It Is Always Three O'Clock in the Morning
Dripping in the Dark
I can hear something dripping in the dark. It was there when I woke up that night. It had been there when I’d lay down to sleep the morning before. I didn’t notice it the first few nights we were here, but now, it fills my ears whenever I’m down here.
The basement still looks like shit. Bare cinder-block walls, a few doorways with doors that rotted off the hinges from the damp, and the two mattresses we’ve thrown down. For comfort, I guess. I don’t think I’d have trouble sleeping even if I simply laid on the cold stone floor. It just seems like a bed is where you’re supposed to sleep. There’s a light at the bottom of the stairs, and another with a pull chain in the center of the room. The small windows that used to let in the thinnest fraction of light have been blacked out. It’s truly dark down there.
Tonight, I woke up first. I got up and turned on the light above by touch. Angel looked dead. I don’t think he’s fed much since we got here. When he starts to move, I don’t really notice. I’m listening. Drip, drip, drip. Angel doesn’t say anything to me, just gets up, looks at me, then goes upstairs. I don’t think he likes me much. That’s too bad, but not really all that important in the grand scheme. He needs me, and I need him.
The dripping is coming from the room opposite the stairs. I don’t see any water on the floor, or hanging from the pipes overhead, but there’s a sump in there. It’s a small pit, maybe two feet deep and about three feet across. I imagine that when it rains a bit of water gets in, and that’s where it’s supposed to collect. There’s a pipe down in it, about a hand’s width in diameter. That’s where the dripping comes from.
The interior of the pipe is darker than the rest of the basement, even when all the lights are out. I don’t know how I can tell. Ever since all this happened to me, I’ve noticed the dark more. There’s texture to darkness. Some is velvety, some sharp-edged. Sometimes the darkness feels vast and empty, and others it is so thick and cloying it feel as if I could drown in it. But I don’t breath anymore.
The darkness in the pipe is pure black within a few inches of the lip. I imagine that if I put my hand in it would come out coated in darkness like ink. You could paint with that darkness.
There is a noise upstairs. I think Angel moved a chair. It shakes me from my thoughts, brings me back to my own cold flesh. I feel empty. My stomach doesn’t make noises anymore, but I know when I’m hungry.
I go upstairs. Angel’s in the kitchen sitting at the table, not moving much. I think we both take a little longer to wake up when we’re hungry. I’m halfway to the refrigerator before I realize how ridiculous I’m being. There’s nothing in there for me. Besides, the thing is ancient. Unplugged and empty. We don’t need it.
There’s not much in the house that we need. There’s a few dingy couches and beat up easy chairs, but no TV so there’s not much to sit in front of. As for conversation? I look at Angel again, but he’s lost in his own very personal hell, like usual. “I’m going out for a walk,” I say. He turns to me, and nods.
The streets are pretty empty around here, even as early as eight. It’s not a nice place to be, and unless you’re forced to live here, no reason to be passing through. I walk towards a major street, lined with cheap bars that try to scrape together the little bits of money the residents have and put it together to make something more. A shiny black luxury car rolls past. Not a local. A tourist. I’ll give you three guesses what they’re looking for, but you’ll only need two. The car looks a little like Dad’s.
When I get to the main street, things start to get a little more lively. People talking, cars passing. Someone in an alley way is already puking. A man shakes a paper cup on the corner asking for money. He’s shivering despite three layers of coats. Lively doesn’t really mean “better.”
I scan the bars as I walk, looking for a place where I know the rules. Even before I was dead, I knew the importance of choosing the right location. Don’t get me wrong, I was never one of those douche bags that trawled for drunk girls every night. I was happy with Lauren. She was good to me. I tried to be good to her.
Three blocks down, there’s something promising. It looks like the kind of place that rich kids come for something cheap and dangerous. Inside it’s loud; hip hop blasts from the speakers and the packed patrons are shouting to be heard over it. I get a beer at the bar. A fucking eight dollar beer I can’t even god damn drink. But show me a man at a bar looking at women without a drink in his hand, and I’ll show you a shady looking motherfucker. I go stand near a wall by the dance floor.
I just watch for a bit. Bodies thrashing roughly in time to the music, chests rising and falling with breath, sweat dripping. I don’t recognize anyone, thank god, living or dead. It takes a moment to realize what’s missing. Then I remember to inhale and I can smell the mass of humanity.
A pretty girl glances my way, catches my eye. I smile at her, the same fake plaster smile that has come so easily all my life. Thanks for that, Mom, though I doubt you ever imagined it would be used to drink blood. Not literally, at least. The girl smiles back.
I move onto the dance floor and turn up the charm. I can feel the blood that I have left in me move. It feels almost alive within me, burning in an not unpleasant way. Alive but alien to my own flesh. Heads turn to watch me as I slip though them to her. I’m just a little hungrier now.
I dance with her for a minute, maybe two. Then a a hand grabs my shoulder and roughly spins me around. He’s taller than me, though not much more muscled. “Hey, asshole, she’s here with me!” I can barely hear him over the music, but I don’t really need to. Then she’s in between us, saying something I can’t hear at all. Did I make her do this? Or was she already getting tired of this guy? I see his nostrils flare with rage, just before punches her straight in the face.
I don’t have to fake any of the outrage when I yell, “What the fuck, man!?” I grab a
handful of his shirt and pull closer to him. I can see a vein standing out on his neck. I want to lick it.
The bouncers are quick, pulling us apart and moving us towards a side door before I really notice them. I let go of him and let my self be pushed out into the somewhat darker, and very much quieter, alley. The door shuts, abruptly cutting off the sounds of the bar. I hear a sniffle behind me, and realize they threw her out too. I don’t spare a glance to look at her though. I don’t care about her. It’s him that I want. I hear her start walking towards the mouth of the alley. He goes to follow her, “Wait, Betsy!” But I stop him with a hand on his chest.
He looks down at me, and snarls as he grabs my hand. My left shoots out and grabs him by the throat. We begin to struggle. I’m not really sure what he’s trying to do, maybe force me to the ground where he can pummel me, kick me. I just need to get to somewhere I can dig my teeth into him. My jaw clenches in anticipation. I can feel my fangs pricking my lower lip.
I’m stronger than he is. I will win eventually. But I don’t want eventually. I want now. So I paint us with darkness.
The darkness is thick, almost oily, as it slides over our skins. I can feel him go rigid with fear, hear him scream, but muffled by shadow. He starts thrashing, chest heaving as if it can’t pull enough air from the deep blackness. It’s simple enough now to find this throbbing neck and drink.