My vision flickers back and I see through the blurry red haze of the wound over my eye. The girl still lies unconscious under the light of a lantern, in the centre of a mess of shattered cobblestones and crisscrossing tracks. The cool night air smarts against the deep cut across my face. I’m on the ground, in the perfect darkness of an alleyway, removed from the light of the street. I know I need to get back into the light. Struggling against bloodless, wobbling legs, I rise and start forward toward the girl.
Abruptly, the light of the street blacks out as something moves between me and the girl. I freeze, and catch the rising gasp in my throat by clamping a hand over my mouth. A cold surge crawls through every individual branch of my spine. The reeking breaths of disintegrated flesh waft into my face and worsen my horrific nausea. If the thing were any closer, I would be touching it. Even in this dark, I’m so close that I start to make out the thing, and I immediately shut my eyes.
I shut my eyes so I won’t see the bony, plate-like structures protruding from its eye sockets, covering most of its blind face. I won’t see the taut folds of skin around its mouth which is pulled into a constant, demonic grin, or the clefted upper lip that further disfigures its visage and showcases several sets of small, jagged teeth. I won’t see the purple tongue that twitches eagerly in the putrid recesses of its maw.
I do chance a fleeting look past the thing, and I see the girl starting to stir. But my eyes stray too close, and I can make out the raised tendons in the thing’s neck vibrating as it begins to growl, softly, unsure. Slowly, soundlessly, I stray my free hand behind me for something– anything– and my heart twitches between its pounding beats as my hand closes around a spur of rebar left among the detritus of the alley.
It must smell the tang of my blood in the air because it won’t leave. I draw the spike of metal toward my side more slowly and hesitantly than I’ve ever moved. The thing seems to grow ever so slightly less confident, and it cocks its head in a birdlike motion. Just as the bar is about to rise totally free of the ground, it rasps almost imperceptibly against something in the dark. I jerk my head back as far as I can without stumbling backwards because the thing surges instantly forward, looses a snarl echoing down the alley. The pale, rippling body is about to crash into me. The rebar is entirely free now, and as fast as I can I whip it in a furious arc towards the thing.