The first time that I turned into the Dark Thing, I was as terrified of the transformation as I was of my attackers.
That evening had begun normally enough: I had just left my place of employment, and without more than a thought, chose to take a shortcut home by walking through Lincoln Park. At night. Crossing the park at night was something my mother would have scolded me for, but I was far too bold to have heeded her warnings, and chose instead to brush them off as mere motherly paranoia.
She was always paranoid about one thing or another. Always worried, usually without reason. And besides - it was the Suburbs, for God’s sake. Nothing ever really happened here…
I didn’t fear the things that my mother did. I didn’t believe in things that went bump in the night. Nothing bad had ever happened to me in the park - and this route was, after all, the quickest way home from my part time job at Bo’s Ice Cream Parlor.
In my innocence, I didn’t think that anything bad would happen to me, so long as I stuck to the lit paths that cut Lincoln Park into its sections. I knew the park well, from my day-time travels, and could see no harm in cutting through – I had done so many times before without a single unpleasant incident. It was a better option, I thought, than walking the several blocks around the park, so yes, I dared that night to cross Ol’ Lincoln, sticking to those well-lit paths as best I could – just as I had done on countless other evenings.
Nothing bad had ever happened to me there…
But on that cold October night, I would not be so lucky.
I heard the three men well before I saw them.
“Now there’s a sweet piece of ass if ever I saw one,” one of them hissed, in my general direction.
“I’ve been craving a piece like that all night.” Said another man, from the same place as his unseen companion.
Being the only ‘piece of ass’ that I could see in the park that night, I would have been stupid not to assume that he had been talking about me. Were they talking about me? I wasn’t completely certain of it, but there was no one else around, so I began to walk faster, hoping that my footsteps would carry me further away from their voices.
My nervous breaths came faster, forming little clouds of mist in the cold night air.
“Me too, thug” said another of the men, from the darkness of the park, beyond the path, somewhere ahead of me, and to my left. I glanced nervously to the left of my field of vision, looking for the owners of the gruff voices and crude words.
It was then that I saw the three of them, walking towards me from the shadows of the park, blocking my way along the path.
“I gotta get laid, dog.” Said the black one of the three, his dark eyes making me feel awkward as his glance swept me from head to toe. “’Fo I lose my mind.”
In hindsight, it was then that I probably should have run. Run as far and as fast away from those men as my slender young legs could have carried me.
I was only fifteen – I didn’t imagine that they were going to act on their obscene words.
But I should have known that my youth wasn’t something that would have swayed them from their obscene ideas, their sick and twisted cause. If society’s warnings were anything to go by, my tender age would only have encouraged them to act out their lascivious ideas.
Sick perverts loved young girls, isn’t that what every mother – especially mine – liked to warn?
Mother, it seemed, had been right.
Hindsight being what it is, I know now that I should never have cut through the park after dark. Not even in this “nice” part of town. Certainly not at night.
Not that night…
But instead, there I was, in my pink polyester Bo’s Ice Cream Parlor uniform, my nametag “Samantha B.” flashing in the late October moonlight like a beacon that could draw the crude men nearer.
“What do you think, boys?” The tall black one asked of the others, as though taking a vote.
“She’ll do.” Said the heavyset one in the middle, leering at me as he twisted the hairs of his long goatee with a plump tattooed hand. His stare was unmistakably set on me: he meant me.
They were talking about me: there was no longer any doubt in my mind.
My heart began to pound more quickly in my chest. It was then that I began to feel a strange crawling sensation under my skin, a tingling that started out innocently enough, but quickly became almost painful, almost like I was being burned. It started in my chest, near where my heart had begun to pound.
It was unlike anything I had ever felt before…
Was this what it was like to be terrified?
“Pussy is pussy,” agreed the youngest of the three, who couldn’t have been more than eighteen, and looked as cocaine pale as the moon was, overhead, in the dark night sky. “Good enough for me.”
“So long as I get to stick my dick in some part of her,” the fat one said, approaching me from the left, closing in the distance between us. “She’ll do just fine.”
“You said it,” the tall black one remarked, advancing towards me from the right.
The threat was set. They were poised to attack. The tension between us could have been cut with a knife. There would be a breaking point, I was sure of it. I knew that the moment I ran, they would run after me. I couldn’t think, and could barely breathe – my fear was caught in my chest, holding me captive as my heart pounded like a bird trying to escape the trappings of my own ribcage.
