My first instinct was to head to my mom’s house. Even with our little family, Mom was always there for me. She may not believe any of it, but I knew she would be there for me. I was raised to only believe what I could prove. I could prove that I was hurt, but what I couldn’t prove is beings, that didn’t exist, had done them to me. As far as I knew we had no history of mental illness in our family. I didn’t know much about my dad’s side of the family. He died when I was really young and mom never mentioned any of his family members. I don’t know why I never asked her once in twenty-two years about any relatives I might have roaming the earth. I didn’t really know her side of the family all too well either though. I knew drunken Aunt Renee and poor Uncle Jeff who had the sense to run away and never come back when he realized what he got himself into by marrying her. Both of mom’s parents passed long before I was old enough to remember. Now that I thought about it, they died within a year of dad. How had mom kept it together? I’m not sure I would have.
She kept a roof over our head even when the old house burnt to the ground. She had us in an apartment in less than six hours after losing our house to keep me in the same school. We lived in a few apartments and even a trailer for a while but she made sure I kept up my “self-protectin” as she called it. She never cared what martial art it was, she wanted me to learn some of it. Every time something bad would happen to a child she would point and say “See, I want you to kick their butt if they try that with you. I won’t let anybody take my baby from me.”
One of the large Scion’s was actually trying to chase me down. I guessed he was the only one I didn’t injure. I hit the gas and his image in the mirror started shrinking as I got my baby up to sixty. I made some ground until I slowed to turn toward mom’s. I swerved and missed the Scion by inches. Somehow he knew where to cut me off. That meant he knew where I was going. If I went anywhere closer to my mom’s house she would be in their line of fire. I jerked the steering wheel and took the first right heading away from her house. The Scion reappeared in my rear view, if I was going to get away from him, the interstate was the only place to keep this speed. I turned again and headed for I-65 south. If it took very long to get away from them, today being payday and my super car were my only blessings.Every few miles I would change my mind and alternate between believing all of that stuff happened, and needing to get some medical help instead. Then I would think about the lengthy hospital stay involved and decide against turning around.
I stopped for gas at the northern border of Georgia. The station wasn’t very well lit but the needle on my gas gauge didn’t seem to care. Stretching my legs again felt like heaven. I could just make out the attendant in the store staring intently at the monitors on his desk. I was nearly halfway finished pumping the gas when my stomach decided to weigh in on the situation. I didn’t get the uneasy feeling until I was halfway to the store. Part of my mind convinced me I was being paranoid and the earlier encounter was a horrible trick someone had played on me. All six coworkers singing their versions of happy birthday. No, actually only five sang. I’m not sure if the new guy even knew my name. I remembered his black hair, his general thin build, but I couldn’t place his face now. That only increased my belief that something was wrong with my head. Was I having a nervous breakdown? I should be able to remember little things like that.
By the time I reached the shabby store, I was convinced it was all in my head. That didn’t excuse my hunger though. I could just get some gas, chalk this up to a nervous breakdown of some kind and get back to work Monday. I picked up a pack of spicy beef jerky and some water and went to the register to pay for it.
The slimy feeling surrounded me. I nearly dropped my items on the counter as a full body shiver rolled from my spine to my head. The clerk didn’t even flinch. He began automatically scanning my items never looking away from my face. That wasn’t creepy at all. Neither was the leering smile. The smile didn’t reach his eyes; it just hung there with his lips slightly parted. His lips were cracked and dry and his teeth looked like an ad for dental hygiene. His blue eyes and blonde hair were out of place with his darker complexion. My guess was colored contacts and a bad bleach job, maybe some strong drugs for good measure. He didn’t say what the total was, instead pointing to the screen showing me the numbers. I looked down as I went for my wallet and noticed for the first time just how dirty his blue smock was. It had dark brown almost black stains everywhere. He was definitely not the clean type.
The moment I looked down to my purse to get my wallet something snapped my head backwards. I could feel something wrapped tightly in my hair and pulling hard. No one else had entered the store after me and it didn’t make any sense until my gaze swept across the clerk again. The dark complexion gave way to a translucent ghost image surrounding a black sinew face, complete with shock white hair and violent looking blue eyes. I had no way to balance against the pull from behind me, so I reached out and grabbed for the counter. The smooth surface slipped through my fingers and my head and back struck the ground at the same time. I tucked my arm against my purse and tried to roll to the right but the hand holding my hair was wrapped tightly.
