SUCK THE LIFE RIGHT OUT OF YOU
Zoe Amanda Keller looked good for being 327 years old. So good, in fact, that her 27 year old looks got regular compliments in the office and the local bars.
She was new in town, having moved in about four months ago. She rarely stays in one place for more than two years. Someone might pick up on the fact that she’s a vampire.
Zoe wasn’t a blood-sucker. She was a psychic vampire, using energy pulled from people for food. She was immortal, could walk in the sun, and didn’t have to kill her food. It was simple…easy.
As Zoe walked up to her workplace, she muttered to herself, “I still can’t believe how much I lucked out here.” She’s a market analyst at a small software development company of less than 100 people. It was dull work, but she got both money and food out of it.
Everyone there walked around in some kind of office-induced daze, blindly going through their day as if they simply had nothing better to do.
It was perfect. She could pull different amounts of energy off different people all day long. Because most of them moped around all the time, no one noticed anyone’s drop in energy — not even their own. At worst, the target just gets up and heads to the coffee pot, then returns to their cubicle, staring blankly at their monitor.
It was a sad existence for her victims, but Zoe was having the best time she’d had in at least sixty years. She walked up to the lobby of her building and took the elevator up to the seventh floor.
As the elevator doors opened, Zoe saw Kim settling into her desk. She ran reception, so Zoe walked by her most mornings. Since it was too dangerous to pull from the same person too often, and Kim’s job was rough due to all the customer complaints coming in, Zoe took it easy on her. It had been over two weeks since she pulled from Kim, however, so Zoe reached out from that place in the pit of her stomach and pulled a little energy.
She walked up to Kim and said, “Hey, how ya doing today?”
“Not bad, but a little tired. I slept fine last night, but I guess it wasn’t enough,” Kim said.
“I know how you feel,” Zoe said as she walked around Kim’s desk and headed down the aisle to her cubicle. “Time for some coffee.”
Her cubicle was sparsely decorated, in case she had to leave in a hurry. She hadn’t had a close call since that time she was a waitress in a New York bar sixty years ago, but she was always ready. She couldn’t afford not to be.
Zoe put her purse down and logged into her computer. As the system loaded her user profile, she grabbed her favorite mug, which was covered in old horror movie art. A friend had picked it up for her at Universal Studios in Florida. It seemed a lifetime ago now, but it had just been a few months since she left that girl, her only real friend, behind in Arkansas.
The coffee station was at the back of the office, on the opposite side of the organization from Kim’s desk. Zoe was careful not to feed off people too close together. Otherwise someone might notice everyone’s energy level dropping whenever she walked into a room.
She walked up and Joe, from sales, was pouring himself a cup. “Hey, Joe,” she said as she put her hand on the back of his shoulder. “How are you today?” She pulled energy as she spoke. The direct contact pulls dug deeper into the victim and pulled strong energies from their core. Joe was strong and always full of energy, but he wasn’t that bright. She could go all day on just this one pull, and he didn’t even notice the energy drain.
Joe looked up while he continued stirring his heavily-creamed coffee. He blinked twice and said, “I’m good. You?”
“I feel great. I guess I got plenty of rest last night and had plenty of bacon for breakfast,” Zoe said.
“I don’t know how you eat all that bacon and stay so thin,” Joe said.
“I don’t know,” Zoe said as she poured a mug of coffee for herself. She drank it black, so she smiled and walked away. It was going to be a good day.
Little did she know, things were about to change for her.
Each day, she would pull a little energy from someone, then more from another. She’d never touch the same person more often than a week apart, and no one noticed.
It was a good life for a vampire, but then Perry Smith started working down the aisle from Zoe.
The afternoon after Perry started work, Kim stopped by Zoe’s desk. “Have you seen the new guy?”
“Perry? Yeah, but I haven’t talked to him yet.” New hires were just thrown into work without any formality or introduction. “I might stop by later to see how he’s doing. He’s probably a bit lost here,” Zoe said.
“He’s kind of cute.” Kim was grinning. “Young, too.”
“Then get yourself a date,” Zoe said.
Kim grinned again and walked off. As she did, Zoe looked at the back of her head and pulled a little energy from her. It was just a small snack, and no one ever noticed those pulls.
That afternoon, while Zoe was walking back to her cube, she spotted Perry standing next to his. One of the computer techs must be in there doing something.
“Let’s just sample the new guy,” Zoe said under her breath as she straightened the papers in her hands, still warm from the printer.
She reached into the pit of her stomach with her mind and pushed her consciousness out to him. It snaked across the space between them and touched him to initiate the energy pull. It was like a mental tentacle, reaching out of her aura and wrapping around the target, sucking a little bit of the life force right out.
