Steve marches on the sidewalk leaving the sanctuary behind. He sees Kandy in his mind, a memory consuming his thoughts. Her grin reveals her serpentine fangs. Can a forgotten memory come back into reality, experienced for the first time like the Sanctuary of Sin?
The gun barrel, his first memory if there is any order, tells him that Kandy is a professional killer. She takes good care of her gun. Kandy is Itoril, a descendant of Ithuriel. And she knows him.
His name, Steve Reynolds, feels as strange as the interior of the sanctuary—ghostly. It is the name Kandy mentioned, as did the young naked man, Torx, from the apartment. What brought him to the apartment? Who was the rock star leaning against the door? There is no memory between the nightclub and the police station.
Bright yellow catches his attention, and he finds police ribbon taped over dark double doors set in a brick building. Peering up, he sees a sign extending out from the building displaying a skull beside the name of the establishment, Necropolis. Inside is Detective Silver’s crime scene where someone found an unconscious Steve Reynolds after the forensics team finished their job.
Glass shatters against the doors, fragments from the bottle fly in different directions. Laughter explodes, an engine roars, and a car speeds off down the road. Steve watches the tail lights of the car disappear around a corner. The scent of alcohol rises, a cheap national brand.
Nothing about the building stirs his memory. Made of gray stone around brick, it appears much like the other buildings in the neighborhood. The bottom two floors are windowless, and the windows in the upper six floors are all dark. Or blackened. The lowest windows reflect the city glow like dark mirrors.
Continuing around the corner, he notices the streetlights dim. Like walking into a black fog, the world darkens. Stone steps lead up to glass doors with brass handles. The same skull-with-fangs design hangs above the door. Light beyond the glass reveals red stairs climbing up to black curtains.
Glancing around, Steve finds an empty street. The silence is unnatural, but not disturbing. It feels like the quiet after a heavy snow storm, peaceful. He claps his hands. Hearing nothing, he claps again noticing not even the air moves through his fingers. The cold is gone as well. Watching cracks of darkness chomping away the cement, he recognizes the pattern. Like at the sanctuary, he steps out of time. His beating heart reminds him he is alive. He listens to his heart thumping in his chest, the sound traveling up into his head where the double-patter finds his inner ear. The thump followed by the patter is familiar music—comforting. His heart slows as he watches the darkness creep beneath his feet. Peering up, he finds a sky filled with raging purple clouds, the deepest violet crashing with the lightest amethyst. The buildings still stand around him, but they appear nearly transparent.
Climbing the steps, he watches the building fade out and back in like a passing shadow. He reaches for the brass handle, and his fingers pass through. Shadows eat the door, the brass frame crumbling into a dust before disappearing. After a day, this ghostly shadow world feels natural. He enters Necropolis.
The red carpet on the stairs intensifies, vivid red, the shag standing up removing imprints from passing feet. Cracks in the black painted walls smooth over sealing themselves. The room at the top of the stairs is nearly empty. An aluminum ladder leans against the wall on the left, and a pile of plastic gathers at its feet. In the far corner, a light hangs from a hook in the ceiling. Half the room is black. Streaks of black paint extend into the dingy yellow half on the far side.
A doorway catches his attention, the one between two others within the black wall. Masking tape splattered by black paint runs around the doorframe. The light reveals the shape of door hinges within the varnished wood. None of this is familiar, but the darkness within the room calls to him.
Light cuts across the room to a pile of tarp in the corner. The entire back wall is dark glass reflecting the doorway. Shadows creep up from the floor, hazy blobs taking shape. An etherial sofa rests before the glass and another on the left against the wall. Between them, the shadow-shapes become a round table and two ghost-like wine glasses sitting on top.
This is where it happens. This is the place Kandy points the gun at him. He imagines her standing back towards the glass wall. But Kandy is not here, not even her ghost, only the memory of her consuming his thoughts. He looks at the ghost-table and the ghost-goblets. Are these memories? They seem to be, but these ghosts belong to the room. Even rooms have memories.
