FROM HIS VANTAGE POINT ATOP THE ROOF ACROSS THE STREET, KENNETH COULD SEE STRAIGHT DOWN THE ALLEY; FROM THE STREET ENTRANCE ALL THE WAY TO THE DEAD-ENDING BRICK WALL WHERE SHARI STOOD. SHARI WAITED IN THE DIM LIGHTING, HER BACK TO THE WALL WITH TERROR LOCKED UPON HER FACE AS SHE ANTICIPATED THE ARRIVAL OF THEIR SO-CALLED ‘PREY’. HER BREATHING WAS QUICK; COMING IN SHORT, RAPID GASPS AS SHE WORKED TO KEEP HER NERVES UNDER CONTROL.
POSITIONED BESIDE AN INDUSTRIAL ROOFTOP AIR CONDITIONING UNIT, KENNETH LAY FLAT ON HIS BELLY IN THE SHADOWS. THE BARREL OF HIS RIFLE REST ON THE CONCRETE LIP OF THE ROOF. HE CHECKED THE CHAMBER, ADJUSTED THE SCOPE, CLICKED OFF THE SAFETY, AND FLICKED THE FLASHLIGHT ON AND OFF JUST ONCE TO SIGNAL SHARI. EVERYTHING IS GOOD TO GO.
THROUGH THE SCOPE, KENNETH SAW SHARI NOD. SHE TOOK IN A FEW DEEP, SLOW BREATHS TO CALM HERSELF, THEN SUCKED IN ONE FINAL BREATH AND LET OUT A SCREAM AT THE TOP OF HER LUNGS. THIS WAS HER ROLE; BAIT. SHE SCREAMED TO DRAW IN THE PREY, AND RELIED ON KENNETH TO ENSURE NOTHING HAPPENED. THIS PARTICULAR PREY WAS FOND OF SCREAMING YOUTH. SHE WASN’T A CHILD ANY MORE, BUT SHE STILL FILLED THE REQUIREMENTS.
THE TIME IT TOOK COULD BE COUNTED IN HEARTBEATS, FROM SHARI’S SCREAM TO THE FIRST HOWL. IT ARRIVED JUST A FEW SHORT BREATHS AFTER THAT. THE LARGE, LUMBERING, HAIRY BEAST THAT HAD TERRORIZED THE CITY OF MAYTEK FOR FAR TOO LONG POKED ITS OVER-SIZED, GARGANTUAN HEAD AROUND THE BUILDING AT THE END OF THE ALLEY. ITS YELLOW EYES REFLECTED WHAT LITTLE LIGHT WAS GIVEN BY THE STREET LAMPS AS THEY SETTLED UPON SHARI. IT GLARED AT THE YOUNG LADY NESTLED DEEP WITHIN THE CAVITY BETWEEN THE BUILDINGS. SHE SMELLED LIKE EVERYTHING IT WANTED; YOUNG, SWEET… TERRIFIED.
THE CREATURE TURNED ITS BROAD SHOULDERS TO FIT INSIDE THE ALLEY. ITS SIZE WAS IMPRESSIVE; 12 FEET ACROSS, AT LEAST, AND ALMOST 18 FEET IN HEIGHT. THE ALLEY WAS ONLY BETWEEN 8 AND 10 FEET, SO THE CREATURE HAD TO SQUEEZE IN AND FORCE ITS BULK THROUGH. IF IT WERE ONLY A LITTLE LARGER, OR THE ALLEY A LITTLE NARROWER, IT WOULD NOT HAVE FIT AT ALL.
PEERING THROUGH THE SCOPE OF HIS RIFLE, KENNETH CENTERS THE CREATURE’S HEAD IN THE CROSS-HAIRS, ONLY TO REALIZE THAT IN HIS CURRENT POSITION, IT IS A STRAIGHT SHOT THROUGH THE MONSTER’S SKULL AND STRAIGHT INTO SHARI. IF HE PULLS THE TRIGGER, IT COULD POTENTIALLY INJURE SHARI AS WELL… HE CAN’T RISK IT.
HE CAN’T RISK… HER…
“SHIT,” KENNETH GROWLS, PULLING QUICKLY FROM HIS PRONE POSITION. HE LIFTS THE RIFLE, ROLLS AND LEAPS TO HIS FEET TO RUN AROUND TO THE OTHER SIDE OF THE AIR-CONDITIONING UNIT. THERE IS NO SHOT HERE; A TREE, A TELEPHONE POLE. HE CURSES AGAIN AND HURRIES TO FIND A NEW VANTAGE POINT.
SHARI WATCHES, WIDE-EYED AND ON THE VERGE OF A PANIC ATTACK AS THE CREATURE FORCES ITSELF DEEPER AND DEEPER INTO THE ALLEY; CLOSER AND CLOSER TO HER. ITS PROGRESS IS SLOWED BY THE NARROW GAP, FURTHER HINDERED BY A LAMP OVER A DOOR, BUT IT PUSHES FORWARD. ITS HUNTING INSTINCT HELPS IT POWER THROUGH THE OBSTACLES.
“KEN!” SHARI SCREAMS AS THE MONSTER EXTENDS ITS ARM, MAKING ITS FIRST ATTEMPT TO SWIPE AT HER. IT FALLS SEVERAL YARDS SHORT, BUT TOO CLOSE FOR SHARI’S COMFORT. SHE CROUCHES AND CRAWLS TO A CORNER, HOPING TO MAKE HERSELF MORE DIFFICULT TO REACH, AS IF THE ADDITION OF ANOTHER WALL WILL KEEP HER SAFER.
