A Face in the Ashes
It had been a week since the inferno consumed the arcade and the structure collapsed in on itself. The amusement park closed its gates as the investigation of the fire and Ferris wheel continued. Maya had watched the news adamantly but it seemed that the police had no real leads. At least nothing that would incriminate her. Unfortunately, while she was out of the woods at the present moment, Malek was not safe. She hadn’t seen him since she ran into the blazing building after the man that taunted her forward. She had heard about a naked man that was pulled from the graveyard of fresh corpses and she could only assume it to be Malek, but she had no plans to infiltrate the hospitals and risk exposure. Both of them being under lock and key wouldn’t be of much use.
The news also seemed to leave out the gruesome details about the man they pulled from the charred buildings with words etched into his chest. It was enough to convince the police that something malicious and non-mechanical had occurred, but they wouldn’t release information to the public. They wanted to keep their city safe, having a maniac running around would cause panic.
Maya managed to allude the chaos of the amusement park upon her exit of the building but she had diligently searched for Malek when night fell. Without any trace of his body she had retreated and wished for is health and safety.
It was complex to think of the relationship she had with his man. She cared deeply for him but she still barely knew him. They were bonded, and the words that the villain inside the fiery building had spoken made her question that bond. He had placed words into her mind, spoken about some experiment that she did not understand that caused her death and somehow entwined Malek into her life before she even met him. Perhaps it was this experiment that had protected her from his wrath during their early meetings. Either way, the words had spooked her and plagued her mind during all hours of the day and night.
Maya had found herself back at the safe house, but it felt strange to be in the rooms alone, she felt so small in the half empty room. Sleep came and went in short burst and the exhaustion settled over her as she remained seated on the dusty couch, her eyes glancing between the tv and the door. She only rose from her spot to shower and relieve herself. It was like she had gone comatose with worry as she ponder the innate possibility of Malek’s death.
They were wanted criminals, their faces were in data bases and whoever picked him up could have access to those records. He was a murdered, a suspected kidnapper and thief, he was branded these things by Maya’s own tongue. She hadn’t thought about the consequences when she was try to seek out this man to help mutilate her pristine body.
The memories haunted Maya but she couldn’t change what had been done in the past because of her foolishness.
Maya sat in the darkness of the room, the only light blasted from the screen of the television set and the alarm clocked that showed it was sometimes past midnight. Maya was pathetic, a sitting duck waiting for the unexpected to happen. She wouldn’t be able to stay here forever wallowing over Malek, soon she’d have to move on to a new town with new faces. The idea gave her anxiety, but it was a truth that she would have to accept. If Malek wasn’t dead, he would be able to take care of himself, and perhaps if she moved on their paths would one day cross again.
Maya shifted on the couch and pulled her legs underneath her so she sat cross legged with her back resting against the cushions. Her lithe fingers twirled into the locks of her dirty blonde hair, pulling and twisting till she plopped a ballerina bun on the top of her head.
The words scrolled across the screen and Maya felt her stomach lurch for a moment. They could easily be talking about someone else, but if they were talking about Malek, she feared the worse. He likely wouldn’t stand at trail, he’d be sent straight to the electric chair for the crimes he has committed.
A large ball clotted Maya’s throat as she stared blankly at the screen.
“Don’t jump to conclusions Maya.” The strained words slipped from between her lips before she finally pushed herself away from the couch. She couldn’t watch anymore today, she didn’t want to find out more about the captured man and the authorities intentions. Quickly she clicked off the screen and let the room fall completely dark. A silent abyss that she would gladly drown in.
Heavy feet dragged along the carpeted floor and into the bathroom where she removed the clothes from her body and slipped into a tub with steamy running water. Her head rested against the ceramic ledge as she submerged the rest of her body in the sizzling liquid. Her skin was blotted with bright pink splotches from heat of the water, but Maya only found comfort in the burn. Teary eyes closed as she tried to rid her mind of the horrifying thoughts and images.
A firing squad.
The electric chair
Or some sadistic being that sent a pack of rapid animals to devour the flesh from his skin.
The thoughts were terrifying, ones she never would have faced in her life before she awoke in this realm as a new person. Her innocence has been corrupted by the malicious actions of this world. In vivid imagery though, she saw all these things happen and had no way to stop them from entering her mind. Her eyes tried to focus on something in the room and banish the thoughts while her delicate fingers held a deadly grip on the edge of the bath.
