Chapter 4. The Stranger
Downtown Sainte-Catherine is booming with life late at night. Beautiful. I breathe it in, smells of fatty, but tasty Big Macs mixing with bitter coffee s we pass by a McDonald’s and a Van Houtte. And the crisp, fresh night air vivifying my lungs. Looking around, I’m amazed as I am always at this bustling crowd. A man is selling handmade necklaces in a small cart a few feet from us, discussing in a baritone voice with a woman. A group of young men shouts and waves at two girls across the street, probably so they’d cross and meet them. Contentment fills me and I smile fondly. I love Montreal!
The movie was excellent! Amy can’t stop chattering away about the characters and the plot, and I nod along, sometimes sharing my own thoughts. We laugh and chat as we walk to the subway entrance located two streets away around the corner. We’re excited as ever and it shows in our jumpy strides and grand gestures, explaining passages or mimicking some. After all, superheroes are awesome and Wonder Woman didn’t disappoint.
People circumvent us best they can as we take up the whole pavement. I try to squeeze myself though as some of them brush against my arms and shoulders. How Diana appeared all strong and determined after her beloved death’s, renewed energy flowing through her and a single goal. Wow!
That was sick. Impressive.
As we walk up to an alley, a guy in a dark gray hoodie brushes arm and stops, pressing something against my belly. Alarmed, I turn my head to stare at him and the knife he’s subtly pointing at me. Because that has to be a knife with its sharply pointed end. His serious, aggressive light eyes with circles under, his livid skin tone and messy appearance clearly speak of ill thoughts.
“In, you go,” he tells me brusquely.
We haven’t got any choice. At least, I don’t if I want to see my mom again or breathe. Adrenaline and fear are travelling in my veins in powerful jets. Yet I manage to keep my cool. Like my coach says: keep your head on your shoulders, think, then find an opening and hit.
“Mimi? What’s wrong?” Amy asks, twisting around me.
“Please, don’t hurt us. We’ll go, just...” I turn my head slightly to her and whisper. “Get in the alley, now! He’s got a knife.”
Her beautiful tanned skin tone pales in an awfully quick manner, and she nods repeatedly.
Me and Amy press together as we walk backwards into the dark alley. It’s even darker here, and I feel compressed, trapped between two ugly shop brick walls. Sounds of cars driving past and honking and people talking come to me muted down, as though far away. The main sound in my head is my heart pumping fast. I turn up my nose at the stench of food going foul... It stinks of ammonia. Geez, we’re stuck next to the fishmonger. As though confirming my nose’s reaction and nausea, there’s a putrefying fish laying on top of a full trash can. I don’t dare turn my head from our assailant, but the smell is so strong I glance in its direction anyway.
As I extend an arm to protect Amy (vainly, you might say) from harm, I bore my gaze into that stranger’s, silently asking what he wants. He pushes me hard, as if annoyed we’re too slow (or perhaps too visible from the street?). My body slams against Amy’s as I stumble backwards, and she yelps. I slip on the uneven stones of the alley, and flail, surprised by the change from smooth cement to a lower and bumpy ground. When my balance is regained, I lift my chin up and face him.
“You want money? Take it!”
My voice is high and quivering, but still I keep my cool. Instead of panicking, I reach into my jacket’s pocket and fling my purple wallet his way. He catches it swiftly, his dark, malevolent eyes fixed upon me. But I do not yield.
“I’ve only got 40 bucks, really, but that’s all I have,” I plead. Don’t engage a fight when you can observe and plan. “We won’t do anything. We just want to go home.”
He scoffs and wipes sweat off his upper lip. He doesn’t seem well, with bloodshot eyes with big bags underneath, messy hair and looks. Better not to enrage him.
For a second, no one moves. Then, the guy cocks his head to my right and nods at Amy.
“Your money?” he asks her, acting like she’s an idiot.
I clench my fist but say nothing.
He’ll go away, he’ll go away... If we just give him what he wants.
Amy’s hands are trembling as she fumbles in her pink purse. Her breathing’s hot and ragged on my neck. Still, I block her from harm. She throws her kitten wallet at his feet.
He grins and bends to pick it up. Should I attack? Should I let him be? Will he go away?
Sounds are rushing in my ears until I understand my pulse is so loud I hear it all around me.
