On their way home from the bar, three friends watched as a strange man turned and walked down a dead-end alleyway. The full moon gave the seedy streets an ethereal luminescence, but its brilliant light couldn’t penetrate the deep crevice carved through the staggeringly tall buildings. They couldn’t believe such an affluently dressed man would be alone, walking through such a bad neighborhood. Then to enter that specific alleyway, well, they figured he must’ve been really lost or really stupid. Either way, they had no problem lending a helping hand.
“Aight, this what we do,” Dee started, addressing his two friends. “We catch up to him and see what he’s about first.”
“What if he’s tryin’ to score some product?” the shortest of the group asked.
Dee snarled his lip with a forced chuckle. “Business is closed for the night.” He pointed to the short guy. “Lou, you on the right. Key, you got the left.”
“Man, why we doin’ this? It’s late and I’m too faded for this shit.” The second guy, Key, said as he kind of hovered in place with half-closed eyes. The acid he’d dropped as they were leaving the bar was now taking effect.
“Shut yo dumbass up.” Dee focused his attention back on the short guy, Lou. “You see his coat and shoes?”
“Yeah. Shit’s Gucci.”
“Exactly. Probably one of them Northside trust fund boys. No doubt he got a stack on him.”
“Why he in the hood then?” Lou blurted out.
“Who cares? Easy money.” Dee looked around but all was quiet. The streets had been mostly empty for the last hour. “Come on.”
They marched toward the alley in a hurry. They wanted to catch up to the man before he had a chance to turn around.
“Yo, you need somethin’?” Dee spoke in a faux-friendly tone but the shadows in the dark alley danced around his face making his smile appear more menacing than normal.
Lou had taken his position on the right side of the alley and Key—who was more concerned with keeping his head from floating off his shoulders—blocked the left side of the alley’s only entrance. Dee walked with caution toward the man who was standing at the end of the alley with his back toward them.
“My man. I said you need somethin’?”
Dee stopped at the line where the street light could no longer reach. Beyond it was vast darkness and the man standing at the end was more of a shadowy figure than a visible person. A strange tension filled the air. Dee had mugged countless people over the years but this was the first time since he was a kid that his nerves were starting to get the better of him. Something told him to leave the stranger alone, but the thought of a good payday overrode his common sense.
Lou fidgeted near the entrance. He wanted to ask what was taking so long but thought better of it. Key’s body was still technically blocking the other side of the alley, but his mind was flying through another dimension full of brightly colored geometrical shapes.
The stranger stood motionless at the end of the alley. Even in the dark, a pair of shiny metal cufflinks twinkled on his wrist. The pinstripes on his crisp suit made his silhouette stand out against the blackness of the grimy wall in front of him. This guy had money alright, and Dee decided he was going to get it one way or another. So, sucking up as much courage as he could, he silently pulled a pistol from his waistband and began walking toward the man again—crossing the line into near total darkness as he did so.
“I ain’t tryin’ to fuck with you, man,” he said in a calming tone. “Whatever you need, I got it.”
Dee gave a quick wave to the two behind him. Lou, with some reluctance, started inching his way into the alley. Key, on the other hand, was hugging the wall so the flying monsters couldn’t take him away.
“So what you tryin’ to do?”
Dee came up behind the man. The stranger was standing abnormally still. It didn’t look like he was breathing and he was a lot taller than Dee had first realized. Equally as unsettling, an acrid sulfur smell permeated throughout the spot where the man stood. The whole situation felt wrong, Dee thought.
Dee squeezed the gun in his hand as he tapped the man on the elbow. The darkness was almost too intense and he wanted to run. But he had come this far. All he needed to do was take the chump’s money and run.
“Bro, turn around.”
The gun shook in his hand with a faint rattle. To steady himself, Dee pushed the gun lightly against the man’s back.
“I said turn around.” He tried to sound intimidating but his voice cracked halfway through. “Now.”
As if he’d said the magic words, the man began to turn around with a methodical slowness. His arms were still at his sides and he moved with an awkward stiffness. At that moment Dee wished he hadn’t followed the man into the alley.
With a sudden burst of speed, the stranger whipped the rest of the way around and was now facing Dee. The man towered over Dee like a giant and in the dark, his face was hard to see. But then, he lifted a long, skeletal hand in the air and swiped it against his pant leg. A flash exploded in the dark; the stranger had ignited a match. He held it up to his face and the man smiled a wide, shark-like smile. Four rows of razor sharp teeth shone from the orange firelight, but he had no other facial features: no nose, ears, or eyes. Just that wide, dangerous mouth.
Dee turned to run but it was too late. Sharp teeth sunk deep into his neck flesh and a geyzer of hot blood spurted forth. He was dead within a minute. Lou saw this from a distance and tried to flee, but just as he was about to make it out of the alley something grabbed his head and twisted it all the way around with a sickening crack.
Key hugged the wall with all his strength. The sound of mighty wings flapped behind him. The monsters were going to snatch him and drag him to the other dimension if he let go. He just knew it. But after what felt like hours, there was a sudden rush of fiery wind behind him and he found himself alone, hugging the dirty brick wall of the alleyway. He made it through to the other side of the bad trip.
He dropped down to his knees and looked up at the sky. The first hints of the sun danced around the skyline. He looked over himself and everything seemed okay, but when he looked down the alley he was horrified by the sight. Beyond the mangled bodies of his friends at the end of the alley, stood a tall man in a suit. The man was facing away from him, but the stench of sulfur was powerful and lingered in the air. And as Key slowly began to rise to his feet, the man started to turn with a methodical slowness.
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