“I’ve… had a very bad day.”
Day ? Month ? Year ?
It surges through bone and blood—and beyond.
Fire courses through her veins. Her throat burns like she’s swallowed a torch. She tries to breathe. She can’t. She’s suffocating. Drowning. Burning. Pain assails her from all sides. It hammers her into slag, like a worthless proto-sword being beaten against a hot forge.
But this time. Different.
Just away. Right in front of her.
Amelie: Waking to pain. It feels as though it’s become rote.
But this time it’s a juxtaposed pain for the blacksmith. Burning. Fire. Amelie chokes on carbon within and without. Her bones boil to charcoal, her marrow feels as though it’s steaming, softness wrapped in hard steel.
Water. Not relief, but temperance. Hardening. Crystalization. Semi-permanence.
She doesn’t scream, there is no throat to carry the sound. She just steps into the quench, her only thoughts those that have come to mind a million times. Water or oil. Steam or fire. A sigh of relief or a battle with the dragon.
GM: Any smith who quenches their sword in oil must blow the fire out, like dragons fighting over whose breath wins.
Only one can win.
One must lose.
Cool relief crashes through her. Molecules freeze in place. Burning metal becomes carbon-bearing steel. Bliss floods her veins, hot and rapturous. Like she’s gorged herself until her stomach was swollen and bloated after days without eating. Like she’s fucked her brains out after a lifetime as an unhappy virgin. Her great work is complete. She is complete.
The pain is gone.
A man’s savaged, gore-streaked corpse stares blankly up at her.
Amelie: She is complete.
She, the sword. The weapon forged from other’s cruelty.
She freezes as the chunk of meat beneath her comes into view.
Did… she hurt him, too? Another thug who tried to force himself on her?
She slowly looks herself and her surroundings over, trying to parse together what’s happening.
GM: The body underneath Amelie is a black male in maybe his early 40s. He has a slightly tubby face, with a wide nose, short beard, and short hair. He wears blue latex gloves and a white lab coat that’s streaked with violent red spatters.
His jugular has been been completely torn out, as if by a wolf’s or wild dog’s teeth. The man’s pudgy face is frozen in a mask of shock, agony, and terror. A growing pool of red slowly seeps across the linoleum floor. A broken pair of rectangular-shaped eyeglasses rest a short distance away.
Amelie takes in their surroundings.
She is straddling the corpse’s chest at the foot of a gurney, next to an open steel vault. She’s naked.
An overhead clock mechanically ticks away.
Amelie: Everything happens at once. Her frozen body feels almost giddy, like it’s never been more awake. Her mind feels sharp as ever as she methodically ticks through each new sight in quick succession.
Neck. Morgue. Blood.
She looks down at her body and shudders at what she sees. Her ribs are visible against her skin like a Holocaust survivor’s. The rest of her is bruised and ripped up like nothing she’s ever seen.
Memories flits through her head. A dark shape biting her neck and grinding against her body as it drains her. Is that what did this? Did the thing’s bite carry an… infection? But that was… she doesn’t even know how long ago that was. No. Whatever happened to her happened later. Probably.
Amelie doesn’t know what she’s feeling. Her whole body shudders as she starts to hyperventilate. She distantly wonders if it’s a purely psychological reaction and she only wants to feel cold.
She stops breathing and doesn’t waste another moment as she tries to stand. She needs something to cover herself. She needs a sink, and clothes, and time. Her eyes glance up at the clock.
GM: Amelie rises without impediment. The clock’s black hands rest at approximately 9 PM. Its thinnest red hand impartially ticks forward.
Tick. Tick. Tick.
Amelie: Amelie doesn’t know what it means to her. Whatever she is now. Whatever the rules really are for…
She moves her jaw around, smacks her lips and tastes it. It. What can only be the ‘relief’ she felt. What couldn’t have been water.
The demon. It was there before and after she passed out, if that’s what she even did. Did that… thing make her this? At the cost of this man’s life?
Her face twists as emotions finally roil up through the shock. Despair. Guilt. Horror. This man is dead, for her ‘relief’, when she could have just stood there and burned. Maybe it would have been better if she were ashes.
She tries her best to keep it all down, kneels beside the man and closes his eyes and jaw. She looks at the wound. Made with her teeth.
“O my God, I love Thee above all things with my whole heart and soul, because Thou art all good and worthy of all love. I love my neighbor as myself for love of Thee. I forgive all who have injured me, and I ask pardon for all whom I have injured.”
It’s not enough. It never will be, especially given what she needs to do next. She turns him over just enough to look for his wallet, and stifles a sob.
GM: The dead man’s eyes stare at Amelie as blankly as before while she opens his coat and rummages through his pants. His leather wallet has a few IDs, credit cards, spare cash, and photo of a hijab-wearing woman with dusky skin.
Amelie: Wife? Girlfriend? Amelie shudders to think.
She quickly removes one of the gloves from his hands and pulls it over her own. She gently rests the photo on the man’s chest, underneath his coat, while she takes his cash and keys with her gloved hand.
“I’m sorry… I’m sorry. I don’t—I don’t know Muslim rites,” she pleads, as if hoping he’ll spring up and scream at her. She puts back everything else and rushes to find a sink.
GM: Amelie gets her wish.
The corpse’s eyes snap open.
It springs to its feet.
Blood pours and runs from its savaged neck.
It all happens in a second. The mangled, soul-piercing cry. The hellishly lost, crazed look from the ’corpse’s’ bulging and vein-shot eyes. The door slamming open. The flash of white, red-smeared coat. Footsteps hammering against floor.
Amelie: Amelie jumps like a gun went off next to her ear, but lets the man run by. Her heart rises and sinks at the same time. She’s glad he’s alive. She’s fearful for the help he may go and find.
She quickly searches the room for amenities. She needs to wash up, find clean gloves, and a change of clothes. Even a lab coat will work.
GM: The room has a sink. Someone has left a white lab coat on the nearby counter. Amelie spies no further amenities.
A muted shattering noise abruptly pierces the too-brief silence.
Amelie: Amelie has no idea what the sound might be, but she doesn’t waste any time. She turns the sink’s faucet and washes her hands and face as fast as she can, wiping her face with her arms.
She pulls on the coat, stuffs the wad of cash in a pocket, and takes off through the door. Whoever finds the scene can think whatever they want. She just needs to get out.
GM: A deserted hallway stretches before her in two directions. Right. Left.
Bloody foot-shaped prints, that rivet her gaze like a magnet, go left.
Amelie: Amelie grits her teeth. The panicked man would go towards the nearest exit. Or to a guard station. She has time. She has his keys. Maybe she can clean this up.
The thought strikes her as strange as she yanks her eyes from the bloody prints. She turns right instead, away from what she hopes will be a good distraction for her getaway.
GM: Several windows along the corridor overlook a barren-looking yard encircled by a black metal fence. Past that is roadway and darkened cityscape interrupted by the odd passing car. Points of light silently flash before disappearing back into the gloom.
Amelie: Amelie keeps running but keeps the windows in mind. She looks for a stairwell, fire escape, or some other exit from the hall. If bad comes to worse, she’ll need something to break the window.
GM: A flight of stairs leads down to another empty and darkened hallway.
