I felt the fingers clasp around my neck, rough fingers with jagged nails digging deep into my skin, trying to crush the very life from my throat. I gasped for air, none came. Time slowed… crawled… and then stopped. The dark night faded away, replaced by a bright light. I no longer smelt the ever-present odor of fish that had been all around since before I was a small child. I could no longer hear the sound of the rain pattering away on the ground around me, or splashing from the gutters of the empty stores on Macabay street. I could no longer see the shadowy outlines of the cats as they leapt from roof-top to roof-top in search of whatever night pleasures they could find on this cold, wet night. My mind raced.

I found myself thinking of my parents. My father, the sensible captain of ‘La Bastille’ a boat, as he would tell me, named in honor of the people who had helped our nation at a time of need. He was a strong, proud man with bright blue eyes, as deep as the ocean, stubble that rubbed my face whenever he picked me up to hold me close, and arms that felt as though they could protect me from whatever the world could throw at me. He would be gone for days at a time, but would always return with a twinkle in his eyes, a song on his lips, and some new treasure for me - ‘his treasure’.

I found myself thinking of that morning, in my twelfth year, when there was a knock at our door, a quiet doleful knock that we almost didn’t hear. My mother opened the door, rubbing the flour from her hands on her apron (it being a Friday, she had been baking bread the entire afternoon, how wonderful the house smelt, I can almost taste the fresh bread now, warm from the oven, sweet yet slightly salty). Joe Moran, a member of my father’s crew, stood there, twisting his cap in his hands, his usually sour face pointed down, his eyes locked on some unseen point on the ground as though the medusa herself was standing there, ready to turn him to stone should he gaze upon her. My mother took one look and knew the full story in an instant, she knew that my father was gone. She knew that she would never see his face again, never feel his embrace again, never speak to him of things unspoken, never spend the rest of her life with him. Not knowing why, I watched her body begin to convulse, I saw her the color drain from her face, and saw her knees begin to crumple. I watched as Joe reached out to her, too late. Soundlessly she fell to the ground.

I found myself thinking of Sophie Gulwinny. She was a girl that I had known in grade school. She was not a pretty thing, but then again she was not ugly, she could more fairly be described as a plain, average looking child. She was not popular in the school, some of the other children claimed that she was possessed by the devil (my mother told me to ignore such nonsense, and explained that Sophie was a sickly child, afflicted with occasional fits, and there but for the grace of god went I). One Spring day I was sitting in the school yard, talking to my two best friends (we were inseparable, people used to call us the three troubles, but in a good natured sort of way)… curious, I can’t remember their names, but I remember Sophie’s… anyway, we were sitting there, talking about matters of great importance, or at least matters of great importance for 10 year olds, when I noticed Sophie, standing all alone next to the brick wall of the main school building. She was wearing a blue dress, with a white bow sewn into the left shoulder. The dress had a flowered pattern on it - daisies, with white petals, and yellow centers. I looked at her blank face, and saw her eyes began to flicker. After a moment they rolled up into her head, it appeared as though some unseen puppet master had taken a knife to her strings. Soundlessly she fell to the ground.

I found myself thinking of nothing. I felt the fingers clasp around my neck. Soundlessly I fell to the ground…

Gasping, I awoke. I looked around. I was back in my room in Alliance headquarters. My breathing eased. I could feel the sweat dripping from every part of my body. Where the hell did that nightmare come from? I’m from Bradford, Yorkshire, England, the closest I’ve been to Boston is here in Paragon City. But it had seemed so real. Suddenly I noticed a bitter, acrid taste in my mouth, and I ran to the sink in my bathroom. Hunched over it, I spat, red liquid gathered in the sink. I started running the taps to wash it away. I looked in the mirror. My teeth were stained with blood. I splashed water on my face, and looked into the mirror once more. Horrified, I noticed something else. My eyes widened. I felt my hands grabbing at the front of my t-shirt, pulling it down to expose my neck. In the mirror I saw marks around my throat, marks that looked like a large pair of hands had tried to strangle me. Suddenly I saw a face in the mirror right behind me, a face so cruel that it could barely be described as human. The face sneered at me and mouthed something that I couldn’t hear, I wheeled round ready to throw a thorn at the intruder. There was nobody there. It was then that I screamed…

He thirstily drank the fear, it had been a long time since any emotion had entered His lipless mouth, He let the anger and humiliation drip down his chin, before He wiped at them with His taloned hand, which He then licked, savoring every succulent drop. The imprisonment that had followed His defeat to Her had seemed like it had gone on forever, for time had no meaning here. He didn’t know how He’d been released, but there had been a flash of dark light, and His bonds were gone. However it’d happened it didn’t matter, all that did matter was that there were emotions to feast on. That first one had been especially sweet, but had not yet sated His hunger, it was now time to go for another. Scanning His realm, He saw the glow of many dreams, He plucked the closest one from the ether, and entered it. Inside He saw a young man, wearing a gray military uniform of some kind, walking through a flowered field, holding hands with some long lost love. With a wave of His hand the man became a young boy, the flowers withered and died, and the field becoming a foul smelling battlefield. The woman’s body writhed and twisted, maggots began crawling from her flesh, as it began to peel off her bones. As her body fell to the ground, the terrified child screamed. He smiled, it was time to feast once more, and this time She would not stop Him…

****Yorkshire Rose Personnel file addendum****
AoH membership: Alternative Alliance general member
AoH status change: From Active to Leave of Absence
Note: Yorkshire Rose has been placed on gardening leave with immediate effect. She was found 2 days ago screaming uncontrollably in her room. When she was eventually placated she haltingly explained that she’d had a dream that had somehow turned into reality. She kept claiming that she had marks on her neck as proof, but nobody else could see the marks. We ran tests on her, and her room, using technical and mystical means, but found nothing. She has not slept since the incident, and has started wearing a scarf to hide the ‘marks’ on her neck. The AoH leadership council decided that it would be for the best for her to take a break from the constant battle against evil in Paragon City, so she left today for Bradford International Airport, to stay with her family, until she feels that she is able to return to headquarters. The Alliance will be paying for any treatment that she requires.


***End Addendum***
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