Party 7-Vignette


Not The Prettiest Girl in Town

2 years ago, or thereabouts

Flint Perez slammed through the door at a dead sprint, sending it rocketing back on its hinges to smash into the wall behind it. Cheap sneakers skidded on the concrete as he turned, creating loud squeaks that echoed back through the corridors behind him.

He wasn’t sure how long he’d been running, or even where he was. He’d started at the bottom of the office complex, and he didn’t think he’d gone up more than three sets of stairs, but was one floor one set or two? The windows were all boarded over, so he couldn’t look out to get a sense, and even if they weren’t, he didn’t exactly have the luxury of being able to stop. Not with those people on his tail.

The boards were inexpertly placed, and light leaked through in places, casting orange beams that illuminated the dust particles hanging in the air, and settling into odd patches on the desks and chairs that, for some reason, had been left behind when they removed the carpets and stripped the walls. Another time, perhaps, it would’ve been pretty, and a small voice in the back of his mind urged him to take a snapshot, to remember it so he could draw it later. The voice, he thought to himself, did not have his priorities straight.

What he didn’t understand was where they’d come from. He’d seen Edith walk into the condemned office block, like she had every single other time he’d followed her here. The only thing he’d done different this time was follow her in, and he’d been thorough beforehand; there hadn’t been anyone watching. And yet when he’d sidled through the front door and approached the counter, the door had slammed behind him. When he’d turned, two people stood in the doorway.

A man and a woman, costumed. The man, a white high collar that made him look like a priest over thick navy robes, and a domino mask of the same color. Shiny blond hair fell to his shoulders, and a smirk twisted his mouth. The woman, a crown of thorns over a shaved head, red (red!) eyes unnaturally blank, tattered cloth hanging loose from every limb. It was stained in places with a deep, blotchy crimson, and he really didn’t want to find out if it was part of the costume or not.

“Lost, little boy?” It was the man had spoken, but Flint had found himself focusing on the woman. She was… nothing. Her eyes looked at him, but they didn’t seem focused. Her posture was taut or relaxed, her bearing aggressive or peaceful. Was she even breathing? He couldn’t tell. Although the man was being more aggressively creepy, the woman was far more unnerving.

He hadn’t realized he’d been backing up until his back hit the desk. And so he’d run. The man had obviously expected a dialogue, perhaps an exchange of witty repartee, but Flint saw no reason to stand around chatting when two obviously-hostile supers appeared in front of him. He’d broken away to the left, into the stairwell next to the lifts, ignoring the loud cracks and plums of dust from behind him. And he’d kept running.

He fumbled his phone from his pocket as he weaved through the maze of desks, nearly dropping it a few times. Hastily, he flicked through menus and, after a few false starts, dialed the number he’d memorized.

It rang three times, then clicked, and a voice spoke. “‘ello?”

 “Lisette?”

“Yeah,” she replied warily. “Who’s this?”

“I-it’s Flint. Flint Perez? You gave me your number, after,” he paused to take a deep breath, “the alleyway?”

“Oh yeah, I remember ya. Whatsup?”

He rattled off an address, stuttering over a few words. “There’s two people here, chasing me. They’re supers, I think. No, they’re supers for sure. You said-” he grunted as he went through the door to the stairwell, “I could call you if I needed help. I- I really need help. Please.” He lowered his voice. “They’re gonna kill me.”

There was a brief pause, in which all he could hear was the slapping of his feet in the stairwell. Then a hiss of breath. “Dammit. I’m on a job right now, so this ain’t gonna be easy. But… dammit!” she swore again. “Can ya get to the roof in about three minutes?”

“I’m almost there already,” he panted. He’d left the other stairwell in the hopes of throwing them off, but it had been a silly idea, and he was taking this one all the way to the top.

“Then can ya stay alive for three minutes?”

“I-” his voice broke. “I don’t know.”

“Try,” she said firmly. “Good luck.”

The phone beeped, and without even thinking, he threw it over his shoulder, hearing it crack with a mighty boom. No, wait, that was his pursuers. They were obviously going to catch up to him, soon.
He poured everything he had into his legs, taking the stairs two, then three at a time, bounding up higher and higher. Finally, with a wince of pain at his maligned shoulder, he broke onto the rooftop.

