Why should I bother? Why should this one person matter to me? Why should him taking her life make any difference? It doesn't matter. She doesn't.
I turn away from the low life holding a knife to the struggling girl's neck in the alley, and start to continue walking down the street. It's just one girl. I don't know her. I don't care what happens to her. I make it only a few steps before I hear her call out, and him slap her telling her to be quite. Of course she had to cry for help. Of course I was the only one there to hear it. If she had just kept her mouth shut until I was out of earshot, I would've been able to walk down the street without driving myself insane. And if I had gotten away before she actually got hurt, I wouldn't be hating my conscience right now. Now I have to help or I won't be able to get any sleep tonight, and I need my beauty sleep. Trust me, I do.
I step back in front of the alleyway, pulling up my hood. I look really young for my age, and I want to appear menacing, not adorable. I get a better look at the two figures now. The girl is young, about thirteen I'd guess, and very pale. She has on washed out dark jeans with rips and holes, and a shirt that said "RIP" inside a skull. She also had on a short jacket with blue stripes down the arms. She has many piercings; several on her ears and nose. She also accessorized with a choker, and one of those spiked bracelets. Her hair was short, choppy and snow white, with a red skull clip in the part of it. She seems like a real steampunk fan. She had very blue eyes, and a look of terror in them. Her captor's face is in the shadows, so I can't make it out. But he's wearing a white wife beater with yellow and brown stains all over it. I can vaguely see the glint of dog tags dangling around his neck behind the girl. He has camo pants on, and brown combat boots. His arms are covered in thick hair, and I can make out several cuts and scars over them. The knife he was holding to her throat was gleaming in the dim light.
In the deepest voice I can make I say, "Let. Her. Go. Now."
There are a few beats of silence that seems to last for ever before I hear the shrill sound of him laughing at me. I was trying to sound threatening, but apparently It didn't work.
"You gonna make me?" he called down the alley at me in a gruff voice that sounded like sandpaper.
In another attempt to sound like a threat, I respond, "You better pray that I don't."
Through the darkness, I can see blinding white teeth form into a smile. I was only amusing him. Then he pulled the knife closer to the girl's neck. That's it. I warned him, and he pissed me off. I'm ending this right now, and I'm gonna end him. I take a quick survey of my surroundings. To my right there are two metal trash cans, one with a lid. To my left, closer to the scene than the cans is a dumpster with a plank of wood propped up against it, and another garbage can with a lid next to it. Perfect.
I suddenly run to my right and grab the lid off of the can, and take off towards the wooden planks on my left. In the middle of the alley, I turn to face them still running, and throw the lid over head at him like a vertical frisbee slightly off to the left, so that it would hit him, but not the girl. I could see that he was confused about what was happening until it was to late, because his blinding smile turned into a look of panic as the lid hit him in the face, making him drop the knife and release the girl. I made it to the planks as it nailed him. I plant my right foot on the two by fours, and jump up onto the dumpster. As I land on the metal lid of the dumpster, I grab the lid of the can next to it, and continue sprinting down the dumpster.
He's holding his nose now, and I can make out a red glint as the light catches the blood coming down his face. He looks up when I reach the edge of the dumpster, and I leap off, launching myself at him. In mid air, I grab the lid with both hands, and as I come down, I raise it above my head. I land on the concrete right in front of him, and as my feet hit the ground, I bring the lid down, smashing his head towards me, and I bring up my knee, nailing him right in the face.
He crumples down in a heap at my feet. I could clearly make out his face now. His head strongly resembled a rectangle, and he has an five o'clock shadow, and several cuts along his jaw and cheeks as if he never learned to shave properly. He has dark large bags under his eyes, and it was clear now that he hadn't had a good night's sleep for a few days. And I think it's safe to assume that he was drunk. At least now he will be able to sleep it off. He'll have a pretty bad headache when he comes to though.
