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Thriller Suspense Speculative

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

My alleyway is empty tonight.


Yes, I know. Mom practically pulled my ears out my head last night, warning me not to take this path back home, but Huntley and I both know she couldn't care less.


Right. Huntley.


She hasn't been home for a week now, and Mom has started to visibly quake with worry. I called her a couple times, and was utterly unsurprised she didn't pick. I always wonder why she has a phone if she's never going to ever answer it.


My feet crunch as I step gingerly onto overflowing trash from abandoned bins. A half eaten sandwich in a white paper bag lay by my foot, and I struggle to not pick it and devour its contents. The stench of orange juice, gin and piss crawl up my nostrils and caress the walls of my throat, but I don't gag. I have come to be one with this alleyway, my alleyway. Whatever it had to offer, I was willing to receive with my open, skinny arms.


My phone chirps in my pocket, and I fiddle with my old bomber jacket to get it out. I freeze mid-step, then smile as I click open the text message.


hey, M. tell mom I'll be staying at Arlo's for the weekend. and next week too. you should handle her. xx


I scoff and shove the phone back in my pocket. Figures, I tell myself. I'm the fool for expecting anything different, but what am I without hope? I resume stomping on the debris lining the alleyway like some sick kind of multicolored and multilayered carpet. I inhale deeper, the horrid odors wrapping themselves around me, inside and out. I glance back, hoping to catch that sandwich, still contemplating eating it. Thankfully and obviously, it's still there. The hard part now is taking my eyes and hands off of it.


The worn soles of my boots stop dead center of the alleyway, and I stare longingly at the sandwich. A fruit fly buzzes around it, perching on different bits of the soggy bread and lettuce, then buzzes off again. I stare, trying my hardest to resist going back for it. I shouldn't, I know I shouldn't. But I don't have much of a choice. Dinner wasn't guaranteed tonight, and with Huntley away, no one would be picking anything up on the way back. I would be lucky if Mom heats up a three-day old slice of pizza, but then, Mom was Mom, and that kind of kindness seemed tiresome on her part.


Echoes of scratches on the cement walls cause me to jump out of my skin and turn my gaze forward instantly. My brown eyes scan the walls of my alleyway, alert and shielded by thin strands of caramel blonde hair. Nobody's in sight, but I don't lose guard— I never do in my alleyway. I turn again to spare the sandwich a glance, then my blood runs cold. I almost scream as I watch the sly, disgusting black cat mouth the sandwich and prance off.


In the blink of an eye, I'm chasing after it. It's fast, like every other sensible cat, and it's very slippery. My motion-filled boots are the only sound greeting the night's air, and I don't mind that the usual resident amateur rapists could be waiting in the shadows, anticipating the moment they could pounce on any unsuspecting victim. None of this bothers me anyway. That cat has my dinner and potential breakfast in its slimy mouth. I then watch in horror as it jumps mid-chase onto an impossibly high fencing, one with wires and spikes, and expertly maneuvers its way out of my reach. I grunt and stomp my foot in the dirt, cursing the cat's grandkittens. My fists clench and unclench, and my breathing keeps hitching. My head gets ridiculously light, and I'm preparing for the onslaught of panic attacks not so patiently waiting for me.


Then, with my face down on the ground, I suddenly am aware of two things.


First, I am on a street. Not my alleyway— a bloody street. I had been so fixated on my feeding source that I steered far from the safe cages of my alleyway. Whipping my head in all directions, I search for the usual trash cans and discarded clothes. Nothing in my immediate line of sight is distinctly familiar. I can already feel my blood rising to my throat and eyes.


Right, my eyes.


My eyes have caught the second unusual thing in the strange area— there is a woman across the street from me. I squint with my already myopic and astigmatized brown eyes, and as though noticing there was something less panic-worthy to register, my fervently racing blood and stinging eyes seize their torment and focus.


I am looking at a woman who looks exactly like me.


Instantly, I smile and race to her standing form. But, as I run to her, she takes multiple steps back. I know she's seen me. I know she knows we look alike. So I ask in my slithery, singsong voice, "Why? Are you scared?"


To that, the woman guffaws. I immediately search the area, once again piqued that this is not my alleyway and I have no control here. She keeps laughing, her mouth stretching so wide I could fit two of my fists into it. Then she says, "You are not a threat. So I have no reason to be frightened by you."


I take another step closer, and she moves back on the sidewalk as if on instinct. "Liar," I hiss at her.


"You have always been the liar. Always."


"You don't know me." My lilt cracks mid-sentence.


"I am you, Mila. I know you better than you do."


"Bullshit." My throat is closing up again. I must get back to my alleyway right now.


"I know what you can do, and I know which ones are wrong choices."


"Quit it with the dramatic parables."


The woman—another me, another Mila— digs her hand into her jacket and stares. It's then that I finally, really look at her. Her caramel blonde locks much like mine are smoother, less stringy. Her brown eyes are clear and pretty, with no dark circles or bags underneath. She looks taller, but I think it's because she has an air of something I don't have, whatever that is. Or maybe, I muse as my gaze shifts to her feet, her ballet flats have some tissue in them.


