Darkness marched forth, between the buildings and the cars, forcing the city to defend itself with the artificial glow of neon and mercury-vapor streetlights. The Walking Man watched the scene with dread and hope, then finally pulled himself up from the bench to venture into the cloak of the unknown.

He didn't like cities. There were too many people, and the ones he didn't want to meet were the ones he usually ran into when the darkness came. He put on his best pissed off axe murderer face and pushed east, trying to lessen the time between now and when the sun would rise, if even for a few milliseconds.

He was concentrating so hard on maintaining his attitude that he didn't notice he was gaining ground on a pitch-haired person wearing all black. When she finally turned around in a fury to scream, "Leave me the FUCK ALONE!", he almost jumped backwards in alarm. Her face was ghostly pale, and her running mascara hinted at sunken eyesockets on an unearthed skull. They both stopped there, suspended in gaffa, waiting for the other to attack.

She broke first - "Why are you following me?"

"I'm not," he stammered. "I didn't even know you were there until you yelled."

"I'm sorry. I thought you were someone else." She kept her aura of pain up as a barrier. He knew it was time to leave.

"My apologies. Good night." He gingerly crossed the street, she slid under a streetlight for added protection.

She watched him retreat for half a block before she doubled back. He began to chuckle to himself from his reaction and fear from a teenaged goth girl. Cities at night always gave him the willies, funny since it used to be his favorite time and place to be with his wife.

His face replaced the fake pissed-off look with true anger. His brain had crossed the mental line he avoided at all costs. It knew better than to think about his family when he was awake - it had free reign during his fitful sleeping periods.

The lambasting of his traitorous organ was about to begin when he heard the echo of the Goth Girl's voice screaming, "Leave me the FUCK ALONE!"

Echos shouldn't be delayed so long, he thought to himself, and as he slowed his pace he heard her again. He ducked into an empty doorway, peeked around the moulding frame back the way he came.

Goth Girl was standing under another streetlamp, but it had lost any repelling power against the two leather-clad toughs who were angling around her. She repeated her mantra, her voice sounding more scared and small.

The Walking Man stealthily hugged the darkness he had earlier cursed. His boots sounded as if they had amplifiers hidden in their heels, but the trio were too involved in their own scripts to hear his approach. He expected to hear them arguing about some party they missed, and he was correct. What he didn't expect was for the males to tackle her and drag her into an alley.

"You fucking bitch, you don't diss me like that in front of my friends," said one of them, followed by the unmistakeable sound of an open palm hitting a cheek - a sound he had heard too often on his travels.

More thuds as the hurting hand turned into a fist. Her crying and muffled Fuck Yous were covered by the snick of a blade and the tearing of clothes. "We'll teach you, you fucking whore. You're getting what you deserve."


The Walking Man didn't know he said it aloud. They stood frozen, bucks in headlights, as the first trash can hit the knife-wielder. The knife hit the pavement at the same time as the unconscious body.

The second tough slowly emptied his bladder, turned, then ran.

Goth Girl lay exposed, youthful breasts erupting from her ruined clothes, pants halfway down her pale thighs. No aura pushed back the darkness and the threats. For a second, the Walking Man's traitorous brain danced with lustful thoughts. When it went further and connected her age with how old his daughter would be, everything snapped back into perspective.

Goth Girl awoke in a bus station, dressed in clothes she didn't own. It took her a moment to recognize them as belonging to her ex-boyfriend. The policeman standing over her bench spoke words of encouragement, of safety.

The thug awoke to a different policeman standing over his naked, bruised frame. The words spoken were not of encouragement nor safety, and the cuffs made a similar noise to that of his missing knife as they encircled his wrists.

The Walking Man hated cities. He always met the wrong types. His stomach began to protest at all his exertion. If there were such a thing as karma, he thought to himself, when would he be in the black.

His boots pointed east again, and he knew he was going to have a chat with his unruly brain as he walked on. It was no use trying to sleep tonight. Maybe karma would give him an advance with a sandwich.

Probably not, answered his brain.

He punished it with a rousing chorus of It's a Small World After All.

West || Up || East

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