N I K I T A
BLOOD IN THE WATER
"HOW WAS I TO KNOW THIS TINY SPARK WOULD SPREAD LIKE W I L D F I R E ?"
The cat leapt right onto the counter, nearly silent. Only the soft sound of paws gently hitting the granite.
"Rabbit." The scolding was so calm it sounded more like a statement than anything else. Rabbit gave one of her silent meows, opening her mouth wide as she did, yet no noise came out. Nikita sighed, and looked across the bar to her television set. The smooth-faced meteorologist looked directly in the camera and directed the attention back to the lead female anchor. Her perfect face was serious instead of friendly as she delved straight into the recent developments in gang related crimes. Nikita stroked the cat with one hand as it commenced it's morning meal and poured coffee over the sugar waiting patiently in her mug with the other. No point in moving the bowl down now that the cat was already on the counter.
Her cell phone rang and she looked down at the screen to see Poncho's face waiting patiently above the "ACCEPT" and "DECLINE" options. Setting the carafe back into the back into the coffee maker, she lifted the remote and muted the reporter.
"How are you doing?" Poncho asked, straight to the point, he'd never been one for small-talk.
"I'm fine. Why do you ask?" Nikita countered.
"I've seen what's going on in Santa Celia. I wanted to make sure we were still on the same page about you laying low. Staying safe," he replied. Sirens sounded in the distance and horns honked. She wondered if he had taken a moment at work to make this call. For a few minutes, both ends were silent. Lupe inhaled sharply. "We had a plan, Nikita. I brought you there for a fresh start," he reminded her. His voice was gruff, serious.
"I know that," she replied quickly. She sighed. "There are others like me though. Here. In the same city. They talk about that on the news too," she said, more hesitant now.
There was another long pause.
"Don't you ever think maybe people need someone like me? There's so much rot in this city. I might not be a detective or a lawyer, but maybe I have a responsibility to help people too-"
"Nikita, the whole point is for you to have a normal life," Poncho argued.
"And what kind of a life is that? Don't get close to anybody, lay low, die alone and don't do anything remarkable," she snapped. Poncho's scoff was distorted on the other end but Nikita knew exactly what the sound was supposed to be. "You treat the infection. Or it festers. What happens when the whole damn city becomes necrotic? Where do I go next?" she demanded.
"Nikita, I can't get into this right now with you. I'm going to be coming up this weekend. Lay low. Not up for discussion," he commanded. The beeping let her know that he'd ended the call. She shook the phone in her hand for a second before tossing it across the counter. The cat gave a whisper of a meow, obviously concerned. She gave it a half-hearted pat and watched the news reporters lips continue to move silently. Rabbit looked to reporter as well. For the time being, they were two perfect counterparts, the silent reporter and the semi-silent cat. Footage in the top right corner displayed a complex that Nikita recognized. Nikita's heartbeat quickened and she gave the cat a few quick strokes to calm herself down.
Nikita looked at the discarded pile of clothes from the night before, eyes falling specifically on the seamless mask. She slid it down over her face, pulling her long ponytail out. She pulled it down off her face and let it rest against her chest before throwing on her hoodie and sneakers. She grabbed her keys and looked to the cat one last time before locking the door behind her.
Standing outside the complex, Nikita took one last drag off her cigarette before flicking it across the pavement.
'La Diablita, what are you doing?' she wondered to herself. She was in way over her head and going in blind. She pulled the mask over her mouth and nose. Shitty way to conceal her identity. Best she could come up with. She shook her head at herself, her ponytail swishing. She slipped in a side exit to the apartment complex and followed the sound of terrified sobs. She was late to the party, obviously.
Seeing open wounds on animals in the clinic was different, she quickly realized. Her back hit the wall and for a moment she thought she might vomit when she stumbled upon the carcass of what was once a man. Now, he more closely resembled a halfway quartered deer. She slid along the wall for support before forcing herself to go forward. She heard a woman's voice and advanced towards it. She clasped her hands in front of her mouth and followed the sounds as they became clearer.
"You are thinking that we are the monsters. But we are not like them..."
She was nearing closer, she quickened her pace as the voices became clear. The sound of wood splintering caused Nikita to pause. She faltered. She hadn't caused a flame outside the privacy of her apartment since she'd set foot in Santa Celia. She wasn't sure it was even necessary. She didn't belong here in the first place. 'Fuck it. Might as well commit.'
She rubbed her palms together and as flames began to lick towards her fingers, she came in behind a young woman. Maybe even younger than her. She stopped dead in her tracks, the fire offering new light to the darkness. She put herself between the uncertain and this young woman, what was she still doing here anyways?
"Are you okay? We need to get you the hell out of here while we still can," Nikita said, her eyes refocusing, trying to see the dark figure. It was so hard to make out. She could hear what he was saying distinctly now.
"You must be the very important person in the building, right? I have some questions that you are going to answer."