Distant footsteps sound against floor.
Amelie: Amelie quickly shifts and opens the nearest door just to peek inside. A janitor’s closet would be perfect, but anywhere that puts a door between her and people works for her.
GM: The room on the other side has a carpeted floor, couch, cloth chair, and low table with a kleenex box. Bookshelves loom behind the furniture.
Amelie: It’s better than nothing. Amelie steps in and closes the door as quietly as she can. She grabs the heaviest book she can find off the shelf, along with the kleenex box. She pulls out the latter’s tissues, stuffs them in a coat pocket, and approaches the light switch.
GM: She finds it already off.
Amelie: She fits the box’s opening over the cover plate and wedges the cardboard just enough so that when she lets go, it still hangs there covering the switch plat. It’s a weak attempt, but an attempt nonetheless.
She crouches underneath the table, makes her thin body as small as she can, and rests on the balls of her feet as she watches for lights under the door. And waits.
GM: Time passes.
Then, lights flashing beneath the door.
There for a moment.
Gone the next.
Amelie: Amelie quietly watches from her darkened hiding spot as the lights pass. She counts to 20 before she gets out from under the table and listens by the door for movement.
GM: She strains her ears. None is audible.
Amelie: Amelie slowly cracks the door open to check the hall.
GM: It stretches before her, a dark and empty passageway into an equally dark and uncertain future.
Amelie: Amelie steps out from behind the door and quickly makes her way towards the stairwell. She only dares to use the balls of her feet and the tips of her fingers as she scrambles up the steps on all fours. She doesn’t stop until she gets all the way to the roof access at the top. Medical buildings keep a lot of their maintenance units on roofs, especially air conditioners.
GM: It’s hard not to feel like an animal as she frantically bounds up the stairwell on her hands and knees. A ravenous, forlorn, hunted creature, skulking desperately out of sight. Perhaps a bystander might ask why she is doing this, but more likely they would scream. There is only the pounding, id-driven urge to flee. To find safety.
Amelie bounds up the stairs. On the second flight up, the door flies open. A flashlight shines in her face.
“Hey!” yells the uniformed man holding it.
Then he crumples to the floor.
Amelie’s eyes and nose are clogged with blood. Her lab coat is stuck to her skin like she’s been sweating in it. Her hand clutches a fistful of hair. She’s standing on a corpse with its head facing the wrong way and its throat torn out. Her mouth burns hot with coppery-smelling bliss.
Amelie: Everything is wrong. Amelie stares down. Blood everywhere. All she can smell, taste, and for a moment all she can see. It’s salty. Warm. Like the surface of a perfect melty hot pretzel, sliding down her throat in a perfect ecstasy she’s never been allowed to experience before. Sex in all its far-away romance for a virgin soul, never having gone through the sheer disappointment of reality. A reality she is absent from for the barest of moments before her eyes focus on the scene below her.
There she stands on a corpse, holding him by the hair like she’s twisted him, like a doll she’s been disappointed with.
It’s not supposed to be like this, it’s not like it was with me. Am I not a vampire? A demon? Monster?
She remembers laying in that bed, watching that door and hoping her grunting attracted the monster she felt on the other side. She wished for it to take her away. She remembers the other—same?—vampire being so gentle, a sickening sensual grinding, almost intimate. And here stands Amelie, letting the corpse she’s just ripped apart thump back onto the floor as she lets it go, her mind swimming.
She’s stuck like this, lower than a man, lower than a pretty woman, and now lower than a monster who dry-humps unconscious girls in their beds. She remembers Tantsy telling her she would die. The LaLaurie house, the… wherever the hell was with Emmett, she was destined for a quick circling a drain into a dark dark pipe. She remembers the realization that old hag was likely right. It’s what drove her to seek dangerous people like Sal and Boxcars. She wanted to be ready to face the dark. Now she is the dark, worse than that long-haired parasite. She isn’t surprised, she just wishes that her death didn’t have to mean others’ deaths. Doesn’t have to mean. She doesn’t know if she’s really a vampire, what the rules are, if she can live without hurting people like it did. All the questions and academia don’t give her any comfort.
There are no words, whatever cruel fate has left empathy in this body rips at her from the inside. She can’t force it down this time. Her body shudders and seizes even just in a psychological remembrance of a sob as her legs fail her and she falls to one knee. She brings her fists down, impotently beating on the man’s chest, pulling at his shirt, trying to will him to stand up. To be okay. Her face presses into his chest, not knowing if she’s trying to comfort him, or seeking some kind of comfort from the residual heat of a human being who once had hopes and dreams. Both options feel insane, but she needs them both. Just for a moment. Just to replace the feeling she’s never gotten, to cry into a father’s chest and have him tell her things will be okay.
But something cold tells her to move. Something cold and logical, a machine that’s kept her alive until now. Amelie wants to ignore it, to have someone come from behind her and put a bullet in her brain. But she doubts it would kill her. She would just hurt that person afterwards. She needs to protect him, too. She lets out one last desperate scream into the dead man’s chest before she grabs him with both hands, tosses him down the stairwell, and rises to her feet. She runs as fast as her legs will carry her. Up wards. She feels light as she runs, fast, faster, too fast! She can feel everything start to move far too fast, but her feet know exactly where to step, barely making contact with every few stairs as she blurs up the staircase, too scared to encounter another person.
GM: Amelie pushes and heaves at the corpse. Limp bodies weight a lot, and her arms are emaciated sticks of their former “bulging” selves that Yvette mocked her for. In the end, it’s gravity that literally does the heavy lifting, and the corpse rolls forward with a crash. Amelie’s last glimpse of the dead man is his wide-open eyes and gaping mouth rolling over a step as if kissing it.
“Hey! Up there!”
“Come out with your hands up!”
Footsteps rapidly thump up the stairs from below.
Then. Another crash. Noises. A surprised yell.
Amelie: Hearing the yells, she doesn’t stop to obey. She thinks back to the cop in the French Quarter, how she should have tried to lose him. She doesn’t want to make the same mistake twice. Amelie runs up the stairs, eyes wide as whatever has taken her body since her ‘infection’ takes hold. Its like her bones are hollow, like her whole being is vibrating all at once. Her legs move too quickly to take every step, so she does every two. Three. Four. Her body moves fast enough to remind her of her face ice skating, screaming in fear as she moves too fast to stop. But she does. Her legs still know who’s boss, and at the very top of the stairwell, she pushes the door open.
Back outside. Finally.
Now that she’s up on the roof, she quickly looks around the dark city and tries to get her bearings.
GM: She’s on the highest point for a while around. A tangle of freeway viaducts and expressways loom ahead. Everywhere else is parking lots, low buildings, and onrushing cars, their headlamps spearing beams of light through the gloom.
Thumping footsteps pound against the stairs after her.
Amelie: Amelie eyes the ground and feels a split second of vertigo. She knows she went up more stairs than just the one, basements being so rare in New Orleans. But that’s all the hesitation she allows. She keeps running, straight off the building, hoping her body still remembers how to roll when landing.
GM: She hits the soil with a thud.
Amelie: Her body feels the thud, and remembers its motions, weaken the legs, fall forward with the momentum, take it on the shoulder, and roll. Amelie springs back onto her feet in mere moments and sprints the yard towards the fence, aiming for the nearest car park.
