Hunger for Life
The sound of muffled footsteps entered the alley and Marta pressed her back into the brick wall behind her. She wished that she could literally disappear, as the trashcans on either side of her provided very little cover, but this was not her gift. She would have loved to have been able to draw her feet up underneath her, ready for flight at the first possible instance. To do so would involve too much movement, and movement generated noise. It was that noise that could get her caught. She listened very carefully as the footsteps proceeded down the alley. They stumbled and dragged, indicating that their owner was having difficulty. The voice that belonged to them was slurred and mumbling about people using the alley as if it were a dumpster and how they would understand if they had to sleep in garbage.
Marta began to relax, believing that the feet belonged to a homeless drunk. Suddenly she picked up another noise – one that did not fit. It was the electronic beep of a pager. Marta did not know any homeless drunks who carried pagers. Her body and her mind were instantly alert. She pressed her hands into the pavement and tensed her arms, ready to spring. The stumbling footsteps continued down the alley towards her. If their owner turned his head in her direction as he passed, he would see her. If he was looking for her, he would turn his head.
The footsteps continued closer and Marta was sure that their owner was able to hear her heart beating frantically. Marta saw the man’s face as he neared the group of trashcans behind which she sat. He wore an old, gray felt hat with a tattered hatband. His face was scraggly with several days of unshaved beard. He had smudges of dirt on his cheek that were too carefully placed and while the shirt was dirty and torn at the shoulder seam, the collar was buttoned properly and had clearly been purchased at one of the more expensive boutiques sometime this season. It was not a Goodwill reject. These were the signs of someone who obviously did not belong in an alley trying very hard to appear as if they belonged.
She scanned her perimeter once more for anything she could use as a weapon. The only thing available was an old board with a few nails poking their pointy, rusty heads out of the wood. It was very close at hand, but she would definitely be noticed if she made a move for it. She would have to take comfort in knowing that she could get to it quickly should she need it.
The man-pretending-to-be-homeless kept his head down, seeming to watch the ground with every step, but Marta noticed that his eyes shifted back and forth, taking in his surroundings. Her palms were tingling and so were her legs, ready for action. Despite how ready she was, she was totally surprised when he dropped all pretenses the moment he stood in front of her hiding place and whirled to face her.
“So, Marta,” he sneered, “you thought this” – sweeping his hand across her surroundings – “could keep you hidden from me.”
While he knew her name, Marta did not recognize him. She assumed he was another of DeVoe’s hired “hunters” that he had sent to find her and bring her back to the compound.
As he took a step towards her, her body sprang into action. Both hands grasped the nearby board and swung it with all her might at the head of the man who approached her. Unfortunately, she met with his shoulder instead. The nails embedded in his flesh and the crack of the rotting wood filled the alley as the board split in her hands. Despite the fact that she had momentarily stopped him from approaching her, she still could not escape, as he was blocking her only path of exodus. He was stunned, and this was to her advantage, for otherwise he would already have his hands around her neck. She picked up the trash can that stood just to her right and threw it down the alley, its contents spilling everywhere. She darted through the space it once filled, just as he reached out to grab her by her hair.
His fingers slipped through her ponytail and almost as if in one fluid movement, grasped the board hanging from his left shoulder. He screamed and Marta cringed as he ripped the rusty nails from his flesh. He doubled over and seemed to go perfectly still. Not that she was taking the time to watch – she was almost to the opposite end of the alley before he straightened up and shouted after her.
“Now you have done it, my dear,” he yelled. His voice seemed to drip with venom and Marta was sure that the aging notices that hung in the alley curled and smoldered from lying in the same air in which he breathed. “I promise that your death will be slow and very painful – and very, very soon.”
To kill her, this man would have to go against DeVoe’s orders. He wanted her back alive, of that Marta had no doubt. He would not go to all the trouble and expense of getting her back only to gaze upon her dead body.
Her attacker’s words chased her around the corner at the end of the alley and seemed to echo after her as she headed for the heavy pedestrian traffic in the intersection ahead. She was almost to safety when she suddenly stopped. She was sick of running and tired of hiding. Every time one hunter failed to bring her in, he was replaced by another one. It was a never-ending stream of people from whom she had to run and hide. Perhaps if she made an example of one instead of allowing her would-be captor to use them as an example to motivate their replacement she could earn the respect - or fear - needed to keep them away from her. DeVoe had held her captive for three years of her life and when she had finally escaped, she knew that she would never return under any circumstances. She would rather die than be a part of his experiments. Given a choice, she wanted to live, which meant she would have no choice but to kill.
Marta back-tracked up the alley, away from the crowded street, and side-stepped into a recessed doorway, waiting patiently for the hunter to round the corner. His step was purposeful and his stride was swift. He was mumbling under his breath, but this time he was cursing her. Marta had to smile; he would be very surprised when he found himself as the hunted. He strode past where she was hiding, heading towards the street, worried that she was already lost in the crowd.
Marta stepped into the alley, tail twitching impatiently. A low growl started deep in her throat and froze the man in mid-step. He turned slowly to face the sleek and muscular creature that stood before him. He was transfixed by her clear, green eyes. His chest grew tight and he could barely breathe; he opened his mouth to scream, but all that filled the air was silence.
Marta circled him slowly, twitching her tail and licking her lips. The growl continued to rumble deep within her and the man dared not even blink. She swatted at his right arm as he reached for the gun in his waistband. The gun clattered against the pavement and Marta swatted it so hard that it skittered underneath a nearby dumpster. The man was beginning to lose the little composure he had left as large beads of sweat rolled down his face.
Stopping directly in front of him, Marta sat back on her haunches, cocked her head, and again licked her lips. The man in front of her wet himself and the strong, pungent odor made her angry. The muscles in her haunches uncoiled like springs wound too tight and she was on him in a second, knocking him to the ground. He flayed his arms in front of him, trying to find a place where he did not meet with teeth or claw. Pain radiated through his body, overloading his brain, and he was sure that he was screaming, that someone would rescue him. But no sound was issuing from his mouth, for Marta had ripped his vocal cords from his throat. She swatted him with one huge paw, rolling him onto his stomach, and grabbed him by the back of the neck, shaking him until she heard the sound of breaking bones.
Even after his neck was broken, she continued to bat him about the alley, spilling his blood everywhere. She tore his flesh from his bones in hunks, determined to leave her own message for her would-be captors and their hired hunters.
Soon she grew bored with her game and she padded softly back up the alleyway, deep into the honeycomb of passageways that ran between the buildings until she found a quiet alcove that had not seen humans for quite some time. Here she sprawled on the pavement and began to lick the blood from her jet-black coat, taking her time, reliving her kill. Her stomach growled angrily for she had not allowed herself to ingest any of her prey.
An hour later, after the sun had set, she made her way back to the doorway where she had left her clothes. She stepped into the recess and ten minutes later, exited again, fully clothed in cotton and denim, her hair neatly brushed, her head clear and her heart refreshed. She headed the opposite way down the alley, not wanting to be the one who "found" her latest kill. She was certain it would make headlines in the next day´s newspaper. She just hoped that her message was clear. She headed home, stopping by her favorite burger stand and ordering for two – perhaps her stomach would then leave her alone.