, and I told her I'd taken a spill on the stairs the day before, covering for both my bruises and my absence. The day continued. Hours dragged by.

Crime happened. Just this morning I'd seen the remnants of yellow police tape fluttering across the avenue at Klau's headquarters, from a break-in, I assumed. Crime, violence, murder were indisputable truths of human existence, especially in a city like Verweald. I knew that, and yet....

Staring at the red indicator light for the call waiting system, I choked on the sudden urge to laugh hysterically at the sheer absurdity of it all. Tara had died, and I had a woman on line two complaining about wrinkled shipping inserts waiting to be transferred to the customer service department. Bandages pulled against my skin, bruises like brush strokes painting a horrific rendition of my life, and I had to sit here, smile, pretend, because the demon in my house told me to do so. How absolutely absurd.

The laughter soured, shifted, and I swallowed the building sob down until I could rise and cross the lobby's marble floor for the far corridor, earning a miffed look from an employee as I knocked his arm on my way into the restroom. A shuddering gasp escaped after I threw the door's lock, and it echoed in the tiled confines like the cry of some horrid, ugly beast.

Get a grip, Gaspard.

My chest heaved and tears clouded my vision, so I shut my eyes and forced air into my lungs, shoving off from the door behind me before I decided to slide down its length and collapse on the floor for a harsh, crying jag. The woman in the mirror looked harried and exhausted, and my fingers smoothed the smudged concealer and running mascara. I concentrated on the sound of water rushing out of the faucet, on the water's warmth as it rushed over my trembling fingers, and all thoughts of Tara and my guilt I shoved away before they could overcome me again.

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