Jessica tore the door of her car open and sat down. Breathing heavily, she threw her sports bag onto the back seat. The run from the apartment to her car, parked in front of the huge apartment building, had only been a few yards. But the fear grabbed her stomach with an iron fist, squishing it painfully. Fingers shaking, Jessie brushed a strand of copper-blond hair out of her face and back over her shoulder. She pushed her car key in and turned it. The angry growl of the old engine gave her a feeling of familiarity. A sense of new hope.
Everything around her was gradually sinking into chaos. And all she could think of was how to get away from here the fastest. Flee from this damn city. The rioting had been getting worse for days now.
Jessie accelerated. The green Nissan Micra sped through the streets towards one of the main roads leading away from the city center. Despite the night's darkness, the streets shone in a blaze of gold. Heat radiated from the burning buildings. People were everywhere, climbing through store windows, stumbling over broken doorframes in a frantic search to find anything and everything that was left to take. Anything to eat or drink. Or simply using the opportunity to claim the luxuries of life they would otherwise never be able to afford.
Jessie followed the narrow street, trying not to hit any of the looters or the piles of trash that lay either side of her car. It had been weeks since the last garbage collection. And now that the police and army had all but abandoned the city, chaos ruled in their place.
Jessie turned the corner towards the main road. Her breath stocked in her lungs. The street was blocked by a large crowd throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at the shops and buildings around them. Quickly, Jessie spun the steering wheel and with screeching tires, her car slid to the left, then right. No sooner had the noise caught the attention of the angry crowd, bricks and bottles began flying in Jessie's direction. They hit the windshield hard.
Jessie's heart nearly stopped. She ducked down behind her steering wheel. Adrenaline rushed anew through her veins. Only the sound of her fast beating heart drowned the noise of the stones hitting the roof and hood of her car.
‘God! I have to get away from this madness.'
Gazing over the steering wheel, Jessie gained speed as she progressed down the road.
Suddenly she stomped down on the brake pedal and ripped the steering wheel around. But it was too late. The sound of her car yelling in agony cut through Jessie's body as if she had already hit the obstacle. Her car spun to the left and then slid along the street. It hit the overturned SUV sideways. Jessie screamed and raised her hands to her face to protect herself from the glass exploding from the driver's door.
The next moment, and before she was able to react, the door was ripped open. Jessie's eyes widened. Uncountable hands groped at her, opening the seat belt and yanking her out of the car.
“Nooo! Let me go!” Jessie yelled as the hands reached for her again. Kicking and screaming, she tried to protect herself. Suddenly her attackers stepped away from her. They laughed as she fought her way into a standing position. A dirty guy stood right in front of her. He sneered and tried to reach for her again. “Hey, cutie, and where did you want to go?” He laughed deep down in his throat.
Jessie held her breath. She saw more and more men gathering around her. Slowly she slid along the side of her wrecked Nissan towards the edge of the street. The crowd moved sideways with her, jeering at the obvious attempt to flee. As fast as she could, she made a break for the nearest alley.
But no matter how fast her feet were carrying her, she didn't get far.
Four of the men who had pulled her out of her car caught up to her a second later. Two of them grabbed her arms and stopped her. “Wait, sweetheart. We weren't done with you!” the third called and laughed as Jessie tried to pull her arms free. The fourth man stopped beside his friend, placing an arm around his shoulder. “Look, what we found ourselves. Something to have a little bit of fun with.” He reached out a dirty hand and grabbed a strand of Jessie's hair, sliding it through his fingers. “I like blondes.”
The fear in Jessie turned into pure horror. Her arms hurt where the two men gripped her tightly. Tears formed in Jessie's eyes, but she fought against them with all her strength. She would die before giving her aggressors the satisfaction. “Let me go” she begged with a shaking voice, all the while struggling to free her arms.
“Oh, but you're a wild one, aren't you?” the third man said and stepped towards her. He stank of sweat and his foul breath nearly churned Jessie's stomach. She groaned and tried to lean away from him. But he simply grinned at her and lifted a hand towards her upper body. “Now, come on, don't be like that. It'll be fun, you'll see.”
“No, please don't”, Jessie repeated. Her heart stopped when his filthy hand grabbed her top, his nails scratching the area around her collarbone.
“Hey assholes, why don't you pick on someone your own size?” A dark voice cut through the ugly sneers of the four men. They stopped immediately, but didn't let go of Jessie. The men turned around in unison.
Jessie held her breath. Her gaze followed those of her attackers.
A tall figure stood only a few feet away from them, shrouded by the shadows of the alley. Despite the fires blazing around them, Jessie couldn't make out much more than the long dark hair that fell over the person's shoulders. The dark clothes, the low voice – a female voice.
It took Jessie's attackers the same moment to realize that they were being addressed by a single woman. “Oh, it's another bitch! Isn't this our lucky day, boys!” The one who stood nearest to the stranger turned around completely. He grinned dirtily and grabbed his crotch. “You want some honey? I have enough for the both of ya!” His friends sniggered in approval.