She began to pull gently, so he wouldn’t notice. Perry might be sensitive to the energy drop, or he might be as dense as Joe. She’ll have to poke and prod at his aura to see where his awareness lies.
She gave him a gentle tug, and he didn’t move. He must not have noticed. Increasing the strength of the pull, she took a little more of him in. The energy poured into her like warmth from the sun on a cool day.
She basked in Perry’s energy. It felt so pure and real. This kid was full of life. It was such a refreshing change from the dreary, emotionally dull fare the office normally provides.
Perry looked up. Zoe noticed, but didn’t think it was her gentle tug on his life force. People look up all the time. He started to look around, scanning the area around him like he was looking for something.
Zoe noticed this, too. “Dammit,” she said to herself. “He’s sensitive.”
Perry was looking at everyone in the area, glancing at each for a moment, then looking at the next. There were only a few people in the immediate area, so it was just a couple of seconds before his eyes settled on her.
Oh shit, she thought. I’ve seen that look before.
Perry looked right at Zoe, and a grin spread across his face.
Zoe looked away and started walking in the opposite direction, back to her desk. If she ran now, she was going to cause a scene and someone might follow her. Right now, she really felt like running. She had to keep her cool and wait for the right time to leave. She really liked this place, but now it’s not safe enough to stay. Perry knew something.
When she got back to her desk, Perry was there waiting for her. “Hi,” he said.
“Hi.” Zoe glanced behind him, trying to gauge which way was the best direction to run if he decided to grab her. She smiled at him.
Perry leaned in close, so that only she could hear, and said, “I know what you are.”
Zoe leaned back, getting him out of her personal space, and said, “What?”
“I know what you are, vampire.” Perry wasn’t grinning anymore, but was staring intensely right into her eyes.
“Me? No…I don’t think so.” Zoe started to move to her seat, trying not to look nervous.
“I know about your kind,” he whispered, “and how to take care of you.”
Perry turned and walked away, leaving Zoe at her desk, staring at her keyboard. She gripped the edge of her desk so tightly her fingertips were white.
“I’ve got to run again,” she whispered. After a couple of seconds, she blinked a few times and grabbed her purse. Without a word to anyone, she headed home.
Two hours later, she was at her house getting the last of her things together. Her car was packed with her clothes, computer, and the few precious belongings she carried with her from place to place.
A few minutes before 5:00pm, her whole world changed. As she was getting her suitcase zipped up, something crashed through the back window.
She stood straight up and froze, listening. Her vampire senses allowed her to hear better than the average person, but there’s something she didn’t have in common with her blood-sucking, night-dwelling counterparts. She didn’t kill. She had never killed, and had never been around death, except for her own. If this was Perry, coming to take care of her as he said he would, there was going to be a problem.
She heard tentative footsteps in the hall.
Zoe looked around for something she could use to defend herself, like a bat or heavy candlestick. She didn’t have anything like that. The steps were getting closer. She sniffed the air and reached out with her consciousness, probing.
“I can feel you doing that.” It was Perry. He wasn’t close enough for her to hear his breathing, but she could tell he was headed her way.
Zoe backed away from her bed, afraid of what might happen. She was always a peaceful person in life, and now she always thought of herself as peaceful in death. She didn’t want a fight, but she could feel the aggression pouring off Perry like water rolling off his shoulders in a rain storm. That aggression would reach her soon, and she didn’t have anywhere to go.
Her hands started to shake as she took a step back, feeling the wall of aggression moving toward her. It was time to act, to run, but she just stood frozen at the back of her bedroom.
“Hello, Zoe,” Perry said. He had a smug smile across his face and a huge wooden stake in his hand. He was breathing heavy, and his eyes looked crazy with sick excitement.
“What do you want?” Zoe’s voice trembled as she spoke. “Get out of here before I call the cops!”
“You’re not going to call the cops. Even if you had your phone in your hand, you wouldn’t be fast enough.” Perry edged his way toward her, trying to angle himself so the bed wasn’t between them.
“What are you going to do with that?” Zoe gestured at the stake Perry now held in both hands, close to his chest.
“You know what this is for, vampire.” He shuffled forward slowly, like he was expecting to be pounced on at any moment.
Zoe was backed against the wall. She had nowhere to go, and there was nothing she could do but stand there and get staked in the heart by a crazy vampire killer who was headed right for her.
Something clicked in her brain. She wasn’t a violent person, but the sudden realization that she was about to die after three centuries of living undead pushed her into the reality of the moment. If she didn’t act, she was going to die.
Zoe took a step away from the wall, toward Perry. “Get out, and forget you ever saw me. Get out now!”
