Critical Failure (#9)

She saw him fall to the ground. [Perception: 1 success, 0 failures] Not the way it happened in the movies, unbearably slow, invoking the sense of having a chance at changing something, but really just meant to prolong your agony for the sake of higher ratings. No, she heard him connect to the ground with a definite thud and crack that clearly said, there’s nothing left here for you to do about it, girl. [Virtue: Justice] Crouching over him, she tried to take in any detail that might help her unravel this whole mess. [Medicine: 1 success, 0 failures] She could tell by the way his left leg was broken in three places, by the way his arm was sticking out at a weird angle, his eyes wide but unseeing, and his brains still pouring onto the pavement out of the golf ball sized crack in his skull, that her intuition had not betrayed her. There was absolutely nothing she could do for him. The stench of urine and guts reached her nose, and she tried to suppress the urge to add the content of her stomach to the dark slick of brains and street dirt, [Willpower: 1 success, 1 failure] only barely managing to swallow her breakfast sandwich back down.

The sour taste in her mouth was no match for the bitter look on her face as she scanned the crowd of quickly gathering onlookers for a clue. [Perception: 3 successes, 0 failures; bonus: trained observer] She took in the crying children, the mortified adults, the ones who stood at a distance, paralyzed by shock; the ones who were pulling out their phones to get a good shot of the gore; the ones who were pushing past the rest of the crowd to offer first aid; and the one person who was seemingly oblivious to the gruesome scene, a tall, bald man wearing jeans and a brown leather jacket, decisively moving away from the commotion. [Bonus: Common sense] There was nothing too unusual about wanting to avoid a former-person-reduced-to-pancake scene, but most people still couldn’t pass on at least having a quick look. But baldy here just couldn’t wait to get away. [Unseen sense: Supernatural creatures] No, there was something about him that rubbed her the wrong way, and she had long since learned to trust her instincts on these matters.

She followed baldy with her eyes as he rounded the corner at the end of the short block and disappeared into the dark alley beyond. She got to her feet, ignoring the insistent questions of whether or not she knew the mancake, if she was hurt herself, if she needed help. [Vice: Pride] Help? She hadn’t needed any help since she had turned 14, since turning a hunter. Why start now? What she actually needed was to get to baldy before he could get away. Slapping away the hands offered to her from all sides, she began to run towards the alley in which baldy had vanished just moments ago. [Athletics: 4 successes, 0 failures] People stared as she tore past them, every bit as surprised as she was at her speed. Not even remotely out of breath, she reached the corner of the street, slowed down, flattened herself against the front of the corner building, and inched towards the edge. A quick glance into the alley told her she’d have to get in closer. [Perception: 1 success, 0 failures; malus: distance, darkness] The only things she’d been able to see was a dumpster on the wall opposite from her a little further down the alley, and baldy, of course, even further along, his back turned towards her.

Bending low, so to be less exposed, she made a run for the dumpster. [Stealth: 4 successes, 0 failures] With cat like agility, she dashed across the alley, disturbing not a single pebble on her way, and crouched down behind the dumpster in what seemed like one fluid motion. From here, she would have a much better view of baldy and whatever he was up to. [Perception: 2 successes, 0 failures; malus: darkness] He still had his back on her, but he had gotten onto his hands and knees, drawing something with chalk on the alley ground she couldn’t make out. His wide jacket made it difficult to judge his built –she might be able to take him on in hand-to-hand combat. She also couldn’t see a gun or a knife protruding from underneath his clothes, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t packing some sort of weapon. She felt for her own 9mm Glock securely strapped to her hip.

Apparently he had finished doodling, now standing on his feet, he was talking to himself. [Knowledge languages: 0 successes, 0 failures] She couldn’t make out the meaning of his words, the only thing she could tell was that it wasn’t any language she knew. She didn’t need a degree in linguistics, however, to tell that the intense blue light now coming from his hands was unusual. [Knowledge occult: 2 successes, 0 failures] Seven years on the job were enough to tell her that she’d stumbled across a summoning. She decided to edge closer to get a better view of his alley ground masterpiece to determine which demon he was trying to summon. [Stealth: 0 successes, 2 critical failures] Unfortunately for her, an alley rat decided to move forward at exactly the same moment as her. And this time, she did see everything unfold in movie-slow-motion: the dirty brown rat’s whiskers slowly moving up and down, sniffing the spot where her foot had intended to find a secure stand; her foot still halfway raised, but on an unstoppable trajectory downwards; the rat’s pointy snout moving curiously towards its approaching doom; her realization of what was about to happen and the feeling of prolonged agony of not being able to change one fucking bit about it; and all the while, baldy chanting on in the background.

Her head smacked against the pavement, [Stamina: 1 success, 0 failures; malus: 3 bashing damage] but still she managed to stay conscious long enough to see baldy’s illuminated scalp appear in the periphery of her vision. “I had a feeling I’d find something weird if I followed you, baldy,” she managed to push out of her remarkably airless lungs. “And what does your intuition say now?” he asked, raising his right foot above her head. “That this is gonna hurt like fu—“ [malus: bashing 7; condition: unconscious] she managed to say before baldy’s foot kissed her face.



Context for this piece: Each day of this new year I will be setting aside about an hour to write a short text, any kind of text. I will use four random prompts generated by an app called Writing Challenge, with five minutes of writing dedicated to each prompt, bringing it up to a total of at least 20 minutes of writing for each text.

The prompts are marked in bold letters and a full list can be found here:

  • Start writing a story that begins with this sentence: “She saw him fall to the ground.”
  • Add a character who doesn’t have any hair
  • Add a character who has magical powers
  • End the story with a dialogue including: “And what does your intuition say?”

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