Nobody’s Story

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liarliar
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Nobody’s Story

I'm nobody important.

My name is Toni, and I live and work in Rook City. And I know immediately some of you will be asking why? I know it's not a great place to live, everybody in the country knows that, but at least it's got some apartments you can actually afford if you're living on crappy base wages. Which is what I really needed, after graduating from college with a mountain of debt and no savings.

Anyway. This story's not about my life or my problems.

It's a story about the Wraith.

 

 

The first time I saw the Wraith, I was heading home from work. I'm an assistant patent clerk at an office in the inner city - and please, no Einstein jokes. I've heard all of them, and none of them were funny the first time. Anyway, it's hard work, the hours are long, and the pay is not great. But it's better than nothing.

I was on my way to the subway station, and I guess I wasn't paying enough attention to my surroundings, because I didn't see the guy approaching me until he pulled a knife and demanded my money.

I kind of panicked. I rummaged in my handbag, and he just grabbed the whole thing away from me and dumped it out on the ground, scattering everything across the pavement - notepads, pens, my purse, some used tissues...and a pistol. Just a little revolver, nothing special, but still enough of a gun to catch his attention. The guy reached down and picked up the gun, pointed it straight at my head. I could see him sneering out from under his hood. "What the hell is this? Huh?"

"I'm sorry, I-"

"What, you thought you'd pull a gun if anyone tried to grab your cash, huh?"

That had been the plan. "No!"

"Thought you were some sorta tough bitch?"

"No, no!"

"Bullshit. I oughtta shoot you right now. Teach you a lesson."

My eyes were stuck on the gun, staring right down the barrel, so I barely saw it when a shadow behind him suddenly shifted. But when the gun suddenly moved upwards, plucked right out of his grip...well, I could hardly have missed that.

His attacker was quick - she swept that gun up and away with one hand, and as she circled around him the other fist was already striking forward at his eyes. His hands came up, tried to block her, and that was all the opportunity she needed: another strike lashed out at his throat, stunning him before she moved in, twisted around, and sent him straight down to the pavement.

She straightened, cloak billowing around her as she looked down at me. I guess I'd collapsed as soon as the gun was out of my face, so I got the full effect as this shadowy, indistinct figure leaned over me, its face dark. Tattered bandages fluttered round her edges, her eyes were glowing. So when her voice came it startled me. I'd expected some zombie growl or hiss. Something menacing. Instead, she was...gentle.

"Are you hurt?"

It took a second or two for me to even process her words, and by the time it sunk in, I felt like my silence was getting weird, so my answer came out in blurts. "Oh! No, I'm fine! Thanks!"

"Alright." She came closer, peered into my eyes for a second, then took hold of my arm and lifted me up to standing. "Grab your stuff, go home."

I knelt and grabbed my handbag, and started shovelling my stuff into it as the Wraith walked away. Then she turned back for a second:

"And consider getting rid of the gun. You'll get yourself hurt, carrying something like that around."

And with that, she was gone, vanished back into the darkness.

 

 

I didn't see her again for a long time. That wasn't a shock or anything - I think most people in the city never see her at all, some don't even think that she's real. They think she's a myth, like the ratmen in the sewers.

Anyway. I was heading home from work again, after another day that had started too early and ended too late, and all I wanted was to make it to the train station, catch one to my apartment, and get a little sleep before I had to head back to the office. This time I was sticking a little more closely to the well-lit streets, and I wasn't carrying a gun around - just a little can of mace. I figured the worst anyone could do to me with that was, well, mace me. It would suck, but at least I wouldn't die.

But I wasn't thinking about that. Wasn't really thinking about anything. Just trying to keep putting one foot in front of the other. So when I first heard the noise, I wasn't paying enough attention to really realise what I was hearing, and I walked a few more steps with this distant, arrhythmic thumping echoing from somewhere nearby. It was only when I heard another thump followed up with a grunt that I broke out of my reverie and recognised the sound of a fight.

