Take Out

The house music boomed, making her hot blood pulse. Cloven hooves tapped out the beat setting the anklet to jingling with its tiny golden bells. Her wings were furled but the black feathers gleamed purple and green with iridescence. Her fellow demons had laughed at her for sneaking out of the Underworld to visit humans without being called by them. Soul-stealing was a jumping business in this economy. No need to go on soul scavenging trips when sad little pathetic humans were tripping over themselves to get talents or wishes granted.

She didn’t want a soul for the devil. She wanted one for herself, a pet human, a friend, or lover. She dressed the part, in a form-fitting black leather dress that did nothing to hide her ample bosom and long neck. Her tail, hooves, and horns were all painted with purple glitter. The party would be the perfect place to snare a tiny beating heart.

A human male with dark eyes and fluffy hair approached her with a bottle in each hand. He was thin, shorter than her by half a foot, although as a demon she was nearly seven feet tall and taller still if you measured the horns curling back from her head. He had horns as well, paper-mache ones painted in vermilion. The beers were sealed.

“Wow, great costume! Are you a demon?” he asked, “I’m a demon. I couldn’t get the wings right but I did the tail.” He spun and wiggled his butt. “I put a string on it, so I can control it. Made it out of weed barrier. I’m a landscaper. You want one? It’s sealed.”

The whirlwind of conversation amused her. She nodded and he popped the cap off of a beer with his bottle opener shaped like a shark. He handed it to her, popped his own cap and clinked his bottle into hers. “Cheers!”

“Cheers?”

He drank half his beer in one go. She followed suit, unsure of the drinking customs in this time. He winked and polished his off. She raised her eyebrows. He grinned brightly. She was unsure of how to proceed, so she stared. The smile on his face dimmed.

“Am I bothering you? I can go. Only, everyone inside is dressed as TV characters and you and I are the only demons. Thought it might be fun to hang out with another demon for a bit,” he said.

She grinned, showing him miles of sharp pointy teeth. “Yes, we demons should stick together.”

“Good, great,” he said, laughing in relief. “Want another beer?”

“Yes,” she said, amused with her new human friend.

He disappeared and reappeared with a small bucket full of them. She let him open her beer for the second time and he flipped the caps into the bushes with a bit of flare. He took a sip but didn’t chug it, so she copied him.

“So, what made you want to be a demon for Halloween?” he asked.

Ah, humans did like small talk. Demons not so much. “I was looking for someone to go home with.”

He flushed. “You-what?”

“I came here to find someone to take home. Haven’t had any company in a few centuries,” she explained, knowing he would never believe her honest truth. He would think her funny with metaphors.

“Oh,” he replied and downed his beer. It seemed to give him strength for the next moment he offered, “I could go home with you. If you want me to.”

Sometimes it was too easy.

fin.

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Slaughter

“I’m going to carve 100 pumpkins,” Laura said.

My daughter held up a rusty steak knife and lightning flashed behind her. Thunder rolled across the heavens and all thoughts save two were blown from my mind on a Halloween breeze:

  1. Where the heck was I going to get 100 pumpkins?
  2. When did my daughter get that steak knife?

“Darling,” I said, “that’s a lot of pumpkins. You’re seven. Last year we did two and we both needed to have a nap.”

Laura wielded the knife like an ancient Viking warrior. “I must have pumpkins, Daddy.”

“Great, I’ll bring the car around.”

My little princess sheathed her rusty sword in a little scabbard she had made herself from one of those felt sheets that were foam instead of felt, so a foam sheet thing from the craft store and I made quick calculations on both of our tetanus shots. She was unconcerned. I decided to roll with it. We had had a tough year and if pumpkin slaughter would make us feel better, why not?

Out of the car as soon as it stopped, she drew her steak knife and charged the patch. I handed my credit card to a surprised teen with bright blue hair and an apron that said, ‘Happy Acres.’ I should have known she would eventually go on a berserker rage. It was in her blood. I had once tried to cut down a tree with a butter knife while in a similar mood. I texted Carrie, my wife, a picture of our daughter dragging pumpkins into a pile by their stems with the caption, ‘bonding.’

I waved at the teen and he brought me a jug of cider. I chugged it. Laura was now randomly stabbing the pumpkins. I sighed and approached the murder scene. Laura grinned up at me. She was dripping in pumpkin juice and had managed to get the top off of one of her unfortunate victims. I offered her the jug of apple cider.

She took the jug and handed me the knife. I stabbed a pumpkin. I know I should have taken the knife and been a responsible adult. I didn’t. I just stabbed the pumpkin again, forming a crude triangle eye. My daughter doused herself in apple cider and let out a war cry. Another rusted piece of cutlery appeared in her hands, a spoon this time, and she attacked the guts of a scalped pumpkin.

Her wide gray eyes were bright with excitement, joy, and an eensy bit of crazy. I called the teen over as my little Viking carved her first pumpkin by caving its head in. “We’re going to need more cider,” I told him.

“And donuts,” she said as she bit into a pumpkin, growling.

God, I live for Halloween.

