I stood on the dimly lit corner, alone, waiting for the light to change so I could cross. There were no cars in sight, and it was three in the morning (I only feel comfortable being out at night, less people around), but I didn't want to risk it. My luck has always been shit. With it, I would step out onto the street and get rundown by the only out of control drunk driver within ten miles.
The streets were wet from a round of storms earlier in the day, the puddles glistening in the off-golden yellow beams of the neglected streetlights. In these puddles were the distorted reflections of surrounding concrete apartment buildings. I could see muted lights behind closed curtains, and hear the droning of infomercial salespeople. I imagined kindred souls sitting up in bed or on worn down couches, tired but unable to rest.
With a loud click the signal changed from bright red to green and the WALK sign began to beep loudly. I still looked both ways before rushing across.
My feet slapping against the wet pavement was the only sound in this part of the city, even the distant sound of traffic had faded into silence. But one such as myself, with sharper hearing than the average Joe, could hear smaller things, subtler things. Rats dug around in garbage cans, contending with cats and mange-ridden raccoons. Their squeaks and hisses offering bits of insights into the goings on in this otherwise abandoned part of the city.
I passed empty store windows advertising long dead businesses. A deli, a laundromat, liquor stores, pawnshops…even a watch repair workshop. And more than a couple gas stations. All gone, with no hope of resurrection. Now home to only vermin and foolish vagrants.
Even the apartments eventually become completely abandoned as I stride deeper into the land of the forgotten. My home.
I stepped around an open manhole that I clearly recall having been closed when I passed it not three hours ago. It seemed that my downstairs neighbors were also out for a night on the town. I couldn't help but smile, and wish them the best of luck. It was tourist season. The plastic bag I held in my right hand a testament to my own success.
The delicacies within the crinkling bags were just right for consumption after three days of careful preparation, so I picked up the pace, eater to begin my meal.
The apartment, my apartment, had been a dark shade of red at one point, I think, when it was built seventy years ago. But like everything else around here, it was now faded and mostly forgotten. Ancient detritus fills the hallways, where the walls do not have holes they are saturated with layers of illegible graffiti from gangs and individuals that most certainly do not exist anymore. I know this, because I got rid of some of them myself when I was first moving in.
My abode is on the tenth floor-not too high up, but enough to give me a view into the red-light district, that oh-so-infamous part of downtown that tourists are warned about the second they step off the train. Of course, there are those who don't listen to these warnings, and for them my comrades and I must be thankful.
There is an elevator, but it had stopped working long before I moved in. But that's okay. The exercise is good for me. There are some collapsed stairs, and no railings to speak of, but again that isn't a big deal.
I cradle my precious cargo and leap over the gaps, which is much harder to do going up than it is coming down. I'm sure the Thing in the Basement is praying for the day I screw up and lose my footing. Heh, not today old friend.
The door to the tenth floor hallway is gone, not a single shard of it remaining. The floor changes from hardwood to a faded sea-green shag carpet that seems perpetually moist. My boots squish audibly with every step I take, making it impossible to be silent. I have a neighbor in room 3 that hates being woken up and unfortunately we have opposite schedules. I don't think I've even seen her beyond a lithe figure clinging to the ceiling shadows that watches me with those glowing crimson eyes. How do I know she's a "she" if I have never seen her? I can smell her.
Door 10F. Behind lies my home. My sanctuary. No need for a key - I walk right in. I am a man of simple tastes, you see, so do not expect much out of my living space.
I drop my dinner next to the leather recliner that sits in front of the old television, one so old that it doesn't even have a remote control. I found it in a junkyard as I was moving between homes and fixed it up. I've learned how to do a lot of things over the years, but being able to do my own in-house repairs has been an essential skill that has saved me a lot of trouble. Can't have repairmen sneaking around, can I?
I fixed the television so it doesn't even need to be plugged in anymore, which is good because this apartment has no electricity. I light the two room place with various unscented candles. I find most of the scented kind to be too sharp for my senses, and the smells get stuck in my nostrils and that makes it hard for me to hunt.
I turn the knob on the beige television and it slowly flickers to life, revealing only static. But there are beautiful things hidden in the digital snow-wonderful, melodious voices! All you have to do really is listen. I fiddle with the rabbit ears a little bit, and soon the room is filled with those musical whispers which soothe my aching soul. The only light I need in my life.