Maya was so consumed by her thoughts that she failed to notice the sounds around her, for instance, the opening and closing of a door and creaking of the hallway floor boards.
The warm water of the bath wasn’t able to relieve the tension in Maya’s shoulders as she listened to the footsteps roaming the dark apartment. She knew it wasn’t Malek by the heaviness of each of the foot falls, but she wasn’t sure how dangerous this threat was. It could simply be a thief that believed the dark building was an easy target, or a squatter looking for some protection from the harsh night winds. Maya prayed for it to be one of those options, but there was the potential that someone more sinister was lurking in the dark searching for her or Malek.
Maya wanted to jump from the water and dart from the comfort of the bathroom to see who the intruder was, but the nonsense behind that idea had her sinking further into the tub, trying to prevent any of the water from sloshing over the edge to alert the tenants of her presence.
Her heart rapidly rattled against her ribcage, rat tat tattling, as the seconds drew longer and shifted into minutes. The cowardice she felt as she was submerged in the bath made her feel both inferior and ashamed. Maya had been bold many times in her life, unabashed by the potential circumstance of a fight. However, the insecurity had settled over her as she contemplated all the possibilities of what she would face when she walked out of the bath room.
The heavy foot falls dragged along the hallways, approaching the room to the left of the lavatory. Maya listened intently as the door latched shut and shuffling came from the other side of the wall. It seemed to only be a single person rummaging through hers and Malek’s limited things and this comforted Maya enough to finally rise from the cooling water and wrap the scratchy robe tightly around her body, securing it with a rope that synched at her waist. She could handle one person in a fight if it came to that, which hopefully it wouldn’t.
Her body was worn and weary from the battle at the arcade with the mysterious man that had a hold over her mind. Her mentality was shot along with the soreness that still radiated through her muscles. The scars on her back burned with infection, blistering the skin in a fiery red rash that spread down the length of her shoulder blades.
The person paced around the room and Maya listened with an ear close to the wall, she could practically hear the person breathing on the opposite side. She was certain now that this was not the person she had hoped for. It wasn’t Malek.
It was crazy to think that Maya knew Malek so well in his mannerisms that she could decipher that this intruder was not him. She knew how many steps it took for Malek to cross the room with the bed that they had lain in together, she knew how strangled his breath could be at times when he was fighting the monster inside and the way he almost sighed in contempt when something annoyed him. She also knew that voice that mumbled profanities in the other room didn’t speak in the same strained dialect the contorted every words that Malek spoke.
It was time for Maya to stop hiding out in this building, Malek wasn’t coming back and it was time to move forward.
Silently Maya pushed the window open that lead to the fire escape and slithered though the small opening, till her bare feet landed painfully on iron grates. The metal pushed into the soles of her feet but she fought past the pain as she made her descent down the rickety ladder. She strained her eyes to catch a glimpse of the intruder but all she saw was a light flicker on in the room she had just escaped from. The bath still full of water, her clothes askew in a pile on the cheap linoleum, but just as quickly as the room was flooded in light it was once more draped in darkness. Whoever was in there either didn’t take notice to how recent the bath had been used, or was freaked enough that the cops had been alerted and was ready to run.
Either way Maya wasn’t sticking around any longer.
Finally finding her way to the ground she pulled the robe tighter around her neck as she ran off towards the hotel that Malek had arranged as an emergency safe house. Maya was unsure how Malek had all the funds he possessed and how he was able to supply them covertly with constant protection from the elements, but Maya didn’t questions it. Just like she didn’t question the other people from his past and the life he had before her. In truth, she didn’t question him because she didn’t want questions in return.
She had little to no recollection of her life as a child and teenager, she didn’t want to try to justify actions that she could not recall. It wasn’t fair to ask Malek to be honest about his past when she wasn’t sure she could be honest about hers without fabricating a majority of her life. If Malek chose to reveal things about his existence than it would be of his own accord, not because Maya demanded it of him. She wasn’t naïve and knew that Malek had been intimate with others before, and more so than intimacy he had loved others, and she could respect those women that stood by his side during portions of his life. Now her place was by his side, and she blissfully avoided talking about the details of his previous relations.
