Jake woke up to the excruciating agony of his arm being burned. His eyes opened and fell on the sight of an errant beam of sunlight on his arm. He quickly pulled his arm back and hid it under the bedcover.
The surroundings were familiar. He was back in the garage and lying on the makeshift bed, the sunlight coming from a small ventilation window high on the wall. The entire place was quiet. He looked at his watch, and the cheap digital thing told him it was ten in the morning. Steve and his wife must have already left for work.
How? his startled mind asked. Jake’s memory went back to what he could recall of last night’s events. Then he scrutinized the room. Nothing seemed out of place. With a sudden movement, he threw aside the blanket and took cover behind a steel cabinet. Nothing and no one. He stepped out into the open space, avoiding the area bathed by the sun, and did a quick scrutiny of the room which insisted that there was nothing wrong or amiss. Jake was even wearing the same clothes he had on the previous evening.
His hand jumped to his neck and felt for the punctures he noticed the night before. The skin felt smooth. He strode to a mirror and examined his nape. It was unmarred. Nothing was wrong. Not even traces of blood. Jake did notice that his breath reeked of alcohol.
Was that a dream? he asked himself. He was hit pretty hard, that he remembered. But Jake didn’t feel any painful contusion nor did his body tell him of any wound suffered. His left ear appeared fine. Then the memory of the woman – the creature – came back. He suddenly realized that an erection sprang into life the moment the beautifully erotic face entered his mind. A hard-on which also deflated when the frightful image of distended jaws followed the recollection.
Too clear and detailed to be a dream, he concluded. But how did I come back here?
Then his gaze fell on the karambit lying on the table beside the bed. Fuck. I knew it was too real to be a dream. A folded note was under the sheathed blade. He walked to the table and opened the letter. Surprisingly, it was typewritten.
Hello, Jake. Last night happened. Don’t worry, nobody knows you survived. But you’re in another reality now. If you know what’s best, accept the truth and follow the instructions stated below :
1. You’re a rogue. No sponsor. Nor was your transformation allowed. They’d kill you on sight if they knew.
2. You know what you are. You saw her. But you’re not at that stage yet and hopefully, will never reach that point.
3. You have to leave. You’ll be putting your friend and his wife in danger. Find another place far from this house. 10,000 dollars under your pillow, use it. Don’t worry, I’ll find you.
4. The sun will hurt you if you stay out too long. The afternoon sun would be tolerable. Fully transformed, you won’t be able to do that. That’s one weakness of the subspecies you met. Use sunglasses, the glare will affect you badly if you don’t wear them.
5. Lay low. Keep to the shadows. Don’t call attention to yourself. You know those rules.
6. The thirst will be on you come sundown. Don’t give in to the temptation. Blood from live animals will take off the edge of the hunger.
7. Remember this. The moment you take blood from human victims, it’s game over. Forget blood banks, that idea is bullshit as well as the taste of those things. It’s the life essence in the blood of a live creature which sustains them.
8. You can see them. Try focusing your sight. It’s like thermal vision. Those who have heat are humans.
9. You are still you. For now. It’s similar to having a deadly, but curable disease.
10. Dispose of this note. Now move. Don’t waste time.
It was unsigned.
‘Don’t worry, I’ll find you.’ Well, that worries me, my ‘friend,’ mused Jake as he burned the note in the aluminum trash can. He sat on a chair set before the work table.
Deadly, but curable disease. What do I have? Something like HIV or cancer? Fuck this, thought Jake. Then he felt around his mouth. His incisors were a bit longer than usual, but nothing like those sharp, elongated canine teeth he saw on the woman.
Now to assess everything. Given that last night happened, then I am… infected, and somebody knows about it. Appears friendly enough, but why is that person helping me? 10,000 dollars is not a small sum if this is a charade. I believe I could safely assume that ‘friend’ was also the one who destroyed that bar. And Darryl or Darius was also a creature like that bloodsucker. Probably her master too.
Jake laughed. I wonder what that job offer of his was really about?
He went back to his bed and started gathering his personal effects into his duffel bag, thinking about what to do next. By the time he had a change of clothes and put away his things, the beginnings of a plan were on Jake’s mind.
Jake went back to the work table, cellphone in hand. Finding the thick book with the walking fingers logo on it, he began searching through its pages.
Late afternoon found Jake walking towards a low structure lined with closed and locked rooms. He got the largest outdoor self-storage unit he could find in the city, dropping by the large hardware depot mall along the way. A parking space for his battered pickup had also been arranged. After paying for the unit, he only had 6,000 dollars left. The shopping spree drastically cut down on his available funds. The back of his pickup was filled with boxes of purchased items.
Preparing everything in the rented space took him more than an hour. But he didn’t feel tired nor was he hungry. A strange weariness, coupled with dizziness, assaulted him at times but that was all. He chose what he needed from the items around the room and threw them in another surplus duffel he had bought. Then Jake locked the place, and walked back to his vehicle, carrying the bag. Slowly, he drove out of the parking lot.
I think things are going to be interesting from now on, Jake smiled to himself. He gunned the vehicle down the freeway.