Whatever was waiting at the end of the alley, it was something long dead.
And yet, judging by the roars of rage and the maelstrom of rubbish battering the surrounding buildings, that something was not prepared to concede the fact. A little unsteadily, on account of all the whiskey I’d consumed at the World’s End pub, chosen because the name suited my mood, I made my way towards the epicentre.
The sharp crack of a window smashing, the unmistakable tinkle of glass and the thing paused for a heart-beat, as though surprised at its own strength and then the onslaught resumed with renewed frenzy. Walking through the flying shards of assorted crap, arm raised to ward off the worst of it, I was bloodied but still curious.
Which was a shame really because if ever there was a moment when a kindly fate I didn’t believe in should have intervened, turning me back to wend my weary, drunken way home instead of into the belly of the beast, it was then.
The air crackled with static as it rushed me like a rabid dog, maw vast, flayed flanks heaving. Bigger than a grizzly, it pinned me with ease to the ground with talons that sliced through the meat of my shoulders faster than a hot knife through butter.
“Roseeeee,” it growled as drool from its mis-matched jaws fell in ropes across my upturned face.
“You could always just ask for a date like normal people,” I wheezed, forcing myself to lie still in the forlorn hope of minimising further damage to my abused flesh.
The skinned features moved and shiny, black bone protruded through the small craters in its head. It was only as my consciousness began to spot and fade that I realised it was smiling.