"I'm not a child anymore." She grits her teeth, holding the blade in her hand, to his neck. "I can protect myself. You need to let me protect myself."

He doesn't mention the red on the knife and she doesn't bring up the body that lies on the ground between them. Neither acknowledge the stab wound in the corpse or his drawn but unused weapon. Pulled out in a moment of parental lack-of-control.

"I know." He says, holstering the handgun and the steel she has gripped so tightly wavers for but a moment. "I know. But you're my daughter."

Black shadows and blacker paint; the midnight surroundings bleak and colorless, just as dim as her future. Orange eyes peer out from behind a mask, the rotting man - the cowardly man, the serpent, the salesman, the man who devours nothing but wants to eat the world - slams her hand down on a knife. Luminescent stars and slithering waves snake across her vision. The world tilts on its axis, preparing to drop her into her waiting mouth and swallow her whole. The supplicant bows his head, prepared for a child's guillotine.

The venom in her veins grasps the blade.

Leave the girl alone!

Falling doors and flying bullets erupt in her skewed field of vision; blood drips from her shoulder in two parallel lines and, like the red, her parents fall to the floor.

She finds something new to grasp.

Skinny arms and big man, both sought something to hold onto in Denver. Both found it.

Both afraid to let go.