I continue to stare at my cell phone. It’s late, but still, I just can’t put this one together. “Aiden, I don’t understand.”
My friend of forever’s answer is not helpful. “Damn it, Ben. He wants the job. He does, I swear.”
“Then tell him to get his ass down here. My dad has no problem hiring Damian.” Aiden doesn’t answer, and my confusion only grows. “Why are you stalling? You begged me to ask my dad, and now it’s like you’re backing out. Did he already find something?”
“It’s not that.” He sighs heavily, the noise a huff of static in my ear. “Damian doesn’t, uh, have papers.”
“What, like work papers?” Fuck, I thought Damian was at least twenty-one. The way the kid smokes, maybe he just looks it. “Just tell him to bring down his ID. He has to have something to get all those cigarettes.”
Aiden falls silent, and I’m left to wonder just what the fuck we’re talking about. Right before summer vacation started, Damian approached me to ask if my dad could hire him to work at one of our family restaurants. That was nearly a month ago. I know the three of them are hurting for money and the delay just doesn’t make sense.
“Ben…” Aiden trails off, then takes a deep breath. “Okay, so Damian came over with Gavriil, you know? Like, across the, er, ocean?”
“What, are you asking me? Why is that a question? Just fucking spit it out, man.”
“Damn it… Fine.” Another long pause stretches on before I hear a door shut on his side of the line. “They came over. They don’t have identification. No visas, man. They’re not…” Aiden falls silent again.
Aw, fuck. “They’re not legal?” His lack of response is answer enough. “Fuck. Hold on.”
I’m suddenly hyper-aware of my surroundings. Mandy already left for the night with payroll, and Josh took off at closing time. I know no one else is here, but still, I feel the need to look around and double check. At ten p.m., Drago’s, my family restaurant, is empty and spotless. The floors are mopped, tables washed down, and everything set for the night. The only things left to do are dump the trash in the bins out back, make sure I filed the day’s numbers away correctly, and set the alarm before leaving.
I walk through the dimly lit kitchen and step down the rustic red tiled hallway leading to the little office where my dad keeps the filing system. The room is barely larger than a closet and doesn’t have a window. I shut the door, then, as an afterthought, lock it. Sitting down with a squeak on the rolling chair behind the narrow desk covered in my dinner and paperwork, I figure I’m ready to talk without saying something which will piss my friend off.
“Okay.” My leftovers are cold and now completely unappetizing. Usually, I can eat my grandmother’s Italian recipes through a hurricane. This situation is apparently too much for me. I lean over and toss the paper plate into the trash I still needed to empty.
“Okay? Ben, they don’t have ID!”
“Oh, I got that part.” What does he want me to say? I could yell at Aiden for being a fucking idiot, for taking in two total strangers who aren’t allowed in the country legally, but it isn’t going to do anything useful besides piss him off. It is what it is, and I can’t change it.
“They’re good people. You know that. You know them. Gav and Damian would give you the shirts off their backs. They’re hard workers, just…”
“How did Gav get into school without ID?” I break in. I know Gavriil and Damian are good people; you have to be a fucking saint to put up with Aiden most days. They more than put up with him. Gavriil is dating the kid, and Damian is, well…
“I’m not sure.” Aiden coughs awkwardly. “I think he might have found someone to forge something.”
Fuck. Dear fuck. I slowly lower my forehead to the desk and resist the urge to thunk down until reality starts making sense. What has he gotten himself into? What am I getting myself into by even listening to this?
“But I don’t think a business will fucking fall for it, you know?” Aiden continues, oblivious to my silent freak out. “Not when cash is changing hands, and people have been acting so fucking racist and shit—”
“Chill, Aiden. Just chill for a second.” He sounds about ready to start punching things. I again consider slamming my head on the desk. It won’t be helpful, but damn, nothing seems to be able to help right now.
“Damn it.” Aiden sighs again. “Damian wants the job.”
