Charlotte flew low over the town. She could hear her family hunting. She could hear the sceams of their prey. She landed in an alley and tried to banish the thoughts of death from her mind. She was famished, and would need to feed soon, but she didn’t know if she could stand to hunt tonight.
She sat down on the cold ground, not bothering to tuck in her wings. Empathy isn’t worth it, she decided.
A quiet rustling made her head turn. There was someone in the building next to her. She stood up and knocked on the door. “Can I come in?” she asked.
A quiet, vaguely affirmative sound came from the door.
Charlotte shrugged and pushed the door open. It opened to a largish room that had clearly not been in use for a long time. There was a boy sitting on the floor. Charlotte judged him to be about fifteen, but his puffed up eyes and tired face made him look about forty years older. As she cautiously approached, he held up a bottle of wine in offering.
“Uh…sure, why not?” Charlotte said, taking a swig, before returning the bottle.
She sat down next to the boy. “Where are we?”
He turned to look at her. His eyes were grey, and didn’t seem to focus correctly. “Doctor. He used to…help. He died.”
“What did he help you with?”
For a split second, the boy’s eyes seemed to turn a sharp blue, before returning to their faded grey. “Have you ever tried dark magic?”
“My dad’s supposed to be a pretty good magician. I’ve never done anything myself, though.”
“It is the most…amazing feeling. Having the power to control thoughts at my fingertips…the power to summon demons…it was the best high I’ve ever had. Turns out you’re supposed to have training.” The boy let out a high pitched laugh. Charlotte thought she could hear madness in it. “Turns…turns out that you can get addicted. And the demons…the, uh, the demons will take whatever they can from you: memories, life force, blood, they just don’t…care.”
The boy drank some wine.
“The doc…he helped me quit. He tried to help me heal. Then he died.”
They sat in silence a while, then the boy said, “So what’s your story?”
Charlotte blinked. “I don’t understand.”
The boy shivered. “You…tell me something now. I told you about…everything.”
“Oh,” Charlotte said. There was one thing on her mind, anyway. What could it hurt to tell it to this sad boy in an abandoned building?
“Well, lately I’ve had this problem. I can’t eat anymore. I mean, I want to, but whenever I try I just think ‘what if that were me, having my neck bitten, you know?”
The boy nodded.
“I tried going to my father’s manor, he’s a lord, you see, but somehow feeding from people who were ordered to give me blood was even worse than hunting.”
“I did the mind control thing once,” the boy said. “I’m not…happy that I did. I didn’t…feel good.”
“Yeah…” Charlotte said.
The boy leaned against her, rolled up into a ball. He was clammy and cold. Charlotte could hear his fluttering heartbeat.
“I’m supposed to be out hunting now. I don’t know how long I can go without feeding.”
The boy coughed. Charlotte was becoming increasingly sure he wouldn’t last the night.
“I’ve heard…” he said softly, “that vampire venom is a painkiller.”
Charlotte didn’t say anything. Her hunger screamed at her, pounding on the inside of her head.
“Give me your hand,” she said, after an eternity.
The boy lifted it, presenting his pale wrist to her.
The taste was exquisite. Though his blood was thinner than she’d expected, and she could taste the alcohol, whatever drugs he was on, and traces of black magic, Charlotte was sure she’d never had better.
She took what she needed, which was less than she’d thought, and left the boy laying on the floor of the doctor’s office, with a faraway look in his eye and a scabbed over wrist.
Don’t cry, she scolded herself. Do not cry. You didn’t even know his name.
So, not crying for a nameless, dying boy, Charlotte took flight toward home.