The day of the first kill would be anything but forgettable.
You know, if you pay enough attention, you can always trace the very beginning of any major event back to the moment it started, back to the first domino to fall. And sometimes, if you’re very intuitive or lucky, you notice it right then and there, right when the series begins, right when that lone domino topples over and hits its partner. The chain effect commences, and you, where ever you are and whatever you might be doing, suddenly feel a shudder slither down your spine, or an odd sensation of anxiousness emerge from the depths of your mind and spread throughout your body like a cold fire. It’s usually subtle, usually not something you’d notice at first… but the more things to happen and the more dominos to fall, the more obvious the beginning becomes later on, and the more we kick ourselves for letting that first domino start a ripple effect of disasters.
That familiar feeling of mild dread would begin on this beautiful autumn day while Alyssa sat snugly on her couch, her head resting gently on the back cushion and her body wrapped within the soft embrace of her father’s football blanket. The television was on and the girl was watching the news, mainly because she had nothing better to do.
The morning sun illuminated the room with a yellow glow, as Alyssa preferred to keep the blinds up and the curtains open. She didn’t often enjoy leaving the house, but the sunlight still served as an effective mood lifter. While she cradled her knees and watched the television with halfhearted interest, the news reporter’s voice began to drift in and out of her thoughts.
“… to the courthouse this morning. The citizens were outraged when they learned that Joseph Wick would be released from custody, because the police don’t have sufficient evidence to hold him in regards to the murder of his wife, Amelia Wick, and his five year old daughter, Sarah Wick. The protesters behind me claim that it’s just, quote, another case of a cop getting off easy. This is Becky Miller, reporting for Channel Five…”
The woman’s voice echoed in Alyssa’s mind even after she was no longer speaking, and the news footage was shaky and blurred. The noises became obnoxious and headache inducing; it was the sound of numerous people shouting and hollering vulgarities at one particular individual, a buff, burly man who was marching his way towards his black truck and trying to avoid angry protesters along the way. The man was being escorted to his vehicle by a few police officers, and Alyssa assumed that he must have been Joseph Wick, the cop who’d been accused of killing his wife and daughter. It wasn’t the sort of story that Alyssa would usually pay much mind to, but sometimes, she found it interesting to listen to current events, even if they were unpleasant to hear.
On the screen, she was able to make out that Joseph Wick had climbed into his truck and slammed his door just in time to deflect a soda can that had been launched in his direction.
Alyssa couldn’t know for sure if the accusations against Joseph Wick held any legitimacy, but she wasn’t the judge or the jury, so she needn’t worry too much about it.
The commercials came on, which were always louder than the main programs for some reason, and Alyssa tuned out. All the talk of suspected murder brought forth some ancient memories of hers as she grew more and more comfortable in her lying-sideways position atop the couch, and she wanted more than anything to slip into a peaceful sleep.
Despite her tiredness, however, her memories wouldn’t leave her mind now.
It was an intense evening, the most frightening night of her life, though usually she didn’t think about it anymore. Strange, how it seemed to be plaguing her thoughts today…
The event happened many years ago, when Alyssa was only eight years old. During her stay at her second foster home, the family’s foster mother would indulge in the occasional margarita and speak her thoughts rather aggressively to whoever might have been around her. Alyssa didn’t remember a lot about the family anymore, but she knew that she wasn’t the only foster child in the house. There was another girl, a teenager, and a few smaller children, two girls and a boy. The foster mother’s husband was a well-spoken pastor at a local church, and he, unlike anyone else in the family, was quite pleasant and friendly. Alyssa couldn’t recall his name now. The pastor would usually be busy, but whenever he’d get the chance, he would always find Alyssa sitting by her lonesome on the porch, playing with dominos—the only toys she owned—and hoping dearly that none of the others would disturb her. He’d sit beside the young girl and give her a sweet smile, then he’d ask her why she was always alone. Alyssa couldn’t comprehend it at the time, couldn’t understand why he cared, or why he pretended to. Nobody else did.
