Melissa Nieves sat at her ninth floor window listening to teenagers playing hip hop music. Her apartment faced the back of the building towards the Pitt Street swimming pool. The lampposts revealed enticing, blue water, undisturbed for the past hour when it closed for the night. Nearby she watched her big brother standing in front of graffiti filled walls, waiting for customers to buy a substance that promised an escape from everything, including the terrible humidity. She longed for the days she could change her dreaded existence. “Mom, are you awake?”
She listened as her mother snored softly on an old sofa. Her long mane covered her chiseled face. Melissa sipped a cup of ice tea, wishing she was rich enough to jump in her own private pool to celebrate her thirteenth birthday. She fought off tears for the only person to wish her a happy birthday was her brother, Phillip.
A brown Hummer pulled next to Phillip. Two men wearing baggy jeans and over-sized t-shirts got out of the vehicle, causing Melissa’s heartbeat to increase. One sported a Yankee cap, identical to her brother’s. The other wore his hair shaved close to the skull, a fancy name carved on his head. When he stepped under the street light, Melissa appreciated the scripted letters which spelled out chocolate. For some reason the man’s wide neck reminded her of a frog.
Phillip glanced up in her direction and led the men to a dark corner, disappointing Melissa. She knew what he was, the neighborhood drug dealer. While publicly she had to deny knowing his business, privately she wished he didn’t have to sell drugs, but how else would they survive?
Everything stopped. The fan that blew humid air on her face ceased to function. The streetlights shut down. Darkness blanketed the city. “Mom, wake up. The lights are off.”
Her mother stirred, mumbled and continued sleeping. Melissa listened as the teenagers howled like a pack of wolves. Panic filled the streets like a black plague, hell-bent on striking fear into the weakest of souls. Within seconds, the sounds of windows being smashed shattered the routine city noises. People screamed as if hell itself spilled over into the tireless city streets.
An overwhelming stabbing pain gnawed at Melissa’s gut. She’d get the apprehensive feeling just before something terrible happened. “Phillip’s in danger.” She gasped.
Extending her hands in front of her, she inched her way towards the sofa, hoping to recruit her mother’s assistance. “Mother, wake up! Phillip is in danger.” She reached her shoulders and shook them. A soft moan escaped from her, but she continued to sleep.
Melissa screamed, “I hate drugs!” She balled her fists, tempted to pound her mother’s head. “I’ll save him myself.”
She made her way in the darkness, towards a kitchen drawer. She rifled through its contents and found a small flashlight. When she turned it on, a circle of light surrounded her. She made her way to the locked door, wondering why she loathed the darkness. Something tugged inside her. Something urged her to get out. Her brother was in danger.
She unlocked the door, quietly closing it. When she flashed the beam before her, Goosebumps ran up her arms. A tiled narrow hallway revealed red doors scattered throughout graffiti tagged walls. Melissa sensed that beyond the reach of her light, something wicked waited for her. Neighbors arguing racked her nerves. As she approached the steel elevators, she listened to a few female voices screaming to be rescued. Tempted to act, she decided her brother’s need for her presence outweighed her desire to help. She shouted, “Don’t worry; I’ll get the security guard.”
Immediately after she spoke, the females pounded on the walls of the elevator, their desperate pleas triggering memories of cobwebs and closed coffins. She didn’t understand where the morbid images came from, but shook them off, concentrating her efforts on the stairwell.
The light dimmed as her sandals stomped on the concrete steps. She dared not look within the shadows for evil loomed dreadfully close. She made sure her hand swept wherever her vision aimed. Considering the flashlight’s flickering, she decided prudent to move faster. Breathing. She heard a heavy wheezing behind her as if some monster approached, all set on cutting off her lungs. She paused ready to defend herself. Then as she saw a dark shadow approaching, she realized she had no weapon. Throwing a small flashlight would not save her from the evil she had in mind.
A boy about ten years of age, stopped dead in his tracks when he saw her. She gathered her composure as the child who struggled for breath, raised his hands in surrender. She said, “Come on kid, I won’t hurt you.”
“Medicine.” He struggled for air, “My daddy’s downstairs. He has my pump.”
Melissa reached out for the boy and rushed him down the stairs towards the exit. A much older version of the lad entered the building, grateful to see the child. “Take it, son.” He handed the boy a gizmo which he promptly put into his mouth, squeezing. A hissing verified medicine was going inside him.
