Write Stories

I Am Oblivion

 

 

“You’re not losing your mind. You’re not losing your mind. You’re not losing your mind.”

Parsons mumbled to himself as he sat hunched over on the edge of his bed, his back covered in a shiny gloss of sweat.

The intense pain in his forearm had now quieted to a dull ache. He glanced down at it, still not quite believing what he’d just seen. A strange, small, black design sat about eight inches below his wrist. He’d never seen anything like it before. Was it a tattoo? He just remembered waking up to a searing pain right where this marking was, and then, all of a sudden, Parsons’ eyes went black. And he saw something.

Had he just had a vision? Either that or the most vivid hallucination he’d ever experienced. He could feel the image he’d seen begin to fade away, just like any other dream. Ok. Think.

There was a couple. Man and woman. On a train? Subway? Parsons was sitting directly across from them. They were looking right through him, like he wasn’t there. They were laughing and smiling. Could’ve been on a date, he jotted down. Everything was so cloudy. The couples’ faces were obscured. Not necessarily covered by anything, just… blurry. A hooded figured comes up from Parsons’ right side and sits next to him. Face obscured again. After a few moments of silence, the hooded figure pulls a gun out and points it at the couple. They begin to scream and then….

Nothing. It ends there.

Parsons sat there and racked his brain for more, but that was everything. It was gone.

It couldn’t be real, though. Just a dream, he thought. Just a really bad dream. He glanced back down at his forearm, which still had that strange design on it. He examined it a little closer. It looked like a small circle with a dot in the middle, the whole thing no bigger than a quarter. The next step was figuring out where the hell this thing came from, because getting a random tattoo was certainly not a typical part of Parsons’ benders.

And last night was just that. A bender. Parsons barely remembered it. Just bits and pieces. Didn’t even remember passing out in bed.

It started with a bar. Of course. Always a bar.

What the hell happened at the bar? Why was everything so cloudy? He’d never felt this unsure about a night before. There was something in the back of his mind that he hadn’t felt in a long time: Fear.

A thought shot through his mind and he sobered up almost immediately as he got up and sprinted to the kitchen table, where relief washed over him. They were there. Thank god.

Parsons looked down at his badge and gun and let loose a long sigh. He ought to know better than bring those with him when he drank, but he was eternally grateful to his drunken self for not losing them. His ass would’ve been fired in a heartbeat. He’d worked too hard to become a detective to throw it all away now, drinking problems be damned. Gotta be more careful, he thought. He took a deep breath, went back to the bed and sat down. Focus. He looked out the window in front of him.

The studio apartment was mostly dark, aside from the beams of neon light that scattered through the blinds, thanks to the strip club across the street. The hum of a city that hadn’t slept in decades continued outside, hustling and bustling as it always did.

His mind drifted back to last night. What happened? The bar. Right, right. The bar. Parsons had been drinking alone, which wasn’t unusual. It was his typical routine for coming off of a long, exhausting shift. The bartender had been Maureen, he remembered that much. She always told Parsons “first drink’s on the house, but only cuz I like ya.”

The first drink was never on the house. But Maureen was a sweetheart, even if she was a mean one.

Gin was Parsons’ drink of choice. He didn’t care how expensive or how cheap it was. Always gin. It normally took three or four drinks before he’d start to feel a little greased up.

Snapping back to his apartment, Parsons had an idea. He reached over to his pants, which were thrown loosely on the floor, and found his phone. Dead.

“Fuck,” he said under his breath as he plugged it in.

He sat uncomfortably on his bed while he waited for it to turn on. Upon examining the marking on his arm, he determined that it was definitely some sort of tattoo. The skin was raised and still bleeding a little. Parsons noticed the little bits of blood all over the sheets. He touched it with his fingers and winced. Still sensitive. He didn’t have any other tattoos, but he knew well enough that it probably needed to be cleaned. The last thing he needed was an infected arm.

As he began to get up, he heard the small beep of his phone lighting up. Quickly, Parsons looked to see if there was any evidence from last night. No new pictures. No new phone calls. He did have an unread text, from a number he didn’t recognize. Tapping his phone to open it, he read it out loud.

