In a Dark Place

The rain fell steadily to the earth that night, crashing against pavement and buildings without remorse. There was a surprising number of people walking around downtown, umbrellas up, heads down; and not one of them stopped to investigate the cries coming from the alleyway by the bar. Roy took another drag of his cigarette, safe under the bar's awning as he listened to the poor girl being violated. He glared up at the rain and leaned against the side of the building. At his side sat Galleytrot, a large black dog with wide yellow eyes who stared solemnly into the darkness of the alley, waiting.

The rain slowed to a stop, but the girl's crying persisted, albeit softer. Roy sighed and took another drag. Finally, a man stumbled out of the alleyway and onto the street. His clothes were disheveled, his fly unzipped, and even three feet away Roy could smell the alcohol. He mumbled something unintelligible and started down the sidewalk, passing Roy and Galleytrot without a glance to spare. The black dog made eye contact with his friend, a brief farewell, before he followed the drunkard off into the night.

Roy flicked his cigarette out onto the wet road and turned to enter the alley, careful to avoid the puddles as he went. It was dark, but he could still see the girl slumped against the graffiti-covered wall on his right, her arms wrapped around herself protectively. She was a pitiful mess--shirt torn open, red hair like a rat's nest, jeans half on and one shoe missing. There were bruises forming on her arms and face, and blood stained her underwear from the rapist's brutality. But the most horrifying sight was her eyes.

He had seen her walk into the bar with the man earlier in the evening, so he knew her eyes were a bright, warm brown, full of life and light. But the eyes she wore now were hollow, lifeless. The atrocities done to her had zapped all the joy from those pretty brown eyes. She was broken.

Roy dodged another puddle and slowly made his way to her side, though he was careful not to look at her too long out of respect. He waited for her to notice his presence, and after a moment she looked up at him with the most sorrowful expression he'd ever seen. A fresh wave of tears fell, and she made no move to wipe them away.

"Come on, sweetheart," he told her, eyes on the wet ground. "I'll take you somewhere safe."

She must have sensed something good in him because, instead of questioning his motives, the girl nodded and shakily pulled herself together. She straightened her clothes as best she could, replaced her missing shoe, and stood on wobbly legs beside Roy. As he made his way back to the street, the girl followed with her head down, her arms still wrapped around herself tightly. They traveled at an easy pace down the sidewalk; and it amazed him that despite how obviously in need of help she was, not one passerby dared stop to offer it. In fact, they kept their eyes averted and hurried past, unwilling to waste a moment of their precious time to lend a helping hand or an open heart.

The coldness of the living would never cease to disgust him.

"What's your name?" he asked quietly, walking around another puddle.

"Emily," she answered softly. She sloshed through the puddle without care. "Emily Southwood. What's yours?"

"Roy," he told her.

She nodded in acceptance and said, "Where are we going?"

"I'm taking you to the police station. They'll be able to help you."

Suddenly, her lifeless brown eyes went wide in terror. "N-no," she stuttered and stopped walking. "I can't. I-I just can't."

A trio of friends walked across the street to avoid them, eyeing Emily with brief concern before they cast her from their thoughts entirely. She either didn't notice or didn't care, her eyes locked on Roy's. But he could tell she wasn't in present time--she was back in the alley reliving every second of her rape. Her face was sickly pale. Emily doubled over on the sidewalk and threw up everything in her stomach; Roy held back her hair as best he could and placed a comforting hand on her shoulder, his expression full of sympathy for the poor girl.

When her stomach settled and she could stand straight again, Roy resumed his polite distance and watched her try to compose herself. "I can't go to the police," she whispered fearfully.

"Can you walk?" he asked. She nodded in affirmation, so he led her again down the sidewalk, taking care not to go too fast. "Why can't you go to the cops?"

Emily shivered noticeably. "It was all just a big misunderstanding," she rationalized. "He was drunk. He's never…hurt me before. He loves me. He said so." She fingered the gold engagement ring Roy hadn't noticed before. "We're getting married in a week, I already have the dress, it's so pretty." She wiped a few stray tears from her eyes and added, "He's not like that. He's a good man."

