Neons lights flashed in a kaleidoscope before your eyes. The red glare against your plastic cup of vodka burned your retina as you stared into its depth. Another two gulps; one if you could stomach it. You were ready to leave. Had been since you arrived.
You looked across the dance floor. Amanda danced among the crush of sweaty, drunk bodies, her ass snug against the crotch of her suitor du jour. You took a drink and sighed. Hours ago, you were set for a night of reading and tea. Her phone call had crushed your hopes of a quiet night in. Her pleas echoed in your head; I can’t go alone. Come on! Maybe you’ll meet someone too. You always were a great wingwoman.
Pfft. You didn’t belong in nightclubs and bars. You hated them. They stank of desperation; of sadness and self-destruction. The regulars who came to drown the insecurities, the lonely singles who drank until they could bear the touch of another, the college kids who didn’t know any better.
You sank your problems in the pages of novels; forgot them for the fictional plight of those worse off. Alone. Without witness to your surrender. That innate escapism that saw the passing of time without notice. The want to splendour in life but the cowardice denial of its eventual and all-consuming end. The detachment and the disillusion; a horrid disorientation of mind and body.
You spread your fingers over your cheek as you thought. As you watched Amanda’s long blonde hair swirl in the air, her body gyrating to the beat of sex in the air. Her short skirt rode up her thigh as her partner’s hand crawled beneath and you wondered how she had braved the late-autumn chill. Your plain jeans and turtleneck were much more practical; plainer. They helped you hide among the crowd of watchful strangers.
You finished your vodka and tapped your fingernail noisily against the side. The hollow plonks were muted by the pumping speakers. You should tell her you were leaving. If you had any sense of integrity, you’d stay and make sure she wasn’t grinding on the second coming of Bundy. You sighed and sighed again. Shit.
This was Paris all over again. A girls’ trip to the most romantic capital on earth. Who knew the French had such a loose concept of romance? That night you spent in the bed of a strange man. You kept a pillow between you; warned him not to touch you. You were there to make sure she was safe, not to fuck another hanger-on. You heard her drunken moans, the squeak of the bed, the heady breaths. You didn’t sleep and in the morning you rode the bus silently back to your hotel as she slumped over in her hangover. The other girls were asleep. You should have gone with them.
“Want another?” The voice scared you. Low, yet firm enough to cut through the bass. You looked to the man and back to your empty cup. You shook your head and returned to your bitter voyeurism. “Dance?”
You shook your head again and glanced over at the stranger. He was handsome. The type Amanda would gush over. Dark hair, chiseled jaw, modelish cheekbones, and deep blue eyes. Those eyes. They looked back at you, reflected you, the pupils dark pools, unknown and knowing. As if they saw right through you. You blinked and ran your thumb along the rim of the cup.
“Heh, good. Not much of a dancer myself.” He replied easily. He spoke as if he knew you. Did he? Surely you’d remember him.
“I’m sorry, do I know you?” You asked.
“No, I just...you looked bored. Lonely.” He shrugged. “I’m James.”
“James,” You repeated and searched out Amanda in the crowd. The man’s hand was entirely up her skirt now, their mouths joined in a sloppy kiss. You grimaced.
“And you?” He urged.
“Look, no offense, but I’m not interested, okay? I only came here for a friend.” You had to yell over the music.
“Interested? In what? I’m just talking to you.”
“Not really a good place to talk.” You countered.
“Suppose you’re right. It’s quieter in the barroom.” He offered.
“There’s about a dozen other girls in here who’d love a drink, dude. They’re not hard to find.”
“So...you’re gonna spend your whole night against the wall? Watching her have all the fun?” He wondered.
You looked at him once more. You chewed your lip. “And you’ve been watching me?”
“I noticed you. Noticed the only girl who didn’t wanna be noticed.” He said. “Fuck the drink. I’ll settle for your name.”
Your eyes fell to the sticky floor. You peeled your heel away from it and lifted your head. You gave him your name. “Happy?” You asked.
“Mostly,” He answered. His gaze was cryptic, his answer more so. “You?”
“You mean...right now or in general?”
He scoffed and grinned. “Any fool can see you hate this place. You resent it. Resent all that it represents. A microcosm of human error. Human weakness. Time wasted together and yet they’re all still alone. As we all are. As we will always be.”
