When Morry came to, he discovered that he was lying on a plush couch. His left arm was extended at his side, and his vision, though blurry, was blessedly free of black tendrils. “Carol?” he whispered.
“She’s in the kitchen,” he heard Luz say in the low, soothing voice of eternity. “I believe there was a request for cocoa.”
Morry propped himself against the armrest. To his left, Luz was sitting on what looked like an Ikea coffee table, the starlight within her casting a glow along its efficient Scandinavian angles. She was holding his left hand in hers.
“It’s practically healed,” he said. All that remained of the gaping chasm that, not long ago, had divided one part of his hand from the other was a dark purple scar running up his palm and between his fingers. “Oh, my. Thank you so very much.”
Luz’s smile was a curved, toothless fissure that appeared across her face the way a crack in the ground might during a particularly pleasant earthquake. “Some things got rearranged on an atomic level,” she said. “Overall, though, the purge was not difficult.”
“Told you she was good,” Carol called from a nearby room. “Morry, marshmallows or no marshmallows?”
“Yes, please, if you have enough for everyone. If not, I’m grateful all the same.”
“Listen to this guy. ‘I’m grateful all the same.’” Carol cackled. “I didn’t rescue you so you could go without marshmallows, Morry.”
Morry and Luz glanced at each other and exchanged shy smiles. “She saved my life out there,” he said quietly.
“She’s in the habit of doing that,” said Luz.
“She was absolutely amazing.”
“That’s habitual for her, too.”
Morry cleared his throat. He took his hand back from Luz and placed it in his lap. He offered her a smile that he knew curled with the timidness of an apology. “If I may ask, and of course, please feel free to ignore this,” he said, “but… what manner of being are you?”
Luz laughed. “Around here, the word I’ve heard used that fits best is ‘meteor.’ Or ‘asteroid,’ depending on where I am at the moment.”
“What do you call yourself?”
Luz smiled. “A traveler.”
“It must be hard,” said Morry, “not being able to travel much around here without causing a commotion.”
“It’s not as terrible as you might think,” Luz said. She winked one of her nebula eyes. “I have a hat.”
At that moment, Carol came into the living room, carrying three mugs by their handles in one hand and a bottle of rum by the neck in the other. “I was just beginning to tell Morry about my explorations of your world,” Luz said as Carol joined her on the coffee table.
“She finally got to try Doris’s for the first time the other day,” said Carol.
“Oh! With the rosemary fries, yes,” said Luz. Morry watched as the interstellar traveler and the legendary demon slayer touched shoulders and shared a high-five.
In that moment, with a clarity he could never achieve looking at the night sky from the city, Morry realized that he liked Luz very much, and he could never be jealous of what she and Carol shared. Even upon just meeting them, he could see how well they worked together; he supposed it wasn’t every day that the perfect match for a Blade fell literally from the sky.
Of course, he realized, watching Carol smile as she turned the rum bottle upside down over the cups of cocoa, that didn’t mean it would be easy for him to stop thinking about her. She was Carol the Blade, after all, and she had turned out to be the hunter of his dreams. He would simply have to make sure that such admiration of her stayed confined to his dreams until this little crush could fade. Yes, as long as he could do that, he figured, what could possibly be the harm?
“Oh, dear. Oh, no. Oh, dear. Oh, no.”
If Morry had been sitting in a dimly lit room, surrounded by crystals and pillars of incense, it might have sounded like a meditation chant. As it was, he was running, and his mantra existed only to keep him breathing steadily as he chased the gryphon’s sphere of light up Canal Street, thoughts of monkeys’ paws pawing at his mind the whole time.
Surely a crush couldn’t have amounted to a wish that powerful… could it?
Could he live with himself if it did?
The sphere darted around corners and arced over buildings. Morry gave up following it and decided instead to take the quickest route to his destination that he knew. By the time he reached the corner across from Luz and Carol’s building, he had lost sight of it completely and was trusting the feeling of quicksand and thick mud filling his stomach to guide him across the street.
A twist of a skeleton key, and Morry was inside the building. He had entered the subway station legitimately the night he met Carol, but not because that was his only way in. Doors, gates, and locks were no impediments to him. Of course, some structures still presented issues.
“I do wish you lived on the first floor, Carol,” Morry sighed, cracking his neck as he glared at the steep, narrow, winding mountain path of a five-floor staircase ahead of him.
He took the stairs two at a time. With each step, he imagined the gift sphere easing through window panes like sunlight, flitting through the halls, flattening and slinking beneath doorway cracks into Luz and Carol’s room. Luz was an asteroid. Or a meteor, depending. Surely she could dispel or fight anything that tried to harm her, couldn’t she? And Carol would be there and able to do battle, right? Unless she wasn’t, and instead she had other, more sinister issues to address throughout the city. No, the third-floor landing would be no place for Morry to crash now.
He arrived at the fifth-floor landing with a pounce. As he glanced up from his lunge, he saw the gryphon’s sphere, rotating in front of Luz and Carol’s door like an extremely enthusiastic supernova. Never before in his thirty-three years had he moved so quickly.
“I beg you to reconsider this course of action!” Morry cried as he leaped forward, his hand extended to swat the sphere out of the way.
But he was too late. Before he could administer the definitive slap of a Blade’s justice, the sphere shrank to the size of a gnat and zipped through the keyhole.
“No!” Morry wailed. “Carol! Luz!” He raised his hand to pound on the door.
The door, however, opened without him. In front of him stood Carol and Luz.
“Morry. Hey.” Carol frowned, peering down at Morry where he lay on the grey carpet, as if he were the thing that was gnat-sized. “How you doing? Everything okay down there?”
Morry sat up. “I just wanted. To make certain.” He spoke between gasps. “That you were both. Healthy and. Everything was all right.”
Then he saw it, the sphere of light. It now was the size of a baseball and was floating behind Luz and Carol’s heads. He saw it flare up like a firecracker, while Luz and Carol didn’t even blink. Its hot white halo grew and grew, and then—
It was gone. It popped out of existence just as suddenly and fizzily as it had popped into it.
And there stood Carol and Luz. Luz was wearing a terry cloth bathrobe over her distinctly mineral-based frame. Carol wore an oversized T-shirt that read, “Don’t Mess With Wichita.” They both stared at Morry as if he were leaking spiders. Yet both looked healthy, if slightly tired, and everything seemed calm and well.
It was, Morry realized, all he really wanted.
“We’re doing fine, Morry,” said Carol.
“Oh, dear. Now I’m going to have dark circles beneath my eyes,” Luz said with a wink.
“Anything we should be worried about right now?” Carol asked, giving Morry a hand up from the floor.
“We should check the apartment just to be sure,” Morry said, “but I do believe any trouble has been averted.”
“They brought him inside, and together they surveyed every crevice in the place, from the hutch where Carol’s demon blood reference sheets were stored to the shelf that held Luz’s talking garden, but they found nothing unusual. So he clasped both of his friends tight, which he almost never did, and apologized for everything. Then, satisfied that his greatest wish indeed had come true, Morry the Blade left the building, and instead of going straight home, he walked the city streets until four in the morning, alone but safe and intact, which was a different kind of wish fulfilled.