“Had a great time last night. Hope you did too. Enjoy the tattoo.”

He called the number. “We’re sorry, this number is no longer in service. If you feel you have reached this recording in error, please-“

“Shit.”

Ok. This is something. This is a start. There were now two things Parsons needed to figure out. First, who the fuck gave him a tattoo last night. Second, and he knew this was stupid to even think, but he needed to find out if that was really a dream he’d had last night.

Somehow, he figured, the two were linked. Had to be. Too much of a coincidence.

First things first, Maureen had to be questioned.

Parsons grabbed his things and walked out the door.

Thirty minutes later, he was standing outside Pauly’s, his bar of choice, finishing up a cigarette. It felt good, kinda took the sting away from the pain in his arm. They were just now closing up. Parsons glanced down at his watch. 2am. He had to clock back in at 10am. Didn’t figure he’d be getting any sleep until then. He stamped the cigarette out under his worn out shoes and prayed Maureen was still there as he walked in.

“Hey there, stranger!” he heard from behind the bar. Parsons smiled.

The place was empty and all the lights were on. Parsons noticed that it looked like a real shithole when you could see everything. He didn’t mind, though.

“Had your fun for the evening?” Maureen asked as she winked and gently cleaned a pint glass. Parsons had never asked how old she was in the years he’d been coming to Pauly’s, but he figured her around fifty-five or sixty. Had she been fifteen years younger, Parsons was sure he would’ve fallen in love with her.

“Fun?” he said as he took a seat at one of the barstools.

“Oh, you don’t remember the black haired lady who chatted your miserable ass up? Had to have been, what, six hours ago? She seemed quite infatuated with you, as I recall.”

Parsons chuckled. “Yeah, I know it’s gonna sound nuts, but I’m a little hazy on what exactly happened. That’s what I’m trying to figure out.”

Maureen’s face grew serious for a moment. “This official business?”

“Nah. Not yet, at least. But I need to find this woman. I think she might’ve drugged me or something. I gotta get this figured out before I clock back in. Any way you’d be able to get me her name?”

“You know I can’t just give out customer’s information. Especially if this is just a personal thing!”

“Maureen. I’ve known you forever, haven’t I? In all that time, have I ever asked you for anything? Aside from a strong drink, of course.”

She let out a deep sigh and set the pint glass down. “This gets out, I’m done for. You know that, right? I’m fucked.”

Parsons zipped his lips shut with his fingers. “Mum’s the word.”

Maureen turned and walked over to the register. “She kept ordering pomegranate juice. I was honestly surprised we even had some. She was a weirdo, that’s for sure. Ok, gimme a sec.”

“Wait, you’re telling me she was sober the whole time she was talking to me?” Parson’s tired eyes grew wide.

“Stone cold, my friend. Ok, here we go. I got a name. Naomi Ledbetter. Huh. Didn’t look much like a Naomi to me.”

She could barely finish her sentence before Parsons was out the door.

“You’re the best, Maureen! I owe you one!”

Maureen smirked and gently picked up another glass to clean.

Outside, Parsons had his phone up to his ear.

“Come on, come on. Pick up.”

A gruff voice on the other line answered.

“Parsons. You’re off the clock.”

“I know, I know, Bagley, but I need that favor.”

After a brief pause, the voice sighed and spoke. “…What’s the name?”

“Naomi Ledbetter. I just need an address, that’s all. Swear.”

“What’s this about, Parsons? Chief know about this?”

Parsons rubbed his eyes. He could feel a headache coming on. Running on fumes.

“Listen, he doesn’t know anything, and I’d prefer if we kept it that way. I just need this address. You gotta trust me here, Bagley.”

“Fine. Just don’t do anything stupid, Parsons. I don’t know what you’re doing, and I don’t know if I trust you, but I owe you. This Ledbetter girl lives at the corner of Fourth and Hickory. Got a couple priors, too. Mostly drug related stuff. We’re square now. Don’t get yourself killed.”

