This was a piece I wrote in an hour while I was taking a break from applying to job adverts. I like the idea of playing with perspective, because it's so rare that the role one person plays in our story is the way they are perceived in other's stories. (Not true for everyone, but true for most.) We're all the hero of our own story, but the villain in our narrative may be the savior in someone else's narrative. It's all perspective, and it's important that we understand that in our day to day interactions with others.
I will warn, this piece is on the violent side, so discretion may be needed. Enjoy!
It’s just like you see in those nature documentaries. The prey runs as far and as fast as they can, but they can only go so long before they lose their footing or just can’t run anymore, allowing the predator to catch them, choke them, kill them. Sometimes, the prey is smart and can outsmart their pursuer, allowing them to escape into the sunset. Not this time, though. That won’t be happening.
As I choked on my own spit and phlegm, I remembered something I’d heard on one of those nature documentaries. Man is the greatest hunter of all the animal kingdom. Not just because of their speed, or strength, or weapons, but also because they never stop the pursuit. A predator in the wild, like a cheetah or a lion, will only run so far before they give up, knowing it’s better to let a mark go than continue to chase after it and burn their energy levels down. They choose to conserve. Man chooses to chase.
It’s what makes man so terrifying in the animal kingdom. An animal will see man coming after it, will run away until they can no longer see the man, and think they are safe. But, if man is properly motivated, that animal will see man once more, even if it’s hours or days later, and be forced to run once more. This cycle continues until the animal can no longer run, or knows that it will continue to be pursued, and decides to stop and face their predator. No matter what they do, this animal will either be chased until it cannot be chased any longer, or it will be forced to fight to the death. Either way, they face demise, with only a slim chance of survival. Man brings death, and the animal only has so much time left once it’s been marked.
I turn down an alley, my feet almost slipping out from underneath me at the force of my sudden change of direction. I look back, and there they are, still chasing after me. I try to run faster, but my legs won’t move any faster than they already are. I can’t keep this up much longer.
Suddenly, I collide with a cold material and am flung backwards, landing hard on my back. Now stopped, I realize how raw my throat is. How I can feel my heartbeat behind my eyes. I look up and see a chain link wall that’s been erected in the alleyway. This wasn’t here before. I know it wasn’t, because I’d run through this alley before. I hear the approaching footsteps come ever closer. There’s no time to climb over this thing. I have to face them now.
I force myself up, though my legs quake under me, threatening to buckle due to their exhaustion. I walk back until I am supported by the fence, allowing my legs a brief reprieve. The figure slows and stops before they come into the spotlight cast above us by the full moon, remaining in the darkness. I can barely make out their silhouette, but they’re small. Smaller than me. My chest continues to heave as they stand there, blocking my way to freedom.
I can feel a sob bubble up from my being, but I force it down, not allowing my fear to be more present than it already is. They continue to stand and stare, watching me. Waiting for something. I can’t stand it anymore. I've been chased for blocks. Chased from outside a bar where I was celebrating, away from those I know and trust, down streets, between cars, through buildings, and now here. I screamed and hollered and ran, with anyone around ignoring me and my pleas, and now I am here, alone with this monster and no way out. This person won’t just stand here and say nothing now.
“What do you want,” I scream, gripping the metal links behind me as the force of my scream almost buckles my knees once more. In my head, I see it like a movie. The villain will talk, tell me why they’re doing what they’re doing, tell me how they plan to end me, but at the last minute, I gain control of the situation. I fight my way out. I live. That’s how the movies all work.
The figure stands there longer, and then in the blink of an eye, they’re on top of me. A sharp pain in my left knee sends me to the ground, crippling me. Pain comes in waves as I lay on the ground, and I realize that I’m being beaten with a metal pipe. The figure above me looks down on me, though I still can’t see their face as the light can’t quite reach it in the way the figure is bent. My child-like hope of distracting the villain evaporates with each strike, and I’m reminded blatantly: this is not a movie. The hero of the story doesn’t always survive in the real world.
I become aware that I’m sobbing, desperate pleas escaping me as the figure beats me more and more. This person was small, but the sheer force of their blows is enough to kill me. I’m pleading as I feel bones break, blood splash and spill. Then suddenly, the assault stops, and I am left lying on the ground, a pool of blood slowly seeping from me.
I look back up, not remembering when I had closed my eyes, and finally see my attacker. She is a woman. She’s breathing hard, though from the running or the beating I’m not sure. Though her weapon is covered in red splatters, she remains clean. She begins to remind me of someone I’ve seen before, but the resemblance dies the moment I see her eyes.
Her eyes were bright with an emotion I’ve never seen before. They burned with fury and righteousness and something else that turned my stomach into a void. These eyes were the eyes of someone who wanted to kill. They were the eyes of a predator.
“Good choice running down this alley. Too bad it’s been closed off now. They only just put this fence up, you know.” Her voice was carefree, conversational. As if she hadn’t just beat me half to death with the metal still resting in her hand.
“What do you want? Please,” My voice sounds pathetic, though I can’t do anything about it. I’m dying, and I just want her to go away so I can call for help.
“Of course, you wouldn’t know about this fence. The last time you were here, you raped and murdered my sister, then went down to the station at the other end of this alley and hopped a train uptown. That’s why they put it up, you know. To stop people from using this alley as a way to escape to the other side of town with ease.”
I look back up at her and see it now. Sisters. Not identical, but similar. My stomach now flips, making me feel ill. A feeling of demise falls upon me, and I can’t help the tears that flow.
“Please, I’ll do whatever you want. I’ll go to the police and confess; I’ll give you money. Please.” Her hand twitches, rubbing the pipe with her thumb. The fire behind her eyes seems to intensify, and I feel the hairs on by body stand on end. She is terrifying.
She leans down, getting a better look at me, the fire burning me as it consumed me longer and longer.
My breath hitches at her voice. She stands back to her full height, which now towers over me as I seem to sink further into the disgusting ground below. “‘Life being what it is, one dreams of revenge.’” She lifts the pipe once more, and the onslaught she brings pushes me over the edge. The last thing I see are her eyes. Her eyes burning with fury, and righteousness, and retribution.
Man is the most terrifying hunter in all the animal kingdom. Terrifying for their tenacity, their boldness, and their drive, but there is another reason that makes man so petrifying. Man seeks revenge, and they don’t care how they get it.
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Cover photo credit: Augustin GZN