Alter

by

yamatai

Chapter 2 - Fight or flight (Ben)

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I woke up finding myself collapsed in my seat, my head resting against the window. My eyes closing flutteringly despite my best attempts at opening them. The pulsing ache in my head coupled with a bone-deep exhaustion made me want to drift off into sleep again. At least until I remembered what had just happened. Someone had just tried to kill me. The sudden adrenaline rush did little good for my headache but at least somewhat drove off the tiredness.

 

It was then that I realized what had woken me in the first place. A rather high-pitched male voice rang on the announcement system. “…extraordinary halt due to a medical emergency”. No shit, Sherlock. Wait no. This couldn’t be about me. I wouldn’t be sitting here in peace if this was about me. “We will inform you as soon as possible about the development of the situation”.

 

So it wasn’t only me. She must have come here for that man. He must be pissing some people off by sharing the sacred secrets of sorcery. Or who knows. Hard to say what it takes for Dolores Umbridge in black to go around kill – Fuck she is probably still on this train! The next dose of adrenaline fully got me out of my slumber. I considered playing dead in case she came back but quickly scrapped the idea. That wouldn’t fool her. And leave me completely exposed.

 

I have to get out of this train. No way I’m staying in here with a magician out to get me. The train was halted at a relatively small station at the outskirts of Zurich. I noticed the sound of sirens in the distance, slowly getting louder. No crowd outside to blend into. There was a chance that she would spot me out on the platform if I went out. My body protested with every movement as I hurriedly put on my shoe and took off my red hoodie. The gray t-shirt should be less conspicuous. This would have to do. Stuffing the hoodie into my sports bag I hurried towards the exit. For a moment I thought about leaving the bag behind in case she would recognize it. But no. I couldn’t leave behind a literal bag full of evidence about me. I flung the bag over my left shoulder so it would face away from the train on my way to the stairs to the underpass. I took a deep breath and pressed the button to open the door. Ok. Showtime.

 

My blood now saturated with adrenaline. I felt my heart pounding in my chest. Which was reassuring in its own way. I carefully made my first steps out of the train. Act naturally. Which was way easier thought than done. The ambulance arrived at the other side of the tracks, the droning sound of the sirens turned off and two paramedics jumping out carrying large bags in red and yellow. I walked towards the stairs to the underpass as casually as I could, the pace excruciatingly slow. As tempting as it was to look back, I gladly exploited the presence of an ambulance as an excuse to keep my head turned away from the train. Step after step I advanced.

 

Finally reaching the stairs I took them two by two, crossing the paramedics that came running up. I accelerated my pace, and as soon as I was certain that the train was out of sight I broke into a sprint. Lungs heaving and every step hurting I couldn’t get myself to stop until I was far out of the small town where the train had halted.

I found myself on a picturesque hiking trail next to lake Zurich, wound out and catching up on direly needed breath. I heaved my way to the nearest bench and dropped myself down. Laying down, my vision blurred and the colors around me spiraled into darkness as I passed out from exhaustion.

Something was poking me in the arm. I annoyedly moved my arm away. But it kept annoying me. Also, I was cold. And still being annoyed by something. And some voice just wouldn’t shut up. Trying to drag me out of the deep satisfaction of my sleep. Entirely against my will, my thoughts started taking up their pace. Why would anyone be doing this to me? This should be punishable somehow.

“Are you alright kid? You must be freezing.” I was freezing. And hungry. And an old man was looming over me. To his right a black Labrador, going after some smell in the grass. I looked up at the man, concern evident on his face. Looking every bit like a kind, wise, and slightly chubby grandpa. “I’m alright,” I croaked out. Meanwhile, my mind was racing to put together how I had ended up here. Did this really happen? Was I dreaming? No, I wouldn’t be out here if I was.

“You sure kid? Can you sit up?” He really wasn’t giving me a break, was he. I stretched my frozen limbs, took a moment to gather myself, and sat up on the bench. “I’m ok”, I mumbled, slightly regretting being impolite to a kind old man but unable to muster a more coherent sentence. “Alright, alright. Take care kid. We all have our crazy nights but try not to overdo it next time.” He walked off after his dog who had already gone ahead.

I got out my phone. 2% battery. 07:32 AM. I had slept through the night. The sun was rising, the first rays of warmth touching my skin. I got out my hoodie and put it back on. Luckily it had been a relatively warm night. I remembered the stories of people dying from passing out outside during cold nights. Unlocking my phone, I swiped away the unread messages for now and searched for the next connection home. Of course, the train connections showed up. I couldn’t reasonably expect her to still be there after an entire night, right? No, she would have either followed and found me or not be around anymore.

Except for my constant nervous checking of the surroundings, the way home was rather uneventful. Few people were travelling this early on a Saturday morning. Only Leon, my flatmate, had realized that I was missing. We usually ate dinner together, so he had sent me a couple of messages, but didn’t seem particularly worried.

We had known each other since the first year of high school. And while we hadn’t been as close friends back then as we were now, we had been in the same group of friends and hung out together regularly. And when we realized that his architecture studies and my medical studies would both be at the same university, we decided to get a place in Zurich together. Then, when we saw the rent prices, we decided to get a place somewhere in the general vicinity of Zurich together.

