Pierre must have been seeing things. This street, with all its pubs and bars would always be filled with the noise of laypersons casting aside their worries. All the shops seemed to be open, but where were the customers?
Did I forget a holiday? he wondered as he shuffled forward through the empty street. Then his heart leapt and he grinned. Tonight is not going to be a waste after all.
There, leaning against a lamppost beside the darkest most cluttered alley, was a woman, no, girl, no more than seventeen. Her hair was pulled up, save for a brown tresses that concealed her eyes and tumbled to her small shoulders. Her body he could tell was delightfully proportioned, even her legs, which he had enjoyed imagining their appearance if her uniform skirt was cut several inches higher. Her pink lips looked youthful and lonely, explaining why she would be in an area like this.
And the best part of this beautiful sight, was that she was alone, no one was around. Smiling his most charming Frenchman’s smile, with a hint of coy sarcasm he asked her. “Jeune fille, pourquoi êtes vous ici?”
The girl remained silent, merely turned her head slightly, allowing her hair to tumble back and leave her graceful neck, jaw, and cheek exposed.
Pierre raised his hand and brushed a few strands of her hair aside. “Pourquoi ne vous cachez-vous les yeux?” He ran his fingers along the bottom of her jaw and relished the excited and nervous quiver he caused.
He began to lean forward but his intentions were interrupted when she raised a folded piece of paper to his chest. He would have ignored it, but something made him curious about it. So he took it, and with one more lustful glance at the base of the girl‘s neck, he unfolded the note.
His heart skipped a beat as he lifted the final fold, displaying the woman from years ago, sitting against the brick wall, a trail of red blood spilling down from her heart.
Not caring to look if anyone was watching Pierre snatched the girl roughly by her neck and wrist and wrenched her into the alley, slamming her back against the wall. “Where did you get this?!” he hissed
Finally the girl raised her head and stared at him with mocking brown eyes. “The cries of the dead, are louder than you give them credit.”
A shiver ran down Pierre’s spine, his hand tingled and burned as if he were touching something unnatural. “Who are you?!” He demanded, shaking her.
Suddenly he heard a snap and the girl before him turned a sickly pail, her eyes clouded over and she fell stiffly against him. Pierre let out a gasp of horror as he let the corpse of the girl collapse to the ground.
“How does it feel?”
Pierre whirled around to see the same girl standing further down the alleyway, tapping a plastic pipe against her legbrace. He looked back and the corpse was gone.
“How does it feel?” she repeated. “To extinguish a life not yet ready to depart?” A breeze rustled the girl’s hair and the strange green light akin to St. Elmo’s fire filled the space. “You asked who I was? I am the attorney of weary souls, here to ease their suffering. But to you, I am the executioner.” As she spoke, her hair curled and became like spun gold and her clothing transformed as her dress turned the colour and texture of winter frost. The thin, plastic pipe she had been fiddling with in one hand turned to transparent ice and lengthened and bent into a crystalline scythe. From her back sprouted two wings made of morning dew and spider webs that shimmered like thousands of prisms, banishing the green light and replacing it with holy brilliance.
In complete disbelief Pierre shook his head. “I have to be dreaming.”
Unseen to Pierre, Océane leaned against the lamppost behind him and frowned. Perhaps I overdid it, if this is going to work I need to… She smiled again withdrew the box cutter from her sweater pocket.
Pierre pinched his face, trying to wake himself when the “angel” before him rushed and then retreated and he felt something cold and sharp brush by his cheek. He felt warm drops run down his face.
“Whether you believe in God or not, I trust even you know what the touch of a blade feels like.” The angel grinned.
Pierre shuddered a moment, then ran. Océane smiled and dropped the box-cutter. From where she stood outside the alley she commanded her illusionary angel to pursue the man as she began to set up the next scenario of torment inside his mind.
Panting heavily, Pierre fled at a full sprint. His eyes swerving and sifting through the confused throngs of people as he ploughed onwards. Just when he thought he lost her the angel was once again in front of him. He dodged just in time to avoid a low uppercut swipe of the icy scythe that left a thin cut in the side-walk where he had been standing. He spun around, just missing a light post that he placed between himself and the girl’s next attack. Her scythe was a shimmering blur and Pierre watched in terror as the light pole that had so briefly granted him shelter toppled, having been cut cleanly in three places.
