The way the sunlight hit the buildings seemed to set them aflame. That’s how Mindy thought of it anyway. From her vantage point on her bus to work every day she saw the towering giants, testaments to concrete and steel. She would sometimes wonder if the powder-keg blew, if the spark went off…would it be such a bad thing? Save her going to work on beautiful days. As her mum used to say, ‘a sunny day is like an erect penis, the older you get, the less you should waste them’. Her mum drank.
Mindy was only twenty-two and in the real world was Amanda, daughter of Jack and Gill (kid you not). She had a pretty good job for her age – personal assistant to Alexander Abrams of Abrams & Viktor (the best law firm in Manchester, or at least so she told the customers, in reality she had no basis for comparison).
Certainly the building was the most impressive she’d seen. Understated on the outside, luxuriant on the inside. A somewhat architecturally modest (by Manchester standards) five-story building on a busy street; stepping through the doors took you into another world. A world of plush red carpeting, chandeliers and gold plating that made the lobby of Abrams & Viktor look more like a five-star hotel than a law firm. That morning things would change.
The day was already well underway when their visitor arrived. Mindy was busying herself with some work at her desk, located in front of Mr. Abrams’ office on the ground floor. He liked to pretend it was a sign of humility, she was more inclined to think it was to get a look at the pretty temps on main reception. Pervert. Either way it meant that when the strange man arrived she had a prime view and noticed him right away.
He didn’t so much walk through the doors as glide through them. That was the first thing of notice. The second was his body. Even though he was wearing a thick black overcoat she could tell he was ripped enough to make the Hulk blush. Did she blush a little as well? No lie, something twinged. Not to turn into Taylor Swift of anything but she was only twenty-two. And thirsty.
When her eyes reached his face the flutter of attraction turned to one of alarm. His features were strong, his jaw defined and sandpapered with stubble. His eyes, however, were terrifying. They were normal, brown or hazel maybe, but filled with an intensity of purpose unlike anything she’d ever seen.
He moved through the now silent and still lobby like liquid steel. The way he surveyed the room and the subtle grace with which he moved reminded Mindy of something. A predator. She felt another flutter, of murkier and not so pleasant origin this time.
When he reached the centre of the room he paused. His hand slid down his zip and he shrugged off the overcoat. She gasped, softly. He was as ripped as she’d imagined, each toned muscle clearly defined as if cut from his skin. She could see because he wasn’t wearing a shirt. That wasn’t what had made her gasp – it was the adornment of black inked tattoos covering his upper torso. Symbols she’d never seen before, letters in languages she had no right to know and black flames licking at his skin.
He fell to his knees, speaking for the first time. It came out as a rapid-fire chant in a foreign tongue. He closed his eyes and raised his arms almost as if in supplication. It was this which moved her to action. She stood and came around the desk, sure they had another religious nut. She wasn’t alarmed enough to act definitively, but she had a feeling she would need to call the police before this incident was through.
She stopped in her tracks when she saw Otis, their security guard, stepping up to their visitor.
Either the man didn’t hear him or didn’t care, he continued to chant. Otis reached out one hand and firmly gripped the man’s bare shoulder. It was barely a second before he wrenched it back, screaming in pain. His hand was smoking from across the room, the scent of burnt flesh hit her. Then she, like everyone else, was frozen.
The only movement came from behind her – Mr Abrams came out of his office drawn by the commotion. She didn’t turn. He stepped up beside her, took in the scene. She felt his shoulders slump in resignation. She didn’t look. He slipped one hand into hers and squeezed. She didn’t move.
The man’s flesh sizzled with heat. The once black tattoos glowed the colour of smouldering embers and sombre twilight. A salty tear may have slipped down her young face, she couldn’t be sure. The ability to feel was gone and that was a blessing.
From the outside, it seemed an explosion ripped through the building and shattered the mid-morning day. To Mindy, one breath, one heartbeat and she was gone.