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Pussy Reaper’s Revenge (story 1)

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


Catarina Consuelo, witty and willful teen, leads a double life that may kill her.

Submitted: February 10, 2018

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Submitted: February 10, 2018

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I descend the ladder into the darkness. Below looms a darker pit so pitch-black that even from here I see only the white rims of my thumbnails and the dim outlines of shadows. Little shadows. Furry shadows appear to float upward every time I feel my way to the next rung. And the next. And the next. With each step, my throat dries. My breath shortens. My heart hammers faster than a rabbit thrashing in the jaws of a ravenous snake, a snake no girl should ever meet.

Believe me, Dylan Thomas, I will not go gentle into that good night. Nothing gentle about me.

Nothing wise about this either. Wise is for wimps; a wimp I am not! I won’t back out of one simple task. Get my treasure and go. Easy breezy. Not peasy cause peas are plain nasty. Though not as nasty as this slimy stuff on the next rung. Slimy like the back of a salamander.

Ewwww! I shake the stuff off then restart, my pace slow. Steady. Silent as two texters in an elevator. Hashtag — a super stealth ninja scaling a skyscraper with one swoop. Except I’m not leaping about. I’m fisting cool damp steel, while rumbling reverberates overhead. The ladder judders. My fingers slip. I slam forward, and my tooth bangs metal. Ouch! The sound boomerangs down and back up, spiraling annoyance through me as I tongue my tooth.

Great, it’s chipped. So much for stealth. Usually, I’m not clumsy. Must be the coffee. Four double espressos to swallow my nerves; nerves stretched into thin rubber bands that nearly snap when tiny paws patter.

Rats squeak. Tons of them skitter in the pipes below, fueling memories of them biting my flesh. Practically everything else I can deal with. Those rats though, they haunt me the most. No wonder I’m a hot wreck. Riddled by a dreadful feeling, the hairs on my arms stand as if a ghost is wafting past me. I take a deep breath, and my stilettos reach bottom.

I creep into the tunnel, anxious about my little slipsy; about the vagabonds lurking down here whom others dub urban legends aka the Mole People. I’m well aware of their capabilities, but I’m stronger now. They cross me again; I’ll bust out my badass brand of booty-bashing.

I swipe my phone from my bra and tap the flashlight app. Rock walls glisten on either side of me while water continuously seeps from the ceiling then drips on my shoulders and plops into the puddles of brown I step over. Gross. I plug my nose, the explosive-diarrhea stench going from bad to worse the further I tread. Sewers must be overflowing. Fairly expected, considering the pipes date back to president FDR. Label me a history nerd if you wish. I’ve read numerous articles on how Roosevelt hid his paraplegia by building this secret underground railway beneath the Waldorf Astoria Hotel and the largest subway terminal in New York City. Grand Central Station ain’t called grand for nothin’, peeps.

Grand is the sound of steel screeching above. When a train departs, the tunnel rattles while dirty dew peppers my dreadlocks. I brush off, then roam along the abandoned railroad, avoiding the poop puddles littering the ground. Out of one, a rat swims. Scurrying toward me, it appears to multiply into ten thousand rats staring at me with their beady eyes as if they might balloon into supervillain beasts with claws and fangs, vicious enough to feast on my bones. I gulp. Acid flip-flops in my gut until I dry heave. I grab my katana sheathed in my obi hip sash, the same katana my Samurai trainer, Master Hiroyoshi wore. A warrior much fiercer than I am — a courageous chica-ninja terrified of one measly rat.

Crazy, right?

I cover my face with my hands and repeat my mantra; It can’t harm me. I’m tougher than titanium.

I allow myself a yoga moment, a downward facing dog. I hold the pose for several seconds and inhale deeply. I exhale an “ommmmm.” Yep, I’m ridiculous, kowtowing in a shit-stinking tunnel, wearing booted stilettos and a pleather jumpsuit. Don’t judge. Ashtanga meditation relaxes me.

If only the rat listened to my “Get lost,” memo. I stomp until it scuttles away. “Adiós, nasty thang.”