But on the nights when her foster mother would come home from a long day of running errands, her skinny body thrashing about as she stomped angrily into the house, her blonde ponytail messy and askew, and her mascara running beneath her furious brown eyes, Alyssa always knew that the night was about to end badly. She’d always recognize that look spread across her foster mother’s face, the one of absolute rage and disgust. When her foster mother wore that wicked expression, it meant that the woman no longer cared about anyone around her, that she could say or do anything with no restraint whatsoever. Whenever she was in her worst moods, she cared nothing for the feelings of anyone else, or even for their physical wellbeing. It was a wonder how she was allowed to be a foster parent at all; her talent for neglect and carelessness was matched only by her temper when she would have one too many alcoholic beverages, and she would frequently accuse her husband of sleeping with the female foster children in the house, or the neighbors, or the women from church…
And the worst part of it was, the foster mother was very friendly sometimes.
Alyssa’s foster mother cooked breakfast every morning for the children, bought them clothes and shoes, and took them out to eat on occasion. Like most of her adult role models, the woman was very confusing to Alyssa; one minute she was giving you a heartfelt speech about how important her family is to her, and the next she’d be spewing hateful gossip about somebody in the family, or throwing things around in fits of frustration. It was almost as though the woman had two different personalities. In fact, Alyssa would sometimes dream of her foster mother being split into two separate people; a kind, warm, and loving mother, flourishing with love and bright in her existence, alongside a gray-skinned grouchy woman who harbored many lines on her face and seemed incapable of any expression apart from a scowl.
Oh, how she remembered the shouting matches that used to echo throughout that old cockroach infested house. Her foster mother would yell at the oldest of the foster kids, a sixteen year old girl named Janet, and constantly accuse her of having sex with her husband, the pastor. Alyssa, being the quiet and antisocial girl that she was, never got involved in the fighting. It would be a figurative death sentence for her if she had. She prayed she’d simply remain invisible to the toxic family around her.
Alyssa wouldn’t get her wish.
One night, after a very long and almost violent fight between the mother and the pastor, Alyssa was able to hear an unsettling click from the other end of the hallway.
This evening was a lucid memory; she’d never forget any detail about it. And when the noise had entered her earshot, Alyssa was lying on her bed across from Janet’s, and the bedroom door was cracked slightly. That was the very first time the girl would be filled with that sudden brewing anxiousness, and with the tiny click sounding at the end of the hall, the first domino began to fall, and the most horrific experience of her life had begun.
The pink lamp on Janet’s desk was the only source of light in the room. It gave the bedroom a very dim neon glow, and Alyssa was alone in the room because Janet was still awake downstairs. Her bed was tiny and cramped, but she didn’t care. A single blanket and a small, square pillow was more than enough for her.
The mother and the pastor continued screaming at one another from their bedroom, their voices echoing throughout the home, and Alyssa sighed, burying her pale little face into her pillow and silently wishing that the cushion would somehow eliminate all of the noise.
Then, a door slammed harshly into one of the walls, and the foster mother charged into the hallway in a drunken rage. Alyssa was able to hear her foster mother thundering down the stairs, followed by the pastor, who was frantically yelling—
Feeling alarmed, Alyssa crawled out of bed and made her way out the door. When she slowly walked down the stairs, she was careful to step as quietly as possible. Her heart was pounding nervously, and her hands began to shake; something was wrong.
Something, some unknown thing, was very, very wrong.
The mother screamed, and Janet’s voice rang through the kitchen for a split second before a horrible, ear-splitting sound tore through the air. Alyssa had never heard it before, but somehow, she recognized the noise as soon as it happened.
Janet hit the floor with a loud thump, and the pastor was screaming in a shrill, hoarse voice now. Another gunshot shattered the sound barrier, and the pastor released a groan. Alyssa poked her head through the doorway just in time to see the pastor’s head bash against the counter on his way down…
Her foster mother’s soulless brown eyes met with Alyssa’s oceanic blue ones, and all at once, the young girl became consumed in absolute panic.
It was terrifying; the woman’s cheeks were sunken in, complimenting her animalistic expression, her teeth bared, her bangs lying in frayed strings over her face, and her right hand held a small revolver, her fingers and her elongated purple nails wrapping around the handle of the gun very tightly.
“COME’ERE YOU—LITTLE—FUCKING SLUT!”
Alyssa bolted away, her heart thrashing inside her little chest. Nothing could stop her now; the child was running for her life. Her arm made contact with a lamp and she knocked it onto the floor without care. After her foster mother fired a third shot, the bullet pierced the north wall and Alyssa dove around the corner in desperation. Her side met with the doorway, nearly knocking the wind out of her, but she didn’t slow down. Sheer adrenaline was in control now, and she scrambled away, her foot catching the leg of the coffee table and making her tumble onto the floor… that was it… she was done for…
BANG, BANG, BANG, BANG.