He glanced over at her and asked, "And what if he gets drunk again? What if he hurts you again?"

"No, he…he won't? He wouldn't do that, would he?" Roy's silence was all the answer she needed, and more tears drowned her broken brown eyes. "He loves me," she whispered.

They rounded a corner and headed north; the police station could be seen in the distance, its lights calling softly. Roy walked around another puddle. "Emily," he began, his tone firm but quiet, "maybe he does love you. But love isn't a get out of jail free card. He hurt you, and I can promise you, sweetheart, he'll do it again unless you stop him now."

Emily shook her head. "No." She looked up at him tiredly and said, "I really appreciate your concern, but I'll be fine. He's already going to feel bad tomorrow when he realizes what he's done, I-I don't want to…" But she didn't have the words because she was too scared to admit the truth and not in denial about her own feelings. She wanted to tell the police, wanted her fiancé to pay for what he'd done to her.

And Roy could feel it.

"I'll go with you."

Confusion crossed her face. "Excuse me?"

Roy, ignoring the voice at the back of his mind screaming at him to stop, repeated, "I'll go with you. I'll take you to the police station. I'll be there for you while you file the report." She gave him an odd look, doubtful and grateful simultaneously. "You don't have to be alone, Emily. You don't have to suffer this alone. Let me help you."

Her lips trembled from the effort of holding back her tears. Brown eyes glanced at the police station, then down at her engagement ring. But slowly, the tears went away, and he knew she was gathering courage in herself. The redhead nodded decidedly.

"All right."

Roy smiled briefly and walked with her toward the station, hoping to God that she wouldn't speak to him inside. She still didn't know that no one else could see him. An officer leaving the building held the door open for them, a concerned eye on her appearance as she walked by. Another officer, an older woman with dark skin, found Emily standing just inside the station and asked if she was all right.

Roy put a comforting hand on her shoulder, giving her the warmth of support that she needed. Quietly, she answered, "I need to report a rape."

The rest of the night went by in a rush. Emily and Roy followed the woman to a desk to file the report; thankfully, she didn't ask for him to answer any of the questions, and he maintained a polite distance so she would not feel embarrassed recounting her attack. After that, two officers escorted her to the hospital so a rape kit could be done. Roy stayed right outside the exam room. The policemen took her to her apartment after that, and he waited just inside as they left her their card and well wishes.

"What you did was very brave," the one told her, and she smiled appreciatively.

As soon as they were gone, she turned to Roy. "Thank you," she said. "Thank you for being there for me. I'll never forget it for as long as I live."

Her eyes had regained their powerful light.

He nodded, "You're welcome."

"Would you like a drink, or something to eat, maybe?" she offered, but he shook his head.

"No, that's alright." He glanced at the clock by the door. It was nearly three in the morning. "I should get going, and I'm sure you're exhausted."

She knew he was right, but she was reluctant to see him go after all he'd done. "Yeah…" He watched her play again with her engagement ring. "I guess I'll…see you around?" Her tone was hopeful.

He nodded, knowing it was a lie. "Be safe, Emily."

Back on the street, Roy stood waiting outside her apartment building, another cigarette in hand. He wasn't there long when Galleytrot found him, his wide yellow eyes conveying the thought he wanted to share. The cops had arrested Emily's fiancé. Roy took a drag of his cigarette and began walking with the large black dog, both avoiding puddles as they moved.

Suddenly, they heard a soft clang on the ground behind them. They turned together; Roy saw nothing, but Galleytrot walked over and sniffed something on the ground. The man followed and knelt down to see what it was.

It was Emily's gold engagement ring.

He looked up in time to see her window close. He flicked the excess ash from his cigarette and stood, proud of the girl's strength. He knew she would be okay. The ghosts resumed walking, silent in the still of the early morning, and disappeared into shadows. Somewhere across town, another lost soul needed help; and Roy would be there to show them the light in their dark place, as he had for centuries.