Previous Page Next Page

UTC:       Local:

Home Page Index Page

Draw One in the Dark: Snippet Four

       Last updated: Thursday, May 4, 2006 19:17 EDT



    Kyrie heard the bolt slide home and turned, skin prickling, hair standing on end, to stare openmouthed at three men who stood between them and the door.

    Men was dignifying them with a name they didn’t quite deserve. They were boys, maybe nineteen or twenty, just at the edge of manhood. Asian, dressed all in black, they clearly had watched one too many ninja movies. The middle one wore exquisitely groomed slightly too long hair, the bangs arranged so they fell to perfection and didn’t move. He must spend a fortune on product.

    The ones on either side were not so stylishly groomed, but one sported a tattoo of a Chinese letter in the middle of his forehead, while the other had a tattoo of a red dragon on the back of each hand – those clearly visible and he was clenching his fists and holding them up in a gesture more reminiscent of boxing than karate.

    The far one shouted something, and Kyrie grabbed hold of Tom’s arm, and shoved him behind her. He’d gone wooden puppet again.

    The pretty boy in the middle laughed and said something – Kyrie presumed in Chinese – to his friend. Then added in English, “He only speaks English.” But when he turned to Tom all traces of laughter had vanished from his expression, as he said, “You know what we want. You foiled the first fool who came looking, but, you see, we returned for you. Now give it to us, and we might not kill you or your pretty girlfriend.”

    Pretty girlfriend? Kyrie registered as if from a long way away that they were talking about her. Truth was very few people ever had called her pretty. She was too... striking, and proud to be called that. Also at some level people must always have sensed what she was, because since she’d turned fifteen and the panther had made its first appearance, few men had made taunting comments in her presence. Hell, few men even addressed her in any way.

    But if there was an instinct for self-protection, this trio was lacking it. The little one with the two dragons on the backs of his hands started laughing.

    At least, he threw his head back and Kyrie thought he was laughing, a high pitched, hysterical laughter. And then she realized what the laughter really was as his outlines blurred and he started to shift. Wings, and curving neck. All of it in lovely tones of red and gold, like all those Chinese paintings. But the features – that in paintings had always made Kyrie think of a naughty cat – looked malevolent. He hissed, between lips wholly unprepared for speech, “Give us the pearl.”

    Pearl? A pearl seemed like a very odd thing for Tom to steal. Was it some form of drug? Kyrie glanced behind her, to see Tom shaking his head violently. The fact that he was the approximate color of curdled milk, his normally pale skin looking downright unhealthy and grey, did not reassure her that by his shaking his head he meant he’d never heard of such a thing as a pearl.

    “Tom?” she said.

    He only shook his head again.

    “Right,” the middle one said. “You want to play rough, rough it is.”

    And suddenly a golden dragon took up most of the small brown room. And there were claws reaching for Kyrie. No. Talons. And someone’s fangs were close to her face, a smell like a thousand long-forgotten sushi dinners invading her nostrils. A forked tongue licked her ear and through the lips not fashioned for speech, through the accent that he showed even in English, she nonetheless understood the young man’s words as he said, “We’re going to have so much fun.”

    She’d never shifted when she was scared. The few times she’d shifted it had been just the moon and usually summer calling to her, the feeling of jungle in her mind, at the back of her brain.

    But as her fear closed upon her throat, making breathing almost impossible, as her heart pounded seemingly in her ears, as her blood seemed to race away from her leaving her cold as ice, she felt something...

    She wasn’t sure what was happening until she heard the growl erupt from her throat. A full growl, fashioned from melodies of the jungle.

    Lizards. Uppity lizards, at that. They dared challenge her? Try to grab her?

    Turning around, she swiped a giant paw across the tender under flesh of a clawed foot holding her. And then she leapt for the throat of the giant beast who was trying to claw her down.

    It was – the part of her that remained human, deep in the mists of consciousness thought – like the armada and the English ships. The Spanish armada’s huge, slow ships might be stronger and better armored. But they had no hope against the small English ships that could sail around them, landing shots where they wished till the giant ship was crippled.

    Kyrie grabbed the beast by the throat, hanging on, till she tasted blood – and what blood. It was like drinking the finest champagne straight from the bottle.

    The beast yelled and reached for her with its claws. It managed to scrape her flank, in a bright slash of pain. But she jumped out of the way before the creature could grab her, and she was on top of his head, as both his friends converged, trying to grab her. And she leapt at the soft underbelly of the red one – Two Dragons, the human Kyrie thought – in a mad dance of claws sinking into soft, unarmored flesh.

    And then up again, and leaping at the eye of the next dragon.

    That there were three of them was not an advantage. After all, three large, slower moving beings only helped each other get hopelessly entangled while Kyrie danced upon them like a deadly firefly, in a frenzy of wounding, a joy of blood.

    She was vaguely aware that she too was bleeding, that there were punctures on her hide and that, somehow, one of them had managed to sink his fangs into her front paw – her right arm. But she didn’t care. Right then, allowed the madness she’d long denied, she jumped at the dragon’s eyes, swiping her claws across them and relishing the dragon’s shriek of pain, the bright blood jumping from the right eye. She jumped and leaped, possessed of fierce anger, of maddened, repressed rage.

    But while the beast exulted in the carnage, while the feline gyrated in mayhem, a small trickling feeling formed at the back of Kyrie’s mind. It was like the first melting tip of an icicle, dropping cold reason on her hot madness. The feeling, at first, was no more than that – just a trickling cold, protesting, demanding – she wasn’t sure what. The beast, in its frenzy, ignored it.

    Until slowly, slowly, the feeling became words and the words became panic in Kyrie’s mind. She was fighting all three dragons. She was keeping all three dragons at bay – just. But there were three of them, there was one of her and the beast’s muscles were starting to hurt and... How could she get out of here?

    There was no way of reaching the door. All the dragons were between her and the door and none of her sorties had brought her close to escaping.

    Blood in her nostrils, mad fury in the beast’s brain, what remained of the human Kyrie tried to think and came up with nothing but an insistent, white surge of panic. And she couldn’t let it slow her down. She couldn’t. If she did, all would be lost. But she couldn’t fight forever.

    In a twirl, claws sinking into the nearest dragon’s hide, she thought of Tom. But the corner into which he’d shrunk when she’d shifted was vacant.

    The coward had run out the door behind her back, hadn’t he?

    She felt a horrible sense of betrayal, a let down at this, and her extended paw faltered, and the dragon above her reared.

    It was the center dragon – who in human form had artificially smooth and immovable hair. In dragon form he had a tall crest, red and gold. Well, it had been red and gold, it was now much darker red in spots, thanks to Kyrie’s claws. And blood ran down its cheek from one of its eyes. But the other eye was unblinking fixed hatred, as it opened its jaws wide, wide, fangs glistening.

    Kyrie needed to jump. She needed to. But her muscles felt powerless, spent. Stretched elastic that would not spring again.

    So this is how it ends...

    The big head descended to devour her, teeth ready to break her neck. And a taloned paw grabbed her roughly around the middle, swept her back.

    She turned. She turned with her remnant of strength, her very last drop of fury, to snarl at the dragon behind her.

Home Page Index Page




Previous Page Next Page

Page Counter Image