Pete was curled up against a garbage can in the alleyway. The wet, rocky pavement was beginning to stain his jeans as he clutched his knees closer to his face. Through the haze of the rain there was the stomping of feet, the clanking of aluminum bats, some deep male voices calling out, cajoling and mocking.
"Petey Pisser, where are you?"
"Petey Pisser, don't be scared."
He heard the men come around the corner; his heartbeat began to thump with utter ferocity in his hot ears. Pete clutched his legs harder and harder and clenched his jaw so tight not even the slimmest whimper escaped his lips.
"Petey, Petey, Pissing Petey…"
One of the men dragged his aluminum bat along the pavement; the menacing shriek of the metal scraping stone seemed to Pete like the priming of a cannonball.
A man appeared and loomed over Pete, grin gleaming from his shadowy face, weapon resting gently in his paws.
"Petey Pisser," oozed from the man's lips as his cohort faded into view beside him.
Pete didn't say anything, just remained curled up and fetal in the face of menace.
With a gleeful yell, one of the men broke ranks and struck Pete with a cascading, hollow ring. The rest began to join in, thumping and clanging their rigid bats on his soft body. The barrage was an endless wailing of blows as though they were trying to pummel him into the structure of the alleyway. Pete didn't so much as yelp through the endless the thudding on his bones that struck deeper and deeper with each blow.
Pete just grew smaller, shrinking into himself. He tucked his limbs in more and he was beginning to disappear in the barrage. He shrunk and shrunk until he was no longer in the alleyway, as if he had winked out of time and existence.
He realized he couldn't feel anything and opened his eyes. As he pried himself upright, Pete realized he was floating among the stars. He spread himself wide, gaping at the glowing points of light that littered the space around him like a magnificent monochrome kaleidoscope. Gaping, he hovered.
Pete began to force himself forward - he wasn't sure how, but it felt as though he were being propelled by a million tiny rockets. The speed was amazing; at first he was stiff and rigid in sudden shock, but as he began to whiz and twist through the landscape of light he couldn't help but laugh. He laughed an laughed, arms outstretched in childish glee. There were so many stars, so many lights; they were all there just for him.
Pete charged towards one of the stars. An excitement began to bubble away in his stomach in anticipation of what it would be like up close. He sped and he sped and he came to a halt all at once. A great star loomed before him, bathing him in such scathing bright light he blocked his eyes with an arm out of reflex. But he wanted to see.
Lowering the arm he brought his eyes to a cautious squint. Blindness enveloped him in that second, but then the starlight began to dim. Pete opened his eyes fully and saw the dimming star shrink, shrink until it was no larger than a baseball, only the faintest bits of light emerging from it. He urged himself closer to... the strange lumpy sphere? He couldn't quite make out the shape at this distance. Edging closer, he could feel his stomach sinking; just looking at the object was unnerving and the back of his neck grew tepid and cold.
When he finally could tell what it was, he took a sharp breath. The star had shrunk away to reveal a tiny human fetus, curled up and untouched. Little bits of glowing light still managed to escape this fetal form, but it was dim and dark otherwise, like a lump of ethereal obsidion.
Something within him compelled Pete to reach out for it. His veins were buzzing with icy coldness; the fear was so great that his slow movement felt as though it would shatter him to a million pieces; a million stars. His fingers creeped closer to the cuddled shape and everything in his mind was screaming to stop, but some other force inside him kept pushing him closer. He needed to touch it, he had to.
The tips of his fingers brushed the edges of the partially-formed head. Then there was light, and nothing else.
Then from the light, there was darkness. Pete felt the cold, felt something scratchy on his side. Wetness and shivering followed by pain. He pried open his gummy eyes and found himself back in the alleyway. The men were nowhere to be seen - he thought he heard the scrape of aluminum, but he could have been imagining things. The rain plummeted down and burrowed into his bloody flesh, his bruised bone.
All he could do was bring himself to twitch; he had a mind to get up, but his body wouldn't respond. The sensation of warm light was still somewhere inside of him, somewhere deep in his chest. He cricked a crooked smile from cracked lips and let his head slump down.
This wasn't death, that he knew.
But this is peace. He thought as he let the warmth of the starlight ebb throughout his mangled form.