From his lofty perch above the main entrance to Milwaukee’s Mackie Building, Gandar watched with interest as the Shambler pawed slowly, almost languidly through the green trash can below. Its movements were careless and cautious at the same time, one hand holding up the lid while the other churned the contents carefully, pausing now and then to assess an item. Looking for food, he thought.
“It’s the bottom of the ninth and the Shambler is looking for a final score to take him to victory.”
“So you are awake,” Gandar said with a soft chuckle. “Once a Brewers fan always a Brewers fan, hey Jesticar?”
“Indeed,” came the response. “Too bad I haven’t been able to actually see a game in over seventy years.”
“The price of choosing to be a Grotesque.”
Gandar recognized the vocal shrug of his companion. Choosing to be stationary for eternity – or what passed for it in Milwaukee – came with a set of rules that most of them had known going in. Jesticar was the youngest of the group guarding the entrance of the building that was once referred to by the locals as, the Grain Exchange and, occasionally registered dissatisfaction with that fact. For the gazillionth time he thought the young Grotesque would have been happier at the Bay Shore high school where nearly two hundred Grotesques lived in various states of harmony. He was certain there were Mysticals over there that had watched the Brewers before they were major league and could empathize with Jesticar.
Returning his attention to the Shambler who was now rubbing softly at its forehead just over its left eye, Gandar tried to distract his companion from his self-induced pity.
“Looks like he’s going to survive long enough to choose. What do you think he will become?”
Jesticar repeated his noise and rolled his eyes.
“Probably another werewolf or vampire. It’s what they all choose these days.”
“Yeah…” Gandar wondered if the appropriate libraries were still functioning. “It’s as if the other choices have all been erased.”
“Not only that but, once they choose, they all act like they have been that way since the dawn of time. None of them talk about how they started their mystical existence as a Shambler.”
“Do you remember your time as a filthy, mindless, meat seeker?”
Jesticar cranked his eyes as far toward Gandar as he could and looked shocked.
“Of course I do… kind of…” He rolled his eyes away.
“Exactly.” Gandar knew he had started as a Shambler but it was a very vague memory for him. His memories of being mortal and part of a family were easier to access than the brief window he had spent groping in garbage cans and shuffling around as a zombie. The memories were part of the choice. Nothing was erased, it all just faded with time like everything else.
“First human babies then, mystical amoeba.” He mused aloud. “The same thing just a different stage in development.”
The Shambler gave up on the trash can and began to shuffle west along the sidewalk. Gandar watched it vanish into the distance, blending into the deep, night shadows of the downtown streets. Silently he wished it well.