I continue on but hesitate. People snicker in the distance, and I kill the light. Someone shrieks. Snickers louden, ricocheting off the walls I slither along, my pulse fast on my wrists. I thumb my katana’s pommel, my vision adjusting. Ahead, under an archway, I spy the gray outline of two men. One’s pudgy, the other, tall. They hunch over a female. She cowers, folding her arms over her head.

“Ennie menie minnie moe. Catch a hobo by her toes. Bitch fits my goals.” The pudgy man says.

The tall gangly one gropes her. “Got us a goldmine here. A real Chiquita banana.”

She shrieks again.

“Perfect tits and ass. Nice and tight.” The pudgy one says. “Prettier than that last butterface. He’ll dish out double for this one.”

Sex Traffickers. I’ve met their type. Ones who enslave a girl for the highest bid with the same vicious acts the Mole People committed against me. I won’t let them hurt another innocent girl. I yank my sword free, roaring at the top of my lungs. I sprint forward. They notice me. Too late. I slash the tall one’s throat. He flops.

The other fires what looks like a taser into the dark. Blue electricity whizzes past me, blasting huge holes in the rock walls. What kind of a taser-gun does that? Some new electrified semi-automatic? Another volt vooshes past me. I spring into the air and kick the pudgy one in the head. He hits a puddle.

“Name’s Pussy Reaper.” I blurt in my best Exorcist voice.

“You don’t scare me.” He scowls.

“Scary’s overrated.” I tilt my phone to the side then flash my camera on him, clicking his picture.

He squints, scooting back against the track.

“Tell me who you work for.” I stab my stiletto into his palm. He screams shriller than the girl behind me. “Guess big boys do cry. It’s alright. Won’t post your ugly pout on Tinder. I’ll iCloud it, so I can laugh at it later.” I dig my heel harder into his hand. He writhes. “Do it. Tell me who you work for.”

The tunnel shakes as more trains zoom above. I press my blade to his jaw. He squirms into the fetal position.

“Fine! Fine! You win. There’s this guy we sell to. Always wears a rat costume. Goes by Squealer.”

“Uh-huh. Try the frickin’ truth.”

“I told you the truth. I swear. I swear.”

“You can swear. Not gonna save you.” Jerks like him don’t change. World’ll be safer without him. I shove my blade into his chest then wrench it out. Blood flows to the ground, and another prick eats dust.

I kneel beside the girl. Something about her looks familiar. The way the green flecks in her eyes twinkle as if... Stop it. She’s gone. This girl only represents who I used to be, that snot-nosed runaway, easy prey for them. Twenty-four agonizing months has taught me more than in my entire seventeen-years of life.

The girl quivers. I hug her, letting her bawl in my arms.

“I’m so sorry,” I murmur over and over like a repeated iTune, like I’m consoling my younger-self and pouring warm chamomile over my severed spirit; wounds that run deeper than any tea can heal.

Someone claps. I smother my emotions.

“Wait here,” I say to the girl.

She nods, curling her knees to her chin. I rise. Tapping my phone to life, I tiptoe over the corpses and beneath the archway. I listen for the continuous clapping and aim my light through thick steam. Puffing from the pipes, it blinds my view.

“Impressive performance.” A man says with a nasally tone I recognize but can’t quite place. Doesn’t matter who he is, he’s gonna feel the force of my blade.

I elevate my katana.

“Put that down.”

Hell no. It’s dangerous to trust any man. Much less some sketchy sleaze who mixes creepy compliments with strict orders. He disgusts me, and I haven’t even met him. Haven’t even searched the second ladder I approach. I peer beyond the top rung to that grate in the ceiling. Honking drifts through the bars. Nothing abnormal about that since the Waldorf Astoria parking lot starts here. Problem is, I’m searching an empty ladder and unable to determine the man’s location. For all I know he’s looming near FDR’s old abandoned train. I sneak in its direction, inspecting its dull metal perimeter and the hotel’s secret elevator at its rear.

Thud. Thud. Thud…

Footsteps thud closer.

I whip around, my eyes slanted.

