Hunger 2.0


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Chapter One

I never wanted to live forever. At least, not back in the days of my humanity. Back then, all I hungered for was glory; that my name would be remembered by the poets and storytellers of my tribe; that my children’s children might someday hear of my exploits and sigh in admiration at the treasures I had accumulated in conquest. They would speak in hushed tones of the battles I had fought, the enemies I had slain. I wanted immortal fame, but not immortality itself.

The gods, it would seem, however, have a sick fucking sense of humor.

I hunger. It pulses through my veins, a deep throbbing itch that only you, my doves, can scratch. Make no mistake: I do not love you. I do not like you. But I need you, I want you. I want to share with each of you the moment of your one last true loss of breath. I want to guide you across that dark river and through the gates unto Death.

And you make it so very easy.

I sit in a park on a softly rolling grass hill. To my left is an outdoor amphitheatre where they show classic black and white movies in the summer, making the humid night air redolent with the scent of popcorn and human sweat. Right now there is an over-enthusiastic and under-talented jazz band practicing for their big debut this evening.

Although, maybe I’m not giving them enough credit. It must take a great deal of practice and dedication to sound that bad. Perhaps the goal of the saxophonist is to, in fact, sound like he’s clumsily attempting to kill a pissed-off cat. Maybe the guitarist doesn’t want to conform to any kind of rhythm, ‘cause he’s his own man dammit!

Or maybe they just need to be put out of their own fucking misery already. Really, I would be doing the hearing world a kindness. The booking manager for the amphitheatre seems to agree, because he’s just sitting on the edge of the stage with his hand over his face, shaking his head slowly back and forth.

Pathetic jazz bands and woebegone manager’s aside, there is something more interesting taking place by the duck pond to my right. I don’t particularly care for ducks at parks. They’re greedy little bastards who swarm you and will bite with ferocious quacking tenacity if you’re even a little bit slow with the bread. Give me battle with the boy-loving Athenians of old before ducks.

There’s a little girl who seems to have a rather deft skill with them, slinging pieces of bread and skipping away before they can surround her. Her mother is about 15 feet away, busy on her cell phone, chatting about how “YOLO LOLZ” and all that idiotic nonsense. I shift on the soft grass, the blades tickling the backs of my thighs when I lean forward to watch as a blandly smiling man approaches the little one whose young mother has so foolishly turned her back on her.

I can smell him from here, thirty yards away, as he hunkers down next to the girl, startling her with his sudden nearness. He reeks of fear and longing, rage and despair. He speaks gently to her, asking her if she has seen his puppy, gesturing with a new and probably never used leash, indicating that the little scamp has run off and will she be a good little girl and help him?

The innocent little soul looked at him with wide-eyed trepidation. She knew in her young mind that she should stay near her mommy and not wander off…but the poor puppy! What little girl can resist a puppy? Seriously, in the history of the world, how many times has the puppy bit not worked? But there never is a damn puppy, is there? No, just hungry little men with dangerous appetites.

In his heart and mind I can see the terrible things he wanted from this girl-child. I could see the predator lurking beneath the thin veneer of humanity, with his weak smile and sweat dewing on his clammy forehead. I could feel his hunger because it is a weak, perverted version of my own. It stoked the flames of my own desires, my own hunger, to see this weakling trying to play the game. My throat feels parched and my stomach growls as I sit and watch.

She would go with him. I can see it in her innocent big eyes and trembling lip, in the bird-like beating of her heart. And where is mommy-dearest? Still chatting on her phone about “OMIGOD shut up he did not even!” This is the conversation a mother chooses to have as she fails at the most basic of motherhood tenets: protect the child. I may be a monster, and I may be wicked down to the marrow of marrow of my bones, but even I look after my children.

Like a hawk I watch the little predator as he reaches out a trembling hand to brush a sweaty lock of hair off the child’s forehead, the tips of his fingers lingering for just a moment too long. My stomach cramps with yearning. It has been days and days it seems, since I last indulged in my own desires, and my vision goes a hazy red with longing.

