Dwellers of the ghetto, my kind as you could say, don’t get into Central District, or the Evergreen Isles, or even near the borders to those fancy places. Knights in blue armor sitting on shining metal steeds block the streets and shine the light of truth into the face of each and every one a-knocking on the portals to heaven.
I had never been to the fancy districts myself, but there were those in the throngs of hobos who spoke of dumpsters full of unspoilt food, and of street lights that made every nook and cranny as bright as a cloudy day, and of the police actually patrolling the streets. In cars, with real guns and enough bullets to actually shoot more than once. Even their loony bins were chock-full of rich people. I only ever got carted into one of those those mediocre, health-insurance paid places, where they kept me for a maximum of two weeks, pumped me full of the good stuff and dumped me back onto the streets without so much as a ‘hail fellow, well met’ for departure. Admittedly, the good stuff kept me happy and blissful for a few more days after that, but it never stuck.
Luckily, I only ever got picked up when my hypergraphia— this is the obsession to write things, and in a very specific way, if you need to know— got the better of me, and that only happened when one of the really powerful monsters touched me. People tended to frown on walls full of bloody scribbles, so I got sent away when I wrote my prophecies. I, personally, liked blood ink. It was easily procured and cost-effective.
I was walking bent in half, because the sewer pipes connecting the villa part of the Central District to the harbor were too low to stand upright, and there were cobwebs near the top area. I hated spiders. Their webs felt like outside thoughts trying to get into my brain when they stuck to my face. This didn’t stop me from finding the best way to my target, though. Nothing could stop me, once I had a job to fulfill.
Maybe I was crazy, but my flavor of crazy made people very intent on giving me money to do things, because somehow I always got them done. Steal drugs from a police vault? I could do it. Shove a 290 lb wrestler down a flight of stairs and make it look like an accident? Done. Break into Central District to kill a man? No problem, I always found a way. It was the good kind of crazy, not the bad kind. Okay, so maybe killing was evil, but since the monsters were paying me to kill more powerful monsters, it was a good kind of evil. Most of the time I didn’t even know how I was able to do those things, because people like me weren’t supposed to really be ‘all there’ in the head, but somehow I always managed.
And sometimes the distinction between what I saw and what the rest of humanity saw got me confused and frightened. For me, about a third of people in the world were monsters. They either looked like really horrible, demonous accidents, or like cold, frightening, heart-shatteringly beautiful creatures, but both kinds were monsters. Twenty-two years of psychological treatment, of screaming and raging, of banging my head against the floor and scribbling truths onto walls with my own blood had taught me that nobody else was seeing it. Not even the monsters themselves knew what they were, except for the powerful ones. I kept a good distance from those, and they seemed to do the same with me. I supposed they didn’t like what I was writing when I met them.
I slipped out of the end of the sewer pipe like a snake, falling the twenty feet drop into the frigid Bracket River without a sound. The water was so cold I almost breathed in from the shock as I dove back to the surface. Swimming in late February was suicide, but that was exactly why I had chosen this route. Nobody would think of it, and that meant that nobody would see me coming.
I had to swim a good ninety yards to reach the other side of the smaller confluent, and when I finally grabbed on to the steel ladder next to a painted water gauge, I was almost too cold to climb it. My felt coat was so heavy, I had to shrug it off and hang it onto the rail before I could pull myself out, and the next few minutes I spent with hopping around, teeth chattering like castanets and shaking the gun to get out the excess water. I honestly didn’t care if it rusted, I just had to get off one or two shots, and I would leave it there since there were no fingerprints to collect from it. It hadn’t been intentional on my part when I had cut my fingertips again and again to do my writing, but by now they were so full of scars I just didn’t have to be careful anymore.
The night here was even darker than it had been in the ghetto. In front of me there was nothing but a small summer cabin sitting in the midst of a dried-out, half frozen carpet of grass short and thin enough to remind me of scalpel blades, and in the background there were thee giant, ancient weeping willows darkening what little light the moon offered.
Behind the pristine landscape, I could see the white-ish shape of a Victorian style villa. Was I at the right place?
I spent the few minutes it took to get to the back patio trying to remember the address that demon-lady had given me, only to realize I couldn’t check because it probably was written on a plate outside the front gate. I was too cold to care at this point, I would simply have to remember to check the mail inside the house to see if I had gotten to where I was supposed to be.
When I stumbled trying to climb the marble stairs leading to the back door, I found out just how cold I really was: Cold enough not to feel my soggy feet. My lockpicking skills were probably down the drain too. This was going to be no fun at all.
At least it was a beautiful door. Not one of those modern steel sheets, but real, dark wood, lacquered in a nice mid-brown color and studded with bronze adornments. And the best thing: It didn’t look touched by the darkness. I could actually look at it without fighting my ever-lurking panic. Thank god for lazy rich people who didn’t visit their manicured garden to spread the taint flowing through them.
The lock unfortunately didn’t offer the same courtesy of age. It was new and tricky and stubborn beneath my frozen fingers. I felt almost warm when I finally decided this was not going to happen anytime soon, and feeling warm when you’re soaked through and out in the cold was definitely a warning sign. Why was I trying so hard anyway?
The window wasn’t nearly as fancy and new as the lock, and it broke after three hits with the butt of my gun. There was no alarm, which puzzled me a bit, but not enough to slow me down as I crawled through the self-made entrance and into the blissful, nay, painful warmth. I got a few cuts and scrapes as I rolled through the shards of broken glass, but the cuts didn’t bleed too much. If I still had my coat this wouldn’t have happened. Leaving blood on a crime scene was bad, because no matter how much I cut myself, there was nothing I could do about my genetic fingerprint. They’d be able to find me through my medical records.
I’d have to remember to spill some bleach over the shards on my way out. And maybe pee on them. No, not pee on them, that would give them only more DNA samples. But do something to ruin the blood.
The interior of the villa was like a wonderland for me, a strange country of opulent, oversized furniture, clean carpets and wide hallways. The smell was the strangest new experience for me. I knew hospital smells, loony bin smells, police station smells, and all the myriads and masses of different scents only the ghetto offered, but this was different. Stone didn’t have a smell, and of all the stones, marble was the most scentless, but the rooms still had a vibe to it that I couldn’t describe as anything else but “clean marble” with a hint of window cleanser and carpet foam. It smelled like a home, and I had never lived in one.
If I didn’t kill my victim soon, he’d find me rolling and writhing on his couch. I’d done that once, and it hadn’t been fun. They had beaten me to a pulp, and now my nose was a little crooked and I looked like a Thai boxer. Or would that be half-Thai? I wasn’t up to speed on political correctness about mixed blood heritage.
I got the scent of home out of my nostrils with a snort, then I pulled out the gun and clicked off the security switch. Time to find that rich bugger and put a hole in his devil face.
And then maybe raid his kitchen.