I turn my face and sigh as well. The desk is cool beneath my cheek. The weather has been hot and humid the last week, and we do our best not to run the AC in the restaurant to keep costs down. The little office in the back is always slightly colder than the rest of the building, and I sink into the sensation. Eventually, I find my center of calm.
“I’ll talk to my dad.” It can’t hurt to ask. I trust Damian, and I honestly can’t imagine him doing anything at the restaurant which would cause us trouble.
Aiden, of course, has not found the center of anything but a freakout. “Ben, you can’t tell him they’re fucking undocumented! What if he tells the cops? What if he calls immigration or some shit!”
For the love of fuck. “Aiden, chill out. Do you seriously think that’s an actual fucking option? My dad isn’t going to do any of that, and you fucking know it.” I sit up so I can yell at him properly. Then think better of it and take a deep breath. “You’re losing your shit, man. What the hell is going on with you?”
“Sorry… Sorry. Damn it. It’s been really hard to find them work.” Aiden pitches his voice lower. “My mom tried and it, well, it got scary. Whoever hooked Gav and Damian up with their fake ID’s fucked up, and something was flagged. I thought I was going to lose them and… Fuck. I can’t lose them.”
My eyes close and I nod silently. Aiden’s been completely different since Gavriil and Damian came into his life. Everyone can see. He’s so much more alive now. Happy. Fuck, he laughs now. All the time. He’s also apparently gay as fuck, which is fine because he’s so damn happy.
I can’t imagine how terrified he must be, worried it could somehow go back to how it was. With him alone. No one wants to be alone.
My chest clenches uncomfortably, and I push the thought aside. “I’m going to talk to my dad. I’ll feel him out. No names, I promise.” If my dad can’t do it, I’ll talk to some of our suppliers. There are more than a few who have illegals working for them. None of them speak with the same accent as Gavriil and Damian, but it probably doesn’t matter. They’re all in the same predicament of needing to keep their heads down while trying to scrape by a living.
“Thank you, Ben. You don’t even get how much this means to me. To him.” Aiden’s voice is soft and more than a little emotional. “I’ll make it up to you. Whatever it takes.”
Damn it. “Stop being a dumbass. You totally hooked me up with Rachel, remember?”
Pausing, he answers after a moment. “Dude, I thought she dumped you after one date?”
I bite my lip and wince. Why the fuck did I bring that up? Thankfully, he can’t see my face. “Yeah, but still. I never would have had a chance to be dumped by Rachel Price if not for Gav sending his pretty boy charms out and making me look attractive by proximity.” I wince again; I can hear the jealousy in my voice, and it is fucking grim.
“Aw, man, don’t be that way. Don’t make me go all gay by having to tell you you’re hot. I can only handle so much fucking queer,” Aiden mutters good-naturedly.
I roll my eyes, but I’m glad he’s too busy joking to notice how much of a fucking mess I am. Aiden isn’t a self-hating gay, but he’s been self-hating in general for the longest time. No matter how great Aiden’s life has turned, some habits are probably unrealistic to expect to stop.
“I’ll ask my dad when I get home. No, tomorrow. He’s got a thing tonight.”
Aiden’s next sigh is one of relief. “It’s fine. A day is nothing. Seriously, thanks, Ben.”
“It’s not a sure thing, you know. I don’t know what he’ll say.”
“I know. But it’s you, and I know you’re going to try your best. You always do. You always have my back, Ben, and I don’t thank you enough.”
Jesus. My chest clenches even more. Is it possible to be in good shape and have a heart attack at eighteen? The last thing I want is to get sucked into Aiden being happy and appreciative. It’s somehow worse than him raging and hating the world.
“Dude, I gotta finish locking up.” I shift one of the folders on the desk in the hopes it will make me sound busy. “I’ll talk to you tomorrow after I hear from my dad. Okay?”
“Sure. We gotta hang out, man. I never see you anymore.”
