A Beginning

Somewhere in a lonely hotel room
There's a guy started realizing
That eternal fate has turned him back on again.
Twilight Zone by Golden Earring

Slowly, consciousness returns, bringing with it pain and a sour acrid taste in your mouth. Blood. You're lying, twisted, on something hard and metallic, every joint aching in dull throbbing rhythm with your head. The overpowering smell of gasoline hangs in the air, covering something else.

Opening your eyes is a feat. They feel crusted over. The result is less than pleasing; harsh sunlight stabs through your throbbing head like a nail, forcing your eyes closed again. Taking it slower, you open them again and find yourself looking out a window, covered with a thin spider webbing of cracks.

Something is lying against you—a woman, or rather, what's left of one. Her face is blueish and swollen, the features horribly distended, eyes bugging as if under some incredible inner pressure. Her jaws hangs slack, and a small trickle of blood oozes down her chin to stain the dove-grey blouse she wears. Choking back a scream, you lurch away from the body. It falls over, head hitting the metal floor with a moist thud. One of her eyes pops free in a rush of blood. You come up against something else… another body…


Stagger out of the building. Pain. Where? Falling many times, jarring your body. Guts heaving. Screaming inside. Pain. Head shattering. Blackness.

Lurching and staggering to your feet, you struggle toward the light, squinting against the painful glare as twin metal doors swing wide onto a desolate industrial wasteland of rubble and rusted metal. The sour tang of gasoline is sharper, making your stomach churn. The ground sways ominously under you, threatening to throw you to the ground. Clutching for support, you grip the warm metal handle of the van door and look around as much as you can bear. There are piles of twisted metal and stone all around, heaped in unruly piles that were once buildings. In the distance, outlined against a slate grey sky, are stacks pouring out thick black smoke, their bases obscured by the rubble. The van is on a road or some sort of path through the debris, wedged between a dump truck and steam shovel.

Where am I? I. A sign of self awareness. Turn slowly. Blinding pain, driving you to the ground. Get up. Move. Survive. That smell. Danger. Move slowly away from the van, pause, look at the van. Van? Away from the smoke, falling into a rhythm, one foot, then the other. Always pain. Falling many times. Keep moving. Get away. Why?

Moving away from the van, you go deeper into the rubble-strewn lot. You hear voices in the distance, high and shrill, many of them. Rounding a jutting piece of concrete, you see several children, black and dusty, playing. You try to speak, but your voice grates in your dry throat. The hoarse croak you manage to utter catches one child's attention, a small girl with tightly plaited hair in a worn blue dress.

"You OK, mister?" she asks in a small voice, looking up at you with wide eyes. Her voice seems to waver in and out, growing further away as your eyesight narrows down to a tunnel focused on her face.

"Hey 'nisa, get away from 'im, some kinda freak or somethin'!" another yells as blackness swallows you again.

Awareness returns, more gently this time. The throbbing pain is a dull ache behind your eyes, more of a memory of sensation than an actual one. You are lying in a bed; coils squeak under as you shift. The room is dark, only the dim shadows of a night table beside the bed and a dresser across the room are visible as furniture. There are two doors, one to the left and the other right across from the bed. The window over the nightstand is mercifully covered with a shade. It's hot, but not from the furnace. It was outside. The smell of cigarettes and old stale beer hang the air.

Pain means injury. The body's warning. Moving slowly, using his hands for eyes he checks his body, cataloging the injuries. He listens. Where am I? Fear. Out, must hide. Why? Confusion. Slowly he tries to rise. Danger.

There is the sound of running water from the door to the left. It stops. The door opens swiftly and a woman steps out. A Negro, she is built tall and lean, her figure made lush by the slenderness of her build. You think she would be pretty if her face was not so hard-bitten, with eyes hard behind a shell of cynicism. She has short hair, little more than a scrub of hair at the sides and somewhat thicker on top. She is dressed in a skin-tight micro skirt, shocking white against her dark skin, with an equally brief white tube top stretched over an ample bosom.

"You awake now, huh? So what's yo story… suit like that… din have jack in your wallet though… keepin' it in your sock?"

"Jack?" he croaks. What would Jack be doing in my wallet? Who's Jack? "Where am I? Who are you?"

"Shit, just some fuckin' uptown junkie got a bad hit…" The woman curses, crossing the room in a few long strides and leaning over you. Gripping your collar, she pulls you up from the bed. Her breath smells of old food and smoke. "You in my apartment… taking up my fuckin' bed, don' know why I let Shanisa and them boys drag your white ass up here anyhow." With that she drops you back to the bed, turning on her heel. "Girl's alway draggin' home some stray shit… you must be the biggest damn one—"

A girl's scream, followed by a splintering crack of wood giving way cuts her off. "MAMA!"

The woman bolts for the door. "Shanisa, what's happening honey?!?"

The girl! Danger. Surges to his feet. Moves after the woman.

