It was the last days of Sodom – or so the religious said. What did they know? Really? They walked past ten people a day that could talk to Gods. Real life Gods. But they weren’t the right kind of Gods, so they called them Heathens. We called them Kneelers. Powerful, I guess. One of the Five. Or was it six? No one could make a definitive statement on Actys. On us. On me.
The night tickled his ears, rain dripping in steady drops to the beat of his footsteps. A dog watched him warily, defensively, over a half rotten pigeon that just lay on the cycle path. Its ears flat against its head, his lips quivered in preparation for a snarl. This was his food. His meal. Gods know he got so few nowadays. The boy walked past, barely noticing the hound. The dog was happy. He tore hungrily at the stringy meat of the dead bird.
I could hear him. Maybe it. He was about fifteen feet behind me, his feet light on the tarmac – practiced; but so were my ears. Trained to sift through the wind’s whispers and the tap, tap, tap of potential threats. He was bigger than me and must not have known I cups hear him. He’d have fallen back if he thought I was aware of him. A practiced hunter would. Although, perhaps he wasn’t practiced. Not everyone had a dad that made them run apocalypse drills at 5a.m. every morning. Though maybe they should, what with the apocalypse on its way and all.
His breath quickened, a white mist whipped away by a passing breeze. He felt his stomach churn, the adrenaline like a mint to his fear’s diet coke. A path of amber puddles spilled from long, silver necked flamingos lining the narrow path. They led to a lake of yellow haze, just on the far side of a dark, foreboding overpass that crossed the train line. A pure, heavenly light pierced the unending black on the horizon. Relief swept through the boy, a train was on its way.
Just a few more seconds…
The sparks crackled at his heels, screeching into the night like the dying gasps of beetles beings quashed underfoot. He saw the yellow and green lights dance by his feet but kept his eyes focused on the train and his ears on the Dealer behind him. He knew that if he stopped he’d be dead. No sane Dealer was so open about their craft.
“You not want some of this?” the Dealer said.
He froze. Slowly, every inch of his body fighting his curiosity to turn his ass back around, he turned towards his pursuer.
“You’re a girl,” his voice cracked on the last word.
“Uh-huh. Sound like your one too though, your voice breaking and that. Can’t a girl be a Dealer? No?” she jutted out her hip and flicked her hair in a faux move towards femininity.
She’s so beautiful. Her eyes, they’re purple. Deep and rich like the cloaks of ancient monarchs. And her body…it’s so slender – yet muscular. The way she holds herself, it’s like she was born a Queen and the rest of us don’t know it yet.
Her fingers twitched as if they itched and she stepped towards him.
“You’re kind of cute,” she said coyly, though he knew it was a ruse. He’d never felt so scared in all his eighteen years. “In a wimpy sort of way.”
“What’s your name?” he asked.
“Oh honey, you don’t need to know that. All you need to know is that I’m the Gatekeeper to Heaven and I’m offering you a free ride,” she laughed as she threw her hands up towards him and let her power flow.
He raised his hands, his power forming a rough shield before him. It wavered, just for a second, before throwing her power back at her. Her eyes widened in fury, her body pulsing with anger, she threw another bolt – a syringe of her magical drug – and another and another. Each one he deflected only just in time, as he stumbled backwards. He knew he only had one chance to get away.
Everyone, even the withouts, knew how dangerous Dealers were. All it took was one huge hit of their power on you and you’d be hooked. Day after day, hour after hour, you’d rob, mug, deprave yourself and even murder to get enough money to buy your fix. There was something potent about a Dealer’s power and the boy’s father told him it was because it came with no responsibility. A Dealer got you and it wasn’t your fault. So what you burned down a hospital, it wasn’t your power so it couldn’t be your fault. Nothing was more addictive than freedom. Or remaining inculpable.
Throw her back! Throw her back!
He focused his power the way his father had taught him and hurled it out wide around him. She felt it but couldn’t see it. An invisible wall that stopped her mid-step and stopped her power from reaching him. He knew it wouldn’t last.
I don’t remember my feet ever moving so quickly. Don’t trip. Don’t slip. Don’t let her get you or its over.
The train pulled like a slithering snake into the station. The conductor barely bothered that he was running towards him, the bored middle-aged man chose to flick the switch that shut the carriage doors and promised himself a beer if the boy made it. Inch by inch the door closed more and more, he could feel her on his heels, her fury giving her speed he couldn’t match. All he had was his head start, born from her underestimation that he was anything other than a Without. His chest seized up in panic, his heart aflame behind his ribs. His thighs straining, he threw himself into the air, cussing himself for not trying harder when his father had taught him how to push himself with his power.
If I make it, I’ll try harder.