In the year 2080, Nyla is taken prisoner by one of the most fearsome gangs in the world, a faction by the name of Animosity. Known by commoners as "The Animals," the vicious anarchists plan to overthrow the government and start over. They use force as persuasion to gain the loyalty of the majority of the population. Nyla believes she will never be free again. She doesn't know she is being protected by a mysterious Animal with conflicting feelings for her.
The hour was late, but many of the patrons still crowded the seats closest to the bartenders. I preferred to stay as far away from the commotion as possible, but I actually sort of liked their company. As long as they kept their distance. I smiled to myself, thinking of Jade's comments about how I "need to socialize more."
I stirred my drink some more.
"I see that smirk," came Jade's teasing voice as she cleaned up the table beside mine.
I sighed, repulsed by all of the stares she received because of her revealing, black and white striped outfit. I loved her to death, but she had the worst taste in clothes. I give her a pass because she's a bartender.
She was an employee, but more importantly one of my best friends. I didn't have many friends because I was so quiet, but Jade knew what was up. She always talked to me whenever I decided to brave coming to this place, which was always crowded. They called it the Dark Star. I don't know why, but it attracted a good deal of people. The music and people were loud, but the menu was good. It was also always dark, with only dim lights in occasional spots, hence its name.
I wasn't sure, but I supposed I was drawn to its darkness, its crowds of many different people. It was a place where you could get away for a while. Just disappear.
I needed that sort of thing after long days at work, when I had to keep a smile on my face at all times for the customers.
Lately, my days at work had been limited because of "Animal Attacks" as the headlines put it. Animosity was known for all sorts of criminal activity across the country. They started gunfights in businesses, captured innocents, and stole firearms at every opportunity. The police could hardly subdue their numbers, and oftentimes businesses were forced to close for days on end while the military secured the area.
Unfortunately, The Animals often succeeded in whatever scheme they had planned. They often hijacked military vehicles, and had even begun constructing their own. I wished I could say they were just an annoyance, but that doesn't even begin to cover it. The Animals are a public enemy, and an intelligent one at that. Many lived in fear for their lives and the future of their country. I had mixed feelings about them. I knew they were killers, but part of me wondered about them. Sure, you could say they're just a bunch of criminals. But there's more to them. There's always more. So much about them was shrouded in mystery.
"What's on your mind, Nyla?" Jade broke my train of thought as she struggled to talk over the music. It was some heavy metal thing I didn't recognize.
"The usual," I said. "This place is going down."
She shrugged. "You know what to do. Only join them if you have to. But if you have to, just do it. Being a martyr won't help anything. It's better to be alive and do something about it."
I knew she was right, but I had no intention of being a martyr. I'd join. Maybe not willingly, but I'd join.
Jade started back toward the counter, bright red shoes clicking.
"Oh, and fix that hair, sugar," she added over her shoulder.
I sighed deeply. Everyone's a critic. I had to say, it matched the dark makeup and black dress. I stood from my seat, growing tired of this place already. It had only been an hour.
As I made my way through the crowd, some guy tried to talk to me.
I narrowed my eyes in his direction. "Can I help you?" I said dully, irritated by his fixation on the slit of my black dress, which admittedly showed off most of my leg. A mistake on my part.
"I'm sure you can," he replied, winking.
I had no patience for this nonsense, and continued to fight my way through the crowd. He followed me persistently.
"Hey, wait. You're going out in the rain?"
"Clearly. This is a problem because...?"
"You'll get soaked. It's pouring. That beautiful dress of yours will be ruined."
I sighed again, and put my hood up. "There. Happy? Why is my well-being a concern to you?"
"Well...look, I'm sorry I started off with a bad impression. I'm Andre. Can we try again?" He asked hopefully, big brown eyes searching mine.
I watched him through suspicious slits. I had little reason to trust him. The ones with innocent eyes are always to be watched carefully.
"Very well, I will indulge you," I said slowly. "What is it you want?" I was very confused as to his intentions. Part of me feared he was an Animal. They were everywhere, and you never knew when they would strike. The problem with them was that they were neither subtle nor forthright, they could adapt to any identity. They had a team, but their players were on both sides. Casualties were irrelevant to them, they just couldn't fail.
"I was hoping we could get a drink sometime? I... I've seen you here a couple times. I, uh... I like your hair." He gave me a sheepish smile.
I felt a little bad, I knew my gaze could be intimidating. I tried to soften it a little. "I appreciate the offer, Andre," I replied. "As well as your comment about my... hair." Which was thoroughly soaked from the way here, by the way. I couldn't say it looked fabulous.
My God, I was bad at this. I searched for something to say. I didn't know how to deal with it, so I continued walking. It was the only thing I knew to do.
"Hey, hang on." He stopped me by taking my arm.
I looked down at his hand on my pale arm, a contrast to his darker skin tone.
"Let me walk you to wherever you need to go," he offered. "Don't worry, I'm not here to try anything. I just want to help you. It's dangerous out there." He gave me what I calculated to be a genuine smile.
I was startled. I had no idea what to do with this. I glanced at him, then at the door. "Very well," I said finally. "Thank you."
He walked with me through the relentless rain, which I was surprised to see had not let up in the slightest. I was grateful that Andre had walked with me this far without seeming annoyed at how far he had to trek, but I was unsure how to express it other than to thank him as we neared the alleyway that led to my apartment complex.
He acknowledged my thanks graciously, saying it was nothing.
I was relieved we were close to my apartment, as the journey here had been mostly worry and awkward conversation over the relentless deluge.
Upon entering the dark alleyway, I immediately regretted it, but there was no going back now. I felt a darkness so disturbing, so intense... I was struck by fear and awe simultaneously. I had never encountered such a feeling in my life. I was more afraid than I had ever been.
Andre sensed my hesitation. "Are you all right?" He asked, looking concerned.
He couldn't feel it, not like I could.
I couldn't respond. My heart was pounding in my chest. Sounds were drowned out. All I could hear was my thudding heart in my ears.
A slow, painful click.
"Don't. Move." A deep, threatening voice stopped me in my tracks. I was shocked I didn't see the figure just a couple inches from me. I completely missed his massive form in the near pitch black. The barrel of his gun was in my face.
I couldn't even scream. I gulped painfully, my throat dry like sand.
It was overwhelming. They were all around us, so casually, so unconcerned. For some reason, that made it worse.
They looked like bandits, dressed in dark clothes and bandanas that hid their faces, guns slung over their shoulders or across their chests. They leaned against the side walls. Their snipers watched from the rooftops, stalking us like vultures.
Andre pulled a gun.
Why did he have to fight? Why? I screamed in my head. There was nothing I could do but wait. I shut my eyes tightly.
The bang was startling, earth-shattering in the silence. Chuckles from either side of me. My breath was ragged with fear. I opened my eyes slowly, meeting the Animal's sharp gaze. I didn't dare look toward Andre.
"Now I know you're not gonna fight us, Dark Angel," he said smoothly, lowering the gun. "No, no..." He shook his head slowly. "You're gonna be just fine."
My breath hitched in my throat as they grabbed my arms. I remembered what Jade had said. I didn't fight. How could I? I would gain nothing.
I knew this was only the beginning.
Guilt washed over me as I thought of Andre, dead because he had decided to walk me home this night of all nights. I unleashed a helpless, sorrowful cry. Why did this have to happen to me? I could only let them drag me off, limp in their grasp.
I looked to the sky. It had stopped raining.