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Pussy Reaper's Raid (story 3)

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic


Catrina Consuelo, slayer of sex-traffickers, seizes the eyes of an evil force who sets her on a dangerous journey.

Submitted: August 09, 2018

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Submitted: August 09, 2018

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Hundreds of Moles march below me. Some Moles whoop. Other Moles scrape their

shovels across the abandoned subway platform. In a medley of metal screeching against metal, Moles stomp as trains zoosh overhead and drums behind me pound. Techno drums. Bass drums, booming from the Acid Café, punch a heavy tempo to the Mole death dance.

Hear us, Dylan Thomas. Death shall have no dominion.

“Tonight, we own death!” I unsheathe my katana.

Moles roar in response.

Rats squeak. From the shit-stinking wall pipes, out rats scurry. Some fat. Others greasy fur-balls. Rats join the Moles all green-tinted under my night-goggles, their whoops echoing down the tunnel rattling as another train approaches. Dirt dusts my dreadlocks. Mooj paws them. Scurrying to my arm, he perches on his tiny rat toes when seven Moles race up the broken escalator, the stairs littered with used condoms stankier than the splooge covering the Acid Café door.

I near it, tailed by Moles and Treen — Edison’s sister. She skirts my side while I slice a Y across the middle of the door like a pathologist dissects a corpse. A precise cut from side to side, puncturing the dingy frame.

I leap Chica-Ninja style. Ready to bust out my bad-ass brand of booty-bashing, I kick the door down.

Three strapping guards stride my way.

I saunter forward, pointing my katana at the guard in front. With a jagged scar marring his cheek, he towers before me limiting my view of a red accordion-shaped partition. Behind the other guards, the partition looms similar to that crimson curtain at the Phantom of the Opera production I attended last year to appease my dramatic arts teacher, Mr. Morikawa. Had a fantastic finale I never expected like I never expected this somehow familiar partition.

“Hell’s bells, boys.” Scar-cheek licks his lips. “Gotta another pretty little bitch here.”

“Wow prick! Take your disgusting desires and stuff ‘em up your anus.” I impale Scar-cheek’s gut.

He grunts, inching closer until my blade spears straight through him.

Mooj scampers to my arm, sniffing him as Treen and the six other Moles squeeze past me and surround the men in back.

They gape from Moles to Mooj to me while the Moles elevate their shovels.

I twist my katana.

Scar-cheek grunts harder. “You don’t scare me.”

“Scary‘s overrated. Funny’s my thing.” I say in my best Exorcist voice. “Sharpie a smile on your ugly mug and maybe you’ll get lucky in the next century. If you still have a penis.”

His eyes widen.

I smirk. “This pretty little bitch’s got a message. Tell whoever you work for that Pussy Reaper’s coming. Return my peeps or those Hell’s bells will end with you and all you know.”

I slice down the length of Scar-cheek. He shrieks. His crotch splitting apart, he bleeds out.

Someone claps. Where? I dart my gaze over my shoulder. Nothing there besides a bunch of rats pooping on the escalator and other rats jumping from the platform into the river below where the crocodilian creature chomped Squealer’s skull mere hours ago. Where the creature went? No idea. No doubt the Moles are working to answer the same question. Above the river, a ton of Moles wheel-barrow corpses across the platform. They dump them into piles then douse them with gasoline and light them on fire; the best method of disposal, burning them. Smelly yet effective. The fire crackles as another group of Moles huddle in a circle, examining the quarter I took from that sex-trafficking cop; the coin I for the life of me can’t make sense of. Particularly what’s stamped on George Washington’s neck — that same orochi serpent as the one etched on my katana and on the nautical door that disappeared; poof as if someone cast a magic spell.

Except I don’t believe in magic. Miracles sure. Angels absolutely. My angel sister Selah proved the existence of a heavenly realm when she healed me and rebuilt the exploded tunnel. Magic though? The kind that short spirited goblins use to warp people into monsters? Now that’s completely fictional. I’m leaning toward an illusionist akin to Penn and Teller who catch bullets in their teeth. Someone with that skill-set might be able to pull off a disappearing door or plant a robotic creature in the river that now serves as a rat bath. Course this doesn’t explain the tall, albino tongue-slithering beast that dragged Edison off. Unless the beast was wearing a costume; a possibility given the smoky air clouded my vision.