“Photos of you don’t give you justice, Catarina. Or is it Cat? That’s what they call you now, right?”

What the frik. Sly douche knows my real identity? Even has pictures? Ick.

“Quit toying with me,” I yell.

“Come now. Toys delight everyone.”

Thud. Thud. Thud…

Shivers sweep across my neck, feeding my hunch that I’m hunting the same Squealer the pudgy trafficker mentioned. I shine my phone around the corner to a second tunnel shrouded by more steam. “Show yourself, or I’ll dice you into bits and feed your carcass to the pigeons.”

“Right there. That’s the grit we need.”

We? My throat dries. “Count me out.” I scrape my blade against rocks. Sparks fly off the wall. “I’m done playing.”

“Oh, but we haven’t even started.”

A clang echoes as if cymbals clash. Electricity follows. Ping-ponging from all corners, crackling volts muffle what sounds like a dozen wolves stampeding.

Crap. I race in the direction of the stray girl.

“Hey, you!” I find the girl cuddling herself on the ground. “Get up!”

I grab her arm and rush her to the ladder.

She gapes at it, then at me. “I can’t do it.”

“Don’t have a choice.” I assist her with the first rung.

She lopes along. Not quickly enough. I hurry behind, nudging her. Footsteps pound our way, and she he picks up her pace. The ladder creaks. I glance down. Three men climb after, grasping at the air below us. We close in on the grate, and I stretch past her. I whack it open and prop her up and over me.

“Go.” I point beyond a line of cars to the garage exit. “Find the Covenant House. Tell Marta, Cat sent you. She’ll shelter you.”

“What about you?” The girl crawls to the pavement, her eyes widening as she gestures beneath me.

One of the men yanks my ankle. I kick him in the cheek. His head snaps back, and he topples off the ladder, screeching.

“Go! Now!”

The girl scrambles to her feet. She takes off, as another man grabs me by the waist. I rip from his grip. Propelling myself in a sideways twirl, I sweep my blade through two men on the ladder.

At least ten more appear once I land on the ground. I crouch low, dodging volts. I thrust my arms out, impaling gut after gut. Despite my waning energy, I push myself to the limit, stabbing a few men in the spine, two in the head until three remain standing.

One saunters toward me.

I flick my blade at him. “Any closer and you’ll end like your rotting buddies.” I shift my weight but my heel catches on something, unbalancing me. I tip forward, and my phone pops out of my bra. Smacking the ground, my phone shines a shard of light on the man’s arm revealing an eerily familiar crocodile-shaped scar. I suck in a breath. Fear trickles through me as I flash-back to that cage the Mole People locked me in; those metal bars and the rats atop me. The sickos they daily whored me to and this guard here with his unforgettable scar, the one I saw each time he reached for me.

Grundy. I shrink away, my spine thick with prickles.

“That soft skin I miss the most.” He thumbs my wrist, funneling vomit to my mouth, my stomach twisting from what he did to me. What they all did to me. I wheeze. The harsh memories, cycling through me, distract me from someone flanking my back.

I snag a peek over my shoulder. A massive man flings a chain sround my neck, strangling me. I gag, flailing my arms behind me, attempting to flip him. He’s too strong, too brutal. I feel myself going slack. All my blood beats furiously as I slump.

#

I float into a cloud. Rain showers my face while warm yellow rays stream into my entire being and hues of red, blue, and orange, flashing from my fingers, explode from me in a rainbow of colors that light the sky where an angelic figure hovers. Her black hair waving in a misty breeze, she shimmers in the sun as a glorious glow radiates from her.

I’m in heaven. How else could I be in the presence of her — my gorgeous twin sister? Dead almost two years, my one family member who lived long enough to want me. Gone. Guilt devours me, impossible to ignore. Impossible to release.

I collapse in front of her, clasping her hands. “Please, please. It’s my fault, my sweet, sweet Selah.” Tears flow to my chin and drip onto both our fingers. She embraces me, wrenching my fractured heart, my sea of loss.