“Ma’am, ma’am are you okay?” An older gentleman stepped in the path that Maya was on, concern filtered through his eyes. The crow’s feet that wrinkled around the old man’s eyes squeezed tightly together as he squinted his eyes, looking down at her bare feet then back to her face. “If you’re in trouble deary you can come in and use my phone.”
“Thank you, but I just needed to run to the convenient store and I forgot my shoes. I’m on the rag and needed some feminine products.” Maya replied with a soft smile as she looked at the genial man who rose his brows in skepticism.
“My door is always open.” He nodded his head and backed away towards his door where he stood and watched Maya till she was out of view.
Maya hoped that the generous man wouldn’t lose sleep over the crazy young lady running through the streets, but she didn’t have time to dwell on those thoughts as the building Malek had pointed out to her on a walk one evening came into her sight. It’s wasn’t particularly fancy, but it was a roof over her head, only meant for temporary comfort before something more discreet could be found.
Silently she walked through the lobby and approached the desk, where a man was aimlessly clicking away at his keyboard.
“Hello, My name is Juniper Kreighton.” The man quickly searched her in the system and then handed over the key after getting a sloppy signature from her and going back to his work on the computer. With a shrug Maya trotted away and towards the room that was prepaid for. As she approached the room her heart began to once more beat rapidly against her chest. A small stream of light peaked through the crack at the bottom of the door and Maya’s breath caught in her throat.
Her hand fumbled with the key, swiping once, twice, three times, before finally successfully watching the red light switch to green allowing her access to the room.
Crossing the threshold she didn’t spend more than a millisecond observing the other body in the room before she flung herself forward towards him. Relief yanked at her emotions as her tight embrace loosened and her fingers found his face. Gently stroking the scars along his skins delicately as she fought back the tears. She hadn’t realized till this moment how fearful she was that he may be dead.
“What happened to you Malek?” Her words came out in breath whispers as she pulled him tightly against her once again.
Someone had taken Malek, but who was the someone? Was it the same person they had been searching for?
Maya had so many questions for Malek but the embrace was intoxicating, and all the questioned floated to the back of her mind as she drank in the presence before her. They could worry about answering those questions later, right now Maya was entirely consumed in Malek. Was she okay? Malek was questioning her safety when he had been abducted and the question felt bizarre but she responded in turn by pressing her lips firmly against his scarred ones.
Erotic temptations tickled the back of her mind as she stood there with her lips against his. Maya could not comprehend how she was able to miss someone so desperately, how she could need someone so fiercely, but she didn’t need to understand it, she only needed to bask in it. The idea sounded cheesy, like a cliché from a mass produced romantic comedy, but Maya’s body had been idly waiting for his touch. The strength and roughness that his hands harnessed caressed her delicately, holding her close to his body, as he strained to talk through the rough dialect that Maya had become accustom to.
The embrace lasted mere minutes before Maya took a step back to take in the surroundings of the room. He couldn’t have been there for very long, no more than a few days it seemed. The relief settled over her as she continued to scan the room. He didn’t have any belongings, which was unfortunate considering Maya was once more without an actual outfit to cover her body. She was still standing barefooted in the bathrobe she had snatched during her escape.
She knew that she needed to tell Malek where she had been and why she had finally turned up here, but she wasn’t sure if she wanted to alarm him of a danger she wasn’t sure truly existed. Malek was volatile and would likely demand her to take him back to the safe house, but it was useless battle. They needed to keep moving forward, not backwards. So instead of discussing their separate whereabouts Maya attacked Malek. Not the vicious kind that resulted in the both of them being left in bruises and possibly with broken bones, but something much more primal.
She was only a few feet away from Malek since she had retreated to look upon the unscathed room, but it seemed her feet couldn’t move fast enough. Her flesh was dotted with goosebumps from the excitement of proximity to the man she had been wishing to see on a daily basis. Brute force knocked into Malek as Maya’s body was upon his. Her legs were wrapped tightly around his waist as her hands wove into his locks of hair to bring his mouth closer to hers. Teeth softly grated against the stubble before replacing the nibble with soft kisses. Her legs squeezed at his waist as she parted her lips to whisper in his ear, admitting out loud the thoughts in her head.
