Ten minutes was what Alex had.
Feet pounding against the damp tar, he raced through the labyrinth of ally-ways. The dim lighting from flickering lamplight was enough to guide him around the wheelie bins and over the trash bags. The hood of his navy hoodie was pulled over his face, masking away his dark hair. His sweaty hands were clenched into fists, his feet were beginning to ache from the thrashing of the floor (despite him wearing his thickest pair of sneakers).
Like a cheetah, Alex sprinted through the shadows of the ally-way in an attempt to get as far away from them as possible. He quickly turned a corner and rushed forward, his head flicking back to see if they were coming. Despite not seeing them, he could hear their furious grunts and growling curses. Feeling as if his lungs were on fire, Alex didn't waste any time and kept running. Sweat was starting to drip down his forehead and over his intense eyes.
"Get him!" The leader cried. His goons swarmed forward, skidding to stop themselves from crashing into the mountains of trash bags or the armies of garbage cans. Despite their own hoods covering their eyes, they still could make out the dark form of Alex shooting around corners or giving past random objects. With snarls on their faces and their fingers drifting to their knives, they plunged forward in a desperate quest to catch their target.
Alex was struggling now; his muscles were killing him, he was drenched in his own sweat. His breathing was uneven but he couldn't stop. If he did, there was a very high chance they would kill him.
The downpour of rain earlier had left behind tainted puddles on the ground; ignoring the soaked feeling in his shoes, Alex dived into them. He could hear them closing in on him, their fists ready to socket themselves into his jaw. He kicked down a trash can behind him, hoping that it would slow them down at least. He grabbed a near garbage bag and threw it over his head, his nose wrinkling at the disgusting stench.
"We're gonna get you, freak!" A voice called from behind Alex. He gulped and picked up speed. "You're gonna be sorry you messed with us!"
You messed with me first, Alex replied mentally. He shot down a corner and spotted a chain-linked fence hidden between two bricked walls. There was no gate; the fence was there to stop pedestrians wandering into the maze of trash. The only way past it was over; Alex mentally prayed to whoever was watching him and he sprang up into the air. His fingers linked into the criss-crossed wiring; he kicked the toes of his shoes into the diamond-shaped holes. He scaled upwards awkwardly; the fence rattled beneath him. By the time he had swung his leg over; his pursuer head-first collided with the fence. Losing his balance, Alex tumbled downwards but luckily, over the right side. He cursed; he hit the ground hard and felt pain shoot up through his arm. He pushed himself up to see his pursuer attempting to climb over the fence. The pursuer snarled; Alex got to his feet and raced down the alley-way.
When Alex had got to a fork in his path, he could hear half of his pursuers laugh manically as they successfully scaled down the fence and once again chased after him. Hoping he was right, Alex ran down the left route. He came to corner, turned and swore. A dead end faced him; nothing but a brick wall, a dying lamp, a locked door leading to the back of a pub, a few trash cans and a large pile of garbage bags. Praying to himself, Alex dived into the nearest hiding place and evened his breathing, attempting to sooth his racing heart.
He heard the heavy footsteps of his pursuers approach, their heavy panting and then, predictably, the angry voice of their leader. "Where is he?" He questioned. There was the sound of tin clanging; they had tipped over the trash cans. Angry that they couldn't find him, his pursuers started clawing away at the pile of garbage bags. Holding his breath, Alex watched as they created a hole that sent a beam of dim light just above his jean-covered knee. A still as a statue, Alex watched as they glanced within and then turned away.
"He must have gone the other way," guessed one of his pursuers.
"No," Their leader claimed. "I saw him come this way, I'm sure of it." Alex squeezed his eyes tightly, pleading that they would just turn and go the other way.
"Come on, Dwayne," Spoke a pursuer. "The freak either went the wrong way or magically disappeared."
Dwayne Jackson kicked a can flying down the alley. "I'm positive the kid ran this way." He declared, as stubborn as a goat. Alex heard his heavy footsteps pace the ground; a pair seven feet sized basketball shoes stomped against the ground. If they hadn't been kicked to the ground, Alex was sure the lids of the trash cans would have been rattling. Something dripped onto Alex's leg; he glanced over to see garbage juice dripping onto his jeans.