The last time I stumbled across Aiden during summer break, Gavriil’s tongue had been half way down his throat. The way Damian looked, his might have also been there only moments before. If Aiden even saw me, I couldn’t truly say.
“Sure, man. We can play that killer video game I just got.” I’m trying, but I know I sound halfhearted at best.
I’m pretty sure Aiden’s fucking them both. The three of them are just one happy, gay orgy. Aiden went gay in a big fucking way, and I have no idea what to say to him half the time now.
“Totally.” Aiden sounds distant when he hangs up, but I might just be paranoid. I feel more unsettled now than when I first picked up the phone and saw it was him on the caller ID.
I’ve wanted to talk to Aiden about something for a while now, something I keep conveniently finding excuses and distractions to block me from facing. I just don’t know how to bring it up.
Sighing, I slump forward in my chair.
I’m such a coward. I’m a hypocrite and a coward. I pushed for my best friend to face his sexuality, and now I’m being a total wuss about my own.
The thing is, I might have noticed Aiden’s fucked up confusion about his sexuality because I might have shared some of the same problems. Problems which totally came to light when I finally got a date with Rachel. Or more, when I met her older brother and became, well, distracted.
Fine, fucking blindsided.
Rachel hadn’t appreciated my lack of focus. Not when after only five minutes of meeting Steve, I couldn’t think of anyone else. The date had gone poorly, to say the least, and I was way too embarrassed to even consider talking to Steve. The guy is straight. I’m supposed to be straight.
Fuck, I’m such a coward.
With a sigh, I get up and grab the trash barrel next to the desk. I’m already late closing and it’s not getting better. The thing is, I don’t want to go home. There’s nothing there for me. Ever since high school ended, I keep realizing my life is really fucking empty.
Aiden hooking up with Gavriil drove the point home. Seeing my once depressed, angry as fuck best friend happy and in love only revealed the thing I’ve been chasing for years is still out of reach. Aiden never wanted love yet it hit him twice. Me? Well, I’ve forever dreamed of finding my one and only and I’m only just realizing it’s probably not going to happen.
Not the way I planned it, anyways.
I could be making a big deal out of nothing. It was my first time meeting Rachel’s brother, and it was right after seeing Aiden and Gavriil make out like crazy. Maybe I’m just working through some weird fascination? That could be a thing… Just because I saw some guy and thought he was ‘the one’ after feeling the same way over so many girls doesn’t have to mean I’m gay. If I’m going by the odds, it just means I’m a little bit gay.
A really small bit…
Yeah, right. It’s so small that I blew off a date with one of the hottest girls in my class because I couldn’t stop thinking about her brother.
I grab the three large plastic bags piled up in the middle of the hallway and drag them to the back door through the kitchen. Whatever I am, I’m fucking doomed. Confused, overwhelmed and doomed. I haven’t looked at another girl since, haven’t tried to date anyone at all. I just can’t get past this.
I place the brick in place to make sure the heavy metal door doesn’t automatically shut and lock me outside. The back is a narrow alleyway that shares a dumpster with the convenience store to the right. The only light is from the single bulb above the door, but I can see the ambient glow of artificial light between the tall buildings. Grunting under the weight of the bags, I make my way over to the large dumpster.
Gavriil and Damian aren’t here legally? I never even guessed. Actually, I’m still not sure which country they’re from.
I’m also not sure how the fuck I’m going to ask my dad about Damian working here now. Will my dad get in trouble if he says yes and Damian is discovered? Could we lose our business?
I really don’t know enough about the laws, but I made a promise. I’m not going to fuck Aiden over just because I’m afraid. Just… Fuck. I just need to think of the right way to ask my dad.
An exasperated sigh breaks from my lips when I find a pile of plastic bags full of garbage surrounding the base of the dumpster. Mr. Harris. The guy refuses to do the bare minimum from painting his store to throwing his shit away. Usually, I’ll pick it up just to keep our place clean, but tonight I’m feeling pissed. It’s late, and I’ve done enough.
