Little Bird


eileen_icon.gif king_icon.gif

Scene Title Little Bird
Synopsis King tracks his prey to an abandoned townhome on Staten Island and gets more than he'd bargained for.
Date January 3, 2009

An Abandoned Townhome, Staten Island

Moonlight filters through the broken windows of the two-story townhome Eileen Ruskin has taken shelter in for the night, reflecting off jagged shards of glass and casting spindly shadows that creep across the floor like disembodied fingers. She isn't the first drifter to use the abandoned dwelling as a bastion against the weather outside, and she almost certainly won't be the last — strips of carpeting have been peeled up from the floor to expose the hardwood beneath, and there are several gaps where people before her have pried the boards loose and used them for firewood. All Eileen has is a pile of old newspapers, made slightly damp by the meltwater, but they aren't so wet they won't burn.

She sits by the fire on top of a large duffel bag given to her by Elias, pale skin cast in a red glow that brings out the dark circles under her eyes and the sickly pallor of her complexion, making her appear more tired and haggard than she really is.

It's been a long day, and it's going to be an even longer night.

The chill in the air is emphasized by the strong winds outside, not as bad as they have been in the last few days, but strong enough to whistle through the space beneath the front door, and whip thorugh the rear end of the house where several windows are smashed out. It's this breeze that makes the fire in front of Eileen gutter and spark, upturning a few light and drifting paper ashes into the air.

The way the flakes — glowing on the edges with orange embers — are lifted into the air as if weightless, is almost hypnotic. Something beautiful in its own way amidst the lonely and hungry darkness of the house.

The sound of the front door creaking open, however, is disruption to all of this. The lock on the door hasn't worked — it might have at one point, but that was too long ago to matter. It's never posed a problem save for when the wind pushes hard, but this sounds different, this feels different.

The door opens too slowly, the knob turns with a rattling click of broken metal, and in the moonlit doorway emerges an enormous silhouette of a man tall enough to need to duck beneath the door casing. His long jacket, made of patched up leather blows in the wind as he steps in, windblown snow glittering in the fur collar around his neck, and his dark eyes settle on the fire, then narrow as they focus on Eileen's small and pale form.

As if his abrupt, silent, and looming presence weren't enough, it's what's held in his right hand that is far and beyond terrifying. A twelve inch blade of steel catches the firelight, serrated on its backside with a hooked tip pointed down to the floor, a combat knife held just right to reflect the flames. As if to say, here I am, and this is for you.

The man says nothing at first, he just stands in silence, watching Eileen. Waiting for the rabbit to run.

Eileen doesn't bolt, but she does rise to her feet in a swift, jerky motion that almost sets her off-balance. The sound of the door opening wasn't a real cause for concern — it could have been anybody, it could have been Sylar. It isn't until the man comes into view that her heart surges in her chest and she finds herself staring across the room at something that could have easily walked straight out of a nightmare, a monster made real.

There's a hitch in her breath, inaudible despite the deafening silence that fills the townhouse, broken only by the hiss and crackle of the fire. Tongues of flame leap up from the burning newspaper, fueled by the sudden influx of air flooding in through the door, licking against Eileen's long, slim legs and the heavy fabric of her woolen coat.

Maybe there's been some mistake. "I didn't know somebody was living here," she says in a thin, rattling voice that sounds alien to her own ears. This is wishful thinking, and she knows it. "I can leave."

The stare that returns Eileen's words is long and silent, followed by a few heavy footfalls moving into the building, deep and thumping steps that take him far enough away from the door to be too close. "Nobody lives here." His voice is as deep and loud as his size would make one imagine, but his accent is something foreign, something thick and colorful with a softness to his consonants. "Little bird." He raises the knife held in one hand, stalking forward like a large animal would around a small and wounded prey. "Nobody lives here." The knife is given a little turn, enough to shine the dim reflection up towards the girl's eyes, "He wants me to take you in, alive."

One dark brow rises slowly, matched with a slight upturn of the knife, "But you be one'a dem," There's an adamancy and ferocity to his voice now, despite the level tone, something hurt and angry. "So instead, I'm gonna' say you fought back, an'a killed you on accident." The tip of the knife is directed towards Eileen slowly. "Tha's how it's gonna be."

