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Traveling the streets Apricot followed the signs and symbols all over the city.  It was late evening, and the sun had set.  A treck into several bars and other shady looking places resulted only in funny looks as Apricot tried to hint at purchasing a gun.  She had been kicked out of several and she was sure by now the police had been contacted at least once about her inquiries.  Still, it was a matter of life and death.  If she did not have a suitable weapon, she could not end her nightmare.  She owed it to her family, including herself.  While gesturing and speaking her mind was dueling between the two thoughts.

Walking out of an automotive body shop named "The Grease Monkey" Apricot lets out a low sigh.  "Pssst!" she hears from across the street.  She sees a middle-aged man of Uchellan decent in normal attire waving her over with his hand.  "Miss, overhear." the man says.  Apricot felt an extreme amount of apprehension being contacted by a stranger.  Reluctantly, she decides it is best to check it out.  She walks across the empty sunset street to the man in the alleyway.  "Hey, kid, you looking for a piece all wrong," he says placing his hand on her back leading her down the alleyway.

She didn't want to go along with this man.  She had seen enough movies to know this is where the girl gets kidnapped.  When several men pop out of a back door with bats, clubs, and metal poles she tries to turn away from the man.  However, from behind her three other men are coming down the other end.  "There is no way out." the man next to her sneers.

"Please,  I don't want any trouble," Apricot says in a panic.

The man spits onto the ground as she is circled.  "Sure, kid.  One of my boys said a funny girl was moving around town looking to buy a gun.  Real pretty girl with brown hair.  You would not be her would you?"

Apricot turned her head to the man, she imagined her expression of joy is painted over by the mask of horror that abruptly was forced upon her.  In stutters, she says "Y-yes, I-I am."

"Sure kid, funny thing, you have no clue what you are doing, yet you knew how to find your way around town." the man says with an unamused look taking several steps away from her towards the brick wall.  She felt alone encircled by a group of dangerous men all looking eager to tear her to pieces or worse.

"First time buyer." she jokes hoping to lighten the mood.  She got a few chuckles and even a smirk out the man she now believes is the leader.

The man nods his head.  "Yeah, first, time, buyers." he shakes his head.  "You know, I got to have a hard time believing a, first time buyer, just figured out our code.  Who told you?"

"No one," Apricot responds.

The boss man closes his eyes. "Sure," he pauses "See I have a hard time with this because you did what the cops do.  Sure we got those old pitchforks, but you did not ask properly.  You kept pressing.  I got to have a feeling a cop told you all this.  Not a good cop cause even the cops are not as sloppy as you." Apricot could feel a lump in her throat growing as the man nodded his head.  "Heh, well I guess you don't want to talk about it."

"I would like to purchase a gun.  I need one.  For safety." she burst out hoping if she insisted they may believe her.  "Please."

The boss man raises his hand to her.  He cocks his head.  "Yeah, you will need protection." His eyes dart over to a young man dressed in a red hoodie and a white shirt holding what looked like a black plastic baton.  The boss man nods his head towards Apricot.  The young man lets out a chuckle before jumping up to Apricot.  She tries to back away taking a few measured steps backward.

She bumps into something solid, she looks up to see a huge bald man grinning down at her.  He wraps his arms around her holding her.  She can feel her feet leave the ground to dangle as he lifts her.  The man is about to strike her when someone else out of the crowd says "Ji Li, man this isn't right.  We don't need to do it like this."

"Oh yeah?  You willing to vouch for her."  Apricot's eyes scan the group to find the guy who may save her.  She can't place him however because of the two men blocking her view.

The man hesitates.  Apricot could not tell if they were just going to beat her up, or flat out kill her.  "I-I look, this girl, she ain't no one.  She has done nothing either.  Just let her go."

Ji Li, the boss chuckles.  "You gotta vouch for her."

"Please!" Apricot shouts.  A thump bursts into her stomach as she lets out a grunt. She looks down to see the young man with the baton had hit her in the stomach.  The tea she had drunk earlier spewing out of her mouth.

"Whatchya you do that for?" Ji Li says looking at the young man gesturing towards the man defending her. "Can't you see we are talking here.  Your ears fucking broke?"

"She was disrespectful."

"Your disrespectful, heh, Balbo let that girl down." Ji Li gestures with his hand.  "Spitting up shit, kid gets the fuck outta here.  Fuck, man walk her out.  Make sure she is doing right." Ji Li points towards the man who saved her then out the alleyway.

Apricot takes a deep breath as Balbo lets go of her.  She drops to her feet and looks up at the man who steps away from her.  "Shit, what you thinking." she hears Ji Li says as he is walking inside the back of the building.

The man who saved her was of Uchellan decent, his short spiky mint green hair was strange to her.  His clothes were of a more traditional Uchellan style, a red high collard neck along with black pants.  The sleeves larger than they needed to be.  "You ok," he asks as Apricot tries to walk up straight.  She found it difficult to breathe.  Each one took a great amount of effort.  She felt as though she was straining her muscles to get air.