Her eyes snapped shut.
It was bound to happen any moment now, the pain, the bleeding, the feeling of her life slipping away from her… those shots… she was finished…
But, after a few seconds went by, Alyssa felt nothing. She lay crookedly on the floor, hands over her head and face buried in the dirty carpet. Nobody had shot her. Alyssa was perfectly fine.
Her foster mother yelled in pain, then fell onto the floor on the other side of the living room.
It felt like an eternity before Alyssa finally worked up the courage to open her eyes.
Her foster mother lie motionlessly on the other end of the room, and the house was strangely silent now.
Alyssa looked up very cautiously, her hands trembling and her eyes watering. Through her slightly obscured vision, she spotted the woman lying dead nearby, and seconds later, she realized that she was only inches away from a pair of feet.
Combat boots, and they were coated with clumps of mud…
Somebody was standing directly in front of her.
As her eyes drifted upwards, the boots were followed by a pair of dark pants, as well as the end of a big, tan trench coat. And at last, Alyssa finally made eye contact with the stranger standing over her.
He was a tall individual with an unmistakably mysterious presence, and his cerulean eyes were resting on Alyssa profoundly. The man was holding a pistol, and he barely began to lower it after meeting eyes with the child. He had a full, wide, and beautifully carven face, his jaw shaded with a slight five o’clock shadow, and his short black hair was sticking upright around the top of his head. The trench coat draped over his body was wet and slightly weather worn, the bottom of it spotted with tiny bits of mud, and his sideburns and cheeks were carrying a few loose raindrops.
His expression was stern and serious. He continued to stare at the girl at his feet, his thumb grazing over the safety button on his pistol. Click.
The man slid his pistol into its holster, and after a moment of hesitation, he knelt down and examined the child he’d rescued.
The stranger raised both of his hands, then gave her a long, assuring look. While he sat crouched on one knee, he waited for the girl to give him some sign of trust. His attention was drawn to her leg when he noticed that her ankle was bleeding.
He’d heard something shatter shortly before he was forced to kill the foster mother. Whatever it was, it must have cut her, and the injury appeared to be rather deep. But somehow, the girl hadn’t even noticed her wound yet. She must have been in shock.
He made a small gesture with his hands, motioning towards himself as if to say come here, then he eased his arms underneath her body, turning her over and lifting her off of the floor. The man spun around and kicked the front door completely open, marching outside with the eight year old girl cradled in his arms like an infant.
As he expected, the front yard had been invaded by two police cars rolling onto the grass, the flashing of the red and blue lights brightening the night. The first man out of the nearest car was a disgruntled, dark-eyed detective, someone that Alyssa’s savior recognized instantly.
“Jesus Christ, what in the name of holy hell happened?” The detective sighed, making an exasperated expression and throwing his hands in the air. “Vance, what happened. What happened?”
The man named Vance narrowed his eyes at the detective, then adjusted his grip on Alyssa.
“A mess happened.” Vance replied in a low, scratchy voice. “Clean it up for me.”
He tried to walk away, but the detective took a side step and blocked his path.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa—clean it up? Seriously? You’re not supposed to be here!” The detective retorted in a spitting whisper. “You’re supposed to watch. Watch. You are not supposed to go rogue and shoot up a foster home. Have you lost your goddamn mind?! You know what people are gonna say now? Hm? All the little rumors floating around about your screws being loose—“
“I don’t care.” Vance told him. “I didn’t do anything wrong. The woman lost her mind and shot up her own house. I had no choice but to intervene. She was trying to kill a little girl. I had to stop her.”
The detective gaped wordlessly at him.
“She did? She was?” He replied moments later, and Vance nodded.
“This girl is injured. I’m taking her to a hospital.” Vance said, holding Alyssa a little closer and allowing her to lay her head on his chest. “I’m sorry.”
At that, Vance walked around the detective and fled the scene before anything could happen to complicate things even further.
After driving Alyssa to the hospital, Vance found himself waiting around rather than going home. He stood board stiff in the hallway, his back leaning against the wall and his hands pocketed. He would occasionally glimpse into the window of the hospital room where Alyssa sat on the edge of a small bed, and one of the doctors was tending to her ankle.
