Archive for the ‘ Horror ’ Category

How It Ended for Jasper Malyhe

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The reservations were going to be wasted, but there was no helping that. It was a good thing he hadn’t mentioned them to Kitty. She would be at home right now dolling up, excited to have a break from the boxed dinners and shoe-string meal plans.

Jasper drug himself down the busy city street. His hand loosened his tie with a series of merciless yanks, hating the way the tie felt. Too tight. Everything felt too tight, constricting. One hand was in his pocket, fingering the loose change there. He had crumpled up his resume’ while he was still inside Danworth and Mitchell’s lobby; he hadn’t bothered to throw it away. Let it sit on the buffed tile floor. The janitor would see to it; that man had a job.

He moved forward with his head down, not really thinking or hearing or caring. This had been his millionth interview. Ever since the Great Recession, it seemed like all of his degrees weren’t worth the paper they were printed on. He hated the hopeful gleam in Kitty’s eyes every time he went out. The pressure of that hope made it hard for him to breathe. And day after day; when he returned with this beaten expression, that hope briefly winked out, and looking in her eyes was like looking into a dark room.

What he hated the most was when that gleam vanished, when he felt like less than a man.

“Flee! Flee before the rising terror. Hear this final call and turn your heart from evil!” a man was crying out.

Jasper looked for the voice, realizing that he had been hearing the man’s crazy words for more than a minute. Jasper stopped; he stood in the middle of the sidewalk while people instinctively routed around him. Everyone was bundled in heavy coats and scarves. Jasper barely felt the winter cold.

“It is the end!” the man yelled out. “Death is no longer waiting at the door. He’s letting Himself in!” The man was dirty. His hair was stringy and slick with grease. His coat had patches on it, holes. His brown beard had thick bands of white. When the man began to belt out his warnings, Jasper saw his gums and the remains of stained teeth. The man had the intensity of madness, and Jasper couldn’t help but think how easy his life must be. Stress free. Grab a street corner and yell at the world. How easy it would be to end this life and start that one.

Jasper slowly continued forward. Dim sunlight reflected off the windshields of all the passing vehicles. Tall art deco buildings gave the street a claustrophobic feel, and a sense of how small he really was.

“And the Earth will shake, the monuments made by men will crumble, from Hell a thousand beasts will emerge. And for the few, God will send his angles. Call out now. REPENT!” the man said. As Jasper passed, the man looked at him; their eyes met. “Do you know the cost of death?” Fog plumed from his dry mouth.

Jasper moved on like you’re supposed to. Never stand near the crazy or the wild. Like animals, they may bite.

He stopped next to a magazine kiosk. Economic Collapse ran across the Conception Gazette’s front page. Despair growing was in smaller letters. “New’s flash,” he said to himself. He looked at the busy street and the rising tails of exhaust, feeling what the paper had named. Each step closer to home added pounds to the weight on his back. A home that he didn’t think they could hold onto. They had tapped out what credit they had, borrowed from family and then from friends. There wasn’t a drop left to squeeze out. All of their insurance policies were going to lapse. Hopefully the kids didn’t get sick. And if anything happened to him, they’d be on their own. Except for the life insurance, and that would lapse in three weeks.

Do you know the cost of death?

Jasper didn’t, but he knew that he could do more for his family dead than alive. He had a million dollar policy. No more food donations or clothes charities. No going without a phone or lights for a month while necessities were juggled. No more looks of disappointment or that eerie silence. He could do it, he told himself. It would be quick. It would be more than he had done for his family in over a year.

Jasper walked to the street, tottering on the curb. One quick step was all it would take. He saw a city bus coming. Something with that much mass had to be fatal, and quickly. Was he desperate enough to really do it? Tending forward, he thought that—

The ground violently shook. It lasted for over three minutes. Cars crashed. Glass from broken windows showered the street. Chunks of concrete and stone fell. People were screaming. Jasper had fallen between two stopped cars. His head took a hard blow. When he stood, blood was running from a cut in his brow, down his face.

“Oh god,” he said.

The street was destroyed. Water was shooting up, fissures ran through the crumbled street, cars were half in sinkholes, some were gone. Smoke from fires stood up like pillars, lifting to the turbulent sky above. Jasper watched the clouds begin to spin, creating a dark vortex. Purple lightening jumped within the clouds.

