Back Alley

Rent is low and crime is high on the west side of downtown near the old industrial district. Abandoned factories and business stretch dozens of stories into the sky, while remnants of unchecked air pollution drape the surrounding blocks in a permanent gray. Cracks and potholes have all but destroyed roads leading in and out of the area, and if there were still traffic, the city long abandoned efforts to repair damage that would only reappear within a day's time anyways. With transients and the lowest of the low income occupying the remaining buildings, street gangs quickly moved in to annex the territory, mostly purposed for safe houses and drug exchanges. Everyone knew who occupied the alley on west 35th street, however, and even the most ruthless and dangerous criminals give a wide berth.

None recall what purpose the alley served before the collapse of the industrial district; it's of little consequence, as these days most simply make it a point to stay the hell away from there. The surrounding buildings had been condemned for a decade before strange stories started popping up, mostly missing persons who had wandered in looking for a shortcut. After several reported disappearances, local authorities launched a full investigation, sending an entire team to the alley—a disastrous incident where none of the dispatched returned, and blood-curdling screams emanated from the depths for hours before dying away. Police immediately barricaded off the area and monitored from a safe distance for months until they could safely conclude whatever lurked back there had no interest in leaving. Word got around, and the few remaining stragglers abandoned their homes, and nearby businesses closed their doors permanently.

The lore surrounding the west 35th St. alley, however, continues to draw the curious, adventurous, and stupid—on this particular evening, you count yourself among them. In broad daylight, the path turns to a void less than twenty feet in; a natural indicator of the danger within. Even the most powerful flashlights provide little more than a few feet of visibility, and looking over your shoulder you've lost the daylight less than ten paces in. Your light catches a wall in front of you and the alley cuts to the left into what most believe to be the remains of a loading dock, though the path is barely wide enough for a standard sedan, let alone an eighteen-wheeler. Soon after, the corridor opens into a dimly lit clearing. By this point, you've entered their den and you won't live long enough to share what you've seen. They always see you first; they'd felt your presence the moment you'd entered the alley. The air shifts in the darkness around you, and by the time you see them escape is impossible. 

You won't run, as the stunning sight of two young women towering fathoms above you locks your legs in place. Petulant faces remind you of rebellious teenagers, though they lack any trace of tenderness or compassion. Their immense size grants them a confident, self-assured swagger, and one of them moves smoothly into the light, her beauty and power enrapturing. Even with her adornment of tattoos, dark expression, and towering height, it's difficult to imagine anyone wearing cat ears posing a serious threat to your well being. The second stays behind, her mouth twisted in a scowl. Cast in shadows, her tattered clothing reveals skin so pale it glows in the low light of the alley. You can barely make out her face—she's disgusted at your trespassing, but would rather let her companion do the dirty work.

You don't at first realize the other is headed towards you, and by the time you do it's far too late. She moves with a disorienting swiftness you never imagined possible for a creature of her size. As you finally manage to pry your feet free of the paralyzing terror holding you in place, your instincts won't let you turn your back on the behemoth which draws closer by the moment. Fighting your fear, you push yourself forward into a frantic run, but the ground quakes as she drops to her knees, sending you tumbling forward onto your face. Her shadow overtakes you, blocking the light, and with panic ringing in your hears, you whip around to find her looming above; her broad malevolent smile indicating you will not leave this alley alive. You hope she'll unceremoniously crush you flat with a hand or a foot. God help you if she feels playful, or worse: hungry. 

The abrupt pressure of her hand grasping your body expels the air from your lungs, and the vertigo rising forty feet in a half-second vacates anything left in your stomach. Her monstrous fingers compresses your legs, and overwhelming pain accompanies a succession of dull snaps—if your feet feel the ground again, your legs won't be in any condition to take you anywhere. Now held close to her face, the air from her nostrils burns like steam. Just when you expect your head to rupture from the pressure, she loosens her grip, studying your broken body. Her other hand approaches, but the crushing you pray for doesn't come, though several rips leave you lying naked in her palm, forty feet off the ground. Leaning her head back, she lifts you by your broken leg, raising you another twenty feet above her face. Like many before you, you cry for mercy, though their kind possess not a shred of pity for vermin who dare invade in their territory. She gives your body a final jarring shake, and even through the devastating pain, you cannot help but drink in her indomitable beauty one last time. Through an eager, sadistic grin, a velvet voice delivers the final words you'll hear in this world; and your body goes cold.

"This is going to hurt. A lot."

Originally Published March 31, 2014