This week it's Mystery Maven's turn in the ring. Here is their 302 word submission.
Enrique squinted into the glare from the streetlight that haloed the man at the entrance to the alley. Hunger had driven the boy to the Dumpster behind the fast food restaurant, hoping for a scrap of something edible. The scrape of a footfall against concrete had drawn his attention to the man. Now the man just stood there, silent. Enrique could not make out any details of the man's appearance. He was just a black silhouette in front of the light. "You the manager of this joint?"Enrique nodded to the back door of the restaurant.
The man didn't respond, so Enrique clambered down from the Dumpster."I'll just leave, then. Didn't take nothing."
There was a slight problem, though. Leaving meant that Enrique would have to go past the man in the mouth of the alley. The man still had not moved. Had not spoken. And Enrique's street smarts had alarms going off like clarion bells in his head. He had not survived his 12 years, the last three on the streets, without a good alarm system. Today that system was telling him this dark, quiet man, was a greater danger than the Los Zetas that had tried to take this territory from the Bloods. The fact that the Zetas had succeeded indicated just how strong and dangerous they were.
But at least with a rival gang, one knew the dangers to look for. How to be safe. Enrique did not have that same assurance facing this quiet stranger.
"Just let me pass, Mister," Enrique said, taking a hesitant step, then hating himself for being hesitant. That was a sign of weakness he couldn't afford.
He squared his shoulders and took another step. He'd just brush on by this guy and be done with it.
That was the last step Enrique ever took.
And in the other corner, checking in with 499 words, is TaggerFinn.
Scape clenched the cuff of his sleeve and crashed his elbow through the glass. He grinned back at us from within his hoodie and dropped his backpack through the window. The cans clanked as they hit. With a quick dive, Scape slipped into the opening.
Rox balanced on the handrail next, kicking the jagged glass teeth with her boot. She squatted in the windowsill. I glanced down the deserted street, and willed the beam of my flashlight to shove her through.
“Hurry the fuck up, Rox.”
She wiggled her ass, flipped me the bird, then disappeared into the dark.
I hoisted myself up, took one last look around, then dropped onto the broken glass inside. The shards crunched beneath our boots as we searched the lobby with our lights. Old plaster walls left to chip and crack. A mosaic swan set in the floor—logo of the foundry that once used the building.
“Hope there aren’t any fucking hobos,” Rox said.
Scape sniffed the air. “No piss or smoke. Just mold and metal.”
“This joint is virgin,” I said.
Rox unzipped her backpack, whipped out a can, and shook it. “Not anymore.” She tagged her sinewy MINX on the plaster.
“Quit dicking,” Scape said. “We’ve got serious shit to do.”
We zipped up the stairs, hooking the handrail at each landing to whip around and keep climbing. We raced up the twisted flights until the steps ran out. Rox kicked open the steel door.
The top floor was one massive-ass room. Floor-to-ceiling windows covered the far wall. All that remained of the clangs and sweat and steel was busted worktables, scattered debris, and stagnant puddles from the leaky roof.
We all saw its magnificence: a blank wall stretching from the doorway to the far corner.
“Fuck yeah,” Scape said.
I rummaged through the junk and fished out hunks of scrap to chock our flashlights. Angling them just right, the three beams converged on the old plaster. Dry. Grungy white. Untouched. Perfect.
Scape slipped his bandana over his nose, then scrolled a finger over his iPod. He was ready.
The rattling marbles added their own layer to the music streaming into the space. Scape saturated the plaster with large sweeping arcs: hints of curved hills, blocks of green fading to feathered edges. Haunting trees sprouted with a few masterful strokes.
Rox added her two-fisted can rattling and hip thrusting to the beat. “He’s gonna be tall and sleek. Tight pants. Dark. Silver eyes.”
“When are your characters not dark?” I said. “That damn Circus Demon scared the shit out me.”
“I painted him in chains didn’t I? Just worry about walling the edges in, Border Boy. We don’t need another fuck up.”
“My damn black ran out. It was too thin in one sorry spot.”
The sweet smell of aerosol and pigment filtered through my bandana as I laid down the border. This time it needed to be solid enough to imprison Rox’s creation when he drew his first breath.
What do you think? Which one resonates with you the most? Why? Leave your vote (and a brief critique if you have time) in the comments below.
See you back here at the ring again next week!