I don't have a clue what I was thinking, but before I knew it I was racing towards the noise as fast as I could manage without being too loud myself. I rounded a corner, ran halfway down an alleyway, and then slowly and carefully peered around the next corner.

The alleyway was dark, lit by nothing but faint moonlight filtered through the clouds, so I couldn't see much more than vague humanoid outlines, but I could tell the smaller one was the Wraith just from the way she moved. She was quick and agile, her cape and her bandages trailing around her as she dodged around her enormous enemy. It lashed out at her with one massive limb, she dodged it by the width of a hair and it hit the pavement so hard that I felt it rippling through the ground, through my feet into my body and all the way up to clash my teeth together. She did something that made the monster growl, and it lunged forwards, caught her with the edge of an attack and sent her end-over-end down the alley in my direction.

It was only then I realised there were other people here in the darkness. A couple more human shapes, these ones with the sharp edges of business suits, standing very close to where I was hiding, and now raising their guns at the hero while she recovered herself. It didn't seem like she'd seen them. It didn't seem like she possibly could, not in time. She was going to die.

The Wraith was going to die, right in front of me.

I heard myself yelling, and as a spectator in my own body, watched my arm swinging my handbag into the first gunman's face. It was just a little handbag - I didn't even have it that full - but I guess that can be enough to knock a guy to the ground if he's not expecting it. He hit the ground hard, and his gun skittered away. The second man looked confused for about half a second, but he recovered fast, and I guess his eyes had adjusted to the darkness better than mine had, since that rifle of his swung quickly to face me, and for what was probably only the second time in my life, I looked my own death right in the face. I couldn't see his expression, but his body language was unruffled. He looked like he was about to swat a mosquito.

Then he staggered, put up a hand to his neck, and pulled away a dart. And then he collapsed.

I turned my head and saw the Wraith lowering her outstretched arm, just before she leaped back into the fight. Her massive opponent was as strong as ever, every attack looked like it would kill if it hit. But none of them could hit her. She danced around the thing's bulk, punching and kicking and shooting it with those sleep darts until finally, finally it slowed, then stopped, then collapsed.

The Wraith was cautious. She watched it for a second, then stepped forward and bound the thing's arms behind its back. I saw her shoot a line up to something that hovered above the alleyway, and tie it back to her captive.

Then she turned, and her eyes locked with mine. She gave just the slightest nod. Acknowledgement, gratitude.

The line retracted, and she was gone.

 

 

I made it to the station without any more trouble, caught my usual train and found a seat by the window, and watched the darkness underground blur past.

As the train emerged from its tunnel, and the dark, sparkling heart of the city started to fade behind me, I thought about the Wraith. I thought about that little nod she'd given me for helping her.

I'm nobody important. I've always known that, I guess. But in that second, I was part of something big, something real. And she hadn't acted as though it was a surprise - she wasn't ungrateful, but she also didn't try and tell me that I shouldn't have done it, that I shouldn't put myself in danger for her.

I wondered about that.

We usually think about our heroes in a certain kind of way. They're special people, powerful people, and the things they fight are powerful too. Things that ordinary, unimportant people would have no chance against. They and their enemies have these massive battles, and people like me - like most of us - are only there to be caught in the middle or hand out the medals at the end. But she didn't see me like that. She saved my life, saw I'd seen hers, and she just looked at me like...like a fellow combatant. Like someone who could face up to the same things that she was fighting against.

So how many times had this happened before? How many times has she been in a desperate fight for her life and had some nobody like me help her out? How often has a victim given her information, or a hostage distracted their captor, or a homeless person tripped up some alien invader? How often have ordinary people tipped the balance in her favour?

More than once, I bet.

But that means that the world's not set up the way we think it is. It's not just her and her friends out there fighting for us, and everyone else is either against her or running for cover. We all have the power. We can all fight on their side. We can all defeat evil and make our world a better place to live.

I looked out at dark buildings that were full of people like me, and thought how wonderful that was. How wonderful that we - powerless, unimportant, ordinary people - can do so much good.