“Stay with me.” I weep on her shoulder, for all the times the foster system ripped us apart, for the plans we shared under the lock of night, for the pact we made to always protect each other. “Forgive me.”

She whispers in my ear, “I love you.” Her body vanishes, a void chillier than the wind on my arms where I held her.

#

I wake shaking. Sweat coats me and soaks what feels like a wool blanket scratchy beneath me. Itchier than sand paper, it’s identical to the blindfold tied over my eyes, blacking out everything. My neck screams. My head throbs. My heart thunders a cadence as loud as the jarring music. Cellos. They whine minor chords. Dissonant. Dark. Dvo?ák. Same symphony played continuously when they first snatched me. Those awful moments. Weren’t for Marta, I’d still be a dropout on the street. Instead I’m college bound with a full-ride to NYU. Damn Mole People won’t steal my dreams again.

I wrestle to lift myself. Can’t. Cold cuffs shackle my wrists to whatever I’m lying on — A cot? A bench? A wood slab? Beats me. Entire set up is completely different from the last time.

Except for the squeaking. A rat. It skitters up my stomach, onto my face and bites my lip. I chomp at it. It claws my nose. I buck my head. Whooshing fills the air when the rat flies off and whomps the ground.

The music volume lowers. A ticking noise replaces it as if someone is trimming their nails.

Clip. Clip. Clip…

A man says, “Glad you joined us.”

“Haven’t joined you. Joining requires consent.”

“It’s free will you want then? That can be arranged. After all, I am a good person.”

“Depends on your definition of good.”

“Forget definitions. Focus on truth. Truth is a funny thing. Not everyone deserves it. Most warp it. Some ignore it. Others accept it. Only a brave few change it. That’s where you come in. We have a proposition for you.”

“Not interested.”

“We’ll see.”

Clip. Clip. Clip…

So gross. So awkward. So strange he’s trimming his nails during our bizarre conversation. Reminds me of — Ah, it’s not him.

“By the way, I have your book.”

My treasure? He has it? Where’d he find it? I clench my fists. “Give it to me.”

“Now you want something from me, huh? Said you weren’t interested.”

A train rattles above, sending vibrations off what might be a room around us? Hard to say for sure.

“Truth is, Cat. Your little rescue missions have damaged our reputation and our profits. Forced us to take less tasteful actions to appease deep, powerful, pockets. Come to a mutual understanding with us. That shelter you volunteer at.”

How the hell does he know about my senior internship? Oh right, he’s been photographing me. Seems he’s been following me too. Skeezy Mole Person, probably Squealer, better not harm any of my sweet friends.

“None of those girls have value. Orphans. Runaways. Rejects. Criminals. No one misses their type.” He skulks closer. My teeth gritted, he rubs my shoulder. I shrug away. “Bring us a few of them once a month. We’ll reward you. Rent you a suite in the Waldorf Astoria. Think of all the money you could make. The family you could have in us.”

Screams ring in the background. Slapping follows.

A man shouts, “Shut-it, bitch, or I’ll shut-it for you.”

More screams echo.

I war with my chains, clacking them against bed rails. “Good people don’t abuse girls.”

“Consider my offer.” His footsteps fade.

A door, or a heavy object, bams shut. The music volume increases, the instruments blaring in my ears.

“Turn it off already!” I yank my chains harder. They don’t budge.

“Psst,” Something goes. Probably another rat skittering around.

“Get outta here.” I yell.

“Keep it down.” Someone whispers close by.

Great, it’s a man’s voice.

“Need yer help.”

Why does this not surprise me? I roll my eyes. “Um. Hello. A little tied up here. Free me. Then I decide if you really need help.”

“Can’t. Unless ya promise.”

Seriously, what am I? A frickin’ priestess taking confessions? “State your name and what you want.”

“Call me Edison.”

His breath strokes my cheek.

My skin warms. Annoys me, my reaction. He’s gotta have an end game. All men do. Would shove him if I wasn’t restrained.

He leans closer to my face, inviting his smells of mud and sweat. I twitch my nose.

“Rumors ‘bout ya travel fast in dees tunnels.” He says. “Us Moles hear things.”