“Scared?” Perry took a step toward her. “Do vampires really get scared? What happens when you guys die, being without a soul and all?”
“I’m not dying today. If you don’t want to get hurt, leave now.” Zoe’s breath was moving faster now, in and out. She felt her core stirring — felt her power hunger growing, feeding off the fear. She spread her feet out and stood ready. Zoe wasn’t a fighter, but today she was going to have to be.
Perry lunged at her, stake in hand but not aimed for her heart. Zoe put her hands up to stop him, and bent her knees a few inches to absorb the shock of the hit.
It didn’t work, and he slammed her into the wall behind her. Perry was stronger than he looked, and he pinned her to the wall, pushing hard with his forearm against the top of her chest. She tried to push back, but he was stronger. No blood-sucking meant no superhuman strength.
Perry shifted his weight and threw a left hook, splitting open the skin over Zoe’s right cheekbone. The force of the punch threw her head back into the wall behind her. He followed up by shooting his right knee up into her gut. She doubled over from the pain, and he turned and threw her onto the bed.
Zoe landed on her back, knocking her suitcase to the floor in the process. She wanted to curl up from the pain, but Perry didn’t give her the chance. He was on top of her, straddling her waist and gripping her neck with his left hand.
Perry raised his right hand up behind his ear, stake ready for the strike. “And now you die.”
Zoe’s vision was clear, and the fear of her imminent death pushed the pain away and her consciousness became aware of every detail in the room.
Perry shifted his weight to angle his left arm out of his strike path. Taking a deep breath, and with his eyes wild with excitement, he brought the stake down.
Zoe’s watched as the stake came down, and then time seemed to stop. All thoughts left her mind, and all sensation left her body, except for that growing hunger in the pit of her stomach. Her eyes tracked the stake moving through the air. Perry’s aim was true, and the crude weapon would enter her chest and pass through her heart, killing her in less than a second.
With one of Perry’s hands on the stake and the other pushing into Zoe’s throat, she had her hands free to act.
She threw her left hand up and caught Perry’s wrist, stopping the stake in mid-strike. He kept pushing, but it wasn’t budging — Zoe held tight. “I told you, I’m not dying today,” she said through clenched teeth.
Forgetting everything she knew, everything that made her the easy to get along with person that she was, Zoe let loose the hunger inside her. She shot her right hand up and grabbed the back of Perry’s neck, pulling him close. Her breath was heavy, pushing into his face. She held him tight.
Perry’s expression changed from aggression to uncertainty to fear when he realized what was happening.
Zoe’s aura started to put out a translucent blue pulse, lighting the air around them with a soft glow. Her breathing grew heavier, her pupils dilated, and she reached out with her consciousness like she had never done before. She wrapped her entire self around him, pushing her aura out and bringing his into her.
He screamed as he tried pulling back against her impossible grip, struggling to get out. He dropped the stake and it rolled off Zoe to the bed beside them. “Let me go!” He kept pushing against her with his right hand and grabbed at the hand clamped to the back of his neck. Perry couldn’t get free.
Zoe’s eyes flashed blue as she released the energy pull onto him. She let out a primal scream as her aura pulled his energy into her. She pulled more than she ever had before — more that she thought was possible. She felt the energy flow into her like a raging ocean.
She screamed again and again, holding him tighter and closer to her, as she pulled more and more energy into her. Both bodies were covered in a pulsating blue glow.
She pulled until she could pull no more. There was nothing left of him and her mind came back into focus. She looked up at Perry’s face as he let out a slight wheeze and went limp. Zoe released her grip on him, and he fell half on her and half on the bed. She pushed him off and stood up.
Perry’s skin was pale gray, and his mouth hung open. He wasn’t breathing.
Standing tall, Zoe looked around the room. She felt stronger than she ever had before. She took a deep breath in through her nose and filled her lungs with air that felt triumphant. Zoe looked down at Perry again, feeling with her consciousness that he was dead. She didn’t even have to check for a pulse. He was gone.
Zoe turned to the mirror over her dresser and adjusted her clothes. “That was interesting.” She looked into her eyes and saw a hint of the blue glow that surrounded them when she was pulling everything from him. She had never felt so strong — so alive — before now.
The next day, as Zoe was driving through the West Texas desert, her thoughts kept drifting back to Perry. He wanted to kill her, and nearly succeeded, but he also taught her something valuable. She was strong. She could kill. She could survive.
Taking her car out into the wild, off the traveled roads, she looked for a place to bury Perry’s remains.
You can grab a copy here, or you can just wait and see how many other stories I post from this book. The featured character here also appears in my ongoing Sepulcher Unbound series (Book 1 and Book 2).