“It’s here, it’s here!” the madman shouted, delighted. He fell to his knees on the roof of a car and opened his arms to the sky.

Jasper watched in horror as two giant hands tore the vortex wider, and winged creatures descended in hordes on the city. “Oh, god.” And from below, out of the cracks, began to emerge the clawed reach of unspeakable beasts.

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Shooting Stars

Morgen Knight

Kevin heard the sound of someone entering the home and lost count of how many stars he could see. The tally had already amassed four digits, encroaching a fifth. He tongued the gap left by his missing front tooth as the sounds drew closer. His hand tightened around the pistol in his lap, but his face remained slack. Empty-looking eyes stared up through the floor-to-ceiling glass wall, not counting this time but tracing figures through the pinpoint lights as footsteps approached.

Lights came on, washing out the night. Kevin’s back was to the room now reflected off the glass, he saw the man he was here to kill, standing beside a beautiful woman. Even limited to this ghostly reflection, he could tell that she was striking, her dress shimmering as she laughed at something the man in the suit had said.

Kevin pressed his tongue against the sharp edge of a tooth then stood. Then woman screamed, the man took a deep, steeling breath. “Shut up!” Kevin barked at the woman; the pistol never left the man’s chest. It was him he was here for.

“What do you want?” the man said. “Take anything, just don’t hurt my wife.”

“You shut the fuck up,” Kevin growled. He walked around the large chair in which he’d been sitting.

“Take what you want,” the man said, head lowered to avoid eye contact.

Kevin smiled wide. “You ain’t so tough now, are you, ya treacherous son of a bitch.”

“What?”

The pistol didn’t waver or shake. So far this was going exactly how he’d seen it going. He’d been building to this moment since the funeral. “I know you thought you’d get away with it. I watched you cover your tracks. How many witnesses have you killed? Destroying evidence. Men like you don’t deserve to be cops.” Someone had to stop him, someone had to make him pay.

“Oh my god,” the man said. “You don’t understand.”

“I said to shut the fuck up!” Kevin screamed, spittle spraying among the words.

The man lifted his hands to show he was no treat as he cowered, and Kevin wondered how much mercy to show. This man had shown Cooper none. Kevin had watched his friend die, a man he’d known for seven years, a man that had been there for him through his divorce, his unemployment, the loss of his home and family. Cooper had inspired him—a tough-minded, uncompromising guy. Kevin had seen himself in Cooper’s battles against personal demons. He’d deserved better than a Mark David Chapman kind of assassination.

The gun held steady, but Kevin’s eyes watered as he thought about it. Cooper’s death was like losing all hope.

“Do you understand what you’re doing?” the man asked.

“You killed Cooper. I’m here to straighten the world out.”

“I didn’t do that,” the man insisted. “It’s a TV show.”

“I watched you kill him.”

“I’m an actor. That was my job. Cooper—Vince who plays Cooper—is fine. I can call him right now!”

Kevin shook his head. “I loved him like family. Do you get that? And you killed him!”

“I didn’t kill anyone.” The man whined, his cowering wife crying. “I didn’t think it up, plot it or write it. All I do is act out what others come up with. And we do a damn good job for you to care this much. So, please, put the gun down.”

“Shut up! You don’t wiggle you’re way out of this!”

“But I didn’t do anything. I’m an actor. It was just acting.”

“Well,” Kevin said with a shrug, “maybe you shouldn’t play the bad guy.”

Then he avenged his friend’s death.

Muse

Morgen Knight

I found him, one day, in my mind. And together we made such wonderful poetry. His touch gave me words. His kisses gave me inspiration. The love me made connected ideas and birthed worlds. When others viewed out creations, they wept. They loved. They cried out for a Muse of their own.

And then he left me.

Not entirely—a late night visitor, an absent partner on whom you can smell the musk of another.

His touches grew too infrequent, his kisses on occasion. He had filled my world simply to empty it. And when I no longer need him, no longer cared, he crawled back. He coaxed me with his promise.

To leave again after I agreed. To return. To leave. To crawl back in my dreams.

