The cool air of the early february morning clawed at Oliver’s skin as he walked the streets of his hometown. It was a small coastal city, his particular area consisting almost entirely of locals. It wasn’t small enough for everyone to know each other, but it was small enough for the young man to put a pause on his stroll when he heard a crash in a nearby alleyway.
‘ Probably just a stray cat ,’ Oliver figured, slowly approaching as to not startle whatever made the noise. His heart nearly lept out of his chest when he saw it wasn’t a cat, but instead an elderly homeless man, face to the ground.
He bolted to the man’s side, quickly helping him up, “Oh my god- sir are you okay? I heard a loud crash- Did you fall? Are you hurt?” The words came tumbling out of his mouth before he could stop them, and the old man groaned with the effort of standing.
The man spoke in a deep raspy voice, “I’ll be okay son. These old bones are tougher than they look.” Oliver jumped when he was given a strong pat on the back.
“Are- are you sure? I could call someone-”
He waved a hand dismissively, “No, no that won’t be necessary.” The younger stifled when the man chuckled, seemingly at nothing, “Just do one thing for me son.”
Oliver’s stomach dropped as the old man raised his head to make eye-contact, and he realized he’d never seen his face before. He’d especially never seen the man’s glowing crimson eyes.
Oliver bolted awake with a shout, drenched in a cold sweat. He panted, frantically looking around. This is his room. He’s at home. It was just a dream.
He got up shakily, shuffling to the bathroom to start the day. Flicking on the light he flinched, the stark brightness of the bulb temporarily blinding him. Oliver lazily grabbed his toothbrush, not bothering with toothpaste before breakfast, instead just running the bristles under the tap. He started brushing his teeth, only now realizing how sore his jaw was. His gums ached and teeth felt like they had pressure on them. He grumbled realizing he’d probably been grinding his teeth all night. Damn nightmares.
Oliver finished brushing, and rinsed his mouth. He brought a comb through his bleach-blond hair a few times before deeming it tamed enough. As he set down the comb, he stared in the mirror, and gingerly ran a hand over his shoulder. It was sore, and the memory of his nightmare flashed through his mind.
Before he could do anything, fight, run, or even scream, the old man had bitten down into his shoulder. Impossibly long teeth punctured through his shirt and he felt his body go numb with each beat of his heart.
Oliver shuddered, slightly shaking his head as if to ward off the thoughts. He flicked off the light and left the bathroom to truly start his day.
Oliver’s stomach grumbled loudly, echoing slightly in his otherwise silent apartment. He sighed, pausing the movie he’d been watching and heading to the kitchen. His gut twisted with the movement, hunger pain wracking through him relentlessly. He’d tried to eat, he really did. This morning, after leaving the bathroom he went to make some coffee and toast, but he couldn’t stomach it. He’d tried to eat the toast, taking small bites and trying to quell the overwhelming nausea, but after barely half a slice he was barreling for the bathroom and the contents of his stomach were sent into the toilet. He hadn’t even bothered with the coffee after that, instead just pouring it down the sink with a pang of guilt for wasting it. Deep down he knew he wouldn’t have been able to drink it anyway.
Instead he’d just gotten a nice big glass of water, and settled on the couch to watch movies. He kept a waste bin nearby, just in case the need to vomit returned. It didn’t though, and he’d spent the day in relative peace until now, hunger slowly growing and overwhelming the nauseous feeling in his gut.
Nothing in the pantry looked appetizing, and the fridge was the same. Oliver sighed, rubbing his eyes and heading for the door. He needed to get some medicine anyway, so going out to find food he’d be able to eat sounded like a wonderful idea. The rumbling growls of his stomach definitely helped sway the decision. He grabbed his keys, slipped on some shoes, and grabbed a jacket before heading out into the late evening.
Aki hefted another crate of apples onto the counter, and huffed in relief without the extra weight.
“Thanks for the help, little lady!”
She chuckled, “No problem, Mr. Jenkins. Call me anytime you need help with stocking.”
Jenkins smiled warmly, reaching out his hand for her to shake, “Of course! Pleasure doing business with ya! I had Susana prepare your pay while you worked. She should have it with her out front.”
Aki took the hand and shook, “Anytime, Mr. Jenkins. Thank you again for the produce, you really don’t have to give me anything.”
“Nonsense! I can’t just work ya for hours without givin’ you something. And how many times do I have to call me Carl?”
Aki chuckled, “Alright, alright, thank you, Carl.”
“Come back soon, Aki!”
“I will, Carl.”
Carl waved sweetly as Aki left the shop. Susana was out front as Carl said, but she was busy with a customer. Aki didn’t want to bother her, instead just quietly grabbing the bag of produce she was owed, and giving Susana a quick wave before leaving.
Now who the fuck is that.
Aki’s posture stiffened as she watched the stranger shuffle down the sidewalk. She’d never seen them before, but they seemed to know the area. She tried to ignore them and just mind her business. The siren couldn’t help herself, and ducked by a street stand, letting the stranger pass by before she began to tail them.