However, the moment’s passed, and he’s back facing us. Amy squeaks and grips my forearm. She’s seen something I haven’t. But now it’s too obvious--and dangerous. Chills run down my members, raising the hairs on my arms and legs and I catch my breath.
The other teenager has a mean smirk on his lips and his eyes... I never thought this could be possible. Are we hallucinating? His eyes are... There’s a blackness swallowing his eyes. I mean, they’re now entirely black just like his pupils. We can’t discern one from the other anymore, which scares me to no end.
What the hell is this?!
I tense and push Amy farther as I gently push against her with my back. She squeaks but follows my move. I’ve got to act. This is my time to fight. Plan or plan, it’s hit or be hit.
His gasp reaches my ears as I grab his arm that holds the weapon. I don’t give him time to come back from his shock and punch him on the nose as hard as my coach taught me to. The guy screams in pain and his head jerks back violently. He’s tottering a few steps back, his hand over his nose pissing blood. He glares at me. I’m frozen for a second as the abyss of his eyes bores into my eyes.
But it’s a second too long. My opponent snarls and rushes to me, shouting.
“I’LL FUCKING RIP YOU APART, BITCH! CUT YOUR GUTS OPEN!”
I suck in a breath and put my arms before my abdomen and face, trying to contain the blow. And indeed, it comes as the knife slashes my left forearm. I let out a cry and shuffling from the street reaches my ears. Warm blood flows down my arm and drips onto the ground, the metallic and pungent scent floating to my nostrils.
“When I’m done with you, I’ll fuck your corpse!” he informs me, spitting on my clothes. He’s mad, completely mad. This guy’s gone from petty criminal to mad killer. What the hell is this?!
My chest is heaving. I push against his arm and when he thinks I’ll punch him, I lift my stronger leg (left) and hit him square in the stomach. He coughs and bends over. I take advantage of his weakness and hit him hard on the left side of his head. He spits blood as his head slams to the right.
“I.Will.End.You.” He groans, scowling at me.
I squeal and put a hand over my gash, now searing with pain. My hand comes out bloodied. Panic rises in me and my breathing is out of control. Still, I raise a hand, ready for the next punch.
But he’s faster.
He grins, his face Machiavellian with all the blood on it, and sprints to Amy. She screams as he puts the knife on her throat, holding her firmly from behind.
I stop dead in my tracks and watch the nightmarish scene.
“Now... Ohhhh now, she’s not so brilliant, the whore, is she?” he mocks, laughing.
I see a thin filament of blood trickling down Amy’s throat.
“You’ve got what you wanted, leave please,” I try to reason with the mad guy.
He shakes his head vehemently. “Nah, my desire’s changed. You’re done for, girl,” he threatens me.
But as he does so, his eyes (now back to brown) spot the people behind me. From his widening look, they’re calling the cops. His Adam’s apple bobs up and down, and he grunts, releasing my friend savagely. Amy falls face first to the ground, crying, as he runs away.
“Hey! BOY! BOY! Stay!” a man shouts behind me.
“Are you okay?!” a woman inquires, her hand on my arm.
But I don’t reply yet. In a second I’m kneeling next to Amy, holding her. “It’s over, dear, we’re safe...”
I look up to the brown-haired woman and nod. “We’re... He fought us. We gave him our money, but he still attacked. We... I.”
Amy is hyperventilating. My attention snaps to her and I’m looking around for a bag. The man empties his plastic grocery bag on the ground and offers it to her, which she gladly takes. Her breathing is loud, though I’m relieved she’s got a bag. I nod at the man. “Thank you.”
The woman gasps and points at my forearm. “Oh dear, you’re hurt!”
I pout and tears well up in my eyes. “Y-yeah... I tried to punch him away, but he... but he...”
And I explode, crying.
The man puts a compassionate hand on my shoulder, smiling as though to give us much-needed comfort.
“I called the cops. It shouldn’t be too long.”
I sniffle and sob. Horrifying black eyes swim in my vision. My whole body’s shaking. I fumble into my pocket and hand my cellphone to the man. It threatens to fall from my trembling hands, but he catches it before it can.
“C-call my mom, please. Code’s 14279.”
He nods and starts typing the code as he puts a finger in his ear to hide the bustling noise from the streets. The woman approaches and crouches next to us.
I rest my head against her shoulder as she strokes my back comfortingly, and I weep with an infinite sadness.
Black eyes still haunt me behind my eyelids. And I fear they’ll never go away.