I set aside the big plastic cup of Diet Coke I’d picked up from a gas station before arriving at the park. Yes, I eat and drink just like you, little doves. It takes the edge off, but nothing, nothing at all, can satisfy the hunger pangs quite like you.

Sneaking up on someone is easy to do when you can move faster than the human eye can perceive. One moment I’m on a hill halfway across the park, the next I am behind the pervert with ducks scattering every which way. Serves the little bastards right. El Pervo doesn’t even notice my arrival, but the child…she looks up at me with big green eyes that radiate fear and puppy-induced hope. I put my finger across my lips to warn her to keep quiet, and grab the sweaty man by his neck.

I race away with my prize, and he kicks and squeals the whole time. It’s adorable really, when they try to fight. It’s always best with men who are so used to being bigger and stronger, who have never had to truly fear. But he will learn, and soon.

He finally gives the useless posturing and swatting a rest when I introduce his skull to the rear panel of his van. Why the hell do these guys always have vans? Is there some kind of pervert discount at dealerships for these things? Christ, I would kill for a little originality…well, I’ll kill either way, but originality would at least garner a quick death. I’m a giver that way.

The rear door lock breaks quickly under my grip, and I easily toss the slumped man inside. The stench of him that wafted faintly off the hot metal and led me to his rusted piece of junk permeates the interior. I take a moment to breathe it in: fear, arousal, rage, and death. Such a festive combination, better than any scented candle you could buy in a store.

El Pervo was still out of it from the love tap to his noggin, so I flitted back to my hill and retrieved my drink, taking a big swig of it before returning to my new odorous friend, wincing at the water flavor as the burning sun has made the ice-soda ratio unpleasant. Yes, I drink Diet Coke and I walk around in the sun free of any fear that I might burst into flames. An no, I do not fucking sparkle. The de-fanging of my kind has been a constant irritant to me in the last decade. We are not here to redeem you, to love you, to save you from yourselves. We are here to eat you.

The origin of the myth that we fear the sun comes about from a very practical modus operandi: it used to be that there weren’t very many cities, and not so many humans on the face of the earth. So when someone disappeared people tended to looks at the new stranger in town. Or in the village. Or, in some not-so-pleasant circumstances, the hut. Don’t ask, Africa was a bitch.

So we would hunt the dregs of society, and those charming folk who wouldn’t be missed would usually emerged from their dens once the sun was down and the goody-two-shoes were in bed and unable to judge their wanton behavior. And that is when I and mine would feast. Next thing you know the story is that we fear the light of day because it holds the power to burn us to wicked little cinders. So sorry, little morsels, but the sun won’t harm me and no tell-tale sparkle will give me away.

I return to the van as El Pervo is starting to come around. He cusses up a storm and even tries to take a swing at me, so I take his arm and break it in three places. He screams beautifully, sending a thrill through me and making my pulse race with desire. I enjoy each moment thoroughly, as he starts with the questions, always with the questions: “Who are you?” and “Why are you doing this?” and my personal favorite, “God, why won’t you save me?”.

The obvious question never seems to occur to them. After all, by all appearances I am an average woman, perhaps a little taller and more muscular than normal, but flesh and blood all the same. How in the world could I have possibly just beaten the shit out of him so easily? They never ask what I am, perhaps because they cannot conceive an answer. Maybe they don’t want to acknowledge the possibilities of something not of their explainable, scientific world.

When I don’t move to answer his questions he lashes out at me with both legs and tries to scramble away. I catch one of his calves and pull his leg out of its socket, continuing to slowly pull and pull while he just screams and screams, until the skins rips and it pulls off clean in my hand. Blood spatters my face and I lick it away, savoring each precious drop. Yum. Nothing is as satisfying as eating the sins of a pedophile.

It almost ends too quickly, the gaping hole in his body pumping his life into my waiting throat, and I lap it all up. Bits of his soul brush my mind as I eat, and I can see all of the dark and nasty things he has done, the various acts of base treachery and defilement. They seep into me, down my throat and into my waiting, aching stomach and for the first time in days my hunger is satiated. It enervates me, filling me with pep and vigor and all things good.

