I looked around, but saw no one. What was it now, an invisible person?
“Excuse me—I couldn’t help but overhear…”
I turned again and finally spotted a middle-aged woman with the kind of cane blind people use emerging from a nearby alley. “Hello…”
“You must be new here. I can always tell.” The woman stopped when her cane tapped my foot. Up close, I could see that her eyes were a milky white, and her caste mark was the simple outline of a pair of feet, one on each temple. What sort of creature was she?
“Can you tell me where the local government’s office is?”
“Oh, no, no, no. You don’t understand. I was hoping you could give me a hand with something. Since I lost my eyes, everything’s become so much more difficult. And while you help me, I can tell you everything you need to know about this side. How’s that?”
“Certainly.” Finally, someone reasonable. It never hurt to help out a person in need.
“Thank you so much. Just follow me.” She turned, cane tapping, and walked back the way she’d come. “So many people these days, they just don’t help each other anymore, you know? It’s such a shame.”
“I know exactly what you mean.” I followed her into the alley. There was a door at the end that I guessed was our destination. “You’re the first person who’s really listened to me for the past couple days.”
“That’s just like the dead side. Everyone keeps to themselves and—”
I spun around to see a female vampire with the expression of one who has had to repeat herself a few too many times.
“Really?” the vampire asked the old woman. “Again? And this one’s a zombie.”
“Zombie? Why didn’t you say so? To think I might have… a zombie.” She shuddered.
“I’m not a zombie!”
“You know better than to possess the new corporeals, Priyanka. This—”
“Possess?” I squeaked.
“—is your second warning. If I catch you again, it’ll be the cells.”
“Yes, yes, I know,” the blind woman, Priyanka, grumbled. She tap, tapped her way back to the door at the end of the alley.
“What’s going on?” I demanded of the female vampire.
“Hi. I’m Sarai. You must be new.”
“Uh, yeah. What just happened?”
“Priyanka’s a bhoot. Remember her caste mark?”
The two feet. I nodded.
“Good. Don’t forget it. Most will leave you alone, but she likes to trick the newbies into letting her possess them. All possessions have to be officially registered, so if any of the non-corporeals tells you otherwise, you know they’re trouble.”
“She would’ve dumped you quick enough when she figured out what you were.” Sarai tugged at the end of her long, thick ponytail and half-turned away. “Anyway, I’ve got to go…” She started to walk away.
“Wait!” I swallowed my pride. Vampire or no, she was the most helpful person I’d met so far, and had the law enforcement badge to prove she was trustworthy. “Can you help me?”
She sighed. “Come on, then.”——