Clouded my judgement too. I just had to fall for Edison. Didn’t I?

Stupid me. I shouldn’t have kissed him. Shouldn't have believed that I’d live happily ever after with him. Dumb love. It’s like a sucker punch to my stomach.

I exhale slowly, bile rising to my throat. Think I’m gonna be sick. Think I’m a fool. Think I’m hallucinating this clapping.

It grows louder. The music lowers.

Someone laughs.

This is no joke. “Laugh at this fricker.” I boot Scar-cheek’s corpse to the feet of the other guard. Moles push them to their knees.

The guards cower. The laughs louden.

I squint. “Quit toying with me.”

“Come, come, pussy cat. Toys turns my fancy.” A synthesized voice snarls from behind the partition.

I shove it aside. Again. Nothing there. Only an empty cement room with a speaker in one corner and a glass coffee table on the floor. Atop it, I spy the music’s source. An iPhone, blasting the cadence of drums. It buzzes.

I stare at the screen, the black hairs on my arms standing when a video feed zooms in on a girl. She lays naked on a metal table, her arms and legs spread and shackled. On her stomach a snake slides. It opens its fanged mouth and bites her boob. She shrieks.

The camera pivots.

Three men, whose features are hidden behind black hoods, point guns at what looks like a femur bone. It’s wedged between two overhead compartments similar to the ones on an airplane.

Are they flying?

“Tell me where you are.” No answer. “Talk!” I wrench my pommel, practically cracking it in two as the camera lowers to Edison.

He’s hunched head down, his wrists bound to the bone with red rope. His knees touching a red carpet, his mohawk smeared with blood, his face half-shattered. Around his bare chest dangles a necklace strung with finger bones and rectangular mirrors so shiny they show a reflection of a pale, skeletal hand and an arm covered in a black suit sleeve. A silver cuff link, appearing under the camera lens, resembles the orochi-stamped quarter in my possession.

“Here’s the deal, pussy cat. Bring what belongs to me.”

“Belongs to you? Ain’t it the other way around?”

“See? This is why you never deserved it.”

“Deserved what?” What’s this maniac ranting about? “Forget whatever you want. I ain’t your puppet.”

“Ungrateful bitch!” The arm strikes Edison with a cattle prod.

“No.” I seize the phone. “Let him go. Let them all go!”

“Oh but it’s fun watching you suffer.” The cattle prod strikes Edison again and again.

Sparks zap him. He thrashes uncontrollably.

“Stop.” I shake the phone, rage boiling inside me. “I’m losing my patience.”

“Go ahead. Lose it. I do so enjoy it that way.” Something clicks in the background like how a tongue clicks yet shriller. “Play my game. Follow the yellow-bricked path to Izumo. Bring me what’s mine and perhaps we can come to an agreement.” The voice deepens. “No Moles or your lover-boy dies.”

The screen blanks.

I shout into it. “Believe me. When I find you, I castrate you like I did your filthy pig.” I toss the phone at the wall. It splinters in three as I search the room. Feeling every inch of the wall. Every inch of the floor. No trap doors. No false walls. Nothing.

Why? Ain’t this where the Acid Café is? Maybe not? Maybe I can poke an answer outta these other guards.

They recoil under the Moles’ shovels.

One guard folds his hands together. “I never wanted to do any of this. He made me. Promise.”

“Don’t promise me.” I yank him up by the collar and spit in his face. “Spill your leader’s location.”

“He’ll kill me.”

“Not if I kill you first.”

The guard gulps when I press my blade to his throat.

“My lips are sealed.”

“Have it your way.” I hurl him out the door.

He collides with the escalator, cracking his neck on the stairs.

The last guard aims his gun at me. I hack off his hand.

He screeches, his gun clattering to the floor, his blood spilling after.

“Hope you’re smarter than your buddies.” I stab my stiletto into what’s left of his arm. “Tell me where my peeps are!”

“My loyalty rests in him.”

“Give me a name.” I crouch, snapping my teeth at the guard. “Speak the hell up!”

With his other hand, the guard grabs his gun and shoots himself.

Great! There goes my best lead. I whip away from the corpse while Treen and the other Moles tail me out the door. Three more Moles ascend the escalator.

“Cat, we’se found somethin’.” One of the Moles, I recognize as Luna, Treen’s girlfriend, advances my way. “Give it a look.” Luna holds out her brown palm where my quarter rests. She shines a tapped-up UV-light on it, revealing blue words I never noticed before.