Almost there now, dinner time rapidly approaches.
My only other piece of accoutrement is a plain, pale refrigerator filled with a single thing. My single vice. The door opens with a soft clinking of glass bottle bumping into one another. Beer. Green, gold labelled bottles await me.
I select my two for the night, gently close the door (making sure it sticks shut, sometimes it comes open on its own) and return to my chair. By now, the static whispers have reached a fevered pitch, sending electric jolts of joy up and down my jagged spine. I am like a worshipper at Mass. The cap comes off the first bottle easily enough, my hardly nail slipping beneath the ridges and flicking it across the room. The bitter malt (with hints of orange!) cools my throat.
I am about to sit, to begin my long anticipated supper, when a most horrific scream emits from the street below. The unmistakable shriek of a woman.
I saunter to the window and pull the curtain aside to gaze down at the street below. In the moonlight I see the prone figure of a lady flailing on the black, cracked tar. She has dark hair, artificially dyed so, and pale, succulent flesh that shimmers in the mixture of street and moonlight. Her clothes are black like her hair—a glossy, tight bustier (obviously leather) and netted stockings. She wears candy red heels. Well, one anyway, the other is long gone. I can tell from her attire that she is one of the workers from the many brothels in the red-light district, perhaps one of the more naughty ones. She must have been a new girl to get caught out at night like this. I'm sure her boss will have a good talk with whoever was supposed to teach her the ropes.
She cried for help again and her face turned upward. Our eyes locked and a flash of hope came across her face. I was immediately awash in discomfort. I do not like to be looked at directly, much less right in the eyes. Her elation did not last long, however. She screamed again, much more horribly than before. I imagine this was because she saw my outline, and my eyes reflecting back at her in the dim light. They did that from time to time, when the light hits them at just the right angle.
A shadowy blob peeled itself away from beneath the skeletal remains of a nearby car (some kind of station wagon, I think) and the woman stood up just in time for it to leap on her. Her screaming came to an abrupt end as her head was severed from her shoulders with a wet squelch and sent flying towards the sidewalk.
A second figure emerged from an overturned trash bin and scooped up the head as it rolled against its reptilian feet. I knew then that I was seeing the end of my neighbors' outing. The husband stepped out into the light and looked up at me with his serpentine eyes. I waved. He smiled, malformed, scaly lips peeling back over sharp teeth, and waved back.
I watched them drag the corpse into the open man hole and push it in. Seconds later, the cover was back in place and all was silent once more.
One glance upward filled my vision with blinking neon lights and, I suppose, reality. Distant as those things were, they still felt too close. People, like so much vermin, squeezed themselves into the narrow alleys and streets to pursue all sorts of acts of carnal pleasure. Cheap and not-so-cheap. I pulled the curtains closed and felt an immediate sense of relief.
I finished off the first beer promptly and made an attempt to toss it into the garbage on the other side of the room, by the front door. And missed, of course. It bounced off the rim and hit the carpet with a soft thump.
With a sigh, I shuffled over, picked it up, and placed it into the bin. That's when I noticed it was getting a bit full, so I made a mental note to take it out and dump it into the basement. Tomorrow, before going hunting.
Back to my chair I went, hesitating to sit down for fear of something else calling my attention away from my long anticipated meal. For five minutes I stood in a half-sitting position, completely still…nothing. I sat.
The time was night! The whispers of the television had grown mostly quiet, making my rooting around in the plastic bag sound loud and intrusive. The scent of perfectly aged meat wafting into my nostrils made my mouth water.
My first piece for the night was the calf of the daughter. Maggots dripped from the lesions and onto my hands. I licked them off, savoring their moistness as they popped between my teeth. I held the leg-chunk in my hands and took my first bite of putrescent flesh. A large mouthful of sweet-meat that melted right off the bone, its delicious juices flowing over my tongue and filling my senses.
With that bite, picture perfect memories of the girl flash in my mind. She had been no more than fifteen, with a scream that would move angels to tears. Her soft, blonde hair was almost white, and her skin was pale and smooth. But best of all…she didn't see me, even at the end.
I crack down on the bone, sucking the marrow hungrily. Once I finish that, I chomp down on the bone itself, the crunching reverberating through my silent apartment.