GM: Her bare feet pound against dry soil. The unmistakable tang of blood draws her head like a magnet. Droplets are haphazardly scattered by the building along with shards of broken glass. One of the second-story windows is broken.
She pulls herself over the black iron fence and lands with an audible smack against concrete.
Amelie: It’s a dizzying scent. She instantly remembers the sound of shattering glass from the mortician, the trail of blood leading to him bleeding even more. She can’t though. She can’t go back to collect the soaked shards. She pulls herself over the fence as fast as she can, and slams into the concrete. Picking herself back up fast and once again taking off running. Away from the freeways and people’s eyes as much as possible, she heads into the maze of parked cars and just keeps running, one hand holding the blood-soaked lab coat closed around her naked body.
GM: The several rows of cars obscure her, but remain far from an impenetrable maze. The night is dark and cool against the sounds of onrushing traffic.
Amelie: It doesn’t need to be impenetrable. Amelie keeps her legs moving as fast as she can, away from the traffic as much as she can. She keeps her eyes open as she can, looking for street signs, company advertisements on the side of buildings or warehouses. The dark night and cool air feels incredible after so long. Stuck in a hospital, trapped in the underworld, imprisoned in OPP. She finally feels the rush of air past her face. Her legs moving.
GM: Street signs say she is on Earhart Boulevard, an apparently long and flat stretch of concrete interspersed with cars. A taller and thicker complex of buildings across the road is labeled Booker T. Washington High School.
Amelie: Amelie sees the complex of buildings as a better means of hiding and escaping than a parking lot, stopping only long enough to wait for a break in the traffic before she makes a break for the high school
GM: She crosses without incident. The buildings look drab and sterile, more like a factory complex—or Orleans Parish Prison—than a high school. One of the windows has a bullet hole. The school looks like a far cry from McGehee.
Amelie: Amelie runs around the side of the building that gives her the most cover from the road, trying doors for something that’s unlocked this late at night.
GM: The school is locked up tight. This doesn’t feel like a safe neighborhood.
Amelie: Amelie makes peace with it pretty damn quick, turning and keeping running. She passes the school and keeps heading away from the morgue, keeping her eyes out for street signs, trying to get a cardinal direction. Before the police get on this way.
GM: She passes rows of houses and parked cars. They’re smaller, shoddier-looking structures than her old neighborhood in the Garden District, but their lights are warm and inviting against the winter night as Amelie skulks outside, barefoot and blood-stained, like an unwanted ghost. She passes a Boys & Girls Club before seeing a street sign that reads S. Dorgendis St.
Amelie: Amelie feels like a ghost. She briefly wonders if perhaps she IS dead. Maybe Emmett a figment of her imagination and this is how the dead see the underworld. But it’s a short thought as she spots the S on the street sign. South is the way to the waterfront no matter where you are in New Orleans, if she remembers the map of the city well enough. Still, she takes it on faith and heads where she thinks is south, breaking into another full sprint.
GM: Amelie follows the south-labeled street signs. Cars drive by in the dark. She wonders if any the drivers can make out her bloody appearance, away from their headlights, but none stop. Running soon feels unnecessary.
She passes dilapidated buildings with broken windows and vandalized exteriors. A dirty-faced old woman bundled up in equally dirty, tattered coats ambles past with a junking-filled shopping cart, muttering nonsense to herself. She pays no heed to Amelie, whose bare feet hurt. She nearly steps on a discarded needle.
She remembers Oscar talking about how “rough neighborhoods can be righ’ nex by the not-so-rough ones” on that long-ago limo ride from the airport. The elderly driver’s words prove true. Property values abruptly climb as she spots restaurants and coffee house alongside better-maintained homes. There are patrols, too. White cars bearing the word “POLICE” and blue crescent badges. Amelie melds into the shadows like the ghost she is when they draw near. When anyone passing her on the streets draws near.
She eventually reaches a street sign whose name she recognizes: St. Charles Avenue. Following that east will lead directly into the French Quarter.
She does so, trying to avoid the increasingly frequent police patrols in the nice neighborhoods. A low roar warns her to get off the street before a green-colored old car barrels past. She wonders if it’s the same one she rode to Tantsy’s.
Tall and proud Southern live oaks create an almost roof-like canopy overhead. Classical statues and colorful flower beds dot the well-maintained yards of Colonial-, Victorian-, and Greek Revival-style old homes.
Amelie has walked this route before. Skated it, too. Her aunt’s home is only a few minutes away.
Amelie: Oscar. She remembers him so fondly, but with the state she’s in now, she wonders if maybe his words were an omen about the evils of New Orleans. The horror and rot in the woodwork. Lots to love in-fucking-deed.
What hits her more as she proceeds through the sudden shift are the routes she remembers skating and walking, the familiar corners. Somehow her instincts have brought her to where she lived a few scant months. Aunt Christina. She wonders for a moment if her aunt is even aware she’s dead, or if her knowledge ends with her being in a coma. Maybe she thinks she’s all alone in the world. Like Amelie has felt too many times.
She quickly turns, however. It’s dangerous for her aunt to see her like this, as a monster who can’t control herself around real people. This is for her safety too, and soon enough she’ll come back and let Christina know her niece is okay.
Amelie keeps her heading southward, hurrying along to try and get to the shipping yards. She can follow them along the river without many people being present and cross before she hits the French Quarter.
GM: Amelie soon passes another familiar sight.
It’s her first time seeing McGehee at night. The school’s graceful campus looks like another several peacefully sleeping homes in the rich neighborhood.
It’s not hard to think back to all of the bad and good times there. Ms. Perry’s history lectures. The way the history teacher smirked when she talked about Jean Lafitte and other “bad boys,” and how impressed she was by Amelie’s knowledge. Mrs. Flores’ dance classes. The former ballerina might have “ragged on” Amelie to play the lady more often, but she was still so warm and friendly. Her other classes were more mixed bags, either because of the teachers or subject matter. Off-tangent Mr. Thurston, pissy Ms. Ward, sleepy Mrs. Laurent, drinking Mr. French.
It’s hard to think of any real friends she made there. Maybe Hannah, dead according to Yvette. Miranda, who she only got to meet twice. Maybe Megan, if she didn’t know about the malicious prank her peers were all playing.
Amelie: Amelie’s expression sinks further when she sees her old school, and all that come to mind are wasted opportunities. Hopes this place gave for stepping stones to higher education. Now she just wishes she could burn it to the ground. Find all those girls and show them horrors they can’t imagine.
She spots the place she last spoke with Miranda as well. She feels a pain in her chest for the preteen still trapped there with queen bees pulling her every which way and making her suffer. She still wishes she could have been friends with her and eased her burden. Been the person she herself needed as a girl.
She doesn’t spend more than a few moments staring before moving on and quickening her pace. She doesn’t want to be reminded of everything she has lost. She doesn’t want to look back and feel horrible stabs of grief and anger. She needs to go south.
GM: Amelie’s path once again takes her away from her former life.
The Port of New Orleans isn’t as ornate as the rest of the Garden District. It looks largely the same as any other city’s port, with lots of gray concrete and multicolored shipping containers. A chain-link fence, passing security guards, and the odd passing car keeps Amelie from disappearing into that maze, but she follows the water east.