In Izumo We Trust.

Really? Who are these sex-trafficking swine? Some militia-terrorist group?

Luna flips the coin and shines her light below Washington’s neck. A minuscule code materializes.

IEEgd2FyIGZsZWV0IHRvIGNydXNoIHRoZSBob3VzZQ==

“Meaning what?”

“Just a sec.” One of the Moles behind Luna — Grant, Edison’s cousin if I recall correctly — retrieves an old touch phone that Edison must have repurposed for him. “Eddi taught me base sixty-four cipher a while ago.” Grant thumbs the code into a database, the dragon tattoo round his neck making me gulp. I suddenly want to strangle it off him.

I back up instead.

He turns the screen toward me. “Read dis.”

A fleet to crush the house.

Fleet? House? Izumo? Wait. I once came across this in my historical research.

"Let me check somethin’.” I grasp the phone from Grant. Loading up Google, I swipe a link, browsing a picture and the caption below before I show the Moles.

Izumo — A World War Two battleship in the Imperial Japanese Navy. It seized an American vessel hours before the attack on Pearl Harbor. It mysteriously sunk in the waters of Kure, Japan.

Luna arches her brow. “Dat be like decades ago.”

“More like seventy-three years.” Grant adds, retrieving his phone from me.

“True.”

I chew the inside of my cheek, mulling around the facts. “Listen. Izumo is long gone. The idea ain’t. I’m guessing whoever’s behind this built a ship after Izumo.” Possibly the pale-creep. Possibly some mastermind illusionist with a God-Complex and a sex-trafficking lust. It’s a gamble for sure. One I’m willing to roll with if I can determine the ship’s port. Likely not Kure, Japan given it’s been less than three hours since they took Edison. Only other port I can think of is...

“Holy shit.” I sheathe my katana and dash down the escalator, shouting to my rear. “Follow.” Regardless that the pale-creep said no Moles, I’m no order-taking chica.

I hop on Edison’s moped then flick on the ignition switch. Mooj burrowing into my dreadlocks, I zoom across the platform while a bunch of Moles drive after in their rusted truck. For six miles, we pass under damp archways and over puddles. Mud splatters my booted stilettos as water drips from the ceiling and trains above zoosh. Once I reach FDR’s train, I curve to the rear of it, fishtailing to a halt. I dismount and depress a button on the side of the ancient but functioning elevator while Grant, Treen and Luna and the other Moles unload from the truck cab.

Treen approaches. “We’ll ride the Metro. Destination?

“New York Harbor. Meet me there.”

I return to Edison’s moped, waiting for the elevator. It bleeps to life. Widening from the middle, I drive into the small metal chamber. The doors ding shut, leaving me alone in my own thoughts. Never a good thing.

Disturbing images float to mind. Eyes gouged out. Intestines scattered on tombs. Skulls skewered on the tip of my katana. My killings are finally unhinging me. In ten hideous ways, I imagine body parts being loped off. Arms. Hands. Elbows. Feet. They spin before me faster than the walls appearing to cave in. My throat constricts, my lungs deflating.

I gag on my own saliva, choking it down as the door slides open.

Some dude holding a plunger stands paralyzed in my path, his badge stating, Hola. I’m Fabio. You poop it. We scoop it.

I chuckle, lifting my night-goggles to the top of my head.

Captain plunger there ogles my bloodied fingers and my katana hanging from my obi hip-sash.

“Keep up the good work.” I say with a smile that feels more like a sneer. “Lots more poop down there.”

Mooj suddenly hops to my shoulder. Captain Plunger springs out of my way like a spooked-out rabbit, screaming shriller than a girl. Hilarious. I chuckle again; relieved for his comic remedy. Ain’t nothin’ gonna get me down.

“Pussy Reaper’s here to stay!” I peel out of the elevator, up a set of basement stairs then slam down another door before I exit the Hotel Astoria garage into heavy traffic. Bumper to bumper outside Grand Central Station, a fanfare of horns blare from every direction. Welcome to New York peeps! My very own concrete jungle — busiest city in America. Smelliest too. Phew that’s rank. A piss-stench wafts from the pigeon infested alley I pass.