"We'll cream the punk tomorrow," Insisted one of the pursuers. "He's gone now, but he'll be there in the morning."
Yes, yes, go! Alex begged in his head. Go home and kill me tomorrow!
Thunder rumbled overhead; Alex's eyes shot up, despite all he could see was the leaking of a garbage bag. "Sounds like a storm's coming." Muttered one of the pursuers.
"Don't be an idiot, Bushy." Replied another pursuer. "There ain't no storm clouds."
"Explain the thunder then, genius!" Bushy replied. Thunder rumbled again, even louder than the last time. "I'm off home, see you guys tomorrow when we kill the freak."
There was a muttering of agreements and the sound of a few handshakes; flesh slapped flesh before the sound of retreating footsteps echoed down the alley. Alex listened as they swaggered away, not hearing the biggest pair of feet storm down the alley. "You coming Dwayne?" Asked a voice.
There was a pregnant pause; thunder suddenly rumbled before Dwayne replied. "Yeah I'm coming." And then the pair of feet turned and thudded down the path Alex came, leaving him hiding at the bottom of a garbage pile with alien juices dripping onto his ripped jeans.
Alex didn't move for a few minutes. He carefully checked his watch, using the beam of light made through the hole. He had around three minutes left. Sighing with relief, he leaned back and bathed in the garbage. Thank you God for saving my life for a few hours more, Alex thanked privately.
Suddenly, something faint echoed through the alley. It grew louder and louder, as if it was approaching Alex and his sanctuary of garbage. It was the unmistakeable sound of footsteps. His pulse quickened, sweat beaded his forehead. Had Dwayne or one of the pursuers returned?
As the footsteps approached, they seemed to light to be any of Dwayne's gang or even Dwayne himself. Alex listened as the approached his hiding place, stopped as if the person was staring at him. Suddenly, there was the rustling of bags. Alex held his breath as the garbage bags above him were kicked away and crumpled to the floor. Just as Alex was about to send his fist right through the person's left eye, he let out a shaky laugh.
"Jesus, Jack, you almost gave me a heart attack." He sighed.
A grin grew on Jack's face. He was about Alex's age (sixteen) but with curvier face features and darker eyes. His brown hair was streaked with blonde, even though you couldn't see it well as it was hidden under his red hood. A mischievous gleam danced in his opal eyes; he glanced down at Alex apologetically.
"Really, dude, you need to stop lying about in garbage." He joked. The two nervously laughed. Jack gave Alex a fist, which he grabbed onto and pulled himself out of the pile of garbage. The mischievous dance faded into a deadly glare. "Did you do the job?"
As if to answer his question, there came a deafening explosion from a few blocks away. A snake of dark smoke lifted into the night sky, flames so high they glowed orange against the eastern horizon. The deadly gleam in Jack's eyes died right away and the mischievous dance returned. He grinned victoriously at Alex and clapped him on the back. "Now maybe they'll think twice about messing with our gang."
Alex nodded in agreement. The two boys turned and headed down the path Alex had only minutes ago ran down in a fit of fear, chased like a rabbit by hunting dogs. The wail of emergency services echoed through the clear night. "They needed to know that we run things here, not them."
"Of course; the Crips keep forgetting that we're the big guys around here." Jack muttered as they returned to the fork in Alex's path. They started walking down the right route, the howl of dogs mingled with the wails of the fire truck sirens. "The idiots name themselves after one of the most famous gang in American History and think they own the streets. By playing with our strongest card and hitting their centre, I think they'll lie off."
"What if they don't?" Alex asked. They both approached the main street, opening out to a line of small shops facing a wide open field with a children's park. Jack turned to see the faint flow of the amber flames and smirked slightly.
"Then we'll just have to hit harder." He replied. He turned back to Alex and dug something out of his pocket. "Here, I think you've earned this."
