The night was chilly as you exited the theater. You had made plans to see the show with some friends, but they had all backed out last minute. Not wanting to waste the ticket, you had gone by yourself. Now you wish you had someone to walk home with you in the dark.
Several blocks later the lights became fewer and the sounds of voices and laughter were drowned in the distance. Cars could be heard several streets over. The steady *plink *plink of water dripping from the rain gutters onto empty trash bins only made the street more eerie than ever. Why had you come this way? You should have taken a taxi or called a friend. But it was too late now. Clutching your handbag and walking faster you rounded a corner and nearly ran into a group of men standing on the sidewalk. Their faces were dark and the shadows of distant street lights played on their features making them seem distorted.
“Going somewhere?” one man asked. The orange glow of his cigarette lit up his face as he took a drag. Exhaling deeply, he tossed the butt on the ground and used the heel of his shoe to extinguish it.
There must have been five or six of these men and they were all turned and staring at you. Backing away slowly, you apologize for nearly running into them, then turned and walked briskly in the opposite direction. Anything to get away from them and the slimy feeling you got just from being in their presence. But the feeling never left, and when you looked back, they had begun to follow.
Trying to act composed, you kept walking at a steady pace and didn’t turn your head to look at them again. There was no need. You could feel their icy stares and hear the quiet sound of their shoes on the pavement behind you. Now was your chance. As you turned down another street you were momentarily out of their view and you took off at a sprint. When the men realized where you had gone, shouts ensued and the sound of their footsteps drumming on the sidewalk became more frequent. They shouted obscenities and called you ‘their bitch.’ You pushed yourself harder knowing that only the worst could happen if they caught up to you. Feeling like a deer chased by a wolf pack you tried your best to elude them. But somewhere in the maze of trash bins and fire escapes you made a wrong turn. Dead end.
The alley ended in a brick wall and there was no way out. Spinning on the spot you hoped to retrace your steps but silhouettes soon filed into the entrance of the alley.
“Well, well. What have we here?”
Your arms were trembling.
“Please, I don’t want any trouble,” you say, and begin slowly backing away. One man reached out and snatched your bag. You gave a slight yelp but didn’t protest when he wrenched it from your fingers. He quickly pocketed the cash and tossed the bag in a puddle and walked past it toward you.
“I’m gonna make you wish you had never been born,” one man breathed.
He lunged at you and the others joined in, tearing at your clothes. You screamed, but it seemed no one could hear you. Their hands were hot and sweaty as they touched you. The brick wall was pressed against you back and you fought, clawing and punching, to escape. But to no avail. There were simply too many of them. They caught your wrists, preventing you from fighting back. You were shoved to the ground, and restrained. One of your attackers put his hands over your neck, slowly pressing the life out of you. You could see them around you, your view from below making you feel inferior. But that was what they wanted. Gasping for breath you tried to fight the hands choking you, but your wrists were still restrained. Near your feet you could see one man begin to undo his pants and you knew they worst was yet to come. You only hoped that you would be unconscious by then. Blacks and reds began to cloud your vision and you could no longer focus. The pain of his strong arms crushing your throat were nothing to the ache in your chest, the need for oxygen was excruciating. Everything began to fade out.
Then an almost inaudible fluttering sound. And a light. The grip on your throat was suddenly gone. You curled up coughing, trying not to vomit. Your eyes would not focus. You rolled over onto your stomach and braced your self with your hands, ignoring the puddles of dirty water that pooled in the dips in the pavement. Bruises were already forming on your body. You were sure that they had done permanent damage to your throat, crushing or breaking something. You couldn’t be sure. You only knew it hurt like hell.
The men were dropping around you, but you remained curled up on the cold, wet pavement, not managing to bear the pain of raising your head to see your rescuer. More sounds of punches and yells and then the last man fell to the ground unconscious. Or dead. You couldn’t be sure.
Your breath was still labored and you squeezed your eyes shut, clenching your teeth against the pain. You let out a quiet whimper. Someone put a hand to your shoulder.
Frightened you shrunk away and gasped slightly, spinning your head to look at the stranger. This only hurt your neck and tears of pain slid down your cheeks. Your face was twisted up in a mixed expression of fear, confusion, and agony.
“I’m not going to harm you,” a gruff voice said.
You put a hand to your neck gasping for breath and not being able to speak. He had just saved your life. You couldn’t even thank him.
He noticed you were trembling, though he couldn’t tell if it was because of the cold or the pain. Without thinking he removed his cream colored trench coat and draped it over you. The coat was warm and smelled like rain rather than the stench of the filthy water that pooled on the asphalt below you. In one quick movement he scooped you up in his arms. You cried out in agony, squeezing your eyes shut and gritting your teeth to hold back a scream. There was a fluttering sound, and when you opened your eyes you were no longer in an alleyway, but in a small and simple bedroom. The sound of distant traffic was replaced by the quiet tick of a clock and the fluorescent glow of streetlamps had become soft light from a lamp in the corner. Confused you wanted to ask questions, but didn't even know where to begin. In your surprise you momentarily forgot about the pulsating agony that throbbed in your neck, but in an instant it all came flooding back. You wondered if you were ever going to be able to speak again. The pain was excruciating and never before had you experienced such agony. He gently set you on a bed and you could see in his gentle eyes that his heart ached from seeing you in pain. You let the tears flow as two fingers were pressed to your forehead. Then suddenly it was all gone. All the pain, the bruises, the loud pounding of your heart in your ears, all gone. Opening your eyes slowly you looked down at your wrists. The skin was its normal color. You put your hands to your throat expecting pain, but feeling nothing but the smooth skin of your neck. Everything was healed.
“I am sorry,” the deep voice spoke once again, “I should have done that first. I was not thinking.”
You sat up in bed and turned to the man who stood beside you. He stood just under six feet tall and wore a tailored suit and a blue tie. His cream trench coat was still draped around you. His chin showed a hint of stubble and his face was mostly expressionless. Except for his eyes. His sky blue eyes almost glowed and you could easily see the kindness that they held.
“But how--?” you start to ask, but then stop because there was simply too much to ask.
“My name is Castiel. I am an angel of the lord.”
This answered none of your questions but you didn't even know where else to start. Your shoulders still shook and the tears didn’t stop, even though the pain was gone. Your emotions overwhelmed you.
“But those men,” you start, “They would have--”
“Yes,” Castiel said quietly, “They would have. But you are safe now.”
“Then why am I still so afraid?”
You raised your shaking hands to cover your tear streaked face, ashamed that you were so out of control. You felt the mattress sink as Castiel sat down on the bed beside you. He seemed unsure of himself and hesitated for a long moment before he wrapped his arms around you and slowly pulled you into a gentle embrace. Your head sank to his chest. The tears flowed freely, wetting the front of his suit. Something about him made you trust him, even though you barely knew this man. He held you tight. Even when a long time had passed and you couldn’t cry anymore, he held you anyway.