Today wasn’t the best day for me. Being in New York at the time, I had to lay low. Lot of people here saw me beat to death by the police. I tried to fight them off, but after the crowd gathered, I couldn’t risk being seen as anything more than human. Even though the officer’s beat on me with their clubs, the pain never registered. The only thing I heard was the hollow cracks of the wood against my bones.
Looking up at the officer as he blew into his whistle to halt his friends. I remember rolling along the wet cobblestone and whimpering. Something to sell how much it hurt. To sell the internal injuries I had to bite my tongue hard enough to bring blood, and despite the nasty coppery taste as it filled my mouth, it soon healed and only managed to spit out one glob of blood.
Looking to my right, I remember seeing a young woman. Her hazel eyes gleamed in the faded sunlight struggling through the overcast day. Despite the soot which caked her cheeks I could see the fear in her face. The concern for my well being as the officers beat me.
While trying to pick myself up, the lead officer drove his club into the small of my back. I grimaced when I felt the pressure and collapsed to the ground again.
“Keep down sir. I don’t want to have to tell you again.” The officer said as he crouched over me. Feeling the warmth of his voice on my ear. I could smell the sour scent of liquor.
Quenching my anger, I lowered my head to the ground and apologized. He must not have heard me, or didn’t care as he continued to beat me until I shut my eyes and pretended to be unconscious. I remained on the ground listening to them shuffle around me and whispering to each other. I think they were debating what to do with me if I was dead. Not thinking much of it, I remained quiet. Nothing they could do would do any permanent harm to me.
After what seemed like hours, they officers left me. The hollow click of their footsteps faded as they left the alley. After a moment of silence, I cracked open my eyes. Not sure if they all left or not, I remained cautious and scanned the alley the best I could. The cold of the evening swirled through my thin layers of clothing as I picked myself up.
“Sir, are you okay?”
I spun to face the person who said that. Raising my fist to strike, I held up when I saw the girl from earlier. Her eyes widened and she backed up from me, with her mouth agape. Lowering my arm, I smiled and she seemed more at ease.
“Yes, I am fine, thank you.” I said and looked down the alley. It had emptied of the jeering spectators which watched my beating.
I turned to leave, but her hand shot out and grabbed my elbow. I looked to the girl and her shaky hand on my coat. The terror her pale face revealed made me take notice of the shifting shadows closing in on the alley.
“Come with me,” she pleaded.
Looking over my shoulder, something evil stalked just out of eyesight, but within striking distance. It wasn’t fear which filled me, but the desire to leave with the girl. She tugged on my arm and I followed her through a small opening between two small shacks.
Once we were out of the alley, I felt a warm sensation spread through me, like a fire had been reignited underneath my skin. Looking over my shoulder, the alley had disappeared within the shadows as they twisted with the fog and I could have sworn I saw a set of three eyes staring back at me.
The girl’s grip tightened and she pulled me along the path with renewed vigor and despite my protests, kept me moving along. After what seemed like an hour or so, she stopped and faced me. A healthy and beautiful glow tinged her cheeks. She smiled and lowered her eyes.
“Sorry sir, but I needed to make sure you remained safe.”
Lifting her chin so I could see her eyes, I said. “Safe from what?”
“Evil.” She said, her eyes remained on mine. I saw my reflection form in the tears gathering in her eyes.
I offered her my handkerchief and she wiped her eyes.
“Evil? What evil?” The confusion had settled in, and for the first time in a long time, I felt genuine fear.
“I know what you are?” the girl said as she handed me my handkerchief back without looking at me.
“What I am? I’m just a man.” I said, but knew she didn’t buy it. She smiled and tilted her head lower. I reached for her shoulder, but she backed out reach and let out a small guttural growl.
Looking back the way we came, I saw the path we took was no longer there. Turning toward the girl again, she turned her face up, a sneer had replaced her smile and her hazel eyes turned flame red. “You are unnatural. You are not supposed to be here.”
Taken back, I said the only thing I could think of. “You aren’t so natural yourself miss.”
A black forked tongue flicked over her lips and she raised her left hand, or what could have been called a hand before. Now a scaled claw reached for me. Black talon’s stretched from her fingernails and scratched toward me. Instincts took over and I jumped back.
“You must die.”
“If you know what I am, then you know that isn’t going to happen.” I said as I searched for any sort of weapon. Now seeing my surroundings for the first time, I realized I was in a black empty pit. She took me to her lair. Human bones littered the dirt around my feet. I could have sworn it was cobblestone moments before, but now each stone had turned into a skull.
She lunged at me, the talons sinking into my skin and for the first time that I could remember, a searing pain shot through my body. I screamed and my voice trailed out into nothingness. The force took me off my feet and drove me to the ground. I heard the click of her talon scratch along the skulls beneath me.
Looking up at the beast as she slithered on top of me, her face twisted as the once soot speckled flesh peeled off like dying leaves. It rained upon me and as it touched my clothes, it flamed up like hot iron had touched it. Each burst of fire sent a bolt of pain to my head and I couldn’t keep track of the sensations.
Able to grip my hands around her claw, I kicked my feet up and caught her in the side. Enough to jar her talon free of my flesh. As I rolled out from underneath her, I looked down at the wound and it sizzled and smelled like burnt flesh. The worst part was the throbbing pain which made my left arm numb. I must have been some kind of poison, because my body refused to heal like it did from previous knife wounds.
Turning toward the beast, I saw it in the fading light as it curled up ready to strike. The once innocent looking girl had taken the form of a monster. A spiked tail flicked behind it as it stood up. Looking at me with its red eyes, I saw its hunger, the desire to eat me whole.
Backing against the wall, I felt it shift, like a curtain. Reaching my good hand behind me, I felt a silky substance as my hand entered it. A chill like a cold winter night coated my hand and I started to rip at the shadows. It came away in chunks and morning light entered the domain.
The creature hissed and spit at me, but the invading light kept it at bay.
Sucking up my courage, I turned my back on the creature and began to rip at the shadows with my good hand. As the shadows fell in pieces around me, the morning light and smoky smell of a New York morning energized me. Ducking and stepping into the light, I looked back at the creature, but it already started to revert to human form again. The tail and claw had reverted back.
“We will meet again.” The girl said as she stood staring at me. Her eyes red as fire.
Tripping over myself as I ran, I tumbled and fell into the same alley I was beaten in. People mulled around as I picked myself up and wiped the dirt off my frayed clothes. Looking at the wound in my shoulder, I noticed it healed. A small scar lined my collar bone where she first entered, but other than that it was gone.
Looking back to where the girl was, it was empty. A brick wall stood where she led me down a path the night before. Not wanting to think of it any longer, I continued down the alley. Ignoring the curses as I went. New York was going to need a warrior against this girl, and I was just the one to do it.