Surging forward, I start grabbing the people between where I saw my mystery girl go down and where I’m standing. My biggest worry is that she’s landed on her head, or been stepped on by a couple of people, but anything could have happened when she hit the pitted concrete floor.
With a clenched jaw I pull a particularly large man back from moving in the direction I suspect the girl is. He spins, swinging at me with a slur flying from his mouth in a fine mist of spittle. I’m convinced his hand is the size of my face as the ham-sized appendage hurtles toward me.
Anything but the face.
My LEDs flash into two large circles, and I duck so I’m bent in half. I look ahead to see the girl just a few feet away. Her mouth is open in a silent wail of pain, and she’s clutching her right side.
Before I can do anything to help her, some stuff happens:
First, I feel the weight of the aggressive man press down onto my back, as his follow through on his haymaker backfires. He’s at least two times my size. There’s no way I’d be able to carry his weight for any discernable length of time.
Second, the girl rolls onto her back and looks down at the swath of midriff she’s showing to find a giant purple bruise already forming.
There’s so much chaos, I can’t hear her voice, but the annunciation when I see her mouth the word ‘FUCK’ leaves no room for interpretation. She’s not crying over being hurt, she’s pissed.
Platinum strands whip about as she looks around for her date, and I almost wish he was still here. She looked ready to scream at the next person to dare cross her. The little pinch between her brows and the dainty downturn of her mouth as she frowns at the thinning stampede makes my heart flutter.
Her head keeps turning my direction. My mouth goes dry, and just as easily as I folded in half to get the hell out of harm’s way, I pop back up with enough force to send the guy stumbling back a few steps before gravity finally takes hold and pulls him to the floor.
The man lays there wheezing, wind knocked from his lungs. Wide bloodshot eyes fully open and lock on the ceiling while he grasps at his heart.
Is he having a heart attack?
Oh no. Oh no, no, no, no, no.
The thick bratwurst like fingers of this guy are clawing into his chest. He’s trying to gulp up air and getting nowhere from what I can tell, because I can see his fear mount with every passing second of this fish-out-of-water impersonation.
Then his irises disappear, rolling with the orb of his eye when they float to the back of his head. The overweight man shudders and stills, becoming nothing more than three hundred pounds of meat on the dance floor among the water bottles, condoms, and the occasional dropped pill.
At least, I think he died. I can’t be sure because though I don’t see his chest moving, he’s still twitching. Soft, strong hands grace my shoulders and squeeze.
“We gotta go—now!” The feminine voice orders.
I don’t know who has me. I’m too caught up scared that I ended a life. My hands start sweating, and I feel like my ears are on fire. Probably going to puke, as well. I’m in too much shock to respond until my name is whispered in my ear, and the same soft hand takes mine.
“Ghost? Come on,” she orders and pulls me after her.
It takes about thirty feet and a squeeze for me to stop staring at the man looking for any sign of life. As soon as I pry my eyes from the probably dead raver on the dance floor to figure out definitively who was leading me back to saying.
Of course, my hopes were answered in some sudden spike of luck. Did I probably accidently kill a human kaijou? Yes. But the pretty girl is trying to whisk me off to hide, so though the scales are still horrifically unbalanced where ‘right’ is concerned, I take the small win, as it might be the last I have.
“C’mon, c’mon, c’mon,” she urges trying to pull me around the pop-up stage to the office’s entrance. With my focus now off my accidental felony, my pace quickens and we’re into one of the first of many lantern lit rooms.
The bright artificial glow of the battery lantern casts odd shadows from where it rests on the floor, likely knocked down when whoever in here was fleeing the police. The offices are such a maze that I can’t tell if there’s anyone in the back area with us. Footsteps get swallowed by the thick concrete walls more than I would prefer.
Since that’s the situation, there’s no way I’m able to change unless we can find a spot where my companion can guard the door and I can change without an interruption. Of course, she’ll likely recognize who I really am…which…shit. There’s no good way to go about this is there?
“We need to find a bathroom or something,” the urgency in my voice translates despite the voice changer.
“Not that,” I groan, letting go of the girl’s hand to begin the trek through the labyrinth of offices. I only get a couple steps before the slight squeak of sneakers starts up from behind me, telling me that she was trusting enough to follow me into the dark maze.
“I need to change,” I snap the elaboration after passing the first threshold into a hallway with doors lining either side of the passage.
“Musicians shit, too, Mr. Golden Sphincter,” she snaps back and I bet if I turned, I’d see her creamy skin in a captivating shade of red. I’m not used to anyone giving it back to me when I’m Ghost. It’s refreshing.
“Cute, and funny?” I ask with a lilt to my voice. As much as I like the banter, pissing this girl off is not what I wanted, plus, I’d be a little miffed in general if I had possible broken ribs. I just have to hope she’s star-struck enough to give me another shot.
There’s a groan in the building nearby, but I don’t know if it’s the warehouse settling or someone close. All forward movement on my behalf ceases.
“Astrix,” she responds with a barely there whisper after a good thirty seconds of holding our breath. “My name’s Astrix.”
I turn to her and my shades light up in a wink.
“Nice to meet you, Astrix—sorry I was a dill hole. I forget most people don’t have to think of the shit I do.”
“It’s fine, but good luck fucking me, now.”
I start to violently choke on my own spit, my voice changer struggling to figure out how to translate it, so it lets out a steady stream of static. I bend over, hands to my knees and try to recover from that unexpected and blunt statement.
“Excuse me?” I squeak when I can finally speak.
“God you’re easy,” Astrix’s pouty coral lips curl into an overly-satisfied smile as she looks down at me. I get a shoulder tap that tells me she doesn’t feel bad for me whatsoever before she weaves around me to continue down the dark hall.
I turn to say something and see she has her hand to her ribs, and her back is slightly hunched down from discomfort. Either the pain is getting worse, or she’s finally losing the grip on the facade she was keeping up.
Nothing good can come from getting into a fight right now, anyway. One deep breath later, I force myself up to follow her, swallowing a few times in rapid succession to make sure I don’t start to cough again.
Astrix is disappearing around a bend in the hall by the time I’m moving, too far ahead for my comfort, especially not knowing if we’re alone.
“Hey…hey!” I whisper scream after her. The old documents, chunks of rock and various debris from decades of vacancy are carefully traversed so I don’t fall and bust my ass. Not that I’m moving with purpose. At this point, I’m expecting her to ditch me here.
However, when I turn the corner, there she is: stopped as she stares down the door just a couple feet ahead. There’s a window in it, but now the glass left is jagged shards at the edge of the opening.
I can see how sharp they are by the light inside that highlights the edges of the glass. I figure it’s another over-turned lantern, but when the direction changes, washing over the far wall, I stop speaking and stand stone still.
“Anyone in the back?” Comes over a shitty little police radio and my heart drops into my ass. They were in the direct path of where we needed to go, and were likely behind us in the main chamber of the warehouse where the show was.
We’re so screwed.