Just a short piece of prose I’ve had the idea for floating around in my head a while.
Two homeless men stood beside a trashcan fire beneath an underpass, warming their hands; their woolen fingerless gloves offering too little protection against the bitter winter air.
“The world’s gone to shit,” coughed one, as two police cars sped overhead, sirens sounding.
The other man shook his head, pulling his tattered, buttonless jacket tighter around his body. “It was already shit,” he grumbled. “It’s just now everyone’s in it together.”
Northlyn Heights used to be one of the richest and most fashionable districts of the city. Since the stock market crash fifteen years ago, however, it had become home to gangs and the most crime riddled area south of the river. Once exclusive apartment complexes were now almost uninhabitable, home to vagrants, drug-addicts and stray animals. It was not a place to live, nor even venture, if you had any choice.
A hooded figure walked by the men; head bowed, hands in pockets. “Spare some change?” asked one. Wordlessly the figure pulled a hand from their pocket and tossed a worn leather wallet onto the ground next to the fire. The man stooped to pick it, opening it to find it filled with notes. Shocked, he looked up to thank the figure, but they were gone.
Not far from the underpass one of the Northlyn Heights gangs was conducting business in a poorly lit alleyway.
“You’d better have my money this time,” the leader of the group said gruffly.
The customer, a young woman with a baby, was visibly shaking, and not just from the cold. “I don’t. It’s not been easy the past month. You guys are scaring away the clientele.”
“You remember what I told you last time, don’t you?” he sneered.
“Please, no,” she began to beg. “I’ll pay triple next time, I swear.” Tears formed in her eyes, knowing the fate she faced.
“Yes, you will,” the gang leader growled, gesturing for one of his lackeys to take the baby. “Or what’s about to happen to you now will be three times as bad next time.”
Just as the gang member was about to take hold of the baby, a low, menacing voice came from the shadows; “Keep your hands off of that woman and child.”
“Whoever you are,” spat the leader, “this don’t concern you.”
“You’re wrong,” came the voice again. “This concerns me a great deal.” From the shadows stepped a hooded figure, head bowed and hands in pockets. Short, probably little over five foot in tall; quite a contrast to the tall, well-built gang members that populated the neighbourhood.
“Oh,” laughed the gang leader. “And I guess you think you’re gonna stop us, eh?” He stepped towards the figure, pulling open his jacket to show the knife stashed in his belt. “Like I said, this don’t concern you.” He raised a hand and went to push the figure back.
“And like I said,” hissed the figure, hands shooting from pockets – one to grab the leader’s wrist, twisting it round, and the other snatch the knife from his belt, tossing it aside -“this concerns me, a lot.” A kick to the midriff sent the leader stumbling backwards. “Now, I think you should go pick on a man your own size.”
“Oh yeah?” the leader asked as his crew began to surround the figure, drawing an array of bladed implements. “And why’s that?”
“Because it would be a lot less humiliating,” the figure said, voice becoming softer. “Than getting beaten down,” they continued, hands moving to their hood, raising their head. “By a woman.” With the last word, the hood was pulled back, revealing their face for the first time.
There, in front of the gang, stood a short, young looking woman. Her face was covered by a large tattoo; a hawk surrounded by flames. She lifted her head, staring into the eyes of the leader.
“Boss,” stammered one of the gang. “Sh-sh-she’s one of them…”
The leader was visibly frightened. “Look, we ain’t looking for no trouble,” he pleaded as he started backing away.
The woman stepped closer. “Well I was,” she smiled wickedly. “And you’re it.”