THE MINOTAUR

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6: A Date with the Devil

The sun had fully risen by the time Michael got to the restaurant that Clarice had texted him to meet.

It had always been a thing of surprise to the supernatural world, and especially the vampire community, that Michael was immune to sunlight; another perk of clocking one thousand.

To a vampire, sunlight was the forbidden. In fact, they feared it even more than silver or any other weapon the vampire slayers wielded against them. Daylight was a poison to them and they were only able to keep their tolerance for dawn from their memories as humans.

For a long time too, Michael had shared that same fate with the rest of the undead children of the night; not that he really cared to return to the sunlight as much as the others to be honest. He was a night dweller and he loved it that way.

To him, creatures worthy of their names at the top of food chain- which the vampires belonged to even if the mortals didn’t know or acknowledge it- were all night dwellers. Lions, tigers, leopards, even the monsters of myths and legends; they all had their abilities- strengths, the ancient vampire termed them- to the darkness. “Daylight was for the weak,” he always said, “the night belonged to the strong.”

But the strike of his millennium of existence proved a change in story for Michael as he suddenly discovered that the torturous blaze of hellfire that was the sunlight no longer affected him. The contact that was death for him for so many years had now been reduced to nothing more than a slightly annoying tingling sensation on his body which was beginning to fade away itself as time passed; and all because he had lived to the right age.

Unfortunately, the immunity didn’t extend to his eyes; they were still intensely sensitive to daylight so much so that any attempt to brave it would render him completely blind.

But Michael was prepared for that case too with the custom-made black sunshades which he now wore alongside his usual outfit of black jacket and matching vintage suit. The shades had been designed so thickly dark that any mortal who wore them would be unable to see anything at all through the lenses. But for the ancient vampire and his condition, they were just perfect.

Michael looked up as he crossed the street and sitting outside under a canopy, he saw Clarice.

The mortal woman had changed from her dress down attire of the previous night to a more business one: she had on a blue pantsuit with brown chic shoes. Just like the night before, the ancient vampire smelled rose-fragrant perfume on her; and the aura of trouble too lurking just underneath.

Clarice had a bowl of chips in front of her which she lazily nibbled on as she seemed to check and recheck something on her phone. “Mr. Holger!” she said with genuine surprise when she looked up to see him approach, which was strange because she had been the one who invited him to the restaurant. “I thought you had decided not to come after an hour of waiting for you.”

Michael didn’t believe for a second that was the case. Clarice was clearly the kind of woman who would have upped and left had she really thought that he wasn’t going to show up.

He smiled apologetically anyway. “Forgive me, Miss White, that was never my intention. I just happened to run into some unprepared business that took the time away from me.”

In truth, the ancient vampire could have arrived a lot earlier had he wanted to; he had only chose not to.

From the moment he had received it, Michael had found Clarice’s invitation to be very strange. Amusing at first; but strange as the time went.

The woman didn’t like him, not even an inch of him. He was the man who had stolen her town’s heritage- at least, that was her version of it- and who refused to give it back. There was no way in hell that she would have invited him out to breakfast purely out of the goodness of her heart. Clarice White was up to something and it wasn’t going to be good for him.

But he took his seat anyway and the waiter came over immediately to attend to them. “How may I take your order?” he asked.

“A plate of PB and J and a can of soda for me please,” Clarice listed off and the waiter noted it.

He turned to Michael but the latter only waved him away. “Nothing for me, thank you,” he said. “But you can get me a bottle of your finest wine while the lady’s order is being served up.”

“What? Small town food too beneath your standard, is that it, Mr. Holger?” Clarice challenged him, seemly offended by his refusal.

“Of course not, Miss White,” he returned. “It’s just that I had breakfast not quite long ago and it’ll greatly unwise for me to eat again. But please, feel free to order and enjoy on my behalf.”

Clarice decided not to take Michael up on the offer- or what she presumed was a veiled insult within it- and waved the waiter away instead. No other word passed between the two till their orders were served and Clarice finished her food.

Michael, on the other hand, nursed the cup of wine throughout the entire period; he hadn't even taken past two sips of it.

Clarice didn’t just concentrate on her sandwich during the whole moment of silence, she actually tried study Michael. The man was still an enigma to her.

First, there was the subject of his age. He looked like he couldn’t be anything over thirty but his behaviour was more like that of a senior. His addresses, the way he carried himself, his entire demeanour; it was like he was from another era or something.

Initially, she thought he was faking it- he certainly won’t be the first to do so- but the more time she spent with him, the more she realised that it was actually an habit.

Then, there was the issue of his dressing. While that didn’t exactly list as important to the whole enigmatic weirdness matter, it still bothered her that the man never seemed to have a different shade of clothes than black.

Sure, the colour looked good on him; admirable even, if she was being honest. But imagining his closest filled with only black vintage-styled clothes like some sort of modern day Count Dracula didn’t sit well with her at all. It was wrong; and just like the nonexistence of his name on the internet, it pushed her to believe that there was more to the man called Michael Holger than meets the eye.

Unfortunately, as much as she would love to get some reading- or at least a direction- on him, his thick shades made her task impossible. She wondered why he needed to wear the thing in the first place; the sun wasn’t that high yet; and even then, West Harbour’s sunlight was never hot enough to warrant shades.

He was probably doing it just to hide his true expression, Clarice presumed. After all, they did say that the eyes were a window to the soul.

But if Michael Holger thought that he could keep the trueness of his soul from her, she would prove him wrong. “I’m sure by now, you’ve figured it out that I didn’t just invite you here to have breakfast,” she began as she pushed aside her now empty plate, putting on her serious face. “You see, I came upon a discovery today and I found it of the uttermost strangeness.”

“And what is that, Miss White?” asked Michael, shifting closer in his seat like he was really interested in what she was about to say.

“You,” she replied. “Apparently, the world seems to think that Michael Holger doesn’t exist. Now tell me, why is that?”

Clarice had prepared for a wide range of reaction from Michael at the revelation; anything from denial, to confusion, even to downright anger. But what he did next, she herself hadn’t prepared for. He smirked.

It was a slow-formed smirk; deliberate so that she could follow it. She couldn’t see his eyes but she had no doubt they would be filled with amusement and self-satisfaction. It upended her and she felt even worse because she hadn’t seen it coming.

“Seriously, Clarice,” he said, speaking her name in a tone that sent chills down her spine. “You really think that a quick search through your computers will provide you with all that you need against me?”

“Who are you, Michael?” she demanded, grabbing and squeezing his hands tightly as she moved closer to his face like that would somehow help her penetrate the deep fog that were his shades. “What do you want?”

Clarice seemed to realise what she was doing then and immediately let his hands go. But he caught hers before she could retract them.

Michael didn’t squeeze Clarice's hands like she'd done his. But his mere touch carried so much strength that her breath ceased in her throat. “I am who I say I am,” he replied, “and I've come to West Harbour to stay, whether you like it or not.”

And just like that, as if the last few seconds hadn’t even happened, he released her hands with what looked undoubtedly like a friendly smile.

He stood up, straightened his suit and jacket, dropped a wad of cash that was more than ten times the worth of the actual cost of the food they’d eaten on the table. “I’d be careful of what I go digging for if I were you, Miss White,” he said to her. “Some things are kept out of the light for a reason.” And then, he walked away.

It wasn’t until Michael had crossed the street that Clarice finally remembered to breathe. She had wanted a date with the devil and she had definitely gotten one. The question now though was, where did she go from there?

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