You know what they say about dark alleys and little girls? They should never be friends. Never ever.
The clouds rumbled loudly as she stepped into the alley, either going someplace or coming from somewhere. A bright colored raincoat adorned her little frame as she walked on the pavement. There was little light, since the moon was cosied up comfortably behind charcoal clouds. The streetlights did little to improve the situation. Trees swung back and forth a little and occasionally nodded hard in agreement. She did not care. It wasn’t raining cats and dogs yet. More like kittens and puppies. The thought made her giggle.
As she walked on the pavement, she did not notice a pair of eyes sizing her up, like a wild animal. She walked along, uncaring, occasionally doing a step here and a step there. The pair of eyes now appeared out of hiding and stood under the pale, jaundiced streetlight. Supported on a ragged frame, it stood complete with a ragged shirt and a pair of ragged pants. The thumb of his right foot stuck out of a torn pair of canvas and secretly licked a small puddle on the street before being complete drowned. He let out a string of curses as his right foot came out soggy. There was no moon to be seen yet. The streetlight continued to light up the scenery.
Water made him irritated. Water damaged his temper. Water dissipated his inner peace. Since the time it started raining in the afternoon, all he had done was get soaked in the rain. He hated it. And now his canvas had managed to find a puddle and get soaked in it. As one of his shoes squelched, he had seen the little girl, walking quietly, occasionally skipping. She even seemed to be humming a song now. He had the answer! It was all her fault! He did not know how, but he knew one thing for sure; she was the one who would pay for it.
There was an alley lying in wait for her. A few rotten banana peels and an occasional stray cat made up for its everyday livelihood. It encountered an occasional druggie or someone who had lost his way. Sometimes a drunkard would come and crash, and wait for dawn to arrive, when he would finally get up with a splitting headache and mend his way home. Today, a little girl in a bright raincoat decided to grace the alley. The alley stood there, surprised, and decided to let her walk through. As it stood there, admiring the cute thing, the ragged man stumbled in. The alley frowned and let a discarded can in his way. The man kicked it and realized he was about five steps away from her.
The little girl heard the clanking can and turned around to see a ragged man with a ragged expression. His face was streaked with rain water and grime and he looked really mad. The light in the alley was dim. Just then, lightning tore across the skies and revealed his shabby attire. “Don’t come near me!” she bleated. While her voice was soft and sheep like, it strangely did not carry any tones of fear. The shabby man was too drunk to care and he realized that this was the moment which would turn his day a little better. Just a little better. Maybe, a lot better.
He lumbered towards her. She stood still, her eyes like black buttons fixed on his face. “Don’t come near me!” she said once more, almost making it sound like a warning now. There seemed to be a shift in her tone as well. The man was either too drunk to notice, or too naïve to take a little girl like her seriously. As a result, he now stood right over her, breathing down her face.
“Come to daddy!” he said and broke into shabby laughter. The joke seemed extremely funny to him for some reason. She still stood there, her face set like stone. He finally looked at her eyes. Black and stony, they seemed to be staring right at his soul. He ignored the fact and placed his hands on her waist to pick her up. She did not struggle. A rat quickly ran past his foot and hid behind a trash can by the corner. She looked at him one final time and did something totally unexpected.
She placed her right palm right on his nose.
The man took it as a sign of defence and it tickled his funny bone even more. He broke into a fresh peal of laughter and tried to shrug his head sideways to shake off the hand from his face. Strangely enough, the hand remained. Suddenly he felt something hard closing around his nose.
He screamed in agony and let her go. The hand stayed, not moving, as she continued looking at his face with the same stone expression. He stood there, bent, unable to take his face off her hand. Blood flowed freely now, dripping down, mixing with the rainwater. The cats and dogs were finally coming down. His scream kept reverberating through the alley, but no one heard him. The hand soon let go off his nose and worked its way across the rest of his face. He finally managed to push her away and fell backwards. His face, by now, was a bloody mess. “Fuck off bitch!” he managed to utter through a mouth full of blood and a few broken teeth. Then he ran.
She looked at him till he disappeared down the far side of the alley. He was gone. The rainwater washed off all the blood and gore from her hand. She looked at her palm. A pair of thin lips looked back at her.
“Thank you hand.”
“Hey no problem. Can we get another meal before we retire for the night? I am still kinda hungry.”
“Sure thing. Lets go check up a few more alleys!”
The rain kept falling in sheets as she trotted along the alley and stepped out of it. A frog croaked somewhere nearby. A few crickets chirped. No one had noticed the encounter; none of any consequence at least. No one would believe a babbling roadside idiot anyways. The night, it seemed, had just started to get better…
[First published here, one of my favorite stories till date, for a couple of reasons. Its one of my 'experiments' that I did with the premise of putting the little girl in control instead of the demons which might have been haunting her. Secondly, it was a story which I had narrated at
a Serenewoods (my publishers) convention at IIT Delhi, with writer Samit Basu (of Gameworld Trilogy fame, and more recently Turbulence) in the audience. He LOVED it. Hope you guys like it too! :) ]