Approaching the glass, Steve stops short afraid that touching the ghost sofa might extinguish it. He steps around the end. Peering through the window, he finds a large room illuminated by a purple bar running from the ceiling down to the floor nearly a dozen meters below. Eyes adjusting, he realizes it is a strip of black light connecting to a stone column. Other columns appear within the shadows. At the bottom, the wood floor stretches out to a stage. Gazing at the dance floor, he searches for crime scene tape or anything that might mark the investigation. Nothing but dust lit by a single strand of purple.
Movement catches his eye. At first it appears like a reflection on the glass, an illuminated fog. Individual shapes rise up out of the haze. Ghosts, over a hundred of them, move about on the floor below. A collective mass, they writhe near the stage where speakers surround a band of specters. The ghosts dance in slow motion. Their hands wave above their heads as they twist at their hips. Heads bounce sending hair into a blurred fibrous etherial fans. Movement draws his gaze up to his reflection the glass and another figure behind him.
Spinning around, Steve finds a woman standing in the center of the room. She wears a short dress made of steel rings, like armor but with rings far too big for protection. Her smile is menacing. The slender fangs barely extend beyond the row of teeth, but there is no mistaking them. Her blue eyes light up with recognition. Looking over her long blonde hair and pale face, he tries to place her. The woman is as unfamiliar as the surroundings.
Gliding up beside the leather sofa, the woman purrs. Placing a hand on the backrest, she gazes through the glass at the dance floor below. No longer ghosts, people dance at normal speed to the music pulsing through the glass, the walls, and the floor. The woman taps her fingers to the beat. A red ember burns within her iris, the unmistakable characteristic of an Itoril.
“I bought this club recently,” says the Itoril woman. “I renamed it Necropolis.”
“The city of the dead.” He tries to pull his gaze from her, but her near perfect breasts peeking through the steel rings prove too much for his willpower.
“Can I get you anything?” She speaks with a purring whisper. “A drink? A dancing girl?”
“No.” He realizes he stares at her nude body within the shimmering rings, but what else is he supposed to look at? The woman dresses for attention, and she has it. “Thank you.”
“We recently added the special lenses.” Lifting her hand from the sofa, she motions out the window. “Most of my employees are human. The black light on lenses causes their eyes to glow.”
Tearing his gaze from sin, Steve peers down. Some of the dancers wear glowing bands around their wrists. White shirts glow near the slender purple rods. He spots a pair of glistening green eyes on a man in black. A woman carrying a tray holding drinks has red eyes.
“It’s all part of promoting vampires. Books. Movies.”
“You’re trying to become accepted.” Unusual eyes and sharp teeth tend to encourage violence.
Spinning around, she leans against the glass. “When it’s cool to be a vampire, we will be the rock stars.” Her grin appears cruel, the sort of smile a child makes after getting away with something sinful.
“Careful you don’t become lost within your own fantasy.” Steve watches a woman dancing within a big birdcage hanging from the ceiling. Her hands grip the bars, and her hips throw her skirt around. The city of the dead appears more like the city of sex appeal.
“You don’t remember me.” She turns to the window and places a hand on the glass. “I was just a girl. A teen with attitude. You wore a dark suit with a blue necktie.”
Steve looks at the side of her face, at the strands of hair pulled back over her ear. He has no memory of her. Nothing. Instead of feeling lost, like a part of him is missing, he feels normal. So what if his childhood is nonexistent? Yesterday is there as it always has been.
“Yasmine,” says the woman. She touches her head to the glass, and peers down. “My birth name was Jasmine, but Auntie pronounced it like Yasmine.”
Leaning closer to the glass, Steve peers down. He sees the top of a woman’s head bobbing as she dances, her arms swinging. She stands on a black pedestal above the dance floor. Even from this angle, he recognizes Kandy. The woman is everywhere.
Steve steps back. “Excuse me. I need to meet someone.”
“Decided to enjoy a dancing girl, after all?” Yasmine remains at the window watching her guests.
The back staircase twists within a narrow shaft, a door blocking the floors above. This is not Torx’s building. The steel groans under his weight as he spirals down.