Next comes a forearm, dripping foul liquid as the meat struggles to stay attached to the bone. The succulent flesh still dripping with a bit of blood. I hold the arm up and tip the front down, rolling out my tongue to catch the dripping crimson. This is, was, the father, and one of the only salvageable pieces from his entire corpse. The taste of the blood stirs up memories of the unpleasant interaction I had with the man.
He fought back, which is in itself not unusual. Punching and biting and flailing and screaming filthy curses of all kinds. But worst of all, he stared me right in the face as we fought. So I tore out his eyes and made him listen to me eat them right then and there. Worst of all, however…is that he was covered in tattoos. Save for this single arm and one leg, the rest was ruined product. Which is a shame, because he was otherwise a big, fit man.
The incident started off with the dog. A mutt of some sort with too much drool and fangs like knives, though they did not compare to mine. It looked mean, and charged me as I crouched in the shadows…but all I had to do was hiss and the cur fled, pissing all over itself as it ran whimpering out of the dog door. Animal meat holds little to no interest to me. It only reminds me of leaner times. I promised myself long ago—never again.
The bile and corruption inside the bulky bicep fills me with energy, and I see flashes of his memories. The daughter was a pure crystal of innocence. She cared about her friends, one far more deeply than the others, but she never got the chance to tell her the truth. But the man…the father…was full of aggression and anger. Prone to fits of rage, he drove his daughter into herself and away from him, and that reminded him of his late wife, which caused him to become even angrier. His coworkers feared him, his friends (if they could be called such) were subservient. He knew it all. He reveled in it. He thought himself quite the high and mighty alpha, despite not being able to maintain a relationship with any woman.
His single, real hobby was working out. He was obsessed with attaining, and maintaining, a high level of strength and fitness. It was what gave him his identity, after all.
All that work failed him in the end. Much like his animal, the tattooed man pissed and shit all over himself when I threw back my disguise. I had no choice, he had looked right at me with those burning grey eyes. Like I was some lower being of his prey-race. I hated showing anyone what was beneath my finely crafted veil, but this man was just got on my nerves.
The fear and loathing radiated from him in a palpable aura as my wings slowly spread. To his credit, he knew I was Wrong. Everything was over a moment later. His warm blood splashed along the walls, some even getting on my face. The taste brought me back to my senses. I tore him limb from limb in a matter of seconds.
The daughter came next. For once, luck had played in my favor. She had fallen asleep listening to music, the pearl white earbuds pumping some hard tones into her ears. My talons were shaking as I wrapped them around her delicate throat and snapped her neck with one violent twist.
Normally I would leave the bodies in their homes to ripen, but I knew it would not be possible here. While no one would miss the man, the girl's friends would most certainly come searching if she were to suddenly stop responding to their messages. So I gathered up the pieces of the father and threw the daughter over one shoulder and made my way out of the back door.
Silently I carried the pieces through backyards, abandoned lots and overgrown fields to one of my usual hiding spots. Some places are so old that humans just pass them right by without ever noticing, it is how some of my kind survive. This particular spot was a long defunct train yard. Rusted out cargo cars and dead engines lay strewn about, untouched by human hands for decades. I tossed the remains of the father and daughter into one of the cars, confident that they would not be found. This was a forgotten place.
Three days later, it was time for the harvest.
I picked my teeth with the last fragment of arm bone before consuming it as well. Now it was time for the main dish.
Soft hair soaked in blood. Platinum strands tainted crimson. Eyes frozen forever, filled with fear of the unknown. Her skull cracks like a peanut shell, the popping sound sending a pleasant chill up and down my spine. The false skin of my suit is suddenly swelteringly hot.
Pink and red meat. A morsel. Filled with precious memories and emotions. Terrifying flashes of an abusive father. But fear no longer, my sweet angel, he burns in Hell.
The static-chorus rises again and I can't stop my shaking as I scoop pieces of brain-matter into my drooling maw. The mind truly is a precious thing to waste, and it is over far too soon.
Dinner ends. I sit in my leather recliner, feet up, and the T.V. hisses softly—its voices silent. I can hear The Thing in the Basement stirring through the ringing of the old iron pipes.
Another night comes to an end, and my eyelids feel heavy. Already I know I am going to dream her dreams. For a little while, at least.
As the first rays of daylight fail to penetrate the light-proof curtains I give into sleep. What will tomorrow's dinner be?