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The girl was lying in the entrance of the alley, shivering. Water pooled all around her from the torrential downpour. It soaked her to the core and made her designer clothes look like rags and the perfect curls in her hair hang lifelessly around her face. Her eyelids fluttered pathetically, her lips forming words that she didn’t have the breath to voice. She tried to raise her hand to her bleeding neck, but it just flopped by her side like a dying fish. The blood continued to pour steadily from the wound in her throat and she watched, helplessly, as it mingled with the water around her, turning it into a murderous pink. Her vision started to tinge black around the edges, and she knew she was going to die.
Footsteps. Someone was coming.
In a dark corner of the alley, she watched as a shadow moved restlessly. She heard it muttering to itself as it pushed itself closer to the wall, trying to hide from the approaching noise. As the footsteps grew louder, the shadow stilled.
She heard a man’s voice, talking on a phone. “Yes, I know that… I’m fully aware of that, but just… Would you just let me speak?… Well, you heard wrong, I’m afraid, and…”
The footsteps were so close now she was sure the man would trip over her if he didn‘t stop walking. She tried to turn her head towards him and the resulting pain in her neck made her whimper quietly. The footsteps stopped.
“Just a minute, James… Who’s there?” The man called. He could see nothing in the darkness. “Hello?”
He took one more step, which allowed him to see into the alley. He swore loudly and dropped his phone, rushing over to her.
“S***, s***, s***,” he cursed, unsure of what to do. He fell to his knees beside her and checked her pulse and breathing, exhaling sharply when he found she was barely alive. “What happened? Can you hear me?” When the only response he could see was a slight quiver of her eyelids, he scrambled to his feet and turned to snatch up his phone from the floor.
Except it wasn’t there anymore.
“What the-” he gasped, his eyes searching the wet ground for it but finding nothing. He turned back to the dying girl, determined to help in some way. He tore a strip of fabric from his sweater and pressed it to the wound in her neck. She tried to mumble something to him.
“I’m Nick. What’s your name?” He asked, trying to keep her conscious and hoping someone with a working phone would walk by soon enough to save her. He leant down so that his ear was next to her mouth in an attempt to hear her nearly silent answer.
“Run,” she muttered, “he’s here.”
And with the last bit of energy in her body, she pointed one feeble finger towards the darkest corner of the alley. The man named Nick looked in the direction she pointed as her body went limp in his arms.
In the corner, a shadow extricated itself from the darkness. As it walked slowly towards Nick, it’s feet came into view first. It was barefoot. Nick’s eyes travelled upwards, taking in the tattered jeans and bloodstained shirt. He lay the girl hastily on the ground and rose to his feet. The Shadow stopped so that its face was still immersed in darkness.
Nick struggled to remain calm, but the blood that coated the front of the Shadow’s shirt made his head spin. “Do you… Do you have a phone?“ he stuttered as he backed away from the Shadow. “She needs an ambulance.” He gestured shakily towards the girl, although it was clear she was already dead.
The Shadow- Nick couldn’t stop thinking of it as a shadow, despite the fact that it was clearly a man- merely tilted its head to the side slightly. It stepped forwards so that its feet splashed into the puddle of watery blood lying beside the dead girl’s body, which gave Nick his first clear view of its face.
It looked like a skull, skin stretched tightly over bones, so pale that Nick wondered if there was any blood in it at all. It had sparse clumps of matted grey hair, along with many angry-looking cuts, some that were healed and some that looked very recent, covering his face and neck. Its eyes looked rheumy as they focused on Nick with a deranged glare, its lips a dark red that contrasted with the paleness of its skin. Nick watched as the corner of its mouth twitched restlessly, almost forming a smile.
And at that moment, Nick knew he was looking at a murderer, looking into the eyes of Death itself.
“Death,” said the Shadow. It had a raspy voice that was almost too quiet for Nick to hear. Almost, but not quite. “Yes, some call me Death, but I prefer the name you seem to have given me. The Shadow. Although, I am a ‘he’, not an ‘it’.”
Nick continued backing away slowly. Had it just read his mind?
“Of course it didn’t read your mind. That’s impossible, Nick,” it rasped, stepping over the body and closer to Nick.
But it had. It had just plucked a thought right out of his mind and answered it.
Nick turned, thinking of running, and slammed straight into a solid wall of flesh. He looked up to see the Shadow’s face smiling eerily down at him. He turned again and ran two steps before the Shadow reappeared in front of him. It lifted a pale, bony hand and gripped him around the neck. It was surprisingly strong, considering how skeletal it looked.
“Did I not just tell you?” It growled. “He. I’m a he.”
Nick scratched frantically at the hands encompassing his neck, but the grip didn’t loosen once. The Shadow pushed him up against the cold brick wall of the alley and examined him with cold, cruel eyes. Nick could see now why its lips were so dark in contrast to its skin. They were covered in blood.
The Shadow lifted him from the ground by his neck and slammed him hard against the wall. Stars floated in front of his eyes.
“Why are you not listening to what I’m telling you?”
Nick kicked out with one of his dangling feet as hard as he could, but the Shadow didn’t even flinch. Its grip on his neck tightened.
“You are really starting to piss me off,” it hissed, and then it leant in and sniffed him. Actually sniffed him, one long inhalation that was clearly meant to get his scent. “And I don’t like getting pissed off.”
It started to laugh manically, a harsh, breathy laugh that drove an icy spike of pure fear into Nick’s heart. Well, that and the fact that it had fangs. Real, honest-to-God fangs, shining unnaturally in its mouth.
Nick struggled with all the energy in his body, willing the adrenaline in his blood stream to help him escape. But the Shadow simply laughed some more before moving its hands from around his neck to grasp him firmly on the shoulders, pinning him right up against the wall. It smiled at Nick one last time and then, so quickly that it was a blur, put its blood-coated lips to his neck and bit down.
Nick tried to scream but all that escaped his lips was a gurgled moan. He was in agony, and it wasn’t only restricted to his neck. He felt it from the ends of his toes to the top of his head, a feeling of not only his blood, but his life being drained out of him in an excruciating process that left him unable to move, barely able to breath. He slumped against the wall, but the Shadow held him up.
It wasn’t like in the movies, where the fangs make two tiny pinpricks in the victim’s neck. Nick had seen it on the girl, and he knew it was happening to him now. The fangs weren’t just for piercing, but also for tearing. He felt the Shadow rip his throat open, making wounds that Nick knew would be fatal. He wasn’t going to live.
And just as he thought that, the Shadow pulled away from him and let go of his shoulders. He flopped lifelessly to the ground with a dull thud as the Shadow stepped over him.
“Of course you’re not going to live,” it said simply, beginning to walk away. “That’ll teach you to learn the difference between ‘he’ and ‘it’.”
It wiped the sleeve of it’s shirt along its mouth as it disappeared into the shadows, its quiet laughter the last noise Nick ever heard.