And with that, the line was dead.

Fourth and Hickory. Not far. Parsons lit another cigarette and got into his car.

Still no real answers. No idea what happened last night or where the hell this tattoo came from. Just this name, Naomi Ledbetter, who apparently doesn’t drink, even at a bar. What was she doing? Looking back, Parsons must’ve been such an easy target. Drunk and lonely. Two traits that make for a simple mark. He might as well have been asking for something bad to happen. He was disgusted with himself.
He knew better. The chief definitely could not find out about this.

3am. Seven more hours to figure this out. This Ledbetter girl had better have some answers.

As Parsons drove on Hickory and neared the corner of Fourth Avenue, he quickly realized how shitty this area was. Many of the buildings were boarded up and falling apart, but he spotted the brownstone at the corner. This was the place. It still looked rundown, but there were lights on. Good sign.

Getting out of the car, he faintly noticed the pain in his forearm. It had never really left since his…incident, but it seemed to hurt a bit more as he walked towards the door. He touched it with his other hand and immediately winced. It was getting worse.

The large and ornate door was painted a gaudy red. A striking difference from the run down building. Right as Parsons reached up to knock, he noticed a strange smell. One he couldn’t quite place. It had sort of an earthy quality that reminded him of a forest. Interesting.

He rapped on the door. Three knocks. Nothing. Four knocks. Harder this time.

A voice came from behind the door. Female.

“Who’s there?”

“Police. Open up.”

Parsons looked into the peephole and flashed his badge.

“What do you want?” the voice sounded annoyed by his presence.

Parsons could feel his anger building. He took a deep breath, rolled up his sleeve and put the tattoo in front of the peephole.

“I want you to tell me where the fuck this tattoo came from. And if you don’t open this goddamn door, I’m busting it down. Up to you.”

Silence. Followed by the sound of a deadbolt moving.

The door opened inward to reveal a black haired woman, pale as a sheet of paper. She was slender, and Parsons immediately noticed the track marks that dotted her arms. She had tattoos too. Smaller ones, similar to the mark on his own arm. The bags under her eyes made it seem like she hadn’t slept in days. Probably accurate.

“Oh, it’s you,” the girl said in a small voice.

“Yeah. It’s me. Now, I have a few questions for you, and I don’t have a lot of time here, so I’m gonna need answers. How’s that sound?”

She sighed and opened the door all the way. “Come on in. Want anything to drink?”

Parsons paused at the question, considering she drank nothing but juice at the bar. “Are you kidding?”

“Yeah, kinda,” she chuckled. “But I’m gonna have one either way.”

As he entered the doorway, Parsons instantly recognized that earthy smell. Incense. Probably used to cover up a multitude of smells. The incense was strong, overwhelming almost. Parsons wondered what sorts of illegal things he’d find here if he looked. Now wasn’t the time though.

She led him into a living room area with a couple ratty couches and a coffee table, covered in beer cans and an ashtray nearly overflowing with cigarette butts.

“Feel free to grab a seat,” she said in her dreamy, laid back voice. Was she high? Parsons couldn’t quite tell.

“So you’re Naomi Ledbetter?” Parsons asked as he paced around the room, not looking for anything in particular.

She cracked open a beer and took a swig. Shitty stuff. Cheap.

“You don’t remember?” she said, smirking.

With sudden movement, Parsons punched the wall with a loud THUD. He slowly turned to face her, eyes wide and bloodshot.

“I don’t remember a single fucking thing. I don’t know what you did to me, but I’m going to find out. One way or another. Now, I’ll ask one more time: You’re Naomi Ledbetter, correct?”

This time she busted out laughing, unable to hold it in. “Yes, yes, yes, I’m Naomi Ledbetter. Got me there. And I’ll tell you whatever you wanna know.” She took a sip from the beer and smirked again. “But you won’t believe me.”

Parsons felt a searing pain in his hand and did his best not to show any reaction on his face. He may have broken a knuckle.

“Want some ice for that? Looks like it hurts.” Her voice was different now. Thoughtful. Sympathetic, almost. She didn’t wait for a response. “I’m gonna get you some ice.”

