Darkness, pain, blood...blood everywhere. Running down my fingers, soaking my clothes, oozing across my tongue... Ugh, my head. Am I dead? Where am I?
I awaken drenched in sweat. There’s the old, wobbly fan, slowly turning in my shitty apartment. Damn, another nightmare. My head’s throbbing; those pills that quack gave me aren’t worth shit. If anything, I feel worse. Why the fuck did I even go? That’s right, Aunt Charlotte said I wasn’t looking good—I needed to go get checked out. What a waste of fucking money. I work too fucking hard just to piss it away on quack doctors.
What I need is a good, stiff drink.
I stumble into the kitchen and open the cabinet. Grabbing the bottle of Jack, I swish it around. Just enough for a shot, two if I’m lucky. I pull the cork and take a swig. Who needs a glass—just more dishes.
Ugh, what the hell? I spew it into the sink. That tasted like donkey piss. Must’ve gone bad, but does whiskey even go bad? I know I had a few shots not too long ago. Argh, my fucking head. Feels like a sledgehammer in my brain. The room’s spinning. I reach for the counter. Too late, going down…
I lie on the linoleum for a few seconds, head reeling, room spinning.
My every nerve tenses.
The cabinet under the sink….
I inch closer—quiet, so, so quiet.
I swing open the doors and thrust my head inside.
Thu-thump, thu-thump, thu-thump…
The headache’s better now. I wonder what happened. Maybe the drink did me good after all.
What the fuck’s in my mouth? A fucking, goddamn sewer rat. I spit it out, and it lands on the floor, twitches, then dies. The taste of its blood lingers on my tongue. Why does it taste so good? What the fuck’s wrong with me?
I stagger to the bathroom to face the monster staring back at me from the mirror. Blood runs from my mouth, caking in my beard, staining my white t-shirt. My eyes are glowing.
“What are you?” I ask aloud with a grimace. I feel something strange with my tongue and examine my teeth. They look like mine, but behind them are others. Sharp, like shark’s teeth; this is beyond insane.
Think, damn it, think. Someone must’ve slipped you some acid or something. You’re high and hallucinating—yeah, that’s it. There’s no other logical explanation. You just have to ride it out. Just go to bed, sleep it off, and don’t do anything crazy. You’ve got the whole weekend to get your head straight. Whatever this is will work its way out by then. Yeah, just keep calm and everything will be fine.
My legs feel like Jell-O as I wobble to the bed. Exhausted by the effort, I collapse, closing my eyes.
“Who’s there?” I demand, sitting bolt upright.
That voice—why does it sound so familiar? Another hallucination, no doubt.
“What the fuck do you want?” I shout.
My phone lights up. I snatch it from the dresser. It’s a text from an unknown number. “We need 2 talk, Danny.”
With shaking fingers, I reply, “Who r u?”
“You know…meet me downstairs in 10.”
What the fuck? Who’s this person, and how do they know where I live. How do they have my goddamn number?
I throw on some clothes and grab my pistol. The sledgehammer slams into my skull again. I stumble and fall against the front door, catching my reflection in the entry mirror. My eyes are still glowing like headlights. Surely I’m hallucinating. Shouldn’t I just stay here? That voice in my head, it’s got to be just my drug-augmented synapses playing tricks, altering my perceptions.
My phone buzzes in my pocket. “Put on the sunglasses,” the message reads. I take the sunglasses from the table by the door and put them on. Clearly, whoever’s sending me these texts is spying on me. I give the finger to the window, just to let the prick know how I feel about him and open the door.
After carefully descending two flights of stairs (when will they fix that fucking elevator anyway?), I stand in the cool evening air under the entry light. Even with the sunglasses on, the passing headlights are blinding, making me wince. Man, whatever this drug is, it’s some freaky shit.
I hear it again. It’s faint but coming closer.
I see her, a jogger.
She’s listening to music; she doesn’t even notice me. But oh, I notice her. The jostling of her ponytail, the sweat pooling in her collarbone, the flexing of her shapely thighs.
What is this feeling? I need her; need to catch her, possess her, devour her. But that would be wrong, wouldn’t it? But why does it feel like it would be so right, so natural? What the fuck’s wrong with me?
“Well done,” the voice whispers from behind me. I catch sight of a figure as it disappears into the alley.
“Come back,” I yell, giving chase. The figure doesn’t run, is it waiting for me? A black hood covers the head as it stands with its back to me. I reach to seize it by the shoulder, to wring the answers out. The figure lifts its hand just before I catch a hold.
What the hell? I’m…frozen. I tell my arms to move, my fingers to twitch, but they’ve revolted. My body isn’t responding anymore. Fuck, I can’t even blink.
The figure faces me, drawing back the hood, long black hair falling around her shoulders. What the fuck? I know her. She was…at the club. Has she been stalking me? Did she slip me a Mickey or something?
Who are you and what the fuck have you done to me? You better cut this shit out right now. I scream at her, but only quiet gurgles escape my paralyzed vocal cords.
“Now, Danny, just calm down before you hurt yourself,” she whispers in her seductive foreign accent. “You’re safe now. I’m sure you have a million questions, but for now, you must trust me. Now, promise me you’ll behave, and I’ll release you.”
