Each footstep down the winding stairs is part of a choreographed dance. I’ve memorized every board and nail that creaks under my weight. The iron balcony veiled by tropical plants makes my Vieux Carré apartment a gem. Only drawback…the landlady is a nosey bitch.
Forsaking the refuge of shade from the galleries, I walk down the middle of the narrow street, cloaking myself in vicious sunlight. At the moment of dusk, my escape will become dangerous, if not impossible. If they won’t change me, what choice do I have? The monsters prowl this labyrinth at night, flaunting their power and toying with me like a lab rat on the wheel to oblivion.
The beat up convertible is parked close to where I left it. Fishing the key from under the seat, I pump the gas and the engine turns over. Fuel gauge is a little lower that I remember. In spite of the heat, driving with the top down is the perfect disguise.
Damn seat belt is still jammed and useless.
Long after I make the final turn out of the cramped neighborhoods, I allow my lungs their first full breath. The brackish air tastes of rusty mud and angry fish. All that remains between me and freedom is the gauntlet of an old bridge over a sea, masquerading as a lake. The pedal under my foot sinks to the floor and the little jalopy leaps into the fading light. Tapping my finger on the glowing screen of my phone, I glance at the GPS, then glue my eyes back to the rickety road and aim for the dotted line.
Grim shadows loom in the dangling mirror. Adjusting the wobbly reflection does nothing to make me feel safer from clouds that roil behind me like a tsunami of evil. I toss my phone in the back seat and slam both feet on the gas pedal until the sign comes into view.
Liberty, salvation, the threshold of a new life.
New Orleans City Limits
The figure appears in front of me, out of thin air. No fog, no flash…just a man in the road where there was none a second ago. Before I can hit the brakes, the car flips through the air as if thrown by the hand of Zeus. Steel collapses into a death cage around me, right before the car careens through the guardrail. Instead of plunging into the dark water, my face collides with crumbling pavement.
Nausea from the metallic taste in my throat hits right before the burn of road rash ignites every inch of my body. I force my eyes open to find a phantom standing over me.
The man rakes one hand through his jet black hair. “Think you’d get away so easily?”
“Aren’t you?” Blood gurgles from my mouth, spilling into a puddle under my chin. “The doctor from—”
“Chief of staff at the trauma center where you work.” He answers.
“So, you can save me.”
“Oh, I will.” The doctor rubs the salt and pepper of his goatee. “And grant you what you’ve been searching for.”
“You can’t be serious.”
“The magic. If you still desire it.”
“It’s been the ultimate tease…all this time. It was either leave town or go insane.”
The doctor unsnaps his cufflinks. “That’s part of the test, young lady.”
“How did you find me?” Through an explosion of searing pain, I turn onto my back and stare at the moon’s silver ring. “I took every precaution.”
“Look at yourself.”
Blinking back tears, I lift mangled hands in front of my face. Flecks of color sparkle through blood and grime.
Dr. Monster rolls up his sleeves. “The glitter of our city is all over you.”
In case you missed the beginning,
The Grand Plan