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chapter one

Razar’s lungs were very annoyed at her. They had filed an official complaint about the conditions under which they were being made to work, but she wasn’t currently in the best position to listen. She didn’t know exactly how long she had been running, but the pain in her chest and stitch in her side told her it was much longer than a human was supposed to run.

In a way, she was lucky that she wasn’t actually a human. However, as that was in fact the reason she’d had to run in the first place, it probably wasn’t a positive. The sirens behind her were also annoyed because she wasn’t listening to them. No matter how long they shouted, she ignored them, and as a result they were required to shout further. The sirens were accompanied by flashing red and blue lights that were unable to shout but would have some rather interesting things to say if they could. For instance, they might like to comment on the weather, disregarding the fact that in the current situation, nobody would care. Or perhaps, enquire about what was holding the clouds up. Or, if they were really in an existential mood, point out that nobody actually existed, they just thought that they did.

The car that happened to be underneath the sirens and flashing lights was doing its best to carry the weight of five extremely sweaty policemen. The passenger seat was occupied by a man whose requirement to wear a heavy black uniform, had resulted in him being considerably overdressed for the current weather. If the fact was not already obvious, the weather was hot. So much so that even the ground was sunburnt. While the overdressed man wasn’t exactly enjoying himself, the possibility of a promotion had motivated him to come along and make use of the massive gun he was holding. Its surface was still hot and the bright glow that usually shone through its metal casing was now barely visible as it recharged and recovered from its last use, the result of which had not only forced Razar into her slow, weak, easy-to-catch human form, but had also given her a rather annoying pain in the back of her right shoulder.

The running, which she had been doing so much of, had gradually been replaced by a clumsy stumble. The thirty or so police cars were starting to slow down, and pretty soon she’d be locked in the back of one, being driven back to the place from which she’d just escaped.

After twelve years, she’d finally come to the conclusion that she didn’t like this planet very much. What she could really use was a miracle, but the universe could be very stingy when it came to those. It did consider lending her a hand. In fact, it had a nice plan all laid out. It usually tried not to get involved in things that didn’t concern it, but it had gotten to like Razar, which meant that this was now a personal matter, and it did not remotely regret what it was about to do. It proceeded to psych itself up. ‘Okay,’ it told itself in a voice nobody else could hear. ‘She’s in danger, we have to help her. Her future is in our hands, not that we actually have hands. Okay, her future is in what we have where we would have our hands, if we had hands. Now, we’re going to do it in five, four, three …’ Bang!

At first, Razar didn’t notice the huge explosion going off behind her. By now she was very tired and didn’t really care. In her opinion, explosions could do whatever they liked and it was no skin off her nose, provided she wasn’t too close. However, a person can only go so long before the deafening noise, blinding light and raining rubble gets to them. She dived behind a car and clutched her ears with her hands.

The universe, however, just sat and stared and didn’t do anything. It was in shock. It was usually aware of a presence of like this because it took quite a lot of preparation. It always liked to watch the sequence of events that led up to these disasters, so it was quite surprised that one had simply come out of nowhere without any warning. Razar didn’t need to look behind her to figure out that the police cars had stopped chasing her. She was very tempted to collapse for a while and get back in her breath back, but instead used this opportunity to squeeze into a gap between an extremely dodgy hotel and a dusty grocery store that the man with the heavy black uniform would definitely not be able to follow her through.

The hallway of the cinema was silent and empty. The only sentient lifeform present was the useless, twenty-something year-old bum who was wrestling with the door of the storage cupboard. There was quite a lot of debate about whether Tyler Elks even counted as a sentient lifeform. His brain was generally as silent and empty as the hallway. His shift had ended four hours ago and he’d been absent for the whole duration. He was supposed to have cleaned cinema five, which was where the majority of kids’ movies were shown. The place was infamous for resembling the battlefield of the Italian invasion of Egypt, so the new members of staff were usually the ones stuck with it. He’d decided that he’d make the place look spotless, then maybe Grace wouldn’t fire him right away.

Jobs weren’t really Tyler’s thing. As soon as he’d blown out the candles of his eighteenth birthday cake, his parents had begged him to bugger off and stop scrounging off their retirement fund. It wasn’t so much finding work that he struggled with, he just couldn’t ever get a very firm grip on it. Plenty of ignorant individuals would argue that this was his own fault, to which he would secretly agree but still make a big show of stubbornly sticking up his nose and correcting their uneducated opinions. He hadn’t lost his jobs. Their absence was merely a result of his past employers deciding that his talents, that were yet to reveal themselves, would be better appreciated elsewhere. Reality, however, was always there to remind him that he was actually just a common screw-up.

 He’d misplaced his first career in the kitchen of Patty Power Burgers. He’d made it through a whole three hours before he forgot to look where he was going while attempting to show off how much he could carry to the cute girl at the cash register. The incident had resulted in an entire tray of iceberg lettuce in the deep fryer. Other stories involved mistakes such as accidentally selling a seven-year-old girl a very violent and graphic video game instead of the pony-related one she’d asked for; losing an old lady’s luggage in the lift of a hotel which luckily didn’t have any sort of reputation to lose; and dropping an empty fish tank on a customer’s toe in the pet store.

These were the least humiliating; he generally preferred not to think about the others.

The storage cupboard’s doors had no sympathy for him. They never had any sympathy for anyone unless that person asked nicely, and they weren’t about to make any exceptions. Tyler was eventually victorious, and as soon as his nose stopped bleeding he reached in and yanked out an ancient vacuum cleaner. He proceeded to drag its squeaky wheels across the burnt-tomato-coloured carpet and stopped at cinema five’s heavy black doors.

A sudden, loud bang made him jump backwards, entangle his legs in the vacuum cleaner’s hose and land on his lower region with an indelicate thud. The bang that startled him was much, much louder than the one you’re currently imagining. Think of a plane crashing into a pit of hydrogen-filled balloons. The smoke that was wafting through the gap under the doors made Tyler seriously rethink his previous intention to go in there. The illogical, risk-taking part of his male mind won the argument, however, and he found himself pulling at the long silver handles and stepping inside.

 The first thing he noticed was the back wall, or rather the lack of back wall. The sun was reaching in and casting its light on the abused, carpetless floor. All of the seats that had once been attached to it were now strewn across the street outside, along with a scattering of singed bricks. The rubble lay in front of a very large number of police cars, the owners of which were currently crawling on the road or screaming hysterically into their radios. The sight was a little too much for the useless twenty-year-old to take, so he didn’t take it and instead ran from the room.

Unnoticed by Tyler was the bizarre blue creature that had been spray painted on what was left of the far-right wall. Its body was covered with bright red, orange and yellow stripes. Sun-coloured spikes ran from its head, down its back, and on its face, were six pale amber eyes. The graffiti watched him go, before turning its attention back the aftermath of the explosion. The blast had done its job. The cars had stopped, and for now she was safe.

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