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Home Is Where The Heart Is

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PROLOGUE ==> Be The Psychotic Serial Killer

Even at night, the city was too bright. Fake acidic neon light polluted the purity of the darkness with its corrupting corona, destroying the soothing serenity of the night-time shroud. He hissed in anger at the betrayal and spread his fingers across his face in a futile attempt to keep the lurid light from sinking into his skin. Beside him, the crisp candy colors of an LCD television reached out from behind the thick glass and solidly barred window of a cheap electronics store. It showed an immense saucer descending from the clouds, its impact with the ground recorded on a dozen different shaky camera phones, crowds of people representing the human race pointing and watching in shock and awe. The sound of the voice-over was just audible from the street, the presenter delivering his lines in an solemnly theatrical fashion- presumably appropriate to the gravity of the documentary.

“That was the scene in California's Mojave desert two years ago today: the historic first view of the Alternian ship upon its dramatic arrival. Their ship was a refugee ship carrying two hundred and fifty thousand children and young adults ready to settle in almost any environment, but they washed ashore on Earth with no way to get back to where they came from. Civil liberties attorneys successfully lobbied for the Alternians' release from Quarantine and in the last two years, the Alternians have become the latest addition to the population of Los Angeles.”

A low moan bubbled out of his throat and he stumbled away from the greedy glow that tried to snatch him up. A few passers-by gave him passing glances. Maybe they thought he was drunk; maybe they were already subtle servants of evil. To get away from their judgments and their thoughts and the terrible burning light he stumbled into an alley. It should have been dark but sickening sodium orange suffused the air here and he sank to the ground with a muffled sob, trying not to breathe it in. He was surrounded. Outnumbered. The whole city was poison, but he couldn't leave; not until his quest was at an end.

A silhouette crossed the mouth of the alley, a shadow with horns and claws and something clutched close to its chest. He raised his head to stare at the newcomer, who stumbled forwards without even noticing him until it nearly tripped over. Slowly it crouched, bringing itself to eye level; in the omnipresent orange light it was hard to see what color irises it had but he knew that its blood would be the same bright, disgusting color.

“Yo, man,” it murmured blearily. “The... the fuck? You, you okay?”

He looked at the bottle in its hands, unlabeled and wrapped in brown paper. From a distance he could have mistaken it for sour milk, cheap to obtain and an effective drug for an unearthly creature, but it wasn't anything so innocent. He didn't even need to see the color to know because he could smell the sopor and he felt his anger rising. This creature had filthy blood, foul blood, and it was full of the stinking slime. It was a cursed creature, a creation of the colors, a harbinger of lies and deceit. His hand slipped inside his shirt and grasped the rough hilt of his long knife, a sacred sword that could cut down any foe. His eyes flicked over the creature's shoulder, to check for any witnesses. He saw none.

Dulled and docile as its sopor-sapped wits were, it was still a troll, and it saw the danger coming. In a flash it was diving to one side in a panicked attempt to abscond from the alley. It was far, far faster than it had any right to be, but he was faster still. His blade flashed and suddenly it only had one working leg; in the second it took for it to realize that, he was on top of it with the blade at its throat. It stared up at him with wide eyes- maybe maroon, jade, cerulean- and shook with terror. Was it about to cry out? He couldn't have that.

“Shoosh,” he whispered softly, and it whimpered, dark tears spilling out of its eyes. A wide, feral grin split his face as he grabbed it by its filthy collar and half dragged, half led it deeper into the dark, welcoming shadows. It kept crying, limping behind him with one useless leg, and he felt his blood singing at the knowledge of what was to come. Once again he had the means to show them the truth, to make them fear, to prove that he was not to be cast aside and forgotten. He roughly dropped the creature and held it down with a careless knee as he considered what to do. It struggled weakly, no match for his superior strength, and it begged. It called him by the name they had given him, the one that was printed in the papers, and he knew that it already knew its fate. If it had shouted for help, it might have had a chance, but it had been too afraid. It was a coward and an addict and a fool, and it wasn't worth his time to draw this out further.

He finished it with a single swipe of the blade and set to work on the already cooling body. It didn't matter what color the blood was, only that it was easy to bury his arms in the corpse and coat his fingers and smear the hot fluid into crisp, bright shapes. A greater power spoke through him, freezing and flaming in his chest and writing a clear message across the walls for the traitors and blind men who would find it. Perhaps this time they would listen to his message. Perhaps this time they would give back what they had stolen from him.

His efforts were interrupted by a clattering sound from behind him, and he turned to see a stranger backing away from the gory scene. From the smell alone he could tell the stranger was homeless, and the human looked almost as wasted as the troll had been, but a witness is a witness and this one had seen too much. In a few steps he had caught up to the man, and he didn't waste time or take risks. The blade silenced him before he had time to scream. He took the opportunity to crouch and take the small amount of cash that both the human and the troll had been carrying. It was wrong to steal, of course, and he felt terrible- but he had a higher calling and sometimes that required a little flexibility in such matters.

For a moment he thought he felt other eyes watching him, and he glanced about- but the only company he had were his two new victims. Bright red blood, black in the sodium light, pooled into whatever color the troll had possessed. He stood there staring at it for a long while, before realizing what it meant. This was a sign, a gift: he was getting close to his goal, and he had been blessed with a new message, a new medium. Joy filled him as he bent down to collect the new shade, smearing it across the walls to add to his artwork. He had so much work left to do. In truth it was hard, being alone on such an important mission, with such fearsome foes arrayed against him.

It was hard, and no-one understood.