The anticipation was the best part.
Lily gave herself a treat that evening, outside one of the more expensive gyms where the rich worked off their calories and their guilt. She watched from the shadows as the light waned, waiting for the right meal. She was vaguely aware of time passing, but had only taken note of the passing people.
The summer air tasted like rain and sweat. The sky was dull, black and gun-metal grey clouds, the city cast in monochrome save for the occasional ray that had struggled through to light the depraved city below.
She disliked picking on the city’s undernourished. There was an aftertaste, like the bit of a cheese that you waited a little too long to eat. Or the leftovers that look alright but smells slightly off. At least, that’s what she had assumed. It’d been a while—some hundred years or so since she’d truly enjoyed a more conventional meal.
Finally, the male walked out. He was still in his sweat-soaked gym clothes, his bag slung over his shoulder. Keys to an expensive car flashed in his hands. The same car she had seen him park a couple of hours ago. Her senses narrowed to his movements and the sound of his blood whooshing through his veins. The dark sky above rumbled ominously.
Lily stalked him crouched on all fours, allowing her body to take full control. It guided her along the edges of the car park to where the flashy car was parked by a copse of trees and a conveniently recently-broken street lamp. She grinned. It was lovely when a plan came together.
The meat was a little tough, but that was a fact easily ignored. After exercise, the blood is a gorgeous, oxygen-rich ruby-red loaded with delicious hormones, with its own sweaty seasoning like the salt rim on a margarita. Enough for her to get completely blissed out.
Her very own, personal catnip flavour.
She had a pro-wrestler once. Got him in his dressing room immediately after a fight. He was the most delicious meal she’d ever had and absolutely worth the hasty escape plan.
She was two cars away, close enough to taste him on the air when the man dropped his keys. She inhaled deeply as time slowed. His lemon-and-salt flavour saturated her brain. Her mouth flooded with venom.
She leapt over the cars and landed in a crouch beside him. He started and fell back against the car, knocked off balance.
“Oh,” she said, her voice dropping into a mocking tone as she stood. “Did I scare you?”
He blinked. “I didn’t see you there.”
“I know,” she said. “I don’t like having to chase my dinner. All that stress ruins the flavour.”
“Er…” His eyebrows rose. “I don’t quite follow?” He looked her up and down, taking in the dark, nondescript clothing. Lily had average features, and looked about twenty—ish. Mousy brown hair, dark brown eyes. Utterly forgettable. He dismissed her with a roll of his eyes and a wave. “Listen, sweetheart,” he said. “I have no idea what kind of crazy you are, but I don’t want a part of it.”
Lily giggled and ran her tongue over her teeth. He was perfect. She could barely hold herself back any longer, giddy with bloodlust as she was. “Don’t worry about it, it won’t matter in a moment anyway.” She stepped towards him. “You look absolutely delicious.” She put her hands on his chest and ran one hand up and around his neck. Her right hand stayed above his heart. “Come here, handsome.” She tugged him down gently.
He leaned down at the first flash of lightning. The crack of thunder drowned out his scream.
The clouds succumbed to their weight and opened as she made her way back to the business district. The few people left wandering outside ran for cover. Rain washed away the grit-and-ash taste of exhaust fumes from her palate as it wiped the air and the streets clean, giving way to the sweet aroma of the city’s other delights—rotting refuse and the revolting creatures in the dark places of the world.
Rats. She’d always been rather fond of the entrepreneurial little beings. They climbed up telephone poles and then along the swaying criss-cross of wire that spanned the width of the street, tails wrapped around cables, tightrope walking in single file.
The rats go marching one by one, hurrah, hurrah…
The hammering rain drowned out a lot of her hearing but Lily picked up a disturbance some distance up the street. The rain and fog obscured figures into shadows. The working girls were getting excited. A few of the window shoppers got a little handsy sometimes and she would have to interfere. She cocked her head to get a better listen. The sound was muted, as if it had travelled under water. It didn’t seem like they were being bothered. All Lily could hear was cooing. A high, quiet voice answered—a child?
Either way, she didn’t have to get involved. Again. She sighed and settled back under the awning of the shopfront that was providing meagre shelter from the torrential rain.
That night, Floret’s Perennials was her office. Tropical plants spilled out of terracotta pots and bright greenhouse flowers stood in tall vases, their unnatural presence even more unlikely in this rotten neighbourhood.
The smell helped drown out the tastes of human filth rising in steamy tendrils from the storm drains.