End.

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The Apple Thief’s Friend

The deer was not majestic.

Behind the chain link fence, the deer had his tongue out in a blep. He was scrawny and undignified. Lane eyeballed him and he stuck his tongue out at her before blinking. Lane, dressed in deer patterned leggings and an oversized sweater, held her white bucket tightly. It was loaded to the brim with gala apples.

“No,” she told him.

The deer tilted his head and licked the fence. Lane rolled her eyes at the deer. She pointed to the ‘no deer in the orchard sign.’ He was unimpressed and stomped a delicate hoofprint into the wet ground. Nose twitching, he tilted his head toward the gate.

Lane’s sister approached her with her own bucket brimming with Granny Smiths. “I’m going to make a pie and some turnovers before I let Mom turn the rest into apple butter or oooo jam! Whatcha doing?”

“Talking to this deer,” Lane told her sister.

Allison was in black leggings but her sweater was a smaller version of the one her sister wore. She did her hair in the same braids as Lane even though hers was cornsilk to Lane’s fawn-colored hair. They had the same green eyes but Allison was not one to talk to deer.

“Deer don’t have vocal cords,” she remarked.

It was just like Ally to be literal and factual and scientific. Lane ignored all of it and pointed to the deer who was still scrawny, still undignified, and still offering her an unobstructed view of his tongue. Lane huffed.

“He wants to get into the orchard,” Lane remarked as the deer bobbed his head as if in agreement. “I’ve told him deer aren’t allowed by indicating the sign.”

“Deer can’t read,” Allison countered.

“It’s a pictogram,” Lane argued. “See,” Lane said to the deer as she pointed to the cartoon version on the sign, “This is you, and this is no. Savvy?”

The deer stared. Blinked twice.

Allison shook her head. “I’m going to get some Winesaps too. You coming?”

“In a minute, I’m in the middle of something here,” Lane said.

Allison bounded away with her bucket of apples. Lane stared at the deer. The deer stared back.

“I’m not letting you in,” she told him.

He blepped.

“Seriously, you can’t come into the orchard, it’s not allowed,” Lane insisted.

The deer’s eyes went from hers to the gate and back again.

“No.”

The deer’s eyes went from hers to the gate and back again.

“No, stop.”

The deer’s eyes went from hers to the gate, paused, he pawed the ground, and looked back again.

Lane looked to the heavens. When she looked back, the deer was still there. The deer was still staring. He was still poking his tongue out at her adorably with his scrawny undignified person. Lane opened the gate, stepping back out of his way. He bowed.

“Yeah, you’re welcome. If anyone asks, I was never here.”

The deer slipped into the orchard and disappeared into the trees.

The End.

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Hay into Blood

At night DeShawn watched the stars. He could just about see them from his small room in the basement. There was only one of those half sized windows but he was lucky and it overlooked a grassy field. He loved to see them twinkle and slowly change positions as the seasons changed. The stars were his comfort, his company. He loved the night.

Mother didn’t let him keep the window open during the day, but at night he opened it and star gazed. The sun was so bright it would probably hurt his eyes. Mother said it was a ball of fire, high in the heavens and not to worry about it. He’d never see it. He sighed. Mother never let him leave the room. She said it was for his own protection. Mother said others would want him if they knew and she said he looked different from the other children.

Mother’s skin was warm and honeyed. That must be what normal people skin looked like. His skin was almost the same color as charred wood. His eyes were as green as new grass, Mother said. Tall and thin with elegant fingers that stretched long enough to do the delicate work Mother left for him. He wove straw into dolls. He made necklaces with the thinnest silver chains and fragile beads of glass. When she was pleased with the work, she gave him cakes decorated in rainbow sprinkles. When he broke a bead, or his hay doll wasn’t as pretty as she’d like, she left a dirty cup of water and the crusts from a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It was enough for him to smell the jelly, smell the peanut butter but never taste them.

DeShawn loved the delicate work and he tried to make his necklaces resemble the stars that he just felt knew him and loved him. The night was his true friend. When the moon was full, he would stand in the beam of light that blasted into his small basement and made his skin glitter and shimmer. He would bathe in moonlight all night long, feeling more awake and alive than on the moonless nights.

Tonight he was bathing in the silver light when it cut off suddenly. Worried, DeShawn raced to the window. If Mother had found out he opened the window at night and blocked it, he would die!  There was a shadow leaning against his window. It was probably a rabbit or a raccoon. He tapped. The shadow bounced away. In seconds it was back but the light bled in around it. The shadow backed off a bit and resolved itself into a face.  The face was rounder than his own, yet still sharp, and silvered by moonlight. She was scared but she tapped back. Grinning, he placed his long fingers on the window. The girl put her hand up to match and a wonderful sound escaped her, light and breathy.

“Open up!” she called through the glass. She mimed unlatching it.

He did and a blast of icy air hit his face. She made the sound again, her eyes crinkling pleasantly. He found his mouth turning up in the corners, the feeling making his face stretch pleasantly. She reached her fingers through and grabbed his hand and shook it up and down. Her skin was several shades lighter than his but still a wonderful rich brown and her skin was cool in the winter air.