I drop my bags in front of the dumpster and lift the lid and push it back. The lid crashes down when open all the way and metal hits metal, the noise vibrating off the looming brick walls of the alley. I bend down to find the knot of the bag I was just holding, only to pause as my eyes catch on something glinting among the plastic of Mr. Harris’s trash. It looks like metal.
Turning, I peer closer. I find what’s sparkling; a thick, heavy looking chain stained crimson in some spots.
The bags give a loud rustle. I gasp and jump back as gleaming eyes glare out at me from the pile.
“Holy fuck… Are you alive?”
Fuck. Holy fuck, there’s a guy dying in the fucking dumpster. Outside the dumpster—Fuck! What the fuck? God, how is he still alive? Because, for real, this guy should be dead.
I swallow hard to keep my dinner remaining in my stomach. The poorly lit alleyway does nothing to disguise the fucking puddle of blood that had poured out of the stranger and is now staining my sneakers. He’s shirtless, covered in blood and bags of garbage, and apparently chained as well.
My knees give a stagger, but I resist the urge to run and scream for help. The guy needs a doctor, not some freaked-out teenager. Unfortunately, I’m the only one here.
My mind whirls as I try to put it all together. Maybe it’s some fucked-up cult thing? Maybe some weird religious freaks chained this guy up and tried to murder him, but he broke loose and ran? Whatever the fuck it is, his chest is only barely moving, and even though his eyes are open, there’s a quiet, tired look in the shining depths which has me afraid he’s going to slip away at any moment.
I pull out my phone and use the flashlight app to illuminate the damage. Fuck, it’s definitely worse. Oh god, is that bone…?
The world tilts, and everything dims. From far away I watch myself fall to my knees. I gasp weakly as I slip on a slick bag of rubbish and blood. My forehead smacks into the dumpster, the noise a low reverberation which shakes my skull.
“Fucker.” Smooth. Really fucking smooth.
Grabbing my head, I run my tongue over my bruised lip. The taste of metal trickles into my senses as my blood thins with saliva. The pain has woken me up from my near faint, at least. Trying to calm my breathing, I look for my phone, only to whimper as my hand gets wet digging in the plastic.
Please let it be water and not blood. Gatorade. Fruit punch. Paint. Ugly red house paint.
My dripping fingers find the familiar shape of my phone, and I carefully pick it up. The light reveals the young man I’m currently squishing.
“Are you okay?” Fuck, I’m just an idiot tonight. This guy is not okay. Not dead yet, but so not okay. Not only is there a heavy silver chain connected to his wrists but it also threads through a thick metal band around his throat like a messed-up necklace. I can’t help but reach for it to make sure it isn’t choking him. His breath hitches, and I pause.
My heart slams in my chest as our eyes meet. Wow… Just wow. How did I not notice just how fucking hot he is? I mean, like drop-dead otherworldly gorgeous. The blood, probably… Holy hell, he’s impossibly handsome. His hair is bleached so blond, it’s white, and his eyes are molten pools of deep, stormy blue. His nose, even with the splatters of blood, is straight and strong, his brows full and sharp, and lips… Kissable. Full and made for kissing.
God, I really need to not be staring at his lips. The guy is bleeding out, and all I can think about is kissing him.
What the fuck is wrong with me?
It’s not the sound of metal clinking I notice but his touch. Fingers that burn hotter than the cooling summer air slide up my chest before they grasp the collar of my shirt. I gasp, my eyes wide as he pulls me closer. It’s like staring into starlight, or moonglow, or some other fucking romantic nonsense I might have written a shitty poem about half a year ago. Now I realize how fucking useless those words were. This feeling… It’s like my heart is going to break out of my chest and leave me hollow and empty. I have never felt anything like this, and words have no meaning anymore.
I shake my head slightly, and my gaze drifts to his lips. “What?”
“My name… I’m called Danyal.”
