I leap from rooftop to rooftop, my skirt fluttering in the wind and my twintails streaming behind me. The city beneath is quiet, at least here in the touristy parts of town. The moonlight bathes everything in eerie, fantastic silver, punctuated here and there with the almost-warm yellow glow of a streetlamp or the cycling colors of a traffic light. Buoyed by magic, I bound across the city's rooftops almost effortlessly, scanning with preternaturally sharp eyes and ears--and other, stranger senses--for the tell-tale signs of an infarction.
Perhaps I should introduce myself. I'm Shannan, a fourteen-year-old freshman at Benjamin Banneker High, a good student at a good school. I like mythology and mint ice cream and cheerleading, though I didn't quite make the squad. I guess I can be a bit of a klutz sometimes, and I'm kind of shy, but I do all right.
Oh, and at night I transform into Magical Pretty Girl Annan and battle the forces of the Dark Between to keep them from penetrating into this world. So there's that.
It's hard sometimes, and scary, and lonely, especially now that Shea and I are the only ones left. But there are advantages. Even untransformed, I heal ridiculous fast, and I'm faster and stronger. Then when I use the magic to transform, I change completely. I come out looking more like a twenty-year-old model or an actress than a random teen, all big blue eyes and five-foot-long strawberry-blonde tails and cream-colored legs and Jake Henderson would probably drool all over me if he saw it. Plus I get even stronger and even faster, so I can easily jump fifty or sixty feet straight up, I've got all kinds of neat magical powers for fighting infarctions--it's a pretty great deal Shea gave me!
I leap down near the corner of 9th and F. During the day this is right on the edge between downtown offices and tourist shopping, but at this hour it's completely deserted. I transform back and check my watch.
Not enough time to get to Metro before it closes; looks like I'm either calling a cab or walking home. Of course I don't have my purse--I've learned the hard way you don't want to bring that with you when you transform, it tends to get lost. So a cab isn't really an option. Fortunately there's no particularly bad neighborhoods between here and home, but still, I try to do everything the way my long-ago self-defense instructor suggested. Walk confidently, briskly but not quickly enough to look scared. Don't get squirrely and start looking around. Stay calm, and don't act like prey.
My self-defense instructor was basically full of shit, but at least I can pretend I'm doing something. Luckily, the closest I get to encountering another person is someone zipping past on a bicycle on the other side of the street. If you're going to walk around the city alone at night, one o'clock on a Monday morning at the tail-end of winter isn't a bad time to do it.
And of course, I could always just transform if I got in trouble, but I don't like doing that if I can help it.
Regardless, after a little over half an hour of walking I'm at the door to my apartment. I open it, flick on the light, nod to the cockroaches desperately scurrying under the fridge. I'd do something about them, but I heard they eat bedbugs, so instead I occasionally make a crumb-trail from the fridge to the couch in the hopes they'll get the hint. They haven't yet.
"Home sweet shitpile," I say, and flop down on the couch. I've learned from experience that if I let them bite me now and here, they won't do it as much when I go to bed. I should probably eat something, but I have to get up for work in five hours. Maybe I should try to sleep instead.
Oh! I should probably introduce myself again. I'm still Shannan, thirty-four-year-old SAS application developer for a government agency (I would tell you which one, but then I'd have to be embarrassed about that not actually being grounds for killing you or even a secret at all, really). I'm also chair of our office's branches of both BIG and FEW. I still like mythology and mint ice cream, but I never did make that squad, so for cheerleading substitute softball. And I still have that shy streak, too, but I'm not klutzy now that I'm not growing three inches in one year.
Twenty years ago I made a deal, and gained the power to become Annan. Twenty years of growing up, definitely older and hopefully wiser. College, jobs, dates here and there, a couple of boyfriends, the normal stuff, except for the whole slipping out at night to do battle as the only defender of humanity for hundreds of miles.
And in all that time, Annan hasn't aged a day.