The girl is now sitting against the fence in the back of the alleyway, holding her head on her knees, and shaking violently. I could hear her muffled tears through her hands. I walk over to her, and pull my hood down. As I reach her, she looks up, her face wet from her tears. Her piercing blue eyes met mine. I reached out a hand towards her, and she just looked at it for a minute before taking it. I pulled her to her feet, and as soon as she was standing, she fell forward, wrapping her arms around me, and cried into my shoulder, and muttering thank you through her sobs. This took me by surprise, so I stood there listening to her sobs, and being crushed by her hug. She was quite strong. I pull her off of me and look at her for a minute, tears still rolling down her face.
"Are you okay?" I finally ask her after what seems to be hours.
"Are you hurt?"
"No. I would've been if it hadn't been for you."
"Don't mention it. You needed help. Any good person would've stepped in, or at least called for help."
Does that make me a good person? As much as I will deny it, I would've helped her out, even if he hadn't hit her. I would've stepped in. I know I would have. Don't go spreading that around though, people will think I'm going soft.
"Well, there aren't many good people here besides you then. People kept walking by. Some even laughed. I guess I'm just not worth anyone's time," she said, her eyes swelling with even more tears.
"Hey, of course you are, I came didn't I?" I said, feeling angry that of all the people who must have walked past this alley, and seen what was going on, I was the only one that did anything to help.
She smiled at this, and she brushed a stray strand of her white dyed hair out of her face and behind her ear, and wiped the tears from her eyes and face.
"What's your name kid?"
"Kayley. Kayley Matthews."
"Well Kayley Matthews, we should get you home. Where do you live?"
"Right there actually."
She gestured at the apartment building to the right with her thumb. Well that was easy.
"Huh. Well okay, are your parents home? You should have them call the police. Tell them to look for a veteran named..." I said squatting next to the piece of scum crumpled on the concrete. I rolled him over onto his stomach, and pulled the chain around his neck and took a look at his dog tags. Shock, horror, and rage filled me at once as I read the inscription.
I look over at Kayley to see a shadow across her face, and the tears glinting against her cheeks, once again flowing down her face.
The tags read the name Julius Matthews.
I stand up, and lean against the wall trying to figure out what to do. I couldn't bring her back home to this monster. I couldn't bring her to the patrol, because then I'd be arrested. It's a long story. I suppose I could bring her to the station and have her go in alone, but then she would be sent through the so called Child Help Initiative, and then to a foster home, and those are not good for anyone in this city. I found that out the hard way. I can't just let her go through the hell that my childhood was. Especially after what her own father did to her. What do I do?
There is no other option. I have to bring her home with me for the time being. Or at least to whatever you would call where I live. I can't just leave her here for her father to victimize, and I can't let her be taken by the CHI to be cruelly treated and experimented on. The only choice is to bring her to my place.
"Come on," I say, walking up to her, and grabbing her arm. I start to pull her out of the alley, but she pulls her arm from my grasp.
"What? Where?" she said quietly, tears still flowing down her cheeks.
"We're leaving. I'm taking you away from this monster. You can't stay here anymore, he'll kill you."
She sniffled, and wiped more tears from her face, then said, "I know I should get away. I've tried. Every time I run away, he calls the patrols to report a missing child, and they always find me, and bring me back, and they won't listen to me when I tell them that it's not safe here. They refuse to think that a veteran from the Australian war could be a bad person."
"To be honest Kayley, that's probably for the best. I've dealt with the patrols and the CHI before. They are not in your best interest."
"Why do you say that?"
"Let's just say that whatever has happened to you was a walk in the park compared to the inaccurately named Child Help Initiative."
Her eyes widened, the tears slowing down, but still falling down her face. She wiped the water from her cheeks and face with her hand before saying, "Wait, are those rumors about them torturing kids true?"
My mind had left the alley, and my body, and was picturing my childhood. The feel of leather straps holding my arms... the fear of the taser and needle coming towards my face...
No. I can't let my mind go back to that moment. I have to focus on the current circumstances, and I can't be worrying about the past now. That's for my pillow, and my nightmares. I don't get a lot of sleep because of my memories haunting me, which is why I need the beauty sleep. I can hear a voice yelling at me. I got lost in my own world, and was somewhere else for a minute
"Hey!," Kayley called out to me, trying to get a response.
