Maven paced in the darkness.
He wasn’t sure what it was about the darkness that comforted him, but it felt safe; that instead of hiding things from him, it made things clearer. He tried to sleep, but he hadn’t been able since Gregory had walked away.
Well, walk away was putting it mildly. Gregory hadn’t walked away, so much as stomped away in anger. Maven was content to lie there in the dark, recalling the last moments with Gregory in perfect clarity so that he could torture himself, except there was a knock at the door to his room.
He held in groan he wanted to make and instead said “Yes?” Everyone knew that he wanted to be alone. Why couldn’t they let him do that?
“Maven?” It was Carley’s voice. “Maven, it’s Carley. You okay?”
Maven always had time for Carley. He often avoided the others when he wasn’t on a job, but he never turned Carley away and that held true now. Getting up, Maven flicked on the lights and opened the door wide, gesturing her inside. She gave him a quick smile and came inside, almost seeming to skip as she walked. He loved how carefree she was in everything she did.
Today, her hair was a brilliant and bright yellow, tipped with hot pink. The look suited her and made her green eyes pop. She took a look around his loft and smiled.
“Honey, I love what you’ve done with the place! My floor still looks like it’s stuck in the nineteen eighties. All this sponge painting on the wall, but still!” She looked at Maven with a wide smile. “This place looks amazing now that you’ve gotten rid of the emo black!”
Despite himself, a grin flashes across Maven’s face. True, when she had been to his loft the week before, everything had been painted or coloured black. In the beginning, the space had seemed larger that way, more meditative. It had mirrored the depths of his soul. But he had gotten so tired of waking up to blackness all the time. He had been in a foul mood since Gregory had left him. Maven knew that he had to do something. The result had been to redo his place.
Gone were the black couches, black rugs, black glass walls and the black tables. Now there were grey carpets, cream and wine-coloured furniture, dark brown rugs, track lighting, white molding, and tan walls. It saved Maven from having to look at his reflection all the time, when that was the last thing he wanted to look at.
He shrugged, not uncomfortable. “Thanks.”
“You big nincompoop. You could offer me a glass of wine, you know.”
“Why bother, when you’re going to take it without being asked?”
“True,” she said. She went to the kitchen, done in an elegant marble tiled floor which complimented the dark brown cabinetry. “How did you pull all of this off?” Carley gave him a look and gestured at the makeover. “I mean, you’ve never been one for decorating.”
He shrugged again. “Gregory left behind his Martha Stewart magazines,” he said. “I was bored one night when I couldn’t sleep, and I guess one thing led to another…” He sighed. “I got carried away.”
She held out a glass of wine to him and he took it. Holding up her glass, Carley said “To Gregory and Martha.”
Maven clinked his glass to hers. “To Gregory and Martha,” he repeated grimly. Taking a healthy sip, he let the flavour of the wine fill his mouth before swallowing.
“Oh honey, that’s a good one. Tastes delish.”
“It would. You opened a vintage from 2001,” Maven said.
“Wine is meant to be drunk, not collecting dust. Just as you’re supposed to be living.”
“I am living,”
“Says the man who was hiding in the dark after redoing this place. All this pretty furniture, and you just sitting in the dark. That’s no way to live.” She sat on the couch in front of the window and patted the seat beside her. “Come sit with me.”
“You do know this is my place. I live here,” he said grumpily.
“There’s that pesky word again. Honey, you haven’t lived since Gregory left. Not really. Tara and I are worried about you,” Carley said.
“Really? You do know it’s Christmas, right? Where’s your fucking tree? You could just call Gregory, you know. I’m sure he’d love to hear from you. I’m sure he misses you,”
“Look, can we talk about something else?” Maven tried to ignore the stab of pain he felt every time someone brought up Gregory’s name.
She sighed and nodded. Taking a sip of wine, she put the glass on the coffee table and asked, “So, what do you reckon?”
“What are you talking about?”
“The mystery super that Cracklepuss is working with. What do you reckon? Who do you think it could be?”
He shook his head. “I have no idea,”
Carley looked at him. He could feel her digging around in his head, and Maven gave his head a shake to get her out of it. “Stop that.”
“Just taking a look. You haven’t even tried to take a look in your cup of power, have you? You’ve been too busy looking after Gregory.” She huffed out a breath. “You know, there’s more than one channel on that thing, don’t you? You’re supposed to use your magic to help everyone, not just someone.”
He shrugged and tried to look apologetic. “I’m sorry, I am. But I was with him for three years. You can’t expect me to let him go, just like that. He needs looking after.”
“Gregory needs to be left alone. If you’re so concerned about him, just pick up the phone and call him, don’t spy on him like a fucking peeping Tom. He probably knows your looking at him, too.”
Wanting to prove her wrong, he went to the mantle of the fireplace and took the cup of power off of its stone resting place. He held on to the cup and looked within it, wanting to see what Gregory was doing now. When the bottom of the glass cleared, Maven could see Gregory. He was sitting and reading a book. Maven looked more closely at the books title: Captain Maven – Man or Mystery? By Phyllis Rigby.