I finally arrived home, fairly certain that I hadn’t been followed by anyone. No one was out on the streets and no cars were parked except for the usual ones in front of our apartment building. I made sure to lock the door behind me as I finally got to our home on the second floor. There was the temptation to get into my bed and sleep off this absolutely crazy night. But I felt like I had to do something. Not sure what, but I couldn’t just go to sleep after what had happened. After all, there was a decent chance that the woman in black had noticed the lack of my corpse on the train and was currently looking for me, trying to tie up loose ends. At least I think there shouldn’t have been any way for her to notice who exactly I was.

Deciding to commit the heinous crime of waking someone up on an early Saturday morning, I prepared two cups of coffee and went to Leon’s room. I had to talk about this with someone. And luckily, he definitely was more of a morning person than I was. The quick instance of confusion on his face was quickly replaced by apprehensiveness as he saw my serious expression. He sat up in his bed and accepted the mug of coffee with a word of thanks. I shoved away a pile of clothes and sat down on a small couch facing his bed.

“What’s up Ben? Where have you been?” He asked, taking a sip of coffee as I gathered my thoughts. And then, carefully choosing my words to make the story even remotely believable, I started describing the events. Getting out of field hockey training. Hurrying to the train. An eccentric, either homeless or high-level hipster looking man sitting down in the seat facing me. And how things escalated from there. Leon didn’t say a word until I finished talking. This must have sounded completely crazy to him.

“You do realize how crazy this sounds?” he said thoughtfully. “Were you on drugs last night? Or did you seriously just wake me up to pull a prank in really bad taste on me?”

I was starting to get afraid that nobody would ever believe me. “I’m completely serious Leon. Everything I told you has happened.”

He eyed me carefully. “We need to get you to a hospital. You’ve probably had a heart attack on that train. Crazy magic or not we definitely need to get you checked. And they should probably also have a look at your brain. Just in case…”

Not finding a way to disagree, I got shooed out of Leon’s room as he grabbed a pair of jeans from the couch to get dressed. Due to my, in my opinion, completely reasonable paranoia, I went to have a look out of the window. Shit. A black Mercedes was parked in front of our block. That definitely hadn’t been there when I got home. “Leon! We might have a problem”, I called out, making my way back to his room. I quickly sputtered out what I had seen, and how this was exactly the kind of car that the black magician woman would drive.

Leon finished pulling a t-shirt over his head. “Dude, you need to chill. There’s like a dozen apartments in this block. People come and go.” I still couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong. I made my way to the door and carefully looked through the spyhole. And my body recoiled in shock. It was her, approaching our door. I wanted to swear but couldn’t find a word strong enough to express my horror. We were in deep deep over our heads. I got out my phone to call the police. No battery. I turned to Leon and whispered as silently as I could, mouthing every syllable to make myself understood. “Call the police. Now.”

He hesitantly got out his phone. “NOW”, I silently insisted. He started typing on his phone when slight clicking sounds arose from the lock. No no no no. She absolutely can’t get in here. I rushed for the door handle, pushing it up with all of my force. “Leon! Go get something to block the door!” I yelled out, giving up on the silent approach. After a final click, I felt her trying to push down the handle from the other side. Ok. I can do this. I’m stronger than her. Meanwhile Leon started pushing a shelf towards the door.

Then suddenly I felt like I was kicked by a horse. My whole body tensed up in pain, a gasp escaping as the air was pushed out of my lungs. The sudden jolt of what felt like the contraction of every muscle in my body threw me onto the floor, writhing in pain. On the edges of my consciousness I could hear the door opening.

My muscles stopped contracting. My body still felt like a painful mess, but I could move. I turned my head looking for the intruder. She was standing in the open door, calmly looking at Leon who was charging towards her. I looked over just in time to see Leon spasm, halfway through a stride with all his weight on his front leg, the sudden extension of said leg now propelled him back towards the shelf he had been pushing. His body was flung back like a ragdoll. His head hit the shelf with a disturbingly loud, dull thump.

Shaking off the moment of shock, still laid on my back, I slid my phone out of my pocket and threw it at her with all the force that I could muster. As she turned around toward me the projectile hit her square in the face. Not waiting to see her reaction I jumped up on my feet. I needed to knock her out before she could regain her composure and work her magic on me again. My fist rushed towards her face. And then another figurative horse-kick hit me. Back on the floor I laid in excruciating pain. This time it hurt so much more than before.

“You little piece of shit”, the woman said scathingly. Blood trickling down into her eyebrows from the forehead where the phone had hit her. “To think that a fucking civ has hurt me.” Spikes of the most intense pain I’d ever felt shot through my body. My sight and hearing blurring away. I couldn’t tell how much time passed like this, but after what felt like an eternity and a half, the relief of not being in pain washed over my body. I blinked away the tears from my eyes, feeling like I had just woken up from a hellish nightmare when I felt a prick in my arm. The woman was sitting next to me on the floor, her posture slouched, she looked visibly exhausted. What definitely concerned me though was the syringe sticking out of my upper arm. Her slightly trembling hand was just pulling out the now emptied needle.

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yamatai

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