Drifters roam, the sidewalk they walk on brightened under twenty-seven story hotels and high-rise businesses. Dimmed under the night sky, the buildings tower, lit like candles alongside Grand Central. It’s three vaulted windows rim the rooftop where the statue of Mercury spreads his wings so similar to the way Selah spread hers. Tell me that her spirit’s inside. That she’s gazing down on me with her brilliant beautiful eyes sunnier than the stars. The moon above, a sliver of diamond dust, shines through the September-hazed air as I zig-zag around multiple buses and taxis beeping from every lane.

A man yells out his window. “Learn to drive.”

“Learn some manners.” I rev my engine beside him at the light.

He flips his finger at me.

“Watch it, douche.” I furl my upper lip.

He slowly lowers his hand.

“Well, John.” I mimic my favorite Chucky phrase. “It’s been fun." The man gulps. The light turns green. "Gotta go. I have a date with a devil.”

I vroom around him to the center of Broadway where hoards of pedestrians cross the Time’s Square intersection so jammed the asphalt is practically hidden beneath alloy wheels and obnoxious feet attached to obnoxious people with their noses stuck in their phones, completely oblivious of their surroundings. Of skyscrapers with tv screens blinking constant adds and speakers blaring out electronic music while glam girls twerk their skinny asses on the streets sadly resembling the girls I hope to save.

I swerve in and out of traffic and around honking cabs practically pushing me off the road. Prick drivers.

My nerves are already on knives and tacks. Exactly why I avoid public places. Norms don’t get me. How could they? When you grow up in group homes molested and abused by all your pedophiliac foster-dads and pray for things to change once you run-away at age fourteen only to be captured and sold into sex-slavery by the same thugs who slayed your one remaining family member. Well. You for damn sure can’t dream of white picket fences like everyone else does. Not that I ever wanted a fenced in yard. I just wanted a calm and caring place to rest my head. And now not even Edison can provide that.

I squash a cry rumbling in my throat louder than the moped’s muffler. The faith of a mustard seed, that’s what I need. It can move mountains some claim.

Problem is, New York Harbor is massive enough to swallow two-thousand three-ton ships. In that sea of boats, where the heck do you locate one ship? Plus a ship the size I’m imagining couldn’t breach American waters without the coast guard noticing. So what, my Izumo theory is wrong? Must be that pale-creep sent me on a wild rabbit hunt. For what reason? To stall me? Probably part of his game.

Edison would have the answer. He’s good at that. I cling to his fingerprinted handlebars, absorbing any energy, any strength, any knowledge I can while I inhale meditative Ashtanga Yoga breaths.

It dawns on me.

Perhaps they built the ship in the tunnels with plans to later move it into the harbor. And if that’s the case, I know the exact tunnel I should explore — the most notorious secret in NYC.

I hurry around meandering pedestrians and bleeping cars. While I blaze through an intersection, I fist one handlebar and with my other hand dig in my boot for my phone. I tap the screen.

“News?” Grant speaks on the other end.

“Change of plans. Meet me at Central Park Reservoir. Gotta gut-feelin’ ‘bout tunnel number three.” I return my phone to my boot, hanging a right at the Central Park Zoo. A man covered in silver paint stands on the sidewalk, showcasing his mime-in-a-box act to a crowd beside ten food trucks. Their vendors exit their trucks and yell from the street, enticing onlookers with steaming burritos and fresh lemonade and fried churros smelling of cinnamon sticks.

Yumm-o! My stomach grumbles for the best damn food truck in town. I slide to halt bedside the El Guapo Grill then grab a five from my boot.

“Churro.” I say, handing the cash to Enrique.

“Chica? You look awful.” He creases his brow as he inspects my matted dreadlocks. “Get some rest.”

“Later. Peace out.” I drive off. Skidding atop the park path, I chomp into the crispy churro. A sweet, buttery delight I often buy with a double espresso. Hold the coffee for me, I’ll make do with this churro sprinkled with a perfect blend of cinnamon sugar that Mooj must smell given he crawls to my hand. “Aww, tiny Buddha wants some. Here.”

I offer him a crumb.

He nibbles it, my attention diverted enough I almost miss a following vehicle. I glimpse over my shoulder at a black van. It careens forward, a gun poking from the driver’s window. It shoots.

I duck. Bullets whizz. People shriek, diving to the ground while the van peels after me and Mooj grasps one of my braided locks.

“Hold tight. Things are gettin’ dicey.” I accelerate round a corner.

