I ran on a few more steps until I was below a streetlamp and stopped, panting and sweating.
The yellow pouring forth from its ancient bulb was my arena, a dozen feet across. Hell hath no limits,
nor is it circumscribed, but I was yet alive and happy to constrain myself to set bounds. Beyond that
ring I could see nothing. Quickly I retrieved the pellet-gun from the bag but no sooner had I done so
than the first of them barrelled into me, a missile of feathers and malice. It bit and stabbed with its
beak and flapped its muscular wings, aiming for my eyes and face, ridiculous feet kicking at my chest.
I managed to get a hold on a wing and killed or crippled it with a few swift twists of my hands, the
twig-crack of ribs, the hot spits of blood. I could hear more ululations in the sky above. That first
attacker had knocked the air-gun from my hand and into the snow and gouged deep cuts into my
fingers with its beak. I fell to my knees and swept my hands across the pavement through the snow
but it was no use, for all of my preparations I was alone. Blood trails stood out stark against the white,
and the dead gull was already half-submerged. A tip of beak, a hint of feather, and a crooked wing
stood above the snow.
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