The Alley Remained
It began in the rancid filth of the dank, narrow alleyway two blocks from the brightly lit corner restaurant where she worked the midnight shift. It wasn’t. Then it was. It breathed, but not oxygen. Not into lungs. A homeless man, wedged between a rusted dumpster and an enormous pile of rain-soaked cardboard boxes littering the alley, took one last swig of cheap wine before keeling over, dead, atop his blind, mangy dog. At once the thing was larger. A towering pimp stood at the alley’s entrance, kicking one of his prostitutes, breaking her ribs, shattering her nose, and damaging her brain. It grew some more. At the opposite entrance a well-dressed man was held up by two masked figures who snatched his wallet while stabbing him through the heart with dirty screwdrivers. Money in hand, they tossed his twitching body atop a steel grate emitting hot, yellowish steam. It grew larger still; a black, shiny mass slithering ever-so-slowly across the faded brick wall. Then she walked by, on her way to fry up platters of greasy eggs and sausage for the midnight wanderers who found themselves in the brightly lit restaurant during her graveyard shift. She had a kind, chubby, rosy face and was very full-figured. In another time and place, she might have been considered beautiful. “11:39,” she thought, “Just enough time to have a strong cup of coffee before tending to the grill.” Suddenly she stopped, for no particular reason, and peered into the darkness of the alley. She saw it there, in the shadows, slowly slithering. Her purse fell from her hands, and she stepped from the sidewalk, into the alleyway. Stepped toward it. Closer and closer, until it leapt from the wall and swallowed her up. She was gone. It was gone. The alley remained.