It’s November and the Music Be The Food flash fiction train keeps on rolling. This time around we’re looking at my favorite album of 2017–Pvris ‘All We Know Of Heaven, All We Need Of Hell’. The song is called “Walk Alone” and the next piece of fiction is by R.N. Drum. Listen to this remarkable song and then read the outstanding fiction.
A Shade in Winter
Heather Bevan shivered underneath the leather jacket. She wrapped her arms as tightly as she could around herself but it did little to fend off the frigid November wind. She knew she would need to find a place to hide away soon. The good thing was that there was no shortage of tucked away alleys and warehouses with rooms that hadn’t been visited in years. She needed heat, or at least the chance to be rid of the Chicago wind that haunted her. The nights seemed so short lately.
I used to love this city.
Heather slowed her pace as she passed restaurants and stared in through the picture windows, watching, even if only for a moment, as people ate their meats and drank their wines. She hadn’t eaten for several days and the toll was becoming obvious. Her bones ached with hunger and her eyes trembled with a seemingly insatiable fever.
She rounded a corner and nearly toppled over a young woman.
“So sorry,” the woman said. She smelled delicious.
“It’s okay,” Heather said.
Apple pie. That’s what she smelled like. She snapped out of the thought and found the woman was gone on her way, leaving Heather standing alone on Michigan Ave. outside the store where she had met her love.
He had been overwhelmed with choices while trying to pick a scarf as a gift for his mother. She had also been shopping for a new scarf, as she was going to need something in season for the coming winter. They exchanged numbers and had their first date a week later. It was at that dinner that Heather knew that she had found the one.
Their relationship had grown quickly and the ocean between Heather and love seemed to shrink with every passing week. James was exactly what she had been looking for. He was kind to his mother and was always doting over his niece, who was being raised alone by his sister after her husband had been stolen by cancer. Heather knew he would make a great father. James was always holding her hand, whether they were walking, sitting for dinner or cuddled up for bed. He was gentle with her, always, and Heather didn’t think that the sex could ever be any less than sublime.
Heather moved most of her clothes, but more importantly, her toothbrush, to James’ downtown apartment in September. She had teased him about being so nervous.
“It’s a big step!” he insisted. He wasn’t wrong, but even he admitted later that it felt right.
Life had blurred around them as they fell in love. It was beautiful. It was exactly as it should have been.
Then it came.
An evil, Heather realized, had entered their lives. And she had brought it into their home.
She could only recall some of the details of that night in early October. In fact, she had already forgotten the date. She had been on her way home from a late evening with her girlfriends after celebrating her recent promotion at work. The train that night was sparsely decorated with the nocturnal creatures that circled the city in search of whatever comforted them.
The man had worn a pea coat and a dark wool cap. Even though the car was brightly lit, he seemed to be in a shadow. He remained by the door, standing and holding on to the bar as the train made its way around the loop. Heather remembered that he had looked around the train, but his eyes settled on her and didn’t look away. Heather had been happy that the man stayed by the doors at the other end of the car.
One stop away.
A woman stood to get off the train. She didn’t pay attention to the man that had stationed himself so close to the door, and she passed him without batting a eye. That was when Heather saw something odd. As the woman stepped to the door, her brightly colored shopping bag in hand, Heather saw her fade into a shadow as she passed the man.
She blinked hard, knowing it wasn’t possible to have seen the shopping bag woman through the man in the pea coat. But that was exactly what had happened. The doors closed and the train began moving again, the whole time the man kept his eyes on Heather. And she returned the favor.
The doors opened. She knew the timing well enough, and with seconds left, she jumped up from her seat and hopped through the doors as they began to slide closed. She watched from the platform as the train pulled away. The shadow man hadn’t moved at all, and he rode off with the train. Bev shook off the nerves and started down the steps to the street. Just as she reached the street, she felt the presence of someone else who was stepping into the light at the bottom of the stairs.
It was him.
The pea coat. The wool cap.
It was him.
She remembered that his shadow seemed to grow, crowding out the light as he reached for her, and then… nothing. She woke up sometime later. How much later, Heather had no idea. She was seated on the bottom step to the platform leaning against the fenced handrail. Her body felt stiff, as though she had been sleeping in that awkward position for hours. The night
Heather stood and looked around, but saw no sign of the man. She crossed the street and rushed home as quickly as her exhausted legs could take her.
“James!” she cried out as she burst through the door.
She spent the next hour trying to explain to James just what had happened. He had wrapped her in two blankets and had filled her favorite Sunday morning mug with hot chocolate.
“I’m afraid,” she had told him.
“Nothing’s gonna happen, babe,” he said as he went down the hall to the bathroom. “I’m going to get a good hot bath going for you, ‘kay?”
James had prepped the bathroom with candles and had brought the white noise machine from the bedroom. He set it to “Summer Beach” and told Heather to come in.
He helped her get undressed. She shivered as if she was running a high fever, but she didn’t feel warm to the touch. He didn’t notice the wounds until she turned her back to him.
“My God!” James blurted. The gashes, couple of inches apart and a few inches long, were deep, and the skin at the edges was torn ragged. Her shirt had been slightly stained, but otherwise there was no blood, although the immediate area around the wound was bruised.
Don’t touch me.
“Baby, he did this to you?”
“I think so, yes,”
“Okay, let’s try to get you warmed up,” he said. “Just don’t lay back.” James had laid a hand on her hip as he tried to guide her to the water.
“I said don’t touch me!” Heather screamed. “Don’t ever touch me!”
Neither of them knew at that those would be the last words James would ever hear.
She didn’t like to remember. She couldn’t help but remember.
She didn’t like to remember the look on his face. The small grunting sounds he made as she drove her teeth deep into the flesh of his throat. The way she sat on his arms after he fell to his back, trying in vain to lift his hands to his throat and contain the bleeding. To hold in the pain.
Heather sat back and swallowed hard. Iron. Copper. Wine. The blood was sweet and she could taste him completely. She opened her mouth wide before leaning down to feed again. He had stopped moving, but the blood still pulsed from his open throat, weakly as the strength of his heart began to fade.
It was finished.
She looked down upon James’ body and cried.
A man’s voice broke Heather free from the memories.
“Miss, are you okay?”
Heather cleared the tears from her eyes and looked up to see a man, probably on his way home to someone who loved him. His face brimmed with concern for the poor creature in front of him.
Heather reached to hold the man’s arm as she began to stumble back around the corner into the alley. Before he knew it, he was on his back and the light was disappearing around him.