To say the appearance of the beautiful ninja lady in his bedroom came as a bit of surprise to him would have been a pretty considerable understatement. Nick was still waving his hands in the air to dry them as he stepped down the hallway from his bathroom to his bedroom, and froze in place, hands held out awkwardly in mid wave in front of him.
She looked just as surprised to see him as he was to see her. At least, she did for the brief fraction of a second before her lithe body sprang into action. She crossed the gap between them and slammed him back into the nearest wall before he even had a chance to recover from his shock at seeing her in his room in the first place. She pressed him into place, one arm barred across his chest, the other holding a dagger that glinted metallic in the dim light from the TV.
As she pressed the dagger’s tip against his throat, Nick found himself staring up at her in awe. She was tall – almost as tall as Nick himself - thin, and muscular. She had long dark hair that if loose would flow a fair amount down her back, but most of it had been tied back into a ponytail that hung to her shoulder blades. Loose parts of hair hung in an arc around her face and across her cheekbones, and these parts were streaked with lines of purple. Her eyes looked like black holes in the darkness of the room, and they stared with ferocious intensity straight into his own. Her mouth and nose were covered in the same tight, black material that made up most of her outfit.
Distantly, Nick realized that she was saying something to him as he stared at her gorgeous physique. He blinked and met her gaze with a look of confusion.
“Anata dare?” She demanded in a voice so quiet it was practically a whisper. “Koko de nani shiteiruno?”
Nick blinked slowly and shook his head. “I… I’m sorry. What?”
Her eyes went wide and she pulled away for half a second, and then quickly recovered and leaned back into him, slamming him against the wall with a surprising amount of force given how little she had let go.
“Kore wa torikkudesu ka?” This she demanded in a louder voice, though it was still fairly quiet.
“I don’t speak Japanese!” Nick protested, frantically taking a wild guess at what language she was speaking. “I don’t know what you’re saying.” She removed the dagger from his throat and raised its point up to his eye level. Instinctively, Nick raised his hands up in front of himself, palms forward, in surrender. “Please, I mean it! I don’t know anything!”
“Tell me what I am doing here,” she demanded, moving the dagger with incredible precision mere millimeters closer to his eye.
“I don’t know. I don’t know anything! I swear!” His eyes were going crossed in an attempt to keep his focus on the deadly blade hovering in the air so dangerously close to his head. Suddenly, he perked up and refocused his gaze on her. “Hey! You speak English?”
She backed off just a micrometer, keeping her stance ready to strike. “I don’t speak English,” she snapped. “You speak Japanese.”
“What?” Nick asked, now more confused than ever, and even more surprised that it was still possible for him to get more confused than he had been a second earlier. “I don’t know a thing about Japanese. Well, no, that’s not entirely true. I know, uh, ‘konnichiwa.’ And ‘domo arigato,’ obviously. And, erm, Shin… Nihon…something. Okay, I don’t quite remember that one. New Japanese something? I don’t remember what that’s from.”
The mysterious ninja lady took a few quick steps back away from him. She looked him up and down, almost as though noticing him for the first time. Her muscles did not slack even the tiniest bit, however, and she kept her weapon poised and ready to strike. Despite half her face being covered by a mask, she had an expression that clearly displayed rage and distrust. “You… really do not know Japanese?” she asked.
“Really truly,” Nick answered. “You’re speaking English to me, lady.”
Her eyes unfocused, as though she was trying to look inwards at herself, and her arms finally lowered to her side. Nick couldn’t tell for sure, but it almost seemed like she was shaking.
“I… I don’t understand,” she said quietly.
“Hey, that makes two of us,” Nick said, peeling himself from the wall and adjusting his shirt. He did his best to look casual about it, but the stranger seemed to be paying no attention to him.
“Why did you bring me here?” She demanded, refocusing on him.
“I didn’t,” Nick protested. “I should be asking you why you came to kill me.”
“I didn’t come to kill you. I don’t even know who you are.”
Nick wiped at his throat and his hand came away sticky. He looked at it, and the fingers were stained with a small trickle or red. “Evidence to the contrary,” he mumbled.
“I wouldn’t have attacked you if you hadn’t brought me here,” she snapped.
