Getting Cleaned Up.
The closer we got, the higher the dome seemed to tower over us. It was impossible to see inside through the opaque violet crystal.
Samuel stopped the truck at an entrance point. He keyed something into a pad and the doors slid open from the center.
I was nearly blinded as we entered the Sanctuary. A massive gold spire stood at the center of the interior. It shined and glistened in the dimming sunlight that came through the peak of the dome.
“Holy shit.” I breathed.
“Hm.” Sylus replied. I found it hard to believe he wasn’t at least a little impressed, but I figured he had something else on his mind.
The street we drove down was evened cobblestone designed in such a way to give it a geometric pattern. The smaller buildings all had a very art-deco feel to them. Geometric shapes and bold colors lined the main street. I was torn on whether it was beautiful or garish.
“Garish.” Sylus muttered.
Samuel stopped the truck at a rather understated depot. While it was far less colorful than the rest of the surroundings, it still carried the geometric details that seemed to be the overall aesthetic of Stratica.
“Wait here.” He spoke as he hopped out of the truck and made his way deeper into the depot.
Sylus opened the passenger door and practically fell out.
“You know you could’ve spread out a little, right?” I laughed as I stepped down beside him.
He grimaced as he took in our surroundings.
“It’s a lot, huh?”
He grunted in reply. “Wonder what it’s hiding.”
“Sylus, we’re not here to fix the internal politics of a Sanctuary. That’s not our job. We’re here to do whatever they ask us to, take their money, and then move on along.”
“It seems Madame would like to see the two of you in person before assigning accommodations.” Samuel reappeared. “But first, a change of attire is in order.”
“What?!” Sylus balked. “I’m not changing!”
“You must, sir. I cannot allow you to be in Madame’s presence in such a state.”
“Excuse me?!” Sylus balked. “What’s wrong with what I’m wearing?”
“With all due respect, you’re filthy, sir.”
“He’s got ya there, Sy.” I shoved him lightly.
“Fine.” He snapped. “But the tie stays.” Samuel opened his mouth to say something. “No discussion.”
“Very well.” Samuel sighed. “Come with me, please.”
We followed him into the depot. He lead us down the hall and opened a door to the right. It was a lavish emerald room with gold trimmings on everything.
“For our records, who is S and who is M?” Samuel asked as he led us inside.
“I’m Jeron Miles and this is Sylus Synclaire.” I replied.
“Noted.” Samuel clapped his hands together.
A slew of people trickled out of the walls and swarmed us until we could no longer see the room around us. I opened our conduit so Sylus could reach out to me. He didn’t even hesitate a moment to latch his energy onto mine. I could feel his fear and concern and offered my own patience in return.
Countless hands began pulling at my clothes. I was being undressed. I whipped my head to Sylus who let out a terrifying roar. The swarm of people backed off just as they were trying to take my guitar off me.
“Is there a problem, sir?” Samuel inquired.
“DON’T TOUCH ME!” Sylus screamed.
I leaned over to him, taking his hand in mine.
Samuel looked among the throng of people. “Did you get your measurements?”
“Good. Prepare their wardrobes.”
They nodded again before vanishing.
I eased Sylus down into a chair. He was shaking terribly.
“I apologize.” Samuel bowed a bit. “They are blindly efficient at their jobs.”
“You can’t just undress people without their permission.” I spat in reply as I ran my hand through Sylus’ hair.
“No one has ever complained before.”
“That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask.”
Samuel bowed again. “Very well.” He pointed to a door to our right. “There’s a small bathroom you can use to freshen up if you so desire. When you are changed, please leave your old clothes on the rack your new ones are delivered on. We’ll have them cleaned and returned to your residence.”
“Can I get you anything in the meantime?”
“Water.” We both spoke at once.
With a nod, Samuel vanished.
“Hey, hey.” I spoke softly. “It’s okay, Sy. They were just doing their thing. They didn’t mean anything by it.”
He gave a low gravelly growl in reply.
“It’s okay, Sy. I won’t let them hurt you. I promised you, all those years ago, that I’d never let anyone hurt you ever again.” I held his face in my hand, scratching at his beard. “I promised.”
He nodded slowly.
A small smile crossed his lips. “Okay.”
“Good.” I sat down on the bench beside him. “Go wash up.”
He shook his head again. “You first.”
“No. You’re showering first even if I have to drag you in there.”
He raised a taunting brow.
I shoved him lightly. “Go.”
He stood up slowly. I watched carefully as his legs wavered a bit before he found his balance.
“Come with me?” He offered me his right arm. The runes shimmered across his skin. His voice was low and tempting. How could I resist?
“To save water?” I took his hand and stood up.
“Yeah. Sure. Save water.”
It was a bit of a tight fit, but we managed it. Toward the end, I stepped out and let Sylus just soak in the water for a bit. A tub would have been better, but fresh water was more than enough.
I found a razor and shaving cream on the sink.
“Thank god.” I breathed as I got to work cleaning up my scraggly facial hair. Unlike Sylus, I preferred to be clean shaven which left me somewhat envious of his ability to completely control his ‘hair’ growth. Except it wasn’t hair. There wasn’t a single follicle on his body. It was all tentacles. Very fine and soft tentacles, but tentacles nonetheless.
He stepped out of the stall just as I was finishing with my face.
“Lookin’ good.” He bumped me with his hip.
“You’re not so bad yourself.” I smiled at him through the mirror. His hair was everywhere and spiking in every direction. With a swipe of his hand, the mess went from refined in an instant.
I didn’t even want to touch our old clothes they were so disgusting. Sylus ended up gathering them into a towel.
I washed my bandana in the sink and put it back on. Sylus did the same with his tie and hung it around his neck.
We found our new attire waiting for us in the dressing room. It was clear whose was whose, but it still took us a moment to process what we were looking at.
“I would never wear that.” I muttered.
Sylus just glared at it as he tossed the towel full of laundry to the floor.
Matching black tuxedos with long tails and violet trim.
“I can’t wear a necktie with a tux!” Sylus cried out.
“Why not?” I chuckled.
“Because you’re supposed to wear a bowtie and I look like shit in bowties.”
“Who cares, Sy? Wear your tie.”
He grumbled a bit under his breath.
“Hey they knew you were keeping the tie. They could’ve designed accordingly but they didn’t. That’s their fault. Wear the damn tie, Sy.”
Rolling his eyes, he took his tuxedo off the rack and wandered into a corner to get dressed. I followed him with my own outfit.
Once I had everything on, I turned to him with my arms outstretched. “Fix me.”
He turned to me as he was tightening his tie. He’d worn it since the day we met. The same purple and silver tie.
He reached out to me and began aligning all my seams until everything was in perfect shape.
“There.” He grunted with approval.
“Am I presentable?” I laughed as I slipped my guitar strap over my head. Formal attire was his thing. Not mine.
He adjusted my bowtie a bit. “Very.”
A knock came on the door. “Are you dressed?” It was Samuel.
“Yeah.” We replied in unison.
“Very good.” The door opened and he stepped in. “This way to Madame, if you please.”