“What the fuck is your problem?” the man asked as he stood over me on the bus. Despite the fine clothing he wore, the smell of the alcohol off him turned my stomach. “Are you just going to sit there and look at me like that?”
“I don’t know why, sir, but I’m not having the best day. If you could please leave me alone, I would appreciate it,” I replied, focusing on keeping my breathing regular.
“You’d really appreciate it?” he said, attempting to mimic my voice. “Too fucking bad, buddy. I guess you shouldn’t have told me to sit down.”
I turned my head to the window and watched a man stumbling down the sidewalk. Out of the corner of my eye, I watched the drunkard move his hand toward my face. I shifted, and he missed his target, catching himself on the seat.
“Don’t touch me.”
“Why? What are you going to do about it? Are you going to tell me to sit down again?” he jeered.
“Sir, I’m gonna have to ask you to get off the bus,” the bus driver said, standing a full six feet from the man. He was an older, portly fellow. His posture looked like the prey of some monster, unsure it should be there.
The drunk turned his attention to the driver and began to yell, “Fuck you, man. I’ll get off the bus when I’m ready.”
“I’ll call the police if you don’t get off right now,” the driver replied, shifting his feet to face the man more directly.
“You think that the police will help you?” the drunk said as he took a step toward the driver.
I was out of my seat before I could stop myself. I grabbed the man’s wrist and twisted it up behind his back as I swung my foot around the front of his legs. He cried out in pain just before his face bounced off the metal floor.
“What the fuck, man? Get off!” he yelled as I pushed his face into the floor.
My vision was already beginning to blur from the adrenaline.
“Not now, stop. Stop it,” I muttered under my breath as I shook my head. I could feel it rising inside me already. I looked at the bus driver, “Run!”
The uncertainty in the bus driver’s face turned to fear when he looked into my eyes. I could feel my bones shifting already as my grip grew tighter on the drunk. Through the pain of my own bones cracking and popping, I heard the man beneath me pleading as the growl rose in my throat. The bus driver stumbled backward until he reached the door and practically fell off the bus when he vanished from view.
“Please, let me go, I didn’t mean it,” the man cried.
“It’s too late for you,” I growled as the teeth in my mouth elongated. I bent forward and sank them into the drunk’s shoulder. The warmth of the blood running over my tongue brought my lips down around the wound, and the involuntary pull with it.
For the first time in weeks, I felt the ecstasy of feeding again. The rush of his memories flooding into my head, and the darkness in his soul fueling my body. I drank my fill from the man, too hungry to savor anything more than the darkness.
When I released him, he slowly turned himself over, breathing heavily as he pawed for the spot from which I had drunk. His face was filled with fear now. An appropriate look for him.
“W-what did you do to me?” he stammered as he pushed himself away from me.
I ignored him as my body changed back into its former shape. The new strength felt good, but I could feel the darkness roiling inside me. I pulled a handkerchief from my pocket as I looked at my reflection in the glass. My eyes were still dark but were lightening once more as I wiped the blood off my face.
“Quit your jabbering, ass hole.” I said as I looked back at the man on the floor who was grabbing his shoulder still despite the lack of a wound, “I’ve taken your darkness from you. You’ll be fine. Go home.”
“I was wondering when you were going to feed again,” a low voice asked from behind me. I recognized it and rolled my eyes before turning my attention.
“What do you want, Agent LaMont?” I asked.
Troy LaMont sat back in the rear seat of the bus with his undoubtedly expensive shoes up on the bar in front of him. His suit wrinkled as he typed away, merrily on his phone. His eyes flicked up to meet mine as a coy smile spread on his face.
“I thought you were done with all this,” he said. “You said you’d never do it again. I was just curious how long you would go.”
“So, you followed me?” I asked as the man from the floor got to his feet and sprinted off the bus. “Why?”
“You know how things go, Ish,” he said, dropping his legs and stashing his phone inside his jacket. “You feed, you stay with us. You don’t feed, you’re free to go.”
“I’m not going back to that hell hole,” I said. “It was a mistake and nothing more.”
“Mistake or no, you know the rules,” LaMont said, standing and straightening his clothes. “You’ve got to come in now.”
“Fuck off,” I said, turning around and walking toward the door.
“If you get off this bus now, they’ll kill you. There’s cameras here, and unless the agency gets involved, the video will end up on the news, and the world will know that your kind exists,” he said. I could hear the self-satisfied smile on his face.
“You’re going to get involved anyway, you’re on the video now too,” I said, “but nice try.”
“You know that’s not how these things work, Ish,” he said as he walked around to the front of me. “I can show the camera my dick, and no one would see anything. My kind doesn’t show up on cameras, unlike your kind.”
“I haven’t fed in weeks though,” I said, knowing that I didn’t have many options at this point.
“Still, you created a mess for me to clean up. I’ll admit, you won me the pool back at the office, so thank you for that, but you know you have to come in now. Maybe boss man will let you go again, who knows,” he said, folding his hands in front of him. “I know I can’t stop you from leaving on my own, but I also know what it would mean for you to leave. Do you really want that?”
I looked into his brown eyes and shook my head. He was right. Unless his boss cleared it, I had to go with him. I thought about the building with its fancy rooms and posh businessmen continually moving in and out as though it were a revolving door.
“Fuck you, LaMont,” I said.
“I thought you’d see it my way,” he replied, pulling out his phone again. He tapped the screen and extended a hand toward me. “Shall we?”
I held my breath and dropped my hand in his. The world twisted sideways, and we were sucked through into the darkness until we arrived in a room of ornately carved mahogany from floor to ceiling. The air was warmer than I remembered for some reason. Behind the desk in the center of the room sat Dion, smiling warmly as though I were a family member he hadn’t seen in years.
“Welcome home, Ish,” Dion said, opening his arms as though waiting for a hug. “I’ve been expecting you.”