“Tia,” she said.

“DeShawn,” he replied.

“Come out,” she ordered. “I’ll buy you a soda at the corner store. I found some quarters in the laundry room. We can share a bag of chips.”

“Why?”

“I’m lonely. I’m not the type of girl that can keep pets or friends. I was sitting here because it’s the best view. You have the best view,” Tia said, awestruck.

“What’s lonely?”

“You, you are lonely. You want to be my friend and eat chips with me,” Tia informed him.

Accepting that, DeShawn asked, “What are chips?”

Tia made the sound again and it felt different this time. It was at him instead of with him. He frowned. She reached a hand through and tapped him on the nose. He sneezed. She made the sound. He echoed her, feeling oddly light. “Potatoes sliced thin, fried and salty as all get out. You’ll love them. Come out.”

“The door is locked. Mother is afraid someone will steal me away in the night,” DeShawn confided.

“Of course she is,” Tia said, “She should be. Your mother sells magical necklaces and dolls that can control others. Papa says she must have a changeling in her basement. I told her it was stupid. But here you are in her basement. Do you make necklaces?”

DeShawn nodded. “What’s a changeling?”

“I don’t know. Papa is old and he says ‘old ways are the best ways.’ You seem too young for the old ways. Come on, do you want to eat chips with me or not?” Tia asked impatiently.

“Doesn’t anyone else want to eat chips with you?” DeShawn asked.

Tia’s eyes were full of tears. “No, I told you; no pets, no friends. They don’t like me here. Do you like me?”

DeShawn felt funny as if his eyes were stinging. He reached out to touch her hand. She gripped tightly. The skin of her hand was cool and smooth, and a bit spongy. It was interesting to touch someone. He turned his mouth up again. Mother never touched him. Would Mother’s hand feel like Tia’s? Was that what touch felt like? His own hands felt thinner, less spongy.

Tia had touched him. She wanted to feed him and she liked the view.

“I like you.”

“Can you come?” Tia asked wistfully.

“Will you take me to a place where I can see all the stars?” DeShawn asked.

“Sure, we can go anywhere you want,” Tia said. “We can go out on the ocean in a boat. We can climb a mountain. We can do anything as long as you take me with you. I don’t want to be lonely anymore.”

DeShawn felt funny. His face was wet. Was this lonely?

“I don’t know how to get out,” he said.

“Take my hands,” Tia said. “You’re skinny enough to slip right through if I help pull you.”

DeShawn stared around at the only home he had ever known. There wasn’t much to look at, it was a dark room with one frayed rug and a dirty old cot. He grabbed a few of his shirts and a pair of jeans and wrapped them in his blanket. He left the dolls but grabbed a necklace. Maybe Tia would like it. He handed the bundle to her. She took it.

He felt his nerves fray. “I’m scared.”

“Me too,” Tia said. “What if you don’t like me?”

“What if I promise to like you?” he asked. “Will you show me how to live outside my room?”

Tia nodded. “I’ll show you how to live under the stars. Promise to stay with me forever.”

“Okay, I promise.”

He piled boxes of beads and hay up. Standing on them, he reached for her hands. She gripped him and pulled. She was strong! He struggled through the small window and flopped onto the grass. Tia stayed with him, while he touched the grass and felt the cold wind on his skin.

She stared at him. “That was too easy,” she said and slapped a bracelet onto his hand. It burned against his skin. “I’ve always wanted to have my own faerie.”

DeShawn shivered. He stood to run as Tia’s eyes flashed blood red. “What are you?”

“A monster,” Tia said. “A vampire that you promised to stay with.”

“Is that why no one likes you?” DeShawn asked. He wanted to leave but felt compelled to stay. The need to stay was tingling in him, warring with the need to go back home where he was safe.

“People don’t like you if you kill and eat them,” Tia said.

“Are you going to kill me?”

Tia showed her mouth full of sharp teeth and made the sound again. “No. I really am lonely.”

DeShawn sighed, shoulders relaxing. Tia was still better than Mother. Tia grabbed his hand again and squeezed in a friendly manner. She let go, and stepped back, giving him space that he wasn’t sure he wanted. He liked the feeling of connection. Maybe it would be okay. He was still afraid.

“I think I was too.”

“Not anymore,” the vampire said. “Your promise protects me from your magic. So you can’t hurt me. And I did promise to show you the stars. I can formally promise not to eat you if it will make you feel better. It’s not as binding as a fae promise, but I am a monster of my word. Besides, you already loved and lived with a monster most of your life, what’s one more?”

DeShawn stared at the night sky. He could see so many more stars from this monster’s side. He reached for her hand.

The End.

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Benny Tells Lies

“I met Michael Jackson before he died,” Benny said, embellishing the story. He had seen the King of Pop on a corner and waved at him. “He was super nice and let me listen to his new song. He did the moonwalk for me and they interviewed me for a national paper. It was cool.”

Maya nodded. “Cool,” she remarked.

