Smith’s last mortal act was murder.
Now, prowling the dark places, she wonders about karma and redemption. And what a really good pastrami sandwich would taste like.
She was standing where she always stood on the platform, well away from the crowded spots by the stairs and turnstiles, reading. Let the rest of the cattle shove themselves into the middle cars. Even when she didn’t get a seat, she at least had some breathing room by coming down here to the end of the platform.
Sometimes she gazed idly at the steps that led down into the tunnel and wondered about going down there. What was around that curve? Another, earlier iteration of Smith would have gone down there to see. That Smith was long gone and today’s Smith had a job interview. Back to the book. What was that down by the tracks, though?
Regal and ruined, a tall figure had emerged from the dark of the tunnel catching the corner of her eye. Out of nowhere, Smith felt kind of high, but cold and like she was about to be really scared. The figure stopped and waited for her. Layers of Smith, the responsible adult, peeled away and she dropped the book. There was a rumble and for an instant the figure was back-lit before the train barreled into the station. Smith didn’t get on it.
He was still there and now she could see his face. Angular and tight and white as chalk. He made no gesture. His expression didn’t waver or welcome. He waited because he knew she would come down the steps and into the tunnel. Before she got to where he stood, he turned and moved back into the darkness around that curve. He didn’t walk so much as glide deeper into the dark, moving over to levitate up an iron ladder to an abandoned, boarded off platform. Smith had flipped the switch of her rational self off and climbed the ladder to find him facing her again.
Then he was bent over her and two extremely odd things happened at the same time: something cold and sharp latched onto her throat and a length of his bloody, opened arm was shoved roughly against her mouth. Some unspeakable circuit was completed and wet electricity pulsed between them. Whatever was happening, Smith wanted more of it and sucked hard, feeling stronger and wide, wide awake for the first time ever.
Her new friend seemed determined to empty Smith, driving her to pull his blood into her all the faster. That is, if this was blood. It wasn’t metallic like blood, but dirty; old dirt where groves of ancient trees still kept out the sky.
Gee, that was poetic. Smith was hearing and seeing everything very differently. It wasn’t so dark anymore and, in spite of the din of an approaching train, she could clearly hear footsteps coming closer. He heard, too, but first he pulled his arm away from her mouth and continued to siphon her blood, emptying her. When she struggled to grab his arm and reconnect, he growled and slapped her hands away.
“Hey, you. Police! Put your hands where I can see them!” The voice came from behind a swaying flashlight beam and, just for that one precious needed moment, her attacker turned to face the voice.
In a brilliant burst of triple-firing neurons, Smith knew what was about to happen and what she had to do about it. If she didn’t act now, the dance was over.
Fluidly, inexorably, she took the bastard by the neck and flung him into the path of the Number 1 train screeching just below them. Boy, he did not see that coming. There was one indelible moment of wide-eyed, wide-mouthed fury and then he was gone.
Evading the police turned out to be child’s play as soon as Smith put it together that they couldn’t see and she could. As much fun as fucking with them would have been, Smith had more pressing matters to attend to.
It was revolting in the way of all births. Wet, messy, and painful as hell. Smith’s body was ridding itself of its internal organs because, as she would learn, the Blood would take care of all bodily functions. She wouldn’t need to breathe or eat or shit. Opening herself, now-useless organs splashed out onto the dirty, abandoned subway platform. Slabs and stringy bits were wrung out, leaving Smith exhausted. For all eternity now there would only be one need: to control the Blood. She found a small alcove at the end of the platform and folded herself into something that wasn’t quite sleep but did the trick.
Smith adapted quickly to the new way of things. Truth told, once she got past the ick factor, killing people was a rush. There was no skill involved; surprise did it all for her. No one expected to find a slightly pudgy woman with freckles tearing their throat open. And that tipping point between struggle and surrender was intoxicating. Sometimes she went on sprees, killing without needing to keep the Blood quiet, just for the sheer wild insane fun of it. Then she’d find a quiet place to tuck herself away and experience something like rest.
At first, she stayed down in the tunnels where she had all the advantages. Who knew there was so much to kill down there? There was a perfect balance she could achieve for some two to three days after draining some poor loser. But then she could feel the Blood begin to eat her from the inside out. Early on, before she got good at this, there had been some close calls. Once, in her blind desperation to do something about that horrible burning, she killed a track worker. The ensuing ruckus brought to mind villagers with pitchforks and torches; something to be avoided at all costs.
