A little girl walks home at night.

It’s cold, but not cold enough. It’s dark, but she feels light. She thinks she’s alone; she’s certainly not.

In her hand, she swings a tin bucket. It sloshes, it swirls, she looks in and sighs.

The city buildings look like dominos waiting to collapse and fall in and claim her, but they’re so willing to bend their very essence with the grace of dusted titans and let her climb them to the stars above.

She chooses the streets instead. The buildings quiver.

From the shallow crevasse of shadows, a man with a hat follows and watches. Breath; bated. Heart; pounding. He waits for a sign, any chance to move in and claim the seventh victim in a far too-long line.

The little girl stumbles and he sees one.

She kisses ground; he rushes forward.

“Darlin’, you alright?” A gloved hand outstretched, fingers reaching and wanting. She looks up at him, eyes bleeding gossamer all over the pavement. A bruise begins to blossom deep under her skin as she takes his hand, a smile pouncing across the tight plains of her lips.

“I fine, mister,” she coos, “jus’ on my way.”

“Allow me to guide; much too late for an angel to be walkin’ alone.”

She giggles: “I ain’t no angel, mister.”

Fingers curl inward and tap on his palm like tiny skipping stones on placid waters; he stops for a moment, treading hard, and comes up for air, “Now where you live, girl?”

“I don’t.”

His head cocks to the side, “Well, where’m I takin’ you?”

“Not where you wanna,” the bucket swings, cutting a swath through her words.

Her sass pools around his feet. Indignant, impatient, he’s had enough. He reaches in his coat for the knife, his trusty companion.

“Hey!” she cries, hoisting her bucket up, “what the German soldier say to his friend when the bombs started to whistle?”

Hand resting on the blade’s hilt, the man stops, puzzled. As he starts to speak, she tosses the bucket in his direction and shouts, “AGH, TONGUE!”

A pink ocean wave of fleshy pads pours into the air, surrounding him. Like piranhas, they descend as a whole, covering his body, and begin to lick him hard, like dozens of hungry phantom cats.

His screams are drowned, muffled by the cacophonous slurping, and within seconds, they’re finished. Jumping back into the bucket, they reveal a dry, withered husk.

The little girl skips forward, reaching between his sinner’s teeth, and plucks out his liar’s tongue. She smacks him on the forehead with it and says, “Town ain’t big enough for the both of us, mister”.

She begins to walk away, and hears a whispered plop behind her. Turning her head, she sees a lone tongue wriggling lazily by the body’s feet.

With a roll of the eyes, she pats her hip: “C’mon Karl.”

Karl flops after her.

The buildings twitch and strain against their foundations, begging for love; she leaves them to crumble.

3rd place winner of the Sixpencee Jan-Feb Contest