Sitting in an expansive black leather chair with high armrests, Steve feels small. He sips whiskey. The smooth drink warms his insides, but he fears without food in his stomach the alcohol might crash his brain.
Kandy’s basement is one large room partitioned into quadrants marked by the items occupying each section. At the back is her bedroom containing an old four-poster bed complete with decorative red netting hanging like a shroud. Beside the bed, an old wood bureau blocks the wall. Nearly appearing out of place, a porcelain tub sits on the wood floor before a large wood-paneled fireplace containing a raging fire. Wood stacked in the corner wait their turn to feed the flames. In the other back quadrant, rows of casks and bottles resting on grooved shelves form the wine cellar. If the rest of the stock is as smooth as the whiskey then it is full of only the most expensive spirits in town. Beside the wine cellar is the armory. Shotguns, pistols, and rifles hang inside glass cabinets. On the wall, knives, axes, and swords wait for when the ammunition runs out. The armory also serves as gymnasium containing a weight set, chin-up bar, and barbells. The front quadrant is the sitting room with two oversized black leather chairs, a slender red sofa, and end tables parked beside each. Burning candles fill the air with cinnamon.
On the sofa, Kandy reclines on her side, her elbow jammed against the armrest. She appears to study him, her eyes scanning him up and down. A smear of blood disrupts the smooth curve of her chin, and her lips blaze in the firelight.
Steve sets the empty glass on the end table.
“She’s an addict,” says Kandy. She drops her gaze. “Three years ago I found her outside Necropolis sitting in her own piss, stoned out of her mind.”
An image slams into him, Sabrina in the fetal position on the floor of Torx’s apartment. He pictures her huddled in the shower, her glassy eyes, unfocused, glancing around at whatever occupies her mind.
“I brought her home. I don’t know why.” She looks at the candle flame, but her eyes focus on a distant thought. “A new addiction replaced her old one.”
Kandy licks her fangs. “Venom.”
It makes a sort of sick logic. Considering Sabrina’s weakened state, Itoril venom is hemotoxic, and the glassy eyes likely mean neurotoxic as well. And addictive? A productive vampire never needs chase after a meal if the meal returns offering her blood in exchange for a hit.
“It eases the pain. And enough venom causes some memory loss.”
Gripping the armrests, he leans forward. “Wait. Memory loss?”
“Not amnesia.” Kandy shakes her head. “Sabrina will remember taking a shower. Offering her arm. If strong enough she may forget I was ever there.”
Flopping back, Steve shakes his head. A heavy dose of forgetfulness drug would be a convenient answer, especially nice if it wears off.
“She’s building a tolerance. She may remember everything including you gaping at her breasts.”
“Quite the symbiotic relationship you two have going. Two addicts feeding on each other.” Kandy scowls.
Something rubs against his leg. Lunging forward, he gazes down finding a white cat brushing against his leg. The cat purrs and looks up, eyes pleading for a return gesture.
“Lucifer remembers you,” says Kandy.
“Never would have thought vampires kept cats for company.”
The dark look on her face could stop a weak heart. “I’m not a vampire.”
“Consuming human blood is vampirism.”
Reaching down, he pats Lucifer on the head. “And not all Itoril consume blood. Do they?”
“You look exhausted. Maybe you should sleep.”
“I haven’t eaten.” Standing, he reaches up stretching arms. A yawn forces his mouth wide open.
“There should be food in the kitchen.” Rolling over, Kandy stares up at the ceiling. “I can’t believe you forgot everything.”
“Nobody forgets everything.”
He remembers language, mathematics, laws, and other knowledge required by grammar school graduation. He forgets people. The past is as unknowable as the future. He remembers Kandy pointing a gun at him. If they are lovers then their relationship is a rocky one. Perhaps they are merely associates with professional differences.
I think I’ll see what you have in the kitchen.” Steve stands. “Pardon me.”
He opens the door, and Lucifer races up the stairs. Closing the door, he realizes there is no sound.
Standing on the top step, the cat gazes down the stairs. In the dim light the white fur stands out. The name seems more suitable for a black cat stalking the shadows, but even fallen angels are beautiful walking in plain sight. Searching the stairs, the cat appears aware of the strangeness.
Shoe on the bottom step. No sound. No groaning from the house, not even the silence snaps at the ear. This is the quiet place. Climbing the steps, he watches the cat search the stairs. His scent remains, lingering on the steps from the walk down, a memory of his passing.
The cat turns, takes a step, and dissolves into an apparition.
Lucifer is a normal cat, not a fallen angel or the morning star. The ghost of the cat is a memory like the house eaten by the creeping shadows. Everything is relative, and to the world beyond the quiet place, beyond the shadows, Steve Reynolds is the ghost. Is he speeding through time like passing the woman on the steps or when Kandy raced down the hall? This feels different, like walking among Necropolis or the Sanctuary of Sin. The shadows eat across the kitchen floor and onto the refrigerator. The walls dissolve revealing the entire house in a dark murky haze. Above, at the far end of the hall, the ghostly shape of Sabrina sleeps in her bed.
Silence of color leaves only foggy shapes and dark shadows. Except for above the transparent roof where swirling clouds of deep violets stand out in this ethereal world. Among shadows and ghosts, his thought is the only voice.
A cloud of darkness coalesces into a cloaked figure, hooded and faceless. As it glides closer, it leaves a smoky trail.
Steve calls out Kandy’s name, but the silence swallows his voice. Uncertain if the creature can harm him, he steps back as he watches features burst out of the shadows. The cloak hangs open revealing a tunic and long skirt, all black. Or colorless. He searches for the face, but finds emptiness within the hood. Not wanting the thing any closer, he holds his hand out and takes another step back.
Sound crashes down, a crackling pop, and brightness explodes. He slams his eyes shut and smashes his back against a wall.
Footsteps. A board groans.
He opens his eyes to find the hall on the upper floor. Walking towards him with a backpack slung over shoulder, Sabrina smiles at him.
“Hey, Steve,” says Sabrina. She tosses her hand at the air, a wave lacking spirit. “Can you give me a ride to school?”
He watches the smile slip into a quizzical look. Glancing down the stairs beside him, he sees sunlight slashing across the front room, the east side of the house. It is morning, and given the angle from the front windows, has been for about two hours.
“Do you know Torx?”
“Sure.” She shrugs. “He’s a guy in my math class.”
“Do you remember a party at his place?”
Sabrina shakes her head. “I’ve never been to his place.”
He takes in the sleepy eyes and nods. Maybe drugs, or the venom, wiped her memory. The first time they met she was unconscious. In a way, so was he. His memories begin with Torx.
“Of course,” he says. A drive sounds nice, and he needs to check in with Detective Silver.