My Muse. My beauty. Oh, the things we’ve created. No kisses, no touch but what I take, no love. This time I was ready, and when his sweet pleas began, I invited him in, I held him, I bound us together in razor wire and rejoiced as we bled a darker inspiration. “You are mine alone,” I tell him. And though he refuses to give, it is possible to take. To twist a little, let the blood run, and drip the nib of my pen into it. The lines that write are dark and haunted, but still beautiful. Still true. Still mine to share. Or keep.

The razors have gone deep, but there’s plenty more blood. And with it, I write to you.

The Best He Could Give

Morgen Knight

How do you kill your daughter? Your only child? Ralph knew that it was the right thing to do, the only thing really, but now that it was done he couldn’t help but feel the weight of shame and desperate void in the place where his soul use to be. He wanted to take it back, damn the consequence. But he couldn’t. His hand had struck that vital blow; his hand, a familiar appendage, which he looked at as traitorous, as though it had acted of its own volition, without the parental guidance of his brain. Muscles, tendons, bones–a cabal working with a secret agenda.

Ralph sat with his aching back against the wall, his beloved daughter laying on his legs, her still head against his chest. His hand combed through her red oak hair, brushing over her porcelain face. She looked ageless, but Ralph could recall all sixteen of her years.

“Sidney,” he’d said, holding his little girl for the first time. She had been wrapped up in a pink blanket and wearing a pink cap. Eyes half aware, mouth moving. He had never understood love at first sight until that moment. It was no longer about him.

Sidney, and now he was holding her head with much the same care that he had held her infant body. The basement was dark and foul-smelling. Rot and blood filled his nose. He could see but only because he had been down here for so long, holding her. There had been very little heat in his daughter’s body to begin with–all stolen heat–but even that limina radiance had leaked away. How long had he been here? It felt to him like days. Hours, for sure, but as the outer edge of dawn filled the uncovered window, he knew that he wouldn’t be able to remain here much longer. He wasn’t sure what a new day would bring with it, exactly, but Ralph was sure that no one was going to show up here, now. No one had arrived all night. He was glad about that. There were more stakes in his bag, so he had been ready to handle whatever might have come through that door, but it was better that nothing had. His nerve had burnt up quickly after the spark of life had hushed in Sidney’s blanched eyes–it was a dark spark, true, but now that he saw no spark at all, he wasn’t so sure which was worse.

The wooden stake remained in Sidney’s chest, an outline of red around it. His forearm had been pulled back against her throat, her hands digging into his sides, mouth chomping at empty air as he’d brought the weapon down, plunging it through her sternum and into the unholy pit of her black heart. His screams had matched her own, two deaths at once. Only, his body was still moving, his thoughts still fresh. But inside, Ralph was dead. He was the unnatural creature, now.

He held her as though comforting her and wept while dawn approached. This girl who had been afraid of the dark would finally be taken away from him by the saving light.

Saving? No. The horrid, inimical daylight. A harsh god that burned what it caressed, a god that had boiled centuries of blood spilt by those that worshiped it. An uncaring body that held its dominion in jealous hands, glancing in whims at its creation, the gravity of which can destroy as it creates.

Ralph touched the cross on his necklace. Was he still talking about the sun?

The question was: had he ever been?

Sidney had been such a happy little girl. Generous with her laughs and smiles. Thinking about those numerous scenes where her light shined so brightly it hurt him, but it was better to remember her that way. It wasn’t only in the big moments, either. In fact, they were almost devoid of strong emotion, like what the moment brought with it had been used at the time, the fuel that was left only there to keep the memory alive. He thought about birthdays. Holidays. Her first bike ride, her first date, her learning to drive–they were golden moments, sure. Milestones for Sidney. But the magic lay between the towers. Fried moments like watching her sleep from the cracked door. Seeing the concentration on her face as she read.  Being witness to her growing and becoming a person.

From the instant that he had first seen her, he had wanted to protect her. Odd, isn’t it, that he had given her death? Was it such a bad thing? There are things worse than death, he believed, and what Sidney had become was something that he was sure she would not wish to be. The way that Ralph saw it, she had been dead already. What he had done was give her peace. It was the best that he could do for her. If there had been another way . . . anything . . . but there wasn’t.