Alex stared down at the object in Jack's palm. It was smooth black cylinder, lying on its side, with curved edges. Written in bright red was the words 'platea dominis', Jack's gang's motto. It was Latin for 'the street' or 'street owners'. After all, they called themselves the Domains, in reference to that the small town of Louisa in Maine was their domain, that they owned the streets. "Is that a-?"
"Go on," Jack ordered as he tossed it into Alex's hands. "Flick it."
Alex flicked the cylinder and a sharp blade popped out. It gleamed wickedly silver, reflecting the moonlight into Alex's face. His jaw threatened to drop, he peered at it closely. "A pocket knife?" He gasped.
A grin returned onto Jack's face. "I think you've earned it. After all, you were the one who planted the bomb."
"So I'm in?" Alex questioned. Jack nodded. A surge of achievement and pride swept through Alex. A grin broke onto his face as he closed the knife and buried it into his jean pocket. "Thanks, man."
"Don't thank me," Jack replied. "All you, my friend. By the way, how did they catch you?"
"They were inside the den already. I managed to hide the bomb but I knocked over some of their stupid junk. They saw me and chased after me, but they didn't find the bomb." Alex answered.
They stood in silence for a few minutes, listening to the sound of the flames burning away over at the garages. Jack casually leaned against a wall, hidden within the shadows, and lit himself a cigarette. Alex stood tall, under the lamplight, and gently pulled down his hood. Shaking his head, his dark locks tumbled over his eyes. They were pure black, stick straight with flicks at the ends, shadowing Alex's eyes. He felt the cold wind hit his face, delightfully calming his rosy cheeks. The excitement and fear of the chase before had made him start to feel stuffy, like he was slowly burning up. He always felt like that whenever he was scared or excited. These were warning levels to him; he knew that whenever he started burning up, he needed to calm down otherwise…
"Hey," Jack called. Alex turned. Jack threw his cigarette against the ground and stood on it. "You off home now?"
"Yeah, better get back before Jed starts worrying." Alex answered. Jack nodded.
"Say hi to him for me," Jack said as he started walking backwards down the street. "See you tomorrow."
The boys said their goodbyes and Jack jogged off into the darkness, heading towards his home at the west side of Louisa. Alex stood his ground, allowing the chilling air to cool him. He found his thoughts drifting to the earlier events, of the plan.
The rest of the Domains called it 'Operation Tick-Tock', the plan that contained the den of their rival gang, the Crips, a ticking time bomb and, of course, Alex. The Crips had decided to try and take over Louisa, making it their turf. Despite them now officially owning the west, they still wanted the whole town. The rest of the town belonged to Alex's gang, the Domains, and they weren't going to step down without a fight. One of the Domains, Joel Baxter, was a skilled pyromaniac with the ability to destroy everything he touches. He had trouble with a couple of his chemistry lessons, after accidently setting various classrooms on fire. He once blew up the car garage by testing if his time bombs were working. As they were, he decided to make one especially for the Crips. They had planned to set the timer for ten minutes, giving whoever was to go into the Crips' den enough time to get in, drop it and run. And that person was Alex.
Seeing as he was the newbie, he had to show himself worthy of getting into the gang for proper. It was a big thing, blowing up one of the garages and possibly killing someone in the process. Alex, who never likes to be thought as the weaker one, decided to do it to prove him worthy. He broke into the den easily but what he wasn't counting on was that the Crips gang would already be there. They didn't notice him slide his upper torso through the window flap; he was hidden by a ragged curtain and various pieces of junk. There were car tires, piles of car magazines, revealing posters of women pinned up against the walls. The garage door was on Alex's side of the curtain; on the other side was the rest of the den. Despite unable to see it, Alex could hear the sick laughter of the gang. Their shadows were created by a strong light; Alex had guessed a desk lamp or something. There were shadows of beanbags and cushions, two of the gang members laughing over a magazine or newspaper.