Dodging handfuls of cyclists and an old lady riding a motorized wheelchair, I gain momentum once I hit the main bridge. I jump the stone railing and land on the ground beside the Bethesda fountain, my wheels juddering. Bullets fly in my direction. I tilt to one side then to the other. Speeding away, I almost hit one of the many globe-lanterns bordering the path. I swerve around them and a group of screaming teens who plunge to the grass littered with brightly colored leaves.

Flittering from nearby Beech trees, leaves blow in a gentle wind and drift atop Cherry hill where I spot them. Moles. A hundred maybe two hundred, they rush down the hill, shovels in hand, their red eyes adjusting to the moonlight. They head my way. Like ogres with pitch-forks, Grant, Treen, and Luna part from the pack and bolt for the van. They hop on its hood, beating it with their shovels.

The van skids sideways. Flipping on the cement, Moles grip its roof rails. Luna and Treen shatter its windshield while Grant nabs the driver by the neck, a guard — no surprises there. He beheads him as spectators shriek.

Some people click photos. Others chat on their phones. A few gather round the crashed van while the head rolls to the lake’s grassy bank.

Fabulous. An audience to post our guilty mugs on social media. Instagram’s gonna hit the fan. Crap on burnt roast.

I ditch the moped on a fallen log, wishing Edison and I were canoeing the starlit lake same as that couple paddling in the distance. Instead I’m here getting photobombed by a horde of hipster wanna-bees.

“Outta here!” Grant growls at the crowd.

Most of them run. A few stay leering at me and my Mole posse. Let them leer. We got slaying to do. I hustle to the grass with Grant, Treen and Luna at my sides and the others at my back. We trek two miles around the lake, past bushes and over jutting roots and crunchy leaves until a four-story building, propped beside a small parking lot, peeks between a mess of bending Beech trees. The biggest sanitation headquarters in NYC. Breaking in will be a feat in itself.

“Seems risky.” Treen says.

“Risky be what it takes.” Grant prods branches aside, his arm breezing against mine.

I inhale sharply, striding forward to increase the gap between Grant and I. Best to keep my distance from that one. What with his dragon tattooed neck. Spanks of all kinds of bad.

I storm for the building, the double-paneled doors, possibly the only thing standing between Edison and I. Hope. It’s safe to hope for a life with him.

Safe? Get real, Cat. Dump the sucker-punch love.

I tap the door. It squeaks open.

Talk about easy. Feels like a trap. Bring it on!

“Bastards. Ready or not, Pussy Reaper’s here.” I rush inside tailed by Grant, Treen and Luna. The door slams before the others can follow.

“What’s going on?” Treen screams into the darkness, footsteps thumping from somewhere. Where?

I feel for my pommel. Flipping my night goggles back on, Grant, Luna and Treen do the same while I analyze the pipes spanning across the open ceiling. They extend down the industrial-sized walls into a bunch of pot-belly water tanks and out the other side to a hall ahead.

I inch forward.

Thump. Thump. Thump. The footsteps thump closer.

I revolve on my heels.

Treen emits a shallow cry. She’s obviously cracking. Not that I blame her. She’s young and endured so much. Loss similar to mine, augmented by the possible loss of her brother.

“Take the wax outta your ears, Pussy Cat. Told you no Moles.” The synthesized from earlier voice says. It lowers its tone. “You asked for it.”

Someone shrieks.

Another yells, “Cat! Cat!” Sounds like Edison.

“Don’t harm him!” I stride past the water tanks closer to the hall. “Hang on, Eddi. I’ll bring whatever you want. Just return my peeps.”

Someone cackles. Banging echoes from outside as if someone is bashing a tree into the door. The other Moles. What? They trying to break it down? Good!

“You can’t do this.” Luna grabs my shoulder.

“Course I can.” I shrug her hand off.

“It’s too dangerous.” Luna says.

“Since when does danger scare you?”

“I’se seen what those traffickers do to girls.”

“Stay here then.” I’ll do this myself. Someone needs to be brave.

“We’se comin’.” Grant puffs his chest out like a smug rooster. “Won’t leave Eddi or the girls stranded.”

“It’s just...” Luna covers her face in her palms.

Treen sniffles, hugging Luna.

“Cryin’ ain’t changin’ a thing.” Grant pats Luna’s arm. “Take comfort in dis. We’se together.”