“Wait, wait. These thugs aren’t the Mole People?”

“Nah. Squealer’s pimpish rats give us Moles our nasty rap.”

My mind reels at Edison’s revelation. At the possibility I was wrong about the Moles. Maybe I’m not. “Trick me, and I’ll gut you, navel to nose.”

“Yo. Yo. No worries. My word’s, my bond.” He hushes when the music track finishes. It restarts, shriller than ever.

“Squealer nabbed three of my friends. My sista’, Treen too.”

His voice falters on the word sister, his emotion tangible, perhaps as raw as mine. Stings the backs of my eyes, the thought of her, Selah, how she perished at their hands.

“Listen, this bunker’s loaded with guards. Figure with yer added fightin’ skills, us Moles can save our peeps. So ya help or what?

“I’m in.”

He unties my blindfold, then snaps my shackles with something. Hacksaw? Pickax? Bolt cutter? Whatever it is, the sound competes with the rumbling of the next train departing overhead. In a matter of seconds, my wrists are unbound.

“Here. For you.” He sets a cool metal object in my palm. “Works dis way.”

He flicks a switch on the side and I drag on what feel like glasses. Shading everything green, they enhance my night vision while brightening the cot I was lying on, the chair Squealer sat in, and the four steel walls around us.

“Designed dees night goggles myself. ‘Mazin what aluminum scraps and welding can do.”

Crazy feat. He’s techy alright, moderately tall, a sculpted physique. Appears a bit older than me with a mohawk, a stud in his brow, and flame tattoos lining his temples.

Gah. What’s wrong with me? Scoping a guy I’ve only met. Must be cause I pity his situation. Been there. Makes sense...I guess. Though he could be playing me. Best to stay skeptical.

I spy my belongings on a table beside the chair and slip my phone in my bra and my katana in my obi hip sash but halt.

Beneath the chair rests what Squealer somehow poached from me. My tattered book, my treasure. My sister’s original collection of Dylan Thomas poems. All I have left of Selah. Left of a life stolen too quickly. Too cruelly. I drag in a ragged breath and let it swell in my chest until I regain my steel façade.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light, lingers on my lips as I tuck the book in my back-zipper pocket. I rotate to an open vent positioned below the ceiling.

Edison scrambles in and waves his hand out, offering it to me.

“No thanks.” I lift myself in and crawl after. Last thing I imagined doing today, worming my way through an air duct behind some strange and suspicious dude. Another downward-facing dog would be a real stress-reliever right about now.

The vent curves, diverting two ways. “Left, or right?”

“Left. Leads to the main control room.” Edison retrieves what resembles a pen from his pocket and clicks it. Light projects a holographic map before us.

“My one job,” he says. “Hack in and lift the security so my guys can get in. We’re a hefty bunch. Hope we tip da scales with ya.”

“Can’t make any promises.” I slither on my belly when the vent narrows. “Ya know, you could make a fortune off your mapper invention thingy.”

“Eh. Dis gadget ain’t worth a cent. Just a laser pointer I found and tinkered with. It’s my fun. Specially with all da trash norms ‘n richies dump down here. Us Moles use every shred we scrounge up. Only way to stay alive when you’re an orphan growin’ up in da tunnels.”

Orphan? My chin quivers. Same as me? Might be this guy is different from the others. A novelty, a male who is actually honest and nice. Seems a foolish fantasy to me, one I have no desire to test out.

Considering my track record with the male species, I’ve a right to doubt him. Then again, he did free me. That obligates me to offer him a chance.

I wedge myself over an indented slope. A train whooshes overhead, shaking the air duct. We freeze. Edison’s foot slips back. The vent sways. Buckles. Cracks like an egg around us.

Frik! I fall ass-first.

Edison follows, his arms flapping, two fish outta water. I land on all fours. He collides with a door, whamming it down in front of a wall of touch screen monitors where a guard whips toward us.

Grundy. His crocodile scar glows green under my night googles.

 “Here for some us time?” He glares up the length of me.