Alex had signed up to blow up the building, not to kill the entire gang. He hid the bomb behind their stacks of magazines, activated it so the digital countdown flashed. Then Alex slipped his hand back through the flap and, using his legs that were already outside, he kicked a stone into it and threw it through a small gap in the curtain.
"Hey!" He yelled. "Come get me, fatheads!"
The curtain tore back to reveal Dwayne towering over Alex, his goonies standing right behind him, and they all glared down at Alex, startled and furious. Alex slid about through the flap and ran down the street. He stood under the lamplight, watched as the garage doors opened and closed, before catching sight of the Crips tearing down the street at him. He turned and ran, down through the nearest alleyway and attempted to get as far away from the den and its bomb as possible.
It had worked; they got out alive and destroyed the den. Hopefully, the Crips would take a step back and be happy with the turf they had. If not, it might be the rest of the Domains that deal with them. And, unlike Alex, they don't care if someone dies or not.
A rumble of thunder pulled Alex from his thoughts. He glanced up at the sky to see half a moon gleaming in the sky, surrounded by glittering starts that looked like someone had taken a handful of tiny diamonds and scattered them against the velvety night. No storm clouds, no clouds at all in fact. There was a cloud of lingering smoke but not enough to create thunder. He remembered the conversation earlier:
"Sounds like a storm's coming."
"Don't be an idiot, Bushy. There ain't no storm clouds."
By the looks of it, the two members were correct. Slightly spooked, Alex pulled up his hood again and stalked across the tar road. He easily jumped over the wicket fence surrounding the massive field and started heading towards the north of Louisa. He lived there, in an old house with his adoptive father, Jed. They had moved to Louisa two years ago, into the cheapest house they could find, and settled down as quickly as possible. Alex was enrolled in the local High School, where he spent the first year wandering around on his own. It wasn't until a brawl with Dwayne was when Jack approached him. As they had a common enemy, Jack invited Alex into the Domains. Of course, he had to prove himself worthy. Alex then started getting into more brawls with the Crips, breaking into their den a few times and spray-painting the Domain's symbol (a lion's head with a dagger stabbed through its muzzle) and motto on their walls.
He had been accepted into the Domains, made a mortal enemy with the Crips gang and finally started to settle into Louisa. Jed had told him to try and keep his temper under control, knowing that if Alex loses his temper, he would-
Alex pushed his thoughts to the back of his head and pushed open the gate to the children's playground. He stared up at the half moon above his head and lowered his hood. The wind had died down; the flames of his destruction were dying as the firemen doused it with water. The howling of dogs had muted; all the excitement and fear of the plan had been transformed into a peaceful serenity. A soft smile played on Alex's lips. He had forgotten the last time he had felt so calm. Nothing was around him, no violence and no threats. No fear was gripping his stomach in a cold fist, no adrenaline soaring through his veins. No noise disturbed him; silence was the only sound to be heard.
The gate of the playground creaked, the sound of footsteps echoed through Alex's ears. The scent of something bitter, acrid like melted paint and scorched wood, snaked its way through Alex's nostrils: smoke. An icy feeling crept into Alex's stomach; a cold fist clenched his stomach and twisted it painfully. Slowly, Alex turned around. Dwayne glared at Alex with pure hatred, his goonies all cracking their knuckles and spitting at the ground.
Of all the people Alex had met, Dwayne had to be the scariest. He was a towering eighteen year old African-American kid with thick dreadlocks and stained teeth, a bit like a violent version of Bob Marley. His clothes stunk of smoke; evidently, he had seen the fire Alex created. A vein pulsed in his temple. "You destroyed our den." He sneered.
Alex tried his best not to quiver with fear; Dwayne just radiated this power which instantly made everyone at the receiving end of his temper to tremble uncontrollably. Alex stood his ground, trying to gather up every bit of courage within him. However, he feared that it wouldn't be enough. Dwayne stepped forward, clenching and unclenching his fists.
"What were you hoping to achieve, huh? Think you can scare us off?" Dwayne laughed coldly, an evil glint in his eyes cut through Alex like a knife. "You just made us even madder, kiddo."