I feel the painful tingling sensation, like when my leg went to sleep in study hall, only it’s all over. Is this what she meant? I take the opportunity to give her the finger; at least that still works.
“Cute, Danny,” she chuckles. “I know you’re the feisty type, so I’ll let this slide. As you can tell, I have complete control of you. You’re alive because I wish it, so try not to test my patience. It would be a shame to spoil that pretty face, wouldn’t you agree?”
She drops her hand and I fall to the ground with a thud. Ugh, my head. I massage my temples. Sweet, I can move again. But that just pisses me off.
“What the fuck was that?” I demand.
“That, my dear, was blood magic. You’re my thrall, which means I have complete control of you. From now on, you’ll be my obedient slave.”
“And…if I'm not so obedient?”
“Then I’ll let you starve and die like a caged animal and find another, more reasonable, slave.”
What the fuck? This must be a dream, or more of that drug’s fucking hallucination bullshit.
“Oh, I assure you, Danny, you’re very awake and quite drug free.”
“What the hell? How did you know what I was thinking?”
“Because I can read your thoughts, sweetie. Like I said, you’re my thrall—that’s how it works.”
“Seems I have no other choice, then, do I?” I growl through clenched teeth.
“Good boy, you’re catching on. Here’s a treat for you for being such a good doggie.”
She throws a flask of something at me. It’s warm to the touch.
“Go ahead, drink up. It’ll make you feel all better.”
I open it and start to drink. It tastes like…life. Like water from the sweetest spring when you’re an hour from dying of thirst. I down the whole thing without stopping. Wiping my mouth, I find a deep-red stain on the back of my hand. The headache has vanished, and I feel more…me again.
“What was in that?”
“Virgin blood, sweetie. That should hold you over for a while. Now come along, we have work to do.”
She continues down the alley; I get to my feet and follow. Why am I doing this? What’s a thrall and how am I hers? This is fucking ridiculous, there’s no such thing as…
“Vampires?” She looks at me out of the corner of her eye, glowing with a translucent purple light. “Maybe not exactly like you’d imagine, but yes, we do exist. You should be grateful; most thralls are just mindless drones. Even if one did have a brain, he would give his balls to serve one such as I. Consider yourself fortunate.”
We exit the alley onto the sidewalk. There’s a big, black limousine waiting at the curb, the city lights reflecting in its heavily tinted windows. A gorilla in a black suit with dark glasses is holding the door for us. My jailer gracefully slides in, across the red leather seat, and looks back at me.
“You may call me Mistress,” she says. “Now, come along, the night awaits.”
I grit my teeth and climb in across from her.
The car shakes with the weight of the monster doorman climbing in, then we’re off. My mind is still reeling in confusion.
I can’t help but be captivated by her beauty. Her long black hair, falling in perfect waves, frames her ivory features and perfectly symmetrical bone structure. Her eyes glow purple with an unnatural light, peering into my very soul. She seemed so different at the club, just like any of the dozens of tourist chicks I’d met there, escaping one of the dozen former Eastern bloc countries to have a bit of fun in the States. Cute, sexy, naive, just looking for a good time with an American. If I’d only known…
“Yes, well, that’s what happens when you bite off more than you can chew.” She makes me squirm under her intense scrutiny.
Maybe I should try another approach since the tough guy thing didn’t go well.
“That’s the smartest thing you’ve thought all night,” she smiles.
“I don’t know what you want with me” I say, ignoring her, “but I would appreciate it, Mistress, if you would leave my thoughts to me, or at least pretend to. It’s really hard to process this shit circus if you keep barging in while the clowns are getting dressed…if you catch my drift.”
“Alright, Danny,” she relents. “I understand this must be very…off-putting, nearly as much as your mental image of naked clowns. That aside, to be frank, our situation is rather unique. In all my life, I’ve never heard of a thrall retaining free will. My intention was to gain information from you, not to turn you.”
“What did you want to find out?”
“What you know about the Seacrest Slasher.”
“You mean my case? What possible reason could a… Vampire, is it?...have to look for a serial killer?”
Perhaps to make me feel more at ease, she’s looking out the window. Now’s my chance. I draw the pistol and point it at her temple.
“I don’t know what you are but you’re going to stop this motherfucking car and let me out, or I’m going to blow your fucking head off,” I say in my most intimidating voice.
Her eyes flash with anger. My arm swings down, pointing the pistol dead center of my kneecap. She clicks her tongue several times, shaking her head. “Obstinate fool. I suppose I must teach you a lesson.”
“No, oh shit, please, don’t!” I beg, struggle desperately, but my finger won’t stop as it slowly squeezes the trigger.
Searing pain. Blood stinging my eyes. Ears ringing. Screaming in agony.
Suddenly, all I see are those purple eyes, burning like fire into mine. She’s so close, I feel her breath on my face. She holds my chin with a hand—hard and cold, like frozen steel.
I look at the gaping wound, my stomach turning at the sight of a shattered kneecap, squirting arteries, twitching muscles. Oh god, I’m going to fucking die.
