A fateful meeting in the park shows Helen more than just her own future.
Helen felt the chill as she walked along the park path and pulled her woollen coat tighter around herself. Her deep red stilettos clicked at a rapid pace across the uneven gravel and her pencil skirt, so suited for the hi-rise office she worked in during the day, now meant that she had to take two steps for every one she would have usually.
There was no one around her but as the hairs on the back of her neck rose, she rummaged around in her Prada handbag for her pepper spray. Her fingers had just clasped the cylinder when she felt hands wrap around her throat and waist in one sudden and terrifying embrace.
The shock of the ice cold skin against her and the jerk as she was pulled against his body meant that the scream she’d always imagined she’d make in these situations never came. Instead she made a pleading whimper and begged more through sound than words. When he tore the Gucci coat and blouse away from her neck and she heard the expensive materials rip as easily as if they were made of tissue, she managed a curse and tried to kick at his legs.
The dark chuckle that emanated from the man behind her as he tilted her head to the side and pressed his frosted lips against her neck chilled her to her very core. Finally freed from her throat, the scream was cut short by sharp fangs piercing her skin and cool arms tightening around her. Slowly but surely her world began to crumble and reality slipped away.
She forgot about her clothes, about her job and about anything other than the pain at her neck and the panic that was consuming her. Overwhelmed and with her heart racing she was aware of her strength slowly leaving her body. His arms were like vices and the more she struggled the faster her life was drained. Her thoughts were becoming fuzzy and clouded. It was hard to tell what was real anymore. Her body felt strange, cold and oddly vulnerable. She hadn’t ever felt like this and she didn’t like it, but there was no more fight left in her and as her life began to leave her, her world softly and subtly shifted.
She was shivering and starving inside a cave. It smelled foul and the slop bucket in the corner looked as if it’d never been emptied. There was straw on the floor and a rough wooden door blocked her exit. She looked down and jolted in shock. The hands that were shackled in chains were not her own and the ankles that were equally bound belonged to those of a young man. Before she had a chance to understand what was happening the door of her cell was thrown open and a giant silhouette blocked out what little light was able to get in. She tried to scramble back against the stone, but hands that were larger and stronger than hers pulled her into the open. Screaming and kicking she looked up into the eyes of the man that she somehow knew would bring her worlds of pain. He smiled down at her with teeth that were way too long and far too white before she shut her eyes and tried to curl into a ball.
She flexed. The scene had changed. She was free of her shackles and her masculine but oddly nimble hands were pale as the grave. When she smiled she felt long, smooth teeth and a hunger that wasn’t her own clawed at her insides. Memories flooded her mind as she explored her new body. The scent of blood filled her nostrils and she wanted nothing more than to hunt and to kill.
Violence and pain were all this body had known. Chained and brutalised, it was now free to seek the vengeance that had consumed it for so long. The man with the teeth had freed it after having his fun with the body. The young man she was had killed the man for the pain he had put him through and had managed to escape.
The body was free and stronger than ever. She felt the young man’s hunger and she was going to make sure that everyone who had ever hurt him would pay with their blood. She would become a plague upon this city for ever allowing this to happen. The men who had used him would die first, then would come the guards who had stood by and watched as it happened. The ones who spat in his rations and pissed on his cell floor. She would save the best for last, she would ensure that he knew what was coming for him, and she would take her time. The man who had locked him inside that hole. The man who had taken money from the animals who had abused him. The man who had stolen far more than his family from him would understand the true meaning of misery by the time she had finished with him.
Time had passed. Century’s maybe. The world around her had changed and the people wore elaborate dresses and extravagant doublets and hose. She was walking among guests at a very prestigious party and even though she knew that she hadn’t ever spoken a word of French before, this body understood the language perfectly. It was the Middle of the 15th century and the men and women of the court around her spoke of the same things she did when she was out with her friends. They gossiped about fashion and about illicit romances. They spoke about money and their latest renovations to their houses. The only difference here was that there was no talk of what they had seen on the television that day and no one was checking their mobile phone.
But she wasn’t here for the conversation. She had her target already selected and as she stalked her prey she hummed an unfamiliar tune to herself. The lady she was hunting had made her money on the backs of the nameless and faceless poor of Paris. Her husband had passed away unexpectedly a mere two months after she had married him; something the young man, whose body she inhabited, thought was suspicious enough. The thing that had angered him the most, however, was that the fine lady had never even seen the squalor she charged her tenants to live in. She had never known the hunger and pain of having to choose between paying the rent or eating for the first time in three days. With her out of the way the business would fall into the hands of her son; a man, who, in her body’s opinion, actually possessed a heart and who understood how to change the lives of the people in his charge for the better.
