“He said the things below needed something more than human. I remember being ambushed in an alley, then I woke up here. That was weeks ago. Can I eat you?”
I can feel the need pulse, pass through the bars of the cage like they were nothing. “I can’t touch the cage, but you can. Know how to pick a lock?”
“Not in decades. Show me how?”
I pass a thin sliver of metal through the bars, floating it with ghostly hands. I should’ve had more of the cardboard pastry. Or her hunger is starting to get to me. Its hard to tell. She takes it. “We don’t have a hook?”
“Not that I can tell. Can’t see everything though. Not really physical.”
“This will have to do.”
I guide her, more with feeling than with actual words in what to do. A light brush along her hands here and there to let her know which way to turn, push and pull.
“So it does work like in the movies.”
“I can still leave.”
“You have to admit though—”
“No. No I don’t. I’m not actually dead, and this is not a pottery wheel. End of discussion.” The lock clicks open.
“Why not just talk me through it like I thought then.”
“Takes effort to talk, move things, not to be felt, ‘specially when you can see me.”
She takes the lock and opens the cage, stepping out and stretching. I am not reminded of domesticated animals, I am reminded of fierce, man-eating predators in the jungles. “Do you know a way out, or should I just wander?”
“Apartment 22A is empty. But its daytime.”
“Shit. Wondered why I felt tired.”
“Wait, ambush him.”
“I would need to eat for that to work.”
I can feel something. Something dark at the periphery of my senses, something non-real that could rip me to shreds, a dark reflection of hatred. I pull myself slowly inward.
“You’re fading. What’s happening?”
“Something comes. I’ll meet you up there.”
I pull back, fleeing not the way I came but through the walls and floor of the building. Coming back to myself in the alley. I gasp awake, the first breath of an entombed miner. The coffee is already cold. “Damnit.” I walk back into the coffee shop. “Can I get some hot water in this?”
A different girl than the one that got it for me smiles “Sure.” I’m bouncing a little on the balls of my feet. I can’t feel it anymore, but I know that if it finds the vampire, things will happen. I have to get the passage safe. “Here you go.”
I speed walk out, down the street a little ways to the entrance, double-locked. There’s a call-board in the foyer. I hit a random button.
“Hi.” My brain stops, too many things happening. “Building super sent me to take a look at some of the pipes on your floor, but didn’t give me a key, think you could let me in?”
The door buzzes, and I hurry inside, leaving the coffee cup in the foyer.