You raised a brow. “Wow, are you always the life of the party or do you save these little speeches for the lulls?”
He laughed again. “It’s written all over your face, you know that? You wonder why no one comes up to you like they do her. It’s not the blond hair, it’s not the clothes, what’s beneath, it has nothing to do with her. It’s all you.”
The last word hung in the air and you frowned. His words were unnerving but you couldn’t deny them. Couldn’t deny that you’d been thinking it all. But despite their truth, their blatant, suffocating truth, they hurt. They riled you. Angered you.
“What do you know?” You asked.
“Not much, I admit. I don’t presume to know you, but I can see you.” He replied and his lips curled just slightly. You stayed silent and watched the lights reflecting along the clear walls of your cup. “So...you want that drink?”
“No, thank you,” You fixed your purse on your shoulder. “I appreciate the philosophy lesson but I’m still not interested.”
“Very well,” He leaned against the wall, one foot flat against the painted brick. He was unbothered by your denial. “Hope your night treats you well.”
“Yeah.” You answered dumbly.
He watched you with placid eyes. Passive yet they clung to you; the flick of your lashes as you blinked, the twitch in your cheek, the confused pout of your lips. You turned and walked away. His gaze lingered after you. You could feel it. You wanted to flee from it but all the same longed to drown in it.
You set your empty cup on a table covered in bottles. You pushed through the bodies that writhed like snakes over a fire. The swell of people was hot and the sweat beaded on your neck. Amanda’s blonde hair whipped your nose as you neared and you touched her elbow. She looked over her shoulder at you and smiled. He lip gloss was smeared and her mascara was clumping.
“Hey, you’re still here?” She asked.
“Still here.” You repeated dully.
“I thought--Well, me and Ryan...er, Riley? We’re going to leave soon, so--” She trilled as his hand squeezed her ass and she turned back to stain his mouth with more of her lip gloss before she turned back. “You can get out of here, if you want?”
You nodded. Annoyed. You’d come out as her wingwoman; more so, in line with the buddy rule. Safety in numbers. “I don’t know, Amanda, you--”
“It’s fine,” She rolled her eyes. “Okay, mom?”
“Right. Well, text me to let me know you’re still alive in the morning.” You hissed. “But don’t bother after that.”
You spun and elbowed your way to the edge of the dance floor. You tugged your purse back around to rest against your hip and peeked over at the wall. He was gone. You glanced back at the dance floor. You couldn’t see much through the crowd. Not even Amanda in all her glory. You shrugged and headed for the door.
Outside, the air was frigid. Biting. You shivered as you pulled on your jacket and headed down the sidewalk. Close enough to walk. Cheaper, too. Your flat heels scuffed against the pavement as you left the bouncer to argue with the slurring clubgoer. Their voices faded as you rounded the corner and tucked your chilly fingers into your pockets.
The street lights lit your way in their artificial gleam. The moon was a sliver; the sky dark. The clouds wove together across the gossamer quilt. You stared up into the void. There were no stars. They’d drowned in the black water.
The third street light flickered. A crackle before dimming to a low amber. You looked behind you. Darkness pooled in the alleyways and deep into the cracks along the sidewalk. A spiderweb of blackness followed you, limned but not dissolved by the lights above. It was much colder than before. A different kind of cold. The kind you feel in your bones. That makes your veins ache and throb. Your head fills with it and threatens to split.
And then it wasn’t. The yellow light turned harsh and the clouds shifted over the moon. The slit of silver glowed and the sidewalk stood pale and sturdy beneath your soles. You turned forward, your feet carried you on instinct, on the spark of nerves which told you to go. Against the distant, inaudible voice which beckoned you to stay. That which could never be heard by ear but that rose from your chest and nestled in your head. A voice not your own and yet it was there inside of you. The unknown. The knowing.
You sped up and exhaled loudly, gleefully as you reached the bottom step of your building. You didn’t dare look back. No this time. You ran up the stairs and pushed through the barred door.
Draw the blinds, lock the window, pull the blankets over your head, hide. Hide and don’t come out. It was another voice. That one which bid you against your darker thoughts. The one that never left. You own. Not the other. The other one didn’t belong. It wasn’t yours. The other one was quiet now.
