She lay on the bed, sore and bleeding. He took what he wanted and left scars to remind her. She knew she played a dangerous game every time she brought home a client. Still, it was a living.
This guy only paid her half. She would have to take an extra John tomorrow to make up for it, if she could walk. She tested the strength in her arms first, pushing herself up off the mattress. She was shaking. Her back ached. Her face hurt. Her inner thighs were definitely bruised.
She walked to the small bathroom in the back of the apartment. The building she resided in was older, it didn’t have hot water yet. Still, indoor plumbing was a modern marvel. At least she could rinse her ruined face in privacy. She changed her clothes and made her way out into the cloud filled morning. It was Sunday, she was going to visit her grandmother.
As she sat at her grandmother’s kitchen table, she could feel her halmoni’s gaze on her. She couldn’t look back at her, she knew there was only disappointment in those eyes. She fiddled with the end of her short skirt, another disappointment to the older generation sitting across from her.
“You look terrible.” Her grandmother said in their native tongue. “You are a shame to look at. Do you think this is why I brought you here? To this country?”
“Ani, halmeoni.” She replied, still looking down. She knew that her grandmother had made many sacrifices to bring her to America. She understood that immigrants like them were looked down on. That’s why it had been so hard for her to find work. The white, American men had a taste for girls like her, girls who were new and exotic. She made decent money. She also had a lot of scars, not all of them visible.
“It hurts me to see you like this,” her grandmother continued. “You have such a pretty face. It’s a shame to see it so bruised and defeated.” The girl finally looked up at her grandmother. There was so much sadness in the old woman’s face. “Here.” Her grandmother got up to retrieve something from her bedroom. The girl waited patiently for her to return.
When her grandmother returned she had a small object in her hand. “If you are ever in trouble again, just open this and say, ‘I release you.'” She gave the object to her granddaughter, it was a compact mirror. The girl gave her grandmother a confused look. Her grandmother only nodded grimly.
She left her grandmother’s apartment at sundown. She felt much better after having her grandmother’s cooking and hearing her talk about the past. She felt brighter, lighter even. She made her way down the dark alleys of New York. Gas lights still hung in this section of streets, not yet replaced by the electric light bulb. She kept her eyes wide, alert for any dangers that lurked in dark corners. She was almost to her own apartment when she heard a man’s voice behind her.
“What’s a pretty, little thing like you doing out here at this time?” He smiled at her, but it was not a kind smile. She ran. He caught up to her easily. He grabbed a fistful of her hair and threw her to the ground. She tried to crawl away but he kicked her in the ribs. She went down sobbing.
“We’re just going to have a little bit of fun.” His hand caressed her thigh, then made its way up her back side. She kept her face hidden, slowly reaching for the compact. He flipped her over. She kicked him square in the jaw. He swore viciously. She opened the compact and yelled, “Neo neol pul-eo jwo!” Everything went quiet. The man stopped suddenly and looked around in confusion.
Then the darkness grew. A heat wave came from the compact as it burst. the mirror was shattered. A dark, misty figure formed in front of her eyes and took shape. It was huge. It solidified and turned to her, its horned head many feet above her. It smiled at her. It knew she was the one to let it out. It turned to the man, who stood frozen to the spot. The demon grabbed him by the neck, unhinged it jaw and snapped the man’s head clean off in one bite. Blood sprayed and ran down the man’s neck. The body twitched and convulsed before going limp. She looked away as the demon completely consumed the rest of the man. She covered her ears to block out the sounds it made. After what seemed like forever she stood up and looked at what was left.
The demon was gone.
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