Everything was quiet and frightfully still. The lights of the buildings died out behind me. There was only darkness and an empty unknown street. My skin was cold like death. My body shivered. My heart was at my throat. I didn’t recall how I had made it onto that street or much of the night before that moment. I didn’t know how long I would have to wait for the sun to come out or for someone to come along.

There was one thing I could see in the darkness. A light post by the end of the street. It didn’t illuminate much, just a trash can and a brick wall. I couldn’t even read the street signs. It wasn’t much, but it was the only thing I could see clearly in the night. I hurried to its side. I didn’t notice how far away it was until I ran out of air before I could reach it. My chest hurt but I couldn’t stop running. My feet ignored the pain and pressed against the pavement. My hands fell on the light post. I gasped for air.

I collapsed onto the pavement. Sweat covered my skin. I rolled over to my side as I tried to steady my breathing. I stared into the light until my eyes burned and my heart slowed down. It almost stopped completely.

A laugh broke the silence.

I jumped up. I thought for sure I was alone. “You look wasted as fuck, boy,” the voice laughed. I turned around. At the sight of him, I jolted back. He sat by the corner of the brick wall, just where the light shone the brightest. Red streaks ran down his pitch black hair. Blue lipstick framed the cigarette his teeth dug into. He wore a black vest and long boots that blended into his pants with heels that looked like daggers. He was bizarre. Looking at his direction made me shiver. I couldn’t even look into his eyes. A golden Venetian mask hid them.

My lips quivered. I wasn’t sure what to say. I didn’t think it was wise to talk at all. I pressed my back against the light post and stood up. So did he. I took a step back but did not dare step out of light. He took the cigarette out of his lips and smirked at me. Then he too took a step back. I didn’t understand. Was he mocking me? Playing with me? Or perhaps trying to help me?

My curiosity couldn’t wait any longer, “Who – “

“Who am I?” His head fell to his shoulder, “Who do you think, idiot?” He ran his fingers through his hair and threw the strands up. “I’m your fucking guardian angel, kid,” he sang.

I clung on to the light post. He was surely lying. Yet I couldn’t figure out how he had appeared from nothing.

He stared at my expression. A smile grew on his face and his cheeks turned red. There was just an instant of silence. Wild laughter erupted from his mouth. He clung to the side of the wall, almost unable to keep his balance. “You actually believed that?” he yelled, “Shit, kid. You’re really messed up.” He put the cigarette back into his mouth. He pulled out a pack of cigarettes, “Want one?”

I didn’t move. I didn’t even reply. Everything about him made me uneasy. Yet… I wanted to take it. I knew I shouldn’t. I knew I wouldn’t. But I wanted to so badly. “I don’t bite,” he insisted, “Well, I do. But you’d have to buy me dinner first.”

A smile snuck its way into my lips. He laughed, “Gotcha, didn’t I?” I let go of the post and took a step forward, and then another. He followed my footsteps with his own. It was almost as if he were mirroring me. He extended the box of cigarettes. I reached out but stopped. My hand froze in place for a moment. I looked up. For the first time, I could see his eyes. They peeked underneath the golden paint. Black like the night around us. I wanted nothing but to look away yet I couldn’t. I didn’t notice when my fingers reached the cigarette box and pulled one out.

He smiled. He pulled out a lighter from his pocket. He held the flame right underneath my lip and waited. The heat crawled through my skin. Every second burned. But I didn’t move.

No. The word appeared into my head like a whisper. I stumbled back and fell onto the flood. The cigarette slipped out of my hand. He looked down at me and shook his head.

He knelt down by my side. The light of the flame illuminated his mask like a sun. “Why not?” he whispered, “It’s just a fucking a cigarette.” My heart began to race again.

He smiled at me and shook his head. His face grew red as the smile disappeared. “Why the fuck not?” He roared, “There are kids I’ve seen smoke and you, a fucking grown-ass adult won’t even light the damn thing. Come here asking me who I am, well, who the fuck are you? A coward. No, that’s too good for you. You are nothing.”

I couldn’t stop shaking. His spit fell on my face as he yelled. He stood up and turned his back to me. He took a couple of steps toward the wall. It took a moment to regain my senses. I climbed onto my feet. Before I could leave, he turned to look at me. He threw his cigarette into the ground. “Don’t go just yet, boy,” his tone was bitter, “Answer me this. Why are you here?” He smiled widely and motioned at the darkness, “How is someone too coward to even touch a cigarette wasted out of his mind in the middle of nowhere?”

“I-“ I managed to utter.

“Did you go to a party to try to prove you’re less than shit? Or did you try going to a club for the first time in your life to feel like you’re worth something?” he rushed at me. Before I could even move, his hands were at my throat. I could barely breathe. He pushed me onto the lamp post. My head hit the metal pole and left my mind thoughtless. He leaned into my ear, “Or perhaps you came here dressed in this ridiculous costume to be someone else for a change. Someone better. Someone you actually want to be. Fuck, you can’t even do that right. Can you, boy?” His fingers dug into my throat. I tried to pull them away but I couldn’t even get them to move. “Can you?” he yelled.

He leaned in and forced a kiss onto my lips. He bit down on my lip until blood rushed out of the wound. My throat burned. My head was light. “I should kill you,” he muttered. He spat blood into the street. His hands fell from my neck.

I threw my hands at his throat. Flames ran through my veins. He didn’t fight as I threw him onto the wall and dug my fingers further and further into his neck.

The mask fell off. He was right. I should have known who he was. He looked down and smiled. His face turned pale. He began to cough but didn’t try to pry off my hands. I looked straight into his face and my grip only got stronger. Good. I wanted to see the life leave his eyes. I wanted to know if, at the instant of death, those black eyes could for an instant shine. “You know,” he gasped, “what’s a black and white picture without the black?” His breathing got heavier. He wheezed. His legs shook. His hands reached up at mine but it was too late. I stared into his eyes as the force drained from his body.

His hands fell to the sides. His eyes never did shine.

I let go. His body falls onto the floor. I turn away. It never happened. I repeat it to myself over and over. It never happened.

I could see rays of sun peeking through the buildings. I stepped into the light with a smile. I looked into the ground as the light shone brighter. Funny. I couldn’t find my shadow.