When I’ve finished with him I snag the keys to the van out of his pocket, planning to drive it somewhere private where I can dispose of what’s left of El Pervo. I jump out the back and kick the rear doors shut, the metal shrieking in protest as they fold in on themselves. Nobody will be opening those without a chainsaw. I swipe my soda from where I left it on the pavement and take a sip to rinse out my mouth. I don’t know why I do it, call it idle curiosity perhaps, but I stroll back to my hill by the duck pond to see what has become of the little soul.

Lo, her young mother is still oblivious on her phone, and even has the nerve to push her child away and shush her when she tries to tell her what happened. And you wonder why I eat you with such relish?

Pouting, the child turns away and sees me. Her whole body freezes and she just stares at me. For a full minute, just stands there and freaking stares, full-on creepy like one of those kids from “Village of the Damned”. I look down at myself and only then notice that I am splattered all over with blood and worse things. Whoops.

I look back at her and I realize why it is that I have saved this little girl from a fate worse than death, reasons beyond my aching hunger that I hadn’t even been aware of. As she stands there in the bright sunlight with her dark hair pouring over her shoulders, her round cheeks pale and chin quivering, I see an echo of the past long gone, another little girl whose life couldn’t be saved. I gaze at her and I can see her innocence fade just a little bit, the pure glowing light behind her eyes dimming ever so slightly because of what she has witnessed today.

I wait to see if I feel anything. Pity. Sadness. Guilt. Anything at all. But there’s nothing there. Nothing but the same irrepressible rage and hunger that has haunted me since my rebirth a millennia ago.

Don’t you know I don’t love you? Don’t you know I hate you?

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Chapter Two

    I am sitting in a Starbucks. My years on this earth are beyond counting, the number of lives I have eaten even further beyond that. But here I am. In a fucking Starbucks, drinking a double-chocolate-chip frappuccino. And it’s delicious. I hate that.

            I’ve staked out my own table which is a minor miracle considering how crowded it is in here. There’s a quiet cacophony of conversation overlaid with the “eclectic world music” these corporate monstrosities insist on playing, as if to say “Hey! We’re cool guys too!”. It’s a woman wailing about something or other, with a lot of what sounds like bongos. At the very least, it’s enthusiastic.

            A middle-aged woman approaches my table and tries to snake away the other chair without asking but I plop a boot with a sharp stiletto heel on it and continue reading my book. The woman continues to try to yank the chair away even though it’s obviously not going to move, so with a sigh I lower my novel to my lap.

            She glares at me with washed out blue eyes surrounded by lashes made clumpy by an aggressive application of mascara, but my attention is drawn to and fixated on the angry pulse that is throbbing in her neck. The noise of the café fades into a distant buzz as a familiar heat spreads down my throat and into my stomach, igniting the embers of my devilish nature. Soft tendrils of her bottle blonde hair rest against her neck, and in my mind I brush those away and press my lips gently to her skin in a soft kiss before I rip through and feel her life gush away against my tongue.

            I lick my suddenly parched and cracked lips, scooting forward as an audible growl erupts from my empty belly. It has been days since my last meal at the park and this woman, with her ill manners and abysmal make-up looks simply…scrumptious.

            My focus is broken when she lets go of the chair and backs away with a jerk. She’s not glaring anymore, and under that spray tan she’s gone rather pale. Our eyes linger on one another, and I don’t know what she sees in my face but it is enough to make her turn and hustle away, glancing back only once as though to ensure I am not following. I am reluctantly grateful for the distance, as it wouldn’t do for me to snack in such a public place. Oh, but in the old days how I would have loved to.

            Feeling grumpy now, and so very hungy, I glance at the clock on the wall which does not serve to improve my mood in the least bit.  He’s late. Men, even the dead ones, can never be relied upon for punctuality. Reclining back in the creaky wooden chair I try to immerse myself once more in the book I am reading, but it’s useless. Now that I’ve acknowledged it my hunger won’t fade away, and I am inundated with the sounds of beating human hearts all around me. Each pulse is the sizzle of a steak on a grill, each errant waft of air bringing the scents of highly caffeinated blood.