“Take your eyes off her.” Edison rights himself.

Grundy chuckles. “Your little boyfriend here thinks he’s Hercules. Doesn’t look so strong to me.” He staggers in front of Edison, taser-gun or whatever that gun is aimed.

Edison nabs his pick-ax. The gun zaps. I push Edison out of the way and swoop toward Grundy, missing the gun’s volt by an inch. It slams into the ceiling, cracking it across the middle while at my side, Grundy reaches for one of the touch screens. He taps it and a red button materializes — an alarm! I scramble for his hand. Too late. He smacks it. Sirens bleep.

Edison rises. He jabs his ax into Grundy’s side then rams him to the floor where I punch him out cold.

“Do what you need to do,” I yell over the sirens while Edison runs for the touch screen, immediately keying in codes.

The music stops. As do the sirens.

“I’ll slow ‘em down.” I bolt for a dimly lit hall gone deathly quiet until —

Shouts reverberate from all angles, followed by pounding footsteps and that same cymbal clash I heard earlier. I toggle my focus from left to right then zone in on guards. Two advance at the end of the hall. Two more tail behind.

“Prepare for your booty-bashing.” I prowl forward. Totally in ninja stealth mode. “Pussy Reaper’s here to play.”

I spin in a sideways somersault, then flip forward and body-slam the guards. They flop. Others, I skewer in the neck and in the spine, leaving the hall empty.

“Game’s over.” Someone snarls.

A hand clutches my shoulder. My lungs tighten. I slowly turn.

No one’s in sight. What’s going on?

Thud. Thud. Thud.

Footsteps thud down the hall closer and closer. The floor jolts for a second.

I steady myself on a wall, rotating multiple times. From every angle, laughing erupts.

Am losing my mind?

“Show yourself.” I holler.

Thud. Thud. Thud.

More footsteps thud. More guards round the corner. More electric volts voom past me. I hoist one of the corpses, using it as my shield. It convulses in my grip. Meeting a volt, it practically chars in my hands before I fling what’s rest of it, knocking three men down like bowling pins.

Then the weirdest thing of the night. The shooting ceases.

Most of the guards gape at me. A few snicker at someone surfacing at the rear of them. Squealer likely given his rat costume, uglier than a greasy toupee.

“Wow. Way to make a fashion statement.” I sashay in his direction; pretty certain his identity matches the man I’ve had a hunch about. “Some rats hide in sewers. Others lurk in shelters.”

“Wondered when you’d figure it out. Send Marta a smooch.”

“Eww. She’ll boot your filthy shitter out as quickly as she did the last time.” Demented douche, Marta’s ex-boy toy, Viktor. Stupid me for not connecting the dots earlier. I mean, how could I fail to remember his ickster come-ons? And then there was that fifteen-year-old girl he raped two years ago after I first moved into the Covenant House. Horrid to the max. “So what is this? Payback for sticking the cops on you?”

“Something like that.” He points upward. “Think fast.”

The lights flare on as do what look like huge sprinklers materializing on the ceiling. Water sprays everyone, drenching me to the bone and mixing with the blood covering the floor. It collects around my stilettos in a red creek, streaming under Edison who sneaks up on me at the exact moment whooping erupts. A swarm of Mole people, holding bladed shovels, storm for the guards.

Guns blam. Heads roll. Bodies fall.

Edison gestures me around the corner. We crouch under electric volts vooming toward another door we approach. I kick it down, racing inside where three cages, the size of dog kennels, sit, enclosing three girls. They cower on the floor, their bodies marred by bruises and lacerations I remember on my arms. My legs. My abdomen.

I try to move. Try to say something. My mind’s frozen at the sight of the girls who are climbing upwards. They rattle the bars identical to the ones that enslaved me for months. On that cold hard ground, I see myself huddled in ball, hear my moans of protest. Feel needles inject me and my eyes flip shut as fists punch me. Hands dig into my thighs then savagely invade the deepest parts of me while I lay motionless, drugged in a state of delirium, numbing out the smells of alcohol, the snide snickers of men and the pain still searing inside me. Almost bringing me to my knees, my trauma coils in my gut like a hundred vile vipers all striking me at once. I swallow globs of puke, sucking in stale breaths as I snap back to the present.

