04 - Lifelike

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Mariah stood next to him. Her hand slipped underneath his black jacket and settled on his lower back, her grasp as always a little compelling. He didn't look to the side, keeping his eyes focused on the hall below him. Harlem's Paradise was always crowded, but after Cage's dead he had been worried that people no longer wanted to visit the nightclub. It was no secret that he had fired that fatal bullet, even though nobody could prove it. But he clearly wasn't the only one who was glad that the world was freed from one more freak. He might not be able to bend steel with his own hands and he would certainly die when a volley of bullets would hit his chest, but he liked to convince himself that there were also people who were considering him as a hero. He had done the community a favor. 

Mariah's hand slowly glided up and down his spine. For a moment he turned his head to the fifteen year older woman. She caught his glance and showed a suggestive smile, but she couldn't keep his attention for long. He felt dissatisfaction, as if he had lost his goal now Cage was dead. Unrest was always gnawing at him if he didn't know what to do, threatening to break down the wall keeping his memories away from him. 

Suddenly there was a gunshot – and another one. 

People started screaming, were running to the exit. Immediately Shades pulled his gun from his waistband, went to stand in front of Mariah and pointed the gun at the door. He would blow up the brains of the first one who would step through it. 

"Take the other stairs," he told the woman. 

She didn't raise a protest and walked away from him, controlled. Just like he, she was raised among violence, she had felt the steel against her head during more than one occasion. 

Shades' finger curled around the trigger. Below him, people were still leaving. Between him and the stairs to the hall were two doors with at least four guards in between, so there was only a slight chance that the shooter would get past them. 

Suddenly black smoke came from under the door. The next moment the glass in it shattered. He fired. A woman with tattooed arms fell on the ground. A dark mist was radiating from her tattoos and Shades widened his eyes as the mist turned into a grunting panter. He stumbled backwards. Before he could fire again, a sand tornado wrapped around his hand, pulling his fingers away from the weapon. Something cold, something dark glided around him, and before he could blink an eye, two people were standing in front of him. There was no time to respond. A sharp pain shot through his skull and he grabbed his head. The walls in his mind crumbled down. Memories wandered through his head; her white wedding dress turning red, her pale face, her quivering lips as they whispered: "Don't let me go, my love. Never let me go."

The memories dragged him along, pushed him into a dark hole, a cold prison where was nothing but her distressing absence. 

"Stop!" A voice broke through his thoughts. A hand disappeared from his shoulder. Slowly his sight returned, his world got back its color. Panting he stared forward, still caught in the moment, in the blackest day of his life. 

And then he saw her, as if she had just slipped out of his memories.

She stood right before him, her hand pressed to her chest. A dark haired young man stood beside her. 

"What's going on?"

"I..."

Shades gasped for breath. She was standing there. She was really standing there. Touchable. Alive. His heart shrunk – a heart of which he hadn't even known that he still possessed it. "Norah..." he stammered. He wanted to say so many more things, wanted to do so much more than just staring at her. Touching her, pulling her close. But it felt like his body was petrified. 

Somewhere in the back of his mind his brain found its voice back. It can't be her. She's dead. She died right before your eyes. Ten years ago. 

The first years after she had passed away, he had gone through a lot of moments like this – being fully convinced that he saw her. But never so close, never so lifelike. 

"No," he said with a gravelly voice. "You can't be here."

He touched for his waist, to his gun and remembered that it was on the ground. This couldn't be Norah, she was dead. It had to be a freak – one that could dig into his head and was able to take someone else's shape. His fingers found the knife on his hip and he drew it. Anger raged through his body; anger because someone had stolen her appearance and was defiling her. His fingers curled around the hilt and he lashed out. 

To her stomach. So that she would bleed to death, just like Norah had done. 


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