            There must be twenty of you delicious little morsels in this café, and I could take every single one of you, eating your life and drinking your souls down with ease until the fiery need in me was satiated at last. However, there might be a panicked phone call or two that would slip through the cracks before I could get everyone. Cell phones are seriously cramping my style, fucking age of technology. Sure I could be done and gone before the first sirens would be heard, but what’s the point if I can’t stick around and revel in it all?

            I close my eyes and focus on the sound of the ticking clock rather than the double pound of hearts beating blood. Late, late, late. I would much rather be somewhere else, but when I got the call two nights ago, he insisted on meeting in as bland a public setting as possible.

            Francois de la Cours, blood of my blood, child of my darkness. I had just settled in for the night, my small apartment dark but for the light of a single lamp next to my reading chair. The sounds of blaring mariachi and children laughing as they chased each other seeping through the walls from outside as an impromptu party took place in the parking lot of the complex.

            The vibration of my cell phone came just as I cracked the pages on a brand new book, which I did not at all appreciate seeing as how I’ve had to wait four years for this latest installment. Honestly, you would think the world would know to cease spinning once I’ve gotten my hands on something new to read. So perhaps, my greeting once I answered the infernal rectangle of plastic and glass wasn’t the most gracious or polite.

            “The fuck do you want?”

            “Only to see your lovely person, Mother,” Francois’ voice was smooth and unperturbed, long used to my dulcet tones and delicate turn of phrase.

            “I have a matter I wish to discuss with you as soon as possible. May I come for a visit?”

            “Fine, if you must. My address is the same, but they’ve put in these new gates so if you’re driving in then--“

            “I’m afraid that I must insist on a public outing. I shall text you an address that I believe will be acceptable.” I was silent for a moment, more out of surprise that he had actually had the balls to interrupt me than at his insistence on venue.

            “Very well. Send me the address then, and Francois?”

            “Yes Mother?”

            “You interrupt me again and I will feed you your spinal column after I pull it out of you and put it through a blender. Understand?”  After many fumbling apologies and posturing on both our parts we disconnected and the follow-up text with the address came shortly thereafter.

            Fucking Starbucks.

            I take a long drink of my spitefully delicious frappuccino. The door swings open and the in-rush of air carries a familiar scent. I still in my seat, smoothing my face of all expression. I don’t look up from my book as he walks in, but I don’t need to; I know his face as I know my own. Short blonde hair smoothed back with some fancy-ass product, slightly lined brow pulled into a scowl over light brown eyes, and a too-thin mouth the he tries to hide behind a goatee. My Francois. Or Frankie, as I like to call him when I feel like pissing him off. Which is pretty much always, now that I think about it.

            He makes his way between the crowded tables to where I am sitting, oblivious to the looks that I’m sure he’s getting from the women in the coffee shop. It isn’t that he’s any great treat to the eyes, but human women seem to be drawn to that palpable aura of danger he has. Which just proves my point that some people are just too stupid to live.

            When he finally reaches my table he says nothing, he just bows his head and waits. And waits a little longer. Dominance games abound with our kind, and he knows the rules well. I pretend to finish the page that I have been staring at blindly for the last ten minutes or so while he obediently stares at the table, not daring to lay his eyes on me until he receives permission. At last I lay aside my book and look up at him, my boots still crossed casually on the only other chair at the table.

            “You’re late.” He flinches at the words.

            “Forgive me, Mother.” The appellation makes me want to smile. When he was reborn Francois was in his mid-thirties, at the very end of his physical prime when the firm muscles of youth being to turn to flabby reminders of what used to be. I stopped aging long before that, so anyone who heard him referring to me as “Mother” would be awfully confused. Or, in this crowd, insanely jealous of my plastic surgeon.

            “Why ask me to meet you, in this hell hole, and then show up,” I glanced at the clock pointedly, “Fourteen and a half minutes late?”

            His face remains calm and smooth, but he is mine. I know each of his emotions as he feels them, especially when he is this close: blood of my blood. Right about now he’s metaphorically shitting his pressed trousers. I bet he even starches his boxers. The chaffing must be unbearable.