The morning sun was full in the box window. The musty basement was losing its shadows slowly. The bright square of decoct light was moving across the floor. Ralph could see the floating dust passing through it. He had long adjusted to the foul smells. The room was full of clutter and filth. A ten-speed bike lay against the wall. Clothes in piles, torn, stained in red, some. Broken appliances. Traces of rats. Dried blood–some of it was Sidney’s but not all. He wasn’t sure if this trash was like trophies or not, but he had been in rooms like this before. Seen these kinds of piles of offal.

He wasn’t exactly sure how many people he had killed tracking Sidney–hurting seemed an awful word to apply to your treasured daughter. Under twenty but over ten. How long had he been searching for her? Two years, now. And it hadn’t been easy, but once you understand trail, it was not impossible. A matter of time, unless you’re killed. And Ralph had come close so many times to a violent death, needing to bring his daughter peace. The screams did not haunt him, nor their blood–trepid and thick. What bothered him–

No, he wouldn’t think about that. There was time for that next. He touched his cross again.

He had tracked Sidney from Vicksburg to Conception to Kansas City to here, and that bright block of sunlight had arrived to present the end. Part of one, he amended. He held his beloved daughter as the sun climbed atop her body, ignoring sounds of crackling and the ensuing smell like burnt hair. He tried not to cry as she became hot in his arms and then lighter as her body changed to charcoal ash, holding her form as the sun held his face. This was no longer his daughter, nor a monster, but a body of ash.

It could have been his breath, it could have been the weight, it could have been her freed soul, but the ash collapsed, dusting down all over him, her clothes falling unfilled, the stake thumping against his thigh as it fell. It was the silence that he found to be the hardest thing to handle, so he filled it with his weeping. For hours, tears no longer falling, the sun moved on, and only his disgusted soul left to cry out unintelligible.

He loved his daughter, and now she was gone. To rest in true peace, he believed. It was the best that he could give her.

Not now, no, but before night he would have to move. Not now, of course, but before night, he would have to put this aside for a while longer. Because, not now, but before night, Ralph would have to start considering how to track his wife.

Chiefs

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Morgen Knight

Roy slammed the shot of Jack then exhaled, his vision momentarily swimming. The bar was in an uproar as another touchdown was scored. A minute and change left in the game, but the ending had already been signed, sealed, and delivered. No one loses a twenty-one point lead in just over a minute. Especially not at the Super Bowl. And he wanted to cry.
How long had he been a Chiefs fan? How many heart-wrenching seasons?
But he couldn’t cheer. Not now. Not after the deal he’d made.
“Your soul,” the man had said, a dark stranger he couldn’t exactly envision in his mind.
And Roy had been too eager to shake the man’s hand, laughing. A bit of Jack in him then, as well. Funny, because who can guarantee a Chief’s win? Super Bowl win? Roy hadn’t thought much if it.
Until they’d started to win. And win. Lose a couple (breathing easier) until they won again and again. Unreal wins. Turns of luck. Players doing more then they should be able to.
As the game clocked ticked down and the cheers defended, his hands began to tremble. His bowels threatened to loosen. As the last three seconds ticked away, he held his eyes closed. His soul. That’s all.
0:00 the game clock read.
The bar was a riot of chants and howls, booze splashing.
And Roy felt a tap on his shoulder.

The Last Text Message from Molly Summers

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Morgen Knight

– Jess, Some1 N the house
– Where R U
– Closet. Call 911 I hear them. I’m scared
– B quiet I’m calling.
– qpd6hk
-Molly?
Molly
Molly?
Hello Molly?

First Dawn

 

 Morgen Knight

            He hadn’t seen her running, but he saw her fall. It was his periphery that caught it.  Hemmingford was sitting behind the wheel of his parked car, watching the entrance of the Rlotic hotel. There was a bulky camera on the seat behind him. He had already gotten the photographs that he wanted, now he was waiting for the ones that would remove any wiggle room once the accusations began. Hand had went in the hotel with a busy woman that was not his wife. The two had had their arms around each other in more than a friendly way. And there had been a familiarity about the way the two had touched. A comfort only made by experience. He believed that those photos would say everything that had to be said, but pictures of the two exiting…that said it louder.

