He hangs around at crossroads and waits for people to call on him. They always do, eventually.

He's got a pack of cigarette papers in his pocket and a bag of tobacco in the other. He only stops smoking to drink. There's a bottle of booze laced with gunpowder in his flask.

His coat is long, black, and full of pockets. Some are empty, most are full. If you ask him 'of what?', he'll only laugh.

The brim of his hat is always pulled low, almost to his eyes. He always wears sunglasses, even at night. If you're lucky -or maybe not- you might catch a glimpse of his eyes. A flash of orange, a slight sparking of red, and they'll be gone again. The shades help hide their glow.

Nobody know why he's there: it seems like he's been there forever. Every night he's there. Every full moon, half moon and new moon, he's there, leaning against a street lamp, hands tucked into his coat pockets.

If you ever go to talk to him -and everyone around here does eventually- he'll smile. He likes to chat, he says. Likes it when people pay attention to him.

Pick a topic, any topic. If you let him, he'll go on for hours about it, it doesn't matter what. Sports, literature, neurosurgery, the latest WOW update- anything you can think of, and he'll know more about it than you. He'll give you quotes from people that could only have been gotten first hand. The only questions he won't answer are the ones about himself.

Careful, though. At the end of it all, if he knows you're about to leave, he'll start trying to barter with you.

He starts off with big things, things he knows no one in their right mind would trade. Souls, heart beats- things like that, all for insultingly low prices. Then he'll casually work his way down to what he really wants.

He'll take the color of your eyes so he has something to look at all the time instead of the dark.

He'll take the sound of your laugh so he has something to listen to when it's quiet out. If he gets your singing voice included, so much the better. It doesn't matter if you can carry a tune or not, he just needs something to listen to, and a recording won't cut it.

He'll take your reflection, so he can see you when it rains out and his road is covered in puddles.

He'll take your shadow so he can keep tabs on you, even in the day.

He'll take your name, so he can summon you back whenever he wants.

I asked him why, once, and he told me.

He had shrugged, then snuffed out his cig.

"It gets quiet out here," was all he would say.

Take it with a grain of salt: he lies all the time, when he wants to.

He didn't get anything from me that night, nor the next. The third I went back. He'd looked up hopefully. "Change your mind?"

And I had shaken my head. "No."

Instead, I pulled out a package of tobacco and tossed it over to him. He'd looked it over then, apparently satisfied, tucked it into one of his pockets.

We started talking about nothing important after that, all the way until morning. Without a word, he vanished just as the sun peeked over the edge of the hills.

He's always out there, and not hard to find. Always just down the road.

If you ever have the time, you may as well go and see him. Don't take anything from him but advice freely given. Don't give him anything you'd miss.

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