His accent is thick, but I’ve heard this language enough to filter through. His voice is hoarse, dry, maybe from bleeding so much or maybe from screaming before that.
God, what the fuck happened to him?
I need to get it the fuck together. I don’t even know this guy and I’m—Shock. I must be in fucking shock. “I’m Ben. Fuck, I should have called the cops already.” No matter how hard I try, I can’t steady my hands enough to hold my phone properly. “Fuck, I’m sorry. 911. I just need to call 911.”
Danyal’s palm wraps around my trembling hand. He’s steady, calm, and the simple touch makes all the air rush out of me in a blast. My gaze drifts down without consent. His toned, muscular torso has been slashed with knives every which way. I think knives… maybe some sort of large, sharp fork. There’s a pattern, almost like razor sharp claws raked his flesh…
I swallow, look up and meet those hypnotizing eyes again. They glow blue in the light of my cell phone, drawing me in. “Yeah. How’d you know?” It’s my grandfather’s name, and I don’t let anyone but my parents call me by it. It’s too cute, too Italian, and it’s hard enough getting people to take me seriously already.
Is he staring at my lips? Heat flushes through me, and my heart races. Maybe to understand me; he sounds like Gavriil when he first learned English. I still and my entire body jolts when his thumb brushes the corner of my mouth.
No, Danyal is totally staring at my lips.
His thumb moves again to trace over my bottom lip. The bruised flesh stings. I close my eyes to the pulse of pain and shudder. The soft touch is consumed in the roaring heat building inside.
Crazy. This is absolutely crazy.
Danyal tugs me closer, his breath hot on my cheek. My lashes flicker open, and I focus on his parted lips streaked with crimson.
I have lost my fucking mind.
It’s the softest of pressure when his mouth finds mine, yet it sparks something so intense, the breath rushes out of me. Emboldened by my reaction, Danyal’s fingers tease me closer, and his lips seal over mine. My senses spin with the taste of him; scorching moonlight and razor sharp metal. A noise escapes me, a moan so low, I barely recognize it. His tongue slides between my lips, probing, licking, and all I can do is open and taste even more.
My phone clatters to the ground as I grab Danyal’s shoulder. I brace myself to lean closer, kiss deeper. He’s hot beneath my palm, muscles strong, shoulders broad. Danyal covers the curled digits of my free hand and twines our fingers together. Inside, a part of me melts as I’m pulled down deeper into him.
I’ve never been so lost in someone before, and my body feels like it belongs to someone else. I hear our breathing from far away, feel the wet slide of our lips. The chains rattle when Danyal tangles fingers into my dark hair and pulls me closer. My heart pounds—If I can call it mine anymore. It’s too slow, too loud. Danyal burns hot, and it’s as if each kiss and touch of tongue brands him on my flesh and into my soul.
Breathing is growing difficult, but I can’t care enough to pull away. I squeeze his hand hard and use it for leverage as I lean over and try to kiss this insanity out of me. It only makes it worse, and my hand slips, bringing me down to drape on top of him, our chests tight together, his arm powerful as it wraps around my back.
Fuck, he’s warm. Serenity is pulling me into a roar of fire held in the hard body breathing against mine.
Danyal’s tongue strokes slowly into my mouth, and my whimper is lost in his low groan. His teeth rake my bottom lip, and I kiss him harder, nipping back, needing him to feel what he’s doing to me just as strongly. I can’t stop—I don’t want to stop—and he’s only growing stronger beneath me.
I’m not sure exactly when it started, but there’s a growing rustle similar to a flock of birds above us. I don’t fully notice until the noise is loud enough it feels like the alley is full of the confusing swirl of wings. A hiss slices the air, loud and so chilling, it snaps me from Danyal’s kiss with a confused gasp.
What the fuck am I doing? What was that noise and—!
Eyes wide, I quickly scramble back, my gaze directed above. The walls reach up past the light of the restaurant and throw the upper reaches into dark shadows. There’s something up there. Many somethings flapping, clawing, hissing, and all around sounding like they’re going to jump down and tear out my throat.