Her body had no fear when it came to charming the lady, a few simple words whispered in her ear drew her away from the crowded rooms and into the vast and opulent gardens of the manor house. The lady was greedy for all things life had to offer, sex included. She wasn’t getting any younger and the attention of a young and handsome man wasn’t something she would willingly turn down.
The kill was fast and clean, the blood was rich and intense, and the thrill she felt in taking the life was all consuming. As she drank she saw how the lady had lived. She watched as the greed, which was encouraged by her parents as a child, grew to become an all-consuming obsession in adulthood. She watched as the lady courted, married and swiftly poisoned her husband. She saw how she spent his fortune on the latest fashions and the most luxurious of foods. The money had dwindled to almost nothing within a few years and so to compensate, the lady had simply raised her tenants rent. Feeding her habit was far more important than the lives of peasants.
When, one day whilst having her latest garment fitted, she heard word that the people in her properties were starving, she scoffed, remarking that there was only one reward for idleness in the eyes of the lord and that she was merely encouraging them to better themselves. Besides, she added, accepting a sample of the sweet dishes that were to be served tonight for dinner, if they didn’t like living in her houses they didn’t have to.
The scenes continued, horrific fires that were waved off as ‘not her problem’. Whole families dying to disease and malnutrition. The woman’s entire life had been built upon the backs of others and she simply did not care. She was proud of it. She’d outsmarted them all and she was flourishing.
It was only with her last gasping breaths that she realised what was happening and the bewildered look that crossed her face let Helen know that the lady still did not understand why she’d been chosen. It occurred to Helen through a haze of guilt that the lady may have actually believed that what she was doing was right.
More centuries passed. The night was now almost as bright as the day. People had invented machines to move them around, to entertain their children and to do the labour that years before would have been carried out by peasants. The humans were living amidst marvel and splendour, of their own design, and hardly any of them appreciated or understood it for what it was. The level of luxury they lived in could only have been equalled by the kings and queens of the body’s lifetime.
Still, the young man stalked the streets and like always, found his victims. Luxury, after all, walked hand in hand with vice.
The vice of this age was escapism. The humans would do anything they could to escape the world they described as ‘stressful’ and ‘non-stop’. They needed to ‘wind down’ and to ‘relax’. Some chose food as their outlet, others sex and a significant number of them turned to drugs.
Cocaine was the powder of choice for the rich and powerful and those were this body’s favourites. The wealthy who exploited and abused the poor. The people with power who should know better.
The body had found a new victim. A human who worked a respectable job in a high rise office but felt that she was overlooked and under-appreciated by her seniors. She earned a wage most people only dreamed of but still the money wasn’t good enough for her. She had contacts across the city and, being the entrepreneurial type, she’d started a side business. She discreetly supplied the men and women of high society with all the white powder their little hearts desired.
Over time her wardrobe had changed. The store bought clothes were replaced with designer labels and the sensible but stylish shoes had become a collection of deep red stiletto heels. Her contacts called her Dorothy. To her friends and family she was known as Helen.
The spell broke. She opened her eyes and found that she was being cradled by the body that only moments ago she had inhabited. She looked up into eyes that held no pity for her and she knew now that there would be no mercy. She had done wrong and had placed value in selfish and greedy things.
“But I didn’t ever hurt anyone.” Was the only thing she could say to defend her actions.
“If that’s what you think” said the man in a deep, slightly accented voice, “then I wish you the best wherever you are going next.”
Helen’s eyes widened as the full horror of what was happening to her hit home.
“No!” She gasped, but before she could finish her plea the monster had snapped her neck.
A few days later the newspapers were ablaze. The headlines read ‘Dorothy should have never left Kansas’ and ‘The Secret of the Ruby Slippers’. ‘Police were amazed at the extended criminal network that was operating right under their noses’, the reporters claimed. All it had taken was the mysterious death of an office worker with a wonderfully detailed little black book to expose an entire network of smugglers, gangs, dealers and clients.
The pictures of a cordoned off crime scene and said ruby slippers poking out from a white sheet were talked about for weeks afterwards. The mysterious wounds and lack of blood in the corpse were put down to some freaky Twilight fan who had gone one step too far. After all, everyone knows there’s no such thing as vampires, and besides, people get what they deserve right?