The table cloth dances with the light breeze. It’s cold, it being a nine in the evening on a January. Luckily, there’s an outdoor heater next to me, the warmth cradling me like a holy spirit. I am cleaning my glasses, my fingers rubbing the microfiber cloth against the glass, wiping a little stubborn smudge. Using my breath, I fog the lens up and wipe it away successfully. I put the glasses on and lean back on my chair.
The bitter scent of my tea is strong enough to reach me. Tea isn’t really my thing. It just happens to be that there’s a café across the street from the alley I have my sight on, and coffee tastes awful. I had it once a long time ago. Now, I wouldn’t be caught dead with a cup of it. Even the smell of it irritates me. That’s why I order the strongest black tea.
But, there’s also another reason. It hides my scent, a smell that their kind has come to know very well. That happens. Especially when you’re good at what you do. I give them good reason to fear me.
So I can’t have them knowing I’m here. They’d run away. But, I’ve been coming here for about two weeks, keeping track of that same spot, and they’re still here. The tea works.
On top of that, it warms me up inside as I sip it. I can’t complain. It’s not bad. It even makes me want to buy a bag of it for later. Part of me is sad that tonight is the night. I won’t come to this café again. It’s a shame. They might have made a tea drinker out of me. Even if not for the taste, but because it hides my scent so well. The creatures would eventually come to know it too though. It wouldn’t be much help anyway.
Their eyes popping up in the alley, little red orbs dancing like candles. It’s easy to spot them. Their eyes glow in the night though not in a demonic way. No. It’s more of a glistening in their iris. Their normal color, from when they were alive is still there. You wouldn’t be able to tell them apart in the day.
Luckily, they only hunt at night. It’s easier for them to lull humans to them. In the dark, people can’t see very clearly. So, it’s easier for the creatures to trick them. That’s one of their advantages. They have the power to see into people’s hearts and show them what they want to see. It’s a form of illusion. It helps the creatures hid what they really are.
In truth, they’re not like they’re described to in books. They’re not eloquent. They’re not clean. They aren’t even pretty. They’re the opposite. Corpses kept alive by feeding on the blood of the living, they’re more likes rats and insects, the furthest from aristocracy.
I finish my tea and stand up. Pushing up my glasses, I take a deep breath. This is a good job. It pays well. Considering the dangers, it comes with a fairly good health plan. Sure, it’s mostly off the record. My business card says pest control officer. But, it’s a government job. It even has a good retirement plan. Sure, not many make it, but it’s been 45 years for me. I could retire at any time, but there’s no reason for me to. I’m good at it.
The only thing that sucks is the dry cleaning. I straighten my coat. It was two thousand dollars. Custom. It has my name on it. Looks good. Feels good.
I pick up my briefcase. Also about two thousand dollars. Fine leather and silver costs money. But, I don’t pay attention much to the money. It’s the little things that matter anyway. Like the feeling of the knife cutting through their old rotting flesh. The thought of their heads hitting the ground, sizzling from the holy silver infused in the blade…it makes my heart race. My breath deepens.
Tonight will be good.
I place a twenty on the table, placing the teacup as a paperweight. Good drinks should be rewarded. I lick my lips, my hand tightening around my briefcase’s handle. It’s time.
The anticipation for violence increases as I wait for the street light to turn green. I act as patiently as I can, but it burns from the inside. I want to run, whip out my knife, and finish off the devils. But that same pause also makes it more exciting.
The streetlight turns green. I smile.
Some of them are probably a year or two old. Those are the most common. They tend to have less control. But, some are old. There’s always one in the pack. The leader. That one can be several decades or even a century old. Their skin is the greyest and most rotten.
A few months back, my blade ended one who was so old that its skin lacked all color. It had thinned to a nearly synthetic look. It was more of a skeleton wrapped in a plastic bag, scars from previous hunters on it. It was not match.
They stare at me as I stand in front of them. Their eyes twist and turn to each other. It’s a beautiful sight. It’s the moment they all have when they meet me. They find it difficult to understand why they can’t see into me. They find it difficult to understand I could not fall for their illusion.
“Don’t worry. Your confusion will stop soon,” I say, my voice as soothing as I can make it sound, like an adult to a child. This angers them. Age makes them arrogant. They think they’re better just because they’ve existed for a little longer.