Melissa reached the entrance of the building, sad the moonless night added to her neighbors’ misery. The flashlight died. The only visible illumination came from the headlights of passing vehicles. She raced towards the rear of the building, careful not to trip over debris or run into garbage bins. All around her she heard people shouting. A woman cried, “Sinners! Repent for the end of the world is upon us!”
Of all the sounds, the people shouting in fear, windows being smashed, children crying, and the sound she did not want to hear, the sound which visited her neighborhood often, blackout or not, echoed nearby. Three gunshots rang across the hectic night air. The dreaded popping noises appeared to come from the vicinity where Phillip had gone with the men.
Inside, her guts twirled in knots. Ever since she could remember she had a knack for foretelling the future. The minute she laid eyes on the two men she sensed they were bad news. She particularly wondered how her eyes were able to read the man’s haircut from such a distance. “Chocolate.” She whispered, “If you did something to my brother…”
“Get his stash!”
The dark skinned gentleman with the neon sign for a skull pointed a nine millimeter gun as the Yankee hat wearing hoodlum rifled through Phillip’s pockets.
“Phillip!” She shouted. The men pointed weapons at Melissa.
The one known as chocolate said, “Holy shit! What’s wrong with your eyes?” He crossed himself and kissed his finger.
The other one moved away from her wounded brother and uttered, “Tiene ojos rojo. Es una diabla.”
Melissa translated his words in her mind. She wondered why they thought she had red eyes, but she admitted to herself, images appeared clear, highlighted by a tint of red. She did not understand how two men carrying guns became afraid of her. Clicking sounds caused her to crouch. They pulled the trigger on their weapons. The firearms created the clicking noises. Their guns were useless.
She wondered if the little light there was played tricks on the men. At last she kneeled by Phillip’s side, staring at the Spanish speaking hoodlum and said, “I’m not a devil.”
Chocolate spoke as if a child, “We were under orders. He had to die.”
Rage flared through every fiber of Melissa’s body. A burst of energy surged through her. She pointed at the cap wearing thug and watched in awe as a thunderbolt flew out of her fingers, lifting the cretin thirty feet in the air and tossed him against a brick wall. A funky charbroiled odor permeated the night air. His lifeless corpse landed in an awkward heap.
Phillip grabbed her leg, “Hurry, get momma.”
Melissa watched as her brother bled in the alley. His panting breaths ceased and his eyes took on a glassy glow. She pointed both her index fingers at the evil man known as Chocolate and yelled, “You will pay for this!”
Instead of a thunderbolt extending from her new found power, a puff of white smoke surrounded Phillip’s killer. His body shrunk, no longer taking on human form. He transformed from a human drug dealer into a brown toad.
“Congratulations Melissa.” Her mother stood at the entrance of the alley, her long red hair swaying in spite of a windless night. The few surrounding trees remained still, yet energy surrounded her. Her eyes glowed an alien green.
“Mom, what just happened?”
“Happy birthday, my child. Now do us all a favor and restore your brother.”
An electrical energy pulsated out of her heart. She cupped her brother’s chest and a yellow force field healed his wounds, bringing him back to life.
Melissa’s mother said, “Living in the city is not easy. These foolish mortals worry about the silliest things. Look how they go ape over a simple blackout.”
“What am I?” Melissa helped her brother rise to his feet.
“We are witches. In time you will remember your past lives.”
“Mom, why am I no longer afraid of the dark?”
Her mother gestured for them to get going, “I’ll tell you everything upstairs, but like me you possess night vision.” She glanced towards the enemy, “Oh, don’t forget your pet toad.”
Melissa picked up Chocolate, the evil drug dealer and felt him tremble in her hands. “Maybe we should cook toad soup.”
Phillip said, “I’d like that very much.”
The funny thing about the trek back to the apartment was that Melissa heard Chocolate screaming for dear life. She instinctively knew that to the average person, his screams were silent as if a vortex of despair funneled his cries to a world where darkness ruled.
When they reached the building, her mother said, “Today your powers are unleashed.”
Melissa smiled, anxious to learn more about her unique abilities.
© Copyright 2010 Nomar Knight. All rights reserved.
Nomar Knight has granted Knight Chills non-exclusive rights to display this work.