Regardless of those facts, she says "Yeah, I am fine." The man walks with her until they are several blocks away from the shops.  The secluded alleyway provided perfect cover Apricot thought.  "I was interested in buying a gun."

"Kid, shit, stop that," he tells her.

"You don't understand, my life is in danger.  I need help.  I need a gun.  I can't explain it." Apricot says to him.

The man stands up straight.  "Kid you are lucky to be alive.  If no one had spoken up for you.  You would have been dead. I knew you were not working for the cops though."

Apricot smirks. "Yeah cause you're a cop." The man rolls his eyes with an uncomfortable look.  "You are a cop."

"Don't even joke." the man says attempting to cover his tracks.  "So what does a girl like you need with a gun."

"I am fighting against phantoms," Apricot says with a straight face to the man.

He chuckles a little. "Right, aren't we all?"

"No.  I mean phantoms.  Monsters, things that come out of thin air and dispute right back into it.  The terrorist attacks." Apricot firmly says to the man.  His gaze becomes uncomfortable.  "You know what I am talking about because you are a cop."

"Stop with the cop thing and anyone will look at someone funny talking like that," he says to her.  He turns his back towards Apricot taking a few steps away from her.  He turns back to look.  "You are not wrong about those things though.  Do you know what they are yet?"

"I have not a clue.  I know I have to shut up about them.  I worked at Ichigari Grocery.  I need a gun." the man takes a deep breath drawing a pistol from his pocket.  Apricot wraps her fingers around the handle feeling a sense of power and security coming over her.

He looks down at the gun not letting go at first.  "It's a 45, that means the bullets it uses have point 4 5 on them.  Don't get caught with that." the man says letting go.  "It holds a death penalty on it." The man shakes his head.  "The numbers have been filed off and there is not tracking devices on it.  It should work even in jammed areas as well.  It's the real deal.  I don't even know why I am doing this but, I feel like it is the right thing to do.  Whatever you are doing, I hope it works." the man says before walking away from Apricot.  She places the pistol inside of her purse zipping it up.

~
"Paranormal Experiences Of Eastway Park And The Eastway Monster ........................................................................P. 04

Paranormal Experiences Of Eastway Park And The Eastway Monster

If you have been out at Eastway Park at night and have found yourself lost, you are not alone.  A startling number of reports from passers-by have said this small little park at night appears as an endless labyrinth.  So many in fact the city of Blue Ash has put a ban on entry after dark.  So you won't be able to check this one out for yourself.  We would not suggest you try, anyway.  If you thought those reports were strange, what lays inside police records might have you even more on edge.

People said inside that labyrinth, there were monsters.  Strange creatures of various description.  Some reported seeing strange shadows along the walls.  We have also had many letters sent one letter detailing out a monster that reminded us much of a flying squid.  The only thing we know for sure is something strange is going on in the Eastway Park."

Jumping off the small metal bars of the barricade Apricot peered into the dark of the Eastway Park.  She would see how true those claims were.  If this one panned out, there may be something to the rest of those stories.  A thought while walking home crossed her mind.  What if all these "paranormal" things were the phantoms effect on their world?  If that was the case she would have to investigate these weird urban legends around town.  With the gun firmly pressed against her hip, a certain assurance pervaded her peace of mind.

Passing by a fountain at the core of the park she walked around the pavement loop.  It was not long before she found herself at the start again not finding this "labyrinth".  With the roll of her eyes, she walks towards a small patch of trees, the overgrowth battling against the man-made order.  As she continues strolling around the park, she felt increasingly like an idiot for even trying this stupid charade.

Apricot decides its best to leave, all but done with this fiasco.  During her abandonment of the park, her eye is drawn to something she had not seen the first few times around.  It is a tunnel, with strange markings on the outside of it.  Painted symbols and signs of spirals, circles, and triangles.  "If there was a labyrinth, then this must be the place." Apricot surmised.

The smell wafting from the labyrinth is rancid.  Reminding her of the sour smell of rotted meat.  Placing her hand on the pistol she slowly slides it from the waste of her blue jeans leveling it into a stance she had seen on TV before.  She slowly approaches the tunnel gazing into the interior of the foul place.  Its walls looks like it had been painted with some kind of off-white color.  That, however, was pealing exposing the blackish brick stone.  As she walked in, she noticed puddles of what she considers being blood on the floor.  No bodies though, she supposed that was a good thing.  Further, into the dark tunnel, she felt a warm wetness hit her head.  She looked up to see that the ceiling is comprised of some very large looking veins.

Her heart jumped as they wiggled like they were pumping.  In fact, as she listened it sounded as though there was a heartbeat deep within the walls of this tunnel.  She let out a shriek as she felt fingers touching the side of her arm.  She looks over to see a pale lady staring at her.  Her eyes are fixed on Apricot.  "You scared me," Apricot says.  The thin lady says not a word but instead moves her face closer towards Apricot.  She takes a step back, feeling a sudden sense of danger come over her.