“I missed you.”
Missing him was something she couldn’t have ever pictured. She always assumed that when they finished their investigation they would part ways and see each other in passing. However, the more time she spent with him the more she felt the urge to keep him around. He wasn’t model citizen and she knew that when they were out in public people stared at him, questioning why he was following around Maya but she didn’t care. He was her person, and she didn’t want to spend an extended period of time away from him any time soon.
Malek was gruff and a man of few words, but his actions were something to write stories about. He was incredibly loyal and unafraid to fight through the lions to come out triumphant. He made Maya feel safe and wanted, and gave her some twisted sense of hope. The despise they both experienced upon their first meetings were vanquished as their lives entangled. The fear of him walking away was unbearable, almost as devastating as imagining him dead as Maya had done in his absence.
What ifs were meaningless though as Maya brought her mind back to the reality of the situation. Her legs were wrapped around his muscular frame as her mouth explored the flesh she had been missing.
The rough callouses of his hands were a titillating reminder of how much her body missed his presence. A bitter memory that their absence had in fact been a reality and not a delusion Maya had dreamt up in an attempt to sedate the nightmares. Malek had been gone, he had been taken, and she had sat around like a lost puppy waiting for his return. It sounds pitiful, but the longer his hands were on her flesh the more she wished they would never leave. His fingers ignited her body, and Maya wanted nothing more than to give into the temptation, but she could feel Malek retreating from moment of desire as his brain detected her odd choice of wardrobe.
The disappointment lasted for a moment, but the luxury of giving into their primal desires would have to wait for a few moments longer.
Unwinding herself from his body, Maya let her legs drop from his waist till her feet touched the ground and she was able to hold herself steady. Her robe was askew from the encounter and Maya adjusted it, pulling it tighter around her body in shame as she took a step away from Malek. Infidelity was something that Maya couldn’t even fathom, she was faithful to Malek and truthfully it had been the last thing on her mind as she sat in pathetic darkness worrying about the unknown. Still there was shame in the appearance for a different reason, something that she didn’t want to admit.
Maya had run from a fight, her cowardice drove her away from the security of her safe house and she took to the streets. If Malek was there they would have fought, they would have held down the intruder and interrogated his intentions before mutilating or killing him. Maya couldn’t stomach it though, she didn’t have the strength to murder someone in cold blood when she was entrapped in a cage of depression and sorrow. She let herself become completely useless in the absence of Malek and it was terrifying to admit.
“Well…” The lies began to build up, ready to deter his mind with seduction, pushing at his primal buttons till he couldn’t stand the distance between their bodies. Her hands twitched at the neck of the robe, ready to pull it off to let this man pillage her body and take her to the brink of sanity from the euphoria.
“I was at a different safe house and I was interrupted while I was in the bath.” The truth won out as Maya let her hand fall to her side. It was silly of her to feel disappointed in herself for choosing self-preservation over the strength to fight, but in his presence she felt it was the only thing to do. Maya explained to Malek the person that lurked in the shadows, crawling around their building before she decided to take flight and make way for another safe house. Malek would see her as a weak specimen, something that wasn’t worthy of his strength, but she had to accept her cowardice.
“Malek, I’m tired of always looking over my shoulder.” Maya’s shoulders slumped as she leaned her back against the wall, of sigh of exasperation hanging from her lips.
A heavy moment of silence settled in the space between them as Maya waited for Malek to process the information she had given to him. It seemed over dramatic to assume he’d be disappointed in her actions that reflected human nature, but it didn’t stop her from wondering if he felt less about her. She was weak, and the monster that lurked beneath his rough exterior would prey on her weakness, guzzling it down as another excuse to annihilate her.
“Malek.” She spoke his name again, this time changing the tone in her voice, let him think what he must, but her actions brought her back to him and she wouldn’t apologize for that. Once more she crossed the space between them till her hands were flush against his chest, and her chin was tilted towards him as an invitation. Screw the monster and his opinions about her cowardly actions, she would give him something better to think about.
Her mouth was on his, before her hands moved back to the robe covering her body, easily she loosened the satin tie and pushed the fabric away from her shoulders.