            What strikes me is just how nervous he is, beyond what I expected. Sure, he knows I can and probably will kick his ass for rude, but that is nothing new among our kind. If he wanted to avoid that then all he would have had to do is show up on time. There’s something else behind this fear, though. That alone makes me uneasy because throughout the centuries that I’ve known him, I could count on one hand the number of times that Frankie was ever truly afraid.

            “I am late because of the very reason I asked you to meet me in a public space, rather than at your home or mine. I fear my cautiousness caused me to lose track of time. I hope you’ll accept this as a token of my sincerest apologies, Mother.” He pulled a neat little folded white bag from his jacket pocket and immediately I’m hit with the smell of baked chocolate. I open the bad and inside is a freshly baked chocolate croissant dusted with powdered sugar. One of the baristas shoots me a dirty look but fuck her; we’re talking fresh baked goods here.

            I pull my feet off the other chair and wave for him to sit down. The croissant is warm in my hand and the first bite practically melts on my tongue. Hot damn. Francois sits silently with his eyes trained on the table and his hands gripping the edge. What the hell is wrong with the boy? I ignore him once more until I’ve finished licking the last of the sugar off my fingers and have settled back in my chair with a hand over my tummy. It has helped take the edge off of my hunger and returned to me a measure of control for which I am grateful.

            “Thank you for the croissant, Francois.” He is so startled by my thanks that he finally looks at me. I would laugh at his reaction if it weren’t just a little bit sad. His eyes drink me in just as mine do him. It’s always like this between a maker and their child: when we are together we are stronger for it. His eyes roam from my dark brown hair and jade green eyes, down to my comfortable black t-shirt and skin tight jeans. He swallows nervously and the Adams apple in his throat bobs noticeably.

            Frankie should be relaxed now that I’ve basically spelled out I won’t be wiping the floor with him. How can you kick the ass of a man who brings you tasty baked treats? I mean, I am a monster but even I have my limits. But his hands are knuckling the table even harder now and he shifts uncomfortably in his seat.

            “You are looking beautiful as always, Mother.” Although his tone is honest and earnest, I can’t help but smirk a little at this. He was always a flatterer, and it has never gotten him anywhere with me. I’ve never been beautiful and never will be, that’s just the unfortunate truth, but I clean up damn good.

            “Stop calling me mother before the Botox-zombies here attack.”

            “Ah, yes of course. My apologies, Mo-…I do apologize, but what are you calling yourself these days?” I can’t help but roll my eyes. You can take the boy out of the eighteenth century, but you can’t take the eighteenth century out of the boy.

            “I’m going with ‘Vivian’ now. And you really need to work on adapting to the way people speak these days Frankie. You stick out like a priest in a whorehouse.”  Adaptation is the key to surviving the long life. If you cling to the speech patterns and mannerisms of the time you were born in then you can never get used to the changing pace of the world. If I had clung to the traditions of my tribe then I would still be gallivanting about on horseback shrieking war cries and shooting people full of arrows. But you just can’t do that sort of thing in Southern California, the Housing Associations wouldn’t stand for it!

            Adaptation is why I sound like a pissed off teenager half the time, it fits the age at which I was reborn. Francois still sounds like the minor French nobleman that he used to be. That was a long time ago and he has lived through many eras and in different cultures, but still he has never caught the knack of vernacular tricks.

            “I’m afraid I lack your talents, Vivian. The way humans speak changes so quickly that by the time I catch on they have moved on to a new trend. I had a rather embarrassing mishap just the other day with the word ‘groovy’.”

            “’Groovy’? The fuck man? That was fifty years ago!”

            “Ah! I know, but it seemed applicable! I passed a young man on the streets who was smoking something of a rather dubious nature whilst saying ‘dude’ quite a bit to the friends with him, and so I remarked that the smoke had a groovy scent to it and congratulated him on it…” He broke off as I nearly fell out of my chair laughing. Oh gods, the man was hopeless. I pictured the stunned expressions on the young stoner’s faces as my Frankie-boy creeped on them and collapsed in laughter again.