One girl, with a red pony-tail hobbles to her feet. “Edison!”

 “Treen!” He runs for her and thwacks the lock off. While I continue to stare, he hugs her.

Treen – beautiful same as Selah. She sobs on his shoulder exactly the way I pictured reuniting with my own sister. A moment robbed from me now spears my sternum. My agony, tearing into me, shreds the final fragments of my heart into a billon pieces smaller than my tears.

I blink them away, choking on my words. “Reunion can wait.” I force myself to into action and hack the locks off the other girl’s cages. While Edison assists Treen and a second girl, I offer a hand to the others and we make for the door where a Mole stands. 

“Dis way.” He ushers us down a hall soaked in a river of blood. Flowing beneath fried corpses and dismembered body, the river steadily rises as water continues to spray from above.

We step over the corpses and make for the next hall equally splattered in blood. Both Moles and guards attack each other, their shovels swinging and volts zooshing. Trains shuttle overhead as we hunch low darting faster than the guards racing after us. 

I pass the girls to Edison so he has all four. “Go.”

“I’ll return to help,” he says.

“Go! Now!”

They sprint out some metal doors at the end of the hall while I stay behind, joining the twenty remaining Moles. I leap above a line of blue volts and boot two guards in the face. Two others corner me.

I back against the wall where a guard presses his gun to my jugular.

The other does too. I gulp, my pulse pattering under two cool metal barrels.

 This is it. One shot and I’m done for. Done? Don’t want to be done. Do something, Cat.

I notice a Mole woman fighting her way past a group of guards and I elevate my katana between the legs of the guard in front of me, my teeth bared. “Take a number, boys. My dance card’s already full.”

“Snarky little thing.” One man sneers.

“Squealer likes ‘em tough.” The other snickers, blowing his onion breath in my face.

“Gross. Close your stinky mouth.” I narrow my eyes on him, watching the Mole woman rushing at their rear.

She beheads one.

 With an earsplitting crack, I slice through the crotch of the other.

He screeches.

“Your ugly lips need an update. Don’t mind if I do.” I rip my blade up past his skull then kick him down and fist-pump the Mole woman. “Owe you one.”

“No, we owe you.” She says. “One of those girls was my daughter.”

“My pleasure.” I hurry back into battle, unable to shed the waves of emotion flooding me.

How awful is it that I misjudged the Mole People who adopted and raised Edison — this kind guy. Labeling him as dangerous was completely wrong of me. He didn’t ask to be an orphan. Neither did I. Nor did Selah. Fate denied us all and stripped me of everything save the grief now drilling into my chest. Fierce and tense, my pain mirrors the guilt I carry for not reaching Selah before traffickers murdered her. They robbed me of my sister! Of my choice! Of my dreams!

I charge for the guards, cries bursting from my throat. My fury directed at them, I pound my blade into rib after rib. Wasted away rapists and assaulters tumble before me, deserving the deaths I serve. Deaths the Moles serve them. Deaths Edison witnesses once he returns to my side.

 “Girls safe?” I impale two more guards then glimpse his way.

“Yup. Got them to Tent City.”

“Tent city? What’s that?”

“Our home.” He axes the last straggling guard. The body drops atop piles of corpses as soaked as I am beneath this water continuing to pour from the ceiling for some mysterious reason. Odder than odd. Between rows of Moles ahead, I spy something floating out of the ceiling. A pale skeletal face opens its fanged mouth then vanishes from sight. “Did you see that?”

“See what?”

“Ah … Nevermind.” It’s obvious my brain’s playing tricks on me.

“Let’s ditch this bunker.” Edison says.

Nothing would make me happier. We head out a main door beside a handful of Moles. With blood and sweat dripping from their brows, they crowd into a dilapidated pick-up truck complete with rail wheels. They drive toward the ladder where I first entered. Where my first battle began. Here I’m on my third life, watching my new friends, the Moles exit while I follow Edison to a motorized scooter. Rusted on each end, its middle is indented with eroded cracks that span to its bottom.