You were weak. And Amanda had her ways. She could always convince you. Whittle you down until there was nothing left. You didn’t stay mad at her long. A coffee date and several texts and you were back to old habits. Running from the old fear that you’d always be alone. Friendless without her.
Friday. Your apartment was quiet. You watched the same show you always watched on Netflix as you looked through your dresser with distaste. Why had you done it again? Agreed to go with her when you knew you wouldn’t leave with her.
It was long enough that your irritation had dwindled. Your anger was an afterthought. As always, you forgot how she ditched you. How you resented it. Her blond hair and short skirts. You took out a pair of maroon jeans and a black shirt with a wide neckline. Low-heeled boots. Casual. As if you didn’t give a fuck. You did.
You met her at a bar. You had a cocktail and left. There was a party. A friend of hers from college. One of those girls you never cared much for. People your own age; a small affair. Weren’t you a little too old for house parties? You barely felt young enough for the clubs. Teetering on the line of chasing your youth; not quite old enough to bear a second look.
It was a duplex. The windows glowed and the music bounced against the glass. You walked up the stoop and knocked. Amanda let you in herself. She led you past the narrow hallway, your jackets hung with the rest on the rack. A crooked hat made it seem like a person peeking into the next room.
The buzz of voice mixed with the blare of the bluetooth speaker. There were two couches over-crowded with bodies. A few others stood in the kitchen, just visible through the broad archway. They gathered round the island and feasted on the spread of chips, dip, and assorted cheeses. A lot of people in one house. The heat built as the window was cracked just an inch to let in a winter breeze.
Snow hadn’t come yet. The mornings saw frosty grass and the cloud of your own breath on your lips. The shivering wait for the city bus. The chuff of hot exhaust into the brisk air. As suffocating as this overpacked room.
Amanda parted from you. Her voice rose above the flurry and she threw her arms around a girl she called Claire. You made to follow but stopped in the middle of the room. You’d go and stand by her elbow. She’d gab and gab until she remembered you. Then she’d find the grace to introduce you. They’d forget your name as quickly as they forgot your presence. Amanda would leave your existence in the bottom of her glass.
You went the other way. Grabbed a can from the cooler. The ice was mostly melted and the water dripped over your fingers and wetted your sleeve. You watched Amanda. Men appeared around her as they always did. They merely awaited her arrival at these things. They flocked to her. Their shepard with her long legs and bubbly voice.
You cracked the can and drank the hoppy brew. Local. Overpriced. You crossed an arm over your middle and looked around. You laughed at yourself. Life happened in cycles. Patterns. When you thought you were past something, it inevitably rose again. Slightly different, but the same. You’d spend your years against the wall watching another take the spotlight. So it goes. Over and over again.
“There’s vodka on the counter,” The voice spooked you. Not for its unexpected timbre, but because of its familiarity. You recognized it in a syllable. The finely sculpted face flashed in your mind before it was confirmed by your eyes. You remembered his name. James. You remembered his eyes; their depth; their unspoken promise.
“Beer’s fine,” You said stiffly. “Thanks.”
“Small world,” He replied.
“Must be,” You agreed and took a swig. “Or maybe I’m just running in circles. Chasing my tail.”
“Maybe,” He echoed. “So...what brings you here?”
“Sure, you follow her around like a lost puppy, but you’re not just here for her. You don’t let her drag her along just because you’re her friend...don’t seem friends to me.”
“What do you know?” You challenged.
“If you weren’t here, where would you be?” He diverted you. “Hmm? Alone?”
“I’m alone here too.” You said.
“Sure...but you watch. You judge. You see the vanity. The desperation. The denial. None of them know what they want so they reach for anything. A bottle, a body, it doesn’t matter.” His voice floated above the din but only you could hear him. “So I guess you come because you don’t want to be alone and even a room of strangers is preferable to a solitary apartment.”
You squinted at him. You took a long drink from the can. You wanted to deny it. He was like some cursed prophesier. You didn’t believe in that shit. Mediums and con artists. “Mmhmm, so why are you here then? You lonely?”