All the while, that strange burning sensation continued to scorch my heart, my chest, my skin…
As the three men closed in on me, I began to retreat, walking as briskly backwards as my quivering legs would allow. Why did my legs feel so weak? And why was my skin crawling so? I wanted to turn and run, but my fear wouldn’t let me take my eyes off of them… I wouldn’t dare take my eyes off of them.
How could this be happening to me? What had I done to them to deserve this?
“Mind you, she’s not as pretty as the last one we fucked and cut,” said the tallest of my assailants, the man with the darkest complexion, and even darker intentions.
Fucked and cut?
Fucked and cut? Now, I was really afraid. “Fucked” sounded bad enough. I was only fifteen, but I knew what that meant, that it implied sex with me that I did not want. At that age, I barely knew what the implications of sex meant – but I knew that their intentions implied rape.
And as for “cut”, well “cut” was far worse a fate...
Cut what? And cut where? My skin continued to itch, continued to burn…
“She’s not half bad though,” the black one decided, as an after thought.
The gap between him and the youngest one was the widest. It was there that I was going to attempt my escape, if any, in their direction. I tried to dash past him, but the dark skinned man intercepted me from the right, scaring me into the direction of his two cohorts.
“Not as young as the last one, either,” the youngest of them agreed, closing in on my right. His light colored eyes gleamed at me with a cold hatred that I could not name.
“Or as feisty.” Laughed the heaviest of my assailants, his plump hand striking out of mid air to grab me by the arm. Heavier than me, and far stronger, he used his leverage of my arm to throw me to the ground - with little effort on his part, I fell so hard that the wind was knocked out of me. “They rarely ever put up a fight. It’s fucking pathetic. Even animals put up more fight than these little girls do.”
As I began to crawl backwards, away from them, my pants dampened by the wet fall leaves, I felt as though I were flush with fever, my skin feeling as if it really were burning. It was beginning to itch like Hell, too, leaving me to feel as though I had been bitten by an army of fire ants, all over my young body. It was maddening, this trial by fire: how would I survive such torment.
My fear was disorienting, and my situation seemed desperate enough – however, as the three men fell upon me, they sealed not only my fate, but their own.
Six hands tore at my clothing. Six hands held me to the ground. Six hands shredded the polyester pants from my hips, and ripped my white cotton panties from my virgin mound.
Six hands exposed my young chest to the cold October night, and tore at the supple female flesh that they found there.
“Samantha B.”, said the fat man, tossing aside my name tag as though it were a piece of litter. “Samantha B., I’m gonna fuck you first, you see, because it’s my turn to go first, ain’t that right Jason?”
Six hands were bruising, mistreating me in the most horrid of ways, pinching my young nipples, squeezing my young breasts – breasts that had never before been touched by a man, not even by a doctor. Six hands held me by wrist and ankle to the ground, six hands continued to violate flesh, seeking access to my most private of places.
“That’s right, Carl.” The black one said. “Then me, then Baby Boy. This time.”
I cried out for help, and one hand struck me across the mouth, split my lip and drew my blood, and I tasted it, like copper pennies, on my tongue. It was Carl who had struck me, and who was now reaching out to grab me by the ponytail of my long, dark hair.
“But is she a virgin, I wonder,” the fat man mused, his tattooed hand twisting my hair painfully. “Or a little tramp like some of those others?”
He reached down with his free hand to answer his own question, but that hand froze above the place of my virginity, as I heard him gasp in shock.
“What the fuck?” Carl breathed, withdrawing his hand from my groin, where the burning and itching sensation had become almost as bad as that across my chest.
“What is it?” The black one wanted to know, “What’s the fucking hold up? Take your turn!”
“She’s got black shit on her pussy – it’s like dirt or something.” The fat bastard who attacked me sent his hand back to investigate. “It feels like leather.”
My skin continued to itch and burn, becoming worse in my fingers than it was in my virgin mound, a spreading, burning, tingling itch beneath my fingernails. There was a twinge of firey pain beneath my nails: I felt as though scratching something may be the only way to alleviate it.
This maddening, burning itch!
“It’s fucking spreading, man!” Baby Boy sounded disgusted, and let go of my leg in revulsion.
