Estimated reading time — 8 minutes
Officer Sparrow walked down Jenkins street in a stride of confidence, though was trying to hide her strong authority beneath a mask of indifference. She was wearing her casual clothes and a thin face of makeup, fit for a Saturday night raver, or a particularly plain Sunday night hooker. Her firearm and badge were hidden beneath her thin leather jacket. She decided against having a cigarette, it may have completed the look but even a false one nowadays may regress her back to the old urges. Urges of sweetness and vomit spilling round her tongue. Behind her, tucked into an alleyway was Henrinson in the disguised cruiser, ready with the radio and backup if needed. A shotgun kept discreetly under the seat. The idea of backup for this case seemed to be a farce to sparrow; her pride shone through a quick smile.
A flasher had been reported in the area. Most times they wouldn’t bother with such a thing, an old pervert incapable of getting it up without some scandal. But the reports had filed in by a dozen. Allegedly, many of the people, ten women and two men, were left rather disturbed and upset after these encounters, one even having somewhat of a breakdown, a family member reporting in for them. A particular boon to getting the case moving through were several disappearances in the area, only a few but there was considered to be more. This situation was giving possible ties to a human trafficking ring or even a potential serial killer, using such perverse acts as a distraction, or more seemingly unlikely, seduction.
Sparrow was the only woman working that evening, so she was assigned to an undercover sting. She could have called her boss out but was actually glad to be doing something more productive than the regular beat. She was to patrol the area, acting calm as if walking home from a late shift or some particularly dull party where she hadn’t collapsed under the table. She had earbuds in to seem somewhat distant. Only one was working, and that was for Henrinson. He often connected to speak to her, making jokes and frankly being a bit of idiot. She couldn’t reply to him of course, it was too risky to start speaking so openly into her lapel microphone, not even a whisper, it could blow the operation apart if she was heard. It was a good thing that he was her friend she considered; some of the other girls on the force may have stomped back to clock him for some of his crude jokes about the situation.
She continued her route, having turned around at the end twice now. She was beginning to feel somewhat bored. No one had shown up, not even a stray cat to scowl at her from behind the wire mesh of a fenced yard. Henrinson’s occasional banter was a good distraction from the monotony, but even he couldn’t keep her mind busy enough to warrant its focus. She stared at the walls. Old walls of old businesses. Tall walls with shuttered windows. An age of graffiti drowned the reds and greys beneath a colorful, if not faded, palette. It was mostly garbage, many of the intertwining pieces being nothing but crude tags and names, but amongst them were art. Art, that at least could be called that on a late night coveted by boredom, but art, nonetheless. She stopped to look at it, unnoteworthy but somewhat admirable. She supposed if she ever caught the Michelangelo that created them, she would have to drag him back to the station, but for now, they were a master. The silence that she endured in the outdoor gallery allowed the soft plod of footsteps to catch her ear.
A man came into view, strolling through the dim fluorescence of a streetlamp. He wasn’t that tall, and by the bulge from his coat seemed quite fat. As he got closer, Sparrow made mental comparisons to the vague descriptions of the man. Caucasian, balding, slim eyes, possibly mid-forties, with yellow teeth. This was the guy. He was wearing a large, muddy brown trench-coat, arms tucked deeply into the pockets. She also noticed that he wasn’t wearing any shoes or socks, even catching glimpses of embedded gravel in his feet. Sparrow found herself not leaving her spot. She was meant to continue walking in this situation, as if paying him no mind, seeing if he would reveal himself of his own accord, but she was stuck. There was something unsettling about his face. A wide smile was plastered over it. But considering what he was probably about to do, that wasn’t so special. It was the fact that it seemed frozen. There was no movement to his features, not even a twitch of muscle, no emotion either. Sure, he was smiling, but not a malicious smile, not a jolly smile, not even a drunk smile.
He suddenly stopped before her, not looking at her, at least not with those eyes pinched between his cheeks and brow. It only took him a moment to start his act, a speed which had been practiced and perfected, oiled and mechanical. A doorman opening a lobby.
Sparrow’s badge was swiftly in her hand, but she didn’t lift it. She was transfixed with repulsion and mesmerized with a disturbed curiosity. She was expecting to see an engorged organ, or many vulgar tattoos traced around sweaty flab depicting obscene acts, or even a mat of grease that drizzled down to the genitals. There were none of these. The man didn’t even have a penis from what she could tell. What was hidden by the coat, though, was not that of an amused emasculate showing his sexless pride to the world, but something that was unsettling to even Sparrow’s polished mind.
Not just a pair but a mass of them, sprawling around like snakes. small hands, large hands, malformed hands. They wandered around and interlinked on slender limbs, several of them helping to keep the coat propped apart. Between the constantly opening and closing gaps, she could see eyes. Many eyes. Blinking with each shift. They were all of different colors, a rainbow of lenses peering out at her. The hands began to twist and grab at each other, exposing a few patches of grey flesh around the calves. Several of the hands then began to reach out splayed in anticipation. Invitation. Seduction.
Sparrow felt her knees begin to buckle, but she managed to keep standing. Her gun was in reach, she could grab it and easily aim, but every thought of trying to threaten or harm the creature was held back. Her hands stayed put following confused orders.