When she fell, it was from the rooftop of the building beside the hotel, into the alley between the two. Hemmingford hadn’t known that it was a woman when he saw the form drop. From this angle, he didn’t have a complete line of sight down the alley. His first thought was that someone had tossed a bag from the room above. Maybe it was simply trash, but that seemed like a strange way to discard it. He leaned close to the squared windshield, looking up. How far had it fallen? It couldn’t have been from too far up, unless the discarder didn’t care if it broke. Could be booze, he though. There were a number of speakeasies within five blocks of here. He didn’t see any police or federalists raiding the Rlotic, but he didn’t know what was going on inside, did he?

It was the men that made him get out of the car, grabbing his overcoat. Two of them got out of a car that pulled up to the alley; the car swung around the block then idled at the alley’s entrance. Hemmingford would have forgotten all about the alley and the dark shape if it wasn’t for that. He would have sat here, gotten Jimmy’s pictures for him, and went home–he did have to work tomorrow. But Hemmingford was naturally curious. In another time, he believed that he would have been an explorer. But in this life, all that continents were accounted for and the mountains all had footsteps tracked across them. That’s why he was a cop. A detective at the fifth. That’s why he didn’t mind moonlighting for Jimmy now and then, taking a case or two a month. It was his curiosity.  The jungles all had names, but people were still uncharted. Especially in times like these.

Hemmingford held a hand out as he jogged across the street, to the front of the hotel. Two sharply dressed bellhops stood inside the front doors. Hemmingford turned right, stepping off the U-drive up to the doors, onto the sidewalk. Out of his pocket he pulled a pack of Lucky cigarettes and matches. He lit the cigarette then waved the match out, dropping it as he approached the alley. The idling car that had stopped in front of the alley had two men in it. One was watching the alley, the other was watching the street–the front of the car was pulled out a little, white-walled tires turned out. The traffic passed by close, the bug headlights inches from the front of the car. A couple passing drivers hit their squeaking horns. He could hear Cab Calloway on their radio.

The man watching the alley switched to eyeing him as he approached.  Hemmingford blew out a plume of smoke, swiveling his head as he passed the alley. As soon as he saw the man, Hemmingford knew what he was going to do. Two men were down the alley, flanking a curled-up form. One of them had a pistol in his hand, the other had what looked like a short pool cue. Hemmingford could see the passenger of the car watching him. He looked forward, like he was walking on, took the cigarette from his mouth and flicked it ahead in a high arch. As the hot cherry tip sailed down to the pavement, struck the peppered in hot embers, Hemmingford pulled the pistol from the shoulder holster at his side. He was good with guns. He had been a young man in the War to End All Wars.

Barely aiming, he shot twice at the man with the gun. Both shots hit him, spinning him down to the ground. It was too dark to make out features, but he heard the man’s agony in his cry. The car door behind Hemmingford opened, but he was already spinning. His rock-fist smashed into the rising man’s jaw, knocking him back into the car. The window beside him exploded with the first shot from the second man in the alley. He’d pulled his pistol.

Hemmingford ducked, scrambling for the corner of the hotel to cover him. Two more bullets smashed into the car, trailing him like hammer blows. The driver spooked, swerved into the street, clipping a passing car. High-pitched horns screamed out. At the corner, he took a shot at the running man. The bullet missed, ricocheting off of the brick building with a spark and tiny crumble of mortar.

A crowd began to gather at the alley as Hemmingford ran down to the body. The pistol was in his hand, but his attention was at his feet. The woman–a woman? She was curled into a fetal position. Her short black hair was covering her face. There was blood on the concrete and her clothes. Is she what had fallen? He looked up, scanning the light and dark windows of the hotel rooms above him. There was no way to tell which window was hers. He couldn’t see any broken glass above or scattered around her. She was the only thing besides him and the man he’d shot in this alley.

Bending down, he holstered the pistol, then brushed the side of her face.  Looking at her unconscious face laying on the drab concrete, he swallowed. She was so beautiful that his chest hurt, but he couldn’t look away. Her skin was tanned. She had a pointy chin and poetic lips. Long dark lashes fringed her closed eyes. “Shit,” he said. At least she was breathing. He looked back at the crowd filling the end of the alley. The unmistakable wail of sirens was distant but growing. When he turned back, her eyes were open. They were a shade of green that he had never seen before, and his mind instinctively associated it with a subtle taste, like he had just bitten into a sweet apple.  She wasn’t from around here. There were plenty of young women in the city, now. Jobs pulled them here. Manufacturing was down, but there were still a few plants open. They were small town girls, mostly. Farm girls.

