The humans were fast asleep, so still and so quiet that if I hadn’t heard the beating of their hearts I might have questioned whether they were actually alive or not. I had been invited to stay the night and, because I had nowhere else to go and integrating myself into a group of humans seemed like a good idea at the time, I accepted their offer. I didn’t sleep though; I never slept. Sometimes I might lie with my eyes closed for a couple of hours and let my body rest, but sleep came to me as often as joy came to the infected.
There was movement upstairs, a floorboard creaked, someone whispered.
I recognized Cody’s sleepy voice. Mike groaned and the bed shifted. ‘What is it?’
‘Where am I?’
‘You’re safe at home. You banged your head, get some sleep. You’ll be alright tomorrow.’
There was silence again.
I don’t know how long I sat there, it could have been minutes, and it could have been hours. I didn’t bother keeping a track. Time grew pointless when you had too much of it.
Movement at the window snagged my attention. A shadow, outside. They weren’t human.
In one movement I was at the back door, unlocking it. The night air was cool against my skin and I paused, trying to pick up a scent. It hit me hard and I growled. Before I could do anything, something knocked into me, pinning me to the bricks. A hand around my throat. A strong grip, tightening.
‘I see you came back,’ I managed to utter.
The stranger from the rooftop grinned manically at me. ‘I did. I couldn’t resist.’
‘Pity you didn’t take my warning. I can kill you, you know.’
He laughed a deep gruff sound. I took his distraction to my advantage, knocking his arm sideways and kicking him to the ground. He was up again in an instant and we were fighting. He was an impressive fighter, I’ll admit, and he was a lot stronger than me. I didn’t have much of an advantage except for the fact that I didn’t like to lose.
He landed a solid blow to my stomach and sent me backwards, into the fence. I narrowly avoided his fist as it went smashing through the wood. Grabbing his arm, I pulled him forwards, bringing my knee up into his chin. One second he was stumbling backwards, the next he had vanished. I allowed myself to smirk.
He was still here, I could hear his breathing, but the shadows concealed him.
‘What do you even want?’
A moment of silence descended as I tried to pick out which direction he was in. A twig snapping to my left sent my head swivelling to the side but I was too late. Something solid pummelled into me and he was once again pinning me to the wall. His arm was against my throat.
‘I'm eliminating the competition.’
‘Scarlett?’ a voice at the doorway caught both of our attention. We had been so involved in the fight that we hadn’t heard Cody’s housemate come downstairs. ‘What are you doing?’
Like a coward, the stranger vanished a final time.
‘I’m fine. Just getting some fresh air.’
Following her back inside, I waited until she was out of earshot before muttering into the night: ‘I’m not afraid.’
She whirled on me, crossing her arms and narrowing her eyes. ‘What were you really doing out there?’
I allowed a moment of fake surprise to cross my features. ‘I told you; getting some fresh air.’
‘Look, Mike and Cody must trust a complete stranger enough to let them into their house, but let’s be very clear: I don’t.’ She stupidly walked right up to me, probably trying to intimidate me. ‘I want you out of this house by morning.’
I pursed my lips. ‘Are you on drugs? Have you consumed any alcohol?’
She scoffed. ‘What? No! What has that got to do with anything?!’
I grabbed her by the throat and dragged her back through the kitchen. ‘I don’t want to make a mess in the house.’
She struggled in my grip, tried to scream, but I squeezed hard enough that she couldn’t do so. We were back outside. She kept trying to fight, but she was weak. I continued dragging her through the garden until we were at the very end, amongst the trees. I didn’t care if the stranger came back now; I had business to take care of.
I shoved her against one of the trees. She stared at me, like a rabbit caught in headlights. Her heart was pounding against her ribcage and the fear emanated throughout her body. ‘What are you doing? Let me go!’
‘But that fight made me so hungry.’
Her mouth fell open and she sagged against the tree.
The change began to take place.
It was never painful, a little uncomfortable, but I always had the satisfaction of seeing my victims dissolve into panic. She attempted to run, of course she did, but I grabbed her and exposed her neck, displaying the vein that ran along her throat.
The moment that the teeth pierce the skin, that they rip away to reveal the treasure beneath, is the time that the human doesn’t move. They are locked in that moment of shock and fear and confusion. It is when you start draining the life from them that they kick into action. They struggle, they shout, they push, they cry, but they are weak and they are unable to escape.
At some point she stopped struggling and her body hung limply.
When I was done, I let her fall back to the ground and hung my head back in pure ecstasy, letting out a satisfied sigh. I already felt stronger.
‘That’s better,’ I grinned.