Benny sighed. Nothing he said ever impressed Maya and he so wanted to impress her. She was gorgeous with her rich russet skin and large grass green eyes. Her hair was in long braids down her back and she had dressed conservatively today in a harvest gold dress with a floral print. Her expression wasn’t pretty, however. She looked irritated. He had no idea why. He’d tried telling her about his stint with Nirvana in the 90s and she hadn’t even acknowledged him. Sure Kurt hadn’t let him play guitar on stage, but he had done a soundcheck once when the sound guy was in the john. He had regaled her with tale after embellished tale making himself seem whimsical, intelligent, caring, and just plain amazing. Still, she never fell into his arms. She never loved him.

“Why don’t you like me, Maya?”

“Ben,” Maya said, her tone saying she was annoyed and about to disappear back to her desk. She was only talking to him now because the coffee hadn’t finished brewing and Maya loved her coffee. Benny knew that and had taken the last of the coffee, so she would get one from the fresh pot and maybe stick around and talk to him for a moment. “You’re full of garbage. You haven’t told me one true thing in the five years we’ve known each other.”

“That is so-I always tell you the truth,” Benny argued. Well, he did tell her kernels of truth. He just liked to add icing on top to make them better and more impressive so she would be impressed.

Maya rolled her eyes. “Tell me one true thing right now. No lies, no embellishments. Just pure, unadulterated truth.”

Benny frowned. “I always tell you the truth.”

She poured herself a cup of coffee before it was done percolating. Benny stood there listening as the coffee awkwardly pinged against the bottom of the maker. Coffee was spreading from the base to the table as she poured. She eyed him the entire time, daring him to call her out for making the mess.

“Admit you took the last of the coffee so you could terrorize me with one of your garbage stories, and maybe I’ll thinking about downgrading my hatred of you, to a rich dislike.” Maya dared him as she reached for the creamer. She had to reach past him because he had moved it farther away so she would have to reach past him. He had put new cologne on. He was convinced if she got a proper whiff of it, she would like it, and in return him. She leaned back and sneezed.

Benny worried the cozy on his paper cup. “I knew you wouldn’t want to drink the dregs.”

“Hm,” Maya said. He was blocking her way out of the room. “But you didn’t start the new pot. You waited for me to start the new pot. Yeah, think I’m going to stick to a deep-seated hatred of you if it’s all the same.”

“No Maya,” Benny protested. “Come on! I like you. Why won’t you give me a chance?”

“Because you tell lies, Benny,” Maya answered. “You tell lies and you make my life more complicated and annoying just to tell me these stupid lies. You never stood a chance, Ben.”

“But-but,” Benny sputtered. “I once saw Death eating a fudge pop!” he blurted.

“Eat a fudge pop, Benny,” Maya said in a nasty tone. “Talk to me again and I’ll call HR.”

“But that wasn’t a lie! Maya! That was true! I did! A woman had a heart attack at an ice cream truck and he took her fudge pop!” Benny chased after Maya.

Maya went to HR. Benny was outside holding his box of supplies by the end of the day. That night found him sitting on the Trenton Bridge looking down at the murky, polluted waters. A man in a black tracksuit walked up to him.

“Hey,” Benny called out to the stranger. “Do you like hoagies?”

“Sure,” the man in the tracksuit replied, slowing to a stop. “Why? Do you have one? I gotta tell you, I haven’t had a single thing to eat in forever. I can barely remember what it was…”

“No, well, I don’t have one on me. I was just going to say, I invented them. So, you can thank me for that,” Benny said, trying to perfect his breezy tone. There was something unsettling about the man in front of him. He had a shock of brown hair, nice features for a guy but his skin was a sick milk color. “I mean, you don’t have to thank me…”

The man leaned against the bridge’s rail and eyed Benny up and down. “Hoagie inventor, huh? Worked at the naval yard then…? Or are you just lying, Benny?”

“I-I no, I did work at there and it was after this guy Hogan, Irish guy and we…” he trailed off as the man stared.

His expression was a mixture of disappointment and disgust. “Seriously, Benny?”

“What-?”

“You want your last conversation ever to be about some urban myth about how hoagies got their name? Ugh, why do I even bother!” the man rolled his eyes and snapped his fingers, “Oh wow! I remember now. The last thing I ate and it was years ago now, was a fudge pop!”

End.

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Uniquely Alone

Kahlen had heard the rumor in the bathroom from a siren who was telling a Fae girl with mossy hair. A thrill had run through her. Being undead wasn’t as exciting as the movies made it out to be and tonight was supposed to change that. She was going to embrace the weirdness, and get a piercing, or a tattoo or dance with a stranger. She bounced around in the drink line. She was also going to get a drink, an alcoholic drink, for the first time.

“There’s a unicorn her tonight,” Kahlen told the tall brown haired man next to her, excited.