"Yes, they're mostly true, but I'd rather not talk about it."
"What happened to you?" Kayley asked, and I could hear the concern in her voice, but I just could not afford to take a trip down memory lane.
"I said I didn't want to talk about it," I said with dead seriousness, and she fell silent. "Come on, we're leaving."
"But you said that I shouldn't go to the patrols, and that I shouldn't go to the CHI. Not that I really want to."
"I'm taking you back to my place. You can crash the night on my couch there, we'll figure something out for you tomorrow, but you can't stay here, and you definitely shouldn't be walking alone at night in this city."
"What? Do you honestly think I'm just gonna go home with you?"
"Well do you want to stay here? Or get picked up by the patrol? Or see the night life of the Gash? Let me tell you, it's not pretty."
The "Gash" is the bad section of Nova City, the majority of Nova City. It is filled with gangs and corrupted and dirty patrols, and officials. It's a few blocks of hell on Earth. With a look of terror in her eyes at the thought of staying in the Gash at night alone, Kayley let out a sigh.
"Fine," She said, staring at me, the tears had stopped, and her eyes had this look that I could only describe as "the look", and she is now pointing her finger at me. "I'll spend the night at your place, but if you try anything, I will drop kick you straight into the patrols station. I do live in the Gash, I can and will take you out."
I can tell she's bluffing, but I wouldn't dream of trying something with her or any girl, and I definitely wouldn't be bringing her home if I didn't have another choice. I nodded at her, and I walked out of the alley, and started down the street. Kayley followed close behind me. Down the street I can see the sun setting on the horizon, painting the sky oranges and yellows, and gleaming off all the glass windows, surrounding me with sunsets. Its moments like this that remind you that no matter how shit Nova City is, it's still home. And just as this beautiful moment was taking place, of course something had to ruin it. Something hit me hard in the back, and I fell onto the sidewalk, with the side of my face being pressed against the cement. Before I could even react, someone was on my back, and my left arm was being pressed against my back chicken wing style, causing me to have an immense pain in my shoulder. Then a rough voice spoke into my ear.
"You think you can just attack me, and take my sister?!," Julius Matthews said. "Do you know who I am? What I've done? I fought for you! I fought for everyone here! I fought in the Australian War, punk! And you think I'm just gonna let you take my sister away from me?! Think again asshole!"
He grabbed the back of my head, and lifted it up, exposing my neck, then I saw a glint of silver as he quickly lowered the knife to my throat. The steel was cold against my flesh, and I felt a sharp pain as a trickle of blood ran down my neck from the pressure of the blade. He's going to kill me. I'm going to die. Kayley's going to be taken back by her brother. And eventually she will be taken by CHI. She's just a poor kid, who should be able to be proud of her veteran brother, but instead he abuses her. He treats her like garbage. She doesn't deserve him. She deserves better. This whole situation is the worst shit I have ever seen. A girl not being able to be safe at home, and not even safe with her own parent. It's unbelievable. It's angering.
I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. Oh no. No, I shouldn't have let this happen. I should've controlled my anger, I should've just died, now everyone else might.
"Now, I'm going to slit your throat, and watch as the life leaves your body," he said in my ear.
"No!," I heard Kayley yell, but all I could see was the sidewalk.
I hear footsteps, Kayley running up to us, and then I feel him raise his hand from the back of my head, and backhand her away and to the ground. She cried out in pain as she hit the street hard. Of course he had to hit her. Of course he did. Now I'm even angrier, and I don't know how much longer I can contain it. I try to yell at Kayley to run, but the blade stops my throat from moving or making sound.
"Time to die punk."
It's too late. I feel the energy surging through me, the sparks jumping from nerve to nerve, finger to finger. I feel the current coursing through my veins, my skin, my entire body. Then, there is a blinding white light as my skin glows from the power in me. There is a man's scream as I feel the energy leave my body, and the light fades. I push myself up on my arms and roll over, and Kayley's brother falls off of me, in a rag-doll heap next to me. I don't reach over to feel his pulse, but I know that Julius Matthews is dead.