fantasy by Gerri Leen
The night is dark, the wind blowing hard and wet. The guy clutching his gut and staggering down the street needs help. I’m a woman alone, in a new town, and pretty sure that this isn’t the safest neighborhood.
So, stop me if you’ve heard this one. Nice girl, moves to the big city, tries to be a Good Samaritan for one of the natives. Gets chopped up for it, maybe shot, probably worse happening in between her trying to help and her dying.
We’ve all heard this one, right?
I help anyway. It’s what I do, who I am. Or it is now. I know: the road to hell and all, paved with good intentions, but there was a day my intentions weren’t so good, and let’s just say things have been weird for me ever since. So now I help.
I sort of have a quota.
Weird, like I said.
He turns around and throws up. I’m glad it’s night; the vomit smells less like vomit and more like whiskey and blood, and I’m not in the mood to see that particular spin art. I’m also glad I didn’t get too close. These are new shoes, a light gray python and I really love them.
“What the hell you want, lady?”
“I want to help you.” It’s not even a lie. I don’t give a rat’s ass about this guy, but I do want to help him. Whether I like it or not.
And in his case, it’s really, really not.
I grab his arm, muttering, “Dude, hygiene. Lost art, I know, but man.” I sort of hustle him down the street toward the emergency clinic, which I’m sure was not where he was going.
“What’re you doing?” He swings at me and grunts in pain, spitting more blood as he wheezes. I’m pretty sure he’s got something wrong on the inside because I’m not smelling blood draining from any external holes.
Yes, smell. Did I mention I’m not human? Oh, don’t worry, I’m not some damn vampire. Trust me. That life would be a walk in the park.
Yes, I’m actually jealous of bloodsuckers.
The man stops and grabs my hand. “Give me all your money or I’ll cut your face up.” He slurs it together, but the blade in his hand is a pretty good indication he’s serious.
See, I don’t get any points if they aren’t actually dangerous. Points, can you believe that?
I don’t reach for my purse fast enough apparently, and he slices down my arm. If he could see in the dark, he’d notice the blood coming out is sort of a purplish-green. It’d make a great nail polish color. But even he can tell the smell is off.
“Okay, here we go.” The cut is stinging like hell, but I ignore it and push him down the street and through the door of the clinic. I take his knife away for good measure. I lose massive points if he hurts someone else on my watch.
“Think he has something nasty going on inside him. He’s vomiting blood,” I tell the attendant at reception. “Also, he’s violent and likes to play with sharp objects.”
“Good to know. Leon, get your butt out here.”
Leon is massive. He takes the drunk from me, then glances at my arm. “What’s that?”
I look down at my arm. The blood is shining iridescent, like fish scales winking jade and violet. “I was at a party.”
He nods. It’s amazing how many things that excuse can explain away.
“You took a risk bringing him here.” He’s got the drunk face-up against the wall as he leans against him, which can’t be that great for my project’s insides, but it’s definitely limiting the trouble he can make.
“Seemed the right thing to do.” I smile and head for the door.
“Hey,” Leon calls out. “What’s your name?”
“Thanks.” I walk out, take three steps, and immediately sense I’m not alone. “Gabe?”
“Hey, sis.” He leans out a darkened doorway. He’s wearing a black trench coat and fedora.
I look down at my winter white coat–ruined now thanks to the drunk and his knife–and gray pants, and laugh. We’re so anti-stereotype, my big bro and me.
“Whatcha doing, Luz?”
“Good works. What do you think I’m doing?”
“You’re never going to make it.”
His confidence in me is disappointingly low, as usual. Then again I don’t see him out mingling with the dregs of humanity. He leaves that for the lesser angels. So how would he know if I’m getting close or not?
Close being a relative term when you’re immortal.
Because for me, you see, the road out of hell is paved with good intentions. With a smile, I walk away from him.
“Lucifer?” he says, his voice soft.
“We miss you.”
“I miss you, too. And home.”
“I hope you make it.” He smiles, then turns and walks down the street, a sad whistle accompanying the slip-slap of his shoes.
I watch him till he’s out of sight. “I hope so, too, Gabriel.”
Copyright October 2010 by Gerri Leen
Gerri Leen lives in Northern Virginia and originally hails from Seattle.
In addition to 10Flash, you can find her stories in such places as:
Sword and Sorceress XXIII, Return to Luna, Triangulation: Dark Glass, Footprints, Sails & Sorcery, Origins, Desolate Places, and GlassFire. Look for her upcoming collection of short stories, Life Without Crows from Hadley Rille Books and visit http://www.gerrileen.com to see what else she’s been up to.