He had the bright sheen to his pale skin that indicated he was either Fae or Incubi. He had been shoulder to shoulder and hip to hip with her for the last five minutes as they jostled for position at the bar. His warmth had seeped into her cold skin, making her feel a bit connected to him in a way she was forgetting after her time undead. His blood would be amazing if she could convince him to donate some. Not that blood donation was the reason he was here. It was a piercing/tattooing event for the Others, the ones that couldn’t go to a human place because of blood colors, skin tones or otherworldly features. It was also a massive party, complete with open bar, loud music, and flashing lights.

“Pfft, that’s ridiculous,” he said and turned to face her. “What are you new?” he asked.

Kahlen would have blushed if her heart still pumped. “Yeah, this is my first supernatural anything.”

Grinning brightly he ordered for both of them, politely asking her preferred blood type. He ordered a drink for sylvans. He tipped the satyr and handed her a glass. Bold, he took her by the elbow. She let him lead her away from the bar and back to one of the corner booths. The music was loud and electronic. Once they slid into the booth, it was tolerable. He lifted his glass and they clinked. Kahlen watched him take a sip of the syrupy looking green drink. It was probably light on the alcohol and heavy on the chlorophyll. He definitely had to be Fae. His eyes were a rich walnut instead of the normal grassy green but she hadn’t met many wood nymphs or Fae or anything before tonight.

“How long since?” he asked and waved at her.

“A year,” Kahlen responded. “Woke up on the football field.”

Grimacing in sympathy, he took another sip and explained why he asked. It was considered rude to ask a vampire how they died. Kahlen had learned that the hard way when she had come across her first old vampire. Her wrist still hurt from the break. “Everyone here knows about unicorn blood,” he murmured, leaning in close in case anyone was close enough to listen. “I didn’t want you to embarrass yourself.”

Kahlen reached out a hand to shake his formally. He gripped her hand with his warm one and let loose with a toothy grin. “Kahlen Jenson,” she introduced herself.

“Kahlen! Great name! Very modern,” he enthused. He didn’t give her a name in return. That was very Fae. Names had power. She grimaced. She shouldn’t have given him her name. He noticed and winked. “It’s just hard to pronounce,” he remarked and elaborated when she blinked, “My name, it’s difficult to… You can call me…hmm. What name do you like?”

She rolled her eyes. Tilting her head to exam his bright eyes, straight nose, and silly grin, she thought she’d tease him a bit. “How about Fareed?

The humor drained out of him. “Oh, you might be a bit of a seer, Kahlen. Fine, but shorten it to Reed, alright?”

Kahlen placed her hand over his. “I didn’t mean to offend you.”

His smile re-appeared and he said arrogantly, “I am unique, that’s true enough. But I’m not alone right now, am I?”

“No,” she replied and giggled as he downed his drink. His eyes seemed to glow silver for a second before fading back to the same walnut brown. “So, unicorn blood?”

“Right, oh, forgotten that already,” he murmured and looked offended when she giggled again. “Yes, right okay. Can’t bleed in public.” He waved his hand around the dance floor where werewolves, Fae, sprites, and vampires were dancing under the undulating lights. “Smells fantastic, amazingly, wonderfully fantastic, and any number of these would rip one apart to get a taste. You can’t have unicorn blood without the unicorn’s permission. It does bad, very bad things to you.”

“What sort of things?” Kahlen asked.

He rolled his eyes and reiterated, “Bad things. Can’t get piercings or tattoos.”

“Because they would bleed,” Kahlen said, puzzling it out.

“Yup and the poor unicorn would get torn apart,” he agreed. “Let’s dance!”

Her strange new friend had pulled her onto the dance floor before she could protest. He didn’t get too close to her. He kept a hold of one of her hands always as if he was afraid she would disappear if he let go. Kahlen had never been to a human rave before she was murdered. She was forever eighteen and she had been sheltered. The press of bodies around them was exciting as heat radiated off of the live things. A few vampires nodded in her direction. Most of them were islands, dotted around the ocean of people, in the water, but not a part of it. She let herself move with Reed. She grabbed his other hand when he was in danger of being pulled away by an aggressive weregirl. He slipped into her arms gratefully, hugging her.

A rich fresh scent assaulted her. It was like a hot fudge sundae, and chips, and pizza, and she felt her mouth start to water. An image of ripping into his throat flashed across her mind’s eye. She jerked back, but he held tight to her. He whispered in her ear. “So what did you come here for? Tattoo? Piercing?”

Kahlen shivered as his breath brought more of his scent to her and warmed her skin. She missed being warm. Wherever he touched, he left a glorious trail of it. Her fangs descended and he spun her out and back. She blinked, pulling back on the need to feed. Reed watched her with a rueful expression. She fought the urge to apologize. She was trying to make a friend, not kill him. Bloodlust wasn’t something she had ever gotten used to in the last year. It always freaked her out and made her buzz with guilt.

“Piercing,” she replied, resisting the urge to inhale.

He let go and disappeared into the crowd. Kahlen searched for him as he bounced away. Left on her own, she became her own island as the crowd continued to dance around her. Had she offended Reed? Maybe. She had been flashing fang and entertaining the idea of having him for dinner. She bit into her lip in frustration. She didn’t have any supernatural friends yet. She had barely had any live ones left after being turned. She saw a Fae disappear into the back booths as a were came out with a large silver hoop in his ear.