They start whispering to each other, though it sounds more like hissing. This is an old pack. Their language has inbred so much that they have their own language. Maybe their eldest has rotten enough to lose its tongue. That would put it at several centuries old.
The creatures move back as I take a step in, clearly afraid of the one invading their domain. It’s usually the other way around.
Their stink hits me hard. They are old. It smells like a graveyard after a flood, the water bloating the decomposing bodies, pushing the liquids out of them. These things are shitting where they eat. They probably have their victim’s body parts still laying around.
“I come to cleanse you all of sin. It is time for you to sleep.” I look down and close my eyes. “Let us pray.”
One of them hisses and rushes at me. I swing my briefcase, smashing it on its face. The silver on the corners, part of the custom job, crushes through it as if the creature were made of glass. The demon’s pieces turn to ashes before they hit the floor.
The others scream, deciding to get me in their numbers. Bad idea.
My finger presses a little hidden button on my briefcase’s handle, and the case blasts vapor in all directions. It only dampens the legs of my pants, but it burns them like acid. The eager ones fall, their feed charred. That only makes them fall deeper into the fog and burn more, the holy water napalm to them.
Far into the alley, a pair of eyes opens slowly. They cock to the side and then narrow at me. Anger at me? I smile. The pack leader. They always lose it when they lose their family.
This one, however, doesn’t lash out. Instead, it makes it way towards me at a slug’s pace. Usually speed is the one thing they have on me.
Before I realize it, it is already behind me, its bony fingers digging onto my shoulders, piercing through my coat. My own blood dirtying my clothes.
Its smell is unbearable and upsets my entire body. My intestines twist and turn. The pain doesn’t help.
It tightens its grip and raises me up, dangling me from almost a foot off the ground. “You’re the arrogant one, child.” It speaks, though not through its mouth. “Tonight is not the night you kill us. Tonight is not the night you hunt us. Tonight, you’re not the hunter.”
Its voice is sweet, calm, and reassuring. A mother’s voice.
I swallow, and press my eyelids against each other, forcing the tears to fall.
It’s surprising, sure. I had not expected one powerful enough tonight. Not if they had not noticed me for two weeks. I had made sure to observe them and learn how they hunted. They were ruthless and careless. That’s how they’d been found in the first place. All signs of young ones.
A trap. They had been hunting me.
I grin. How unusual. I was prey.
A second button on my briefcase opens it, but it doesn’t open to the side as a normal one does. This one unhooks from below, and the handle turns into the handle of my blade. The sides bend inward, and fold up into a sharp silver hooked blade. The rectangular case falls to the floor, spinning as more vapor is released.
She laughs. “Humans and their tricks. I’ve always found you so fascinating. Seeing you make the most interesting contraptions in an attempt to fool us.” It’s cackling becomes more irritating. “I have seen your kingdoms rise and fall. What makes you think I will fall tonight?”
I shake my head. “Age is irrelevant in the eyes of destiny.”
The creature coughs and its grip weakens. I land on my feet, my arms hanging lose. The ten holes on my skin making it very difficult to move them. I breath and cough too.
“What is this?” she screams.
Using all my strength, I reach under my coat and pullout a handkerchief and wrap it around my nose and mouth. “Not holy water anymore.”
The creature looks at its hands, and its own eyes reflect on its own flesh. Silver. Small specs of it covers its body and the entire alley.
“Humans and their contraptions, am I right?” I mock her. “It was getting hard to hold my breath.”
She screams. “I have lived for over one thousand years! How dare you?”
I shrug and hurts like hell. “I have lived 65. I’m pretty arrogant myself.”
I swing my arm using my body, my limb working more like a whip than an actual arm, my strength in my grip. The curved blade locks onto its neck, and I pull. It’s one thousand years fading into ash.
Outside of the alley, I throw off the handkerchief and gasp for clean air. It’s never easy. It’s always this close. Sometimes even closer. But it makes me feel alive. The sign of a good hunt.
I look down at my suit and sigh. The silver specs are everywhere on it, and the blood from my shoulder has turned it into a striped suit. Even ignoring the dry cleaning, the holes are a nightmare. I’m going to need a new suit.