Brown and grey bricks flew past Eliana’s face as she rushed through the labyrinth of indistinguishable buildings. She could hear them behind her. Loud, brazen, lurching in the middle of the alley, not resigned to the shadows; they hunted her openly.

Left, right, left, left. She turned a corner and found herself staring into a dead end. Slumping with her back against the wall she wished wasn’t there, Eliana brought her fist down in a hammered arc, splitting the side of it against the rough surface.

They came into view; hulking, eyes watering and breathing hard with the effort of the chase but grinning; she felt like she could smell them even from 30 yards. The one in front stepped closer, running a hand through his hair, “Hey baby, where’re you off to in such a hurry? We just wanted to talk.”

Eliana kept her mouth sealed, knowing that any protest might urge them further. She shot a furtive glance behind them, looking for something, anything, but saw only darkness interrupted by a distant streetlight.

They crept closer, ever the circling pack of predators; just ten yards away, and she actually could smell them this time. They reeked of whiskey and sweat and something much deeper.

On her right, a tall blonde with a lazy eye shot a glance towards the middle and said, “Chuck, man, let’s get out of here.”

Chuck, de facto leader, looked at his uncertain friend and shrugged, slurring his words just the slightest, “Jus’ wanna talk to her.” He turned back to the cowering girl, closing the gap between them, and splayed his hand over her shoulder.

The deep, heady perfume of alcohol overwhelmed her now; it clung damp and strong to his clothes and his breath, hot and ragged in her face.

“What do you want?” she pleaded.

Chuck raised a rough hand up to her face, tracing her trembling jawline. “You were lookin’ pretty nice tonight. Bought you a few of those drinks you sucked down. Why’d you take off so soon?”

Cringing away from his touch, she cast her eyes to the ground and replied, “I have to get home. Please. I just–”

“Ain’t gotta be so rude, baby. Nobody gon’ hurt you. Jus’ wanna talk,” the words curled in on themselves, false notions dying in a heap as Chuck’s hand slowly trailed down the side of her neck and made its way onto her shirt. Finally, she lashed out, shoving his arm away and striking him in the face. “Get the fuck off of me!” she shouted, finding her voice strengthening suddenly in the well of her fear.

Chuck stumbled backwards in surprise and a sudden rage flared up in his chest. “You fucking bitch,” he spat, “you’re jus’ a two-bit slut.” Rocking forward, he grabbed at her, pawing at her breasts, and raised his fist behind his head. As the back of his hand connected with her face, Eliana saw stars, tasted blood, and heard the sound of her own heartbeat pounding hard in her chest.

She flew backwards into the wall, her head rocking on her shoulders as it met the brick with a loud crack.

Thump. Thump. Stars exploded into Eliana’s vision, coating the dark world that’d sprung up before her in their dust.

Thump. Thump. “–hell are you thinking, let’s–”

Thump. Thump. “–fuck outta here.”

Thump. Thump. “Nah, I wanna teach–”

Thump. Thump. “–bitch a lesson”.

Thump. Thump. Eliana looked up, her vision a kaleidoscope of black and red. From somewhere deep within her, she heard a sound, a tearing, like that of a shrub being uprooted by a wild storm, and she spoke words her mind had never before experienced.

The darkness surrounding her vision parted like a curtain, allowing the words passage through her lips. They unfurled themselves like great angry snakes, sliding out across the ground, wrapping themselves up in the limbs of the men before her. She heard their screams before they could even begin to bubble from within their chests.

Chuck fell first, clutching his skull between shaking palms. Rising to her feet, Eliana looked his body up and down, her gaze stopping on his chest, and nodded her head to the side. The sounds of his pain ricocheted off of the walls of the alleyway as his liver tore itself from his body, breaking apart his ribcage, and fell to the ground with a wet plop. The gaping hole stared back at her, winking. She smiled.

As Chuck’s windpipe collapsed in on itself, his fingers scrambling at his throat like dying spiders, she turned her gaze on his companions.

The air around them flexed and bent naturally to her will.

The one who had spoken earlier flew up and slammed into the wall to the side, ten feet off the ground, the back of his skull exploding like a ripe tomato; the way it painted the fire escape above him was a beautiful sight. Then, as an afterthought, she raised her head at the ladder, perfectly positioned above the dying Chuck, and lowered it. In congress, the latch unlocked and the ladder shot down, impaling the man’s body clear through the stomach and pinning him to the ground.

Finally, her attention caught up with the third man; he’d come to his senses and had almost reached the mouth of the alley. Palm outstretched, she caught him by the leg and pulled him into the air, watching the near-invisible tendrils connecting her to his body quiver with excitement. Dangling upside-down, his arms circled his body in a frenzy, trying to claw his way free. Eliana twirled her finger in the air, watching her screaming marionette follow suit.

With her lips still spilling alien words, she beckoned towards herself, and his body shot forward as though on a pulley. Just before it reached her, she placed her palms together in front of her face and quickly ripped them apart. Splitting down the middle, starting from the crotch, his body exploded in a shower of steaming organs and other viscera, coating her upturned face in a burst of color.

As the last drop of blood found its place on the ground next to her, she fell, hard, and the darkness rushed forth to protect her head as it made a pillow of the concrete.