I can say that I had been the happiest I’ve ever been in the next few weeks that followed my first date with Haruto. It didn’t matter that my arm was aching from self-harm scars. It didn’t matter that my new job was starting to take a toll on me. All that mattered was that I got to speak to and see Haruto regularly.
I learned some more things about him. For instance, Haruto shared his interest in bird watching with me, and I followed him out into the woods and listened to him speak mostly about fellow ‘friends’—the Quaker word for church parishioner—as we watched the birds.
I also learned that Haruto knew how to do just about anything and knew about everything under the sun. I wasn’t joking. He could sew, cook, and fix things up around the house. He read widely, often jumping from talking about genre fiction to manga and pulp fiction. I also noticed he liked to listen to folk music. In my opinion, it suited him well. Calm, deep, nature-inspired music.
My lips twitched into a smile at the thought of him as I wandered under streetlights. Today was a Tuesday evening, and I had only one purpose outside by the alleyway late at night. I was looking for something to eat. Food withdrawal was starting to get to me, and I almost fainted at work.
It felt weird eyeing the people that passed by the alleyway. I hadn’t hunted in a while, and I had almost forgotten how to corner humans and do the deed quickly. Most of the humans out at this time were homeless. No one, aside from other people on the streets, cared about them. They were safe to eat. Forgettable, and easily lost in government records.
My eyes followed the human figure that had quickly hurried past me. They were covered in a heavy coat and wearing big boots, but the small body-build and outgrown auburn hair made me believe that it was a woman. My stomach stirred at the smell of her memories.
I could see a vivid picture of a man yell at her before slapping her as she tried to protect the child underneath her.
Domestic violence. I liked the taste of that. I ate those types of memories when I worked at the women’s shelter.
I started walking behind her, and she noticed and picked up her pace. I wasn’t worried, she was walking herself into a corner. When she hit a dead and turned to look at me with horrified eyes, I looked at her with an apologetic smile, cornering her. She closed her hazel eyes, and her sickly skin was illuminated by the orange light coming from the streetlamp. Her body shook under her massive clothes.
“What do y-you want?” Her voice was raspy. She sounded like she smoked a lot to get through the cold of the night. Alcohol too. The way she had been staggering when she had walked past me was evidence of her addiction.
I let my hands reach out to grab her shoulders before steading her so that the pale skin of her neck was visible under the folds of the green jacket she was wearing. She made to scream, but just before she could let out a sound, I covered her mouth with one hand and used the other to create a chokehold. I loosened my hand around her mouth, and she didn’t try to yell again, instead, she just started sobbing silently as her body shook under her clothes. Her restlessness and fear were making the memories sliding and pooling on her face and jacket bubble rise.
I could have eaten her then. Gotten it over with so the sight of her terrified eyes didn’t stay in my dreams for too long, but I was hesitating. Why was I hesitating?
She let out a cry, and in a desperate voice, said, “Please don’t hurt me—”
My teeth were what had cut her off. I dug my teeth into her neck, pushing back my initial hesitation. The memories sipped from her being into my mouth, and my eyes rolled back as years of memories rushed through my mind as they hissed, cried, cursed, and slithered.
There was so much pain. So much trauma. It tasted good. It was delicious. The memories fueled my hungry demonic brain that was wired for the enjoyment of another person’s suffering. I had almost forgotten what it felt like to eat. My stomach purred with happiness. My eyes fluttered and closed as the last bits of her turned into mist and slipped out of my hands in black smoke. I stood under the streetlamp for a while, staring at the wall the woman had been pressed up again just moments ago. My eyes flickered to her clothes that were now lying on the floor. It was a jacket and a sweater dress that some other homeless person would pick up before the dawn of the next day.
The scars on my arm healed in the gross smelling alleyway as I listened to the sound of crickets in the distance. The throbbing and pain on my arm that my self harming had caused me was gone after the last injury sealed shut with the energy from what I had just consumed. My eyesight was sharp again. I was well again. Well enough to be fine for a few weeks. The feeling of joy was short-lived, though. Bile soon came rushing up my throat. The horror and disgust at what I had just done had caught up to the thrill I had felt.
I stood crunched by the wall, holding my mouth with my hand as I tried to calm down enough to head back home.
“M-mum?” I looked up and turned at the sound of a child’s voice. A boy, not looking to be more than ten seemed confused. They were holding on to a duffle bag that looked too heavy for their boney hands.
“Sir, have you seen my mum?” he asked, taking steps towards me. My instinctual reaction was to turn around and leave, and I did just that after muttering a low “no” under my breath. The guilt I was feeling became tenfold. I had just taken someone’s mother away. I felt awful, but I had needed to eat.
Why do I have to live like this? I wondered, looking down at the floor with blurred eyes. Live forever for that matter?
It was rhetorical. I knew why I was cursed. I just wished it weren’t the case.