Another world hung above us, revealed in tiny pie-slices under each streetlamp. Flying ants. Stag-beetles. Hornets. Wings, antennae and mandibles, a buzzing churn of rage and fear. It was fucking disgusting. And hot. It stank. Piece-of-shit neighborhood, urban blight. There are not enough arsonists.
I clocked him at two hundred yards: the only living thing with less than six legs. Perched against the light pole, knit hat down to his eyes, bandana hooked around his Adam’s apple. Blue, everything blue. At a block away, he scratched his arm, spat across the sidewalk and cocked his head. There was no-one else for miles. I went straight towards him.
Let’s talk for a moment about Batesian Mimicry.
Batesian Mimicry is where a creature, commonly an insect, frog or snake, has no sting, but steals the colors of those who do. The Batesian is a fraud, refusing to accept its role as weak and defenseless: a meal for something stronger. There is a cost for not being dangerous in this world. The Batesian’s greatest fear, like every liar, is being discovered for what it is. And then going the way of all treacherous, unprotected little animals.
He kicked off the streetlamp, moved into my path and looked me up and down. His eyes shone viciously above the smile. But for all the rigidness and posture, he was anxious, soft. His skinny forearms were bare, no ink except for a 'C' under a burn. No gang would have him, not even a little crew of rejects. He was a scavenger, making do in bumblefuck. Friendless, disrespected, hiding in a carnivore's skin. Trying to scare the things he wasn't strong enough to take.
"Pretty thing," he said.
I walked around him.
"I’m talking to you," he said, and started up behind me, and I got ready to turn.
Let's take a moment to talk about Aggressive Mimicry.
Aggressive Mimicry is when a predator, commonly a spider, is so clearly dangerous it must pretend to be vulnerable and small. This way, it tempts larger creatures into striking distance, often bringing them down with a single blow or bite. It has no special markings, no admission of lethality. Whatever pleasure it takes from its kill must be hidden, along with the body, so that it can repeat the act on something else. Something larger, less observant, less worthy of survival.
In the van, I'd changed into a tube top and short skirt. Sneakers were essential for mobility, so I held six inch heels looped over my shoulder, and walked like I was drunk. Add the wig and smeared makeup, and I was an unrecognizable mess. Through his eyes, I had all the markings of prey. Every signal I broadcast gave him something he wanted: the free lunch he’d been waiting for since day one.
I turned back at him. He stopped eight feet away, and we stood absolutely silent. He was breathing hard. I placed my hand slowly inside my pocketbook.
“Don't even try,” he said raising his chin towards my bag, taking a half-step closer, “Just show some fucking respect.” I nodded my head like I was panicked and inched backwards. He slowly closed the gap between us, and when I looked into his face his cheeks were flushed and he wouldn’t meet my eyes. I felt into the interior compartments of my bag. Everything was present. Long loop of cheese wire with handles. Sodium peroxide. Disinfectant towelettes. Garbage sacks. Gorilla Tape. Entrenching tool. Bone saw.
‘Leave me alone,’ I said in my best pretend scared voice. I located my syringe within the zip compartment, and pushed the cork off the end. I got really to stab the needle through the patent leather.
We were just four feet apart. I looked over my shoulder and made a final witness check. After that, I let myself smile.
Above us, something winged flew into the cracked sodium lamp and exploded.