Together. He’s right about that. Me and my Mole friends are together. We’re one big family united by a bond thicker than blood. A bond of water and fire. Souls I can depend on. For the first time in my life I feel less abandoned. Less anxious. Less alone.

“Let’s do this.” I shake my fist in the shit-stinking air. “We’ll crush them.”

“Not likely.” Someone cackles harder.

“Show yourself.” I bolt into the hall. Nothing there other than a speaker in the upper corner and an elevator with a silver side-button that Grant smacks. Seconds later a bell dings and a door widens from the middle. We pile inside. All four of us. Five actually if you count Mooj. He skitters to my arm as I unsheathe my katana. The door shuts.

We plummet two hundred-feet underground; the distance to the bottom according to rumors. Trouble is rumors led me to the Acid Café. I was wrong about that. Now I’m beginning to question this place as well. Seems pretty infeasible for a boat Izumo’s size to be transported to the sea in one small elevator. Unless they built it to be a stationary tunnel-boat. Possibly. Only one way to find out. Play his game.

The Moles raise their shovels. I lift my katana. The door slides open to…

A maze of Mirrors. Rectangular mirrors. Tall mirrors, topped with yellow paint and somehow standing erect, cover the large steel valve chamber. The mirrors conjure a clear memory of that labyrinth of corn-stalks I once entered. Think I was four. Maybe five. I was sobbing. Running. Bleeding from the side of my face, terrified of the man I called uncle. Can’t remember his real name. Can’t see the end of this maze either. All I can see is the first mirror. Rather the back of it. It’s turned the wrong way and sits directly outside the elevator door.

“No time to waste.” Grant exits the elevator.

I race in front of him, planting my hand on his broad chest. “Let me lead.”

He grunts, standing a head taller than me, his muscles tightening under my palm. “Not liking it.”

“Phff.” I roll my eyes. Mooj chatters at him. “Drop the chivalry. I’m no damsel in distress.”

“Listen to her, Grant.” Treen approaches with Luna inching at her rear. “She be good at dis.”

“Fine.” Grant grunts again.

Sheesh dude. Who’s he think he is? Macho Mole man? Go bug a princess. This Chica-Ninja's capable of squashing any obstacle. Plus I don’t trust him. I swagger forward, calling over my shoulder. “Keep up with me. Don’t want any one gettin’ lost.” Especially not Macho man back there.

I round the corner of the first mirror and notice the floor. Each tile I step on flashes yellow with arrows identical to what the pale-creep said, Follow the yellow-bricked path to Izumo.

“Wow, Wizard of Oz.” I yell into the air. “Be more original.” I stride around five mirrors then past ten more, examining each tile. As they turn yellow under my stilettos, I peek behind me.

Macho Man fists his shovel as if he’s pissed that I’m leading. “Change your mind?”

“You wish.” I whisk ahead, continuing around a dozen corners and past a dozen mirrors while I stare at my grubby reflection. My disheveled dreadlocks. My snagged pleather full-body suit. My greasy face. Yikes, Eduardo was right. I do look awful, definitely in need of a hot shower and a thorough scrub. Odd though, below my night-goggles pimples have sprouted. Red and almost the size of tiny clown noses, the pimples appear to enlarge. What’s up with my face? These pimples weren’t there yesterday. Something’s wrong with the mirrors. Or perhaps the pale-creep’s doing a Pen and Teller magic trick on me. I pause beside a mirror.

“Hey tough girl.” Grant says. “You going or what?”

“Shut it or I’ll slice your tongue out.”

Grant raises his brows.

I chuckle. That's right, Macho Man. Respect this girl.

I touch the mirror. The glass puckers under my thumb as if I threw a rock into a lake and the rock made the water ripple. Three ripples to be exact; they funnel in the middle of the mirror faster than a toilet flushes. Something plops on my shoulder. Water.

Drip. Drip. Drip.

I glance up. The pipes, laid out similarly to the one’s on the upper level, creak. One pipe bursts. Two more splinter in half. Sewage sprays out, drenching us and coating the floor in inches of water murkier than the ripples twirling on the mirror.

A pale bony hand dives from the glass, curving its black claws.

Treen gasps, “What is that?”

Luna screams.

The hand seizes my arm.