It was a plain concrete block, marred only by the door he’d exited from and a few scattered pieces of ventilation equipment. The setting sun cast a warm, rosy glow over the scene, low shadows lying flat and long over everything. Around him, buildings of various sizes and styles towered and sat, watching impartially. Again, he was struck by how pretty it was, and again, the irrational urge came to pull out a pencil and some paper and sketch it. Not that he had his supplies on him, but still.

Lacking better options, he ran over to one of the pieces of air-conditioning equipment and dove behind it, pushing his body as close to it as he could. There was a small gap between the bottom of the block and the ground, and he could just see the door from
Not a moment too soon. The door blew open, skidding away, and a network of cracks spread out through the floor. Out of the doorway stepped the man, and then another man stepped out behind him. Flint blinked. No, his eyes weren’t deceiving him: it was the same person, just… twice. Three more duplicates stepped out, and then the woman, and he gave an involuntary shiver.

“Come out to play, little boy,” called the man, five of the same voice in unison. “We can always just collapse this whole roof in, so this is really the best option for you.”

As Flint watched, the cracks spread through the entire roof, hairline fractures and larger fissures passing underneath with slight crunches. Somehow, he didn’t doubt they’d actually do it. 
Especially not that woman.

He looked at his watch. It’d been a minute and a half since the call. He’d just have to hope he could last for that long, and that that Lisette girl would come through on time.

Slowly, he pushed himself off the ground and stood up, facing the… well, he doubted they were heroes.

“What do you people want with me?” he asked, his voice shaking a little. “I haven’t done anything.”

“Ah, but you have!” the man… men, replied. “You followed someone here, didn’t you, little lamb. Do you have a crush on her? Do you stalk her to prove your love?”

“Edith,” he said quietly, almost to himself. Then, louder: “What have you done with her?”

The men laughed. “Done? We’ve done nothing. Where you went up, she went down.”

It took him a second to realize what he meant. A chill ran through him, bone deep. Edith was associated with these people? Why? How? Were they blackmailing her? Why hadn’t she told him?
“Please,” he said out loud. “Just… just let me go, please. I won’t tell anyone…” What? That he’d seen some people go into a building? That they’d attacked him. “I won’t tell anyone anything,” he finished lamely.

“Oh, no, that won’t do at all,” said the men lightly. “You’re going to have to die, I’m afraid. I don’t suppose you’d like to throw yourself off the edge like the lemming you are? No? Shame?”

The men charged at him, glowing faintly in slightly different colors. Underneath his feet, he felt the concrete shift and change, as the cracks expanded and contracted in seemingly random patterns.
He looked at the oncoming threat, head full of panic, heart pounding, and something inside him clicked.

Suddenly he could see it, see the momentum. The men, approaching him like arrows to skewer him, surrounded in thin faint coatings that almost seemed soapy. The little flickers of the woman’s hands, the strange gyrations and motion of the cracks in the concrete, also shrouded in that same sensation. And he could feel the cold in his core, springing up and out through his hands. He focused it, like forming a lasso, and threw it, flinging out his hand. It wrapped around the men, and without knowing quite what he was doing, he yanked.

There was a sickening series of cracks, and the men collapsed to the ground. They didn’t slide forward, but just went straight from moving forward to moving downwards, a change that did not do good things for their legs.

Flint stared at them, wild-eyed, as they screamed, legs crumpled and bent at horrifying angles. “I-I,” he stammered, “I’m s-sorry, I-I didn’t-”

The ground collapsed out from underneath him.

He fell in a shower of concrete, landing one level down on a sturdy desk. It crumpled as he hit, and there was a sharp sting of pain from his tailbone.

For a moment, he just sat, watching the light filter down through the dust. Then, in a flash of white, Edith was standing in front of him.

“E?” he asked, disbelieving, as she grabbed his arm and pulled him from the wreckage. She was wearing all white, what looked like loose clothing, except it sparkled. He stumbled as he stood. “What’s going… who are these… why are you-”

She cut him off with a wave of her hand, not looking at him, but staring up through the hole, eyes narrowed. “Flint, you shouldn’t have followed me here. This is why I said we couldn't- You need to go, now.”

“But-”

“NOW!” she roared, and his legs obeyed without any concious thought, running towards the staircase.

He looked back to see her disintegrate into a cloud of white. And though his mind was full of terror and confusion, he found himself wondering exactly who this person that he thought he knew actually was.