A minute later, she was back with a bag of ice. And a beer. Parsons took both.

“Thanks,” He said, wincing as he placed the ice on his hand. “Ok. So why don’t I remember anything from six hours ago? Did you drug me?”

“Nah. What you’re experiencing is a hangover, but not quite the kind of hangovers you’re used to.”

“What the hell does that mean?”

“Take a seat, detective.”

Without speaking, Parsons sat on the ratty couch in front of the coffee table, ice still on his hand.

“What you’re experiencing,” Naomi continued, “is a side effect of that little tattoo on your forearm. I’m sure you’ve noticed that since you woke up, right? Does it hurt?”

Instinctively, he ran his fingers over the tattoo. “Yeah. Like hell. What is it?”

“Ok, here comes the part you might have trouble believing. That tattoo is actually a rune.”

“A…what?”

“A rune. And a pretty powerful one, at that. Quite proud of my work too, if I’m being honest.”

Parsons finally opened the beer Naomi had given him and took a long drink. “Wait. What the fuck is a rune? You’re not actually explaining anything. I’m-“

“Confused?” she interrupted. “I know. Now please, quit interrupting me. I’m trying to explain. That rune there is actually an avatar for magical energy. A focus for it, if you will. Chaos magic.”

“You’re trying to tell me that magic is real? And that it is embedded in my arm, all because of this stupid tattoo?”

Naomi clinked her beer can against his. “There ya go! Starting to catch on finally.”

“Quit lying to me! Just tell me the truth! What did you drug me with?”

Naomi was starting to get frustrated. “Listen, we can go back and forth about this all night. You either believe what I’m telling you or not. It’s that simple. So, for the sake of moving forward, will you at least pretend to believe me?”

Parsons rubbed his temples. “Ok. Fine. I’ll try to pretend. So, assuming all of this is real, does that make you some sort of witch?”

“I’ve been called worse,” she chuckled and took another sip.

“Great. I’ve got a magic tattoo on my arm and the only person that knows anything about it is some goth witch wannabe. What a perfect situation.”

“You know, detective, it could be worse. You could have a magic tattoo and NOT have a goth witch wannabe to help you out. Did you ever think about that?”

Parsons stood up and begun pacing again. “Christ. I’m losing my mind, aren’t I? This is insane, right? I mean, how could I ever believe this?”

Naomi stood as well and faced him. “Something happened, right?”

“What?” Parsons stopped in his tracks. “What do you mean?”

She was on to something. “Something happened that you can’t quite explain. That’s why you’re here. That’s why you’re losing your shit. So tell me, what happened?”

“If you know so much, then why don’t you already know?”

“Well,” Naomi spoke with her typical laid back, dreamy voice. “That’s the thing about chaos magic. It’s, well, chaotic. Unpredictable.”

“Oh perfect. Unpredictable magic embedded in my skin.” He took a deep breath. “I…um, saw something.”

“Ooooh interesting!” she sounded giddy. “What did you see?”

“It was like a vision of some sort. But it felt like I was actually there. I was in a subway, sitting across from this couple. I couldn’t see their faces, but they were in trouble. There was someone who was going to hurt them. Couldn’t see his face either. Then, nothing. The vision stopped.”

“Huh. Seems like the rune gave you a bit of clairvoyance. Or second sight, if that sounds less witchcrafty to you.”

Parsons’ headache was getting worse. “Got anything stronger than beer?”

Naomi shot up. “I thought you’d never ask!”

Thirty seconds later, she was back in the living room with a bottle. “Gin’s your poison of choice, if I remember correctly?”

He hated calling it that, but she was right. He nodded his head.

She poured him a bit in a mug that he didn’t quite trust was clean. Didn’t care too much though.

“I have so many questions. This can’t be real. So wait, why can’t I remember anything? You mentioned something about a hangover. I’ve never had a hangover like this before. And I’ve had a few.”

“It’s actually pretty simple. Sometimes powerful magic can take its toll on the human body, and it can occasionally lead to some unexpected side effects. Like amnesia. It can mess with your head sometimes. That would explain the headache you’ve probably got right now.”

