Genre: Contemporary fantasy
Author: Raelene Atwood
Summary: Vampires and other supernatural creatures live amongst humans in today's world. Some strong language, violence/gore, and sexual themes
Madison was walking alone to her car after her shift, dog tired and yawning, her eyelids heavy with fatigue. Her new coworker, who had left just before her, was a remarkably quick learner, much to Madison’s delight; and strangely enough, Holliday’s went from dead to thriving almost immediately after Erin put on her new uniform. All the regulars suddenly showed up, along with newcomers that Madison had never seen before. The jukebox was blasting and everyone danced like they were on fire. Jane never did finish doing inventory, as she was too busy slinging drinks at the bar and helping her employees deal with the rush of customers that seemed to appear out of nowhere.
Madison climbed into her black Honda CRX, a charmingly ugly, beat-up hatchback car that she’d inherited from her older brother (Deacon Gentles). The dashboard was littered with patches of Velcro that had once held plastic figurines of saints; Deacon’s friends had often given them to him as humorous gifts, as he was an outspoken atheist that resented his given name. From the rear view mirror, there hung plastic beaded necklaces and a pine-scented air freshener. On the rear of the car, there were several bumper stickers of the names of bands that Madison had never even heard of.
As Madison went to turn the key in the ignition, she heard rustling in the trees above her. She looked up to see the same snow white falcon she had seen earlier that night. It stared back at her with its piercing eyes. She sat there in her car for a while, studying the beautiful bird. It had strange eyes that entranced Madison. Its right eye was gray—almost silver—and its left was golden. She marveled at the bird, and she felt like it had been quite a long while since she had seen something so bizarre and entrancing. After sitting in silence for about five minutes, she turned the ignition on and drove away.
Only a few miles away from home, Madison’s car suddenly let out a sputtering sound before stopping completely.
“Oh, sugar,” she muttered. She wasn’t all too surprised, as the car was two decades old, but this didn’t make the situation any less irritating. As she fished her cell phone out of her pocket to call her brother for help, she saw the falcon yet again. This time, it was perched atop a tree above her, and again, it stared at her in silence.
“Alright, you have got to be kidding me,” she said to the bird. “Why are you following me, birdy?”
Just then, something sprinted up to her and tackled her down to the ground. She skinned her knees and yelled out. When she scrambled up onto her feet, she turned around to see what had attacked her—there was a big brown wolf before her, fangs bared and eyes glowing amber in the moonlight. It lunged for her, and she screamed as she abandoned both her car and phone and ran in the other direction as fast as she could. However, her petite legs could only carry her so quickly, and the wolf caught up to her in just a few yards. She heard the falcon screeching close behind her as the wolf sank its sharp teeth into her calf, tearing her skin and sinew with its powerful jaws. She fell to the ground, her face landing on a rock that split open her lip and bruised her nose. The wolf gnawed at her flesh with a voracious hunger. Madison did not even have the strength to scream, let alone stand or run. She lay, bleeding helplessly on the ground. As the wolf chewed on her leg, grunting and snorting as it ate away at her calf, the falcon swooped down from the sky and dug its talons into the wolf’s hide. Disoriented, Madison wiped some of the blood off her face and glanced back quickly to see the falcon drag the wolf several feet away from her with surprising strength. The wolf snapped its jaws at the bird, wounding its leg. The bird screeched once more, this time in pain, before releasing the beast and flying away. The wolf watched it for a while, seemingly stunned. It licked its blood-soaked lips, cocking its head to the right with a quizzical expression on its face as it sniffed the air.
Madison tried desperately to crawl away, clawing at the earth beneath her. Hearing the rustling sound that this produced, the wolf turned its attention back to Madison and began charging toward her. ‘Goodbye,’ she thought to herself, closing her eyes and panting softly as she bled out. ‘I guess this is it.’
“Go back to your pack, you mangy bitch,” she heard. Madison opened her eyes to see Ulrik standing behind her, clutching the wolf’s head in his hands, which were trembling with force. He crushed the wolf’s jaw with a loud crack and tossed the animal away like a used tissue. The wolf yelped in pain and staggered away with its tail between its legs, disappearing off into the bushes.
Ulrik looked back at Madison and turned her over gently, onto her back. She winced, her leg white hot with pain.
“Are you alright?” he said.
Madison could not muster up the strength to speak. He sighed and gingerly lifted her leg to examine her wound, before placing it back down. He drew his fangs. “You’re losing a lot of blood,” he said. He sunk his fangs into his own wrist and put the bleeding appendage up to Madison’s lips. “Drink. It will heal you.”
With tears in her eyes, Madison grimaced and shook her head.
“Drink, damn it,” said Ulrik. “If you don’t, you could die. The mutt tore open a main artery in your leg.”
Madison closed her eyes and reluctantly drank. His blood tasted rusty, yet sweet. The pain in her leg started to vanish as she suckled away at his wrist, and she felt warm and safe in his arms. When Ulrik pulled his arm away, Madison unconsciously reached out for more. At this, Ulrik chuckled.
“Look at you, like a newborn puppy,” he said. He combed the hair out of Madison’s face and sniffed her blood. “You smell…delicious.”
“A-are you going to eat me?” asked Madison, opening her eyes wide.
Ulrik scoffed and drew closer to her. He slowly licked the blood off her face, smacking his lips. Madison shivered in his arms when she felt his tongue trace her bloody mouth; he sensed this and sneered playfully before pulling himself away to look into her eyes.
“Where did you come from?” said Madison. Her voice was a low shudder. “I might have died if you didn’t come.”
“I was…around,” he said. “Just consider yourself lucky.” With that, he took Madison by the wrists and pushed her down into the soft, loamy earth. He positioned himself in between her legs and bent over her bloody limb.
“What are you doing?” shouted Madison. Without answering her, Ulrik lifted her leg and began slurping her blood. His tongue moved methodically and without much relish; he was snacking more than kissing, though naïve Madison could barely tell the difference. She shuddered and shook, her insides growing hot. After swallowing the last drop, Ulrik wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and stood. He extended a hand and helped her up.
“No need to waste any of that blood,” he said. “It doesn’t taste as good once it’s coagulated.”
Madison dusted herself off and looked down at her leg. It was as white and smooth as ever, and she couldn’t even tell that it had been torn apart just a few moments ago. “How did…how did you do that?” she said. “There’s not even a mark!”
“I am vampire. Our blood is sacred. Holy. It animates the dead and brings life to those at the brink. It brings us immortality and power greater than that of any mere human. We vampires need not suffer through human diseases,” he said. “But I would appreciate it greatly if you wouldn’t share this with your…human acquaintances. This is not information that we are keen on sharing with the oftentimes greedy and dare I say, inhumane world around us.”
“Of course. I understand,” said Madison. “Don’t worry, I’m great with secrets.”
“Now, I require your assistance,” he said. “I understand that you need rest tonight, but would it be alright if I sent Simone to fetch you from your home tomorrow evening?”
“Well, I do owe you my life. How could I say no?” she said. She then shook her head, a look of disbelief on her face. “But wait, this is…this is all too weird. I have questions. Like, what in God’s name was a wolf doing in Georgia? I’ve never seen one in these parts. And did you see that bird that attacked it? I swear, it’s been following me all day.”
Ulrik grinned smugly before leaping up into the sky without answering her. He was gone before she could even blink. Madison sighed in frustration and shrugged, picking her phone up off the ground.