Grace was nineteen when life changed. Too young; too little known, the knowing discovered too late. Her first sighting was amidst swirling wind and water, as she sank deeper into the lake from which she did not think to return. Eyes blurry, mouth swamped with weed, she could be forgiven for thinking herself mistaken in seeing the bird-like figure with the sizeable wingspan and red reflector eyes. She thought they revealed her fast approaching ruin but came to beside the water, clothes melded to her body, damp, not dripping. Time had passed, though she could not say how much. That was the first time.
The second time, Grace saw white wings in her sleep; woke covered in down she had not felt settle. Her mind was filled with the image; the recollection of how it felt to face the knife’s point; the blade entering her body. Her skin was without blemish. As expected. The figure facing the assailant had not been her; she knew that, without knowing where the knowing came from. She sought out the location imprinted in her memory; finding herself drawn to it, again and again. It needed to be nightfall – the stabbing would happen at dusk. Grace must be there, though she had no idea how she could help. The events had played out with her as observer, silent witness. She did not know if she could turn the tide.
Grace haunted the hotspot, waiting for events to unfold at an indeterminate time. Drank cups of lukewarm coffee in the café around the corner from the alleyway she could not escape, whether waking or in slumber. The continuous layers of chitin coating her covers each morning told her so; a daily unneeded reminder, given her fear full dreams; the pierce of her skin.
Night after night she fulfilled her watch; shadows beneath her eyes showing rest disturbed by burden, the groove between her brows now permanently etched into place, until the night to change those coming after. Camped on the corner, feigning homelessness beneath blankets, as the sky grew dark and the temperature dropped, Grace saw her vision slot into place. The slender teenager taking a short cut, face hidden beneath swathes of long hair, followed by the mugger to become much more. She opened her mouth, perhaps to shout to disturb him – them – to call to the girl to run. The creature, the cryptid, the ten-foot wingspan, was there in the streetlights; called into action, without word or a whisper. Grace turned as he – it – descended, hiding her eyes from what happened next. When she turned, it was over. No sign they had been there. That was the second time.
The third time, Grace saw scales and dust, pale in colour. Now, she knew what knowing without knowing could not tell her, without experiencing it first-hand. She would endure; would survive. Her saving had its price to pay for – a deal of undying duration. Until eventually she saw black wings and her service had passed.
This was written for the fifth Horror Bite Challenge - for which the word limit was extended to 500 words, giving a bit of scope to expand on ideas produced by the photo prompt. This is a Mothman demonesque mash up, possibly creating a form of urban legend in the process..