Little bird. Eileen's blood runs cold in spite of her close proximity to the fire, and she can feel her skin beginning to grow cold and clammy. Ethan was right. Kazimir did send somebody after her.

As the man moves forward, she holds her ground, watching as his shape grows even bigger and broader in her field of vision.

Maybe the murderers and rapists of desperate New York City will do quicker work the day I don't come to find you, Sylar had said. If she lives through this, she's going to give him an earful about tempting fate the next time they cross paths. "You think Kazimir doesn't have people who can find out whether or not you're telling the truth?" she asks, mind immediately going to the hunting knife she keeps sheathed on the inside of her coat. It's nothing compared to the weapon her aggressor is wielding — she might as well be carrying a safety pin for all the good it will do her in close quarters. "You won't be able to hide what really happened here."

King's heavy footfalls stop, fingers curling tightly around the black handle of his knife. His head tilts to the side, like an animal that caught an unfamiliar scent on the wind, a stoic expression on his face as he considers for just a moment the things Eileen says. For that moment it looks as though he'll relent, those dark eyes of his unfocusing as he brings the knife to point up and scratch at the side of his face gently. "You say tha', as if in a few weeks, th' worl' will be here t'care." His eyes narrow, and the unfocused look begins to fade slowly.

"You say tha', as if you think I believe I live through the end tha' comes…" His feet begin moving again, this time with a building pace. He doesn't just lunge across the room, his advance is a measured rhythm of ever hastening footsteps that bring him in long strides across the room. He brushes heedlessly into an expended kerosene lantern, casting the empty glass and metal case to the ground with a loud crash as the blade of his knife moves from his face to begin angling towards Eileen, "One'a us is jus' gon' die sooner." His eyes — dark pools surrounded by a ring of white — narrow to slits, "Screamin'."

Eileen wouldn't have any better luck bargaining with a hurricane, that much is clear — although carved from flesh and slow-moving in comparison to other, more volatile forces of nature, King is as unstoppable as the winds battering against the side of the building. She won't be able to put him down with the tools she has available to her, but this doesn't mean she can't still move herself out of the way.

Her lips thin out into a level line, neither frown nor smile, and the very tip of her tongue darts out to wet them and taste the chapped flesh. Whatever she does, she has to do it now, before the window of opportunity for action is closed. One hand slides into her coat as she begins to back up, the lantern's glass crunching under her booted feet, then closes around the hilt of the blade beneath the heavy fabric. There's something else there — smooth metal attached to a delicate length of silver chain — and it takes effort not to let her fingers linger upon it any longer than necessary.

Eileen's shoulders bump up against the wall and her hand emerges from her coat, grasping the hunting knife so tightly that her knuckles have already gone white. As badly as her arm is shaking, she can't afford to drop it — she can't afford to make any mistakes.

With the fluidic grace of a predator, King sees the hackles raise in Eileen eyes as she reaches into her coat; ever the cornered animal ready to bare gleaming teeth. The enormous man strides forward, his empty hand reaching out to grasp at the young woman's wrist, wrenching it back as his thumb presses down at the center of her wrist, straining tendon and flexing bone as he forces the knife from her fragile limb.

There is a low, guttural sound as King forces the arm back, stepping into the motion as he presses Eilen several steps back through a hall, and then slams his side up against her, smashing her into the faux wood paneling in the hall, cracking and splintering it beneath their combined weight. His other, armed hand moves forward, up and under the young woman's side, a motion that could have buried the knife up to her sternum.

Instead he glides the flat of the blade across her stomach harmlessly, then twists it up to split the soft and supple flesh of her belly wide open in a two inch gash. Blood flows freely, hot and steaming, down King's hand as the blade plunges in halfway, splitting flesh the whole way with graceful ease. But he doesn't drive the knife further, he withdraws in a fluid motion that leaves the bleeding abdominal puncture clean and deep, without being immediately fatal.

He wants her to run, so he can follow the trail she leaves. The hunt is on.