Maya tried to listen to the words he rasped out in the broken English he spoke but she couldn’t focus on the syllables, not when his rough hands were on her body. He was supposed to be angry with her for being a coward, but though she noticed a shift in his demeanor it wasn’t rage that seemed to control him. She wanted to speak, but he was faster than her, executing all the words she wanted to say by greedily pushing her body against the wall.
The carnal desires engulfed the couple as they explored each other’s bodies with hands and mouths. The earlier events of the day vanished as Maya let her mind fade into darkness so that her body could relish the way his flesh felt against hers. Just like their first time, this wasn’t about love and sweet caresses. There was almost something dangerous lurking beneath each touch. They volleyed the control between them, letting their desires of lust lead on their actions through the night. There was no talking, no expression of undying love, there were only moans of pleasure and ragged panting as their bodies pushed through the exhaustion till satisfaction drove them away from sanity. Maya was lost in the feeling, it was like a drug that elicited bursts of euphoria, except she didn’t need a needle or a pill this time, she simply need the feel of Malek’s body against hers. Her body was entangled with his, she wanted to explore his body till the sun rose and set once more. The distance away from him had built up a wall of yearning and now that the wall had been shattered she didn’t want to stop this sexual escapade.
Eventually Maya’s body and mind had to give in, sleep was calling her name as the muscles of her body ached for rest. Although her nerves still tingled in excitement the waves of euphoria were dwindling and her eyes struggled to stay open. The sound of Malek’s breathing sang her to sleep, the first sleep in weeks that came with ease and wasn’t drugged with bloody thoughts and the possibility that Malek’s body was somewhere mangled and torn into small unidentifiable pieces. Maya’s dirty blonde locks of hair clung to the sticky sweat on her forward and she slept contently next to Malek’s side. This was where she belonged, next to his side whether it be in a fight or in bed, the proximity of Malek made her feel impenetrable from any evil that tried to destroy her.
The nightmares didn’t come that night, but when the sun peeked through the dusty curtains of the hotel room Maya was met with a feeling of unease. Maya was by her side, but the threat was still out there and she was ready to end it. Maya was gracious for the reunion but the honeymoon was over and they needed to get back to work. Quietly Maya untangled her limps from Malek’s before she showered and slipped away from their hotel room. She knew that Malek never slept deeply but she knew he needed the rest whenever he could get it. Her body was wrapped in Malek’s clothes that deformed her figure, but they were only temporary.
After finally managing to buy a few basic clothing items for both herself and Malek she changed into a sports bra and work out pants before slipping from the room once more and heading towards the hotels gym.
There were a few men lifting weights and one woman was running on a treadmill with a magazine plopped in front of her and headphones plugged into her ears. Maya had done enough running, so she steered herself towards the back of the gym where a rough looking red bag hung from the ceiling, held up by nothing more than a rusty change.
Extra pairs of sweaty gloves where lying on a nearby bench, but Maya didn’t have any use for gloves, when it came to a real fight her hands would be bare fist against hard muscles and bone. Gritting her teeth she sucked in a sharp breath of air before begging her assault on the bag with her fists and feet. And didn’t take long to crack the skin on her knuckles and soak her hands in blood, but it didn’t stop her. Jab, cross, jab, kick, the adrenaline made her punch harder, faster, she was drawing attention to herself but she couldn’t stop.
The weight of the bag swung back towards Maya catching her slightly off guard and sending her tumble back a few steps. However, she regained her balance and stopped herself from falling flat on her behind. She caught sight of the brick wall on the other side of the bag that caused this shift in momentum and mumbled an insult under her breath as she lifted her middle finger in his direction. Maya could sense the stares she was getting from the other occupants of the gym, their weights no longer clanked together as they watched the situation unfold. If she were to look in their direction she was sure she would see tense muscles and clenched fists, but Maya didn’t bother looking towards them. Instead she pushed the bag back towards Malek before lifting her gym bag and tossing it over her shoulder.
She had never been to Texas, but the thought of the warmer weather put a smile on her face and sent a chill down her spine. She knew that this wasn’t a vacation, the furthest thing from it actually, but still the idea of getting away was exciting. They were following a lead that Malek had somehow rounded up and it was the best thing they had to go with. Maya was guilty of not looking for more information lately, she had been so caught up in the absence of Malek that she was unable to concentrate on the thing that had brought them together. They had started this bizarre journey together and somewhere in her mind she was determined that they would end it together.