 “Junk-yard material there. That even work?”

“Yo, yo. No knocking, Sherice. Built her myself. Electric efficient even.” He straddles it and pats the bike’s tapped handle bars. “Listen to her purr.”

Purr? Sounds like a barking dog. A dog that’s ugly and old but the kind of rejected dog I would take in. Meh, it’s pretty lit that he reconstructed this.

“Guess it’s not so shabby.” I hop on after Edison and rest my head on his muscled bicep. As we zoom off, a clicking hiss erupts from behind.

Great. What now? I shoot a glimpse over my shoulder.

Unbelievable. The bunker is gone, replaced by an old abandoned subway platform propped above a flowing river. Someone mind explaining where the hell that bunker went? I must be seeing things. Must be hearing things too cause I swear an engine is revving.

Right there! On the platform, a Jeep veers into view. Shuttling forward, it gains on us.

 “Shit!” I tighten my hold on Edison’s torso. “Faster!”

 We speed up. Nearing FDR’s old train, we skid on a fallen pipe. The force flying me from my seat, I flail through the air. Doused by water, jetting from the pipe, I land face-first in a puddle of raw sewage. Ugh. Talk about repulsive. Gonna need ten showers after this.

I roll to my knees, brakes eeking at the rear of me.

“Come on.” Edison reaches for me. I take his outstretched hand and we careen around the train until we reach the gate in front of the ancient Hotel Astoria elevator. He chops at it with his ax.

Clack. Clack. Clack.

Footsteps clack nearer.

“Hurry!” I help Edision. With my katana, I thwack at the gate too. Not fast enough.

Squealer whips me around. Two guards scowling at either side of him, Grundy jumps off the train’s roof and lands before me, gnashing his yellowed teeth.

“Go buy a toothbrush.” I twirl out of Squealer’s clutches and knife Grundy in the gut. Grundy keels over, the guards shooting my way. I duck. Edison axes two in the head. The final guard retreats and I push a button on the side of the elevator.

“She stays.” Squealer snatches my wrist, yanking me away from the opening elevator.

I pivot and hack his hand off. He collapses, howling and holding his bleeding stump. His mask half off, exposes his true-self — Viktor; bald headed, skinny nosed with pocks in his cheeks.

“Thanks for the souvenir.” I lift his severed hand then yank his ruby ring off a finger. A small compensation for the agony I suffered under each of those traffickers, a bunch of devils just like Viktor.

He writhes on the ground.

I snort. “Pussy Reaper hurt the poor little rat baby.” I snap his picture with my phone. “This one I’ll hang on my wall next to the others. Now.” I tilt my chin upward. “Tell me who you work for.”

I dig my stiletto into his ankle.

He whimpers. “That’s our secret.”

“Ours huh? Give me a name.” I press my blade to his neck.

“There’s the spirit.” He musters a sly sneer. “I do enjoy your sass.”

“Enjoy this.” I thrust my blade into his chest. His body stills, a reassuring sight after all my trauma. “Adiós, nasty thang.”

Edison spits on Vicktor’s corpse then revolves toward me, brushing my shoulder with his hand.

I gaze at him, his lips inches from mine. “Sure you wanna be this close? I reek.”

He chuckles, his breath swirling into mine. “Take my chances with the wildest girl I ever met. Indebted to ya big time.” His expression grims, a crease in his brow. “My peeps’ll always be targeted by any pimps and traffickers The Suits hire next. We make a sick team, you and I. Join me. Let’s rise against Thugocracy.”

Why shouldn’t I? Cause I’m scared to trust a guy? Screw that. It’s my chance to avenge Selah. To deliver girls from bondage. Life’s a dandelion in the wind, too frail for the seeds of yesterday. It calls me to brave that wild gale before my gentle lays waste. Believe me, Dylan Thomas, that good night needs my gentle.

I choose to grow my gentle for me.


© Copyright 2018 Joy Shaw. All rights reserved.

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