I yank against it. It yanks harder squeezing with a force brute enough to break my bone. I seethe through my teeth. Water, pouring on the floor, splashes to my knees while Grant seizes me by the other arm. Tug-of-war fashion, Grant and I strain to release that thing’s grip. It pulls me until my arm’s half-in and half-out of the mirror. Until resistance is practically useless. I’d slash it with my katana if I was sure I wouldn’t cut my own arm off in the process.  

Mooj scurries up my blade then hops at the glass.

“Stop.” Grant fumbles for Mooj. Too late.

Mooj disappears into the mirror. Squeaking sounds after. Munching follows.

“Mooj! No... Heartless Bastard. You killed my pet.”

Two more hands lurch out of two more mirrors. They snatch Treen and Luna by their waists luging them into the mirror before Grant and I can react. They vanish, their screams reverberating after. Behind another vibrating glass, another hand surfaces. It grips Grant by the ankle.

“Get off!” He whacks its skeletal wrist with his shovel. The hand recoils into the mirror where something eeks. While I continue to fight the hand gripping my arm, Grant jerks me, his biceps bulging.

“Release her.” He yells, water now slopping over our waists.

  “Be a dear.” The pale-creep voice drones in the air. “Surrender.”

“Screw you.” I continue to struggle, my arm disappearing to my shoulder. The glass rippling around my torso, the hand drags Grant and I in. The mirror fades to water. Water so black I lose track of Grant. Lose track of my sword. Lose track of myself. My pulse pounding, claws dig into my flesh. Fangs bite into my muscle. A bone-grinding sensation shoots through my arm where something chews ferociously. Like a lion I holler, bubbles blipping from my nose. Water fills my mouth; fills my lungs. I drown under the weight of my own swollen ribs. I sink deeper and deeper. And then I’m dying. My heart slows. My eyes shut briefly. Then I see something. Something bright. Something beautiful. Something powerful pushes me from beneath.

Selah? I attempt a look below me. An overwhelming light more luminous than the sun surrounds me. I burst to the shadowy surface, choking on mouthfuls of warm salt water tinged with the taste of sardines. The ocean? This definitely ain’t no magic trick. Makes no sense that I’m here wherever here is. Swimming for my life, I flail in the growing tides, the air so hazy I strain to see past my own hands. I stroke the waves wildly. Or as wildly as I can given my left arm hurts like twenty-seven saws scraping my skin. Despite the pain, I force myself forward.

Gotta survive.

A crackly voices whispers, “Cat. Cat.”

I peer in multiple directions. Hauling myself over another wave, I spot a ladder dangling down the side of a massive two-tiered barge. Ahead it toooooots into the dark air blanketed with a fog so soupy I scarcely make out the big block letters spanning across the ship’s jutting chin-shaped bow.

Izumo. The Japanese Naval vessel from World War Two?  Impossible. This one has to be the pale-creep’s prototype. Even though it looks identical to the ship’s pictures I browsed on Google. Oh My God. It’s probably carrying precious people I must rescue. I exert every bit of strength I can muster. Treading water, I bound forward over wave after wave. Inch by inch the rope ladder draws nearer. I snag the bottom rung. Gasping in soggy breaths, I begin a one-armed climb. A long climb. Longer than I expected. A tall ship indeed with a wide metal hull, at least six portholes and two decks the size of football fields. On the smaller upper deck, three gigantic steam stacks wheeze horrid tarry stenches into the fog. I gag on the fumes, my grip on the ladder slipping. I swing my right hand to the next rung and my left arm scratches the rope-side. I nearly wail. No wonder. A wad of flesh is gnawed from the middle of my arm straight to the bone. Good thing it’s not my sword arm. Still it’s gonna test my ninja skills.

Betcha you anything that pale-creep bit me. Possibly more than one pale-creep. Where’d they go? Where’d my Mole friends go? Who was calling my name? You tell me. No one’s in sight once I reach the top deck except for.

“Mooj!” He scurries past my katana speared into the ship’s bow and bounds atop me as I flop aboard. I roll to my belly and scoop Mooj into my palm, petting that soft tuft between his tiny ears. “So glad you made it.”

He nuzzles his rat whiskers on my nose. I laugh. The steam stacks, emitting another tooooot, startle Mooj. He climbs to my shoulder while a third tooooot echoes close by. Another ship? That’s odd. Then again, maybe we’re in a port. If so which one and where.