            “I’m happy to amuse you.” He gave me a wry grin, finally relaxing a little as my laughter subsides. “But the humans do find a certain old world charm in my mannerisms.” He gave me a rougish wink and tipped an imaginary hat at me. I can’t help but smile because he reminds me so much of how he used to be before. Before I turned him, before he became a monster just like me.

            I know you are waiting to hear my noble reasoning behind stealing him away from the human world, but there really isn’t one. Why did I change him? Why did I steal from him the hope of heaven and peace in the afterlife? Why did I damn him to walk the world with me, surviving only through blood and death? Because I needed money to get the fuck out of France before the revolution made life uncomfortable, and he had it. Honestly, little doves, what were you expecting? I’m really not that nice of a monster.

            Luckily for my little hell spawn he ended up being worth the effort and didn’t require extermination after the first decade. It can happen that way, sometimes, the young ones can go crazy with the aftermath of rebirth or sometimes they are so horrified by what they have become that they beg and plead to die. Or they get boring. That’s the worst, truly, because then I look like such a dick for taking back the eternity I gave them. But have you ever tried being connected in mind and spirit for all eternity to someone who has absolutely no conversational skills? It is completely unbearable.

            “Alright, my dear Francois, let’s get down to business then. What brings you to my territory?” I am truly curious about this, I have to admit. The last time I saw Francois was in 1969 in upstate New York. Hippies. Yum. Usually he lurks about in San Francisco so it’s strange to see him in my corner of Southern California. Our kind doesn’t play all that well together after the first few decades. We are like ranchers, in a way: we all need space to cultivate our herds of cattle.

            “I came to you Mo--Vivian, because I am rather alarmed by recent events.” The look of fear and anxiety is back, and his tongue darts to wet his lips.

            “Recent events? Care to specify Frankie?” He winces at the use of my nickname for him. Ah, I love it.

            “I do not know how else to phrase it, Vivian…but I believe that I am being hunted.”

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Chapter Three

            I sit there staring at him, waiting for the punch line. There isn’t one, because he’s staring right back at me and honest fear is radiating through our bond. I don’t have a response to offer right away as this is a situation that requires some thinking. The list of creatures big and small that can hunt a monster such as we are is…well, nigh on nonexistent. By no means are we invulnerable, I mean drop a house on one of us and we will go the way of the Wicked Witch of the East.

            But short of that we do not fear much beyond another of our kind. Humans are not a threat in and of themselves. Sure, little doves, you can stake me, burn me, and chop off my head, but you would have to catch me first. I can smell you, I can hear your heart beating, and I can see you from a mile off.

            Of course you might think “I could sneak up on you in a hurricane!” and I ask firstly: who the fuck is out and about in a hurricane? And my second question: Do you think you are faster than me? You had better hope you are. If you aren’t then I will slow roast you before I eat you. I’ve got an amazing barbeque sauce already picked out, and I’m just aching to try it.

            “How certain are you of this, Francois?”

            “Certain enough to bring it to you,” He responds dryly. He clasps his hands before him on the table and stares at them, considering his next words carefully.

            “I suppose it began around three weeks ago with small occurrences that I could ignore or explain away; items in one place when I left my home and in another place when I returned; the sense of being watched, happenings of that nature. It’s only now, upon looking back for signs that I can recognize them for what they are.” He paused to take a deep breath, unclasping his hands only to see them tremble and bring them together once more.

            “It was the night before I called you that the situation came to a head. I had gone out in the early evening and taken a meal outside of the city. I disposed of the leftovers, as you taught me long ago, and then returned to San Francisco and went to a show. After that, I wandered about for a few hours to ensure no one would trace me from the remains to my home. I did not really expect anyone to, but you instilled that lesson quite…skillfully.” He had a point with that one.

            The most important lesson I could ever teach a child of mine is to protect where you sleep. Those hours of repose are the rare time when we leave ourselves vulnerable to attack, at least while we are young. I haven’t actually slept in centuries and I can tell you honestly that I miss it. Dreaming is a wonderful thing when the alternative is late night infomercials. I swear that if I have to see one more about Zumba I am going kill something. Or someone. Preferably whichever idiot it was that came up with Zumba. What kind of fucking name is that?