“I’m here to watch. Like you.” He said. “But you’re the only one I’ve found interesting enough to watch for more than a second.”
You tilted your head. You weighed the can in your hand. Half-done. You chuckled darkly. “You’ve got some odd pick-up lines, you know that?”
He laughed too. Light, amused, but something more treacherous beneath. A sardonic trill. “Lines are for plays.” He returned. “And as much as this whole affair is a charade for the lonely, I’m not playing at that.”
“You sound like a poet.” You mused and sipped from the wheaty beer. “Like an artist trying to explain the placement of a stroke he can’t admit was a mistake.”
“Come outside with me. It’s hot in here.” He turned and leaned his arm against the wall. “Easier to hear you out there.”
You considered him and the others in the room. Amanda was doing shots with Claire and her circle of courters. The call for another round chimed and you retired your unfinished beer on an end table. “Okay. Only for a moment. It’s frigid.”
“Grab your coat,” He advised as he waved you across the room. “It’s not so bad once you’re in it.”
He followed you. You took your coat and he found his. He didn’t button it but you zipped yours to your chin. You stepped out into the brisk air. It cooled the sweat on your neck and you tucked your hands in your pockets. He didn’t flinch.
He sat on the top step. You stood just behind him. He looked up at the moon. It was thicker tonight. Almost half. The stars twinkled down at you. Distant. Specks in the tapestry. You slowly lowered yourself beside him and looked up at the sky.
“Did you forget me?” He asked. You stared at the cratered moon. You hadn’t forgotten yet you hadn’t thought of him specifically. Hadn’t thought of the night. The eerie shadows that had followed you home. When daylight came, it had just seeped away.
“No. Did you forget me?” You wondered. Daring at playfulness.
“How could I?” He looked at you. You tore your eyes from the silver beacon. “I’ve never been one for luck, fate, or anything like that, but… I think we’ve run into each other for a reason.”
“Sounds like fate to me,” You scoffed.
“Well, I mean...sometimes things happen by chance and we give them reason. I think this could all have a pretty good reason. Don’t you?”
“A romantic?” You jibed.
“A realist.” He sighed. “Hoping to forget reality for a moment.”
“Do you know Claire?” You asked.
“Sure.” He said and clasped his hands together. “These things, we all know this person or that person.”
“Ah,” You nodded. “So I’m not the only one who was dragged here then?”
He chuckled. “She’s going to go home with the tall one. You know, the one with the blonde hair. Played football in college, but now he’s stuck at a marketing firm so he sells himself after work to the best looking woman in the room. It will be drunken, disappointing. And even if it is decent, neither of them will remember in the morning.”
“I was mistaken.” You intoned. “You’re an awful cynic.”
“We tend to root each other out, don’t we? To share our black visions with those who will listen.”
“There you go again. The poet.” You chided.
“So…” He leaned back, his hand just behind you on the porch as he looked over at you. “You gonna wait til she shoos you away for the ken doll or you wanna hit the road?”
“I--” You paused. Startled. He was asking you to leave with him. Not because his pal was hooking up with Amanda but because he was genuinely interested. At least, he seemed to be. “I can’t just go without telling her.”
“Then tell her and we’ll go.” He said cooly.
“Where?” You shivered but you shrugged it off as nothing more than an omen of the coming winter.
“For a walk, if you like. To yours or mine. To Rome.” He replied. “Wherever you like.”
You stared at him. His blue eyes were earnest. They drew you in, his lips beckoned you closer, his voice hung all around you. You smiled.
“I’ll tell her.” You stood before the urge to kiss him overwhelmed you. “I’ll be back.”
“I’ll be here,” He assured you as you grabbed the door handle.
You just walked at first. Talking. Staring into the moonlight. The silences were full; unnoticed as his presence eased the usual nerves. Something about him. So certain. The unknown and knowing.
And he asked if you’d like to go to his place. No pressure, no expectation. Only knowing. You both knew you’d say yes. When you did, nothing changed. The moon beamed brightly down and the stars winked down at you. He led you down the winding trail to the backstreet. A house on the corner. Old but not rundown. Well-kept. A perfectly preserved artifact
Inside it was cold. He stoked the victorian fireplace. The lights of a similar fashion. The bulbs pointed and clouded. You sat on the sofa and he sat too. Offered you a drink but you refused. The nerves in your stomach protested by the voice in your head insisted. The ounce of doubt kept you sober.