The woman stepped silently forward into the flickering light that shone into the alley. She simply raised a dark eyebrow, her lips twitching. “Are you sure, you're up for this, little boy?” she said, while her eyes travelled to Jessie.
Their gazes met and Jessie quickly closed her mouth. A tingle ran through her body. The eyes regarding her were as blue as the clearest sea she had ever seen. They seemed to sink right down into her soul, calming her with a single gaze. Jessie swallowed as her throat tightened.
“Oh, I'll show you I'm a man, alright, whore”, the man closest to the stranger laughed and took a step forward.
The blue eyes wandered back to him and the woman shook her head slowly. “You better let her go.”
Her answer was another loud laugh coming from the man. The one who had tried to grab Jessie's top stepped up beside his friend and patted him on the shoulder. “She can have some of mine as well.”
“Come on, boys, let her go.” The woman looked at the four men and smiled.
Jessie immediately realized that it was a smile of confidence. A cold chill ran down her spine. Who was this woman and what was she up to?
“Hey bitch, why don't you come over here and suck my cock right away?” The first man, now with his friend by his side, took another step forward.
That was his mistake.
The stranger howled a scream and launched forward. Her foot connected solidly with the man's groin. He slumped immediately, his eyes rolling back into his head.
Jessie flinched instinctively at the crunching contact. A second later she realized that this was her only chance to escape. The man to her left stood with a gaping open mouth, his attention centered on his friend, who now lay unconscious on the ground. Jessie reacted swiftly. With a powerful yank she tore herself free. In that moment, the other man, who had been standing next to his downed buddy, flew past her. He landed on his back and didn't move anymore. Jessie stopped and looked up.
The stranger was slowly coming towards her and the other two men, her lips forming an evil grin.
Jessie lifted a brow at the woman. There was an unmistakable premonition of danger in the way she was holding herself, her head lowered just the tiniest bit, her eyes regarding the men under dark bangs without flinching. Jessie's body froze.
A second too long.
The next thing she felt was the fist of the fourth man connecting with her stomach. Her body cramped. Then a fist hit her left temple. The pain exploded behind her eyes.
And then – darkness.
Jessica woke up from a restless sleep. Slowly she opened her eyes, trying to focus on her surroundings. Everything around her was dark. She was lying on hard ground, with her head propped up on a cushion of some kind. A mild breeze tickled her arms and the part of her legs, that wasn't covered by her knee length light brown skirt or the black leather boots, covering the lower part of her calves. She strained to sit up, but immediately the room started spinning and a deep throbbing shot through her head.
“So, you've woken up.”
Jessie turned her head and looked into the darkness. A low female voice came from somewhere to her right side. Hearing the other person, Jessie ignored the pain behind her temples and sat up slowly.
“Oooow, god!” Jessie's hand flew to her forehead when her head started spinning again.
“You should move slowly. He hit you pretty hard”, the voice mentioned.
Jessie blinked and then squinted her eyes. By now her fuzzy mind was able to focus on her surroundings. Not everything was pitched in darkness. There was a reddish-orange light, mixed with the cold white of the moon, shining onto the place she had been sleeping in. It was some kind of building site, an unfinished skyscraper or something similar. The light came from the far distance to her right. The soft breeze floated into the building through the unfinished window facade.
Jessie turned her head when she heard the stranger move further into the room. The shadow of the tall figure slipped through the darkness and then settled down on a crate by the window. Despite the orange lights of the horizon, Jessie was unable to make out anything of the woman but the outline of her body. The stranger leaned back against the room's naked wall. Her gaze seemed to drift off into the far distance.
As soon as the throbbing pain had ebbed away, Jessie dropped her hand from her forehead. “Where am I?” she asked with a coarse voice. Her throat felt dry and tight.
“I took you to a construction site in the financial district. Figured, we were safe up here for the moment.”
Jessie cleared her throat. Her brain didn't seem to work yet. Had she heard right? What was this woman talking about? Or was her mind simply toying with her? Maybe she was still fast asleep and she'd wake up in a minute in her own bed. “Is this a bad dream?” Jessie asked tentatively.
The woman on the other side of the room answered with a low chuckle: “You should hope so.”
Jessie swallowed. The toneless voice sent a chill down her spine. Whoever this woman was, she didn't seem to be too happy to be here with her.
“How is your head doing?” the woman asked after a moment of silence, in which Jessie tried to concentrate and remember what had happened.
There was not much more than a dark cloud over her memories. Faint shadows of her sitting down in her car… driving through the city... people everywhere… chaos flooding the streets. Then darkness...
“It's fine... I guess.” Jessie closed her eyes. More pictures flooded her mind's eye. A dark alley…. painful hands holding her arms… dirty fingers trying to grab her upper body… squirming to get free, panic and fear.
Then this woman.