They were chasing down and evil that ruined parts of their lives, but that’s all Maya knew. She was scared to admit that without this task she wouldn’t know what her life was meant for, or lack of life it seemed. She was flesh and bone, blood danced through her veins but she had died and her unsettling resurrection had left her feeling like an empty vessel. This was the only thing that sparked the rush of life and humanity inside of her so she would follow this path and continue this journey till there was nothing left of it.
“I’ve got nothing, Texas it is.” With that Maya unwound herself from Malek’s side before excusing herself to the ladies room so she could change out of her sweaty workout clothes and into something mean more for traveling.
Staring at her reflection in the mirror Maya brushed through her messy locks of hair before pulling them into a tight bun that sat on top of her head. Clad in jeans and a sweatshirt she didn’t look like much, but that was the goal, to look unobtrusive and blend into a crowd. It was true that Maya was pretty and couldn’t easily stand out in a crowded room, but she wasn’t the prettiest woman on this planet, especially when her hair was thrown back and her curves where hidden under the bulk of her travel clothes. She could blend in, and she could do it well when she needed too. Maya and Malek were under the radar right now and she wanted to keep it that way all the way to Texas.
“Ready.” Approaching Malek she flashed him a small smile before dangling a single key in front of his face.
“So a car was a lot harder to come by in this joint, but I did manage to scrounge up a cycle. I know it’s not perfect but it’s fast and it’ll take us where we need to go.” Leading him away from the hotel she stopped in front of the motorcycle and smiled sweetly. It wasn’t a shiny new Harley but it was cheap and it ran.
“Let’s go kill these bastars.”
Malek didn’t spend much time talking or showing his affection, in the blink of an eye he had shifted away from her and moved towards the metal contraption she had managed to conjure up. A small moment of fear etched at the back of her conscious as Malek took the driver seat to the bike, he wasn’t that most adept at driving a car so the idea of him being in control of the bike left a quick moment of doubt in her head. However, as soon as the wheels zipped along the asphalt Maya felt a sense of ease transform through her. Plus, she liked the excuse to be close to him, to have her arms wrapped tightly around his waist and her chest pressed against the large frame of his back.
Malek was not good at displaying his affections, so Maya avoided any public showing of her feelings a majority of time. On the bike though, she held on tight and sat close, her thighs hugging his, and squeezing tight when they darted through the traffic that whizzed by. She didn’t need to hold on, their balance was okay and death wasn’t something that she was truly afraid of, but the excuse was nice.
Maya rode in silence, letting Malek concentrate and navigate to their new destination. Truthfully, Maya was terrible with direction, she often got lost and sometimes didn’t know her right from left, so she’d say back and let Malek do the heavy lifting this time. She didn’t speak up until the Texas sign rose high in the sky above them, she had never been to Texas, but the heat of the south had been creeping on them for some time now and Maya couldn’t handle the sweat of the bike anymore. Between the leather seat and the warmth radiating from Malek, she felt like she was suffocating.
“Hey, hell on wheels. Let’s pull over here and get something to eat.” Maya was shouting over the roar of the wind as she tightened her arms around his waist and leaned in the direction she wanted Malek to take.
Once he finally pulled over to the side of the road Maya slipped off the bike and pulled the helmet off of her head before tossing it on the back of the bike. Quickly she shook her sweaty locks of hair before pulling her hair high off her neck. She also pulled her shirt halfway up her torso and twisted it in a knot to stay in place until she was cool. Maya wished that this could be a vacation, but unfortunately it was far from a vacation, it was a wild goose chase following a lead in hopes of finding some answers.
Maya was tired of this journey, tired of looking for something that she didn’t know existed, but she was afraid that if they were searching for answers than there would be no reason for Malek to stick around.
She was insecure and had grown fa too attached to Malek and the monster that was always lingering close by. She was pathetic with needing him around, but she didn’t regret it, she didn’t want to take it back. She was simply afraid that when it all ended his interest in her would fade and he’d walk away and leave Maya alone. These were unspoken fears, but in his absence they had been singing a loud chorus in her ears every day.
“Want something to drink or eat?” Maya pulled herself back to reality as she nodded her head in the direction of the small shack advertising food and a cold beverage.