Redon’s fight or flight response activates as soon as his hands touch bare cheek. His pulse quickens, his muscles tighten, and he’s already sweating.
He whips his head around. His body is expecting an attack.
“What the fuck,” he says loudly. A woman passing by, a blonde, glances down the alley. She hurries on when she sees the potential assailant.
He notices, finally, his surroundings. Dumpsters. Puddles of liquid smelling of dumpsters. Grimy brick on either wall. In one direction, the afternoon sun shines on a pleasant-looking street scene. In the other, the alley creeps farther into darkness.
“Hey!” A voice rasps from the shadows. A bottle is kicked and trashbags crinkle. “Get out! You can’t be here! Get out!”
The sound is little more than a hoarse whisper, but it’s full of anger and righteous indignation.
“Hello? I’m sorry, I don’t-”
And he sees it, the shadow breaking away from the inkwell. It’s racing toward him, and so is the smell of human waste mixed with days-old chop suey.
“Hey!” Redon calls, just in time to catch a glimpse of this person’s face. He can’t tell the sex. He can only see smears of gunk on the face and outstretched hands, rags for clothes, hair matted against a lumpy skull.
It’s wielding a weapon.
“Stop!” Redon commands, and for a split second, it appears like this person will listen, but they only hunch over and close the remaining few meters.
Redon makes out the jagged edges of a broken wine bottle.
“You don’t have no right!” they rasp. “Get out!”
The arm brandishing the weapon flies at Redon’s face, and his instincts move him backwards. He reaches for the arm before it can swing again.
Teeth. At his knuckle and between them.
“AHH YOU FU-”
The tactic is a success. Redon lets go immediately and tries to yank himself away. He feels the flesh rip from his hand.
And the shards of the broken bottle are finding homes. First in his side – the floating ribs, he remembers someone calling them. Then his bicep. His neck.
The stabs are quick, and at first they don’t seem to phase him. His good hand touches the hole in his neck, and he wonders briefly if it is raining. His whole side seems to be wet.
“Get out of here! You shouldn’t be here!”
These are the last words Redon hears as he topples to the ground. He rolls around in the muck, trying to understand what’s happening. He reaches for his goggles one more time.