I got my body twisted just enough to see my attacker. If the ones that jumped me at my house were big, this guy was on steroids. In the bright lights of the store I saw something I missed before. The black sinew that covered him was actually moving not just re-knitting a wound, but moving around him in oil slick patches. What looked like corded black ropes before were more gelatinous and oozing. I fought the urge to be sick as I looked at something so horribly wrong. A fresh wave of pain helped. He pulled tighter and dragged me ten feet across the floor.
I could hear more commotion on either side of me but he had my hair pulled so tightly I couldn’t look even if I wanted to. In my mind I was already working out their positions. I had to find a way out of this. The first thing would be to break his hold on my hair. If I didn’t do that, anything else I did would be useless. The moment I stopped sliding I kicked both feet up and over, letting my momentum turn the movement into a double legged kick at his head. I missed his head and caught him in the throat instead. No matter what these things were, they needed to breathe. The sudden impact shocked him enough to let go of my hair and moved him a few feet back clutching for his throat.
I bounced when I struck the ground on my side, I didn’t think about sticking the landing after trying to be super gymnast. I got to my feet as quick as I could, being sure to stay out of steroid boy’s reach.
I felt the attack coming before I actually saw it. It felt like black spots of tar arranged around me. Each spot was accompanied with the sound of claws on tiled floor. I ducked and rolled towards the only open area I could find. The one I felt coming first, crashed into one of the shelves. She managed to impale herself on the little hooks the candy hung from and stuck to them. She didn’t even twitch as her body started just pooling into a puddle. I didn’t even get a breath between seeing her hit before the one that was still wearing the ghostly image of the store clerk hit me in the middle of my side, driving me back to the ground again. I tried to tuck and roll with it but my head hit the tile hard. My vision blurred for a split second, it was still long enough for the other one to drive a fist into my ribs in the same spot. The shock of my rib breaking sent my adrenaline into overdrive. I had to get out of here. I didn’t have any weapons, it was a three on one fight and I really couldn’t imagine any way I might make it out alive.
I just started making a plan to deal with them individually, when another clawed hand came for my face. I wasn’t even sure which one it was, I went on pure instinct and training. I managed to move my face away from the claws just in time and grabbed the arm they were attached to. I pushed as hard as I could on the elbow while pulling back with the Scion’s forearm. A loud pop was the only satisfaction I got before I felt four claws rake down my back. My back was on fire with pain. I also felt something else burning. The hand I had on the Scions forearm had blue-white flames all around it and the flames ran across the Scion’s body like I had poured gas on her. There was an unearthly scream and the burning Scion fell into the one that grabbed my hair earlier. Now he was on fire as well. The blue-white flames were scorching everything around, but I couldn’t feel any heat from it. The one still wearing the smock stood still for a blink of the eye, Then he did something I didn’t expect. He ran.
The store was quickly becoming engulfed with blue-white flames from the Scions. I wanted to find out more about who or what these things were, but if I didn’t get out of the store fast, I was going to be trapped with them. I ran as fast as I could with the pain in my back from the cuts and a broken rib.
OK, run might be an overstatement, it was more of a hobble. I grabbed at the water and jerky as I went by the counter and headed for the door hoping the Scion in the smock wasn’t waiting in ambush. Luckily enough, he wasn’t. Had I actually scared one of them off? I was looking at my hand as I made my way to the car as fast as I could manage. It was no longer burning, and it really didn’t look like anything had happened to it. My fingernails were all broken, but other than that my hand looked like it always did. I grabbed the door handle of my car and realized just how hard it was to climb into a car quickly with a broken rib.
I managed to get myself in and start the car. It wasn’t very long before I felt the back of the seat growing wet from the cuts on my back. I sped off as quickly as I dared, considering I was leaving a burning convenience store and got back on the interstate. Now I had to figure out what those things were, why they wanted to kill me, and finally at what point I learned to become a superhero with flaming hands of justice.