Written in response to a “first line” writing prompt from Figment Daily Themes email (sign up here: http://figment.com/dailythemes). I’m fairly happy with it but would appreciate beta reader comments, particularly whether it seems to have the legs to take it to short story length.
“Her eyes fluttered shut. If you didn’t know her, you’d think she was asleep. I knew her.”
I knew what she was, and her kind never sleep. They fake it to fool humans, sometimes – like she’s doing now. Her breath is deliberately soft, her head propped against the window of the railway carriage, clickety clack, clickety clack. What a picture of innocence she makes. The sinking sun illuminates the loose strands of golden hair which wave gently around her perfect porcelain brow in the slight breeze from the open window. The witching hour comes early when creatures like her are around.
I look about, wondering who her target is. Ah, yes. The handsome young man at the opposite window. Now that she’s shut her eyes he’s openly staring at her, which is of course what she wanted. The breeze blows her delightful – and yet to my nose, slightly rancid – scent across to him. Not that he is aware of that, but it’s what attracted his attention, which is now fixed on the strand of bright red beads draped across her breasts. Ten minutes ago he was daydreaming about his new bride (I can tell from the shine on his wedding ring that he’s not been married long) and now…now she has his mind in her grasp. Three days from now, she’ll ride this same train again and he will willingly follow her wherever she leads him. He won’t have eaten; won’t have slept or made love to his wife and may even have lost his job in that short time. If he’s particularly susceptible he’ll burn all over, become sick, his head will ache constantly. He may fall into delirium, but nothing will stop him boarding that train to find her again.
What she wants this time I can’t tell at this point. A lover? A sacrifice? Will she take joy in killing him? Or will she just lead him into nowhere and then release his mind, his memory riddled with holes, for the sheer thrill of it? Enough speculation. My directive is clear: find her place and torch it. I need to stop her brood from maturing before she’s taken out completely. If we remove her when her next generation has already spread it’s a waste of time – they just grow back stronger.
The train slows. She “wakes” prettily, catches his eye. He flushes, caught in the act of admiring her. She lowers her eyes demurely, then stands to leave the carriage at the next station. He follows her and I hear him speak as I rise too, reaching for my cane and smelly old carpet bag. The gorgeous young things completely ignore me, little old lady that I appear.
“What’s your name?” he says, entranced.
She smiles gently. “Daphne. But you can call me Laurel, if you prefer.”
She takes his hand and presses it to her cheek. He winces as the burn sets in, but he can’t pull away. I roll my eyes behind her back. Her kind are so predictable when the hunt is on them. I grip my cane tightly, repressing the urge to draw the blade within it and remove her from this plane.
“Will I see you again?” The young man’s voice is dreamy even as he clasps his hands in pain.
“Be sure of it.” She alights from the train, leaving him in a foggy haze of her sweet scent. I cough into a grotty-looking hanky and follow her at a distance.
“Not if I see you first, lady.” I think.