She passes an industrial white building with potted plants labeled ‘Mardi Gras World’, where carnival floats are made. The twin cantilever bridges of the Crescent City connection loom ahead.
It soon becomes apparent to Amelie that there is no dedicated lane for cyclists or pedestrians. The closest is a slim section of road past the white line, where passing cars don’t drive—but well within their headlights.
Amelie: Amelie walks along the fence the whole way along the waterfront, clutching hard to the coat around her. Seeing ‘Mardi Gras World’ stings. She remembers her excitement at Caroline Malveux’s offer of working with them, hoping that things are… okay with her. She doesn’t know how to feel about Caroline. Father Malveaux is a good man, her judge uncle or something was a horrible prick, and Vera Malveux? Maybe her face got like that for punching down. But Caroline, she hopes is okay.
The bridge doesn’t leave Amelie much cover, but she finds herself without a fence between her and the river, at least after Mardi Gras World. She walks through the parking lot of the Post of New Orleans building and to the water, looking if there are any small boats left moored. For maintenance, she would think.
GM: None are apparent tonight.
Amelie: There doesn’t seem to be much choice. She’s not dumb enough to try swimming in the river. All rivers are killers. The bridge doesn’t leave her with much cover, but her blessing is the nature of the bridge. Traffic travels in both directions, but on ‘different bridges’, while a fence and a large gap lead down into the water between them. She picks the one the cars will come at her back in, and starts her walk of shame across. Barefoot, aching, humiliated with her naked body just under the dried blood of this lab coat. She wonders if it might be a better idea to simply swim across.
GM: Amelie’s bare feet are worn and dirty after so much walking, but don’t feel as sore as perhaps they ought as she treads along the concrete. Her white coat stands out against the headlights of so many passing vehicles. The now-dried bloodstains stand out even more.
Car after car after car passes. Amelie hears the occasional honk.
She’s perhaps halfway over the bridge when a white vehicle with the words ‘Louisiana State Police’ emblazoned on its side in red letters appears in her peripheral vision.
Amelie: Amelie keeps her pace when the cop car, wiping her mouth a bit and keeping her pace. Five minutes in and five minutes to go, she knows she can clear the bridge in under a minute if she runs, but she can’t outrun a car.
She just hopes they move on and ignore her. No more deaths need to happen today.
GM: The car’s sirens start wailing.
Amelie: Amelie pauses, looks over her shoulder at the car, and stops moving.
GM: The car pulls to a horizontal stop, blocking the maximum amount of traffic. Two men get out. They look like the Mounties from Amelie’s home, down to the same style of hat, except their uniforms are navy blue. One officer stays close to where he is and makes stopping motions towards traffic as angry honks go up from approaching cars. The second officer approaches Amelie.
He looks over the bloodstained lab coat covering her naked body.
“Pedestrians aren’t allowed on this bridge, sir. Why don’t we give you a lift the rest of the way?” he asks in a tone that doesn’t sound like it’s asking.
Amelie: “There was a shoulder here, I apologize. I’m just trying to get to Algiers. I’ve… had a very bad day,” Amelie tries to explain. “I don’t want blood all over your car. If I promise to jog, can you just… let me cross? Just this once?”
She makes no movements to get away from the officer.
GM: “Please follow me to the patrol vehicle, sir,” states the trooper.
Amelie: Amelie bites her tongue for a moment and tries stay calm. The cop isn’t making her angry, but he is making her worried. She needs to be careful with herself.
“It’s ‘miss.’ Am I being detained, officer?”
GM: “You are being detained, miss,” the cop answers.
An increasing number of angry honks are going up from the choked-off traffic.
Amelie: “I need your badge number and name for my lawyer, then. Unless you’re willing to do things the easy way, just for five minutes until I vanish into the ghetto other side of this bridge.”
She still has that cash in her pocket.
GM: “You can have those once you’re in the car, miss. Let’s stop holding up traffic,” the cop states.
Amelie: Amelie feels like her heart should be pounding in her chest, just like every other moment she sizes someone up for a fight. Her eyes lock onto the trooper’s as though a duel is about to start, like she’s already going to fight for her life so soon after freeing herself.
But it feels different now. Still. Painfully still, like all she ever has to focus on is her target. No more counting breaths, no more being careful about blinking. Everything falls away as her eyes dig into the trooper with a clarity she’s never felt before. She sees only him, everything black past his profile as she feels the strangeness of her new body take her over. Amelie digs for answers in his eyes like every fencer she ever has, and finds more.
GM: It’s not a fencer’s hunch. It’s something deeper, a glimpse of sinew instead of skin. Answers bleed into her head as suddenly, easily, and naturally as blood leaking from a struck opponent’s flank.
Blood coats Amelie from head to toe. It slides off her head, hands, everywhere, in great rippling sheaths. The man’s eyes linger upon a discarded, red-crusted lab coat. He is yet ignorant of her other crimes.
Amelie: Amelie’s hand comes up to her head as the visions overtake her, flashes that tell her more than she should know. It’s this body again, that of a monster, now her mind goes with it. Just like Emmett, whispering things into her skull. But her shaking hands dig into her breast pocket, taking out the wad of bills from the mortician.
“Money. I have money. You can have all of it, just for five minutes of me getting off this bridge. This is New Orleans, take the easy way, yeah? No precinct paperwork, just a wretch wandering away from the French Quarter.”
GM: The trooper guffaws, pulls some zip cuffs off his belt, and grabs at Amelie’s hands.
“You’re under arrest.”
Amelie: Amelie pulls away and quickly backs up towards the edge of the bridge.
“I’ll jump! Get back, or I’ll just jump! All you had to do was let me go, I was going AWAY from from the French Quarter!”
GM: The trooper curses as Amelie darts away from his grasp. “All right, bitch, we did this the easy way! Hey, Bill!”
The other state trooper looks over, sees what’s going on, and comes at Amelie from her flank.
Amelie: Amelie feels like silk, just as fast as she once was, stepping just where she needs to without touching either of the troopers. While they fumble her like the Saints fumble footballs, Amelie braces and… lets go.
She got a good look at the underside as she walked: the X-pattern construction. She swings her legs as she falls and grips the steel support beams as hard as she can, trying to get quietly into the bridge’s undercarriage.
GM: There’s a stomach-flipping sensation of vertigo as Amelie plummets off the side of the bridge. It feels like a hundred years passes between the split second that happens and the moment Amelie seizes the steel supports. All of her senses feel as if they have been honed to a knife’s edge—one that could just as easily slip and cut her.
The contours of the bridge"s x-shaped supports are visible to her as plainly as day, down to individual nicks and scuffs. She can hear the roar of the Mississippi so many hundreds of feet below. Falling into its muddy, midnight-black waters would be like striking cement from this height. She can smell the industrial-strength, chemically-saturated polluted run-off that makes the river a triply foolish destination in which to swim.
She also hears noises and exclamations from the state troopers and perhaps other witnesses above. Voices rapidly fire numbered codes and “overs” into what can only be police radios.
