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Neat Trick

·493 words·3 mins

Shylo ran towards the guards and yelled. "She went that way!"

She pointed down an alley, and the fools actually believed her. Once they were far enough away, Shylo shifted from an innocent-looking child to the mischievous teen that she was. She began counting the coins from the stolen pouch, but—

"Neat trick."

Shylo stumbled back at the voice. The woman sitting on the crate couldn't have been older than Shylo, but something about her seemed off.

"What do you want?" Shylo asked.

"Children are good choices. Someone might hesitate to believe an adult, let alone a teenager, but everyone trusts children. I'm assuming you went with a girl due to your gender, but being a boy can be advantageous too."

"I said—"

"Let's play a game of tag."


"If I tag you," a dagger grew out of the woman's hand, "then you're out. Easy, right?"

Shylo bolted in the other direction.

"See, I knew you'd understand!"

The woman's voice faded in the distance. Shylo rounded the corner and leapt up into a fire escape. She threw herself on top of the roof, scrambled to her feet, and continued running. At the edge of the roof, she jumped. One by one, she traversed the city by roof, moving faster than anyone on the ground could ever hope.

"Wow, you're quick too!"

Shylo turned to see the woman running next to her. A rogue pipe caught Shylo's foot and tripped her. The coarse roofing sanded Shylo's body down, stealing away nearly half a square meter of skin. The woman loomed over Shylo.

"I'm Lucia." She reached out a hand. "What's your name?"

Even an idiot would know better than to take that hand. Shylo threw herself off the roof and felt several bones snap on impact. Back to her feet in a heartbeat, she continued trying to lose the woman. Shylo breathed in deep, and her lungs screamed. Running didn't help, but it hurt much less than breathing did.

Over a dozen alleys, two public squares, seven shops, and a pack of stray dogs later, Shylo lost the woman.

"You're really good at this. Who taught you how to lose a tail?"

Shylo screamed. That hurt. A lot. The pain didn't stop her. Neither did the window. It shattered as Shylo's body fly threw it. She landed on her feet, somehow, and sprinted towards the guards.

Wait, what am I doing? They'll notice me.

Instead of a teenage girl, a child barely old enough to be in school—and with no blood or grime coating them—stumbled over to the guards.

"Help me! This lady is chasing me. She said she wants to kill me."

The guards didn't respond. Huh? Were they pretending to not see her? No, that couldn't be right. No one ever ignored her before. Expensive clothes, red hair, green eyes, little girl. Guards always helped people who had one of those attributes.

"No one can save you now."

Shylo blacked out.