A bitter night wind assaulted the face, the hands and anything else uncovered that it could torment. It came off the ocean and hurried up and down the rumpled streets as if specifically targeting the man and woman hailing a cab. Tourists dressed for the heat. It was July. But it was San Francisco, famously frigid in the summer. They huddled against the stunning cold of the evening, hands outstretched at each mustard yellow taxi that passed. Nothing was right. The City changed every three blocks. They had walked themselves into the Tenderloin in search of a ride back to the hotel, a section of town under-policed and overpopulated with the worst of society.
The concrete pillars of the freeway sheltered the City’s growing derelict population. Bodies curled in sleep covered by blankets of indeterminate color and age. The rush of the freeway hid the sounds of movement as filthy faces turned toward the opportunity of the stranded couple. Movement began slowly from gray edges towards the man and woman. A stealth accentuated by a desire to be there first. To claim the target. To bring them down and assume the position of a feral dog protecting its kill.
The couple backed down the street hoping to create distance, but the slinking, faceless figures followed. The wind came off the crud-encrusted concrete and through the hunters carrying a greasy stench like undigested fat. The only sound, feet scraping on the street and the occasional car passing overhead. Fog contained the smell and near silence, dampening any light other than the dopplering headlights from the freeway.
Numbers swelled as bodies seemingly rose from nowhere. The couple’s faces pivoted searching for space to escape. He whispered to her and with one arm swept her to his back as if that would provide protection. He could feel her breath, its pace increasing as it shallowed. A sound. A human growl, forced both to focus on their left. As the distance shortened, faces appeared. Filth encircling unwelcoming, tooth gapped grins. Really smirks that told of a knowledge of the future the couple could only imagine.