Helena: 24 hours before impact
December again. Helena grimaced at the lights strung up through the streets of the small town she'd already forgotten the name of. All around her moved couples and families, laughing, smiling, singing, enjoying the season. They danced and joked, looking so alive and vibrant, so real. And so ignorant. December was the worst and it always would be. From where she stood, leaning against a street lamp, she watched the snow fall softly. It would be swept away soon, shovels and plows forcing it into the darkest corners of the city so that all the people could see would be a nice, light, cheerful coating. A cool breeze whipped down the street causing passersby to shiver in their wool coats. Helena didn't move. She had lost her coat in the last city she'd been in but it wasn't as cold here as it had been there. It wasn't that special kind of cold that cut through layers of clothes and caused an acute pain on exposed skin. This was just numbing, which bothered her. She'd been numb for so long, at least the pain was a change. This simply wore her down.
She sighed and shrugged herself off her sentinel post. This aimless watching was getting her nowhere. She had to continue her search. Helena selected a nice dark alley to walk down and jabbed her hands down into her pockets, not for want of warmth but because she would need them fully functioning later. The moon was rising slowly but surely, casting silvery light into the darkness. It was football shaped, bloated, full of itself, Helena thought. She would gladly trade it for a new moon, welcoming the true blackness of night that came with it.
The cold and the dark kissed her skin as she stalked out the alley like a panther and crossed a street. On the opposite sidewalk she saw something, the first promising sign she'd seen all night. She stopped suddenly and turned to follow it.
"Hey! Watch where you're goin', freak!" Some guy on the street ran into her, jarred her line of sight and it was gone. But still, it had been there and Helena took off after it at her swiftest speed. She plunged through the street and into another dark alley. Once the darkness covered her, she slowed to a walk and let her eyes adjust. It was here, she could feel it. Anticipation and tension bubbled up inside her in equal measures. This was the part she loved the most, or was supposed to love the most but as of late she found herself beginning to hate it--- She couldn't think that. If she didn't love the kill, she didn't love anything.
Hope shot up in her chest too. Maybe this time, she thought, maybe this time I'll find him and my search will be over. But she could hardly think that either. What would she have when she lost her search, lost her purpose? Not much. She shook her head, clearing away any fears or doubts. Now was time for the fight.
It was a vampire, of course. When Helena entered the alley he stepped out from behind a dumpster, licking his fangs in a way that was meant to be threatening but that she simply found moronic. A hunger and lust for blood filled his eyes, sharpening the usually placid black pools. Helena considered him for a moment. He clearly wasn't the one she was looking for. His face was blunt and cruel, lacking the refinement that came with age. He was pale was a sheet, of course, and his hair was dyed neon green. He was a victim of his own being, dominated by bloodlust and thirst, an ordinary killer. The black flash she's seen has been his leather jacket, hanging open and underneath was a black shirt and dark jeans. She had almost forgotten vampires loved black. And now he stood in the open, having blown his own cover. He was brave, she thought, or very, very stupid. Either way, Helena admired valor, even when false. She would end him quickly. Besides, it was unlikely this renegade vampire knew the location of him.
It was over in seconds. He lunged, she took one fleet step to the side, he tried to stop and turn on her but it was already too late. She grabbed his arm at the elbow and plunged her wooden stake into his back, between the ribs and into the heart. He squirmed momentary, falling to the ground and groping at his back. He squealed and cried out but was dead in the next minute and nothing but a pile of ash in the minute after that. She picked up her stake where it had clattered to the ground and tucked it into her belt, concealing it nicely under her shirt.
Looking down, there were now big blotches of black, oily blood on her green shirt and more on her sleeves. Her hands were black with it. Funny how she never felt it, never saw it splatter up from the wound. It always seemed to appear after the fact and even then her skin never registered the feeling of something wet. She sighed again and wiped her hands on her jeans. The cold must be getting to her.
With a shrug she headed off. She'd had enough of killing for one night, something else that bothered her. She used to go for an entire night, destroying everything she could get her hands on, now she was one and done. She felt a heavy blackness had made its home in her heart and every time she killed she fed it. Helena upped her pace to almost a jog. She had to escape these thoughts. It was this place, she decided, that was doing it to her. She would leave tomorrow and go somewhere warm. Cold and white East coast winters had lost their appeal to her years ago. So why did she always gravitate towards her home in the winter?
* * *
The hotel was just off the main road and so was pretty much everything else this town had to offer. There was a shoddy, broken down, hole-in-the-wall bar across the street simply called John's when the neon blue sign was working. Tonight it spelled Jo's. She'd tried to get in the other night but this town was still small enough to check ID. Like lots of other things, Helena couldn't remember when she started drinking but she could remember the way it took away all the pain. She could have used that kind of oblivion right now. She'd been thinking of them too much lately. The nightmares would be horrendous tonight.
The hotel itself was almost as broken down as the bar. Its plaster walls were painted pink marred only by the black holes where its name once hung. Now it was a strict no tell motel without a name. It was all one floor with all the rooms adjacent to one another. A chain-linked fence was meant to guide people into the lobby at the center but Helena wasn't in the mood to deal with a cheerful clerk. She jumped the fence in one graceful motion and went straight to her room.
The room was about as sketchy as the outside of the hotel might suggest. One small bed with stained sheets, a chest of drawer that wouldn't open, a stand that used to hold a television, stolen long ago, and a window with optimistically colored curtains through which the first light of dawn was breaking. Not that Helena really noticed or cared. She only needed shelter from the cold otherwise, she'd probably be sleeping on the streets. She grabbed the alarm clock on the bed stand and set it for midnight. If she left through a hole in the fence she had found the other night, it would be hours before they realized she was gone. This was important only because Helena hadn't used or possessed any money in years.
With that done, she coasted into the bathroom and stood before the cracked mirror. A stranger stared back at her. It had been so long since she had seen her own reflection, she hardly recognized herself. The basic features were still there: Her shoulder length, jet black hair, her crystalline blue eyes, her elegant nose and full red lips. It was all there, so why did she look so different? It was an emotion, she thought, a coldness, a depression. She couldn't remember the last time she'd laughed or even smiled and her whole face seemed to reflect her serious and humorless heart. It faded her. She frowned at that thought and the effect deepened.
Her body was small but lean, packed full of muscle. She had always been short and thin and it had taken a lot of training to build the muscle needed to kill. Her skin was deadly pale only from lack of sunlight. She remembered when she was a child and her skin would get so tan in the summer but not anymore. She was a hunter now; she stalked her prey by night and slept by day.
Helena looked down at her hands, long, delicate fingers still stained with the vampire's blood. She was seized by a sudden compulsion to be clean and shoved her hands under the boiling hot water of the sink, scrubbing until her skin was red and chafed. She looked down again at the dark splotches of blood on her shirt and jeans. They were less noticeable on the dark fabric than on her skin but she would still need to wash them, eventually. Now she was tired and needed to sleep.
She swept out of the bathroom with her usual grace and curled up in bed. As soon as she was asleep the nightmares began and no matter how many times she woke up screaming they persisted throughout the day.