I hear another hiss right next to me, and I jump, my gaze snapping to Danyal. He’s snarling up at where the creepy sounds are coming from, and the noise he’s making is way too similar to not have me freaking out.
Oh fuck. He has fangs. Long, deadly fangs. Were those there when he was kissing me? How could I have missed fangs that fucking big when my tongue was in his mouth?
Swallowing hard, I force my trembling legs to stand. I grab the side of the dumpster before I can fall again, my gaze jumping from Danyal to the darkness above. I want to run. Whatever the fuck is happening, it’s right out of a fucking nightmare, and all I want to do is run.
My eyes slip back to Danyal. He struggles to stand, his eyes blazing, golden flesh blood streaked, chains clamoring as he fights to get to his knees. Whatever is going on, he needs help. He’s losing a lot of blood, and I just can’t leave him here.
What the fuck is up there? The hissing is only getting louder. It’s a terrible noise, grating, startling, and every time I hear it a chill hits me all the way to the bone. Like a lizard. It sounds like a bunch of giant lizards.
I force myself to turn back only to grip the metal container tight when I find Danyal has made it to his feet. Fuck, I must have hit my head on the dumpster harder than I thought. Danyal is tall, streaked in blood, which is pouring from a wound on his thigh bigger than my fist. He’s also hissing so aggressively at the darkness above, I’m questioning just what the fuck I was kissing. It’s the black tail whipping around his legs which has me frozen. His hair is long—like dragging through the fucking bags at his feet, long. Like pure white, no rational human would ever grow their hair that long, and fuck. Holy fuck, those are horns.
Is this what a concussion feels like?
Wings. Those are fucking black feathered wings on his back. I better have hit my head. If not, I’m going to end up straight in a goddamn psych ward.
Danyal hisses again, the sound slicing dread through me. Seconds later, the bulb above the back door of the restaurant blows. I tremble, frozen in my spot. There’s no way it’s a coincidence. Not when the sound of breaking glass trickles down to the pavement below. Oh fuck, this can’t be good.
This time when I look up the tall alley walls towards the rooftops, I can see them moving in the soft moonlight. It’s hard to understand what I’m seeing, but my body recognizes enough to be afraid, and I flinch with every quick, harsh movement and noise they make. I think they’re people. Bald headed, snarling, clawing people with leathery wings on their backs that keep pounding up noise every time they move.
Gargoyles? Are they moving gargoyles?
Aw fuck, they’re climbing down the fucking walls!
My eyes have adjusted fully, and I can see them clawing at the brick, sending a rain of dust and pebbles down with each handful. The windows of the buildings are fouling them up, their claws scraping on glass, the noise propelling me backward as I imagine any one of those repulsive creatures jumping down and tearing at my flesh with those deadly claws. I stumble, my shoes tangling in the bags piled up to my knees. Catching myself, I quickly scramble to my feet and book it to the back door. Only to turn when I realize I’m alone.
“Danyal—Oh, shit.” Danyal has more than found his feet. He’s trying to climb the damn wall. Hissing, fangs bared, one arm clearly fucked up, yet he’s five feet off the ground and snarling above him. “Danyal!” I point to the door when he looks my way.
This might not be a brilliant idea. The guy has fangs the length of my thumb, and with the way he’s hissing, he’s probably more crazy monster than what I bargained for when being kissed senseless.
Damn, that had been some fucking crazy kiss.
I go to yell again, but Danyal beats me to it. “Run! Be safe. Run, Benito!”
“But you’re hurt. They’re going to hurt you more…” The words die on my lips as I remember the pattern of wounds on his flesh. Much more. These creatures are the reason Danyal’s hurt. They must have attacked him while he was chained up. Maybe they were the reason he’s chained in the first place. Now that Danyal’s half up the wall, I can see the chains also connected to his ankles, one still attached to a wing while another silver chain swings free, dangling down his back.