The journey across the bridge’s underside is grueling. Amelie doesn’t once feel sore or tired, but her stick-like limbs appear woefully insufficient for the task before them. At any moment, it seems as if she could fall and plunge into the fast-moving, concrete-hard waters below.
It feels like a lot longer than five minutes have passed by the time she draws close to the other side—and can make out the glow of flashing red and blue sirens from overhead.
Amelie: Amelie wonders if the sudden vertigo signals the real and true end to her life, if her hands and arms are going to fail her and she’s going to plummet to the river below. She knows all about the Mississippi, which is a hundred times more dangerous than the St. Laurent. If she somehow survives the fall, she won’t survive being swept out to sea.
But she doesn’t fall. She feels the familiar slide of iron against her hands, and grips with all her being, pulling herself up all in the same motion to bring herself in between the cement of the bridge and the beam structure holding it up. Amelie crawls like a worm through her natural element, her thin pathetic arms threatening her every second, but never making good on the threat. There is no tiredness, no shaking, no lactic acid telling her body how long her body can go on. The worm feels like she wants to throw up, denied the familiar feeling she knows in her mind should be present. But that too is denied as a possibility. It’s monstrous.
Amelie still doesn’t stop. She can’t afford to give them more time to organize if they know where she is. She keeps climbing until she’s over land, and keeps going. Peeking quietly ahead, past the first cement pillar on the shore, she spots a shift in the structure, almost a platform she can walk to keep going. She heads towards that, hoping to find a safe place to drop down.
GM: Amelie can distantly make out several cop cars parked close to the water. Tiny ant-sized dots of light crawl across the bank like bugs. A blue and white police boat cruises the Mississippi, searchlight sweeping the dark current.
Amelie: Amelie freezes for a moment, scoping out the scene. They think she’s fallen into the water, even a boat searching for her corpse as cops scrounge the bank. The monster they’re searching for feels a small moment of panic in her chest, before her plan forms. She continues climbing, planning to go right over their heads and past the search for her corpse. She knows with them looking at the water, she only needs to get away from the shore and climb down a ways away from them, and she’s home free in Algiers point. She keeps moving, eyes darting from the beams to the flashlights, trying to keep anything from drawing their attention.
GM: The police are clearly not searching the underside of the bridge. At least not yet.
That fact appears Amelie’s saving grace as she descends the stairwell connecting it to the ground and climbs over the surrounding fence.
Amelie: Amelie jumps from the stairwell over the barbed wire, squeezing her hands in each other. She knows even in her peak, that climb would be grueling, horrible, and have made her cry in effort and frustration at how pain might slow her down. But here she stands, staring at her own body, just imagining how it might now be capable of a whole day of uninterrupted work in the forge. She feels a sharp spike of disgust at the fantasy and turns quickly north.
Within her sight after just a block and a half is a sign. All Saints Church. Amelie heads towards it right away. Maybe there’s a clothing donation box if she pushes on the doors and they open this late.
GM: The church’s doors do not budge when Amelie pulls them. No one from within answers any calls. No lights are visible. The days when a church’s doors were always open for poor sinners to seek refuge appear well and truly over.
As Amelie considers this fact, a distant gunshot pierces the night.
Amelie: Amelie feels saddened by that fact. She wishes she could get inside at least to rest. But the gunshot draws all attention away. She knows Algiers is violence-ridden, but it’s one of the reasons she came here. She starts off in the direction of the gunshot, looking for a more active area. Streetwalkers, gangbangers, someone who’ll take her wad of cash and give her something to cover this awful yet wonderful new body.
GM: Amelie wanders the night.
Most of the homes by the Crescent City Connection appear middle to lower-middle class. New enough. Maintained enough. As Amelie’s path takes her away from the soaring overhead bridge, she encounters increasing signs of vandalism and urban neglect. Boards over broken windows. Graffiti ranging from gang tags to crudely-etched genitalia. Trash littering the streets.
She passes a street sign labeled Whitney Street. Perhaps it’s named for Sarah’s family. Perhaps it’s just a coincidence.
One of the areas closer to the Crescent Connection looks nicer, though it’s hard to make out much past the six-foot wall that cordons it off from the rest of the neighborhood. There’s a sign that labels it Algiers Point. Armed and uniformed men patrol the boundaries.
Amelie skulks away. Another ghost in a shadowland of forsaken souls.
Amelie: Amelie worries less and less about the police as she puts distance between her and the shore, more and more preoccupied with concerns about the time she’s spending wandering. She doesn’t know what she is or what she needs. Her body feels like a weapon with blades in every direction, but what chips her? The sun? Garlic? Crosses? Stakes through the heart feel as though they’d be bad news no matter what she is.
But at least the view is getting rougher. Amelie knows she can likely get what she needs here. She can hide in the floorboards of shitty houses if she has a claw hammer. Train tracks that haven’t been used for decades and that wall with all the armed assholes could be useful too.
The most vile thing here is Whitney Street. She remembers Warren Whitney’s little secret and wonders how she might be able to use it against him now that she’s dead to them.
GM: The night stretches. Then she hears it. Pounding, violent lyrics in Spanish.
“Su cartel ya lo conocen
le llaman La Vecindad
Los contrarios por envidia
lo han querido asesinar
pero el ‘8’ no está solo
su gente sabe trozar”
("His cartel is well-known
it’s called La Vecindad
His jealous enemies
want to take him out
but “8” isn’t alone
his people are killers, too")
The noise comes from the open windows of a black ’85 Buick. Steadily rolling towards her.
Amelie: All her thoughts get put on hold when she sees the Buick, slowing her pace and giving the car a casually nod as she steps closer to the sidewalk. She hopes they’ll stop to talk with her, maybe she can use some of this cash to get a t-shirt or a lead on a place she can steal some clothes.
GM: The car opens.
The man holding it is a 20-something Latino with a shaved head and dead expression. He wears a wifebeater with dark stains that shows off his bulging biceps, ripped chest, and full-sleeve tattoos of a skull-faced woman with chains for her hair. A gold cross glints from around his neck. The knuckles gripping his firearm are thick and scarred.
Amelie can hear the blood pounding and pulsing through his veins, too. It’s thick and powerful and aggressive—more than either of those state troopers’ was, or anyone else’s she’s seen since starting this grim new existence, except maybe that coroner whose impossible screams were so raw and hoarse after she ripped out his throat. The blood from the car doesn’t smell as fresh, but there is so very much of it. Amelie can already feel two sharp points pressing against her lower set of teeth.
The car’s rear door opens. Another man gets out. He’s a stocky figure with closely-shorn hair, dark glasses, another wifebeater, and a gold dollar sign on a necklace. He’s also pointing a gun towards Amelie’s head as he holds the Buick’s door open. There’s two further figures inside, one in the front and back sections of the vehicle.
The smell of blood is cloyingly, overpoweringly strong from the back. It’s not completely fresh, she can tell that at a whiff. It still tantalizes her senses like a day-old all-you-can-eat buffet would would tease a starving woman—or tender hands caressing her loins after days of stress and tension. It’s been so very, very long since she last ate. It’s been even longer since she got off. Smelling that tantalizing aroma, it’s like she could do both at once.
The gun-hefting man in the front seat says only two words.