Hours went by, and by the time Alyssa’s stitches were in place, Vance was sitting in a chair across the waiting room, his arms folded and his head slumped backwards. It was nearly three in the morning, and he was dangerously close to falling asleep.
This evening would be forever burned into Alyssa’s mind, but one of the clearest memories of the night was when the doctor escorted her out of the hospital room in a wheelchair. They wouldn’t allow her to walk, not with stitches in her ankle. It was the moment she spotted Vance, still in the hospital and waiting for her to be finished with her treatment.
Vance sat groggily upright and instantly tried to mask the fact that he was dozing off.
The feeling was indescribable when she and Vance met one another’s gazes again. They had never seen each other before this night, and they weren’t related to one another, but they both shared the same endless blue eyes. It was mesmerizing.
To this day, Alyssa still didn’t know why Vance had decided to take her home. There was no telling how she’d forever escaped the grasp of state’s custody and foster homes that night, and there was no way for her to have predicted the outcome of that first domino falling. Now, sitting half asleep in Vance’s living room after ten long years of living with him, she could scarcely imagine ever having lived in such terrible places in the first place. It all seemed like a distant, faded dream anymore.
Vance was a quiet, monotone, and intense man by nature, and Alyssa sometimes wondered if he’d always been that way. He was a Navy SEAL many years ago, and now, he lived off of payment from the government for whatever he did while he was serving. But even though he was guaranteed a livable regular income, he always seemed to be out of the house for some reason or another. She never thought to ask why.
“… Wick, and his five year old daughter, Sarah Wick. The protesters behind me claim that it’s just, quote, another case of a cop getting off easy. This is Becky Miller, reporting for Channel Five…”
The news had replayed the same broadcast three times now. The sound of Becky Miller’s redundant voice stirred Alyssa awake, and she quickly changed the channel to avoid further annoyance.
“Hey.” A familiar voice spoke from above her head, making her jump.
Vance was standing over the back of the couch, staring at her with his usual pensive expression.
Alyssa wasn’t used to seeing him in the mornings. She thought that she was alone in the house until now.
“Get ready.” Vance said. “Today’s the first day of school.”
Alyssa looked off and sighed. Today would be the first day of her senior year, but it was nothing of import. She’d been attending the same school for three years now, and she still didn’t have any friends, or any interest in graduating. Why bother going to school at all?
Vance wandered down the hallway and out of sight.
About ten minutes of quiet sulking went by, during which Alyssa sat curled in a ball, savoring her comfort and wanting more than anything not to move. Still, with Vance in the house, she didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of skipping school. Not today, at least…
So, Alyssa finally reached her feet and attempted to tame her hair a little bit. It was a head of soft, shoulder-length hair which was a deep auburn color, and it looked black whenever she was in a dark environment. In the light, however, sometimes it would shine a brilliant red color, and it contrasted with her blue eyes in a beautiful way. She placed a rather large hand-knitted beanie over her head, making her hair border along her face and lie on her neck, then slid her arms into a thin black hoodie decorated with Gothic designs. It tented over her small, toned body; it was two sizes too big on her, but she preferred larger jackets over smaller ones.
Despite the beauty of autumn, Alyssa barely mustered the will to leave the house. Her ankles met with a blanket of orange, red, and brown leaves as she strolled away from her home and onto the sidewalk, sending a tiny wave of the dying leaves into the air with every step she’d take.
Nothing about her school had changed since the previous year.
West Genessee was the only real school in Gates Mill, the others being alternative schools or home schooling programs. Therefore, it was jam-packed with anyone who wasn’t specially assigned an Individual Education Program.
Alyssa entered the high school after weaving through the large crowd of people outside of the building.
Everyone waited around and chatted in an unorthodox manner while they all stood in a giant mob in the cafeteria, that is, until the administrators finally began to point everyone to their designated home rooms. They handed out the schedules, and everybody went on their way.
Her homeroom ended up being on the second floor, and once she stepped into the class room, nothing particularly caught her eye. It had posters, windows, desks, and a few students who’d arrived a little earlier than she did. It was a nothing-special room where she’d be sitting and ignoring the lessons, sleeping in her arms, and sometimes slipping away to skip class, just like she always had in the past.
