It was like the cold was sucking the life from her very being. She paused unmoving for a hearbeat, for the first time since her parents died, unsure.
“Beloved,” A voice, like that from a grave in winter, disturbed the brief silence.
Without thinking, she whirled and fired at the sound. She should have hit it, in the chest were it human, dead left of center. Yet the darkness in that corner whirled and pulsed as though it was alive.
“My darling, I have waited for you.” As it spoke the light left the room, unnaturally fast. The darkness that was in the corner was expanding. The air grew colder. Her next breath felt of daggers in her lungs, so impossibly cold. “You are the perfect killer.”
She had to move quickly, it was so cold in here she knew she would die if she lingered. Though her conscious mind wanted to stay, her instinct for survival, highly honed, kicked her into action. Fight or flee, and with her gun useless, she fled. Though the door was locked, and closed, she instinctively put her weight behind her leap. The hinges, frozen beyond mere cold, snapped like thin twigs and the door fell into the hallway, shattering.
The air in the hall was slightly warmer, and her next breath wasn’t as painful as her last. And though the darkness swirled and moved to follow, she was already bolting down the hall.
“Death needs a mistress. We are meant for each other.”
She ran past two of the ganglord’s security team. She knew they were dead, frozen like their leader. Their lifeless eyes, through a thin layer of ice, seemed to mock her flight.
She ducked into the stairwell and began her descent to street level. She moved as fast as she could, as if the Devil himself were chasing her.
The darkness pursued her. While she had negotiate the stairs, the darkness merely flowed like a waterfall, from level to level. Her lead began to shrink, and she knew she had just beat it to the second floor landing. She also knew that she wouldn’t beat it to the last level.
As she rounded for the last half-flight, the darkness sat at the stairwell’s exit. pooled at the base and blocking her exit
“I love you.” She no longer knew if the voice echoed in the air or in her head. Brief seconds passed. She stood looking down at the darkness of the next landing. “We are fated, beloved.” The air became colder still.
The darkness pulsed, and tendrils of it snapped towards her with whip-like speed, shattering the brief tableau. She saw them coming, and leapt back, up the staircase, taking them three at a time. The reaching darkness passed within centimeters of her. The Darkness was death, cold beyond life. Her skin burned with the closeness of the encounter.
She gained the landing on the second floor, and ran down the hall. She turned at the first open door she saw. Tendrils of darkness whipped past the doorway. She ran straight for the window. Using the desk as a springboard, she jumped through it, feet first. Shards of glass were sent flying into the summer evening air as the warm air hit her lungs like a sledgehammer.
Even as she fell the short distance to the pavement, tendrils of the cold darkness reached for her through the open window. One of them caressed her left wrist before retreating in the fading sunlight of the street. The caress burned the flesh. “You will be mine.” On the last word, the voice faded, retreating into sounds of the ruined city.
She hit the pavement. Its touch spoiled her balance, and she landed hard, twisting her right ankle and, judging from the pain that shot through her right forearm, fracturing that as well.
Painfully, she rose to her feet, and collected her gun, which the impact had jerked from her grip only moments before. Though she felt safe in the sunlight, she moved away from the building as fast as she could, limping and holding her arm still. The all too valuable pistol tucked into her belt.
* * *
She awoke to the sounds of a field hospital, her right arm safely locked in a cast. She supposed the Hospital was one of Blacke’s as her pistol sat on the table next to her pillow. It hadn’t been taken away. The nurse hadn’t noticed her consciousness yet, and she overheard some of the conversation.
“You heard me, second degree frostbite on her fingers. How the hell did she manage that in June?” The nurse glanced at her with those words. “Oh, you’re awake. You’ve had us worrying about you. You haven’t been awake for 2 days. Blacke will be pleased. She has, in person, inquired after you.” The person the nurse was speaking to moved away, out her line of vision completely.
She wanted to gesture as part of her response, and then realized her fingers were taped. The frostbite. She also noticed she wasn’t breathing well. The shock of her condition preempted her speaking.
Unsurprised, the nurse went on. “Don’t try to speak, your lungs and throat are damaged. We are going to X-Ray them, as soon as we can repair our unit. Now that Blacke has decided to join Van Hausten, we’ll get the parts. Just rest.” With those words, the nurse moved away.
Her left wrist tingled, and the memory of Its caress prompted her to examine the area.
She moved her left arm above her head, and rotated the wrist until the palm of her hand faced her. There was the source of the tingling, a black, detailed tattoo, burned by the cold into her wrist, of two snakes consuming each other. As she stared at it, the mark seemed to pulse with darkness, and the snakes swallowed a little more each other.
She shuddered as a cold sweat broke out upon her forehead.