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Counterpoint

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It’s a mess. The sort of scene that good and decent people turn away from, leaving the rest of us—most of us—to gawk at the carnage. Bloodstains like inkblots mar crisp white cotton. Above the neckline lies the twisted semblance of a man, reduced to sallow skin, bulging eyes and gaping maw.

Yet somehow it all seems too tidy. Leather seats, crushed velvet and burled walnut trim, survived, unscathed by the bloodshed. Even the stemware on the console remains intact. The man’s suit virtually shimmers under the dim interior lights. It drapes perfectly around his crumpled form. Not a wrinkle or a smudge. Perfectly incongruent to the chunk ripped from his neck.

A hand reaches into the frame to shut the man’s eyes, as a young woman, unseen to us, speaks, “I should’ve done this a long time ago. It just felt so cheap.” Her voice is pleasant in a peculiar way, nasally and slightly gruff, but with a sweet pleasing pitch.

“But I’m a big enough person to admit when I’m wrong. Feeling sorry for you was a huge mistake,” she says, pausing to snicker. “I just never thought you’d make it this far. I figured one of your ‘victims’ would save me the trouble.” The speaker’s voice momentarily strains. A crack rings out followed by a yelp. “You really are pathetic.”

The limousine’s shiny black surface reflects signs of life from the alley’s mouth. Neon framed boardwalk windows, streetlamps and palm trees gilded with spirals of twinkling lights. Traffic flows steadily past from either direction. A couple strolls across the entrance holding hands. They chatter and laugh, oblivious to the two blondes standing partially obscured by a dumpster.

Any similarities between the pair end with their hair color. The smaller of the two has the other pinned against the dingy brick wall by her throat. Her posture exudes confidence while her counterpart couldn’t look more terrified. Their size difference alone might suffice to make this seem absurd, but the larger girl has blood smeared on her chin, a vicious looking overbite, boney ridges across her brow and creepy yellow eyes.

With her back turned, it’s impossible to tell if the smaller girl’s as grotesquely deformed. But there’s obviously something not right about her. After all, she is throttling a monster.

“Really, Harmony,” she says, “did you think I wouldn’t notice?” Her braided pigtails waggle back and forth as she shakes her head. “You murdered a slayer on national TV. That was kinda hard to miss.”

The tiny girl’s displeasure provokes desperation. Harmony swats and claws. Her captor isn’t impressed. She lifts up, remarking, “Well, you’ve got my attention now.”

Raw panic couldn’t look more absurd. Harmony, the monster, and a full grown woman, dangles and flails, frantic to break free from someone seemingly ordinary, a girl who could be awaiting the last growth spurt of puberty. She certainly dresses the part, black kakis, a red tie-dyed tee-shirt, black jackboots and something that looks suspiciously like wide suspenders.

When Harmony’s foot strikes the smaller girl’s shin, she staggers backwards. “You’ll pay for this!” Harmony shouts. Growing a backbone as she smoothes her sequined gown, she pushes past the smaller girl.

Turning to track the object of her wrath, the girl snaps, “Been paying.” There’s nothing unusual about her, except that she’s unusually adorable…

A blow to the stomach folds Harmony in half. While she’s bent over clutching her gut, the girl delivers a low, sweeping kick.

…and brutally efficient.

Harmony topples over backwards.

The girl pounces, landing crouched, straddling her midsection. Another punch ends the fight.

“Alright, people, listen up,” she says. “This isn’t makeup—” she plants her thumb on Harmony’s bumpy brow, pressing and twisting “—despite what you might think.” She gestures vaguely to her left. “And that guy in the limo. Contrary to popular opinion, that isn’t some sort of sodium induced, fast food coma brought on by eating too many fries. He didn’t have an accident with the ketchup. He’s really dead…” she stabs downward with her forefinger “…and she really killed him…” the poke causes Harmony to stir “…’cause that’s what vampires do.”

Harmony blinks, bleary-eyed as the girl explains, “The only thing she did that was the least bit out of character was tell you the truth about what she is.” She smirks. “And that’s probably the part you didn’t buy.”