You didn’t sit long. You kissed him as he soliloquised the vices of the city. He kissed you back. Leaned on you until you laid across the cushions. He was a top you; hand on your hip, mouth ravenous yet reticent. You were out of breath as he drew away. He sat up, a hand on your thigh.
“Come on,” He turned his palm up. You took it. Said nothing. Nothing need be said.
You undressed clumsily in the bedroom. Was this how Amanda felt? This rush? The way your flesh tingled and your entire being felt on fire as you bared yourself to a stranger. He was naked when you freed yourself entirely. You nearly tripped on your panties as they hooked around your feet. He sat at the foot of the bed. Waiting. Knowing.
You climbed up in his lap. Straddled him beneath you as you drew his lips to yours. His tongue was sweet. He kissed you hungrily. He grasped your hips as if he longed to tear the flesh with his nails. His skin was firm against you; cold. You didn’t realize how cold as the fire filled your veins.
He fell back and took you with him. You slipped over him, your breasts in his face as he squeezed your thighs. He purred and nibbled at your tits. He toyed with your nipple, his tongue swirled around the sensitive bud, and you moaned. His touch was measured. Deliberate. He was holding back but you didn’t care. It was enough. Enough to set your being alight.
He turned you over so your beneath him. His hands explored every inch of flesh. Felt for the warmth, rested over your heart and it was as if he is listening. To your body. To your desire. The steady beating grew faster and faster. He bowed his head and kissed your neck. He dragged his teeth along your throat. A gentle kiss, then he pulled away.
His hand moved lower. Travelling along chest, stomach, and the glorious vee of your figure. He dipped his fingers between your folds. He found the prize there. He drew tender circles around your bud, faster, faster, until his touch rippled through you. You heaved and moaned. Hissed and hollered. He watched you cum. The ecstasy that stretched your lip in a precious oh. The carnal baring of your teeth.
He moved between your legs. He admired the wetness on his fingers. Tasted it. His pupils dilated. His eyes were dark. Almost entirely black. You’re dazed, breathless. You didn’t notice that they were. That he had the eyes of a beast. That the hunger within him was just as deep.
He wrapped your legs around him. He caressed your thigh as he lined himself up with your entrance. His nostrils flared. He was entranced. The lion closing in on his prey. He was going to eat you up. Every inch of you. Devour all of you.
He entered you. You shuddered. He sunk in until you had all of him. His hands were at your waist, his nails dug into your sides. The blood rose around them, sunk into his cuticles, but you didn’t notice. He moved slowly. He was taking the measure of you. Watching you. Your fingers wrapped around his wrists as he held you down. You panted. His breath was steady, if there at all.
It was a heaven so sweet it’s frightening. The way he made you feel. A sickening delight. Your walls clung to him and you writhed and wailed. A little more. A little faster. He fucked you so hard your body ached and yet it called for him. For more.
His hands moved again. He leaned over you as he rutted deeper. An animal in heat. This wasn’t love, it was pure fucking. You’d never been touched like this. Consumed like this. You looked up at him. The lines of his face were angelic, finely crafted for the eye. But the shadows that washed over him, the hunger that paled his features, that wass darkness indeed. A want so deep it left nothing else.
You squeezed him between your legs. Looped them around him as you begged for more and he gave you what he will. Not everything, but enough. You were sweating but his body was cold. He moved against you easily and he cradled your face in his hands.
His eyes bore into yours as you came. He watched intently. His eyes were black. Your heart raced faster and faster. He fucked you almost in tandem. You were cumming still. His hand wrapped around your neck and you came in a shrill song. He didn’t stop. He didn’t stop until you’re spent. Weak, breathless, stunned. He came too. A grunt and he fell away from you.
You closed your eyes and touched your chest. Your heart hammered against your palm. His large hand was on yours as he wiggled close to you. He was so cold and you were so hot. You wanted to roll away from him as he pressed himself against you.
He slipped his arm around your head and his lips were on your throat. His nose tickled the skin there and he spoke. Quietly. His voice crawled along your neck and up your jaw and into your ear. You listened. His voice was hypnotic.