Parsons was somehow starting to believe. He was looking for anything to grasp on to, and all this garbage Naomi was giving him actually started to make sense. Definitely losing his mind. He was sure of it.

“Luckily,” she continued. “This particular sort of hangover can be helped in the same way that any ol’ one would. Hair of the dog and all that. So drink up.”

Parsons took a deep drink. Finished it. And reached for the bottle to pour some more, but was stopped by Naomi’s hand.

“Nope. That was just enough to get you outta the haze. I need you to understand what I’m telling you. Got it?”

He sighed. “Got it. What were you even doing at the bar? And why were you only drinking pomegranate juice? You’ve clearly got a taste for the harder stuff.”

“I go to the bar for the same reasons as anyone else. To either find some random, probably mediocre sex, or to drink my sorrows away.” She tapped the side of her head in a knowing way. “But never at the same time. I don’t like to mix the two. Safer that way, anyhow. Bet I can guess your next question. You’re probably wondering why I chose to talk to you at the bar, right?”

“Wait,” Parsons interrupted. “Did we…?”

“Oh god, no. You were far too sad and pathetic for me. I prefer my men to be chock full of overconfidence. Much more fun to break that way. Anyway, I chose to talk to you because you were interesting. And like I said, sad. You kept talking about how you didn’t know what you were doing with your life. No direction. No dreams. How you’d worked so hard to become a detective and had nothing to show for it. Barely any cases solved. Barely any arrests. Jesus, you were a real shit show, to be completely honest. I felt bad for you.”

Mindlessly, Parsons ran a finger over the tattoo on his arm. Almost, as if, to make sure it was still there. It definitely was. Pain shot up his arm. “So why the fuck did you give me a magical tattoo? Assuming, of course, that this isn’t all some bullshit that you’re giving me.”

Naomi rolled her eyes. “Yes, assuming this isn’t bullshit. I thought the rune might help you. Give you some purpose. Some…I dunno. Maybe I was bored. You sure seemed to love the idea just seven or eight hours ago. So I brought you back here and gave you the rune, infused it with a little chaos magic, and sent you on your merry way. Gotta be honest though, I didn’t think you’d find me so fast. You might be a better detective than you give yourself credit for.”

As Parsons began to respond, he felt something in his arm. It felt like it was coming from deep inside, from his core. It was happening again. The tattoo was burning with fiery pain. He could barely get words out as he dropped to his knees in the dirty living room.

“I think…something…is happening. It…hurts.” He spoke through clenched teeth.

Naomi immediately crouched down next to him and began whispering something. Gone was the laid back and dreamy demeanor she’d had this whole time. She was in her element now, and deadly serious. The words she spoke weren’t anything Parsons had heard before. Not even close. She was chanting something.

Glancing down at the tattoo, he saw that it was glowing bright white. The pain grew unbearable as finally, Parsons’ eyes went dark.

And that was all he saw. Blackness. No light whatsoever.

Quickly, figures and colors began to form out of what looked to be some sort of mist. The scene was soon clear. It’s the subway car. From his first vision. The young couple was there, right in front of him. Something was different though. Their faces were no longer obscured. He could see them, clear as day. They were a young Indian couple, lost in each other’s eyes.

The hooded figure, the one who attacked them, calmly walked up and sat next to Parsons. He glanced over and they make eye contact. White male, terrible mustache. Very distinct. Within seconds, the man pulled out a gun and pointed it at the couple. They scream.

Parsons tried to reach for the gun, but as soon as he touched the cold metal with his fingers, everything went dark again.

Back in the living room, Naomi’s chanting ceased. Parsons was back. A cold sweat covered his whole body as he shivered uncontrollably.

“I couldn’t stop it. I couldn’t stop it. I couldn’t stop it,” Parsons repeated. He felt a blanket thrown around his shoulders as he struggled to breathe normally again. Naomi.

“Couldn’t stop what?” she said. Did he hear genuine sympathy in her voice? “What did you see?”