Alyssa didn’t recognize anyone in the room; there was a tall, slightly skinny boy with stringy brown hair and a leather jacket, a lanky long-haired guy, a grim boy in a black trench coat, and a petite girl who was wearing a lot of emo clothing, fishnet sleeve warmers, dangly axe earrings, tall leather boots and painted black nails. The girl also had a short hairstyle, much of if combed over half of her face, and it was dyed a beep blue color.
They looked like a particularly dark group of individuals compared to anyone else in the school, and they appeared to be on friendly terms with one another. Alyssa, having no breakfast, water, or caffeine in her system, stopped paying them any mind and claimed a desk in the far corner. When the home room teacher, a stern-looking man in a clean cut black jacket, dark graying hairs which were smoothed back stylishly, and a pair of shining hazel eyes, entered the room, everybody fell silent, and Alyssa slipped into a state of semi-consciousness atop her desk.
Her first class of the day was history, and it was taught by her home room teacher, whose name she forgot to remember. Afterwards, she learned that her other three classes were biology, gym, then photography. None of it mattered. She slept through all of the classes and completely tuned out of everyone’s personal introductions, as well as all of the teachers explaining how they’d be running their classes throughout the year…
When the afternoon came, Alyssa didn’t go straight home. It was a beautiful fall day, and she decided to take in the scenery.
There was a hospital around the block from the school, and Alyssa enjoyed taking the elevator to the top of the parking garage and sitting in one of the enormous cement windows, overlooking the parking lot and watching people go about their days, some of them nurses or doctors showing up for work, others the families of patients arriving during visiting hours. It was slightly dangerous to sit in one of those large openings, and occasionally a security guard would chase her off, but after a while, she discovered that the second-highest level of the parking garage contained a window that was placed in the blind spot of the security cameras. It was her own personal spot.
Her earphones were inserted so far into her ears, it felt as though the music was sourced somewhere deep inside of her brain. It echoed within her skull as the afternoon settled, dying leaves falling from the trees and the parking lot of the hospital filling up. She could have spit in somebody’s hair if she wanted to, and from her extremely high position, she could easily avoid detection… still, it’d be rather pointless to do such a thing. Her thoughts began to run rampant, and her mind began painting up fanciful scenes of horrible events… it was a common thing, honestly… someone pushing her out the window and making her fall to her death… a car smashing into one of the pedestrians down below… why’d she imagine such things…?
Alyssa found herself wandering through a neighborhood she’d never seen before, strolling in the darkness and wondering when it had become nighttime…
At the end of the street stood a familiar figure. It was Vance, wearing his usual overcoat as well as his stoic expression… but… he looked angry. What happened? Why was he angry?
Another person appeared in her sight, someone Alyssa didn’t recognize, and suddenly, the stranger in black charged at her… she was able to feel the cement beneath her butt and her legs again, and when the man’s hands made contact, she jumped so hard she nearly fell out of the window of the parking garage.
Alyssa awoke with a start and quickly climbed out of the window; she didn’t remember when she’d fallen asleep, and her brief nightmare had almost resulted in her falling from the third story. Reality returned to her, and she realized that the sun was beginning to set. Night would fall soon.
Looking around and hoping that nobody saw her frantic episode, she headed for the elevator, reached the bottom floor, and began the walk home.
She’d never come so close to falling out of her favorite window before. The thought of it was unsettling, and as the sky became completely dark, she couldn’t get the ‘what if’ scenario out of her head. What if she were to actually fall from that height? How horrible would it have been? Which bones would have broken? Would she have even survived? What would a leg bone sound like snapping upon impact? How much blood would there be?
Alyssa shuddered and tried to force the thoughts away. Often times, her mind would venture to uncomfortably morbid places without her permission. It was a constant burden.
The street became eerily empty and silent, and the only lights around were the occasional lamp posts casting circular glares onto the roadsides. Tiny insects would buzz around near the light bulbs overhead, but apart from them, nothing stirred at all. Hopefully, Vance wouldn’t be home yet. He’d be upset with her if he caught her coming home after dark…
Alyssa slowed her step, a very subtle shiver spreading throughout her body from the base of her spine. Now, for some reason, she felt as though she wasn’t alone. Her eyes scanned around the area, but she couldn’t see anyone on either end of the street.