“KEN!” SHARI SCREAMS AGAIN, WATCHING THE CREATURE’S MOUTH CURL INTO WHAT COULD ONLY BE DESCRIBED AS A SATISFIED SMILE, EXCITED BY HER FEAR.
THE SECONDS DRAG ON LIKE MINUTES UNTIL KENNETH FINDS A NEW POINT. HE HAD TO JUMP A ROOF AND SCALE A WALL, BUT NOW HE THROWS HIMSELF TO THE FLOOR, BRINGING THE RIFLE INTO POSITION. HE BRACES THE LONG BARREL ON THE LEDGE. THE LARGE, FURRY HEAD OF THE MONSTER FALLS INTO THE CROSS-HAIRS AGAIN. SHARI IS SAFELY OUT OF THE WAY. HE SETTLES HIS FINGER UPON THE TRIGGER.
“HEH,” KENNETH SAYS AS HE EXHALES. “GOOD BYE, MISTER BAD WOLF!”
... No, no… Delete, delete…
“HEH,” KENNETH CHUCKLES AS HE EXHALES. “HASTA LA VISTA, MISTER MONSTER!”
God no… Delete, Delete…
“AND POP GOES THE WEAS
I abandon the keyboard, throwing my hands in the air as I push my chair back from he desk. I remove myself from my work, hunch over, and plant my face in the palms of my hands. A groan of aggravation escapes from somewhere inside me as I rub at my tired eyes. The deadline is two weeks away and I’m still ninety-six pages short of the minimal requirements. I can describe this monster in vivid detail, create a believable fictional and thriving city from scratch within minutes, detail every action exactly as I can imagine it in my head… but I can’t for the life of me figure out what witty, smart-ass comment Kenneth is supposed to make in the eleventh chapter before blowing the Alpha Werewolf’s brain onto a brick wall.
Coffee… Michael needs coffee.
I lean forward, reaching to take my coffee cup off the desk and sit back again. I relax for a second, warming my hands on the mug. Relax. Take a moment. Breath in, breath out. Inhale the smell of coffee. Sip the coffee. Sigh contentedly. Relax. Breath in, breath out, inhale the coffee, choke. Choke!! I jerk forward when I try to drown myself in coffee, straightening up in my seat, hacking up a lung and stretching out to return the coffee to the d
esk before I drop it.
I drop it anyway, miscalculating the distance between the mug and the desktop. The coffee sloshes about, flowing over the edge and endangering the notes I have been taking for the last two years.
I reach to steady the mug, only to knock it over completely as I continue coughing.
“Fuck!” I rasp between coughs. My chair tips over backwards as I jump to my feet, bumping the desk as I do so, much to the dissatisfaction of my knee. The desk shakes, jarring the decorative pencil sharpener I purchased on a road trip through Mexico; it topples over, pops open, and adds its collection of wood shavings to my coffee puddle mess before rolling off the desk. I correct the mug, a pointless action considering it has already emptied its contents upon my desk, and stare at the mess in a moment of dumbfounded, coffee-less confusion.
Towel? Towel… Towel!!
My mind screams at me several times before I think to move. My eyes suddenly snap into action, darting around the room and searching my surroundings, searching the object that matches the word currently flooding my brain.
No towel! Where is it? Where would it be? Logically… it should be…?
“Bathroom!” I yell at myself; it’s a pointless gesture as my body has beaten my mouth to the same conclusion and is already darting out of my room and into the hall. I turn through the open door into the bathroom and almost scream as there is no towel hanging on the shower door. I check the hand rail; no. I check the laundry pile by the washing machine; no. I curse myself loudly in my head.
Oh no… oh no… no towel… but! Yes! This will work!
I hurry back to my desk, my hands full of dirty socks which I mash into the sloppy mess. I press them tight against the puddle, then toss a handful aside as I swap soggy socks for dry ones and repeat the process. After a few minutes I have a freshly dry desk, some notes lightly dampened at the edges, and some new brown socks.
“Come on, baby,” I mumble as I peel the damp notes from the desk, hold them up, blow them dry and examine each sheet. A few pages are stained brown, but they’re pages I’ve already typed and folded back behind the others. Fortunately, the fold had risen the newer notes off the desk just a quarter of an inch and that seems to have saved them. A few droplets managed to mangle a few words and letters here and there, but they are, for the most part, the same as I wrote them. Maybe a few Is look like Ls, and a few Ns are suddenly Ms, but it’s all there. My quick actions saved the day. Go me! I sigh a big, deep, sigh of relief as I rest my hands upon the desk and lean into it.
Breath in. Breath out. Calm down… Where is my pencil sharpener?
I learn forward, bend over the desk and peer behind it. The way my room is set up, the desk juts out ninety degrees from the wall; a quarter of my room is sectioned off for a makeshift office. Beyond the desk are small piles of laundry leading to my bed; a simple double thick futon on the floor. The pencil sharpener has rolled across the wooden floors and come to rest under some cloth.
“Oh,” I mutter, “The irony!” I grumble as I round my desk and bend down, reaching beneath the towel to retrieve my souvenir and return it to its rightful place atop my desk.
Well now, all is in order once again. Peace has been restored to my little desktop kingdom. I believe Michael has earned lunch… Breakfast? What time is it? Whatever. CTRL +S, X, Start, Shut Down, and I am off towards the kitchen.