I lift to my knees. Coughing up seawater, I crawl forward. Cringing under this agonizing arm-ache, I curve my right hand toward my katana. Five inches or less away yet my body screeches in pain. Exhaustion is setting in at the worst possible time. Brew me a coffee. Or at minimum help me stay awake. I force myself upright and walk. Wind, snaking through the fog, swells the waves. The ship rocks. I fall ass-first and bump into something. Not something. Someone.

Grant. He lays spine-down; unconscious from the looks of his motionless body.

What about Treen and Luna? I scan the entire backbone of the hull. Nowhere. Course they came through a different mirror than us. Could be they ended up somewhere else. Perhaps the other boat? I’ll check into that once I determine if Grant is respiring. His chest isn’t moving. I tip my ear to his mouth. Warm breath skates over my skin.

I shiver. A completely unwanted response. I swear. Least his lungs are working. He should revive soon.

I focus on his oblong face. His dragon painted neck, partially hidden beneath his black pony-tail, reminds me of the tattoo my ex had on his torso. Saw it every time we banged. That total bad boy gave one hot smash but had one sick motive.

Grant flicks his raven eyes open.

“What da hell?” He sits up, gawking down the length of the ship.

“Crazy, right?” I say, bracing my hand on the deck as the ship shimmies. “My hunch? That pale-creep is responsible.”

“Responsible for a lot of disgusting things.” Grant spies my arm, gritting his teeth. “I’m gonna make mincemeat outta him.”

“You and me both.”

“Damn straight, girl. First you’re gonna need dis.” He shreds a piece of fabric off the bottom of his jersey shirt. “Let me?”

“Uhhh. I guess."

He lifts my arm and starts winding the damp fabric round it.

I wince.

“Sorry.” He pauses. “This’ll protect your arm till we can stitch it up.”

I nod, tightening my jaw as he continues.

“Learned dis from the Red cross. Volunteered there once upon a time ago.” He finishes wrapping my arm then ties the two loose fabric ends together. “There. That should do.”

Mooj hops off me and sniffs Grant’s thumb.

Grant laughs. “He lived. Tiny Buddha. Ain’t that what you call him?” Grant trails his gaze to my face, settling on my eyes.

I swallow hard.

He smiles. “I don’t bite. Promise.”

Promise? I know about promises and guys. I scoot rearward. He’s gotta have an end game. Most men do. I mean, I hardly know him. Besides, I’m into Edison. He’s my guy. I hope. Please, be alive. Be on his boat.

The ship dips down shoving Grant atop me, his full brown lips way too close to mine. One more inch and —

Shrieks sound from below deck. Footsteps thud muffled by a cannon thundering through the fog. Faster than a comet, a flaming ball collides with the water, blowing waves over the deck, the motion throwing me sideways.

I grab the ship’s edge, steadying myself while Mooj scampers into my dreadlocks and Grant staggers in my direction.

He stretches his hand. “Here.”

“Save your help for someone who needs it.” Save the coffee too. Exhaustion won’t get this girl down. I spring to my feet, reclaiming my katana, my pommel flush in my fist.

Something grabs me from behind.

I kick backward. Spreading my legs, I thrust my blade back, ram it into a groin and twist. Bone cracks.

The someone eeks, tumbling to the deck where Grant rips off its skeletal head. He chucks it in the water while shrieks continue below deck. While another canon fires, hissing clicks reverberate at my rear as if a thousand tongues are clicking at once.

I start to rotate but stop.

Before me, Moles materialize. One after another. Twenty. Fifty. Hundreds of Moles march. Some Moles whoop. Other Moles scrape their shovels across the deck. In a medley of metal against metal, screeching in time with the guns booming through the fog. Big guns. Loud guns shooting to the rhythm of the Mole death dance.

I pivot on my heels, my spine prickling at the sight of them. Tall, pale man-beasts. Hoards of them, in naval uniforms, their tongues slithering from their fanged mouths, they skulk in our direction. Two, located near the ship’s stern, retract their sharp claws from their bony fingers and tighten Treen and Luna in their death clutches.

“Let them go!” I rage forward. Moles charging behind, I leap above a beast and slice my katana down, splitting flesh from bone.

Hear us, Dylan Thomas, Death shall have no dominion.

I roar at the top of my lungs. “Tonight, we own death.”


© Copyright 2018 Joy Shaw. All rights reserved.

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