I think I hear something. It could be my imagination. I’m running so very fast, just feeling the movement of my muscles and the wind flying past me, that I wonder if it is anything. I consider telling the guys, but a glance to the right sees that Max and Colin are running next to me and have a blank serene look on their faces. At some point they have changed position. Max is still next to me, but more than an arm length away.
I hear it again. Shrill and frantic. A scream.
I don’t slow. Instead I simply stop. Max and Colin carry on going, but I ignore them. I want to know what I heard. I find it odd that the others haven’t stopped. I am not worried about the scream, if anything I’m curious. I want to know who made it. It sounds like a woman. Turning from the road I jog down a side street, scenting the air.
I can smell the others. They stink like the dead. I know that there are more to the right, but that they are far enough away not to worry me. I want to know what or who screamed. The scents in the air are human and not the others. Something in me hardens when I consider that the scream could be the result of humans. The others are not around, the area we are in is devoid of them.
That pulls me up. Where are they? They ought to be swarming in this direction. The streets ought to be filling with them, but there is nothing. Why?
I stop and listen. My eyes are picking up more than if they were human but here the buildings are close, blocking the light. I suppose they are either flats or businesses. I don’t bother to investigate, because I don’t care. I am completely focused on the origin of the scream. It is almost as if I am hunting. I think that’s it exactly. I’m not certain I will want to hurt what is at the end of my quest, but the intensity is the same I used to see on my cat. As child I would watch her prowl and pounce on birds and small mammals with a complete intensity. If I could see myself I would probably recognise the same focus on my face.
Starting forward I step carefully. In the back of my head I hear a voice that suggests I don’t walk down the centre of the road. I agree with it. I’m making myself more of a target. Walking toward the darkest side I cling to the shadows. I am a shadow.
A small sound brings my focus to an alley. It is on the same side of the road as me and I sidle toward it, listening.
“Keep her steady,” a gruff voice says.
“I’m trying,” another says. This voice is higher, younger maybe.
I can hear the sharp panicking pants of the woman. “Look, stop struggling. Once you are marked you can go.”
“I don’t want to be,” the girl’s voice is sharp with fear.
“If you want to stay here then you will have to be marked.”
“No.” The girl’s scream is pitiful and I step into the alley, knowing that the moon will show them my silhouette.
“Hi,” I say in a curious voice. “What’s going on?”
The guys have frozen at the other end of the alley. One is holding a girl who looks no more than sixteen and the guy in front of her is carrying a knife. He looks like he is used to the streets and is handling the knife with an assurance that tells me he knows how to wield it. The guy behind smiles with a ruthless grin.
“You want some too?”
I look at his dirty face and wonder at how quickly the world can fall apart.
“None of the others are around here,” I say.
The guy with the knife is edging toward me. “No.”
“How?” I’m curious.
“Sound,” the guy holding the girl says.
I nod. “I’d let her go.” I gesture to the girl.
“Why would we want to do that?” The knife has crept closer. He isn’t in stabbing distance but I can tell he wants to be.
“She’s bit.” I can smell it. I watch as the girl crumbles when the man lets her go.
“It was only a scratch,” she wails.
“You are infected,” I say.
I notice that the guys are backing toward me, as if I were the safe option.
“How did you know?” she asks, with a voice so filled with sadness that I feel a tear leak from my eye. I wonder if it is bloody, or clear.
“Because I am too.”
The men stop and slowly turn to me, the same as you would if you were confronted with a wild animal.
“Shit,” the knife says.
It’s at this point that the moon, which has been obscured by clouds is suddenly freed. The light hits my face, and for me it is as if the day has come, but I know that they can see as well.
“Jesus,” the other guys says.
The knife just raises it to me, but he doesn’t strike.
“You can talk,” he says.
I smile and the guys wince. Guess that showed some teeth, and they have elongated. Not for the men, but the girl. I’m watching her, in fact all my attention is focused on her. She smells delicious. A part of me is sickened by this but the rest of me is surprised. I didn’t notice with the thing in the canteen, but she smells like a steak. In fact I can feel saliva gathering in my mouth.
The knife steps into my line of sight for the girl and I move so I can keep my eyes on her.
“You want her,” he says.
I nod. My fangs are so long that I have a feeling if I talk I will lisp.
“Why?” he asks.
“Because she smells delicious,” Max says as he comes around the corner. I notice that Colin is scenting the air as well.
“What are you?” the knife says. I notice that he has lowered the weapon, I guess he knows that this is one fight he couldn’t win.
“Predators,” Max says.
“Of human?” The other guys asks.
“No.” Max is looking at the girl. She has almost finished turning. “Do you want her?” he asks.
I don’t answer, but as she completes her transformation I leap directly in the air and land in front of her. I reach out and grab her before she can dash toward the two guys. She looks at me and growls, I don’t think how young she is or whether I could have done anything to save her. I’m not saddened by her loss of life or the fact she will never have another lover, or child. Instead all I think is that she smells so good. My fangs slide into her neck as I instinctively know where her jugular is. As my mouth fills with her sweet taste I find that I can barely think. I’d like to say that there are experiences that compare to this, but the intensity is too much. I know I ought not lose myself but I know that Max and Colin will keep me safe so I close my eyes and allow myself to just experience the girl.