For a multimedia experience listen to this song while reading.
I’ve tackled them all kind of ways. When they are coming out of the alley, sated on blood, or when they’re going in to the alleys, hungry, holding a human by the hand. Each time I got my target. We rolled, they snipped, and somehow, by force of will, agility, how ever, I slipped the wooden tip of my stake between their ribs, and hammered it with the heel of my palm, and the oak slid home. The bodies slump, the elegance of their hips gone, a body lying in the alley, a bag of trash waiting for the interest of raccoons, opossums, and cats of low character.
I didn’t know that they were just the ordinary ones, the standard issue drinkers, ten years old, maybe twenty.
I only learned how little killing them meant the first time I faced off with the old one.
They were leaving the club Lounge, hand in hand, dancing off Delaware Ave into the space between the old warehouses. The girl with him, eighteen, nineteen, and she looked pretty in her make-up, but the heels, the open back shirt, she had tried hard for tonight. She couldn’t believe her luck when a silken charmer slid next to her, and asked what her interests were. I ran after them, silent. He turned her into the darkness of an alley, and pressed her against the bricks, his narrow nostril flaring, taking in the musk of her underneath the perfume, the smell of blood flowing.
He bent toward her. His hair fell in a curving wall, so that only his dead eyes and the ruby red of his lips glistened through.
I knew, from lots of practice, that the moment before biting was opportune. The drinker is vulnerable. I pulled the oak stake out and charged. I didn’t see what happened, just found myself flying and clanging through a trash can. I pulled my head up and looked. He had one hand under her, lifting her like a soda, and his adam’s apple worked as he slaked his thirst. She writhed in his grasp. I pulled a syringe out of my back and jumped up. By the time I was on my feet, he dropped her. Finished.
I charged leading with two feet of sharpened oak. He slid along the ground, like Voldemort’s shadow hunting unicorns. I missed. As I went by he reached out with a long finger, and grazed my knee with his fingernail, and the knee exploded with a pop.
He stood up, throwing his long shadow across me, and walked out the alley, “Hey, good looking,” he said, “let that knee remind you how young you are.”
I tried to chase him, but the leg gave out under me. I hopped a few feet, and sunk to the ground as the lean silhouette disappeared into the night. The pain came next. This knee was supposed to be supernatural, I kept thinking.
I went out on crutches the next night. Same club. Same scene, not the same drinker. The girl with him wasn’t as sold as last night’s victim but he was muttering something about White Flight and the promise of the high kept her with him. Her- Fake tan, little black dress. Him, crew cut, pale skin, pink eyes. I tried to chase them. The noise of my crutches was loud, even when I tried to keep it quiet and he turned.
“Excuse me,” he said to Jersey, and came back for me.
He punched me once, hard and I went down, the crutches clattering away. He laughed. “We know about you now, you stunted crazy bitch.” The knee started hurting all over again when I fell. He took Jersey off into the alley, and I heard a little shriek and watched him come out again fifteen minutes later. My knee was still hurting.
I distracted one, and her human got away, but that wasn’t what I was in this for. Humans weren’t worth drinking, they weren’t worth saving. Killing drinkers—that was the only thing I thought was worth anything.
Each time I met a drinker they knew me and anytime they touched me, the knee flamed up and I went down. I didn’t know what to do. There are no doctors for my kind. I never had an injury after my first death.
The next day I was down a deep alley, past a pile of humans nobody wanted anymore, past a drinker who was finishing, who ignored me, whom I ignored, whom I knew I couldn’t take, when I came across a corpse.
It was the girl the old one had dried out. I could tell by her thin brown hair, the red high heels, from Payless. She looked up at me, her eyes dried up raisins, her make-up smeared by the trash and she opened her mouth, and spoke.
“Your knee is broken.” The voice rasped like steel sawing through aluminum.
“Shit happens,” I said. “You need a drink.”
She was not drinker though. No drinker ever looked as empty and sad as she did.
“Here,” she said. She took her fingernails and pushed them into the soft skin of her foot and ripped upwards, opening a long slit. She reached in and pulled out a tendon, thick as a pinky finger and whitish color, with a pink viscous layer dripping off it. It wiggled and wriggled from the end of her finger. “I won’t be needing it.”
She crawled across the alley floor, displacing condoms and syringes as she went, and reached toward my blasted knee. She held out the tendon and it nosed its way against my leg, parting the flesh and inching and worming its way in. It hurt like hell, and I think I screamed.
The dead girl said, “Dead flesh binds to the dead.” She looked up at me, her eyes just dark sockets. “Get him.”
Then she collapsed onto the floor of the alley. Like a normal dead person. My knee was shipping rivers of pain. I fell on the ground blacked out, and I saw a tunnel. Long tunnel, dark and the prettiest music was playing, like the go-home song at the club.
Then it was gone. I took a step. The knee was healed. I jumped and I started running, faster than before.