I tried to slow my breathing and staunch my wound at the same time. It had to stop before anybody came to check up on me. I had to get out, I realised. I couldn’t let anybody see the marks he had made on my neck.
The bleeding slowed, and I could feel something new in my bloodstream. Adrenaline and something else, something cold but pleasantly so, like an ice cold glass held to your face on a hot summer’s day. Venom.
It smelled sweet. I could smell it on my skin around the wound.
I got up shakily, dislodging the tubes snaked all over me and tearing out the IV. It didn’t matter about any of that now the venom would save me.
I found my clothes inside the other cabinet used for storing the patient’s belongings. I dressed in them as quickly as I was able. I used some tape from the medical cabinet to secure the gauze over my neck and pulled the jacket on. Then I went to the window. Luckily, it opened out wards just wide enough for someone to squeeze out of it.
The air will move for you.
I climbed out and let myself drop. From the second floor to the car park was a long way. Long enough for me to straighten out and get my feet in the right place, braced for the impact of the landing.
I had no need to. I landed as lightly and painlessly as if I had jumped from the kerb to the road. A bubble of laughter escaped my lips, and then I was running into the night. The venom lent me speed, my desperation again gave me strength.
I didn’t really know where I was going. I hadn’t even known that I could find my way around Slake.
Yet suddenly I was in the side street, running up to the kitsch shop and not even having time for the charade. It was dark, but I pulled the door straight open.
I moved cautiously down the silent shadowy aisles. There was nobody there in the shop. Light from some streetlamp outside filtered in enough to reflect from the mirror at the back, a silver doorway inviting me forward. I reached out my hand when I was still an arm’s length away and let my fingers probe through the surface of the mirror. I closed my eyes and stepped through into the stone chamber.
The first thing I noticed when I opened them was that the chamber wasn’t empty.
“Hello?” I said uncertainly.
The corner furthest from the spike-covered door was occupied by a cloaked and hooded person curled up against the wall, easily mistaken for a heap of black and purple rags, if I hadn’t seen the rise and fall of breath.
The large bundle stirred and a head unfolded from the larger part, the hood falling back to show a pale, make-up smudged face surrounded by a shock of choppily-layered black hair. A pair of wide black eyes stared at me above frowning white rosebud lips.
“Do you need help?” I continued, unsure what to do. In my surprise I had completely forgotten what I was even there for, if I had known anyway. The girl rose fluidly to her feet, and even though she was a few feet away I could tell she was about a head shorter than me. There was a bow perched at an angle in her nest of hair, made from silver netting that reminded me of spider webs.
“Who are you?” she asked, and her lips didn’t even part, but her voice was high and trilling, reminiscent of a bird.
“Uh… I’m Ruby Nox,” I stammered. She had taken a step forward so fast it was as if she had simply flashed from one place to the next. She smiled, and I saw the pointed incisors rest on her full lower lip, the same pale shade as her skin. She was a vampire. I wondered how many there were - I seemed to meeting a lot more than any other Immortal.