Amelie: Amelie feels all the words she prepared in Spanish fall away from that smell. She feels like the car itself has come to feed her, rescue her from the tiny gnawing that’s been starting to scratch at the back of her head. The gun barely phases her in the state she’s in, looking the man of men pull up. She hates to admit it, but the satin wrap of that perfect blend of smells and the sight of a man with arms that big make her swoon to touch him. Grab him by the wrist and take him. He’s not even her type.
The points do little to dissuade her, her eyes still locked on the killer in the car’s while her hand gently probes against these new additions to her anatomy. They ache for him, too. Curiosity even in arousal, hunger, need, whatever this feeling is, it seems. But his words start a strange part of the girl that she’s rarely felt since fumbling around in high school, flirting. She wants to… eat, this person. She knows it. He looks so dangerous, it’s fine to let him lead for now, and then get him off guard later, right? Just a bit. She’ll only take a little.
“Lo que digas guapo. Tú tienes el arma.”
(“Whatever you say, handsome. You have the gun.”)
Amelie looks the stockier man over and worries for him a moment, as well, hoping he doesn’t box her in with that disgusting gun pointed in her face.
She finally gets into the car, looking for the source of that smell, like a possum into a trap. With plans to spring from it and get into the larder later.
GM: Amelie hears an ominous click from the gun as the man standing outside the car shoves it directly against her temple.
“Keep that shit to yourself, maricón!” he shouts disgustedly.
Amelie: Amelie pauses as he shoves it up against her head. She knows he’s in danger, and she goes through the motion of a small calming breath before she speaks.
“Jodido como soy, sigo siendo una mujer. Enfríalo.”
(“Fucked up ugly as I look, I’m still a woman. Cool it.”)
She pulls away from the gun, sliding into the back seat to take a look at her interrupted look-see for the scent of blood.
GM: The man seizes Amelie by the throat as she tries to move away, smashing the back of her skull against the car’s door.
Amelie: Amelie doesn’t resist. She feels her head hit the car door and grits her teeth, feeling her new fangs pressing hard against her gums. She doesn’t look at him and strains her eyes to look into the car instead. Not because she feels she must act cowed to the gangbanger. Amelie feels something else, something that confuses and scares her. It’s not the bottled up animosity that turned on Big Dawg. She cannot place it, and as she swallows it down she doesn’t feel it go away. Not completely. She stays quiet and waits for the cholo to shove her into the car or let her go.
GM: Amelie feels rough hands pulling open the rim of her lab coat. The gun’s cold tip brushes against her loins.
“You one of those maricóns who cut off your dick?” the tanned-skinned man leers in English, staring at Amelie’s snatch. “Because that thing don’t look like a pussy to me, maricón. You couldn’t pay me to stick my dick in that slimehole. Probably spiders in there. Where are your tits? Huh?”
He pulls off Amelie’s bloody coat and throws it on the ground. His gun traces her bruised, emaciated chest and withered breasts. Rain steadily falls and patters.
“Where? Where are your tits?” he asks exaggeratedly, to the now-accompanying laughter of his fellows.
Amelie: Amelie looks down at her body as the soaked coat falls away. She misses it. She misses the thickness of her shoulders and the power in her arms. She misses the tone and coil forged from years of tears and bleeding calluses.
But here is this man now, mocking a skeleton, a body more at home decades ago, a gaunt Jew-like victim staring at a cackling Aryan cunt she wishes would just die. But Amelie knows she doesn’t have to wish. She remembers the security guard’s broken neck, she remembers her own quench, the visions that came to her while screaming and burning coming back to remind her. She is forged in horror just like this.
The tiny Holocaust look-alike stares the man right in the eye, and feels a will allow itself to be pushed out like a weapon. To subjugate the lesser man. She takes all humiliations she has suffered and shows them that feeling, and shows them it’s their turn.
Amelie stands up straight, shoulders back, turning ever so slightly to the side with her left foot front. It’s a pose she knows well, practiced to tears, a dignified squaring up of two paper tigers circling each other. But she’s the weapon now, her face twisting into a half-feral snarl, showing the man her teeth, and two long sharp fangs more than capable of ripping his throat out. She’s seen it. And she lets him hear it, an inhuman throaty growl more suited to a creature than a woman. Amelie is both. She pushes out in a few certain words as her eyes bore holes in the cholo asshole’s glazed oafish orbs, hissed and jabbered more than spoken. This tiny little holocaust woman’s will, honed to a keen edge, lashes out at the man.
“Show some respect.”
GM: The man half-flinches, half-staggers back several steps from Amelie like he’s been stabbed, his face suddenly white as a sheet. “Que m-m-mie-?!” he starts, in what’s becoming a satisfyingly familiar response from toughs who think to push her around.
(“What the f-f-fu?!”)
Yet so too is the follow-up becoming increasingly familiar to Amelie. The car’s doors fly open as the other two men burst out, violence in their eyes.
Amelie: Amelie feels her steps following him as he backs up, but she realizes he mistake a moment later. She sees she forgot about the two other men in her bid to make the third in front of her cow to her. That strong handsome cholo now stepping from the car to gun her down. Familiar and satisfying as it is to see the man bend to her, she feels the fool for forgetting what comes next. She remembers dying the last time this has happened, and sees a second death coming for her.
Fear. Oh sweet fear.
She feels her body turn to silk once again, a sharp duck down too fast for her to realize how unnatural it looks, like a grotesque spider with missing limbs. She grabs the bloody lab coat and kicks off the Buick, a kickstart at a sprint line, she takes off. It’s different this time though. Faster. So much faster, even than her trip up the stairs of her death-place. She takes off into and through a yard, into the back, all in the same blink of an eye. She holds the coat, listening intently for her armed pursuit incoming.
GM: Amelie makes out swears and exclamations in Spanish just under the sound of a moving car. The music has been killed.
The night is otherwise quiet and still.
The two sharp points jutting against her lower set of teeth have not gone away.
Amelie: Amelie doesn’t count herself out of danger yet. She makes her way to the back of the yard and lets herself out through whatever gate is presented to her, hopping the fence if need be, and starting off into a jog east-ways. She knows it’s time to stop fucking around, starting to look for businesses nearby or people out walking this late. Maybe she can find a drug dealer that’ll point her to a thrift store she can burgle.
GM: Amelie wanders darkened streets and once-forbidden paths. Sometimes she makes out faint noises at the edge of her hearing, or sees a shadow flicker in her peripheral vision. Nothing is there when she turns her head.
Eventually, a steady rain starts to fall. The low patter-patter-patter of water against pavement is her sole companion as hair plasters against her head. Her red-crusted lab coat is drenched. Perhaps soon, or perhaps eventually. The night feels timeless. She doesn’t feel cold, even when rain drops spatter over her bare and now-grimy feet, which have walked more miles tonight than she can count.
Bereft of such basic sensations as cold and exhaustion, this entire experience feels almost unreal. Like it’s happening to some stranger in a morbid video she can’t look away from or turn off. Some strange part of her actually feels hope at the sounds of gunshots, wailing police sirens, and the splash of rainwater under cars’ turning wheels, even if those same sounds send her fleeing away into the shadows. The individuals responsible for them will make poor victims.
The night stretches out before her. Long, dark, and wet.