Jessie opened her eyes and looked towards the stranger. Although unable to see a face, Jessie felt that she was being watched.
That woman - dressed in black cargo pants and tight black tank top, tall and strong, a somehow devilish grin playing around perfectly formed lips as she came to her defense. The long black hair, falling softly over the woman's shoulders. Then - their eyes meeting - blue eyes, as blue as the summer sky - as blue as -
Jessie caught her breath.
As blue as the ones she was suddenly staring into.
Somehow the woman had snuck up to her totally unnoticed. She knelt on one knee in front of her, waving a hand in front of her face. “You still with me?” she asked in a low voice. Her gaze flew over Jessie's face curiously.
“Excuse me? I....” Jessie mumbled in surprise. Her eyes widened, her heart did a flip and started hammering wildly in her chest. The stranger smirked and then lifted a hand. Gentle fingers grabbed Jessie's chin and turned her head from one side to the other. Jessie couldn't do anything else but comply and allow the woman the inspection.
“Doesn't look too bad”, the stranger said and let go of Jessie's face. Before Jessie was able to react, the woman got up and looked down at her. “But you should take it easy.”
Jessie nodded. What else could she do? This still felt like a dream world. How else had she ended up in an unfinished sky scraper with a total stranger? Beautiful as she was, there was an aura of danger floating around her and Jessie felt goose bumps rise all over her arms, when she remembered the look the woman had given those men in the alley.
“What happened? How did I get here?” Jessie croaked again.
The woman held out a small bottle of water to her. “You were attacked by those scumbags. I...” The woman stopped for an instance. Then one corner of her mouth twitched. “I butted in. You got knocked out by one of them though. I took you here. End of story.”
Jessie took the offered bottle as the woman shook it at her with more emphasis.
“Thank you”, Jessie said and opened the bottle.
“You're welcome”, the woman replied and then turned to sit back down by the window.
Jessie took a long gulp of the water. Even though it was warm, she could feel it flow down her throat all the way to her stomach. After another sip or two, Jessie lowered the bottle. She moaned and closed her eyes. Her body immediately reacted to the much needed fluid as all senses came back to life.
“I mean thank you for the water AND for saving me.” Jessie opened her eyes and looked over to the woman. She had disappeared back into the shadow and Jessie was unable to see her face anymore.
A long moment of silence followed. Jessie was about to repeat her words, but the stranger finally replied: “As I said: you're welcome. You should drink the whole bottle.”
Jessie looked at the bottle in her hands.
“It will help you. Especially since you're hurt.” The woman's voice became softer.
Jessie simply nodded and took another sip of water. After a while, she closed the bottle and then slowly got up. Her legs felt wobbly as she came to stand. She had to pause. Then she took a few tentative steps towards the window.
The woman hastily got up as Jessie drew closer.
“What happened? I don't remember anything.” Jessie repeated her earlier question.
“I don't know. But I guess people took matters into their own hands”, the woman answered. It was obvious she didn't like to give that kind of reply, but that there wasn't anything else she could say.
Jessie walked up to the windows and stopped beside the woman. The stranger was much taller than herself. Jessie realized she had tensed up the second she closed the distance between them. Jessie looked at the woman's face, who had averted her eyes towards the outside world. The stranger was even more beautiful, now that she was able to look at her closely. The high cheekbones, the dark tanned skin, those incredible blue eyes. Jessie had to fight the soft smile wanting to appear on her face. Instead, she let her eyes follow the woman's gaze.
“Oh my god!” Jessie exclaimed. She immediately felt tears coming to her eyes and her heartbeat stopping. Her whole body froze at the sight before her. “It's worse than I thought.”
“Just another hell on earth”, the woman beside her said stoically.
“This is not possible. Dear god...” Jessie's eyes slowly travelled over the burning city at her feet. They were standing a good five or six stories above the streets. From their elevated standpoint they had a clear view over the horror beneath them: the fires burning all over the city. The noise of buildings collapsing, of death and destruction.
“I don't think god has anything to do with this”, the stranger commented.
Jessie turned her eyes, hoping for some kind of explanation from the taller woman. But she didn't even flinch, ignoring the green eyes boring into her.
“Please, tell me that this is only a bad dream”, Jessie finally begged after looking back over the city.
“I can't.” The woman's voice was hiding a hint of sorrow.
Jessie lowered her arms to her sides. The positive effect the water had had on her faded into weariness. “This is the end.”
“It might be ‘ an' end. But I never give up. Never. No matter how hard they try”, the stranger said with a hard voice.
Jessie turned her eyes again and looked at the woman's profile. The glow of the burning city shimmered in her cold eyes. But underneath Jessie could make out other traits: This person had an undying will and total confidence in her own capabilities. A pillar of strength.
Jessie looked back over the city.
She was pretty sure she had nothing in common with the woman beside her.
To be continued in episode 2…I'd be happy to read your comments to the story at www.facebook.com/PledgedSouls or in an email to firstname.lastname@example.org .
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