Eileen's knife hits the floor with a thunk, sticking into the carper point-down. Over the sound of the glass crunching beneath his feet, the sound of Eileen's hastened breathing, and the sound of his own blood rushing in his ears, he misses one telltale sound outside and through the open door.

The beating of wings.

Eileen is only vaguely aware of King's crushing weight as he bears down on her, the vice-like grip of his hand on her wrist. Much more painful is the gaping wound in her belly, oozing blood, and while the man might not be able to detect the telltale sound as it encroaches, the beating of wings is all that Eileen can hear. Reaching out with her mind, she croaks a desperate plea, verbalized to lend it extra strength and credence:


No sooner has she groaned the request than a flood of black surges through the open doorway. In the darkness, it's impossible to positively identify the horde of birds that descends upon King — ravens and crows, grackles and blackbirds — but identification hardly matters when all that's important are the wickedly curved claws, talons and beaks tearing at his skin and clothes, eyes and flesh.

The sound the emerges from the hulking man's silhouette is something of a growl mixed with a scream, a wet and throaty noise as talons, beaks and wings claw, peck and buffet at anything they can find. Portions of his jacket are torn at by the claws, his vision clouded by the flurry of wings as he brings his arms up to cover his face, letting go of the waifish girl's wrist. No human sounds come from King, only the roar of something bestial deep down within him, and the flickering glimmer of a knife.

One of the birds is snatched right out of the air, caught on King's sweeping knife and pinned to the wall with a bloody thump, the blade driven in the center of the animal's torso. His other arm flails wildly, one bird taken where dozens more yet live. It is the black haze of feathers, the red sting of blood that drips down from his brows into his eyes, and the cacophonous cries of their shrieking forms that consumed both the man and his focus.

King stumbles back, leaving his knife embedded hilt-deep in a bird pinned to the wall, his hands reaching out to grab another bird from the sky, even as it pecks down at the soft, defenseless flesh of his thumb. He squeezes and twists, like someone wringing out a towel to the creature in his grasp, much to the same visual effect.

Birds aren't people. Birds aren't people. Birds aren't people.

Eileen's silent mantra is the only thing keeping her screams from joining King's. Although it does not hurt in the same way that her now crushed wrist throbs, the blows dealt to the birds are as real to the young woman as the pungent odor of smoke and blood mingling together in the air, the crimson droplets that spatter across the side of her face as the bird in King's hand cracks apart at its bony seams, guts oozing out through his large fingers.

It takes her a moment or two to realize that she's free. When she does, she wastes no time mourning the flock's losses — their deaths are a necessary sacrifice if she is to escape. And escape she does, out the door and into the frozen night.

Now she can scream.

The door slams against the back of the house, and Eileen's boots strike the cold, untouched snow in the back yard hard and fast. Each hastened footfall causes her to sink past her ankles into the powdery white, and amidst the moonlight, long and dancing shadows are cast in the back yard between two once suburban homes. The skeletal silhouettes of picket fences rise up from the snow at skewed angles, passing by her peripheral vision in a dark blur.

The girl runs head-long into something stiff, cold and yet awkwardly malleable that wraps around her. A few hasty and jerking motions hurls the frost-mottled sheet off of her narrow frame, tearing it away from the clothesline that criss-crosses the yard.

In the house, a low and loud growl mixes amidst the noise of crying birds, followed by the closing sounds of bootfalls on hardwood floors. A door crashes open, but not the one to the back yard. Eileen's screams pierce the night sky, raw and throaty cries that break any last vestiges of silence left, screams soon accompanied by the sounds of shattering glass and splintering wood, as King's massive frame comes through a window on the side of the house in a spray of moonlight-struck shards of glass.

His bulky form lands feet-first in the snow directly in front of Eileen with a puff of frozen powder, tattered ends of his leather jacket falling down to mid-calf as black feathers settle down around him. Claw marks and blood streak across his face.