“I didn’t bring you here,” Nick shot back.
“Well, I didn’t come here on my own. Someone brought me here. If not you, then…” he voice trailed off and she suddenly tensed again. She cocked her head to the side, as if listening for something. Nick listened, too. The only sound was the faint music of the video game still sitting on pause on the television.
“Look,” Nick said, can you just put the kunai away so we can talk this through?”
The woman stared at the blade in her hand as though she had completely forgotten about it. After a moment she sheathed it, but she did so while giving him a suspicious look.
“You don’t speak any Japanese but you know what a kunai is?”
An embarrassed look plastered itself onto Nick’s face and he could feel his cheeks growing red hot. With some hesitation he motioned to the TV and managed to stutter out the words, “Well, I…I play a l-lot of v-video games.”
The ninja woman turned and looked at the TV, seeming to notice it for the first time. “Right…” she said simply, letting the word fade out into eternity. She shook her head as if to clear it. “I must go,” she said simply, and then started down the hall back the way Nick had just come.
“Uh, actually, it’s that way.” Nick said, stepping in front of her to bar her path. He pointed to his left out a nearby open door that led to the living room. The only thing behind him was the bathroom, and he wanted her to go in that direction about as little as she would want to find herself there.
She glanced in the direction he was pointing, then down the hall behind him, then back to the living room. She seemed to be making up her mind about whether or not to trust him.
“I can still kill you if you’re lying to me, you know?” she said as she crossed the room to the door, finally deciding to take him at his word but not wanting to fully admit it.
“I don’t doubt that,” replied Nick.
He watched her as she walked away. He expected her to go quickly, but her pace actually seemed to be slowing the further she got from him, and he grew more and more positive with each step that she was shaking.
Suddenly there was a strange sensation in his chest, like a black hole had opened and sucked everything out, then pumped the emptiness so full of air that it threatened to pop.
“Wait!” he called to her, hurrying after her. “Maybe I should help you.”
She stopped and turned around to face him. She cocked her head to the side and gave him a look of disbelief. “Help me? You?”
Nick tried not to take too much offense at that. “Yeah. Well, look around you. Do you even know where the hell you are?”
She hesitated a moment. “America,” she answered snidely.
”Oh, good guess,” Nick replied. “Where in America?”
She opened her mouth as if to answer, but it just hung open and no sound came out. She continued looking around at his spare, unclean apartment, searching for some clue that might indicate an answer to his question. Once again Nick began to feel a bit embarrassed, more than a little self-conscious of how much of a disaster the place was.
“I don’t think…” she started, but her voice suddenly cut off. Her eyes went wide, bulging out of her skull, and suddenly she was hugging herself and trembling uncontrollably. She screamed in pain, and then a massive cloud of black and red particles burst out of her back.
She jerked, as if she had been punched really hard in the face, and then collapsed to the ground.
“Holy shit!” Nick screamed, so stunned at the site he couldn’t even bring himself to move over and stop her from falling. He watched the dust cloud flicker and fade into nothingness, until all that remained was a strange smell like something burning.
After a moment he shook from head to toe, like he had suddenly come to his senses, and took note of the woman lying at his feet on the ground. He dove to his knees and bent down over her. Her eyes were closed and she wasn’t moving. He couldn’t even tell if she was breathing.
Grabbing her shoulders he shook her as hard as he dared. “Wake up, lady! Wake up!”
She moaned quietly, but gave no other indication that she sensed him at all. Reaching up, Nick pulled the mask down from her mouth, uncovering her face in the hopes that it might help her breathe. When he did so, he noticed her cheek felt hot. He touched her cheeks and her forehead with the back of his hand.
She was burning up.
He laid her back on the ground. His vision was blurry and his breath was coming hard. He was panicking, he knew, but he couldn’t help it. He didn’t know what to do. He didn’t know what he should do. He didn’t know why she was there, what had brought her there, or what had just come exploding out of her. Nothing about the situation he found himself in made any sense whatsoever.
But it was happening. Right there, in front of him. The prone figure possibly dying on his living room floor was proof of that much.
He had to do something.