The angel looked up at Pierre with one sapphire eye, the other hidden by her luxurious blond tresses, not a single drop of sweat on her porcelain skin. The man found himself unable look away. In that moment of hesitation the girl’s eye turned black and out of the void spewed dark threads that grew into leaf-like hands on noodle arms that grasped and wrapped around Pierre, then dragged him into the black maw of her void.
Pierre tumbled out of the darkness and looked up at a red sky with scattered clouds the colour of old blood. With a thump he landed on the damp cobble stone, his body strangely not crumpled. He looked around and found himself in the midst of a city, but unlike Lyon, the buildings were all black and windowless, contrasting against the red sky and complementing the smile of the inky crescent moon.
The skeletal shadows of spider’s webs cast themselves over where the man stood. He looked up and at the top of one of the featureless black buildings stood the silhouette of the avenging angel.
For several moments there was silence, nothing was happening. Just him, standing in a hellish Lyon staring up at the disdainful eyes of an angel, then he felt the earth tremble, and all around the empty cobblestone streets, black forms began to rise from the ground. They had no uniform shape, but every now and then, Pierre could spot what looked like an arm, a leg, or a head appear at various positions of their form. In unison all of them turned their “heads” towards him.
He bolted, running like he had never before, knowing that at any moment one of those black forms would snatch at him. Dashing down the street he ran down a hill only to see another group of formless beings. They were grappling with each other until gradually they devoured one another and grew into ever larger amorphous forms. This time fully formed arms grew out of their membranes and pulled black scythe blades from their “mouths”. One of these creatures with two heads and three scythe wielding arms leapt towards him, spinning like a frenzied dervish, the blades obliterating buildings and light posts.
He froze, unable to move. He thought numbly about what it would feel like being sliced to pieces. He hoped it would be too fast to feel a thing. The blob approached, but instead of scythe blades touching him, the belly of the thing opened its maw and he was swallowed into blackness.
Outside of the nightmare, Océane leaned wearily against a lamp post as she followed the hysteric Pierre. She looked at the bystanders. To her relief most of them were intent on ignoring him, probably assuming he was just a man who had a bit too much of something.
This is much easier. With the world stripped down to such a basic outline, there are not as many potential inconsistencies to worry about. But I need to hurry! I don’t know how much longer I can keep this up.
Darkness, even when Pierre opened his eyes, there was only darkness. But then he saw thin streams of light blink. He realised then that he was covering his face with his hands. Her raised his head and looked around. He was sitting on a soft bench, with a metal hand rail right next to him. He seemed to be inside a bus or a train, and all the interior was black and brown. A strange, piercing bright light shown through the windows behind the opposite bench. The light was blinking rapidly, as if it was being blocked by buildings or poles then becoming visible again. The vehicle must have entered a tunnel, because the world turned pitch black once again.
Light returned and with it, Pierre found that he was no longer alone. At the opposite corner of the vehicle sat a young boy, no older than five, who was staring at him. His big brown eyes empty and lifeless.
The boy sang, his voice sounding like whispers in a bone filled tomb,
“Maman never came home that night
The sun was gone and the cold did bite
I walked up to the shadowy place
There I found her resting by a case
A big, red line ran a funny trail
And her tender face was very pale
In her eyes I saw a man
And I shall find him if I can
When I find him one bright day
I’ll ask him why he took maman away…”
As the final words left the boys lips, his eyes seemed to gain life as they watered up and tears rolled down his cheeks. He did not say another word, just sat and waited for Pierre’s reply.
All colour had drained from the man’s face. His eyes widened when he realised that he was not breathing. His mouth wanted to open, but he was afraid, afraid of the words that would pour forth. Finally, he could not bear it without air any longer.
“I-I never meant to kill her! I was drunk and--” He coughed as guilt finally broke out of the tiny corner of his chest he had buried it in. “And I did not know what I was doing!”
The boy cocked his head, seeming almost curious if it were not for the grieved eyes and streams of tears.
At the back of the bus Océane cringed, 'Not doing poetry again, that was embarrassing...' her self-criticism was short-lived when she gasped as her chest tightened. She felt invisible chains surround her and pull at her, as though they were dragging her underwater, leaving her unable to breath. Her eyes wildly twitched in all directions as the whites were cut across by red veins. A powerful migraine struck at her skull and she hunched over, her arms across her stomach as all her effort went into maintaining her mental grip on Pierre.