Parsons took a deep breath. “The same vision as before. But it was clearer this time. More real. I was there. I touched the gun! I could’ve saved them!”

“Hm. Generally, if a vision becomes clearer, that means it’s getting closer to happening. I’m not sure how much time you have, but you might still be able to stop it.”

He glanced down at his phone. 5 o’clock.

“Did you see anything in the vision?” she continued. “Anything that could help you narrow it down? Any train numbers or something like that?”

Racking his brain, Parsons came up with nothing. “No, I didn’t think to look. Fuck.” He glanced down at the tattoo and realized something. “Why can’t I move my arm?”

“That tends to happened from time to time when the rune channels magic. At first, at least. Doesn’t last too long. You get used to it, I promise. So, what are you gonna do?”

He took the blanket off and stood up, which quickly led to him stumbling over as Naomi caught him. Parsons’ legs felt like jelly.

“I’ve gotta go. There’s a station a few blocks from here, right? If I don’t go, these people could get killed.”

“You can barely stand! Your body hasn’t adjusted to the rune yet, and I can’t promise there won’t be more side effects.”

He began walking toward the door and looked back at Naomi.

“Well,” he said. “You’re not gonna do anything about it, are you? You’re not gonna save these people.”

Silence. Naomi couldn’t look him in the eyes.

“No,” Parsons continued. “Because you’re content to just play god with whoever you happen to find interesting in the moment. And then after you’ve had your fun, well, they’re not your problem anymore. I get it. These people aren’t your problem. But ya know what? They’re mine.”

He walked out the door. Limped, really.

Pushing his legs as fast as they’d go, Parsons made his way to the station.

Within five minutes, he was standing in the subway lobby, still sweating bullets. He began to feel a bit of a tingle in his arm. Good sign. Kinda felt like when an arm falls asleep and begins to come back to life. Like a thousand needles were jabbing into each pore of his skin. It didn’t exactly feel good, but Parsons was relieved he was feeling anything, at this point.

The station was completely empty. Not a single person was there, which didn’t surprise Parsons, considering it was just past five in the morning. It smelled like wet garbage.

Parsons stood and waited, unsure of what to expect. What the hell was his plan? Stop a murder that may or may not even be real? He’d never shot his firearm before, and didn’t know if he’d be able to pull the trigger on someone who hadn’t technically done anything wrong. Real hero cop, huh?

Nothing came. Not a single train. Forty-five minutes went by, and Parsons just stood there, vigilant, and feeling truthfully more than a little foolish. Feeling had fully returned to his arm, to Parsons’ bittersweet realization. He’d definitely broken a knuckle when he punched the wall. Stupid. Probably deserved the pain for being a hothead. His hand ached with a dull pain.

A faint noise came from one of the tunnels. The familiar sound of a train rumbling filled the lobby. Parsons tensed up, not knowing what was coming his way. He stood close enough to the tracks to feel the wind batter him as the train slowed to a stop.

As quickly as he could, Parsons ran along the train windows, looking for any signs of life. He was sweating again, expecting to see that young Indian couple sitting in one of the trains. Empty. Every single one of them. The doors of the train opened.

“What the hell am I doing?” he mumbled under his breath. “This is what happens when you listen to some goth junkie. Did I actually believe that magic exists? Fuck, man. I’m losing it.”

Footsteps. Behind him.

Parsons spun to see two young people walking to hop on the train. He gasped audibly when he saw it was the young Indian couple. They were giggling and having a good ol’ time, not a care in the world. Clearly intoxicated, and probably coming off a long night of drinking and dancing, they looked happy. 

As they stepped up to the train, not five feet away from Parsons, he saw a hooded figure walking closely behind. Shit.

Without thinking, Parsons stepped up and blocked the figure’s path. “NYPD, sir.” He flashed his badge quickly. “We’ve been getting reports of suspicious activity tonight. Just wanna make sure everyone is safe.”

The hooded figure looked up. White male. Mustache. This was the guy from his vision. No doubt. He pulled his hood back to reveal a shaved head. Skinhead. Figures.