            Francois had once had a sister in darkness who did not take to heart the lessons I endeavored to teach her. Renata did not know that I was in town keeping an eye on her, and she carelessly left her meal where she had found it, and went merrily on her way home. I had called Francois to me there and made him bear witness to her punishment. She didn’t survive the process, poor girl.

            “Once home I did not immediately notice anything amiss. I had a scotch in my living room and watched television for a while, then made ready to go to bed.” He looked up at me again, anger breaking through fear to glint in his brown eyes. “They were in my home, Vivian. My home. How they managed to get in, I cannot say as I’ve had no copies of the key made and there was no sign of forced entry. But they were there. Whoever it was left some…remains on my bed. It was the hands and eyes of the meal I’d had earlier in the night, I recognized a ring on one of the fingers.”

            “Shit, Francois. Did the scent trail tell you anything?”

            “There wasn’t one.”

            “Oh bullshit Frankie! There had to be one, werewolf, witch, little Timmy from down the road who isn’t fucking right in the head!”

            “Merde, Vivian! I am not a youngling, I know what to look for. There was nothing, absolutely nothing.” He was pale except for the scarlet blotches on his cheeks. “I wouldn’t come before you with this if I weren’t truly concerned, and I would not be concerned if I could smell the scent of what it is!”

            We eyed each other rather testily for a moment before I gave him a grudging nod.

            “Alright, alright. So no scent trail, no signs of B&E, and a doggie bag on your bed.” Altogether these things did not add up to any answer I could think of. It bespoke of an enemy and Francois was much too young and bland to have any, not any that I knew of anyways. He was a lover, not a fighter. “Can you think of anyone who would do this to you?”

            “None at all. I am on good terms with the community in the area, the alpha of the local wolves is a touch arrogant but we get along well.”


            “All Wiccans, really.” Ah, the good old “do no harm” bit. Good luck surviving with that one. That did not really leave any options…except one.

            “Tell me, Frankie. Have you had any visitors?” At this his face lost all color completely and he jerked upright so fast I halfway thought he would fall out of his chair.

            “No! No, Mother, none at all!”

            “Do not call me ‘Mother’ again Francois, I have warned you already.”

            “Yes, Vivian. I swear to you on our shared blood that no others of our kind have trespassed in my territory with my knowledge or permission.” He spoke with a forced calm but I could feel his terror beating in my own heart. What was it, terror that I had found him out or terror that I wouldn’t believe him?

            My reasons for keeping away from others of our kind are my own, but Francois is very much aware that it is an unbreakable rule to fraternize with any of them in our territories without seeking approval from me first. We are a bunch of gossiping bitches, and it would only take the wrong word in the right ear for all hell to break loose upon me and mine. To his credit Francois has always obeyed me in this and so I would have to trust that he obeyed me still. Besides, if he had truly wanted to betray me he wouldn’t have insisted on this unpleasant public space to meet in.

            “Very well then. No scent left behind and they seem to be more than capable trackers. Doubtful that it would be humans and the gods know a werewolf wouldn’t be able to mask his stench. Your fan girls seem to be crafty little bastards.” He looked confused and opened his mouth as if to ask a question, but then seemed to think better of it and shook his head. Probably had no idea what a fan girl was. A shame since I’m sure he’d find them so groovy.

            “Yes, Vivian. That is why I came to you in hopes that your vast experience would be able to shed some light on this for me. I’m afraid that I am quite at a loss as to what to do. I refuse to give up what is mine but I am not so foolish as to assume that I am the equal of such an unknown quantity.” He said this without a trace of shame. That has always been a big difference between the two of us: he is comfortable and accepting of his limitations while I refuse to believe that any exist for me. I stand firm that with enough bravado and bloodshed any situation can resolve itself in my favor. And hey, it’s seen me through this long so it can’t be too bad of a life motto.

            A grin both feral and unpleasant stretched my mouth and Francois blanched at the sight of it. An idea had occurred to me: when I have no idea what the fuck is going on I tap into my human heritage and turn to those who glimpse the workings of the universe that the rest of us are blind to. And I know Francois would hate it, which made it even better.