The man’s face was still the same, a wide smile on a façade of skin. He stepped forward, the loose hands flopping around as if dead. The others grasping each other to hold some semblance of place. Sparrow didn’t move. In the distance of her ear, she could faintly make out the voice of Henrinson, a muffle of words that trailed off into a laugh. This was a funny situation, after all, the absurdity of the abomination before she let loose a chuckle from her once-caged lips.
Many of the hands suddenly went rigid, outstretched and reaching. The erection had made its appearance. They were Inviting her with gestures and their own hypnotic pull, flicking their digits around. Some convulsing and twitching, asking Sparrow to come closer. The eyes hidden beneath the tangled limbs were fixed upon her. Not the gaze of a pervert; a possible hunger was in them, but nothing so sexual.
She took a step towards them, her legs now as mesmerized as her head. The collective of parts offered something. Something she had no idea of comprehending. Something more enthralling than sex and cigarettes. Her badge clattered to the floor. Another step. The longest limbs stretched forth to her, dragging the body’s leathery feet with it. A few shards of broken glass cracked beneath them, leaving glittering grains on the soles; they sparked from the streetlight with every step. The longest fingers were now in brushing distance. They stroked at her jacket down the length of her arms, pinching at the tights on her legs, and tracing around her face.
A loud shot rang through the air.
The figure stumbled back as many hands went to cover a wound. Sparrow partially left her trance and stumbled as she turned towards Henrinson, 12-gauge in hand and quickly approaching. She could see that the creature’s form had already begun to affect him. Pure adrenaline was all that was keeping him from collapsing into a jittery pile. The creature began forward once again and was met by two more bullets. The face showed no change, sustaining its smile, but the hands writhed about in frenzied agony as they filled the gaps. One plucked a blinded eye from its place and dragged it away deeper into the entanglement. A new eye then emerged from the shadows, blinking its way into existence. Fresh hands took the place of their injured siblings. The veins visible and raw along them. All the damage that the creature had suffered, vanished into the shadows between the limbs, replaced with new skin.
The man closed his coat. Swift as it had been opened and his form revealed, it was gone. Even the image now only seemed to be a vivid imagining, a heavy shape in the mind. flat but frightening. Like the art on the walls. A spray paint picture stained onto the slabs of the mind. A short injection of authority ran through Henrison’s blood.
“Get on the ground!” He barked.
The man ignored the command and quickly sped away down an alley, disappearing into the cluttered darkness. Henrinson didn’t give chase. He began to shake. His legs crumbled beneath his weight, and he fell to the ground. Tears began forming in the corners of his eyes. His gun remained aimed where the man had been.
They had stood for a few moments more. Sparrow pale and quiet as she squeezed Henrinson’s hand for mutual comfort. Her eyes were blank and scarred with the vague image. Distant, but fresh. She muttered her gratitude in his deaf ears. How she had not broken down like him was a mystery to Sparrow. All the information flowing in her head had been held back at the time, but the dam had now crumbled with the pressure. Swept away with the tidal wave of thoughts. She had been numbed and now she could feel her head once more, it throbbed and ached. It proved impossible for her to focus upon any one factor. Trying to see the images hurt and the questions were now overlapping the embankments. The only thing that held itself up amongst the flood was the fact that she had allowed the man or creature to get inside her mind. This surprisingly scared her the most. Not of the beast’s origins or shape, not even what its intentions were. Her years of training and keen instincts had floundered. Slumped to the ground and started biting their feet. She had been violated in the most destructive way; the bruises would fade but never truly heal.
They had managed to get back into the cruiser by one o’clock. Henrinson had somehow calmed down enough from his own ordeal to move, a point that Sparrow didn’t know whether to be happy or angry about giving that he had not fully experienced what she had but decided more on the prior at the moment. He glanced at her pale face, his eyes sunken with dread, and then turned to the radio transceiver in front of them. He hesitantly took it and spoke as clearly as he could.
“This is car 23b calling in. Officer Henrinson speaking.”
“This is command, please report.”
“We…” he thought for a second. Sparrow tightly clutching his still twitchy arm. “…Have not found any evidence of the suspect. The street has been quiet all night. Shall we proceed with the operation?” They both silently prayed for dismissal.
“Negative. you may head home for tonight, fill in your reports in the morning. Good night officers” the static clicked off and they were left in silence. Relief permeated the atmosphere. It gave Sparrow the opportunity to find her voice. She ignored all of her brain’s requests and asked the most logical.
“How are you going to explain the missing rounds?”
“I don’t know, I’ll think of something, get one of the armory boys to bodge the records maybe? Buy some on the way home?” His confidence was beginning to take him over once more. “I guess I could even say I dropped them over a sewer grate.” He chuckled, and so did sparrow, a flush coming back to her cheeks. The memory buried with the questions. She started the engine and pulled out onto the street. She decided to head for an all-hour coffee shop that she knew of. Treat her partner to a cup and a slice of cheesecake. As they drove up the tarmac, their eyes lifted to the mirror for some reason, as if drawn by a surviving and foolish curiosity that wouldn’t let the dead thoughts rest. In the dim reflection, they saw the prick of a lamplight, its dying beam obscured by a heavy black outline. They dropped their gazes, quickly focussing back at the road onwards. They looked at anything they could. Litter blowing in the early winds, murky puddles by the blocked gratings, a partially ransacked car. On the sidewalk in front was a young woman, cheap headphones and a blue satchel slung over her shoulder, heading quietly down Jenkins street. They sped on past her in silence.
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