Every eye in the lobby stared at me with varying degrees of subtlety. My all-grey and black hipster wardrobe always drew some attention. It’d never brought this level off attention, though. I knew what they must be wondering. Is he one of them? Is he a witch? Maybe he’s a vampire. I did my best to act like I couldn’t feel them staring at me, walking straight to the front desk and checking into a room. Without looking back to see if I was still holding everyone’s interest, I took my room key and walked to the elevator. This new world order was not going to be good for my anxiety. A jovial couple joined me, waiting for the elevator. They stopped laughing when they saw me. I decided to take the stairs rather than confine myself in a small space with strangers. I could always use the cardio anyway. Taking the stairs two at a time, I didn’t slow my pace until I was in my room with the deadbolt locked and the security latch in place.
I heard rumors for weeks leading up to it. The day that the world changed. The day that the supernatural world outed itself to the mundane world. Talk like that wasn’t all that uncommon. I’d met plenty of magical beings who wondered what the world would be like for them if they didn’t have to hide. It had always been just talk. Now we would find out exactly how close our imaginings were to reality. I didn’t know for sure who’d decided to bring our community out of the shadows. The initial news focused on four groups: witches, shapeshifters, vampires, and the fae. My best guess was that The Coven and its equals in those other groups got together and agreed to this calculated risk. Coming forward as a community gave us a lot more control than if technological advancement proved our existence. There was only so much that could be cast off as a hoax or good CGI. All I knew was that it didn’t change much for me.
I’d been hiding for most of my adult life. The Coven was the governing body for all witches in the United States. They wanted me dead or alive, preferably dead, because I’d killed one of their own. It wasn’t a misunderstanding. I knew what I was doing. I also knew the consequences of doing it. Even if they hadn’t caught me in the act, they would have found out it was me. They’re the most powerful and skilled witches in the country. There were at least four spells I knew that could have revealed my hand in Vincent Tanner’s death. It didn’t matter that he was a monster or that he wasn’t well-liked by over half of The Coven’s members. It didn’t matter that he’d murdered someone I loved. I’d killed one of their own. If they didn’t hunt me down, other ambitious witches would call their ability to maintain control into question.
Their hunt wouldn’t stop because they’d decided to reveal magic to the world. It could, however, change the playing field. I didn’t know how yet. The worst-case scenario I could think of was that they would publicize the fact that they were trying to find me. I learned to handle hiding from The Coven’s witch hunters. But I couldn’t hide from the whole world. That’s what I’d have to do if they decided to share my face with the media. The news cycles filled with magic on every level, from national to local. The mundane world sensationalized every little tidbit fed to them. They could easily turn the search for me into the biggest America’s Most Wanted episode ever. I set up several Google alerts meant to tell me if the general public had joined the chase. I checked my phone both for general news about magic and for any specific hints that I needed to drop off the radar completely.
As soon as I’d heard the first report that witches were real, I gathered all the supplies I needed and hunkered down. I didn’t sleep much for the next few days. It became more apparent with each passing day that The Coven had more significant issues than finding me. Like every other major issue in America, there was a schism in public opinion. There were those who were ready to condemn us and those who wanted to celebrate us. Until they got things a bit more settled, I felt a bit more comfortable knowing that I wasn’t the priority that I once was. I knew that didn’t mean that they’d call off the search. It meant I could breathe.
I gave it a full week in the hotel. The television played the news all day and night. I listened for keywords while scrolling news sites. Depending on the source, there were stories of hope or reports of doom. I was certain that movers and shakers were orchestrating the positive press. They might not have caused any of the disasters, but they made sure that the right people were there to look like heroes. It wouldn’t be so hard to plan with a few clairvoyants to predict things that would draw plenty of attention. For every article about magic saving the day, there was one about an opportunist blaming their crime on magic. The Coven would have a plan to expose the frauds and deal with any cases that might be true. I wasn’t their biggest fan, but I knew them well enough to know how much they think through their decisions. A reveal this big had to be in the works for a while before I’d killed Vincent.
Going with so little sleep had left me a little too scattered. I didn’t think about it when the knock on the door came with the pronouncement of housekeeping. I unlocked the door to tell them that I didn’t need anything. The actual staff had been respecting my do not disturb sign all week. That should have tipped me off. I hadn’t opened the door more than a crack when the man on the other side threw his entire weight into it. I fell backward. If it weren’t for the hall light casting my attacker’s shadow in my path, I would have hit the floor and gotten stepped on. Instead, I let the shadow swallow me up. I landed on the bed in the next room. My attacker didn’t let my disappearing act stop him. He came charging into the room. I didn’t recognize him. The last hunter that got close enough for me to see him was skinnier. I guess he got taken off my trail. It didn’t matter, though. I’d learned from my last close call. I grabbed my go-bag and let the shadows take me to safety. I stepped out of the shadow of a fake plant in the lobby. A little boy gasped when he saw me appear. Good thing I didn’t have to worry about scaring the mundanes as much anymore. Maybe things would be more different than I thought. I didn’t stop moving.
I slung my go-bag over my shoulder and left the hotel. Besides what I was wearing, all my clothes were in the duffle bag I’d left behind. It was all replaceable. The hunter wouldn’t be able to use any of it to find me, thanks to a spell I cast on all my clothing. I heard the hotel fire alarm going off before I made it down the block. He’d used magic on something in my duffle bag. It was all on fire now. With any luck, he’d suffer some burns and couldn’t come after me right away. I couldn’t count on that, though. I needed to put as much distance as possible between the hotel and me.
I walked into the closest parking garage, looking for the most inconspicuous car I could find. I got lucky and found a grey Camry in a corner with a burnt-out light above it. The model was old enough that it still worked with an actual key instead of a key fob. I took my universal key out of my bag and slid it into place. The car started without issue, and I started driving. I paid to leave the garage with the same card I’d used for the hotel and then dropped it out the window before turning out into traffic. I wouldn’t be able to use it anymore past this point. If someone found it and started using it, there was a chance that would lead my hunter in another direction. He wouldn’t hurt them once he figured out what happened. By that time, I’d be well on my way out of town.