Months later, or even the day after, Starla couldn't have told you what inspired her to go for a lonely midnight walk in Brooklyn. She had been feeling a bit off for days, stopping randomly to stare off into space with a little frown and a deep breath or two. It was as if something soft and warm in her head had suddenly vanished and there was a swirling, chilly wasteland where it had been. It occurred to her that she might be forgetting something very important so she roamed her small apartment periodically, checking behind furniture and cautiously testing the air for strange scents.
Then came an unusually calm Saturday night in June when she just couldn't sit still. Starla could never really sit still for too long, but that night was different. It was as if some great, unseen authority had ordered her out of her room and into the night. She needed to get out, to breathe, to be in the open or she'd have gone mad. More mad than usual, anyway.
So she threw on her favorite long sleeved shirt, despite the heat, and wandered out. She felt vulnerable at night with her skin bare.
Something wasn't right. It wasn’t the midnight walk. Starla was deeply tuned in to her intuition and she knew she was doing the right thing. Or the thing she was "supposed" to do. It was something else out in the world that wasn't right.
She was starting to sweat yet she wrapped her arms tighter around herself and pressed on. There was a rowdy group of males cackling into the night ahead of her. She crossed the street to avoid passing too near them and she ignored their rough voices as they called out to her. They said crude, stupid things and laughed among themselves, amused by what they obviously thought were clever comments. For a moment rage took her mind over and she visualized each of them bloody and bent at odd angles.
They think I’m an easy target, the bastards! Her mind screamed. A calmer, though more bitter voice in the back of her head responded with You are an easy target... And Starla's expression became brooding.
When her hands stopped shaking and she regained control of her mind she looked around her, taking in the environment. She loved the older buildings with their exposed brick and cracks slithering down toward the ground. A side street veered sharply off the main one right up ahead and for a brief moment Starla debated which way she should go. The snarling stone sentries on the side street made the decision for her. Starla moved towards the stone lions that dutifully guarded a newer, red brick apartment building. The lions gleamed in the dirty light of the street lamps, teeth bared and claws out. For a while they held her attention hostage.
She was gazing into those fierce stone eyes when she suddenly found herself jolted back into reality. The hairs on her arms were standing up. Something was wrong.
The night was too quiet. She hadn't seen another human being since the rowdy males a while back. She hadn’t even seen a car or heard music drifting from an open window. In fact, she couldn’t see an open window anywhere. A warm, breezy night in June and all the windows were closed tight. But suddenly it wasn’t so warm and the street seemed darker, as if the street lights had dimmed.
Dear god, they have dimmed... Starla realized. Her heart began to pound as she noticed someone coming toward her. Her teeth were chattering and the buildings near her seemed to fade as if a great shadow was passing over them.
She peered into the night, her fists clenching and un-clenching rhythmically.
It’s a man coming towards me, and he moves like a ghost... Starla thought.
The buildings seemed to creak and the man shimmered as if he was walking through a swirling mist. But there was no mist and the night was silent. There was only the dark, lonely street in the sleeping city.
The man had almost reached her. Starla’s heart was pounding in her ears. It was all she could hear.
BA-DOOM. BA-DOOM. BA-DOOM. BA-DOOM.
And then it stopped. Or it didn’t, but all she could hear was a low, pained voice whispering to her.
“Starla, help me...” the man was saying.
The whole world closed in on her and the man. The man with dark hair and stormy, grey eyes. The man whose cool smile she had seen a thousand times in dreams. He wasn’t smiling, though. Not this time. And this wasn’t a dream. He stopped a few feet from her, his shoulders slumped and his head hanging.
“Tristan, where are all the people? Why is it so dark?” Starla asked in a shaky voice.
“Gone. They’re gone. She’s gone.” He said.
“Who? Why?” Starla asked.
“It doesn’t matter.” He said.
Starla was terrified and angry and lost. “It damn well does matter! What the fuck is going on?” She cried out.
Tristan betrayed the slightest surprise at her rage, her nerve. He was silent for a long while, just watching her with a curious expression slowing beginning to twist his handsome features. Starla was more than just a little uneasy.
Finally he spoke. His voice was smooth and dangerous. “You’re really something. You have so much fight in you, so much will-power. You’ll never give up. You’d die before you’d give up.”
His face seemed to fill with light. He looked like a madman with a sudden brilliant plan, and when he moved toward Starla she backed away. Alarms went off in her head.
“So much strength. So much hidden power...” He whispered.
“What’s wrong with you? What do you want?” She said in a faint voice.
He stopped moving for a second, his face softening, and Starla had just started to relax when he sprang. His arms were around her and his voice was hissing desperately in her ear. “Fight me! Show me what you’re made of!” She let out a scream and dug her palms into his chest, trying to push him away.
“FIGHT ME!” He roared, shaking her violently.
“Stop!” Starla cried, tears rolling down her cheeks. “Why are you doing this?”
Tristan slammed her against the side of a car, his eyes wide and his mouth fierce. “Fight me, damn you!” he said, digging his fingers painfully into her shoulders.
Starla was shaking uncontrollably. She twisted and squirmed, trying to escape him but his grip was like iron. He was yelling nonsense into the night.
“Tristan, no! I love you!” She moaned pitifully. Then she saw stars and light and her head ached. Tristan slammed her against the car again and ripped at her shirt, her favorite shirt, then raised his hand to strike her again.
Starla felt her fear turn into rage. She felt her fists clench and her body tense.
No. You wont hurt me. Not you... She thought. I can’t allow this.
She fought him. She fought him hard. She struck out with her fists and years and years of anger drove her on. She saw stars again but she lunged forward and clawed and struck and bit her attacker. She mercilessly assaulted her once-lover, who was now revealed as a worthless traitor, a monster. She swung at him again and again and howled out her outrage and hurt, not caring who heard.
She finally stopped when she realized that her eyes were clenched shut, her face wet with blood, and her fists only finding air. She stood gasping for breath and then slowly opened her eyes. Tristan was sprawled on the pavement in front of her and he was grinning like a maniac.
“You’re so beautiful... I’m sorry, it’s the only way...” he finally said, and his grin faded. He stared blankly up at the sky.
Starla felt her body fill with heat, as if fire was flowing through her veins. She felt doubt leave her and power fill her. She suddenly felt like a monster.
She turned and ran. She ran down the dimly lit streets, past the silent buildings, and toward her apartment. The only place she felt safe... She wandered for ages before she reached her destination and as she plowed through her front door she only briefly wondered why it splintered off it's hinges.
Starla wept into her pillow for hours before drifting off.
The city that never sleeps was quietly dozing. It slept like a ghost-town. Days passed during that long night, it seemed. Days and days of quiet despair.
. . . . . .
The city finally woke, and many, many miles away a sandy haired man was unsuccessfully trying to beat some sense into Tristan.