Leo the Mer-Guy! Chapter Nine: The Order of the Night

The group murmured in shock, glancing left and right, capes billowing as anxious bodies moved beneath them.


The rainbow-haired person pointed the flashlight directly at Leo. “We have been followed.”


All eyes turned toward him, glinting brightly against the flames in darkness.


Well. Leo did not wake up today expecting to get murdered. He’d braced himself for a crappy day, but this was just about as crap as crap could get.


Mouth dry, knees wobbly, Leo stepped forward and into the light. “Uh.. uh…” His thoughts were completely empty. He offered a trembling wave. “Hi?”


“Name yourself and your intent,” The rainbow-haired person demanded, voice echoing powerfully.


“I’m L-Leo. Leo Castellan. I just moved here and I thought–“


“Why did you follow us?” they interjected, the edge to their tone growing ever sharper.


Leo swallowed. “Because you seemed cool?”


“Excuse me?”


Leo cleared his throat. “Because you seemed cool, and my parents wanted me to make some friends,” he tried again, his voice a little louder.


The rainbow-haired person blinked. “Oh.”


The group of kids glanced at each other, some spooky nonverbal communication passing between them.


“I can, uh, just go, or–“


“No, hold on,” the rainbow-haired person said. Their voice was normal now, instead of the Gandalf-y tone and power from before. “Did anyone bring an extra robe?”


There was some shuffling, some silence, some footsteps, until a voice piped up: “I did, but it’s kinda small.”


Leo looked to the speaker, who he’d previously assumed was some kind of hunchback toddler. They threw back their cloak, revealing the truth: they were just really short with a really huge backpack. They set the backpack down, pulling out a cloak from under some potato chip snack-sized bags. They held it out toward Leo. “Here.”


“Oh. Thanks.” Leo stepped into the circle, feeling like he was breaking some unspoken rule. He took the robe from the kid, the flames making his eyes water.


He put the cloak on. It ended just below his waist. He looked over to the rainbow-haired person, who seemed to be the leader.


They shrugged and nodded. “Alright, everybody, make room.”


The circle widened by just enough to let one more person join its ranks.


Heart still going crazy, but no longer out of fear of his imminent death, Leo stepped between the backpack child and the rainbow-haired person.


“Welcome,” the rainbow-haired person said to Leo, “to the Order of the Night.”


Theo Poling is a Creative Writing and Arts double major at the University of Michigan. In their free time, Theo enjoys fostering cats, baking, and going on hikes. Theo is transgender, nonbinary, and bisexual, and is passionate about representing LGBTQ people in positive ways in genre fiction. Theo's series, We Exist! is a weekly serial that publishes short story chapters about empowered queer protagonists in science fiction and fantasy settings, where queer people have previously been excluded. Check out the newest installment of We Exist! every Thursday.

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