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It wasn’t right. The light in the room wasn’t the light Stan expected to see in the early morning. That wasn’t it though. It wasn’t the light he expected to see at all. And he couldn’t figure out why it was wrong. His eyes popped open to a soft light coming from the side of the room. It filtered around the edges of the blinds covering the window.
That was the next problem, the window. It was in the right place, he knew that, but even then it wasn’t right. He saw points in time and space that weren’t quite connecting, but it was that outside point that he couldn’t see clear enough to know why waking up in his own bed, next to Charlotte was wrong. At the same time, he couldn’t figure out why waking up next to Charlotte was scaring the hell out of him.
He sat up in the bed and looked about the room. Six thirty, the time on the alarm clock, the time the alarm normally goes off before he goes to the laundry. It never rang. He might have forgotten to set it the night before. He had been setting that alarm and going into the laundry everyday for the past ten years, every day. But he could have forgotten. Anything is possible. But he didn’t forget, he hadn’t forgotten any other morning. Charlotte stirred in her sleep.
He dressed by the daylight that seeped into the room. A quiet process, the routine of his everyday. And it all felt wrong.
By the time he had left the apartment the odd feeling had grown in intensity but it had no center, nothing to guide it. He stepped out of his apartment building and followed his instincts as they guided him on the path to the laundry where he could begin his day. The day in the city never really started this early in the morning. A routine he enjoyed. Gave him quiet and empty streets as he walked to work.
So when he heard the sirens from a Comfort Inspector cruiser in the distance it set him on edge. And that odd feeling that had been building set his nerves on fire. Stan felt more awake and wired than after three shots of espresso.
He saw the girl slip out of the alley and dart into the center of the street. Another moment that felt wrong. He should know her. He was sure of it. She raced back into the alley before he could connect her face to a name. The sirens had grown closer to his street, closer to where the girl had done something in the middle of the road.
She had crouched down in the shadows of the alley. If he hadn’t seen her return he wouldn’t have noticed her at all. As he watched her the idea of a coiled spring entered his mind. The girl was dangerous.
Stan didn’t have long to think about the girl or what she had done to the road. The cruiser followed closely behind the scream of its siren and raced down the road. As it passed the mouth of the alley the front tires of the car blew out with a bang and a squeal. The driver lost control of the car as it swerved from one side of the street to the other. It had finally come to a stop half a block ahead of the alley. He didn’t want to risk it, didn’t want to draw attention to himself so he picked a store’s entrance to cover him.
He watched from the shadows as the girl in the alley raced along the sidewalk to meet the car, dead at the side of the road. She had been fast, a blur of motion that met the driver as he began to open the door and get out of the car. She slammed the door into his knees and chest as he fought to get free. Pinned behind the door his face turned red with the strain as he pushed to free himself. The girl stepped back and then slammed the door into him again. Then in a blur Stan saw her hand snake out at the man’s face. A spurt of blood shot from a red hole in the center of his forehead and he slumped back into the seat.
The whole thing happened so fast. It didn’t register in his mind until she had switched to the back door and the occupants had been allowed out of the car. A man and woman still in plasti-cuffs were ushered from the car and back to the alley. The realization hit him, knocked Stan free from the paralysis of that had consumed him. He knew that couple. Eric and Autumn had been his neighbors for far too long.
In that moment he ran, charged across the street to follow the girl and them where ever it was they were going. He barely caught the alley door before its edged clamped tight to the doorframe. As he reached inside to pull it open, a slight girl, the girl from the attack, slammed it open and pulled him into the room beyond.
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