Perhaps prison, and the streets, aren’t really so different from McGehee. People spit on her no matter what she does, and make her suffer worse if she complains. Perhaps it’s her fate to be a ghost. Forever outcast. Forever outside. Forever alone.
Alone, but for the dull hunger burning in her gullet.
Amelie: Amelie keeps walking. Moving. It’s all she’s ever done and it’s all she’s ever been good at: moving on when people slap her in the back of the head and laugh when she yowls in pain. But this place keeps her jumping at every shadow. She finds more concern for those dark shadows than the thugs in the car. She shrinks back from every shadow that doesn’t meet her eyes and every sound that isn’t recognizable.
The rain feels like a blessing at first when it covers the sounds and makes static to hide the shapes. What she doesn’t know can’t hurt her. Amelie washes her face and skin, slicking her thick black hair back, even stopping a time or two to try wringing the coat out. Look presentable. Look meek. Look lovable.
Her comfort in the rain doesn’t last long. It creeps in, the strange and alien feeling of complete zero. Perfect room temperature, skin and air blurring together. She almost misses the goosebumps and uncomfortable warmth on her cheeks and forehead. But small sounds are her comfort. She follows the sounds of gunshots, pauses to listen to passing police siren, and eventually just starts wandering residential areas. She looks into cars and trying to find any traces of clothing, or if anyone has been unlucky enough to leave a cellphone on their seats.
Even as she searches, she is alone wondering if this dull burning is the kind that goes away. Or if God has abandoned her to a Buddhist punishment, and she is a “hungry ghost.” An ancient creature born of great need, cursed to an unending life of seeking food, only to never be able to truly eat enough to sate the hunger of a bloated stomach of famine.
Amelie knows very few houses have garages, peeking up fences and hoping the rain covers both the sight of her, and the sound if she finds what she is looking for. Either a damned 24 hour 7-11 or a car with something good in it.
GM: The rain falls and plunks as Amelie walks.
So many houses look vacant and decaying, bereft of signs of human touch or habitation. Pickings look slim.
Amelie steps over another discarded needle amidst so much other trash. A feverish moan drifts from one of the nearby houses’ boarded-up, graffiti-tagged windows.
She wanders until she sees neon.
Amelie: Amelie starts to wonder who lives in this part of town, or if anyone does at all. All these buildings can’t be empty, can they?
The monster’s thoughts get pushed even further away when she sees the needle and hears the moan. This is a ghost town. All that dark nothing crossing the freeway, that’s here. It hurts to see this side of New Orleans.
GM: It’s then, as she stands in the vacant Circle-K convenience store and gas station lot, that the detail occurs to Amelie.
She hasn’t seen any cars, anywhere, since crossing the Mississippi.
Except for the Buick.
Amelie: Amelie seeing the neon lights of the gas station make her quicken her pace, but the realization stops her in her tracks.
It worries her that the only car she has seen has been one that tried to pull her in.
But she hurries forward to the gas station, taking the cash out her breast pocket to count it, and see how much she has to bribe her way to a phone, or a spare uniform.
GM: Amelie counts $84. A dollar less than she stole off the coroner.
Amelie: It’s a good amount of money, at least after the conversion rate. Amelie steps towards the gas station and tries the doors.
GM: They soundlessly slide open.
The surroundings are banal. They brim with lime-flavored Matador Beef Jerky, Cheetos, Pringles, Cocoa-Cola, Dr. Pepper, and other packaged and bottled brand names. There’s a small selection of dairy and meat products that come in plastic cups and boxes instead of bags.
The red-shirted clerk stares blankly ahead from behind the counter. She rests a single clenched fist on its surface.
Her other hand rests unseen beneath.
Amelie: Amelie takes a quick look around, seeing the desk. She keeps one hand on her chest, to keep the lab coat drawn, and the other up to her side to show she means the cashier no harm, showing the money in the same hand.
“I look like hell, sorry about that,” she starts as she approaches. “You probably don’t sell clothes… but you wouldn’t happen to have any extra uniforms in the back?”
Amelie shows the woman three slightly damp $20 bills.
“In and out, just can’t use the ferry looking like this in the morning. Got plenty of money here for your trouble.”
GM: The woman looks at Amelie and the three twenties with empty eyes, then smiles. She raises the knife she’s holding behind her back and slashes her own throat. Red sprays and leaks gruesomely. Her fist doesn’t unclench until she crashes to the floor, gurgling with laughter, leaving a single blood-flecked dollar bill on the counter.
She does not once cry out.
Amelie: Amelie jerks her hands back, not looking for another cats-eye scar in her other hand. Her hands clamp over her mouth in abject horror watching this woman… eviscerate herself! Dozens of panicked thoughts race through her mind all at once.
Did she do this? Drive this poor woman insane? No, that doesn’t explain the bill. She doesn’t know how it came out of her pocket, assuming it dropped during the scuffle earlier. So then why has this woman come into possession of it!? Why is she laughing!?
Amelie can only see one vague answer: whether this is real or if she has gone insane on top of being turned into a monster.
“DEMON! LEAVE ME ALONE! WH-WHY KEEP TORTURING ME!?”
She hurries to the counter, quickly looking over the counter for the woman, to jump over and stop the bleeding if she can.
Her hands smear into the blood on the counter, and all her senses rubber band to the present. Slick, warm, and cooling so terribly fast, a new panic rises up in her for a moment. Like another deli wrapper has hit the ground and she needs to rush to—Amelie’s conscious catches up with her sheer thirst this time, her tongue already nearly against her chin, her hand drooling the liquid ambrosia. She is disgusting.
Amelie slams her fist into the counter, grabbing a display on the counter and sending it flying. Angry at herself for even pausing as she hoists herself up onto the counter, to see if the woman can be saved.
GM: The woman’s neck has no pulse. She smiles up at the ceiling with empty eyes.
An increasingly large red pool is spreading across the floor. It smells like ambrosia.
Amelie: It smells like ambrosia. She’s been too long without any kind of real comfort, too many things turn off searching for it. She slides off the counter into the pool, feeling it coat her as she kneels in it, her face soon joining them as she slides her tongue through the cooling lifeblood.
The dignity of just using her tongue goes out the moment the smell of copper hits the intersection of her olfactory senses. She dives into it, slurping and scooping. Her mouth devolving into a blood spattered dustpan of what used to be a human life. But she needs it too much to pull herself away.
GM: The woman’s blood is savory, warm, and filling, like chicken soup that’s been sitting out just long enough not to scald Amelie’s tongue. Everything is bright and well-lit. And warm. It’s almost comforting against the cold, dark, rainy night outside.
The spreading pool of blood has by now seeped against Amelie’s knees.
Amelie: It’s more than that. It’s her mother’s post-thanksgiving soup. That big dumb pot she used her husband’s forge to simmer, turkey bones, meat, carrots, celery, always too much onion. It has its own taste, but the feeling that fills her when she swallows it down does nothing but evoke the kind of bliss only a memory so tender can. And perverts it while it’s at it.
She drinks what feels like, but she wonders is her fill, and looks down at the pool. Her hands. The woman’s face down in the floor. She still doesn’t even know if this is real. She feels her heart slowly start to rip in half as she stares into the dead meat’s eyes. Two deaths in a single night she’s had to watch. She only prays that one of them isn’t truly real, or at least that she isn’t directly responsible.