She slipped through the crowd like a shark. If Reed wasn’t coming back, she may as well get the piercing she had wanted. Her mother had never let her pierce her ears. Now she was beholden to none, as sires rarely stuck around after turning someone. It would make her look more grown up. It would at least make her fit better into this crowd.

A bored Fae gave her a once over. “Vampires can’t tattoo. Piercing? Let me guess earrings?”

“Yeah,” Kahlen said, affecting the same bored tone as the pretty Fae with her long pink hair in complicated braids.

“Second booth,” the Fae gave her a light shove but sniffed her as she went.

Kahlen frowned, walking backwards to see the Fae leaning toward her, inhaling again. Slipping into the curtained booth backward, she spun to face a tall elegant vampire dressed in royal purple from head to toe. He even had purple latex gloves at his station.

“Ears please,” Kahlen said, unsure what she needed to do.

He sniffed disdainfully as he approached. The vampire sniffed again in earnest. In a blink, Kahlen was pinned to the table under his powerful right hand. Fangs descended and eyes glowing brilliant scarlet, the vampire sniffed again. “You smell…”

“Thanks?”

“Delicious,” he finished.

Uh oh, Kahlen struggled against the steel grip of the bigger and considerably older vampire above her. Did vampires kill and eat younger vampires? Eyes wide, she kicked out, knocking the older vampire off balance. He was back in an instant, claws slashing into her leg as she scrambled off the piercer’s table. The scent of her own blood, bubbling up thick and dark, terrified her. Kahlen tossed the table of surgical instruments into the vampire’s face.

The privacy curtain was ripped open. Reed stood there gasping. “My fault!”

The tall purple vampire spun to face him.

“Me, not her,” he said. “I’m the one you want.”

“You smell,” the vampire said, eyes red but glazed over. “I have to taste you. I have to-”

Reed glowed a brilliant silvery blue. Kahlen watched that light explode out of him and knock the piercer across the room. He collapsed in a heap. Reed knelt down next to her, radiating the scent of pepperoni pizza and a chocolate milkshake. Kahlen’s fangs descended. She hadn’t had anything to drink but blood in a year.

“You’re hurt,” he cried reaching out to her.

“You’re the unicorn,” she said, fighting to keep still.

“The one and only,” he said. “I only came out tonight because I was lonely. I’m the last one. I’ve been the last one for decades.”

Losing a lot of her blood was helping slow her down but her hunger, her hunger was growing. Hissing, she curled in on herself as the pangs in her stomach made thinking harder and harder to do.

Reed touched her arm. She flinched away. He gripped her arm. “Kahlen, I went to get a drink for you, so you wouldn’t be so focused on me, on my blood. You were gone when I got back. I was stupid. My scent was all over you. I masked it, but I touched you, hugged you…

“I-I don’t want to kill you,” Kahlen hissed, trying to block out the tantalizing scent of roast turkey and mashed potatoes that he was sporting now. “So hungry. You smell like Thanksgiving.”

“Oh, well that’s one on me, Thanksgiving? Really?” he asked, eyes glowing silver.

Kahlen nodded, squeezing her eyes shut to fight harder against her own body. “Now leave before…”

“No. It’s fine, I can heal you. My blood can heal you,” Reed said as he snatched a dropped needle off the floor.

“Bad things,” Kahlen grunted.

“Only if I don’t want you to do it. I give you permission, okay? But it might have side effects,” he said as he stabbed his arm multiple times to get his bright pearlescent blood to rise to the surface. “We’ll worry about that after. Trust me…Oh, okay, you be careful.”

Kahlen latched onto his arm and her fangs sank into his skin, popping it and blood sluiced into her mouth. Reed grunted but let her hold on. The blood, oh it tasted exactly like Thanksgiving, mixed with hot chocolate, and mint chocolate ice cream, and every other food she had been craving for ever a year. It was all sliding down into her stomach and filling her body with so much warmth.

“Stop now,” Reed told her.

Kahlen couldn’t. She needed more. She growled in protest.

“Now Kahlen,” he begged.

She tried, she really tried. Her fangs felt like they were hooked, locked into place. A sharp pain lanced through her and finally, she released, sliding bonelessly to the cement floor and into unconsciousness.

“Probably shouldn’t have done that,” Reed’s voice was worried, and weak near her left ear. “I was trying to heal the leg wound, not get myself killed. How would that help us? Hm? Think you drank too much though.”

She opened her eyes. They weren’t in the underground rave anymore. She rolled her shoulders. Kahlen was on a bed, a soft bed. Reed lying next to her stretched out alongside. His hand was in hers. He grinned when her eyes met his.

“Hello!” he exclaimed.

“Hello,” she muttered, her voice dry and scratchy.

“Here,” he sat up and turned away from her. In a second he was back with a cup. It had a bendy straw in it. “Drink, you had a rough night.”