She couldn’t quite put a finger on what felt so off about this person. Usually she had a great crypto-meter as she called it; otherwise known as a good sense of who’s a cryptid. She was always subtly on the lookout for others, having grown a slow group of supernatural friends over the decades. The last few years though it’s been getting harder to tell who’s really a cryptid. Humans have just been getting more and more comfortable with being weird. But this guy . This person just emanated cryptid vibes.
They were shuffling, seemingly in pain and visibly exhausted. Aki’s heart raced with excitement as she ran through the potential species in her head, ‘ Can’t be a succubus, their illusions don’t work on merfolk.. Werewolf? The full moon was last night so it could be a moon-hangover. Nah, this kid’s too scrawny. They could just be underfed. .’
Her train of thought was brought to a screeching halt as the stranger quickly stumbled into a dark alley.
Why was everything so loud?
Oliver trudged down the street slowly, exhaustion and hunger hanging over him like a dark cloud. He’d finally made it to the market, having stopped at a corner store for some paracetamol. The cashier had taken pity on his sorry state, throwing in a few other minor medications and giving him a 5% discount on it all. He’d insisted that it was fine, but they weren’t hearing it, so he had to take his purchases and wander off to find food.
But god everything sounded awful. The smells that drifted through the market from street cooks and vendors made his stomach churn.
After nearly a block of wandering and nearly tripping over his own feet, Oliver ducked into an alley, gripping the brick wall for dear life, as his head spun. He took deep shuddering breaths that sent shakes through his whole body. He leaned back on the wall behind him, leaning his head back to stare at the sky. The sun was setting, but the bright light reflecting on the clouds somehow still made his eyes burn. He squeezed them shut, pinpricks of tears forming at the edges.
His head felt like it was full of cotton, and his throat was sore from dryness. Oliver was deeply regretting leaving the house in this state as he stumbled further into the alley, cradling his throbbing head in sweaty shaking hands.
The voice cut through the cloudiness of his head and Oliver stood up, quickly turning around to make eye-contact with the stranger. It was short-lived, as the sudden motion caused his already weak knees to buckle.
“Oh shit-” The stranger spat, diving to catch him before his head could hit the ground. A ‘thank you’ died on Oliver’s tongue as they hoisted him upright, trying to get him back on his unstable feet. There was a loud thundering thumping sound he couldn’t place.
The stranger was talking. They were saying something, but he couldn’t hear over the rhythmic thumping.
He finally managed to force some words out, his tongue feeling heavy and thick in his dry mouth, “I- I’m sorry.”
Oliver could hear them this time when they said, “Hey, hey, no you have nothing to be sorry about. Let’s get you some help okay?” The two of them were moving slowly now, and he was being guided to the entrance of the alley.
“You don’ haft-” The words slurred and caught in his throat as his foot caught on something and he was sent tumbling to the ground. He was already passed out before he hit the ground, exhaustion finally winning the battle, and he drifted in sleep as he heard vague shouting.
“SHIT-” Aki couldn’t stop herself from shouting as the stranger fell out of her grasp and landed face-first on the ground. She turned them over, lightly tapping their cheek in a vain attempt to wake them, “Hey, hey, you with me kid?”
The siren grumbled a few curses, trying to figure out what to do. She knelt down, moving the kid’s head around a bit to get a good look at them. Their eyes barely fluttered open and Aki’s heart leapt with hope they were waking up. Unfortunately they were still out cold. But she noticed something. Being as gentle as possible, she lifted the stranger’s right eyelid.
Deep inky black scleras and glowing crimson irises stared blankly back.
Aki quickly fumbled her phone, scrolling through contacts and frantically pressing the call button on the name she wanted.
‘ Please for the love of fuck pick up the damn phone. ’
It rang a few times before someone picked up the phone.
“Aki? It’s been ages, how are you?”
“Vicky, I need help right fucking now.”
“Woah, slow down, what’s happening?”
“It’s hard to explain, but I’ve got a vampire passed out at my feet.”
“WHAT?! What happened? Are they hurt?”
“I don’t think so- Wait, they have a shopping bag.” The sound of plastic rustling felt so loud as Aki frantically tried to empty the contents of the bag.
“It’s paracetamol, nausea medicine, cough drops, and some herbal tea.”
The tense silence was suffocating as she waited for the elder to respond. “Are you sure?”
“Yes Vicky, I’m sure. It literally says here on the packages what they are. This kid clearly just got done shopping. I think they’re sick. Can vampires even get sick?”
“No…” She sounded unsure. Vicky was always so decisive, hearing such a waver in her voice sent a rush of anxiety through the siren.
“I think that’s a fledgeling.”
The words were deafening and Aki couldn’t stop herself from staring at the stranger on the ground. “You’re joking.”
“Aki, I'm being completely serious. They might not even know they’re a vampire.”
“Shit-” Aki breathed, running a hand through her thick curls in disbelief. “What should I do?”
“Take them to your house. If you can, try and wake them up, but be careful. You realized they were a vampire because of their eyes right?”
“Definitely be careful then. They’re probably starving, and fledgelings don’t know how to control their instincts yet.”
“I’ll get there as soon as possible. Just keep them safe, and don’t let them leave without explaining things to them okay? I have to go get ready.”
“I will, I promise. Get here quickly okay?”
“I will Aki. See you soon.”
“See you soon.”