Eventually she returned to the surface. It was easier than she’d expected and it was exhilarating to be out on the streets, jostled on all sides by the walking dead as each hurried off to a tiny personal hell. Smith remembered what that was like and, even as the first tickles of another firestorm kicked up, she could flex something that was close to being gratitude.
Time wasn’t measured by the cycles of day and night but by the need to keep the Blood quiet and, in this way, whole generations of mortals lived and died while Smith fought back against the corrosion. Over time she developed games and theories. She liked killing big, strong men because they never believed this was happening to them. There was her avenging angel phase when she focused on criminals and putting the homeless out of their misery. In spite of how they fought, she could see in their eyes that the armed robbers and thugs knew they were only getting what they deserved. Oddly enough, the homeless fought more fiercely to hang onto their wretched, pointless lives. After awhile though, that got boring. Time for a new game.
Preying on the successful coming out of their gleaming board rooms kept Smith entertained for a decade or so. She’d rotate off to the club crowd and, for awhile, checked out the suburban situation. In time, though, it all got stale. The old euphoria of the kill wasn’t there. It had become just another job.
One night she stalked a hedge fund rock-star and his piece of arm candy. Feeling playful, she tied him up using the terrified blonde’s silk stockings and let him watch before gorging herself on him, too. She helped herself to his sleek Jaguar parked around the corner from where the couple would be found the next day. Draining two bodies made her sluggish, but happy in a doped-out kind of way, and driving out of the city at first light brought back a vague sense of excitement.
Chewing a wide swathe through the Midwest, Smith quit wondering, quit worrying and just kept the Blood at bay. There was no point in getting all existential about it. In time she went international and found that blood was blood. She’d harbored a low, quiet hope that she’d find some super blood and get a break from all this killing. It wasn’t that she had any moral compunction, it just took up too much time and effort and there were other things she’d like to do. She’d love to climb Everest or cross the Antarctic, but without a steady supply of bodies to empty, the risk was too great. Even exploring the Amazon basin, in spite of the proliferation of things filled with blood, would be too much work.
Sitting up in the branches of a tree near the edge of one of the last great forests, watching the sun rise, Smith sighed. There was that damned tickle and, before long, her insides would begin to twitch and burn. Suddenly the effort required to get back to the small city she’d been terrorizing seemed too much. Moving deeper into the woods, she started scouting out a place to go to ground. How bad could this get anyway, this burning? Would it kill her? Wow! Why hadn’t she thought of this before?
Deep in the forest, along a ravine cut by a creek, Smith found a series of caverns. The burn was getting bad and there was a moment when she almost changed course, but wouldn’t it be great if she really could die?
Tucking herself into the crease of a shallow cave between a pile of fallen boulders and the still, solid bulk of the earth, Smith hunkered down for the worst. It took awhile and there was a point where panic almost won, but just the thought of starting the whole damned tiresome cycle again was enough to keep her pinned to the ground. The burn built and then hit a flash point where she was engulfed and there was no longer any sense of Smith. Somewhere, in a small kernel of consciousness behind her sizzling, popping eyeballs, a light that should be about to go out got stronger.
Let’s face it, we both should have known better.
She couldn’t have believed that throwing me under a train was going to do it and I, well I’ve been around awhile and really should have gone right after her. In my defense, she was just so damned entertaining. In hers…there is no defense.
That was just sloppy.
We all hit the point she did when she went off to that cave but not many of us follow through. I sure as hell wouldn’t. What? Are you kidding? By the time I got to her there wasn’t much left. Enough though. I’ve worked with less and it was worth it to see how pissed off she was when I brought her back.
Maybe she’ll put it together about my little trick of cycling the Blood into some stupid human and back into her own veins. But she’d better not make my mistake. I really should have killed her right then and there. At any rate, I’m hoping that a second cycling of this vile stuff through my veins, into hers and back again will be enough to hold me for another year or so. I’ve got a book tour coming up and don’t need the hassle of having to keep killing and killing. That chaos and carnage are all very well and good for some, but I have better things to do with my time.
Ah, right. So why didn’t I kill her this time? Like I said, she’s just so damned entertaining.
I can’t wait to see what she does next!