She turned her head at him. “Help me.”

“Don’t move. People are coming.”

“No. Please get me out of here. They’re coming.” A commotion behind them made Hemmingford turn. Men were pushing through the crowd. He caught a glimpse of a shotgun. “Now,” she said forcefully.

Hemmingford heard every reason that he shouldn’t, but his arms scooped her up.  She was light; her arm wrapped around his neck; her face nestled against his chest. They were in the middle of the alley. He ran for the other end, leaving the body of the man he’d shot behind. Whatever this was, he could feel the panic. His back was exposed. As the back street neared, he couldn’t believe that they would make it. And they didn’t.  Five feet from escape, shotguns opened up behind him. His mind tried to count the guns, but the sound was one slurry of thunder. His left shoulder was hit, spinning him a little on the axis of his right foot, and then he was hustling down the back street. There was a maze of alleys.

“Hide,” she whispered. “There are many of them.”

Hemmingford, a name passed down the family line, nodded. There were doors, boarded-up windows and trash. He could smell it as they passed behind a Hungarian restaurant. Three cats were rummaging through a stack of metal trashcans. He stopped at a green door with a board nailed across it. “Stand, if you can,” he said. He put her down, and she leaned against the building like she were intoxicated. With both hands, he pulled, putting his foot on the door. Yank, yank, nothing. “We–”

She reached over and lightly tugged on the board. It snapped in two.

“Okay,” Hemmingford said, tossing the broken pieces into the alley, then pulling open the door. She walked to him, leaning, and together they stepped into the dark. The door swung close behind them. He didn’t know where they were going. When they came across a staircase, they went up. Down a small hallway, they entered an old office.  There was an empty desk, a pin-up on the wall, and a window that looked out on the busy street out front. He stood by the window; she sat on the desk. “Who are they?  Gangsters? Did you steal from the mob?”

“Come here. You’re hurt.”

Hemmingford walked away from his view of the street. He looked at her, searching for injuries, but there were none. “What’s going on?” he asked, turning as she instructed him to with her hands. She pulled his overcoat off of him. There was blood on his clothes. A few shotgun pellets were sleeping in his shoulder.

“They are hunters. They wish to kill me,” she said. “Take off your shirt.”

He laid the holster on the desk beside him, but in easy reach. The shirt unbuttoned easily, but he moaned as he slipped the shirt off, his shoulder searing with every minute movement. “How bad is it?”

“Not bad,” she said, her breath hitting his back. It made him shiver. Her hands held his shoulders as her rough tongue ran over his wounds. Her mouth covered them as her hands encircled him, grabbing his chest, lightly scratching across his nipple, waking it.

“What are you?” Hemmingford asked, eyes closed.

She kissed the top of his shoulder, moving in front of him. His throat.  “Something different,” she said breathlessly, and then her lips were on his. Their mouths opened.

Hemmingford tasted something sweet in her mouth with a hint of metal. His tongue ran cautiously over her teeth, feeling the two sharp points. His heart beat hard and rapid. She matched its intensity. These details were small things, though. He was swept up in the way his flesh tingled where she touched him and how the endless depth of this kiss drew him into her. She unbuckled his belt, his pants, and dropped them.  Hemmingford’s hands pulled up her dress, her slip, and found her panties. They fell, and she stepped out of them for him and she pushed him onto the desk, climbing onto him.  When she guided him into her, her mouth pressed hard against him.

His pain was gone. His hands gripped her lower back as she rocked on top of him.  Her mouth moved to his wounded shoulder, sucking on the wounds. He felt another set of pinches, and then heat undulated down his spine. Nothing in life had felt this way before.  Every nerve and fiber felt engaged. He pulled her hard body against his. Her breasts cushioned against his chest while they slid back and forth smoothly timed. Their mouths were pressed together as he felt it rushing on him. His hands squeezed her back; the muscles in his legs tightened. His back felt like it was burning while her motion became more vigorous. Her lips were on his shoulder when her own came, meeting his sudden breaths. The tone of her voice sank into his bones, lighting him from the inside out.