"How long have you been here?" Apricot asks noticing that her clothing looks off.  Like it was from another era entirely.  The woman opens her mouth still stretching her face towards her.  Her tongue snakes out of her mouth and then retreats inside.  "Do you understand me?" she asks without reply.

Now the woman seems like she is straining her neck to stretch it further.  Her arms going straight as she tries to lean forward.  Her face splits down the middle like dried paper, a skin covered skull pushing through.  It stretches several feet away from the body its pulsing muscles visible as the woman stands to a height of at least ten feet Apricot speculates.  Its chest bursts out revealing a larger shell like chest and arms like a praying mantis's scythe.  Its shell brown. Her thorax wiggles out from its rear and its legs arc in an odd fashion.

Apricot screams pointing the gun at the creature.  She pulls the trigger, the force knocking her hand in the air, pain surging through her wrist.  The creature does not seem phased by the bullet.  Instead, it slashes, Apricot ducking to hear the blade scraping across the wall.

She turns and runs towards the entrance but she cannot see it from this distance.  Instead, the tunnel looks like an endless dark hall.  The only light coming from the dull red glow of the veins above her.  The creature is not far off behind her.  She can feel the vibrations of its steps.  It hisses at her as it continues down the tunnel.  Turning around Apricot takes another shot at the creature.  She watches this time to see the bullet impact its chest.  It hits and sparks and then disappears.  "What!" Apricot screams.  This is it.  She will die.  The creature dives as she huddles into a ball screaming.

"That will not help you." says a male voice.  She looks up to see the creature's scythes held back by a young man in a suit holding a decorative rod.

Apricot is stunned.  "Who are you?"

Pushing with his arm he forces back the creature.  "So you like picking on little girls huh." the guy says walking casually towards the creature who is now screaming a high pitched roar at him.  "Yeah yeah complain all you like." The creature then lunges swinging back over to him.  The man parries the strike knocking the claw aside.  This repeated several times until he uses the back end of his rod to hit the creature in the face.  A large spark flying out of the creature, its face looking as though acid had been thrown on it.  The skin was falling free revealing the skull tucked beneath it.  parts left on it were melting dripping off like slime.  The creature tries to retreat.  "What? Don't like silver?" he says to the monster before throwing the rod into the creatures back causing it to fall to the ground. The tunnel lights up as the body sparks convulsing as though it was being electrocuted.  Its shrieks die down as the body becomes a puddle of thick sludge.

The man takes several careful steps toward the rod lifting it from the pool of gunge.  He then turns to look back over towards Apricot.  "Hello madam, my name is Shiori Kinzo,"

"He is royalty!" Apricot shouted in her head.

"And yes I am the heir to the Kinzo family nobility.  Now my dear, what has you walking in tunnels like these with an illegal gun." his tone is firm and makes Apricot consider her response.

"I, am hunting phantoms," Apricot says with a straight face.

The man smirks rubbing his chin.  "How interesting.  I think I might like you." Apricot had not realized it but she was still on the ground.  As the man approached she was reminded of that fact as she quickly got to her feet.  "I will forgo this chance encounter for now.  I will ignore that pistol of yours.  If you are going to be using that, however, I suggest you learn how to shoot that thing."

Apricot at a loss for words simply nods her head.  "Seems as though you are not the talkative type.  Star struck? Hmm?" he gloats.

"I almost got killed," Apricot tells him.

Shiori nods "You better get used to it miss phantom hunter.  Most things are not too friendly when you are trying to kill them."  He continues walking past her towards the end of the tunnel.

Apricot quickly snaps to face him yelling "Wait!" Shiori turns his head to glance back at her.  "Do you know what these things are?  Why were you here?  What is going on!?"

"I will only answer one of those questions.  Take your pick." Shiori smugly replied.  Apricot quickly ran through the questions.  Which one was more important?  Which one would give her the most information?  "If you are going to waste my time I have elsewhere to be.  This night is not over yet."

Apricot rushed decides on her first. "Do you know what these things are?"

"I do." Shiori resumes his walking laughing.

"What!  Aren't you going to tell me?" Apricot yells.

"Not a chance my dear." Shiori laughs.  "However, if you survive, I might consider it later."

Apricot follows him "You are a jerk you know that?"

"A jerk that saved your life, my dear.  Remember that," he says chuckling.  "I will give you one thing.  The Crisis.  Start there."

Apricot scrunches up her face.  "What do you mean the Crisis?" This time he did not reply.  Instead, he increased his pace.  Once they had both reached the exit Apricot expected Shiori to at least give her a farewell but instead, he continued.  "What an asshole." Apricot thought to herself.  "But at least I am not the only one doing this."
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