Vs. Reality (The Vs. Reality Series Book 1)

By: Blake Northcott

Chapter One – Illusions

New York City

August 7, 2011

11:28 pm, Eastern Daylight Time

I’m going to die. Right here, right now. The words race through her mind like an involuntary spasm, flooding her consciousness, drowning out rational thought.

She scrambles through the darkness of the alley, desperately trying to maintain her balance while teetering in six-inch stilettos. She frantically wipes a handful of blond hair from her face, squinting against the inky darkness. She can only make out shapes; muted outlines in the middle-distance. A dumpster, some scattered debris, and deeper into the abyss what looks like a burnt-out car. And beyond that, nothing. But she can’t turn around. It’s too late.

The mugger stalks his victim with a hunting knife in-hand, casually waving the blade in her direction. He traces a figure-eight pattern in the air, whistling as he saunters. He’s savoring the moment. He’s done this a hundred times, but the tension is always electric; this much power, this much control over someone’s every emotion – it’s completely intoxicating.

She fumbles through her purse as she flees. It slips through sweaty fingers mid-stride, spilling the contents into a shallow puddle at her feet. She reaches down and gropes through her belongings, but jerks her hand back when the footsteps echo closer behind. There’s not enough time. She turns to look and wishes she hadn’t. Now afraid to avert her eyes, she backpedals through the narrow passage, lungs aching, calves burning, watching the hazy glow from a distant streetlight gradient off into the umbral chasm with each terrifying step.

Her back slams into a brick wall, cold and sudden. Eyes darting frantically from side to side, a grim realization sets in: there are no doors, no windows, and no chances for escape.

He approaches his prey with a twisted smile sliced across his grimy face. He drags the tip of his rusted blade down the length of her dress, from the base of her throat to the top of her navel. Cars pass, horns blare and electricity hums, but she can still hear the sound of metal scraping silk.

“This is usually when the screaming starts,” the mugger says, his voice like crushed glass on pavement. “Go ahead, I’m used to it.”

She turns away, squeezing her eyes shut, tears and mascara streaking her face. “Jesus,” she whispers, “please help me, Lord…”

“What is it with you religious nuts?” He grumbles. “You could shout for a cop, a fireman, maybe even catch the attention of a concerned citizen if you’re lucky. But instead you beg for an invisible man to show up and save your pathetic life.” He clutches her throat and leans in close as if he’s about to reveal something private. “I know what you’re thinking right now: ‘This is a nightmare. This can’t possibly be happening. Surely someone is going to save me’.” His lips brush her ear, voice lowering to a barely audible growl. “I’ve been doing this for a while sweetheart, so I’ll let you in on a little secret: prepare yourself for some serious fucking disappointment.”

She feels the blade pierce her skin. Shallow at first, then deeper, the serrated steel edge scraping along her ribcage. Her eyes snap open and her jaw falls slack, but she doesn’t scream. Her vision is just a blur now; ragged outlines and distorted images swimming in and out of her field of vision. Though she swears, through the waves of searing pain, she spots a pair of figures positioned at the mouth of the alley – velvet-black silhouettes stretching down the narrow corridor.

Two rapid blinks clear her watering eyes, and her vision drifts back into focus. She can see them. She’s sure of it. Her angels.

The more imposing of the two is a seven-foot powerhouse, nearly as thick as he is wide. She catches a glimpse of his bald head and thin goatee, thinking – praying – he might be a police officer, but then trails her eyes down to his wardrobe: cargo shorts, flip flops, and a flowered Hawaiian shirt that’s barely able to contain a thicket of chest hair.

Next to the giant stands a well-dressed Asian man half his size, with a wave of black hair and designer sunglasses.

Concerned citizens? Tourists? Maybe one of them has already called the peacekeepers…

The Asian clears his throat, loud and deliberate.

The mugger glances back and notices the looming figures who are now providing an unwanted audience. He tightens the grip on his weapon, leaving one hand on his victim’s throat. “What is this shit?”

Cocking his head, the well-dressed man offers a friendly reply in a proper British accent. “Divine intervention.” He makes a subtle gesture with an extended hand, slowly rotating his fingers in the air as if he’s adjusting an invisible valve.

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