            “I think we need to pay a visit to my favorite neighborhood psychic.”


            “I hate these… what is the word for gitans?” When he’s upset my Frankie-boy reverts to French. As a matter of fact his accent has been more pronounced since we left the café in my car. For one thing he’s upset that I insist on driving as it goes against his chivalrous nature and for another he’s insanely jealous of my car.

            “I believe the word you’re looking for is ‘gypsies’, son of mine. And trust me, Paul is far from being a gypsy.”

            “Paul? Merde woman, you are taking me to a gitan named Paul?”

            “Qui, mon fils. But I told you, he is not a gypsy. Don’t let your old world prejudices blind you here in the new world.” He mutters under his breath and slouches back into the soft black leather seat, pulling a cigarette case out of his jacket pocket.

            “No smoking in my baby, or I’ll rip your arm off and beat you with it,” his hand pauses with a cigarette halfway to his mouth before he smoothly returns it to his case and makes that disappear as well. “Honestly, I thought the French were supposed to honor and treasure beauty, not sully it with the stench of smoke.” He shot me a disgruntled look, “Forgive me Vivian, but do you not smoke as well, and have done so for quite some time?”

            “Yes, but I know better than to do it in as cherry a ride as this.” And cherry it fucking is. My one luxury indulgence, a 1968 Ford Mustang painted a gleaming black. It was a spot of midnight on these bright Palm Springs streets, clashing with the tan stucco and towering palm trees. It purred down the streets, a panther stalking the desert streets where monstrous Cadillac’s are driven at a snail’s pace by geriatrics headed to their next tee time.

            I fucking love this car.

            At a stop light I glance out the window and see a beautiful young woman, her mocha skin gleaming with a sheen of sweat under the blazing midday sun. She wore a white sundress that contrasted her skin wonderfully; her hair pulled back to better display the elegant column of her neck. I rolled down my window a little and inhaled deeply, tasting the hot air that wafted into the car: Coconut oil, vanilla body lotion and pure female musk.

            My stomach growled loudly in tandem with Francois’, who had focused on our African beauty as well. She felt our intent stares and met them boldly, never dreaming of the fate she was tempting with her daring. The car behind us honked as the light had turned green without my knowing. Francois and I looked at each other, silently communicating a split second decision: to pull over and partake of this exotic beauty or to continue on our errand.

            Responsibility won out, unfortunately, and I accelerated through the intersection. What a fucking waste, I think to myself as I watch what could have been dwindle in my rear-view mirror.

            We were headed to Warm Sands, a suburb of Palm Springs with a rather dubious history. Let’s just say that the sexual proclivities of its inhabitants hadn’t been a very well kept secret and the media had a rather fun time with that fact at one point. But I am not one to judge; I’ve been everywhere and done most everything at one point or another. It adds a bit of color, as far as I am concerned.

            We pulled up to an older home with a lawn kept meticulously neat and green. Verdant bougainvillea bushes grow along the boundary walls that guard the property, and palm trees stretch themselves towards the skies casting a cool shade that you could just fantasize about lounging in with an icy margarita in hand. All in all, it looked like it belonged on the cover of a magazine as the ideal of desert living. Francois looked at it with stunned amazement, his snobbish eyes finding nothing to complain of and displeased with that fact.

            I swing out of the car, welcoming the blast of summer heat on my skin as I prowl up the pathway towards the bright blue door. Francois scrambles after me, slamming the car door with a force that makes me wince and stop in my tracks to make sure the window glass hasn’t cracked. Francois quails under my glare and reaches back to pat the roof, murmuring “Many pardons, fine automobile.” I nod in satisfaction and turn to the door once more, raising my hand to knock.

            Before my knuckles meet wood the door swings open on silent hinges and a scarlet skinned demon barrels straight into me. 

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Chapter Four

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Chapter Five

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Chapter Six

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Chapter Seven

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Chapter Eight

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Chapter Nine

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Chapter Ten

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Chapter Eleven

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Chapter Twelve

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Chapter Thirteen

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Chapter Fourteen

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