Eileen scrambles backwards, all arms and legs, struggling through the snow with as much fury and determination as she was wrestling the sheet and clothesline just a few seconds ago. She isn't screaming anymore, but she hasn't succumbed to her asthma either; gulping down mouthfuls of air to fuel her flight, she turns and lopes back across the yard the same way she came. Rather than retreat back into the house, she circles around it and throws herself at the fence that separates the property from the lot beside it. Staten Island isn't completely abandoned — if she can get to the street, she might be able to flag down a passing car… or throw herself across the hood to make the driver stop. She's desperate enough.

King falters, an intentional beat as his eyes track Eileen in her movements. He begins moving again only once she's gained a bit of a lead on him. His height, the span of his stride, and the strength behind those legs allow his considerably bulkier form to move with a feral swiftness through the snow, steam rising up off of the bleeding wounds on his bald scalp and the sides of his face. The birds follow now, out of the broken window and the door Eileen had escaped through, surging up into the air in a morass of darkness that clouds out the moon as wings and feathers take some amorphous form in the night sky before diving down towards King again.

The additional distraction affords Eileen enough time to break through the fence, making her way across the front lawn, past long abandoned bicycles laying half-buried in the snow and frozen to the ground. When her feet scuff out onto the pavement, King's roaring cries in the yard ring out with the bird's noises, even as lights in the windows of adjacent buildings begin shutting off. No one sees anything. It's safer that way.

With a frustrated snarl, King charges out of the back yard between the houses, hurdling the fence as he moves to make up time to catch Eileen, swatting at the birds as they take turns swooping down on him, talons and beaks rending strips of flesh from dark skin, tearing away to reveal tender and wet red below.

Eileen isn't a doe-eyed animal, she isn't food for a hunter. She, despite her fragile form, is like all other members of the Vanguard, a lethal instrument. But her lethality merely comes in other shapes and colors from the rest.

As King rushes out into the street, knocking a bird aside from his periphery, he's nearly closed the distance between himself and his prey. Prey he has done the unfortunate disservice of underestimating. By the time the headlights hit his side, piercing through the cloud of birds, it's already too late to move away. King pivots, turning his back towards the car as he's thrown up and onto the hood of the beat up sedan, smashing through the windshield as the car spins out of control on the icy road, the tail end swinging out to sideswipe Eileen and send her up and over the trunk, down onto her shoulder on the pavement.

Tires screech along with birds as the car tumbles over into a snow-filled culvert, sending King sprawling out into the snow, accompanied by the uninterrupted blaring horn of the car from the driver's head pressed firmly against the middle of the steering wheel.

The world rotates in wide, lazy circles around Eileen's head. Disoriented, she tries pulling herself off the pavement only to lose her balance and crumple back down again. In her nineteen years on this earth, she's been stripped naked and left in icy bathwater for hours at a time, beaten with belts and shoes, thrown into walls and broken her nose against a bedpost.

She's never been hit by a car before.

Initially, she can't feel her legs, but that sensation begins to pass once she gets her bearings and manages to crawl out of the street and onto the curb. The blaring of the horn is distant, coming to her ears like wind through a long tunnel, gradually growing louder and louder until it reaches an almost deafening pitch, forcing her to cover her hands with her ears as she doubles over in the snow and tries willing the spinning to stop.

It doesn't work.

The droning noise of the horn fills the silence, a blaring alarm telling everything in the neighborhood that if the sound of screams, screeching tires and shouting wasn't an indication something is amiss, this simply cannot be ignored for long. King only makes furtive motions to move from the snow, shifting and groggily moving in the spot some fifteen feet from where he was thrown from the windshield. Bits of glass fall from the collar of his jacket and where they are embedded in its back. He rolls onto one side, exhaling a heavy breath, trying to muster the strength to stand and give chase again.

It doesn't work.

One hand held across her stomach, Eileen heaves to her feet. She's in better shape than King is, though not by much — if she's going to leave this scene alive, she needs to do it now in case he somehow recovers while she's still trying to piece herself back together again. Droplets of blood leave red spots in the snow as she staggers past the car, past her felled attacker.

A more vindictive person might deliver a kick to his ribs along the way, but King doesn't receive so much as a glance. It's possible she doesn't even notice him languishing there. Her eyes are on the road stretching out ahead of her, fixed on a distant cluster of trees that appears to be getting further and further away as she purposefully slogs toward it…

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