NB. This is written for adults, and contains adult themes and language. Please be aware of this if you choose to read further.
The late autumn afternoon, was as usual, dark and dismal. A light drizzle half heartedly fell, illuminated by the pale yellow street lamps. A dirty red bus pulled up outside and sat rocking slowly at the kerb, discharging a steady stream of cleaners and early evening drinkers, a second shift, to people the arteries of the city.
Valentine liked to look out of the tiny window by the side of her desk, it took her away from the tedium of the dead end job she commuted into the city for daily.
Idly,she wondered if it was maybe time to change. As a rule, she preferred not to stay too long in any single place, she preferred not to make friends, after all it only served to complicate matters.
As she tidied away the last of the paperwork she had been allotted, she allowed herself to think of the hunger than gnawed away at her insides. She felt tired and drained of her usual energy, her skin had a pallid grey sheen instead of her usual rosy complexion. She glanced at the un-eaten sandwich in the shiny cellophane packing and her empty stomach churned and roiled at the site of the now flaccid and wilted lettuce mingling with the occasional flacid prawn. Quickly, she dropped the sandwich into the bin, she knew she needed to eat soon, but not now, she could wait a little longer.
The bright cheery glow of the monitor faded to black as she jabbed at the switch, and collecting her coat and bag, she made her way out into the wet and drizzly street, to join the throngs she had observing moments before. The queue at the bus stop seemed to stretch forever down the litter strewn pavement, fading in and out of view in the pools of light cast by the mock Victorian lamp posts.
With a resigned sigh, she hefted her bag higher onto her shoulder and faced into the gentle drizzle deciding it would be quicker to simply walk home. It really wasn't that far, not now that she knew all the short cuts, by foot it was as quick as by bus most days. She passed the lighted shop windows, this road could have been in any of the places she had lived in, the same brands, the same architecture, the same street furniture. She didn't pause to look in at the elaborate displays of shoes or dresses, she had seen the same before a hundred times, maybe a thousand, it no longer held any attraction for her.
As she walked, she felt the hunger pangs growing, reminding her constantly that she needed to attend to it. She looked skywards at a flickering lamp, the dampness of the drizzle giving her a lover's caress as it gently touched her face. The steady click, click, click of her heels changed tone as she walked into the narrow alley next to the fast food restaurant, teenagers in colourful street fashions talking loudly and gesturing with hands full of greasy burgers and fries crowded the pavement on the corner. The smell of the food hit her and her, and her stomach tried to rebel and retch, but the emptiness ensured there was nothing but a rising taste of bile. Soon she told herself, just a little longer now.
The yellow glow of the street lights faded behind her, now the only illumination was that coming out of the upper storeys of the buildings that rose up along both sides of the alley she made her way down, a concrete gorge, sounds of couples arguing, children playing loud children's games and countless televisions showing the same soaps filtered down, to mingle with the clicking of her shoes.
A grimy rat darted out from under a tattered and soggy fast food carton and peered at her with its small eyes, whiskers quivering as its pink nose sniffed the air. She could see the ribs below its matted fur and she could almost believe they both shared the same deep pervading hunger.
The sound of a kicked stone rolling into a empty beer can caused her to come back to the present. She turned and just caught a movement in the pools of shadow that clung to the sides of the alley. She waited but nothing else stirred, so she resumed her walk down the alley, increasing her pace in her nervousness. Up ahead she could see the darkness grow as the flats on each side were replaced by warehouses, no windows to cast even a soft safe light to keep her company.
She walked forward and the darkness closed in around her like a velvet cloak. In the silence, she heard the sound of soft footfalls behind her. Her heart thudded in her chest, but she resolutely faced the way she was going and carried on homewards. The footsteps came closer and she resolved to see who was following her, but before she could do more than begin to turn, she felt a cold hand clamp over her mouth and saw a glint of metal flash towards to her throat.
"Pretty girl like you shouldn't be coming this way, it aint safe" said a mocking voice from behind her. "You keep quiet and be a good little girl and we might even let you go" said another. The pressure behind her made her begin to walk again, and she saw herself being led deeper into the dark shadows, the dirty hand still clamped over her mouth and the knife still pushing against the pale skin of her neck.