Amelie quickly brings herself up on her knees and looks around for the controls to lock the front doors, she’s yet to see a gas station without them.
GM: Amelie locates the control system easily enough.
It’s as she’s walking over to punch the keypad that she also spots the same Hispanic men from earlier, and several others, striding up to the gas station’s front doors.
Amelie: Amelie feels a surge of fear and panic, trapped behind this counter with a bunch of the fucking cholos coming down onto the door. It pushes her just fast enough to surge forward and click the keypad by the register, the door’s magnetic locks soundlessly charged with electricity, locking the doors and barring their entry. She keeps her head down under the desk and prays, hands clasped together.
But she feels strange again, something different from the sudden bursts of speed, the same thing as with the police. Amelie feels as though she’s going crazy, before she finds that same unnatural focus extending from herself and towards the gang-bangers who have become her predators.
GM: Drawn guns trained at her flash through Amelie’s mind’s eye.
Amelie: Amelie sees their guns too clearly, even if she’s just insane. It’s the snapping twig she needs to make a break for it. She runs with all her might, clawing at the cabinets and corners to launch herself through a set of doors into the employee area, quickly checking if the door has a bolt before moving onto the next door, looking for the maintenance ladder up onto the roof, or a back door.
GM: Amelie tugs the door to the employees-only area.
Something smells from behind it.
Then, there’s the explosive roar of gunshots. Shattering glass. Flying debris.
“We know you’re in there, maricón!” shouts a man’s voice over the tromp of heavy footsteps and crunching glass.
“Where are your tits!” laughs another advancing voice.
Amelie: Amelie’s nose picks up the stench the moment the door moves, pulling on it hard. It’s sweet rot, a flash of the demon going through her mind. She feels a horrible danger from both sides, the door and the front of the store.
But one’s louder.
The gangbangers shoot the glass in like a fucking SWAT raid, and she can hear them cackling and approaching like a pack of hyenas.
She wonder if she has a handle on it yet, the phenomenon at the bridge. She’s done it a few times now! She grits her teeth and feels the focus pump from her chest down into her arms, and PULLS, feeling the jammed door fly open with her. But the danger makes her think twice about running in. She opens the door and follows it, instead of in, she goes behind the door, the tiny form hidden in the shadow behind the open thing. She hopes two dangers cancel each other out.
GM: Amelie heaves with her stick-like limbs, and for just a moment, she feels as strong as her old self again.
The door bursts open with a crack.
The stench doesn’t waft out.
It pours out.
Wet. Acrid. Rotten. So, so rotten. Like a waterlogged corpse fished from the Mississippi after days treading polluted muddy water. Something that scalds nostrils like bleach scalds fingers. Something that hurts frail human senses for daring to overextend themselves.
The sound of men voiding their stomachs and strangled cries of, “SANTA MIERDA-!” fill Amelie’s ears—and then the explosive roar of gunfire in close quarters, and the faint ‘tink’ of ammunition casings hitting floor.
There’s several resounding crashes, exploding shrapnel, and a scream—hideously contorted, barely human—wet splatters, more crashes, shouts, gunfire—
“Muere maldito! ¡MUERE MUERE MUERE! ¡¡¡¡MORIR!!!!”
Something feels like it’s ripping Amelie apart from the inside, roaring in her ears to run—
And she runs.
Screams. Gunfire. Noise. Pain.
The red haze is gone as abruptly as it descended. Amelie is crouched behind a decaying and boarded-up house. Her back hurts. She can feel the night air and pattering rain drops against her skin where she couldn’t before.
In the distance, past the steadily falling rain, she can make out furious and indistinct voices in Spanish.
Amelie: Amelie feels a sudden burst of clarity back into the real world like being dumped into a bath of ice-water. She immediately pops her head up and scans around the back of the house, towards the street. She tries to get her bearings: Where the cholos are. Where the gas station is. Why she feels the air where she hasn’t been before.
She feels like a rat scurrying around and trying its best to survive while a gaggle of cats try to skin and eat her alive. Everything is top priority, too much and too important. She feels…wired.
Her mind races with agony and ideas on how she’s going to get out of here, and she realizes it immediately. She wants their fucking car. She can use it to cruise back over the bridge and get to another neighborhood. She can lick her wounds when the cholos can’t find her.
Amelie relives it all over again. Being stuck in this city in the dark, things giving chase, getting lost, all in this ridiculous fucking coat and coated in blood. She decides it’s enough, that’s she’s taking that fucking car and getting the fuck out of here.
She grabs the side of the decrepit house and launches herself arms and legs around the corner. She keeps as low to the ground as she can as she makes a mad sprint for their car, ready to hop in while they bark and yell and drive away with their ride.
GM: The rain and the night seem to work in Amelie’s favor as she silently creeps towards the parked vehicle. She can see the gangsters’ outlines past the windows. Several are waving their guns and all but screaming at one another. A few are shaking and look unsteady on their feet.
Amelie tugs on the still-running car’s door.
Amelie: Amelie carefully looks up and into the car, checking through the window for the keys and if the driver’s door is locked.
GM: The driver’s door is unlocked. Meanwhile, the shouting among the gangsters subsides as two take off back towards the gas station.
The remaining ones start walking towards the car.
“¡No jodas mi paseo!”
There’s more cursing sounds. Gunfire explodes through rainy night air as the gangsters run around the car from both sides and pump lead into Amelie.
By some insane stroke of providence, the first man’s gun clicks uselessly in his hands as he pulls the trigger. The second gunshot misses Amelie completely, but elicits a howl of pain and aromatic release of blood from the man it discharges into. He staggers beneath the shot, sending the punch he throws at Amelie into the car’s metal flank. His raw, bellowed screams sound like a demon’s.
Amelie: Amelie watches the scene unfold, too late to back away or run before the the thugs come around the side of the car. She feels it in almost slow motion, that this is the moment her fortune has finally hit the ground. That is, before it suddenly soars. One gun jammed, another firing into the driver from before, but not enough to stop a heavy thudding slam into the side of the car. She feels as though she’s stood still while a house fell around her, leaving her in the only place not savaged by the collapse.
She has a chance, now. She needs to fight back! She turns to the cholo who just shot his own driver, rears up, and lets out a feral roaring hiss in his face. Mouth open wide, face stained red, her new fangs on prominent display and still drooling leftovers from her blood soaked mouth. She tries it again. She wants to bend him to her will. Break him, order him!
“You shot him! You will die for it if I don’t kill you first!! Escape!!!”
GM: The haggard-faced and wild-eyed man looks like he’s been through hell. Like he’s still in hell. At Amelie’s bared fangs and howled threat, his face blanches—and then hardens into steel, hot and furious.
“MORIR, VAMPIRO!!! MORIR!!!!!”
His gun discharges into Amelie’s roaring face at near point-blank range.
The shot takes her right in the throat, sending her staggering back as blood sprays through the falling rain. Getting shot doesn’t hurt as badly as she thought it might, though. It feels more like a solid punch.
Swords are better might be Amelie’s last conscious thought as one of the gangsters screams, “Te tengo jefe!” and maneuvers behind her.
Then the red haze descends.