Starveling Cat


Listening to: Castle – Halsey


City dark was nothing like country dark. In the country, night fell gently, an old boy slipping in the back door after sharing a few drinks with the guys. Cities fought back the night with billboards, street lamps, and every window blazing with rebellion against bedtime. Cities were St. George against the dragon with swords of light.

A nice analogy, but the dragons it refers to are not the darkness. Not the literal darkness, anyway.

I lay stretched out on a park bench, one arm hovering over my eyes. Blocking out the light of the nearest lamp post without obscuring my vision completely. A girl had to sleep with both eyes open in this city.

“Please, don’t hurt me…!”

That sounded like the rest of my analogy. The dragons. I let my eyes roll back as if drawn by gravity. The scene settled into my vision like a card slotting into place in a viewfinder. It was even upside-down.

Three thugs formed a lazy circle. None of them overweight or even well-fed, two of them smoking and twitchy. In the unfortunate centre, a petite woman cowered. Even their colours clued me in to what was going on–the thugs in greens and black, the woman with dark hair but arrayed in white and light browns.

The bench was killing my ass anyway. My shoulder muscles bunched, and then I launched straight up to a standing position.

And got fucking dizzy. Fuck it, I spun around anyway. Good thing I’d already counted the guys, my vision was doubling. “You guys on your way to the cliché convention?”

One/two of them swung about dramatically to face me. He had a gun. “Piss off, you crazy homeless bitch.”

“Name-calling? Really. Too bad there’s no such thing as a cliché convention. You could have headed a panel.” From the way he was waving the gun around, he didn’t know how to handle it. It felt like a cheat code. His buddies, one freckly with a goatee, and the other a pretty bald guy, weren’t even looking at me.

The chick was, though. Poor girl, she looked like a tired cop who just caught sight of a doughnut. I winked at her. I did better with an audience.

I crouched, as if settling back onto the bench. Dumbass with a Gun took this the wrong way and left me with an audience of one. Before her face could fall, I leapt in the air.

On the ground, I usually looked like a snake on rollerskates. But in the air, I was a fucking dream. I twirled in a lazy arc. One of the thugs looked up almost in time, clued-in by the woman’s focused gaze. I landed with both feet on his buddy’s shoulders.

If these were the junior leagues, he would have barely noticed. I weighed 118 pounds in heavy rain and most of that was hair and crazy. But I was not in the junior leagues.

Dumbass went down with twin cracks and an agonised cry. “Fracture humerus, bitch,” I snapped as I hopped clear. I took the gun with me, I wasn’t stupid.

Goatee cursed and took a swing at me. Balder the beautiful went for the woman. I ducked under Goatee’s arm, my own arm already outstretched. All it took was a hard push of my legs and I managed to soar into Balder’s legs. 100 per cent successful tackle.

He slammed an elbow into my head. I shrieked at him, mostly for the noise, and bit down on the first patch of skin I could reach. I would have taken a chunk of him if I hadn’t been paying attention. Bad girl, Sorrel. I released him and headbutted his chin.

It probably hurt less when his head fell back onto the concrete. I had a very hard head.

Goatee was already reaching for me. Slow schmuck. They were all slow compared to me. I sidestepped this second punch. Grabbed his arm. We spun for a beautiful moment, and I was struck with a vision of flower fields and someone much better-looking holding onto me and laughing. I gave myself a shake and let him go.

This left Sweater Girl and me the only ones standing. She was Asian, maybe early 20s. Pretty, with a clear look in her eyes. I brushed my arms off and shot her a feral smile. Now I was standing close enough, she could see my own eyes. Cat’s-eye yellow.

“You’re incredibly strong.”

“They never see it coming. I’m like a goose–I look like a loon, but I can break your fucking arm.”

She stared at me.

“Don’t let it get to you,” I said. Then I held out my hand. Surprisingly, she took it. “Can you run?”

Her hand was warm in mine. Not clammy or shaking. “Lead the way.”

I took her out of the park and across a street or two. It wasn’t as if the bench was my house. Best part of having nowhere to go, I could go wherever I wanted. Until they kicked me out.

“M-my name is Grace.”

“That’s descriptive.”

Her grateful smile went a bit wry, and I liked her a little. “Do you have a name?”

Boy did she have my number. “Not really. You can call me Rufus.”

“That’s a boy’s name. You are not a boy.”

“Thank  you for noticing. Call me Sorrel, then. They both mean red.”

“But… your hair is black.”

“God, you’re sharp. Too sharp to hang out in the park at night.” My eyes narrowed. Usually, that makes people take a few steps back. Or at least gasp.

Grace just frowned. “I was looking for someone.”

“You found a couple of someones. Try a better meeting place next time.”

The woman had a story. Even I could tell that. But was it a story I wanted to read? Or were we both better off in a different bookstore?

Shitty metaphor. I needed to get some sleep.


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