A man, mid-40s, paces down an empty street. The cobblestones click against the soles of his fine shoes. The dim lamplights flicker, haphazard in their duty of lighting the indigo air. The patter of rain has eased off the pavement and given way to a mid-night silence, the warm summer night air florid with the scent of wet stone and shoe-scuffings and, somewhere, the fragrance of gardenias.
He glances around. The streetlight flickers again. His brow is set with nervousness, traces of fear curling in his chest and making his heart tap, tap, tap against his ribcage.
He seems to reassure himself. He lives in fine society - he is a staunch realist. There is no such thing as the monster lurking at the gates. He resolutely ignores the metallic tang of apprehension on his tongue and forges forward, wrapping his overshirt around him to ward off the sudden chill that sweeps down the street.
There’s a scuffing noise from behind him.
He whirls around.
There’s nothing there.
It must have been a rat, he thinks to himself. He pushes down the rising feeling of self-delusion. His heart hammers - it feels like each beat is a convulsion, his heart a writhing muscle in his chest that has lost all sense.
The fineries of hunting are little-known to humans of the modern age. The quiet stalking of the prey - the gentle breaths of the predator - the glow of a hunter’s eyes from the inky shadows. The man can’t be faulted. After all, he was born in a hospital. His parents cared for him. His schooling taught him the boon of the mind. His youth was filled with the casual fitness of domesticated animals.
His breathing speeds. Every inhale feels laced with fear. It suffuses his body, his blood carrying it along with the oxygen through his veins, delivering to his muscles.
Before he knows it, he’s sprinting down the street.
His fine shoes, ill-suited to running for his life, clatter gracelessly against the cobble. Their smooth soles slip and judder for a grip against the slick stone. He stumbles and throws himself forward again. He flails his arms in front of him, as though swimming, desperate for any nanobit of advantage he can gain in his terrified flight -
The next lamplight on the street goes out.
The predator has anticipated his movement, as one would predict the flight of an arrow from its nock. Red eyes glow from the murky, unlit area. The man catches a glimpse - an inhumane fear floods him, and his legs pump harder than he knew he was capable of in his middling age.
He leaps for the next patch of light. The next lamp illuminates the tips of the fingers of his outstretched arm. Safety, he must think deliriously, is close at hand -
The vampire strikes. With one swift movement, his form cloaked in night and his pale skin gleaming ethereally in the darkness, he slams into the man’s side with the force of a small vehicle. His black-gloved fingers sink into the soft skin around the man’s neck. The man wheezes, breath knocked out of him.
The vampire is careful not to break any bones. He strikes the areas of the body protected by fat, where the impact can be absorbed. After all, if his prey were to rupture a vein, some of the precious blood that pumps through his body would be lost to internal bleeding.
The man’s eyes roll back in his head, disoriented. The vampire brings him silently, with inhuman strength, into a deserted alley. He lays his prey out onto the cobble. He crouches over his torso and slowly, gently, lowers his moon-white fangs to his defenseless neck...
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