Even in the dim light, I too could see what he was talking about. There was a patch of something dark plastered against my groin, spreading up to my abdomen, covering the insides of my pale white thighs. At first, I thought it was soil. Dirt from the ground.
But dirt didn’t move of its own accord, like this did.
“Fuck man, it’s on her chest too,” Jason noted, backing away, repulsed.
I followed their stares to the patch of darkness that had appeared on the middle of my chest, itching where it spread, across my young breasts. The itching, the burning, was worse where the darkness had appeared, and was thickening, covering me with its skin-like coating. While I was glad for its sudden appearance, its protection of my modesty, I was horrified by its abnormal nature, its unknown origin.
What the Hell was it? What was happening to me?
“Oh my God,” the young one’s voice had dropped to a whisper of awe. His pale face was marked with fear.
“What’s happening to me?” I asked aloud, fearfully, as though they might know the answer. I was as terrified of this strange transformation as they were shocked by it. The young one backed away, as did the fat one, releasing my left hand in the process.
My fingertips began to itch, and it worsened until even the nails beds themselves felt as though they had caught on fire. The burning sensation was so intense!
The black man, Jason, released my right hand, out of disgust that it too had become affected. “This shit’s all over her.”
Right before my eyes, my fingertips turned dark and gleamed as if I had dipped them in used motor oil. The darkness spread down my fingers to my palm, the back of my hand, my wrist, my forearms, covering them with the same black barrier of some organic looking material.
From the tips of my fingers, where my nails should have been, points had formed – first, as long and narrow as a cat’s claws, then, as long as fork tines, then longer. Much longer, until they became like the blades of butter knives. And then longer…
The fat man recoiled, his eyes large with horror. “What the fuck-“
I could barely believe my eyes. What was happening to me?
“I say we cut her and get the fuck out of here,” the young one was fearful, and fast on his feet. No sooner had he said the words, than was he on the run, retreating into the shadows of the park.
The black stuff all but covered me – thankfully, the painful itching was beginning to subside… There was something insectile about the way that my fingers now looked, something reptilian about the scale-like patterns that covered their dark skin…
I opened and closed my hands in front of me, reveling at what they had become – the most distal joints of my fingers were now long black blades with thin, sharp edges.
At least they weren’t itching anymore…
And the men – the men weren’t touching me anymore…
The Dark Thing almost covered me entirely, but for my face and hair, a second skin unto my own. I felt it creep up my neck, as far as my jaw, my hairline, my ears. This entirely alien experience was – strangely enough – beginning to feel somehow natural, somehow right.
“Cut her?” Jason stood up, and was soon on the run, heading in the direction from which they had come. “Fuck that, nigger – I’m not touching her - did you see that shit?”
The fat man with the tattoos was the last to leave, doing up the front zipper of his pants as he ran.
They left me alone in the shadows, to the Dark Thing that was spreading its last few inches to cover my entire body, even the soles of my feet, still within their shoes. In the near total quiet, as their footfalls subsided, I found my situation absurd.
Some tough guys they were… How quickly they had run at the first sign of trouble!
It was then that the fury came over me.
How dare they attack me – ambush and surround me – me a fucking teenaged girl.
They had harbored rape and other violence in their mind.
Now, suddenly, I had revenge in mine.
I no longer felt shaky in the legs, or otherwise weak of limb.
As I stood up, I felt strong – stronger, perhaps, than I had ever been in my life.
I felt like chasing them down, one by one, and ending their miserable lives.
I felt angry – angrier than I had ever been at anyone for any reason in my entire life.
How dare they try to violate me? How dare they?
How fucking dare they!
I saw the flicker of the fat man’s basketball jersey in the dim light – he was the straggler of the three, and nearest me. Without a further moment’s hesitation, I decided to act on my impulses.
I began to chase him.
I ran with the cold autumn wind in my ears, feeling as though I had never run faster, or with more certain footing, in my entire life. The shadows of the park seemed of no concern somehow – my night vision was clearer, more accurate than it had been just minutes before. I could see in the dark now almost as well as I could see along the lit paths.
What was happening to me? What was this Dark Thing?
I would, of course, have much time to deliberate over these questions later…
For the moment, I didn’t need questions answered: I needed revenge.
In fact, I wanted more to do more than just exact revenge.
I wanted… justice.
Not only for me, but for every other woman or girl they had ever assaulted. Their own bragging told me that this had not been their first time, preying on women together, but by God, it would be their last.