In the gloom, she could just make out the darker shape of an open door in the wall they were approaching. In the dark, her feet caught at the sill of the door and she almost stumbled. She felt the hands release her and instead give her a final push forward, in the dark something caught at her foot and she fell. The second man was momentarily framed by the door, then he entered, pulling the door shut after him, closing it with a solid thunk. She could see nothing in the total pitch blackness, so she lay silent and unmoving on the hard floor where she had fallen, the cold seeping into her where it touched the bare skin of her legs.
She could hear soft sounds of movement around her, one of the men stumbled in the dark and cursed. She could make out the faint sound of hands brushing across a rough surface as if searching for something. Harsh white light suddenly flooded the room as the hand found a switch and flicked it on. For the first time she could see the men who had dragged her in here. They looked much younger than she had expected, dressed in the latest street fashion, gold glinting at their necks, fingers and wrists. They looked her up and down, a their leering lust filled eyes that sent cold shivers down her spine. "Please, don't hurt me" she begged in a soft voice, "Take it, just, don't hurt me". She gestured with her hand to her bag, which had come off her shoulder and had fallen to the floor, the contents spilling out in a lazy arc.
The taller man with the knife glanced at the items that littered the floor, and nudged them with a foot. "You know what we want, Cmon, you know you enjoy it." The second man came and knelt by her side, running a hand up her leg, past her knee and continued on up under her skirt to her thigh, his other hand fondled her breasts. She shuddered and held herself still as his groping fingers worked ever upwards. She felt his hot breath on her neck, the sour smell of stale beer mingled with that of a cheap heavy, aftershave. She felt his rough fingers pull aside the sliver of fabric and thrust themselves inside her, she bit back a scream.
"Please" she whimpered, "Not like this" Hot, salty, tears coursed down her face. The man roughly pushed her down to the floor, the spilled contents of her bag breaking and shattering under her, jabs of pain as sharp edges pierced her skin through the thin jacket.
The tall man stood watching with a smirk as his accomplice roughly pulled up her skirt and began to unfasten his belt. He slowly ran a finger up and down the blade of the knife, his eyes roving over her now semi naked body, feasting on her. She held her breath as she saw the second man move himself over her, his erect manhood glinting in the harsh light. She closed her eyes, and despite trying to keep still, her hands frantically moved over the floor with a mind of their won, striving to find something, anything that could help her. Just as she felt his weight begin to press down on her, the fingers of her left hand closed on a familiar shape. The small intricately carved wooden cube fitted neatly into her palm, suddenly hope filled her and she slowly raised her hand as if to embrace him and touched it to the back of his head.
Immediately the weight on her vanished and she opened her eyes to see the man who had been prone on her an instant before hanging above her, suspended in mid air. A stream of blue light was being drawn from his wide open, shocked eyes into the cube. A scream of terror and agony issued from his throat. Almost as quickly as it had begun, the blue light flickered out and the man hung limp in the air, the body began to shimmer, as if seen through a heat haze. The man with the knife stood transfixed, staring at the body hanging there, the knife now dangled, forgotten in loose fingers at his side. The shimmering gave way to smoke, then flames poured out in an inferno and within seconds all that remained was a slow drift of fine ash, and a small splash of gold on the floor.
She stood slowly from the crouch she had pulled herself into in the far corner. Leaning on the wall, she tugged her torn and dirty skirt back down covering her modesty. The look of fear in her eyes had been replaced by an steely and determined coldness. She looked at the tall man who stood transfixed, looking at small pile of ash that until a short while before had been his partner in crime.
Valentine extended her will and beckoned him to her with it. As if her will was being obeyed by an invisible giant, the man was dragged across the floor, and dropped at her feet. He looked up at her, into those cold hard eyes. She smiled at him, a cold smile that chilled him to the core of his soul. Slowly, she bent down and gently kissed his cheek, her soft lips tenderly brushing against his rough skin, un-noticed by him, her other hand rose and pressed the cube to his head.
Valentine closed the door behind her and walked slowly down the dark alley. Despite the darkness and the drizzle, she felt elated. The hunger was gone, she felt sated. Her formerly palid skin had its customary rosy blush and she no longer looked tired and gaunt. She carefully opened the lid of the small wooden cube to look again at the slowly pulsing tiny blue pearl that sat within. She smiled, the hunger in her had been fed and was now merely a memory, she had been spared the ordeal of the hunt, and the soul that still pulsed in the catcher would save her the need for a few months. Today had been a good day, but then it always was, when it was Valentines Day.