There’s a storm blowing in.

It’s going to be a bad one, Julius thinks. The kind that rides the lake south, driving the water before it and making the Chicago River flow backward.

With one hand on the tiller and the other controlling the rope of the sail boom, he sends his little sail boat skipping like a stone across the freshening waves of Lake Michigan. The prospect of the rising storm doesn’t frighten him. He’s no fool, to throw himself in Nature’s teeth for no reason, but he has time yet before the body of it rolls in and he’s up to the challenge of its harbinger winds.

This kind of weather is the kind that reminds him who he is. Not a crime boss, not a worker, not a cog in the machinery, bloody or otherwise, of one of the great cities of industry. Just a man.

A man is a strange enough thing to suit him.

The Great Lakes aren’t even close to as old as the sea. Nothing on Earth is, save the native rocks themselves—and even some of those are younger. But the Lakes are more alien. Humanity was born from the sea. For all its mystery and ferocity, the self-same fluid pulses through their hearts. This, though—fresh water that tastes of green and mineral, more drinkable and yet somehow stranger—it’s colder, somehow sharper and less welcoming than the cutting salt of seaspray that tastes like his own mouth.

The Lakes are ruthless, young and tumultuous, and they don’t give a shit about him. Michigan will drown him in its deeps or break him on its rocks in an instant if he doesn’t show strong enough to hold his own place on it.

And he is. It isn’t trying its best to break him—if it were, he’d be dead…again—but it tosses him as casually as a rag doll and the muscles of his shoulders and back ache in response as they strain to defy the lake’s pull on the boat. The sinews of his arms sing and snap with the ropes and canvas of the sail as the wind tries to grab and take him, a raptor the size of the sky. He can’t imagine somewhere he feels more alive. To be alive is strange, and he is an uncanny monster in an uncanny world, sailing these waters and belonging with them as the lake drips from his face and its cold spray chills the slabs of his overheated, struggling body. One more of the lake’s strange creatures.

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