Desperately, Alex dug out his new blade from his pocket at flicked it open. Jed had told him that if ever got into one of these situations, the clever thing to do would be to run. Right now, Alex's chances of surviving while running were very thin; his chances of fighting and surviving were even thinner.
The twisted grin on Dwayne's face faded slightly when Alex flashed him his blade. His eyes flickered from the steel to Alex's face. Quicker than Alex could expect, Dwayne lunged forward and punched Alex square in the face. He tumbled backwards, his knife flew out from his hand and he hit the ground in a crippled pile. Jeers and laughs rose from the Crips. Something liquidly oozed from Alex's nose. Alex flattened his palms against the ground and pushed himself up to his knees. A great force slammed between his shoulder blades; Dwayne brought his fist down and sent Alex sprawled out against the soft tar. More laughs and jeers rose from the crowd.
"Come on, freak!" Dwayne taunted. "Fight me!" He grasped Alex by his fallen hood and pulled him to his feet. Just as quickly, Dwayne sent his fist right into Alex's gut. He doubled over in pain, a searing white light flashed across Alex's eyes. Dwayne's knee was brought up to Alex's face; Alex flew backwards and crumpled against the ground, flat out on his back. He groaned as a metallic taste erupted into his mouth: blood. He swallowed hard and sat up. Dwayne crouched over and sent his fist once again into Alex's jaw. It clicked uncomfortably, raising more cheers and jeers from Dwayne's gang.
A bright flash of blue crossed Alex's eyes; his body flinched. Oh no…
"Please…" He coughed. Panic rose in his stomach. "Stop!"
Cruel laughter spat out from the mouths of the Crips. Dwayne's face broke out into a sickening grin. Alex breathed in deeply, trying to calm himself down. He shakily got to his feet and turned, clenching his hands into fists. Keep calm…keep calm…
"You want me to stop, huh punk?" Dwayne cackled. He held out his arms and shook his head. "Then fight me!"
Before Alex could react, he felt his own fist throw out and socket Dwayne's jaw. There was a crack and Alex quickly pulled back his fist. The gang hushed as Dwayne staggered slightly, clutching his swollen jaw. A furious fire lit in Dwayne's eyes; he stood his ground and threw out another punch.
Alex felt his body move on instinct, all the pain magically fading away. He never sent the commands to his body but if felt as if someone else was doing it for him. He easily ducked from Dwayne's punch, grabbed his wrist and twisted it around. Dwayne, startled, cried out as Alex sent his foot right into Dwayne's gut and he let go of his wrist. Dwayne staggered but he came back, grabbing Alex by the shoulders. Alex felt his own hands turn into karate chops and hit down on Dwayne's collarbones. The big bully collapsed in white-hot pain which quickly faded. Shaken and startled, Dwayne stared at Alex as he slowly treaded backwards.
The Crips wasn't the only person who was shocked; Alex's hands trembled while the rest of his body stood rigidly. "I'm sorry," He croaked. "I don't know how…"
Dwayne threw another punch; this time, the guy doing all the work had decided to take a break. Alex was thrown back by a furious punch that sent him flying back two feet and he skidded against the tar. The cheers rose from the crowds again, Alex's short victory forgotten. The pain returned to Alex's body; he felt as if he had been kicked to the ground and beaten with a golf club. He coughed and groaned as Dwayne towered over him. He bent down, grabbed Alex by the collar of his hoodie and pulled him up.
"Come on, you freak!" Dwayne challenged. "Punch me again, see if you act so tough this time!"
Alex didn't move. He stood, panting, and he instantly tried to control himself. A building feeling of anger and hatred boiled in his gut, mixing with the fear of being beaten to the pulp. The gulped back the feeling of retching, trying to control his shaking. His vision was starting to blur, his muscles ached and bones felt like they were being crumbled into powder. Bright flickers of electric blue flashed across his sight. He choked.
"No, no, no, no, no, no. Not again, no." He muttered to himself. "Keep calm, keep calm."
