Reflections of the Gods
Author: Lisa Llamrei Release Date: May 1st 2013
Genre: Urban Fantasy
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 31, 2008
I took one last look around the apartment. Not perfect, but it would do. I checked for the third time to make sure I didn’t forget anything. Everything I owned, packed into boxes, waiting to start over.
I lifted the first box from the small stack beside the door and carried it outside the apartment and down the steps. I placed it in the trunk of my car, half-closing it gently so it wouldn’t latch. As I turned to go back for the next box, a metallic thud sounded from nearby. Cats in the alley again. I started up the steps. Another crash. I hesitated. The neighbourhood had been having trouble with raccoons spreading garbage all over, but they didn’t usually appear in daylight. What do I care? I don’t live here anymore. I continued up the stairs.
With my hand on the doorknob, I hesitated again. I checked my watch. Already past four. The cleaning had taken longer than anticipated and I risked getting stuck in rush-hour traffic. Damn. I ran down the steps.
I walked the half-block to the alley and rounded the corner. What I saw there made me stop dead. A jolt passed through my whole body, as if the air were electrically charged.
Three men and a teenage girl. One man held the girl by the waist, both of her arms pinned behind her back, her feet dangling a few centimetres off the ground. The girl kicked out with her feet so the two men facing her had to stand out of reach. Still, they both held guns, one of which was pointed at her head. It had no effect on her thrashing.
I flattened myself against the wall, out of their sight. I reached toward my back pocket and remembered my cellphone was in the car. My mind raced. Three of them, at least two armed. They could kill the girl before I even got close, and then they would kill me. The Boy Scouts never prepared me for this.
I peered around the corner into the alley. The one with his gun at the girl’s head leaned closer and spoke to her. Whatever he said upset her and she spit in his face.
I raced into the alley hollering, “Let her go!” and immediately wondered what the hell I was doing.
The man smashed his gun into the side of the girl’s face. The other armed man aimed his gun at my chest. I slowed my walk. For some reason, my feet wouldn’t obey the impulse to hurl myself at the ground. I raised my arms. “Let her go—she’s just a child.”
The man holding the girl tightened his grip and the other two approached me. I willed my legs not to shake. They continued with their forward momentum, still refusing to obey my better sense. The first man raised his gun and smashed it into my skull. He slammed his other fist into my belly. When I crumpled to the ground, both men kicked me. I felt another blow to the head. I heard a gunshot; through the slits of my eyelids, I saw a brilliant flash of light. Just before losing consciousness, I had the vague idea that I was supposed to go toward the light.
Whispering. Dozens, maybe hundreds, of voices, but I couldn’t make out any words. They spoke very fast, as if someone had sped up a tape recording. I wondered if they were my loved ones waiting for me. I couldn’t see the light anymore and wondered if maybe the light didn’t want me.
I became aware of a throbbing in my head and felt the hard asphalt beneath me. Someone cradled my head. Waves of heat passed through my temples and rippled inside my skull. My scalp prickled. The throbbing diminished. Strong hands shook me. I feigned unconsciousness, not wanting to wake up to another beating.
The hands shook me again. I opened my eyes and looked straight into those of the young girl. She wore a long, white dress, her black hair falling in tousled waves past her shoulders to her hips. She seemed to radiate light. My first thought was that we were both dead and I’d made it to heaven after all. Maybe you get points for stupidity in the service of others.
Seeing her up close, it was clear I had underestimated her age by several years. Though small, she was clearly a young woman—closer to eighteen than fourteen, possibly even older. Her dress was sheer, showing every curve of her body. My immediate visceral reaction was not something I expected to feel in heaven. Then the throbbing in my head returned, equally unexpected. As my senses cleared, I noted the scent of garbage mixed with car exhaust. I heard horns honking in the distance and shouts from the street. So, not dead, then. When I tried to sit up, pain in my head forced me back down.
With uncanny strength, the girl pulled me to a sitting position and looked me square in the eye. She squatted on her heels. Any glow I thought I had seen disappeared. Her face muscles tensed, her mouth drew tight. I couldn’t quite read the emotion, but I didn’t get the impression she was concerned for my well-being.
“You’re alive.” My voice sounded thin. “I heard a shot. I thought …”
“He missed,” she said. “And you ought not to have interfered.”
Ought not … who talks like that? “Those guys were going to kill you.”
She folded her arms across her chest. “I was in no danger. I was fully in control until you happened by. Do your police officers not tell you never to antagonize an armed intruder?” She sighed. “If it had been anyone other than me, you would be dead right now. You really ought to take more care.” She stood and turned to leave.