I would see to it.
I wasn’t sure how I was going to do it, exactly, but by God, I’d see them dead.
The night air was cold against my unprotected face, but I paid it no notice as I chased down the brutes who had attacked me. I gained distance on the fat man quickly, besting his paces with long strides of my own. I had a newfound strength of limb that I found incredible, a feeling, almost, of invincibility, as my muscles worked in sync, in harmony to catch up to him.
Closing in on the fat man, only a few paces now behind him, I knew that if I leaped, I would be upon him… and so I leapt, jumping unto his back, forcing him to the ground with my momentum. He grunted as we fell to the wet gravel of the path, me on his back, him on his fat belly.
Without much more than a thought, I buried the strange claws that had formed at my fingertips deep into his throat. It was like slicing a hot knife through butter, so sharp were the edges of my talons…
I tore the flesh of his throat free, so that I nearly severed his head with the blow. With my newly enhanced night vision, I saw the wide arcs of warm blood washing the ground, soaking the dead fall leaves with each fresh spurt. His blood looked almost black in the dark, and from that dark blood came wisps of steam that rose skyward in the cool night air…
He did not spurt for long, but then, I didn’t wait long to watch. I knew that he was a dead – or dying – man, what with his throat ripped like that.
Somehow, I knew that I had done the right thing… and in my head came the strangest vision, like a memory of a dream – a collage of images of the women that he had attacked in the past, racing through my mind like leaves scattered by a windstorm.
How many women had there been? Too many to count, from the visions that swept through my mind. Some raped, some just murdered in cold blood – others raped and murdered. More than twenty victims for sure... There were even men and children among them.
I held my new hands up before my eyes, marveling at the dark red blood that glistened on the sharp edges of my new fingers. The blood, strangely enough, began to disappear, and somehow, I knew where it was going. It was seeping into me, feeding the second skin that covered me, making it – and me – even stronger.
I found it disturbing that I didn’t feel the slightest amount of remorse.
I had just killed a man.
And I didn’t feel remorse.
I found that odd.
I thought that I should have cared. That I should have cared enough to want to stop there, with the blood – the death - of one criminal. But, thinking of his many victims, something drove me on to pursue his companions. It felt like a deep seeded urge of some sort. A strange stirring from within me. A calling... Yes, it was a calling for the blood of these evil men that drove me on.
That and my fury. Fury drove me on…
I could almost swear that I smelled them… Instinctively, I seemed to know what direction my other two assailants were heading in. More than just a hunch or an educated guess, it was something of a ‘gut’ feeling, coming from somewhere primitive and dark inside of me.
Suddenly, I trusted my instincts, as I had never trusted them before.
In a moment, I was on my feet, and on the run again, a huntress, fueled by the need for evil blood, drawn by its scent.
By its call.
I veered left, heading in the direction my newfound instincts lead me.
Could I hear him running, or was I just imagining things? No – that was heavy breathing I heard… and footsteps. The footsteps of a guilty man. The tall black man.
I saw him, crossing a lit path a hundred yards in front of me. He slowed his gait, and turned his head towards me, as though sensing danger. He saw me, approaching from the shadows, and was shocked to discover that I was quickly gaining on him. His eyes widened as he realized that I was pursuing him; they looked like twin white orbs beckoning me to the kill.
Yes, I was following him.
The fearful expression on his face made him look as though he was seeing a ghost but it was he – not I – who was as good as dead.
“Holy fuck!” Jason yelled, from where he ran ahead of me.
I tackled the tall man just as I had tackled his heavyset friend, to the cold and unforgiving ground. But as we fell, my momentum carried us to the side, and as we hit the damp ground, he had a clear advantage, and was atop me in an instant, straddling me, pulling back a fist to strike at me.
His advantage didn’t last long.
In a swift assault, I buried the eight inches of my newly extended fingers knuckle deep into his belly, and he froze mid-swing, too shocked to follow through. I left my hands there, buried deep in his soft center, letting my second skin feed from him, from the blood that pulsed from his bowels in a steady deluge.
“You crazy bitch,” Jason swore, trying desperately to pull my hands out of his bloodied belly, but to no avail.
We both knew that I had won. He was a dead man talking shit: a last show of bravado before his curtains closed for good.
