Serialized Science Fiction.

Vaughn Ryan - The Bar
Tom Haynes

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The light mist outside helped to drive them out of the street and into the bar. Inside, the soft jazz wove through the crowd, ensnaring them into buying yet another round. The blonde, in a red dress no less, sipped at her martini, the olive was gone, her first victim. As she laughed along with her friends, the less attractive friends, her hair bounced from shoulder to shoulder - she was weaving her own spell on the crowd that night. In her right hand, she lightly gripped her cancer stick, the smoke from it drifting along the currents produced from the air conditioners, which were striving to soak out the last of the humid heat from the earlier dog day afternoon.

I might have let her go, except for two facts:

1) The pen, the one with the Yankee's logo, with which she wrote down different phone numbers for her gentlemen admirers.

2) The smoke, which was currently tickling the back of my throat, trying to elicit a sneeze.

I've found over the years that people either like, are indifferent to, or detest the smoke. Also, a very rare chunk of knowledge is that being dead amplifies that preference. As I was very dead, had been for some time now, and I hadn't like the odor while I was alive, I felt allergic to the stuff now. I'd avoided smokers before, but now I had that itch, the one behind the eyes, the one which wondered how the nicotine would flavor the life force.

I don't know how it was for others of my kind, I didn't exactly know any and after the first meeting, I avoided them like the plague. I'd found that while I sucked the blood, teasing it from the depths of the heart into my fangs, it was the person I devoured. I experienced their memories as the liquid slithered past my tongue and hit my teeth. Further, I could feel something tearing into and devouring those memories. Late in the morning, when I closed my eyes, if I concentrated just hard enough, I could feel that little kitten, chasing down my corridors, wanting some new playmates.

And right now, that kitten was stock still, all of its senses concentrated on the blonde. I could almost hear the "Ketch, ketch" that I heard from my childhood pet when she sighted a bird outside a window. I didn't know much cat, even then, but I'm pretty sure that sound, which came from the back of the throat, meant "I'm going to pounce, let you think you got away, bat you around, and then eat you all up."

The blonde looked my way several times, but all she saw was my profile. The ambiance called for muted lighting and without my modified vision, the one which let me see the phone numbers being jotted down on napkins from across the room, no one could tell I had started a stalking.

I don't know what did it, but she decided I was her prey tonight. I'd like to think it was my looks, but in the last 3 years I've learned to exude wealth like a common laborer sweats. I had worked hard for my money - I didn't disdain that which ran through my family, but my grandmother had controlled those purse strings and I refused to dance to her little tune. In retrospect, I had danced to her melody by going out and earning my own millions. The old biddy wanted all of us to be strong and independent.

She smiled demurely at her latest admirer, wrote down yet a different number on the endless supplies of napkins, and started her way over my way. I could hear her friends speculating on who was the lucky stiff and how much money would he be worth. They rated each of us and it was evident while their tastes were refined, they didn't have her instincts. After all, she chose me as the best bet.

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