I move closer, and this time, she doesn't retreat. One booted foot after another until I'm standing face to face with her. She is taller— curse the gods— and her skin lacks my signature freckles and clogged pores. I find myself wondering where she came from and why her version of Mila looks much healthier and well fed. This Mila hasn't had to chase after cats for her dinner, I'm sure.


"I'm not from here, but I have something to share with you if you want to be like me."


"Why would I want that?" Of course I wanted that.


"Because your mother cannot provide for you just yet."


I shrug, not worrying about the possibility in her statement of Mom being an actual parent. "Huntley's with me."


She scoffs and chuckles. "You'll see."


I've had enough at this point and am more than ready to return to familiar ground. Maybe if I searched harder in the trash cans in my alleyway, I'd find a chicken wing or a burrito. I turn away from her, mentally revisiting the run here to retrace my steps when she says, "Don't do it."


I pause, but I don't look back. "What?"


"No matter how much she hurts you, don't do it."


As she says this, I turn in time to see Mila 2.0 withdrawing a hand out of her pocket. The sinister, fatal-looking blade in her hand glints in the dim light of the night, but it excites me regardless. I smile— blessing my eyes with such a contraption must be my early birthday present. When I look up to her, she does not smile.


I turn again and find my way back to my alleyway. I know she's not following me, but her words certainly do.


As expected, an abandoned burrito is wrapped in an aluminium foil in a small discarded rafia basket at the end of my alleyway.


I'm glad I don't have to share this one with Huntley, but my joy dissipates when I remember Mom. Grudgingly, I reached our little shed. A mosquito greets me upon entry, and I clap at it in welcome. Mom is sitting by the heap of firewood, her arms shaking violently. She doesn't look at me as she asks, "Your sister?"


"Arlo's till next two weeks."


Mom suddenly pushes off the weak plastic chair and presses her elbow to my throat. Immediately, my airway constricts and I gasp and flail uncontrollably.


"Where is your sister?" Mom asks again. I try my best to wipe her spittle off my face even in the chokehold.


"Arlo's till next two weeks," I wheeze.


"Bring her back! Bring my daughter back!"


She clamps both elbows in my neck now, and I can feel the blood rushing back down to my body, avoiding my face like the plague. I can't wheeze an answer now, but my mind is working at light speed. Mom has never pressed this hard before, and from the bloodshot look in her heterochromic eyes, she will not stop until I'm out of her sight.


Don't do it.


The voice echoes, my voice. My eyes are already working, searching for any weapon to get the deranged entity off of me. I know my face has taken a greenish white tint now, and I feel my consciousness dancing away, attempting to bid me farewell for a long, long time. I won't let it, I choose not to let it. Just as my alleyway is mine, so is my consciousness, and the only category of people allowed to steal that from me is anybody that's not Mila.


A madwoman stands no chance.


"Bring my daughter back now—"


My arms have painstakingly found a log of firewood, and I use the last remaining ounces of my stamina to wing at her head. She releases her monster grip and I swallow air in immediately. I don't give either of us time to recover though, so I swing again and again and again.


It is only until there's only a sea of red by my feet that I stop, and as I look out the window, I catch Mila 2.0. I smile at her, waving even, but she shakes her head, and right before my reddened vision, she vanishes.


Oh well, I muse. More dinner portions for me.


Two days later, I lay on the floor, right where I ended Mom, with a five-inch blade buried completely in my throat. The sadistic turn of events oddly doesn't faze me, but when I see Mila, when I see the fortunate slut standing above me, a wine glass in hand, all traces of elation in my increasingly bloodless body swoosh away.


"She would've saved you, Mila. But again, you're always too shortsighted to understand anything of importance."


May 06, 2023 00:36

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5 comments

Jenny Allison
19:55 Jun 20, 2023

Wow - this had me swept up from the start! I loved the way you built the narrator's voice and hinted at her unreliability too - with the sandwich, the racing thoughts, even the literal short sightedness. And I like the twist (of the knife!) at the end. Great work!!

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Emilia R. Wayer
21:24 Jun 20, 2023

Thank you, dear Jenny. I look forward to reading more of your stories on this platform. You're a great writer with a deep soul.

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Chidozie Echofe
15:44 May 19, 2023

this is too good for real!

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R W Mack
09:58 May 09, 2023

Finally a story worth shortlisting. Also, the last story in the whole submission pool. Pacing felt GREAT, especially after a rough week to judge with so much I couldn't even give 4 stars. The prose felt natural and believable from the rip and I look forward to seeing what else you'll submit for me to judge. Edit: how cruel, someone else snagged it just before I could. What a shame!

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Emilia R. Wayer
22:28 May 09, 2023

haha :)). I am so glad you enjoyed it. thank you so much for the encouragement!

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