“Clarity and protection is all I want from you.” I slammed my last ten dollars down on the table. My voice was shaking with rage, but thus far I’d managed to stem the flow of tears. I was at the end of my rope and I was done putting up with people bullshitting me. The garishly dressed ‘psychic’ behind the table flinched when she met my eyes, but she didn’t back away. She opened her mouth as if to say something, but then just nodded and turned, gesturing for me to follow her to the back room.
I walked on wobbling legs back to her cluttered room, set up that way on purpose, I imagine. To create the right ‘vibe’ for a psychic.
I sat down in the chair that she pointed to and tried to still my breathing a bit. It was time for me to start on the next phase. I’d finally admitted to myself, if nothing else, that I was in over my head. That something beyond human reasoning was happening and I needed to get my shit together.
Talking to this woman here, was for some reason the first step that I needed to take. The last direction my mother had given me before she died in my arms the night before. It was my only hope.
She reached up and lifted a necklace from around her head, untangling it from the many others she had around her neck. “Take this for protection,” she held out a blood red charm on a black string. I took it and looped it around my neck without really looking at it too closely. This really wasn’t my kind of mumbo-jumbo, but I was doing this for my mom. Besides at this point, I’d take whatever I could get. I looked back at the psychic expectantly. I saw a shudder go through her.
I watched as she picked up well worn cards from the table. She fumbled with them as if she’d never done this before. Her hands were shaking and she kept sending me furtive glances. It wasn’t terribly reassuring. I could tell this wasn’t the same old thing for her.
Suddenly she gasped. Her hands stilled in mid air, the last of the cards falling from her fingers to the table. She looked at me with such an abject look of fear that I broke out in goosebumps.
This was not a good sign. What the hell was I supposed to do now?
She looked at me then, speaking in a low voice “The only clarity I see for you is Tom. Just before starting second grade, Tom moved across the country. He hated it. You must find him. He is the answer you seek.”
“Who the hell is Tom?” I asked. “Drop the act, woman. I’m not in the mood.” I reached out and grabbed her hand, slamming it to the table with more force than I’d intended. “I don’t mean to be rude, but this is life or death and I don’t have time to waste with games.”
Her voice shook, “I am aware of the dangers, young lady.” She looked down at my hand on hers and a chill shot through me. “Find Tom. That’s all I can say. You must go.” We heard a crash from the back. “Go.” Her voice was laced with fear now, “Hurry!”
I turned and ran without thinking, slamming out the front door, my heart felt like it was trying to beat its way out of my chest. I heard her screams, but they barely registered in my brain as I raced down the street away from the shop. All I could think of was how to get away faster. How to disguise myself. How to hide.
Hell, I still hadn’t even figured out who I was hiding from. I ran until I was doubled over, gasping for breath. Stumbling into an alleyway for the cover the darkness would bring, I collapsed on a stone ledge against the building.
I heard a rustling beside me and prepared to run once again. I heard the sound again, my body tensed on the edge. ‘Fight or flight’ I thought. Knowing that I’d choose flight every time. I wasn’t a fighter.
“Just pretend it’s not there” I told myself. It was no use. My nerves were so on edge that I couldn’t have ignored the rustling if you’d paid me.
I heard a whimper and some other instincts kicked in, I dug through the pile of trash beside me until a soft furry bundled leapt out at me.
I found myself vacillating between wanting to cuddle with the sweet little bundle of puppy and wanting to toss it back in the pile. I loved dogs, but I was on the run for my life. I didn’t have time for this. One look in its eyes, though… I was screwed.
“Well,” I said to the little mutt. “I hope to hell that you’re a good runner and a great guard dog, because it looks like you’re my new partner.”
I sat there, trying to figure out what my next step was. I was exhausted and hadn’t eaten in days. I looked down at the ball of fur in my lap. Now I’d have to find food.
“Shit.” I said. The dog barked. “I guess we need to find food. And Tom.” The dog barked again. I suppose if nothing else, the dog would keep me fed. I would have to make sure to take care of him. Who knows? Maybe he would make a good guard dog.
“I suppose you need a name, eh?” I said. He barked. “How about… Killer?” The dumb ball of fluff just stuck his tongue out and panted like an idiot. “Yeah, Killer, my ass. How about Beast?” I growled at the animal in my hands, hoping for even the tiniest show of strength. Nope. He just sat there looking at me with complete adoration. “Great. You’re going to be a big help. I might as well call you ‘Fluffy'”
The dog barked and whined until I picked him up. I wasn’t sure what kind of mutt he was, but it looked like this mutt and I were going on an adventure together. And apparently I was going to carry him for the first while. I glowered at him, just to let him know that I wasn’t really *that* fond of him, but then he licked my face and then immediately curled up in my arms and went to sleep.
“Shit.” I said. This damn dog was not going to help me develop a kick ass persona to take on the bad guys, or whatever it was I was supposed to be doing to stay aline. Whoever heard of a hero with a freaking puppy? “Beast.” I said firmly. I would name him Beast and he would be my vicious canine sidekick. I looked at the little ball of innocence in my arms and barely refrained from rolling my eyes.
I leaned back against the rough brick and let out a heavy sigh. I wasn’t ready for this. I hadn’t stopped running since I’d left the chaos and wreckage of my home and my life behind yesterday morning. Visions of my mom, bleeding and broken in my arms shattered the stillness whenever I closed my eyes, but I was too tired to fight sleep anymore. With tears slowly running down my face, I curled up around my new pet and gave in to the exhaustion, surrounded by darkness and hidden by the same piles of trash that had given me my new pet.
(To Be Continued)