Then, she looked directly to her right, and on the other side of the road was a narrow alleyway. Alyssa knew very well what was on the other side of that alleyway, mainly because she’d used that route to get to her favorite restaurant countless times in the past. But the restaurant building wasn’t the object of her attention now; the alleyway was occupied.
There were four people, all of whom were engulfed in darkness and looked like moving shadows. Three of them were rounding on the fourth person, and one of them was carrying a crowbar…
Alyssa’s breaths became thin and rapid. She watched the scene anxiously from across the street, unknowing what to say or do now.
The three thugs were yelling at their victim, but Alyssa wasn’t able to make out anything they were saying. The fourth person looked oddly familiar. He had a leather jacket, a thin build, and messy brown hair that was fashioned into a fohawk, a few of the stringy bangs dangling over the middle of his narrow face…
One of the attackers shoved the guy into the graffiti-covered wall behind him. Another thug raised his crowbar, swung, and—
The sound was horrible.
Metal on bone.
And now—all at once—Alyssa’s nightmares were unfolding before her. There was no need for her overactive mind to paint up a bad situation for her. Here she was, living one in real time.
After the crowbar made contact with the guy’s head, he spun a 180 and hit the ground.
Consumed in panic, Alyssa bolted towards them all. There was no way she could take them, was there? Could she even bring herself to throw a punch? When was the last time she fought someone? What could she do? Was there anything she could do?
Her two small hands smacked into the closest of the thugs. Shoving him in the torso was more effective than she expected; the guy fell backwards onto his ass.
When the remaining two advanced on her, Alyssa’s hand slipped into her hoodie pocket and yanked out Vance’s spring assisted blade.
She flipped her pocketknife open, and everyone froze.
Alyssa never thought she’d have to use her father’s knife. But now, she was thankful that she decided to carry it today. Both of her hands were raised, one of them wrapped around her pocket knife with a death grip, and the other held upright like a stop sign. Giving both of the young adults a long, intense stare, Alyssa held this position and silently hoped that they’d abandon the fight.
The hooded thug with the crowbar regained his footing, and his two comrades—a tall, pale Caucasian wearing a beanie, and a muscular African American in a tank top—were staring quietly at Alyssa.
Her heart was pounding almost violently now, but nevertheless, Alyssa kept her burning blue stare locked onto the thugs.
After what felt like forever, the guys all exchanged glances, then they turned and marched away from Alyssa and the stranger in the leather jacket. They strolled to the other end of the alleyway and vanished from sight.
Her grasp on the blade didn’t loosen.
After a few seconds of silence, Alyssa let out a relieved cloud of breath.
It took a considerable amount of effort for her to face the guy behind her, the one lying on his side, sitting partially upright, leaning on his arm and holding his bleeding head. Alyssa could barely speak to people during a normal day of school, or during a trip to the grocery store. What was she supposed to say now?
The guy peered up at her. He had a pair of big, luminous eyes that shone a glistening brown in the moonlight, and they were absolutely captivating. Alyssa gulped nervously when she met his gaze.
“Y’okay?” She finally asked.
The guy nodded, then winced when it became apparent that movement made his injury feel worse. Still, he reached his feet and stood up properly, and Alyssa realized that he was nearly a foot taller than her.
“Fine, fine, thank you… really, thank you.” He answered. The guy spoke in an accent Alyssa had never heard before now. “I didn’t have Gates Mill pegged as a dangerous town… blimey, was I wrong…”
He studied the blotched of blood on his palm, then felt his head again. The side of his forehead was flashing an open wound, but thankfully, it wasn’t bleeding much.
“They wanted money!” He exclaimed, spreading his arms. “Lookit me! As if I’ve got money. The most expensive thing on me is the jacket, and I didn’t even pay for it.”
Alyssa exhaled a laugh.
The guy revealed a faint smirk.
He squinted curiously at her. “I’ve seen you before.”
“You have?” Alyssa asked.
“Yeah… but… wait. It was in class. We were in the same class this morning.” He replied, pointing a finger at her. “You go to West Genesse, right? We’ve got the same homeroom teacher. Mr. Anders. That suited, intimidating looking guy. Know who I mean?”
Alyssa smiled and nodded.
There was a small silence.
“You sure you’re okay?” Alyssa said again in a forced casualness. “Your head’s cut open.”
“Nah, I’ll be fine.” He responded, swatting a hand through the air. “Just need to remember not to go walking around at night out here anymore. I didn’t know people got jumped out here.”