“Get the fuck outta my way, man. I gotta get home,” the man said as he tried to walk around Parsons, who took a step to his right to block him.

The train doors were still open. Parsons needed to stall until they closed.

“Well, actually, sir, I’d like to ask you a few questions. Would that be alright?”

Parsons could feel sweat begin to form on his forehead. His heart was pounding.

“Questions? Man, just let me get on this fuckin’ train. Seriously.” He glanced around Parsons to get a better glimpse of the Indian couple, who were now sitting.

The doors began to close.

The man jumped for the entrance, but Parsons grabbed his hood and pulled him back as the door slid to a close with a soft thud. He must have pulled a little too hard on the hood because the man fell firmly on his back.

The train sped off. The couple was safe. Parsons had other things to worry about right now.

“What the hell are you doing, man?” the skinhead yelled as he scrambled back to his feet.

Now that the train and the couple were gone, Parsons knew he had to be careful.

“You got a gun on you?” he asked calmly, hand near his own gun, just in case. He knew the man had one. A little snub nose. He’d seen it in the vision. Touched it, even.

As soon as he asked the question, the skinhead looked flustered. “What? What are you talking about?”

“Listen, I know you’ve got one. Don’t ask how I know. I just do. So tell me where it is. I’ve had a very long and very weird night so please don’t make me wait.”

The skinhead’s hand twitched.

“Easyyyy,” Parsons said. His hand now sat on his own gun in the holster.

The man stood motionless. Parsons noticed his eyes darting back and forth, looking for a way out. He moved quickly, like a man acting out of desperation. The man jumped at Parsons, spearing him through the midsection and onto the floor.

Parsons first instinct was to throw a punch, which caught the man square on the jaw. With immediate pain, Parsons was reminded of the broken knuckle from earlier. A wail of pain filled the subway station as he held his hand closely.

The man quickly scrambled to his feet and placed a kick straight to Parsons’ ribs, followed by a loud crack. A broken rib. Maybe two. As Parsons writhed on the floor in pain, the man appeared to reach for something from his waistband. Parsons immediately knew what it was, and what was about to happen.

As the man brandished the gun and pointed it at him, Parsons wondered what death would feel like.

Right at the moment Parsons was sure he’d pass on into the next life, he heard what sounded like a click. Then, all of a sudden, the man’s body went rigid and he fell to the ground, dropping the gun just a foot away from where Parsons was laying.

As the man fell, Parsons saw Naomi standing behind him, holding a taser. Her eyes were wide and her breath was coming out in short bursts. She’d clearly never used it before.

Quickly, Parsons grabbed the gun and put it in his own pocket as the man thrashed on the ground.

“Couldn’t have just cast a spell on him?” he asked in an extremely exhausted voice as he put handcuffs on the man. He winced and touched his ribs gingerly. Definitely broken.

“That’s not quite how it works,” she said, rolling her eyes. “Besides, sometimes boring stuff can be just as effective, ya know. So?”

“So, what?” Parsons said.

“So, how does it feel knowing that you just saved lives because of that rune?”

“I’m honestly so tired I don’t even know what to feel anymore and my hand and it hurts to breathe. You had to come save my life, either way. I couldn’t even pull out my gun. I’m a real life superhero, huh? Fuck that’s embarrassing.”

“Eh, I wouldn’t worry about it too much. Besides, I can show you how to control that thing.”

Parsons ran his fingers over the tattoo again. It didn’t hurt as bad anymore. “This thing can be controlled?”

Naomi laughed. “Sure! With the right teacher, of course.” She began to walk towards the stairs. “Come find me when you wanna learn more. You know where I live. See ya,” she said without looking back.

The next couple hours were a haze. Parsons called for backup and saw the man taken away, kicking and screaming. The paramedics wrapped his ribs, put his hand in a splint, and gave him some pain meds.

He vaguely remembered getting into his car and passing out for about an hour before clocking in at the police station for another shift. It was a quiet one, thankfully.

All Parsons could think about the whole time was the tattoo. And Naomi.

He wanted more.

 

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