"What's wrong, pretty boy?" Dwayne taunted, his voice turning to a high falsetto. "Starting to get scared? Want to go home running to mommy?" Silence followed until Dwayne chortled back a snigger. "Oh yeah, you don't have a mommy!"
Up until then, Alex never cared about not having a mother. He had Jed and he was enough to look after Alex. But the way Dwayne said it, like it was the biggest joke of the century, made Alex's blood boil with anger.
Suddenly, the wind started. It started gently, just a slight breeze, until it eventually started swinging the swings on their own, as if ghosts were pushing invisible children up into the air. The roundabout slowly started to turn, creaking gently in the process. The see-saw tipped on its own, slamming against the ground loudly. Alex gritted his teeth, trying to control his anger. The wind became ferocious, turning Alex's hair into a dark halo around his head.
Dark clouds swarmed overhead. They appeared out of nowhere, masking the moon and the stars with a blanket of grey cotton. Thunder roared loudly, like a thousand drums clashing together. Everyone glanced up, their jaws hanging on their hinges. Alex's eyes became bright blue. Despite being already a bright blue shade, they became inhumanely blue, luminous blue; they turned so bright they could have shone through the darkness on their own. His fingertips sparked blue.
"What the Hell's wrong with you?" Dwayne yelled over the strong wind. Alex didn't answer; he was slowly stepping back with a panic in his eyes. "Answer me, you freak!" Dwayne curled his hand into a fist and once again threw it at Alex's face.
Alex's hand shot up and grabbed the fist, tightening his grip like he was crushing an aluminium can of soda. Dwayne screamed in agony. Suddenly, his body started shaking insanely, as if he was having seizure. His teeth rattled and his eyes started vibrating in his skull. Tiny blue sparks flickered off his dreadlocks. Alex kept his grip on Dwayne's fist; the other guy was back, doing all the work. He felt his thoughts being pushed into the back of his head; he felt someone else take over his body, like a possession, and act using Alex's body.
Thunder raged over head, bolts of lightning sparked from the dark clouds. Suddenly, a humungous bolt shot down from the sky and hit Alex right on the head. However, he didn't flinch. The energy passed through him and into Dwayne instead. With a bright flash and a loud bang, Dwayne soared out of Alex's grip and across the playground. He landed and skidded across the tar, shaking uncontrollably as the electricity swam through his veins. The Crips gasped and backed away. Alex felt his lips twitch into a grin and he held out his palms flat to them. They screamed in terror and turned to run. More bolts of shot out of Alex's palms, aiming right towards the gang members. Blue electric sparks bounced off their bodies, they fell to the floor in pain and crumpled into a pile.
Stop it! Alex thought. Please, stop!
Alex felt his possessor listen to his plea. Like a ghost, he felt him leave his body and Alex instantly collapsed to the ground. All of his muscles ached, as if he had just run a marathon and then had been beaten with sharp sticks. He felt sick, his stomach was churning. Sweat was beaded on his forehead, making his hair stick to his flesh. His palms felt as if they were on fire, sending jolts of pain up through his arms. Alex's knees shook, tears welled in his eyes. His ribs aches, his legs aches, his arms ached, his eyes ached; everything ached.
Tears streamed down his face as he stood up shakily. Trembling, he glanced over to the Crips gang. They all groaned and flinched, as if jolts of electricity were jumping from their bodies. Dwayne remained silent, his glassy eyes staring at the sky. Alex looked up; the clouds had disappeared as quickly as they arrived, uncovering the moon and the starry sky. His sight dropped back down to the Crips.
"I'm…I'm sorry," He croaked. He gingerly stepped back; pain streaked up through his leg. "I'm so, so sorry!"
Turning away from the scene, Alex limped away from the playground and headed north. Salty tears mixed with the dried blood on his face as he took each painful step. With the moonlight lighting his path, Alex gritted his teeth as he headed home in complete agony.
He had to get home.
He had to get home quickly.
He had to get home quickly and tell Jed.
He had to get home quickly and tell Jed about his accident.
They would have to move,