When his body stilled, every muscle relaxed at once. It was like every tension had been sucked away. He was as light as air. She was still moving on top of him. Slight little motions that made everything below tingle with a painful pleasure. She was smiling, he saw. The littlest dribble of his blood ran down her angled chin. Then her head collapsed onto his bare chest, her hot exhales running across the thin thatch of curled hair between his muscles.

“My name is Hemmingford Rose,” he said.

“I am Rossum,” she said. Her voice was silky. She made him sit up again while she inspected his wounds. “We can tend this later,” she said, grabbing his overcoat. She tore it into a few long ribbons and wrapped the wound a few times, tying it beneath his arm. “There is metal in you.”

“Thank you.” He moved his arm, testing it. The pain was bearable.

“You helped me. You don’t–” Rossum stood stiffly, her beautiful eyes wide.  “We have been found.”

Hemmingford moved to the window. There were two cars out front; six men climbed out. He lost them at the bottom of the window, but it was definitely this building they had entered. All of them had long coats on, hiding their guns. His pistol was in the holster on the floor, where it had fallen in the commotion. His eyes met her. “I’ll have some questions later.” After the unbuttoned shirt, he slipped the holster on, watching the door. “Stay here.” He went to the door, gun in hand. They were coming up the stairs, he could hear. At the end of the short hall, he leaned back against the wall he was facing.  “I’m a cop!” Hemmingford yelled. The movement stopped. “What are you after?”

A few whispers too faint to make out came down the hall like scurrying rat scratches, then: “The woman is a monster. Whatever she told you is a lie.”

“You boys go ahead and leave.”

“I’m a priest. We can’t leave until we put this evil down. Don’t you fear God, son?”

“Those shotguns come with scriptures engraved down the barrels?”

There was a pause. “God’s work can be dirty.”

At least the man made it sound regrettable, Hemmingford thought. There was more whispering, and he got the feeling that they were preparing to make a move.  “She’s a woman,” he called out.

“Don’t be fooled. There is more strength there than you think.”

He smirked, thinking about the ease she’d broken the board with. He should have brought those pieces in. That was probably how they had found them, he guessed.

“Has she bitten you?” another man called out. His voice was new.

“You can’t have her,” Hemmingford yelled.

“Then we have to take her,” the new man yelled.

Hemmingford spun, exposing himself marginally, and fired into the flashlights.  Two quick shots, and then he rolled back around the corner, and backed down the hall.  One man was screaming that he was bleeding. The priest said that Jake was dead. And then the end of the hall exploded in gunfire. The plaster wall crumbled, and the corner was shaved clean. He stood at the doorway down the hall, watching the moving lights.  Rossum was in the room, near the window. “There is more of them than you and me.  And I’m almost out of bullets,” he said. When the first face poked down the hall, Hemmingford shot. The bullet hit the wall, exploding plaster in a large puff. A second after, he stepped fully in the room, shutting the door; gunfire began tearing up the hallway. “Not much–”

Rossum busted the window. The glass fell to the sidewalk below. “Come,” she instructed.

“It’s kind of high, isn’t it?” he asked, already deciding that jumping was his only chance. She lifted him like a bride would be lifted and leaped out. Her landing was soft, and then his feet were hitting the ground. The sound of gunfire was muffled above. Cars passed them on the main street. He was impressed. “Take the car,” he said, running over to it. The men had come in two cars. She was in as he pulled his door open.

“Stop!”

Half out of the window, a man was aiming a tommy gun at him. “ Shit,” Hemmingford muttered. The car started. This was going to be close. He shot without aiming, drawing and driving at the same time.  His bullet struck a foot to the left of the window. It was enough to make the gunner duck his head, lending Hemmingford precious seconds. “Get down!” he screamed, slamming his foot down on the accelerator.  The car jerked forward, slamming his door, pulling onto the sidewalk. From above, automatic fire opened up. The roof popped the rapid impacts. The car jostled off the sidewalk, caroming off of a passing car. At the intersection, Hemmingford squealed left. “We’re good.”

