I almost stumble as I raise my chin to the sky, too busy admiring the looming skyscrapers of the Manhattan skyline. I almost bang into someone, but my reflexes are quick and trustworthy. They sneer at me, immediately catcalling as I walk away. It doesn’t bother me though. I’m more than accustomed to the streets of New York.
I continue strolling, burying my frosted hands in the pockets of my trench coat. My leather pair of Chelsea boots does me well even in the light layer of fresh snow. My gaze traces the buildings until they reach the sky, a mix of cotton candy pink, sea blue, and soft violet. Beams of sunlight shine through the gaps of the buildings, while the half-crescent moon shines over on the opposite side. One by one, the street lamps illuminate the streets for the night.
A joyful grin covers my face as I keep walking. I enjoy this part of my day the most. I don’t take the Metro anymore. Largely because of the many creeps always trying to get their hands on me. Instead, I chose to give my legs the exercise they deserve and walk from my work to my apartment on Washington Street. The chain of the whistle on my neck is cold against my skin, and the portable taser in my purse is as close as the air in my lungs.
I round the corner of 7th Avenue, the streets more than familiar to me. I like taking this route as it gives me a view of James J. Walker Park. The honks and horns of cars fill the calm night, angry cab drivers yelling at pedestrians or other drivers. I find it amusing a little. New York is nothing without these little moments.
A few more blocks from my apartment building, I catch something at the edge of my hearing. As I walk further forward, the sound grows louder. Laughing, I realize, followed by a high-pitched whimper. In a tight, one-way alleyway, filled with bags of garbage and full dumpsters on both sides, I spot two Manhattan boys having their fun with something I can’t see. My curiosity gets the better of me and I inch a little closer.
The boys are barely teenagers, but one of them raises a fist and strikes. A sharp scream follows. I startle at the noise.
“Hey!” I shout, my voice echoing through the alleyway. It makes me sound more menacing. I pull out the small taser from my purse and press the button that activates it. It buzzes with electricity, the hairs on my arm raising at the power.
The two boys look back, their heads jerking in my direction. They dash out of the alleyway in a blitz, running past me and my weapon. Satisfied, I return the taser to the confinements of my purse and dive deeper into the alley.
I take out a small but powerful flashlight from my bag, another proud purchase and money well spent. I shine it through the narrow path, my eyes scanning the alley and looking for the victim of the two boys. Somewhere to my right, a trash bag rustles. I shine my light towards the source of the sound, taking baby steps towards the pile of trash. I squat down and take out a leftover half-eaten ham sandwich from lunch. I click my tongue, beckoning for the animal to take the food. Slowly, a small snout peeks out of the pile. It sniffs it, its little black nose moving up and down, nostrils flaring. I place the sandwich a few feet away from the pile. Reluctantly, the rest of the animal inches out of its hiding spot.
It’s a dog, I realize. A puppy.
I gasp, placing a hand to my mouth. The puppy is bone-thin, covered in soot, and its tail is pointed downwards. A pang of pity crashes into me for the young animal. I’ve never had a pet before. Not even a fish. My parents were too strict about that. But I can’t help but at least give the puppy some food to eat. It needs it more than I do.
It makes its way towards the sandwich, looking at me all the way, still wary and unwilling to trust me. And it should have every right to. I can’t imagine trusting another human after what the two boys did to it. It sniffs the sandwich and then nibbles on it. I use the flashlight to see if the puppy has an owner. Its neck is bare. I’m not even sure what kind of breed it is too. With all the dirt, it looks like it could be a labrador.
I think about taking it in, but a voice in my head says otherwise. No, you can’t take care of that thing. You’d need to buy it food and a bed. Not to mention cleaning up after it! It brings me back to a similar conversation I had with my parents when I was a girl. But I’m an adult now. I get to make my own choices. But the voice in my head does have a point.
I’ll just take it to the shelter. No harm in doing that, right? I suggest. The voice in my head concedes.
As I prepare to find a temporary leash for the dog still nibbling on my sandwich, the blissful sunsets disappear and are replaced by a black sky. It shrouds the alley and me, leaving us both in darkness. A rough groan echoes through the walls of the aisle. I look behind me and find a man in a dazed state, drunk. He’s dressed in a tank top, his large tattooed arms bare. He approaches me, his footsteps all over the place. But before I could reach in my bag and pull out my taser, the man pins me to the wall. He forces my back to the wall with so much force that it knocks all the air out of my lungs.
My vision spots and my brain begins to panic. My lungs gasp for air, hyperventilating. I struggle against his grasp, but he’s too strong. One of his hands blocks my mouth from screaming while the other holds my hands together. He sniffs my neck, then touches my waist. His hands drag along the valley of my stomach to my upper thighs. My mind swirls as the noise around me begins to fade. I try to focus on something. Anything. I can’t.
I begin to drown.
Then his unforgiving hold on me loosens for just a moment and my hands are free. I hear him yell, followed by a high-pitched cry, and then the clattering of trash bags and glass bottles. But I don’t focus on that. My hands find the inside of my bag and the electric weapon in it.
He gets fifty thousand volts to the chest.
I keep the taser on him for longer than recommended.
I draw back, his body still twitching from the sudden wave of current flowing through his body. I feel my face, wiping the wet river dripping down my cheeks. My eyes find the bite mark on his ankle, a small patch on the cuffs of his pants stained red. My mind drifts to the cause of the bite, and how it somehow saved my life. A faint cry echoes in the far end of the alley.
I ran to its side, its paper-thin body sprawled beside a metal dumpster. I scoop it up, its small size just big enough to carry on one arm. It yelps as I carry it and I feel a little knife dig through my heart. I kick the already unconscious drunk on his side one more time for extra measure as I pass by. I leave the cursed alley as I rush to the nearest vet hospital, never looking back.
I wait in the lobby of the pet hospital, my elbows resting on my knees and my hands on my face. Outside, white specks fall from the sky and I’m glad that I’m inside, the hospital equipped with a heater. A nurse approaches me, her white uniform a little grey.
“She’s going to be alright,” she says through her mask.
My mind fills with relief. “Thank you,” I replied.
“She’s just drying after her bath. She’s really thin, so you’ll need to feed her a lot more.”
“Oh, no, she’s not mine. I found her in an alley. She’s a stray.”
“Would you like to adopt her? She’s a dalmatian.”
I don’t hesitate. “Yes.”