"Lucy, I'm so sorry," Principal Baker sighed. "You don't deserve this, truly you don't."

I forced my eyes to meet hers. "Did they tell you how it happened?"

She winced and hesitated, unsure of my reaction. "Well, they aren't positive, but they believe it was some kind of animal."

"Oh," I shuddered and my face fell into my hands. I could feel the moisture on my cheeks. My father was gone. I was utterly alone. My shoulders shook as quiet sobs escaped my lips.

"I can take you anywhere you need to go, honey," Principal Baker said softly.

I grimaced and stood from the small chair across from her desk, "That's alright. I think I'll walk."

"Where are you going to go?" She asked, maternal concern filling her brown eyes.

"I'm still working on that."

I thanked her quietly and stepped into the sea of faces pushing their way down the poorly lit hallways to their various classes. I forced my way through the bodies and outside into the bitter winter sun. Redding. California was bustling. I hunched against the cold wind and pulled my scarf tighter around my face. I turned a corner into the network of back alleys and out of the biting wind. I shivered and turned again into a lesser traveled path where I could think.

I soon found a small nook under an awning that would be out of sight to anyone passing. I crawled into the crevice and leaned my aching head against the icy brick. I closed my eyes and let silent tears spill over my cheeks as sleep claimed me.

I awoke to the sound of a shrill screech echoing through the dark alley. I threw my hand over my mouth to stifle my own scream as my eyes adjusted to the scene unfolding in front of my eyes.

A giant man was firmly gripping a young girl who couldn't be more than fifteen. His face was bent to her throat, and she was writhing in his grip. She slowly went limp in his hands, and he dropped her to the ground with a heavy thud. He lifted his head, and I gasped. His chin was stained with dark liquid. Blood. My breathing accelerated, and he turned to me with an eager smile.

"Two in one night. I'm lucky today." He took a step to where I was hiding, and I shrank back into the hard brick wall.

My eyes darted down the dark passage, searching for any means of escape, but it was no use. The man ripped my from my hiding place, and before I could build up a decent scream he covered my mouth with his massive hand. His other was knotted in my strawberry blond curls, locking my head into place. I could see my horrified expression reflected in his blood red eyes.

I thrashed against his iron grip, and he chuckled. It was a terrifying and fascinating sound, like rolling thunder. My petite body could not muster enough strength to even bother this giant man.

His face bent closer to mine, and I could smell the sweetest perfume radiating from his skin. He inhaled deeply and said, "Mmm, young one, you smell wonderful," echoing my thoughts.

I thrashed in his grip, and I could hear my hair ripping under his hand. He began to scowl at my pointless attempt to escape. Slowly he bent to press his lips to the racing pulse on my neck and moaned softly. I felt a sharp slash, and I screamed into the hand restraining my mouth. I began to feel a dull ache forming around the point his lips touched my neck, quickly spreading and growing hotter.

Then a sound neither of us expected reached us from the end of the alleyway. A ferocious snarl ripped along the walls, followed by a hiss as a tiny woman appeared behind my captor. Her white blond hair seemed to glow in the darkness. The scowl on her face was fearsome despite her size as she ripped the giant man off of me. My knees buckled and I fell to the damp cement, grateful for the cold against my now flaming neck.

I fought to stay conscious as I listened to the small woman scold the man in a high twinkling voice. Her words were spoken so quickly that they were indistinguishable. I held perfectly still, battling with the invisible flames licking at my body and praying they would think I was dead. And then, suddenly, I was alone.

I remained still for a fraction of a minute and then the unbearable pain overtook me. An agonized shriek escaped my burning throat followed by a low moan. It didn't take me long to realize I had to move. I knew they would be back eventually to dispose of the evidence. I couldn't process the events of the night, there was no time.

I shifted my weight onto my hands, gasping as the fire laced through my fingers. I pushed myself onto my knees and braced my body against the icy brick wall. I used the extra support to stand on shaking knees and I whimpered quietly. I took a trembling step forward, biting back screams as every element of my body protested to the unwelcome movement. I forced myself to take another step, then another. I began to feel the air moving around me, but it did not feel cold. I had forgotten what cold felt like in my burning agony.

My knees faltered as I stepped out of the alleys and into the deserted street. I could feel the fire scorching my body, burning it to a crisp. I looked down the blackened street. To my right was a streetlight, so I turned left, desperate to escape the giant man. I forced myself to move faster as I remembered the fear of the black liquid running down his face and his inescapable grip. Eventually I managed a slow jog, which increased in pace as I concentrated only on the burning in every inch of my being. My surroundings began to blur around me, and I lost control of all coherent thought.

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