Rossum was scrunched down in her seat. She straightened up, looked up at the holes in the roof behind them, then looked back. The rear backseat was torn with holes, stuffing hung out. “We are not yet clear,” she said. To punctuate, machine gun fire burst through the rear window. The sound of metal smacking the back of the car made Hemmingford duck.

“Not good,” he said. Through the mirror, he saw the man hanging out of the window behind them. The second car was two lengths back. The mouth of the tommy gun opened, and Hemmingford’s mirror crumbled. The car wasn’t going to be able to take much more of this. He took the next turn, barely tapping the breaks. The street was full of cars. A long trail of lead slashed across the car that Hemmingford had been behind. The driver jerked, his blood spitting up onto the window. The trailing car turned behind Hemmingford. Rossum was turned around in her seat, hands on top, watching behind them with a petulant glare. “The man is reloading a round clip.”

Hemmingford sharply turned around the next two cars and bounced up onto the sidewalk to keep from hitting a third. Gun fire from the street followed them. The shops and people Hemmingford passed were hailed in a destructive like of lead. Windows burst. Bricks cracked. People ducked, screaming, or fell bloody as Hemmingford sped by. He swerved into the street at the first opening. The gunfire had covered the street.  People were hiding as he drove by. Heads poked out from behind cars and through shop windows. Vender’s carts stood unattended. “I don’t know how much farther we have to go. Another clip and this car might crumple on us.” There wasn’t much left of the back of the car as it was.

“Turn here. Head east,” Rossum said.

He took the turn. You could see that the panic hadn’t passed to this street. At once, people were visible. He turned where Rossum pointed again. Then again. Their trailers were behind them, bumping the car. Rossum had her torso out of the window, looking up at the night sky. When she pulled herself in, she grabbed the wheel.  Hemmingford hit the brakes as the car turned, fishtailing. Their trailers hit them, jostling the car, snapping the rear tire. The car was facing a deep alley. There were trashcans packed on either side. A steel fire escape was connected to the building at the back.

“Go,” she said sternly.

The car didn’t have much left in it, but it limped to the back of the alley. He went for his door, but she gabbed him by the shoulder. Her grip was iron, and he suspected that there was much more strength there than she was using. “What is it?” he asked. The other car was pulling behind them, victorious. Their headlights came brightly through the mottled rear.

“Wait.”

“They want to kill you. Me, now, too. And I’m out of bullets.” He looked behind them, cowering beside the torn seat back. “I could try something while you jump up the fire escape. I got a feeling that you can make it.”

Rossum smiled and it was the most frighteningly beautiful thing that he’d ever seen. “No need.”

They came from the sky, falling like rain falls, only nothing so natural, Hemmingford supposed. There were three of them, all men. They had on suits but no ties.  Long hair. One wore black gloves. The first fell onto the roof of the car behind them as the doors opened. The roof bubbled in. The men swung their ready guns up, and the other two dropped down behind the men.

“What…?”

“They are my family,” she said, as the men screamed. Gunfire soared wildly into the night sky while the men holding the guns had their throats torn out. Blood sprayed all over the men. The one still in the car behind them screamed, trapped, as they came in for him when he didn’t come out. It didn’t last a minute, but Hemmingford saw it all in slow-motion. When it was done, the gunmen were all bloody crumples, and the three blood-covered creatures stood looking his way.

“Okay,” he said, facing forward. He watched her walk around the front of the car, coming to his door. After two deep breaths, he stepped out. The men behind him were gone. Corpses laid still on the concrete. “Rossum,” he said, grabbing her with his left arm. His shoulder screamed.

She walked very close to him, closed her eyes, and inhaled while she moved her face up and over. Their lips brushed, her eyes opened. “It is near dawn. I must go. But I will find you, Hemmingford Rose. You saved me.” With a girlish laugh, she was gone.

He walked down the alley, the night streaming against the bare swath of chest, his unbuttoned shirt revealed, and carefully stepped around the dead men. He could hear sirens clearly from the surrounding streets. What he’d wanted to say was that they had saved each other. Was he more excited or scared by her promise to find him? He put a delicate hand on his throbbing shoulder. Cars passed by the end of the alley. To the east, still and hour down, dawn was coming.