“Me either.” Alyssa mumbled honestly.
The guy released a long breath. He gave Alyssa a polite smile and cocked his head at her, his eyes lingering on hers.
“So, what’s your name?” He asked.
Alyssa felt slightly uneasy when he smiled at her.
“Alyssa.” She answered tonelessly. “You?”
“Arkus.” He told her. “Yeah. It’s weird, I know. I’m from Scotland. You get weird names in Scotland.”
“Is Arkus a Scottish name?”
Alyssa smiled again.
The boy called Arkus returned the grin.
“Ah... so.” He clasped his hands together. “I better be gettin’ home. It’s kinda late.”
“You really gonna go by yourself?” Alyssa asked. “Those guys might still be around…”
“Ahh, I don’t care. Next time I won’t be off guard.” Arkus said nonchalantly. “Although…”
He reached into the side pocket of his leather jacket and pulled out his wallet.
“When I said I didn’t have money, I meant, I didn’t have much money. But I do have some.” Arkus said, flipping his wallet open and revealing a few bills. “And I’m a bit hungry, so… if you like…”
Alyssa’s heart skipped a beat.
“I can treat you?” Arkus finished, raising his eyebrows at her. “Least I could do. Right?”
“I…” Alyssa began. “I… yeah. Sure.”
Well, what was she supposed to say?
“Brilliant. Come on.” Arkus said, then started marching off towards the alleyway’s opposite end.
The guy’s actions—ignoring his head injury, along with the fact that he seemed perfectly fine with following his attackers’ footsteps—made Alyssa suspect that he was either far too confident, or simply oblivious. Still, she decided to trail along behind him as she agreed to do, and God willing, Vance would have an extremely late night out and wouldn’t get home in time to realize that Alyssa was still off his radar.
When they approached the end of the alleyway, Alyssa remembered that she was still holding an open pocketknife. She folded it shut and quickly concealed it before the two of them stepped onto the sidewalk.
What in the world was she doing? She’d never spoken to any of her classmates outside of school, or in school for that matter, much less hung out with them or went to restaurants with them. And anyway, what was this? Was this how friends were made? Or perhaps it was supposed to be something more? A date?
Don’t flatter yourself, Alyssa thought irritably. Nobody’s ever asked you out before. Why would they bother to now?
Arkus’ arm shot out in front of her, halting her instantly and snapping her out of her thoughts.
At first, Alyssa thought the thugs might have returned, but she didn’t see anyone in the immediate vicinity.
It wasn’t a person.
Arkus’ expression had darkened, and his eyes were fixed on a vehicle down the street. It was a truck that was speeding far too quickly down the small road. The headlights were blinding, and before they knew it, the truck was only yards away from them, its tires screeching and the engine roaring…
Arkus and Alyssa both moved backwards and pulled one another along as they did. They just managed to retreat behind a lamp post before—
The earsplitting sound of crunching metal and skidding rubber pierced the air. Alyssa and Arkus both fell backwards beside one another awkwardly after the truck hit the street light, and now, the destroyed vehicle sat in silence, smoke escaping from underneath the metal folds that were now wrapped around the bottom of the pole in a bizarre, horrific way.
Alyssa and Arkus both stared at it, open mouthed and completely shocked.
Then, something possessed Alyssa to stand up, her body feeling much lighter than usual. Now, there was nothing for her to worry about, no need to cling onto her usual antisocial disposition and evasive personality, no need to stay in her shell. After all, she was obviously lost one of her nightmares again… it hardly mattered what she did now…
A large man was laying his head on the steering wheel inside of the truck, and Alyssa guessed that he was simply unconscious. She grabbed the door handle and yanked it open with a single, swift motion.
The door was apparently supporting the man’s weight, because his burly body fell out of the truck like a sack of potatoes upon its opening. A thick, metallic scent met Alyssa’s nostrils before the corpse hit the ground at her feet.
The man’s eyes were wide and terrified, his jaw open and lopsided, and his clothing was covered in a dark red substance. His head lie twisted almost completely sideways on the pavement as the crimson liquid poured from his throat, forming a small puddle around Alyssa’s shoes. The neck was cut open, the skin frayed as though something very sharp and jagged had sliced through it, the raw insides and ripped vocal cords completely visible and shining underneath the glowing light of the blood moon.