When Harmony gets the bright idea to sit up, the girl shoves her down. The hollow crack of her skull smacking the pavement is audible…and worthy of a cringe. She whines, “Oww,” as the girl pins her wrists.

Lifting herself up when Harmony starts to struggle, the girl says, “And y’know what? That wouldn’t be a problem for me if she didn’t—” A solid bump causes her to pause. “She sees you guys as some sort of all-you-can-eat—” the second bump annoys her and she hauls off, decking Harmony so hard her head snaps sideways “—buffet. Or as her former honey used to say, ‘Happy Meals with legs’.”

Her brow furrows. “I’m just sorry I didn’t make it here in time,” she mumbles, hanging her head. “It’s my job to stop stuff like this. I’m a slayer.”

Harmony chokes, spraying blood.

This girl seems like the sort who might be squeamish, but it barely sets her back. Making a face, she says, “Believe me,” craning to wipe her cheeks on either shoulder. “I don’t do this for my health.”

“Who are you kidding?” Harmony retorts. “You get off bullying people like me. We have rights, y’know?”

The girl rolls her eyes. “Oh, shut up. No one asked you,” she says, then stops to consider. Her head tilts to one side as she eases up.

Harmony must be over thinking she can do a damned thing about any of this because she just awaits a verdict.

Finally the girl admits, “Alright, I guess that first part’s fair enough. It does have its moments. Like the opportunity to rid the world of a catty piece of trash like you who thrives on other people’s misery.” This really gets under Harmony’s skin. She glowers as the girl amends through a giggle, “And that was when you were alive.”

“You’re just jealous. I had friends,” Harmony jeers. “I didn’t have to hang out with a bunch of losers like you.”

Clearing his throat to get their attention, a man says from somewhere off-camera, “So…” both girls jump “…just one question, Harm.” They face the camera. “Where are your friends now? Sure looks like you could use them.”

The girl’s face lights up with a sunny smile as Harmony’s gets over the shock and pours on the charm, “Xander, I didn’t see you there.” Her face transforms mid-thought. Still, her ‘charm’ looks pretty grim. Not that she isn’t an attractive girl, but caked with blood from the nose down doesn’t hold much appeal. “Surely you’re not gonna—?”

Xander interrupts, “That’s exactly what I’m gonna do.” Harmony’s mouth drops open. “Or not do.” It looks like she wants to speak, but he cuts her off again, “Oh, don’t even bother.” Her mood sours. “This ‘loser’ won’t lose any sleep when you’re gone.”

She sputters, “But we were—”

The girl talks over her, “The last thing I am is jealous of you.” Her smile fades.

“Y’know,” she says in mock contemplation, “soulless really doesn’t look that different on you.” Harmony has her full attention now. “Becoming one of the evil dead wasn’t some sort of huge, life altering change. But considering what a cruel…” her mouth falls open “…vindictive…” shock registers “…self-absorbed…” becoming more pronounced with each word “…manipulative cow you were, that comes as no surprise to me. You just go all the way now. In more than one way. You completely destroy everyone you meet.”

The girl admits with shrug, “I’d go crazy if there wasn’t an upside.” She smiles for the camera before turning sober.  

“My point is, I didn’t choose this life. It chose me,” she says. “And believe me after nearly nine and a half years of this bullshit, I have an endless list of other things I’d rather be doing, but you—” she takes a deep breath “—people…” probably to bite back a curse “…obviously need my protection, so…”

Harmony interrupts, “You won’t do it.”

With the grace of a practiced magician, the girl produces a wooden stake.

“I have more friends now,” Harmony says, wearing an air of smugness. “Powerful friends. You’ll—” The truth registers. She puts her hands out. “Wait! I—“

The girl doesn’t wait.

Harmony screams, “You bitch!” when the stake plunges into her chest. She smolders. Terror twists her expression.

Standing up, the girl mutters, “Yeah, that’s what they all say.”

As Harmony snatches the stake, desperate to wrench it free, her body catches fire.

Soft tissues crumble, revealing bone. The bones become ash.

The girl turns her back.

A light breeze carries the mess away.