- Sticks and Stones
Life is full of life-changing events. Obviously. I never expected mine to come at the tip of a stick.
I paused on the street corner and turned back to the open doorway. Bright blinking flashes of rainbow colors streamed out of the door and onto the sidewalk. A couple of people lingered around the door frame, but one of them broke from the pack and hurried over. She was a woman on the short side with equally short brown hair and the same color eyes. Her rounded face showed an honesty that was disarming, and sometimes alarming.
She grasped my hands and smiled at me. “Do I have a winner for you!”
I rolled my eyes. “Not another one.”
She shook her head. “This isn’t like the last guy. This one’s nice.”
I winced. “The last one that you said was nice held up a liquor store so he could get a bottle for his mom.”
My friend shrugged her shoulders. “That was just bad luck.
How was I to know he had mommy issues?”
“He had his mom’s number on speed dial and used it when he got a paper cut.”
She rolled her eyes and waved a hand at me. “That was just a single time. Trust ol’ Sheryl to get it right this time.”
I clapped my hands on her shoulders and looked her in the eyes. “I trust you, Sheryl. It’s the guys you pick for me that I don’t trust.”
My dear friend sighed and forlornly shook her head. “You have to find someone, Millie. You’re too pretty to stay single.”
I snorted and patted one of her shoulders. “You’re a good friend, Sheryl, but I’m just not looking for a guy right now.”
Sheryl wrinkled her nose. “Well, you should be. You’re not going to just drop in on one, ya know.”
I grinned as I drew my hands back and shrugged. “Who knows? Maybe he’ll sweep me off my feet.”
Sheryl draped one of her arms across my shoulders and tried to turn me toward the open door. Loud music blared onto the street and people shouted above one another. “Come on. Just lemme introduce you to Hamlet.”
I jerked to a stop and stared blankly at her. “Hamlet?”
She shrugged. “He said something about being a big fan of Shakespeare.”
My face drooped. “You do know what happened to Hamlet’s girlfriend, don’t you?”
She blinked at me. “He had a girlfriend? I thought he just played around with a skull.”
A choked laugh escaped me before I gathered my wits and slipped out of my friend’s gentle though persistent hold. “I appreciate the effort, but it’s been a long week and I just want to bury myself in my bed for the weekend. See you Monday.”
I turned away, and Sheryl’s voice called to me as I strolled down the sidewalk. “Mark my words, Millie! I’ll see you with a guy before the month is out!”
I didn’t look back as I waved at her. The long, lonely road awaited me, and a chill wind was my only companion as I made my way home. I wrapped my coat closer about myself and shivered as my ‘companion’ blew its cold breath down my neck.
“Should’ve taken the bus. . .” I mumbled as I stuffed my hands in my pockets. They were empty. Oh, right. No money, no bus. “Next time don’t leave your wallet home.”
I lifted my eyes to the sky. The streetlights blotted out most of the stars, but a few bright planets shone through the eternal soft glow of the city lights. I smiled and stretched my hand up toward one of the brighter ones, a red star that seemed to blink at me.
“Hey, handsome,” I murmured as the star dazzled me with its light. I snorted and dropped my hand back to my side. “Maybe Sheryl’s right. Maybe I do need a boyfriend.”
What I needed right then was to make a decision. The path diverged ahead of me, and in a few steps I stopped and turned my head to look left and right. Right continued down the illuminated albeit abandoned street. Left led me into the park and down its winding concrete path. Left was a shortcut shrouded in darkness. Right was a long bright trek.
My tired feet told me to take the left path, so I did. Traitorous soles.
I had gone only fifty feet down the dark path when I realized what a stupid mistake that was. The bleary sky couldn’t give me enough light to see by and the eerie stillness made my skin crawl. I turned around and froze.
Three heavy-set men were walking down the path toward me. They were shoulder to shoulder, and their steps were quick and pointed. Pointed directly at me. I stumbled backward and that made one of them break into a sprint. The others followed, and I spun around and raced down the path.
My feet pounded down the trail, but their feet were louder. They were also getting closer. I knew in a few moments they could catch me and. . .well, I didn’t want to think about it.
What I wouldn’t have done for that handsome guy to catch me instead of them.
My eyes caught sight of something that lay across the path. It was a long, thick staff of wood. My flight instincts were overridden by my fight, especially as their footsteps came ever closer. I scooped up the stick and spun around to face them with both shaking hands clutching the wood. My grip was so tight I felt my fingers mold themselves to the strange designs etched into the staff. No doubt left there by ants after they’d gnawed through the bark.
“D-don’t come any closer!” I internally rolled my eyes. That line was just too cliched.
The men agreed as they burst into laughter. One of them stepped forward and held out his hand to me. “Come on, little girl. Gimme the stick and let’s have some fun.”
I swung the stick, but he easily evaded my weak little wave. His hand twisted around and snatched the stick at the halfway point between my hands. He leaned forward and his twisted grin loomed out of the darkness.
“Naughty, naughty,” he cooed as he tightened his fingers around the wood. “Now I’ll have to show you-”
I would forever remain in blissful ignorance of what he had to show me because at that moment a soft white glow burst from the stick. Both of us stared dumbly at the wood as little drifting tendrils of brilliance floated between us. Those tendrils coalesced underneath his hand, and I could hear the familiar charge of electricity.
The next moment jagged bolts of lighting shot out of the wood and through his hand. The bolts struck him dead center in the chest, throwing him backward several feet before he landed on his back. A soft moan came from him and he stirred no more.
His companions gawked at their wounded comrade. Hope was kindled within me and my hands didn’t shake quite so badly as I tightened my grip on the glow stick. “Anybody else want a taste of this?” I had no idea if I could manage a second helping of kick-ass.
One of them spun around to face me with fury in his eyes. “You little bitch! You’d you do that?”
He marched forward and also tried to grab my stick, but my confidence had returned. I could also see what I was doing.
I slammed the side of the staff against his face and the electrical current had a shorter distance to travel, so it had even more kick. The man was thrown several yards and crashed into a thicket of bushes far off the path.
I turned to the last man standing. His eyes flickered between my face and my stick, and he made his move. Backwards. The man spun around so fast he tripped over his own feet and fell on all fours. He scrambled across the ground and over the top of my first victim, who let out a whoosh of air.
I stood triumphant over the two groaning men and their retreating comrade. A big grin spread across my face as I slammed the bottom of the staff against the ground.
Electricity shot out in six different directions, barely missing my feet. I yelped and danced around the jagged lines as they traveled for two feet before arcing to the left where they joined each other to create a circle around me. A dark, bottomless hole opened up within the circle.
Which was exactly where I was standing. I let out a scream as I plummeted into the unknown.