“I know why you watch. You watch everything. Count everything. Seconds, minutes, hours. You are lost. Lost in the endless march of time. You wonder why it must go so quickly. Why it all must pass so meaninglessly. And you’re scared.” Your eyes were wide. Terrified. The truth was paralyzing. “You see the way others can let it flit by so easily. How they can let themselves be swept up in the tides of life and death. And you’re alone.
“Alone because they can never understand. The fear. The constant plucking at the back of your brain. The torture of your own mortality bearing down on you as you struggle beneath it. Weighed down by doubt. Running from the call of the soil as it bids you back to its embrace.”
He lifted his head. His eyes. His eyes were terrible. Terrible and black and endless. The unknown. He smiled. His teeth were sharp and white. So bright and flawless.
“You’re afraid now. But you don’t have to be. The dirt can be washed away and time will be but a puddle at your toes.” His nose touched your cheek, his teeth grazed your skin. You shivered. “You can have it all. You can have forever. All you need to do is ask.”
“Ask?” You whispered. He’s right, you are afraid. “If I don’t, you will do it anyway.”
“No, no,” He insisted. “I cannot if you do not ask. A gift such as this is not given easily.”
“I...I…” You sputtered. “I don’t want to die.”
“And you won’t. You will live a life without end. A life of freedom. A life beyond the vapid parties and mindless dance clubs. A life above theirs. Above the one you live now. All you have to do is--”
“Please,” You gasped. Surprised by your own voice. It bubbled up so suddenly and so intently that you couldn’t stop it. The fear welled up in your chest and he slipped his hand beneath yours. He felt the beat. “Please. I’m so...lost. I need...Please, do it. Do it. Take the fear away.”
He lowered his head and his lips were on your neck. Soft, gentle. And suddenly a prick. A stab so painful you cried out. You felt the blood pulsing through your veins, your heart beat spiked and then slowed. The life drained from you as he drank it up. His mouth slurped sickeningly at your flesh and the world started to turn grey.
He sat back. His teeth, his lips, his chin, dripped with your blood. You couldn’t move. He licked away the mess with his tongue and your eyes closed slowly. The grey deepened to black and you let out a final gurgle. You were dead. He killed you. The fear had come to be.
You awoke. The room was dark. He slept beside you. He was on his back His chest did not rise or fall. No snores, no soft breathing. Your head ached, your neck too. You touched it but there was no bite mark, no torn flesh.
You pushed yourself up. Your arms shook. You had no strength. You tried to stand and fell. You dragged yourself across the cold floor. The wood was smooth and polished. Your clothes were no longer strewn on the floor. They were folded neatly in a chair. Your phone sat on top. You reached up and grabbed it and slid back onto the floor.
You hit the button and the screen lit up. You squinted. The light hurt. You dropped it in shock. Two days. Two days since you went to that party. Since he had…
You felt horribly empty. You groaned. You closed your eyes. You felt his touch. Not so cold now. You opened your eyes and he was beside you. You stared at him. You were not afraid anymore, but what replaced the fear was worse.
“And there is a price to immortality.” He lifted you and took you back to the bed. He laid you down and stretched out next to you. “The thirst is most obvious. The need. The visceral hunger inspired by the rich drops of blood. The warmth as it streams down your throat.”
He took your hand.
“And time is still the villain. And no longer are we afraid of our own deaths but the demise of those around us. Until we cease to care about them. Until connection is no longer desired for fear of loss. For we are not human but we still feel our human emotions. They are stronger, deeper.
“And so we’re alone. Again. Stood alone at the party, watching as they all go carelessly about their doom.”
“The loneliness is as unbearable as before. So you find another. Another watching along the wall and you need her. A companion. To share the time, the pain, the inexorable toll of death around you and by your hand. And you trade her humanity for your own need. Your own hunger. Not the thirst for blood, but for another. Any. To keep you company in the hell you once begged for.”
“You...you…” You croaked.
“Shh, you will not be alone, though. As you are mine now, I am yours. And in serving me, you will serve yourself.” He moved closer. Your cold bodies against each other. His arm was a snake as it constricted around your waist. “And eternity is not so bad as death so long as we have another to share it with.”