In what must be the living room of the apartment, though it is only scarcely larger than the bedroom, you see the little girl fallen to the floor and still shouting for her mother. Standing over her in the doorway is a heavyset black man with a bullish neck, sweating and panting as his eyes sweep over the room and come to rest on the woman. He's shorter than her, but broader, the thick corded muscle in his arms bunched tightly. He is wearing a dark red muscle shirt and jeans, a few gold chains hanging around his neck. The door hangs from its hinges in a testament to his strength.

"Jesus, Ice, what the hell are you doin?!"

He whirls on her, stomping up and backhanding her. Her head snaps back sharply. "Shut up, bitch, you know why I'm fuckin' here… you been holdin' out on me… come for my goddamn money!"

"Mama!" The little girl runs up to him, grabbing his leg and screaming. He shoves her into the coffee table.

Bleeding from the corner of her mouth, the woman reaches out with one hand, "Ice, you know I would hold out on ya baby… right… come on…"

He grabs her arm, twisting it brutally. "Don't even try to lie to me." She whimpers, tears squeezing from her eyes in pain. Instinctively, you step forward, reaching to to do something. Ice turns to you. "Yo, man, who the fuck are you… trick she been turning behind my back?"

Dropping her, he advances on you. "What'd you give her? My bitch, my money, motherfucker!" He steps closer. Fear, then anger, boiling into swift rage. It pounds in your mind into a pulsing rythym mingled with pain, pressing in your temples. "Huh… tell me yo crack-" He stops, eyes wide, mouth agape, then presses his hands to his head. "AHHH! Oh, God… shit! ARRRRHHH!" He screams, throwing his head back, eyes rolling back in his head as his screams grow louder and louder.

Looking up from the floor, the woman crawls away from him. "Ice… what's wrong?" She cradles Shanisa to her.

Ice staggers across the room, stumbling into a coffee table and sending a glass lamp crashing to the floor. The rage grows hotter. Your eyes narrow, focusing on the man, reaching out to him like fiery claws and gripping his mind… squeezing… squeezing. His screams become gurgling moans. Blood bubbles from his throat, pours from his nose. Veins in his neck writhe like snakes, swelling under his skin. He reaches for you with a trembling hand, eyes rolled up to show the blood shot whites. Then he arches his back sharply, sudden momentum carrying him back and out the window. In a crash of glass and wood, he is gone. Shanisa finally breaks into a scream, high and shrill.

"Oh God… oh God… sweet Merciful Jesus…" the woman murmurs, rocking back and fourth with the child in her lap.

As quickly as it came, it's gone, the fire, the pain and rage. Something warm trickles over your lip. Your tongue explores and finds the coppery taste of blood. A warm wind blows through the shattered window.

Across the street you see a car, a small white Toyota. Something brushes your mind, a caress or a kiss, almost sensuous. Come to me, it says in a silent language. The touch is soothing, so peaceful.

Shudders. Reaches up and finds where he is bleeding from. Looks at the woman and her daughter. Safe now. Your nose is bleeding. The woman holds Shanisa closer when you walk by into the hall. The girl's scream dies down as you she watches you pass. "Thank you."

Walks slowly out the door, down the yellowed and creaking stairs. Finds the white car. Coming… Head hurts, pounding. Stops, sways in the middle of the street. Stares blankly at the dead body. A woman. Eye, blood. Leans up against the car. Heaving, dry. Pain. Hot. Whimpers. No.

Outside, a crowd has begun to gather around the body, which lays in a slowly growing scarlet pool.

"Shit, man, it's Ice… "

"What happened?"

"Threw 'im out the fuckin' window… I saw it…"

Mutters fill the air, with people pressing closer to get a better look at the crumpled form. Turning away from the body, you look for her. The siren call in your mind fades, but you know its source. The car sits parked across the street. You can see her now. Pale and slender, she sits quite straight in the car, dressed in a loose blouse, spattered with flecks of random color. Images flood your mind, a photo of a small girl… those green eyes. "Find her." An order, the van swerving. An injection… pain. A car horn blares, bringing you back to the present, bathed in headlights. Her eyes, pure piercing emerald, meet yours.

Those eyes. Walks toward the car. Stares into those eyes. "Do I know you?" Barely a whisper.

Briefly you feel her in your mind. The light caress, then a twinge of pain. Get out of the street! Why did you call me here?! She mentally retreats. Willow, her name, lovely. She looks up at you from the car.

Willow shakes her head, looking pained. With a sigh, she reached into her handbag and pulled out a bottle of pills. She quickly downed three with a gulp of water from the bottle beside her. "But I seem to know you. Or about you, anyway. It really doesn't matter. Why did that person jump out of the window? Did you threaten him with a gun or bodily harm? Did you scare him so badly he needed to escape any way he could? Or did you force him through some other means? And why?"

Looks at her for a few minutes and then walks around to the other side. Opening the door, he sits down. "Call you?"

"You've got to learn control, or you'll endanger everyone around you." Willow went to start her car, then sighed. "Shit, I'm going to have to hang around here and talk to the cops about what happened and what I saw. Great. Just fucking great." She looks up at the young man. "I have this feeling you're going to be nothing but trouble to me."

Closes his eyes. Pain. Van. Eye breaking free. Blood. Green eyes. Blackness.