Floyd huffed and wheezed as he tried to keep up with the fleeing crowd. The mid-40s football coach held a hand against his side to ease the growing pain; but, his outstretched elbow slowed him down even more. He needed to stop and felt glad his wife and daughter were out of town when the monster attacked. The terrified crowd rushed on without him. They continued running down the gridlocked street. New members rushed out of their parked cars and joined the group as they ran past. Floyd’s lungs heaved as he turned around to see how far he’d gotten.
About 20 blocks away, on the same street, an enormous green reptile stood on its hind legs. The sun had already begun its descent; the perspective made it look like the monster could bite the sun right out of the darkening sky. The green beast lumbered toward the nearest tall building and swatted it down like an angry child. Floyd panicked when he noticed a heavy plume of smoke, dust, and ash rolled up the street toward him. He looked left intending to look right if there was nothing there. Instead, he saw an opening into a dim alleyway and bolted into it. Floyd’s attention was so distracted that he did not notice a woman walking out of the alley.
He tried to stop himself when he did notice her; but, it was too late. He managed to get a good look at her face as his inertia carried him into her; his nose was not even an inch from hers. The strange woman’s skin was pale, creamy and perfect; as if she was cast from liquid marble. Her eyes looked like black jewels, the pupils had an almost crystalline quality to them. She looked almost amused that Floyd was about to butt heads with her. Floyd shut his eyes; then, he hit the ground.
He opened his eyes to see dirty alley blacktop beneath him and he rolled over. The woman was behind him as if he went through her. She continued walking out of the alley and Floyd got a better look. The pale woman wore a long black dress with a slit cut up the right side, and a pair of short, twisting white horns protruded out of her dark, flowing hair. Fashion choices aside; she was human.
“Wait!” Floyd said. The woman stopped in her tracks and turned around to look at him. The moment she did, the rolling cloud of debris washed past her; she remained untouched. The dust rushed at her right side but it stopped before it touched her. A brown cloud flowed out of her left side; it looked like the dirty air passed through her instead of going around.
“Yes?” she asked with a playfully raised eyebrow.
“Monster!” Floyd said from the ground. He pointed the way he came from and hoped the monster was still visible. He meant to warn her about the debris but it proved to be a non-issue. The strange woman’s head turned to her right with a graceful swivel. Her eyes widened almost as much as her smile.
“Fun!” she said with a bright chirp. She shifted her weight to one leg and brought her hand up to tap at her delicate chin. She sighed, then turned to face Floyd; he was standing and dusting the ground off his jeans.
“How do you want to kill it?” she asked him.
“What? You’re crazy, lady,” he said and looked down the rest of the alley. It wasn’t very long with another street at the end, but he couldn’t see much of the street due to all the dust. He looked back at the woman in time to see her nod.
“Crazy bored,” she said. “After I kill it…,” she smiled. “Everyone on this world is next.” When she said, “next”, two sudden impacts startled Floyd into the air. When he landed again he was almost halfway down the alley. Two white skeletons, one on each side of her, pulled themselves together from bone piles. “If you help me get some enjoyment out of the process…,” she paused and raised a single eyebrow at him. “…I’ll let you leave before that happens.”
Floyd began to consider the possibility that the horns on her head were real. Her confidence about defeating the monster seemed more matter-of-fact than hopeful or misplaced. It was the same kind of confidence a high-school athlete would feel when asked if he could walk across a room. He had no doubts she could do what she claimed. Somehow he stumbled onto her good side and he needed to stay there.
“How many of those can you make?” he asked and pointed to the skeletons. She smiled and beckoned Floyd with a finger. Floyd shrugged and walked to her; she stepped back to let him out of the alley.
“Is that what you had in mind?” she asked and nodded at the monster in the distance. It was flailing around angrily hitting itself with its fists. Above it, an enormous black hole hovered in the violet sky; it was as big as five or six football fields clumped together. Bone-white skeletons rained out of the hole and landed on the beast. They crawled all over it like a swarm of spiders.
“Yeah, pretty much,” Floyd nodded.
“Mildly entertaining,” the woman said dismissively. “Off you go.”
“Wait! My family!” Floyd said with a flash of panic.
“They’ll hardly have time to miss you,” she said. Before Floyd could argue the alley gave way under him and he dropped like a stone into a black hole.