Maven shuddered. Phyllis was a no-talent hack. He had tried to stop the publication of the biography, but that had only driven up sales of the book. Maven looked at Gregory. He thought that maybe Gregory was lonely too, and that’s why he’d started reading the book about him? Did Gregory miss him too? Then Maven watched as Gregory held up the meddle finger of his left hand while continuing to hold the book with his right hand.
Maven nearly dropped the cup. He looked around as if he had been slapped and saw Carley looking at him with a grin. “See? I told you,” she said.
He shook his head. “He was obviously just pissed off about something,”
“Gregory knew you were watching him. He was with you long enough to know when you’re looking in on him.”
Letting out a sigh, Maven took a sip of his wine and put the glass back on the table. “I just don’t understand where it all went wrong,” he said, lying to himself a little.
“What did he say to you exactly?”
“That he was tired and needed time away. That my constant need to save everyone besides him was driving him crazy.”
“Well, there you go then. You just have to save Gregory.
“He’s the most resourceful person there is. He never needs to be saved.”
“Maybe he likes the idea of being saved?” Carley said.
Maven stopped to take a sip of wine and then gave her a quizzical look. “I don’t follow.”
“Of course you don’t. Just because Gregory never needed to be saved, doesn’t mean he wouldn’t have liked to be saved every once in a while.”
“That makes absolutely no sense whatsoever,” he said.
Carley shrugged. “Hey, I know what I know. Now quit playing peeping Tom and try to find the shadow man.”
“What makes you think I haven’t already tried?”
Carley gave him a look. “Would you just take a look already?” she said. “We need to find out everything we can about him, and you’re the only one who has a way of looking into him. Use your fucking cup of power already!”
Grumbling, Maven picked up his cup and looked inside it again. This time, he let his mind wander to shadows, and those that would linger within them. He took in sea upon sea of shadows, and men and women who were like shadows, who lived their life within them. Then he tried refocusing, narrowing what he wanted to look for. He started to think of Cracklepuss, about shadows that surrounded him, or were part of him. It was tricky using his cup of power. Sometimes, he could think of what he wanted to see, other times he had to think of the ideas around what he was looking for. This was one of those times. Maven thought about people who were literally shadows, or made from shadows, those that could bend themselves into the dark in order to not be seen.
His gaze was drawn to what looked like a cloud of black ash. It was unique only because it was moving. Maven brought the cup closer to his eyes. It seemed to pulse and shiver as he watched it. Letting out a breath, Maven watched as the cloud stretched and pulled itself until it looked like the shadow of a man. Maven heard thunder in the distance, and a flash of lightning seemed to answer the thunder. Maven could even hear the sizzle of the electricity as it ran through the air, and the lights in his loft flickered as if the lightning and thunder had affected them. He looked away from the cup to look at Carley. Her eyes were wide, and she edged closer so that she could see inside the cup, too.
The thunder rolled across the scene in front of their eyes again, and the cloud of dust moved and shifted once more, becoming even more like the shape of a man. Another bolt of lightning flashed, but this time it came from inside the cloud of ash. Maven brought the cup even closer, and he watched as the shape flashed and the lights in his flat flickered around them. They could hear the thunder in his loft now, loud as if it really surrounded them. Carley’s eyes were wide with fear, and when Maven looked back within the cup, he saw the man clearly when the lightning flashed for a third time. Maven could see the details of the man’s face; the shape of his eyes, the sharp, stubbled jut of his jaw, and eyes that looked dark enough to be made of the shadows themselves. They pulled Maven in further, and he moved to bring the cup even closer to so that he could see more clearly, but Carley stopped him.
“Wait, Maven. Just wait,” she said.
As if the shadow man had been waiting for permission, they watched as he stretched himself, the shadows growing in density, and he began to slip from the cup. Maven almost dropped it; the cup had never done anything like this before. It had always been a way for him to look at anything in the world. Nothing could hide from the cup of power, that had always been the way. Nothing had ever tried to come out of it.
They watched as the shadow grew longer, and stretched itself into a miniature version of the shadow man they had seen in the bottom of the cup. The black cloud stood there, pulsing and shifting with each thunderclap and flash of lightning. Neither Maven or Carley could say anything, all they could do was watch as the shape grew more formed, the shadow stretching further out of the cup and growing bigger.
“I feel your pain,” the shadow man said. “I can see inside of you, Maven.” The shadow man pointed at him and said “Boo!”
Maven let the cup fall from his grasp. The shadow puffed out as if it had been made from smoke, and the thunder and lightning that had been shaking his loft lessened and stopped, as did the flickering of his lights. Carley looked at Maven, her eyes open wider than he had thought possible. Maven looked at his cup of power and wondered what would have happened if he had held on to it for longer. Would the shadow man still have come through?
“We have to get everyone together,” Maven said. “Right now.”
“No shit, honey.” Carley said. “No fucking shit.” She grabbed her glass of wine and finished the rest of it in one gulp. “I think I’ll need a bit more wine before we meet up with the others.”
“You and me both,” Maven said.