She points at it with a long finger adorned with an emerald ring, nails painted bright purple to match her eyes. At her command, the flow of blood stops, then layer upon layer, bone, tendon, muscle, and skin come back together. After a few seconds, only a hole in my pant leg remains as proof. Even the blood no longer stains the fabric.
“Now do you understand, Danny? You’re mine. Your mind is mine; your body is mine; your life is mine. To be released at this stage, as you requested, would simply mean an agonizing death. If that is what you choose, after tonight, then I’ll honor your request. However, given the unique circumstances of our…situation, I would hope we can avoid such a disappointing outcome.”
“Alright, you win,” I reply, seeing no alternative.
“Oh, Danny,” she chuckles, releasing me, smiling with ruby lips and glittering white teeth. “I’d already won when you heard my calling to you. You’ve only succeeded in not losing.”
The limousine comes to a stop and the door opens. “Here already? Well, now that we’ve got that unpleasantness out of the way, it’s time for some real fun. Now, come along.”
I find myself facing a row of nondescript apartment buildings in some godforsaken corner of the bad side of town.
“Twenty-third. and Peach Tree Avenue. Our target is on the fourth floor, room 425. You can see his window there,” she points.
“Okay…and what are we doing here?”
“Neutralizing the target, the Seacrest Slasher.”
“You mean he’s here? What the…how do you know?”
She taps my forehead. “It was all there, Danny. You had all the pieces; you just didn’t know how to put them together.”
“But why? What interest is that…monster to you?”
“Well, that’s a long story. If all goes well, I promise I’ll tell you. For now, though, we must hurry. Opportunity may only knock once.”
Questions. So many questions. But I’ve got to focus.
“Okay, fine, what’s the plan then?”
“I’m glad you asked,” she smiles. “Consider this your tryout, your moment to—what’s the phrase—sink or swim? I’m going to send you in there to get him. Do what comes natural to you, but remember, he’s a much bigger rat than the one in your apartment. Your life is mine, but you can still hurt…a lot. So, do your best and try not to embarrass yourself.”
“Wait, what? How am I supposed to get up there?”
“Oh, that? That’s the easy part.”
She points a commanding finger at me. I’m suddenly weightless, my feet leaving the ground.
“What the fuck are you going to do?”
“Do try to stay calm, Danny, and stop wriggling. It makes your trajectory harder to calculate.”
“My whAAAA,” I yell as I hurtle through the air, stomach fluttering, the window she’d pointed out earlier fast approaching. I cover my face, shutting my eyes.
I come to on a pile of broken glass. Had that just happened?
I stand up, brush myself off, and scan the room. What a shithole. Newspapers lay scattered all over the floor. The stink of rotten food and the buzz of flies makes my skin crawl. The TV’s playing an Andy Griffith rerun, canned laughter a macabre addition to this disgusting scene of filth and neglect.
Ears straining, I move into the kitchen, wincing at the crunch of glass under my feet. Roaches scurry around empty beer cans and dirty dishes piled on the counter.
A hunch tells me to open the fridge. It’s filled top to bottom with sealed plastic containers. I pull one out and open it. What the…?
It’s a woman’s hand, floating in some yellowish liquid, an engagement ring still on the finger. A plastic jar rolls out onto the floor, the eyeball floating inside staring at me. These are the sick fucker’s trophies. Mistress was right. This is the Seacrest Slasher’s apartment.
“Don’t move,” a sneering voice says behind me. I instinctively put my hands up. “I see you’ve found my collection. What do you think?”
“I think you’re a sick motherfucker.”
I see the reflection of my assailant in the jars lining the fridge. He’s a short, balding man in a dirty sleeveless t-shirt, pointing a shotgun at my head. His fat stomach jiggles with a self-satisfied chuckle.
That sound again.
The beating of his wicked heart.
“Hey, I’ve seen you around. You’re that detective, aren’t you? Well, I don’t know how you found me, but you sure made a helluva ruckus. I thought for sure the SWAT team had come for me, but I guess it’s only you. Looks like my luck’s held again. After tonight, I’m pulling up stakes and going to find a better hunting ground. Tomorrow, this will all be a pile of ashes. Except for my prizes, of course. I’ll be taking them with me.”
“Why are you telling me all that?”
The shotgun barrel presses against my head as the wicked heart keeps pounding, so loud I barely hear anything else.
Time slows as sounds drag, like a tape recorder losing power.
“Beeeeecauuuuuse theeeeeey’llllll fiiiiiiind yooooou heeeerrrrre tooooooo.” I turn to find him frozen in place, still with that self-satisfied smirk, his heartbeats drawn out. Oh, his heart, pumping that delicious blood. My mouth waters at the thought.
But it’s so wrong.
But this thirst, I can’t control it.
Everything goes black…
As vision returns, I’m aware of warm, sweet liquid flowing across my tongue and down my throat. Startled, I pull back as my fangs dislodge with a smack from the flesh of my victim. The shotgun lies on the floor, barrel still smoking. The jars in the open fridge reflect the Slasher, shirt covered in blood, with some…creature with shark teeth leaking blood from his chin, pale blue eyes shining like headlights. Is that…me?