The hospital. That was it. He had to get her to the hospital. He doubted they would have much experience with people who could appear out of thin air then explode red and black inkiness out of their backs, but certainly they had to be able to do more than he could. He looked around, trying to remember where he put his phone. It wasn’t in the living room, so he hurried back to the bedroom. It wasn’t lying out anywhere obvious so he began digging through his bedsheets and checking around under his desk and bed.
When he got to this last part, he couldn’t see well enough under the bed, so he reached into his pocket to pull out his phone in order to use it as a flashlight.
“Oh, Jesus!” Nick swore, realizing this was what he had been looking for the whole time. He clicked the home button but the screen did not light up. He swore again and pounded the button a few more times. When that didn’t work he moved to the power button. The screen stubbornly refused to power up. When he thought about it, he could remember the phone warning him that the battery was dying before he left work earlier that day. He had intended to plug it in when he got home, but instead got distracted playing video games.
“Bricked!” Nick snarled, tossing the useless phone away. Now he was back to freaking out. There was no other phone in the apartment, nothing he could use to call for an ambulance. “Who has landlines anymore?” he would say on a normal occasion. If only he had known that one day a beautiful ninja girl would randomly materialize in his room direly needing help and his cell phone would be dead. What an entirely plausible situation. Hard to believe he had not foreseen it happening.
He could try a neighbor’s phone, but then he would likely have to answer some uncomfortable questions he wasn’t prepared to answer about what an unconscious and beautiful woman was doing in his apartment in the first place. His neighbor, a girl, would probably be more likely to call the cops on him than she would be willing to help him in this situation. And then he would find himself having to explain to the cops what said unconscious and beautiful woman was doing on the floor of his living room. It was beginning to seem like that plan just continued spiraling down to a really bad ending for him.
He decided it was probably better to just take her to the hospital himself. It was not so far away, after all. Just a couple blocks down the highway from his apartment complex. He could easily get her there, drop her off, and disappear back to his house before any uncomfortable questions could be asked by anyone about anything.
He hurried back to the living room, where the young woman was still lying prone upon his carpet. He knelt down over her, and once again was taken somewhat aback by her beauty. It seemed a shame to simply abandon her now, when she clearly was in need of help. But what else was there to do? A mysterious stranger like this woman, showing up at the hospital in her condition would likely get the cops called out. If he stuck around they would certainly question him, and that just brought him back around to that whole mess.
Reaching down, he lifted her as carefully as he could. She was surprisingly light. Not that she looked heavy. With her small frame he doubted that was possible, but with as much strength as she had at her command he figured she must have had some weight to back it up. Instead, she lifted with surprising ease. Not that there was no difficulty to it. Nick still found himself struggling to lift her off the ground, but all told he felt almost as if he was cradling a baby as he rose to his feet.
With a little more effort, he raised her up and managed to balance her over his shoulder. She remained unresponsive to all of this, and he could feel her arms dangling limply down his back.
“Please don’t be dead. Please don’t be dead,” he found himself repeating over and over again under his breath.
He grabbed his keys from a table near the door, where he had so callously thrown them upon arriving home only a few hours earlier, then stepped out his front door and into the hallway beyond. He found himself unable to maneuver her and get the door closed, so he was forced to set her down against the wall while he closed the door. The delay was annoying, but it was already late at night, the sun had been down for hours, and he lived in an apartment in what was not the best part of town. Judging by the past several minutes, it was nearly impossible to tell what was in store for him in the future, but he figured if he wanted an apartment to come back to at all, he had better make sure it was locked up tight.
Finally finished, he hoisted the stranger back over his shoulder and hurried for his car.
Maneuvering her into the passenger seat without severely injuring her proved to be a feat of its own. Her limbs seemed to take on a life of their own, flopping this way and that whenever he needed them to remain motionless or stay in place. He prayed to whatever god might be watching this farce that nobody would walk by and find him doing this. He realized from the outside it must look rather a lot like he got a girl drunk and then kidnapped her.
After much effort, and having only gently bumped her head against the side of the car two times, he managed to get her into place in her seat and buckle her safety belt. Satisfied that she was secure, he closed the door and hurried around to the driver’s seat. A moment later the car roared to life and he was headed off out of the complex and onto the highway.