Kahlen sipped. The taste that exploded on her tongue was not blood. The urge to gag rose for an instant but vanished. It was water. It was plain water. Kahlen pushed the cup away. “I can’t drink water!”

“Think you can,” Reed argued, “think you just did. Side effects, remember?”

Kahlen glared at him before scanning the room. She turned away from him and saw the open window. She was sitting in a bright room full of sunshine. She hissed and held up her arm. No smoke, no pain… “What?”

Patiently, Reed grabbed her arm and moved it into a sunbeam. He had a bandage on where she had savaged his arm. Her skin was warming in the light, but not burning. He took the same hand and placed over her chest. Kahlen felt a beat. It was sluggish, but it was a heartbeat.

“Side effects?”  she asked. “What sort of side effects?”

“Healed you,” Reed said smugly.

“Healed?” Kahlen glanced down at her leg, the skin was smooth, if a bit pale and a little shinier like a Fae.

Reed was embarrassed. “I ah, um, gave you permission. My blood has healing properties. I’m not prejudiced. My blood, it ah, it just seems to see vampirism as a disease. So, it cured it. I’m sorry. You’re sort of human again.”

Amazed, Kahlen put both her hands into the sunlight. When it wasn’t enough, she slid off the bed and put her head out the window to stare up at the sun. Clouds obscured it a bit but even they were lovely, all puffy and white in the bright blue summer sky. “You healed me. I’m human.”

“Sort of human,” Reed reiterated. “Close to human, almost human, mostly, almost human.”

Kahlen bounced back onto the bed next to him, giddy. “Fine. I’ll take it, if you promise me I can eat chips again, oh and candy, and ice cream, and a hot fudge sundae with nuts…”

“Sure, but you’ll get a stomach ache. I mean, that’s an awful lot of sugar,” he replied then grinned. “You’re really okay with it? I was sort of afraid you liked being a vampire and I ruined it. Well, I tried to stop you before you drank too much, but you were insistent. Had to hit you with a tray.”

Kahlen grabbed for his bandaged arm. “I’m so sorry! I couldn’t control it. I don’t mind. I wasn’t getting the hang of the ‘creature of the night’ thing anyhow. But what do I do now? My family thinks I’m dead. I was dead. Do I go back to school? Wait, did you say mostly, almost human?”

“Might be a teensy bit unicorn now,” Reed said and held up his fingers to measure out a pinch. “I could help you with that if you want. Show you some stuff, some magic stuff. Only if you want me to do it.”

Kahlen grinned. “Friends?” she asked.

“Yeah, okay,” Reed said, sitting up straight, looking pleased. “I’ve never had a friend before. What do um, friends do?”

“They get pizza.”

“I love pizza,” he told her. “What about your ears? Did you still want to get them pierced?”

“Eventually, think I’m traumatized. Maybe I’ll just get clip-on’s for now.”

“I’m pretty good with a needle,” Reed told her. “Saved you with one, didn’t I?”

“Not a chance,” Kahlen told him.

The End.

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Fudge Pop

Death sat on a rock in the middle of the Delaware River. Inky black robes shed in favor of a black tee, blacker swim trunks and bare feet the color of slightly spoiled milk. Running a hand through his shaggy gray locks, he put a foot in the water and frowned when a school of fish bobbed to the surface, going belly up just for him. He huffed and removed his foot.

A pretty Living Girl sat on the rock beside him. She hadn’t noticed him yet. She was too busy changing the playlist on her phone to something summery and light much like the camisole and short jean shorts she had chosen for the summer heat. Once the light pop sounds matched her tapping toes, she leaned back on her elbows and noticed him. He smiled, showing straight white teeth. She raised dark eyebrows and cautiously smiled back.

Death mimicked the girl’s pose, careful to keep his feet free of the water. He didn’t want to kill everything that lived in the water, drank it, or flew over it by accident. That would be rude. It was frustrating however because it was a nice day with a soft breeze bringing a little relief from the heat but not as much as the cold water would do. Still, a day off was a day off, even if it wasn’t strictly allowed.

Glancing back at his company, he saw the girl holding up a fudge pop. He blinked. She mimed tossing it to him. Nodding eagerly, he reached out his elegantly long and decidedly not too skeletal hands to catch the confection and frowned when he accidentally touched a bird. The bird, a bluejay, dropped stone dead into the water. Distracted, he missed the softball lob and the fudge pop plopped into the water and drifted away lazily in the current. He huffed.

When he turned back to the girl, her eyes were sad. She pulled an earbud loose and called out, “Sorry, that was my last one. Bad luck with that bird. That was weird, right?” she asked.

“Not really,” he murmured and when she frowns he said, “I mean, thanks for trying and all but my life isn’t exactly made for fudge pops if you get my meaning.” He frowned. That was the longest sentence he has ever said to a Living Being.

“I do have a few cookies? Want one? They’re not cold but they are chocolate. I could even hop on over there. Your rock is big enough for two to sunbathe.”

