Chapter 20:

Clouds and other annoying details

The Sequence of Kai

Because Trish isn’t my partner on this mission, I’m taking a train for the first time in years. It reminds me why I hate clouds.

Clouds are a detail that won’t blur, that’s the problem. You can never move fast enough to trick your eyes when it comes to clouds. Only ever stains on an otherwise perfect sky. Except for rain clouds, get enough of them together and they create a lovely grey blanket. All too infrequent though, there’s usually a gap that ruins it.

At the moment I’m enjoying the window view while letting my music playlist cycle through. I forgot how much I like this feeling, letting the details blur into the environment, removing specifics from the equation. The music cuts out all the distracting ambience too, especially with these new earbuds.

Aaron is probably still sat to my left. He stopped trying to talk to me during our walk to the station. Not sure exactly when, I put my earbuds in before we left the house. By the time we had reached the ticket machines, his lips were pursed, and his brows were furrowed, so he stopped wasting his breath somewhere along the way.

As the train pulls into one of the smaller stations on the route, I hear a very concerning sound. 3 rapidly descending beeps. My earbuds are running out of power.

I’ve been using them almost nonstop since the morning, the little charge I gave them in Paul’s wasn’t enough to take me to London evidently. I take them out of my ears and put them in their charging case.

“Finally run out of charge, have they?”

I feel stupid. Of course, he didn’t give up, he was just waiting to strike. Clouds are nasty like that.

“I should’ve bought a second pair for occasions like this.”

“I could never get used to those types of earbuds. Trish got me some for Christmas one year but I couldn’t stand the noise cancellation.”
“It would be just like you to not like the best part of something.”

“What’s so good about it?”

Oh my god, he’s still going.

“It’s in the name, I don’t like noise.”

“Is noise such a bad thing?”

I look over at him, trying to find a trace of the shit-eating grin he must be suppressing but he’s doing a good job not letting it show.

“Aaron, do you like the sound of flies?”

“Not really, no. But what does tha-“

“When I take out the earbuds, flies seem to love talking to me. I relish the ability to eliminate that incessant buzzing from my life. I’m of half a mind to start wearing a blindfold so I don’t have to see them either.”

“I’m just trying to make conversation Kai, I’m trying to be nice.”

“Well stop.”

I turn my attention back out the window as the train pulls away from the station but it’s no use. I can still hear his breathing.

“Why do you keep trying to talk to me?”

His expression lightens a bit when I say that. Creep.

“I’d like it if every interaction we had didn’t leave both of us feeling like shit afterwards.”

“Why? I’ve made it very clear I don’t want you to talk to me. I know you don’t like me either, so why keep trying?”

I hear the sound of his hands digging into his armrests as he tries to keep his response measured.

“Trish and I didn’t get on when we first met. We only became friends because she kept putting in the effort. I’m sure you can appreciate that.”

I don’t respond to that. It’s not like our relationships with Trish are in any way similar.

“Why don’t we just try being friendly for this mission? See where it takes us.”

His suggestion is so outlandish that I inadvertently let out something halfway between a scoff and a laugh.

“What’s so funny?”

“We’re really going to try this again? When is enough gonna be enough?”

“So, are you saying you won’t?”

“Sure, let’s do it. Maybe fourth time will be the charm, crazier things have happened.”

This isn’t the first time he’s tried this, but I thought he’d have given up after how badly it went last time. No matter, I can play friends with him if it’s motivated by spite. Maybe this time will make it clear.

I’ll try earnestly though, I won’t have proven any point if this falls apart because I don’t try. It’s not like I want to dislike him, my life would be so much easier if I didn’t. I can do this.

Out of the corner of my eye, I can see him gearing up to say something to me.

“So, uh, what kind of music do you like?”

“…let’s start when we get off the train.”


Half an hour later, the train pulls into Victoria station.

Aaron put his hand on my shoulder when I went to stand up. Luckily I remembered quickly enough that we’re playing nice, so his wrist is still where it should be.

We stay put until everyone else filters off the train and the doors close. A few moments later, a familiar face sits down beside Aaron.

The first time I encountered one of these government agent types, I had been expecting suits, shades and earpieces. Such formal wear for people that can’t even be called employees is a laughable idea to me now. No one who works for the UK’s unofficial magic taskforce can afford a suit, they’re lucky enough not to be wearing green and yellow prison overalls.

Miles is the name of the agent meeting us today, we’ve crossed paths a few times over the last couple of years. He’s a fan of the shorts and flip flops combo, usually topping that off with one of his various Hawaiian shirts. Today it’s a red and orange number. He’s never once looked dressed for the occasion.

“I appreciate you taking the time, we couldn’t have handled this ourselves.”

He hands Aaron a photo of a residential block lit up in the night.

“This is where we think the emotion reaper has taken root, London Borough of Brent. We cut the power to that the building a week ago, the photo was taken yesterday. We’ve sent in 3 operatives and now we have 3 vacancies.”

Aaron’s face gradually grows more puzzled as Miles’ brief kept going.

“You sure this thing is an emotion reaper? Seems like there’s something else going on here.”

“Telltale signs of a reaper are all there, the suicide rates fit the pattern. The only difference is scale.”

Miles takes out a couple of folded up charts from his pocket and starts going through them. The first is a series of concentric circles around the residential block showing the aforementioned suicide rates. The second is a chart detailing the drop in calls to emergency services.

“What about the drug trade?”

“Anecdotally, it barely exists anymore.”

It’s all a bit hard to follow, I’ve never made much of an effort to learn about the supernatural world, I figure I’ll have plenty of time to do it when everyone is dead. Because I’ve been putting off the study, the link between an emotion reaper and the local drug trade isn’t so readily apparent.


A conductor knocks on the window beside us, saying we have to get off the train.

Miles puts everything back into his pockets and stands up.

“Seems that’s all we have time for. If you’re having trouble with things… well, good luck. You know where to find me.”

With that, he began towards the back of the train. You’re not supposed to follow an agent after a briefing is adjourned, so even though Aaron clearly wants to ask more questions, he stays put.

I resist the urge to slip my earbuds back in as we exit the train. The platform is relatively quiet because of how late we disembarked.

Aaron looks deep in thought as we go through the ticket gates. Since we’re ‘friends’ at the moment, I decide to try and be helpful.

“Something on your mind?”

“No… It’s just, how do we even approach something like this?”

“Whatever you decide, I believe in you. You’ve got this!”

I pat him on the back, and he sighs loudly.

“Let’s just go see this place in person. We can decide what to do from there.”

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