As the Dark Thing that covered me fed greedily from him, images of his victims filled my head, much as they had with his fat accomplice. The images were like flashes from the scenes of a movie, inside the recesses of my mind. I sat up, and with strength now superior to his, pushed him off of me, and he fell to the ground, clutching his abdomen.
“It troubles me to think of how many more girls there might have been,” I told him, “If I – if we – hadn’t stopped you tonight.”
I said ‘we’, treating the second skin – the mysterious Dark Thing - as a second entity. I couldn’t have done these things, exacted justice without it after all. Wherever it had come from, whatever it was, one thing was for certain: it could be deadly.
A pool of dark blood was forming around the fallen man, and his breathing all but stopped. He was finished. Over the pounding of my heartbeat in my ears, I could hear the footfalls of my third attacker, the young one. He wasn’t far away. And… he had stopped running.
He wouldn’t even see me coming.
He must have felt safe, in the street beyond the park, must have felt comforted by the lights there, by the people nearby. I rose from the side of the fallen black man, and ran after Baby Boy, catching up to him with an uncanny, almost unfaltering sprint. I had never run so fast in my life, as the Dark Thing helped me to make efficient use of my legs, arms, heart, lungs, conducting them like a symphony of blood, tendon, and muscle.
Baby Boy was in a dark alley, a few hundred yards away, his back turned towards me. Then he was a car’s length away… then an arm’s length. He must have heard me, because he turned towards me as I took the last few steps, closing in the distance between us.
Before I even saw his pale face again, I lashed out at him, clumsily, hungry for more bloodshed, and my long unnatural new nails glanced off of his neck, drawing blood in a shallow wound.
This time, it was not a finishing blow.
“Did you really believe your actions would go unpunished?” I asked, furious with him, wanting to tear him to pieces, now that I had the ability, now that I could.
He clutched his neck with his hand, trying to staunch the blood flow. Crimson poured between his fingers as he backed away from me, young eyes wide with fear.
“Please – don’t hurt me.”
Looking at my right hand, I willed my claws to grow shorter, and I was pleased to see that the second skin seemed to respond to my wishes. My fingernails were again as long as fork tines, then cat’s claws… then much like my own fingers.
“Your victims… did they beg for mercy?” I asked him, my smile one of pure menace. “Did their pleas fall on deaf ears?”
Two long spikes of the glistening black organic material were now, at my will, growing from the backsides of my hands, like scalpels, then, as long as bread knives. They looked like something that might be found on a carnivorous insect, and I knew they would be as sharp as razors, since I willed them so. I was able to transform through my willpower, through imagination alone.
“Tell me,” I demanded, “Did they beg for their lives just as you’re doing now?”
I willed the weapon of my left hand to grow strong and hard as I punched into the flesh of his shoulder, burrowing deep with the jagged spike, pinning him to the brick wall that he had backed into.
“Did they?” I demanded, above the scream of agony that was his answer.
I was pleased by that – the Dark Thing was sustained by his anguish, was fed by his blood. Images of his victims flooded my mind, and, I was surprised to see that despite his young age, he had scores of more victims than his acquaintances.
“Please… God… don’t…” His young face was streaked with tears, terrified eyes beseeching me, begging me not to do my worst. I thought of his young age, and then I thought of my own. Who was the greater evil, at this point: him or me?
There was no point in prolonging this drama. His screams might have drawn the attention of Good Samaritans who may have called the police.
With the outpouring of his blood came the knowledge of his crimes, and those secrets filled me with fury.
Baby Boy was only a few years older than me, yet so many innocents had died at his hands.
“All of the things that you have done… they’re beyond evil.” I seethed, twisting the blade of my hand in his shoulder.
He howled with pain. “Please…”
“End of the show, fucker – it’s curtains for you.” I pulled my left hand out of his shoulder and, crossing the two blades under his chin, much like a lethal pair of scissors, I drew my forearms apart and up, cutting deep through his neck, turning him into a human Pez dispenser.
His blood washed over me, covering my chest, my arms, feeding the Dark Thing whose hunger for the blood of the wicked seemed to know no limit, no bounds on this, the night of its birth.
The young thug’s body fell against me, and I let it drop to the concrete, unimpeded. I didn’t care who found this vermin first – the rats or the cops – it made no difference to me. My job was over. I had done my part, had exacted revenge and answered the call of the Dark Thing, the call for the blood of the guilty.
Justice was served.
And it wouldn’t be the last time…