It’s funny how one teensy tiny little thing—like pissing off the mob—can lead to torching your van and dumping it in the bottom of the Hudson. But it came with the territory, just another occupational hazard. Plus, Georgy kinda liked the new truck. They were official now. Even had ice cream in the back. Only problem was all the damn customers. Turned out an ice cream truck that read “Federov’s Frozen Treats” was a little conspicuous for a dealer of rare and obscure artifacts.
Georgy handed a cone out the window. “Here you go. Is double scoop. Just like you ask.” Maybe there was no point using his fake Russian accent on a kid, but it was better for business if he stayed in character.
A fat ten-year-old stood arms akimbo, the bottom of his striped shirt creeping up over his pudge belly. “I asked for a sherbet triple scoop waffle cone with rainbow sprinkles.”
Georgy took a deep breath. “We have no rainbow sprinkle. Only chocolate.” He indicated the chocolate pellets on the top scoop.
“Chocolate sucks.” The kid slapped Georgy’s hand, knocking the cone to the ground. “I said I want rainbow sprinkles!”
“Is only ice cream, why you have to be mad?”
“Gimme what I asked for, douchebag.” The little shit pulled his shirt down, covering the flab hanging over his belt. “Or else.”
Nubnip leaned out the window behind Georgy, a lit cigarette hanging from his reptilian mouth. “Or else what, you fat diabetic fuck? You’ll go and tell mommy like a little bitch?”
The kid’s eyes bulged and he tripped backwards over the curb. Clearly he’d never seen a three-foot mutant chameleon in a thousand dollar suit. He scrambled to his feet and scurried away as fast as his stubby legs would allow.
Nubnip spun a chrome revolver on his clawed finger. “That’s right, tubs. Run along before I slap a blond wig on you and make you my own personal Miss Piggy.” The irony being that Nub sorta looked like Kermit. With two lazy eyes.
Nub made a sound like a cat throwing up. Laughter. “Did you see the look on that blimp’s face?”
“I thought we talked about this.” Georgy’s accent slipped. “You can’t just pop your ugly green face out any time you want. The Covenant…” There were rules about praeterhumans revealing themselves to mundanes.
“Screw the Covenant. We’re practically criminals anyway, so what are you worried about? Losing your waffle cone clientele? Besides, that kid had it coming.”
Georgy sighed. “What time is the buyer supposed to be here? We still have three more of those counterfeit Karashdi orbs to get rid of.” He pulled out a fresh cone and scooped himself some sherbet with chocolate sprinkles.
Nubnip shrugged. “Damned if I know. I’m pretty sure you told me while I was flipping through an old Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue.”
Georgy licked his cone and frowned. “Sprinkles don’t belong on sherbet.”
“Well, I could’ve told you that, numb nuts.”
A heavy knock came on the back of the truck.
Georgy and Nub exchanged glances. Had to be their buyer.
“Privyet!” Georgy slipped back into his Russian accent and fished out a blood red orb. “You are here for appointment?”
A dark man stood in silence and studied Georgy. Seemed to look right into his soul. “I was told you have what I’m looking for.”
Georgy shivered. Maybe it was the way the man’s eyes rippled, his pupils like black stones dropped into a pond. Or the smell of oil and sweet decay. Or even the palpable feeling of dread that radiated from him. Probably all three. The creepy bastard had to be praeterhuman in disguise. It was best to treat those freaks with a little extra caution. His partner, Nub, was a perfect example of why.
Georgy put on his best smile and handed him the fake relic.
“A crystal ball?” The man’s face wrinkled with a distinct lack of amusement.
“You are here for Orb of Karashdi, nyet?”
The man cocked his head to the side, a sinister smirk creeping at the corners of his mouth. “The ‘Orbov Karashdi’ is no orb at all. But then, you didn’t know that did you? My master will be most displeased.”
“Master? Who do you work for?”
The man’s smirk split into a predatory smile. “A god.”
Definitely praeterhuman. “Da, that is what they all say.”
But Georgy wasn’t gonna be intimidated. Not by pudgy punks or monsters in skin suits. He pulled a pistol-grip 12 gauge sawed-off from between the seats and racked a shell. Nubnip followed suit, leveling his .357 revolver with a resolve that would make Clint Eastwood proud.
The man stretched out a hand and Georgy’s shotgun was torn from his grasp as if it was attached a fishing line. Nub’s too. Their weapons hovered strangely in the air. Like a dream. Some of these guys were powerful, but telekinesis?
What in the actual fuck…
Georgy felt his mouth fall open as the man’s skin flaked and fell away, gray as ash. His face melted into a featureless mass. It split up the center, opening into a fanged maw. Long jagged horns bent down from his crown and framed an elongated head. It held two eyes so vicious they seemed like pacing beasts caged in the entity’s body. Dark tentacles erupted from its back. They lashed out and coiled around the levitated guns.
Georgy shuddered. Why did it have to be tentacles? The rest he could handle… but this? He showed his palms to the entity. “No problem. You keep guns, tovarisch. If you need ammo we are running thirty-percent-off sale on buckshot. So you are in luck.” His accent eroded as he ran out of things to say.
Nubnip’s cigarette fell out of his mouth. “What the hell are you?”
“An emissary,” the entity hissed in a voice like one you’d expect from the Eye of Sauron. “Sent here to prepare the world.”
“Pshhh.” Nub’s big reptilian eyes blinked out of sync. “Like I’ve never heard that before.”
Georgy rubbed the back of his head nervously. “Nub, please don’t antagonize the emissary… or his… tentacles.”
“If you do not have what I seek, then you are of no more use to me.” The entity spoke with two voices. One aloud, and one that slithered around inside Georgy’s skull. A whispery slime, oozing behind his eyes. Images of Georgy’s death seared his mind. Being flayed alive, the flesh stripped slick from his bones. Haunting screams tearing raw at his throat.
His skin suddenly boiled. His mind ached with the deep, stabbing, pickaxe agony of a brain freeze. “Wait! Wait… We might not have the… the thing—the Orbov you called it?—we might not have that. B-but we can get it. Right, Nub?”
The entity measured Georgy and then shifted its seething, hateful eyes to Nub.
Nub swallowed. “Right! Yes. Whatever you need.”
Georgy’s fake accent wasn’t coming back anytime soon. “But, before we go…” He smacked his lips and flashed the entity a sheepish grin. “Waffle cone?”
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