by Y.B. Cats
The flash of a passing car's headlights set the scene below in harsh light. From where she perched she saw the
lone armchair, orange and threadbare, shine luridly. She winced and waited for dark to return – it was easier on
her senses and hid the clear reminder of where she had ended up. She expected the car to pass but heard it
grind to a halt and two loud, macho voices echoed while car doors slammed. She tensed and tried to determine
if they headed in her direction. A small skittering drew her attention to the floor and she watched as a boy
darted inside and scurried toward the chair, where he crouched, breathing heavily. A footfall on the garbage-
strewn floor indicated another arrival. A man said something loud and taunting, and the boy covered his head
with his hands. She decided she'd had enough.
She maneuvered among rafters until she stood directly over the man as he slowly pulled a handgun from his
waistband. He took another step to the chair and she dropped, landing on him with her full weight. He
collapsed and a whoosh of air escaped his chest. He didn't move again, and she easily climbed aloft to wait for
the other one. The boy peered from behind the chair and saw his would-be assailant, defeated. He immediately
began to pray, and his whispers needled her ears to no end. The other man entered as her irritation peaked and
she dispatched him in much the same way she did the first. When she turned, the boy stood staring at her in
"Are you – you are an angel?" he whispered. She raised a skeptical eyebrow and spit on the floor. A wisp of
smoke rose from where her saliva hit, and the boy's mouth opened in awe.
"No, but as far as I know, a prayer never goes unheard." She indicated for him to stay where he was then
crouched to inspect the pockets of the fallen men. She found drugs and neat folds of cash. "What did they
want with you?"
"My friend owes them," he said after an uncertain pause.
"Your friend owes me now," she snickered, half-serious. She tossed him the bundles of cash, his face rife with
"You got to be an angel," he murmured.
"You think if I was I'd be here?" she countered, raising her arms to indicate peeling wall paint and the garbage-
He considered her closely and recognition began to creep across his features. She immediately approached him,
meaning to intimidate all thought out of his head. It was possible he recognized her as who she used to be –
and as eager as she may have been to remember who she was, his recognition was threatening. The boy
backed up until he pressed against the wall, fear returning in a rush to his face.
"Ok, ok," she tried to relax, "how about this – how many more of them do you know?" She indicated the
motionless bodies with a lazy wave of her hand. The boy gulped.
"Lots, but, those were the worst," he replied softly.
"Tell you what – you and I are going to clean up the neighborhood. You think you can get more to come here?"
The boy paused and licked his lips as he thought about what she said.
"Yeah," he nodded.
"Great. Bring them here, and whatever is in their pockets is yours, minus drugs and guns. Ok?" He nodded
again. "Alright, get out of here. You don't want to see what I'm going to do next." His eyes opened wide and
he moved warily to the door. She called mockingly after him. "Go ahead and tell your friends what happened
here tonight. When they come to see for themselves, I won't discern between them and the dealers. Anyone
who comes here will get the same welcome, except for you. Got it?" Half-way to the door, he paused and
turned, standing anxiously.
"I'm Devon," he said, eager to distinguish himself. "What – who are you?" In reply, she gave him a hostile look
tinged with frustration and guilt.
"I don't care what you call me," she alleged.
"My sister's name is Keisha, and she's almost as mean as you," he may have smiled, or grimaced.
"Keisha it is then," she said. "Now go away." He slipped out the door and she listened as the pounding of his
feet faded. Sighing wearily, she slumped into the chair. "Ugh," she complained, discovering its rotten odor.
From her seat, she observed her surroundings like a queen of the damned. The doors and windows had long
since been removed, giving the room a toothless look. Large cracks and water stains ran down pockmarked
walls. How had she ended up here? She may have followed someone to confront them, but that was all she
remembered. She struggled with hazy thoughts until she rediscovered her prey and persistent hunger, and slid
sinuously to the floor.
Devon did not disappoint. The next day a gangly man entered her domain and wandered warily around.
"Devon?" he called, and Keisha, waking from a leisurely nap, smiled knowingly. Paranoid and quick, this one put
up more of a fight. He looked surprised as he stumbled from the effort of trying to shove her aside. She
quickly put him out of his confusion.
"Devon," she said. A whisper of sound told her he had emerged from his hiding place and stood within view.
She went through the man's pockets and found tiny bags of drugs and a few bills. "It's not much," she said as
she handed him the cash. The boy looked at her with a hint of pity and something else. She didn't like it.
"Want to stay and watch?" she asked darkly. He shook his head vigorously and left.
Days passed. When Devon returned, he was alone, and carried a cardboard box.
"Keisha," he called softly. She unfolded herself from where she balanced and dropped down to greet him.
"Why are you alone?" she asked, irritated.
"I brought some things – I thought you might be bored," he offered.
"I'm hungry, not bored," she said pointedly. He raised the box to her, determined. She refused and he set it at
"There aren't any more for you to …take care of. Everyone's lying low," he shrugged.
"That doesn't mean you can't get one to come here," she argued.
"I'll try. They all think it's the police making people disappear."
"The longer it takes, the hungrier I get."
Devon nodded and backed cautiously out of the room. After he left she kicked over the box and a change of
clothes, magazines, mirror, and a newspaper spilled onto the floor. The clothes looked her size, and she realized
she hadn't thought about how long she had worn what she had on. The magazines with smiling-lipstick faces
disgusted her. The paper was folded strangely, and as she opened it a headline about a missing girl caught her
attention. A feeling of dread clenched her stomach. The missing girl's name was Keisha – she had a younger
brother Devon – the two were foster children. Keisha was last seen with her boyfriend Dante, a suspected drug
dealer. To one side of the article was a picture of the missing girl. She scrambled for the mirror and looked at
her own face. It was her – she was Keisha, the one who was missing. Hot tears slid down her cheeks and
splashed on the paper, causing curls of smoke to waft from the page.
"You wouldn't have believed me." Devon reappeared behind her.
"Where is Dante?" she whispered. Devon gave her a troubled look.
"He was the reason you were missing, and I told him I was going to the police. He and his friend brought me
here in their car but I climbed out the window and ran. You killed him the night you found me." Small flames
began to lick at the newspaper where her fingers held it, but she didn't notice.
"He killed me," she uttered, grief stricken, "and I prayed for revenge." The flames grew larger but didn't yet
consume her. Devon took a step back as the heat grew unbearable.
"Keisha, stop!" he exclaimed.
"Get out," she gasped, "get away from me, Devon." The fire swallowed her and he watched in horror as the
blaze hungrily consumed the floor and crawled up the walls. Eager flames rushed forward and he stumbled out
into the street, falling. Picking himself up, he sat on a curb and watched the building burn. Fire crews and police
responded, but Devon was left undisturbed. Finally someone approached him.
"What happened here?"
"My sister is missing," he said solemnly, watching the smoldering rubble.
The newspaper would say the inferno left nothing standing, and despite the frantic search for a missing girl, no
bodies were found in the rubble. The owners would be suspected of arson because the city had deemed the
building an eyesore and tasked them with tearing it down.
Within a year, a new apartment complex would be erected on the site.