“No!” he shouted. Visions of her warm body turning cold and dropping into the water because she accidentally bumped him, rushed through him, chilling him more effectively than the river could. But now he’s done it because her big eyes flashed with hurt. “No,” he said softly. “I mean that’s fine. I’m fine. Thank you for being kind,” he told her and gave her a brittle smile.

She turned her back and he vanished. It was a stupid idea anyhow. He pulled his list and headed up to Manayunk to take out a few musicians who thought it would be a great idea to play a set in a thunderstorm. Moody, he didn’t bother to loom or menace, he just clapped slowly when one by one the electrocuted idiots dropped to the tarmac, splashing down forever. It was fine. Their music was derivative.

Work continued unabated for twenty years. He didn’t try to take another sunny day off. His milky skin had no melanin to tan and he wasn’t human so he got no benefits from extra vitamin D, and it wasn’t exactly a beneficial thing to do. Still, killing day in and day out got to him. Especially when he had to take out a young kid, or an old dog. Those were the bad ones. Today he had a twofer; Four-year-old boy chasing a fourteen-year-old dog into oncoming traffic. Bummer.

He turned up at Grant and Academy. It was one of the best spots to die in the United States. There were forests in other countries and huge icy patches where he picked off loads of people and sometimes this big ol’ intersection seemed so mundane but it was no less deadly.

He spotted the dog first. It was a Siberian husky with one bright blue eye. His leash was an expandable number that Death was incredibly familiar with and it rubbed on an old wooden telephone pole. The snap startled the dog into the street. Death sighed. Now would come the boy, right on time. The scamp was in jeans and a rainbow tee. Behind the child, came the mother.

Death grimaced and huffed. This was not going to be a fun day. The light changed. The dog barked. The kid yelled. The mother shouted and Death whipped around to see the mother, really see her. He waved a hand and everything froze. Lifting his thick heavy robes up, he approached her.

He unfroze the woman and she stumbled forward. Death did not steady her. She glanced up at him.

“What kind of an idiot gets an extendable leash?” Death shouted.

She raced into the street and tried to grab her frozen scion. Death snorted.

“Everything is frozen. I’ve stopped time.”

“To call me an idiot?” the woman asked.

“No,” he told her firmly.

Something like hope crossed her face. “Are you going to save my Jamie? And Tanner?”

“No,” he repeated. “I’m Death. I can’t just stop killing people because you tried to give me a fudge pop once. That’s not how this works.”

“I gave you-” the woman stared hard at him. “You’re the ‘cute goth’ kid from the river?” she asked and glanced off into the past. “Wait, the ‘cute goth kid from the river’ is DEATH? I don’t believe this.”

Death sputtered and if he had blood in his veins instead of murder, he might have blushed. “Goth? Cute?”

The mother sat down in the street with her child and hugged the frozen thing. Death sighed and went as close as he could without killing her too. She reached out a hand to him. “Do it. I want to die with them.”

“So run out into the street with them,” Death said, indignant, crossing his arms over his chest.

She stares at him with her wide, sad eyes, and he remembers how her smile had felt when directed at him. No one ever loved Death. She hadn’t either, not really, but she had offered him normal human affection. Glancing up at the sky, he lets out a breath and scans the street. There are too many cars for the child to avoid death without intervention, not to mention the dog because if he was saving one the other had to live too, he supposed.

“Please,” the mother said, begging for her own death, unaware that for the moment she had it. That woman had Death as her own. “Please.”

“Fine, but when this is over, I get my fudge pop,” Death grumbled. “And you never, ever, never, ever, ever, tell a single living soul about this.”

“Deal? I’d shake your hand-” she began.

He rolled his eyes. “-and you would drop stone dead,” he reminded her.

Death stretched, cracked his neck, his knuckles, and his back as he surveyed the glowing souls all around him. He would have to trade one for one for the child but the dog…well he could fudge the records on the dog and find some roadkill to make up the deficit.

“Get out of the street,” he advised the mother. She hesitated, of course, she did and he tried not to regret this before he was even done doing it. “Seriously, get out of the street. I’m not going back on our deal.”

She climbed out of the street and stood beside him, careful not to touch. He waved his hand and time moved. The child ran forward after the dog. He closed his eyes and controlled the souls. A biker went left instead of right. A sedan slammed on its brakes just in time to become a barricade as the kid made it to the median where a brave uncontrolled soul stopped the dog and grabbed the kid around the waist. One last thing to do, the swap. Death sighed, reached out and tossed a rock. The rock smashed into the hood of a Kia Soul and that car hopped onto the median and killed a man in a suit, Jericho Sampson who had murdered his first wife. He was probably accidentally saving the second wife but since she wasn’t on today’s list, he wasn’t bothered.

The entire nightmare was over in less than ten seconds. He stepped to the side to avoid any accidental hugs by the grateful mother. But she was clever and had just dropped to the ground in a dead faint. He huffed and vanished.

Twenty-five years later, he approached a grandmother at an ice cream truck. Death tapped her on the shoulder. As her aneurysm burst, he caught the fudge pop before it hit the ground. He grinned down at his friend from the river and winked.

Fin.

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