OH GOD WHAT THE FUCK. I blame Eric for this.
It was the fourth time that I'd met that little girl in the alley behind the Coach and Horses. Just as she had each of the previous three times, she stood there in the shadows, staring at me unblinking, daring me to make something of the fact that she was there.
I staggered toward her, five pints and six double vodkas the worse for wear. She didn't shy away.
“It ain't safe for you out here,” I said, just as I always said. “You're lucky you met me, I'm not so bad, but there's a lotta' nasty people you could run inta' in dark alleys behind pubs.”
“I'm safe,” she said, just as she always said. “Nothing's going to hurt me.”
Maybe it was the critical twenty-fifth unit of alcohol doing the thinking, but this time, I decided to press it further.
“Look, I don't mean no offense, but you're what, eight? At most? And it's half midnight, and you're in the alley behind the Coach and Horses. You should be tucked up in bed in your parents' house.”
“Ain't got no parents,” she said defiantly. “I live here.”
“You can't possibly live here. Aren't you… adopted, or something?”
“Then how do you survive? Who gives you food? Who protects you from those nasty guys I was on about? I ain't kidding, this is not a nice part of town.”
“I've got my Safety Flapjack,” she said, clearly pronouncing the capital letters.
I had nothing to say on the subject for a full fifteen seconds.
“Safety… Flapjack. Not blanket?”
“Flapjack.” She produced it to make the point. It was about one inch by two, oaty and buttery and not in the least bit reassuring.
“And this flapjack keeps you safe?”
“But. But- but.” I stopped mid-thought again. I'd had the wrong end of the keg, that must be it, or that was some dodgy knock-off import vodka. I rubbed at my eyes for a while, and blinked a bit – until I heard footsteps. And as soon as I had, they were on me.
“Give us yer wallet and phone, quick!” one of them shouted, grabbing hold of my jacket and lifting me off the ground. I struggled, hoping I could break free and somehow protect the obviously delusional kid. But it was not to be. I was thrown to the floor, and I hit my head pretty bad. The guy who'd thrown me started going through my pockets, while the other two advanced on the girl.
“Run home, kid,” one said. “You didn't see nuthin'.”
But the girl ignored them, and turned to face me.
“You were going to ask how the Safety Flapjack protects me, weren't you, Mister?”
I groaned, as I wasn't really capable of anything else by that point.
“It's because,” she said simply, “when I'm threatened, it turns into the Un-Safety Flapjack.”
After that, there was a blur, and some scraping sounds, and a gurgle. Then there was only darkness.
When I awoke, the sun was already high in the Saturday morning sky. The girl was nowhere to be seen, and likewise the muggers. All along the walls and the tarmac of the alleyway, though, there were streaks of blood, and tooth-like gouges, and burnt streaks, and smoldering shards of metal protruding from brickwork.
I vomited copiously, then after ten minutes of shivering and gibbering, I went about my business.
To this day, I have never seen the girl again. Nor have I drunk in the Coach and Horses. And nor have I mentioned the case of the Safety Flapjack to another living soul, though night after night it still haunts my dreams.