I’m ready to go back and drag him off the fucking wall if I have to. He might not be human, but I can’t bear to think of him dead. Dead and torn to pieces by those fucking monsters above.
I take two steps forward, and I’m just on my third when the closest demon reaches Danyal. I try to warn him, but the sound catches in my throat. Danyal is fast, really fucking fast. The creature slashes at his chest, and Danyal grabs it by its forearm and flips it with a flurry of movement and wings. The creature slams down to the ground from the force of the throw. The crunch of broken bones is brutal, and I immediately cover my ears as I stare wide-eyed, then look away. Beneath the crumpled body, I’m certain the cement is cracked.
Stay. For the love of fuck, stay and help him.
The darkness behind my closed eyelids is no protection from the screams of the creature wailing painfully on the ground only ten feet away. I can’t do this. I can’t fucking do this.
Fumbling blindly, I reach behind me. I find the crack where the door is still ajar. I stumble inside, kick the brick loose, and shut the door tight behind me. Only when the heavy security door is closed, do I open my eyes. The back hallway of my family restaurant is the same as always. I crouch down, my hands gripping my hair painfully tight as I try to catch my breath and sanity.
What am I going to do? I can call the cops—Would anyone fucking believe me? I’m not even sure I believe me. Those were wings on Danyal’s back. Wings… No, maybe a tattered shirt. It was dark, and I’d just assumed he was shirtless. Maybe his shirt bunched up on his back. He has crazy long hair; maybe I just thought it looked like wings?
And the tail? The tail could have been another string of chains just hanging from his waist like a weird belt. I’m having a fucking mental breakdown, and I’m seeing things.
Fuck, but what if I’m not? I spotted at least five of those hissing fuckers out there in the dark. Danyal has already lost so much blood. There’s no way he’ll be able to survive five against one. Not on his own.
Dear god, what am I doing?
I stand while a voice inside screams at me to stop, to run to the phone and call someone who owns a fucking gun—many guns. The only way to be sure those monsters never hurt anyone is to riddle them with bullets. But no, I’m a fucking idiot, and with trembling hands, I push the door to the alley open. Yawning darkness greets me.
It’s unnaturally quiet beneath the roar of my pounding heart. Still, like a grave. I silently curse my fucking overactive imagination and fumble for the brick. Putting it back in place, I straighten and dare to edge around the open door once my eyes have adjusted.
There’s nothing. No one. I look around the alley, hesitating each step until I finally make it to the dumpster. My phone is on the ground, and I pick it up, flinching when I find it covered in sticky blood. It’s a lot of blood. No one should lose that much blood.
“Danyal?” I call, my voice muffled in the summer night air. My dread only grows as silence alone greets me.
He’s going to die. He was jumped by a fucking swarm of monsters, and there’s no way he’s going to survive. I walk slowly to where I saw the creature hit the ground. The pavement is uneven, full of rocks and loose gravel, but I imagine the darker stains are blood.
Do the creatures bleed? Only living things bled.
I look back at the dumpster, my mind whirling with so many thoughts and doubts. What if I’m having a total psychotic break right now and I only think I’m seeing demons and angels and blood? I touch my lips; they’re a little swollen, but I have no proof I actually kissed anyone. What the fuck would I say to the cops exactly? A guy was bleeding in the back, and now he’s gone? What if they think I’m some crazy serial killer? There’s all this blood and no fucking body!
My heart feels like it’s going to claw right out of my chest. I push my phone into my jeans pocket and stride quickly to the door. I need to lock up. I’m over an hour late, and I can’t leave the restaurant unlocked while there could be a fucking flock of demons roaming the grounds.
Demons. They had wings like actual demons. Was I seeing shit? Have I lost my fucking mind? I can’t even remember what the fuck I was doing before taking the trash out. Aiden… I was talking to Aiden.
What the fuck am I supposed to do?