It took us an hour to get out of the stinking sewer. We found ourselves in the slums of the city and snuck through streets filled with junkies, gangs, and poor for another quarter of an hour before we found a motel. We still didn’t have any money for a room, but I’d managed to find a plastic tarp to cover my head and shoulders.
I had never maintained my half-tiger form for this long, and I felt my hunger gnaw through my stomach like a disease. The starvation made my anger spiral to a slight insanity, and I couldn’t help from growling every time I breathed in the stench of the sewer that covered us. The feline part of my soul wanted to clean myself up, but we didn’t have time for such activities, and that also made me angry.
The motel we found was called Way Place, but both of the “a” letters were not casting their neon glow into the night sky. So it just looked like Wy Plce with some Chinese characters underneath.
A group of four women leaned against the wall of the motel, and their attire convinced me they were prostitutes. As if on cue, a man pulled up on a new looking cruiser motorcycle, addressed the four by the name “bitches” and then beckoned for them to all follow him into the alleyway next to the building. They seemed to know the man, and my animal senses could taste their terror from across the street. He must have been their pimp.
He will do.
The strange woman’s words drifted into my mind almost as if I had thought of them myself.
“Confirmed,” I growled, and readied my shotgun.
No gun. Cut his throat. He is clean.
“What do you mean by ‘clean’?” I asked, but the strange woman didn’t answer. Her white lab coat was now the dark yellow color of piss, and she smelled as bad as I did. I hadn’t been able to find her any shoes, and her dirty bare feet looked out of place on the neon reflecting surface of the sidewalk where we hid.
I need him.
“Uhhh. Whatever,” I felt jealousy spin my anger out of control, and I wrestled with the idea of hitting the woman. I had just saved her life, multiple times, but she needed another man now? Fuck her.
I took a deep breath and forced myself to relax. I was too angry. Damn it. She wanted me to kill the man with my knife. I didn’t need to get jealous. Why was I even feeling that way in the first place? Yeah, she was beautiful, even when she was in obvious need of a meal or twenty, but it wasn’t like saving her life meant I owned her. Calm the fuck down, Adam. This is your beast talking. It is the rage trying to take control of you.
I really needed to change back into a human.
A woman’s scream brought me out of my meditation, and I looked both ways on the street before sprinting across.
“I need my money every! Fucking! Night! Bitch!” The man was slapping one of the four women, and the other three were pleading with him in a language I didn’t recognize. I didn’t know what the currency looked like on this planet, but the man clenched a roll of red colored paper in the hand he wasn’t beating the woman with. The three other prostitutes each held out crumpled leaves of it, as if they could deposit it into a slot on his shoulders to prevent him from hitting their friend.
“Stop,” I growled as I slowed my sprint and walked into the alley.
“Whaaada you?” He looked like he may have been of Asian ancestry, but his skin was darker than the other women. He pushed away from the hooker he was beating, looked at the long guns hanging from my shoulders, and reached into his leather jacket.
I could have used my claws to rip his head off of his shoulders, but the strange woman told me to use my knife, and I pulled one of the many out of its sheath while I stepped across the alley. He was slow to reach for his weapon, probably because he was terrified of the giant, tarp covered monster that had suddenly appeared in the alley, and I was able to slice open his throat with surgical precision. My attack didn’t kill him instantly, and the man continued to pull his gun. I caught his wrist with my left hand, and then I held him while he struggled to cover the wound with his other hand.
The women screeched when I cut open his throat, but I ignored them. As soon as the man was dead, they set their cash on the ground before my boots and began to beg in the language I didn’t understand.
“Get out of here!” I snarled at them, and the four prostitutes ran into the dark corner of the alley away from the motel.
I crouched down and picked up the roll of cash the pimp carried. Then I searched his pockets. He had tried to pull out a meaty chrome revolver from his belt. It was a heavy thing that carried five bullets larger than my thumb. I doubted the man had the strength in his grip to even shoot the massive revolver, but I did. I took its holster, and the three speed loader cylinders that were attached to it. I also grabbed the keys to his motorcycle and fished out his wallet from his pants pocket.
The strange woman walked past me as I picked up the other stacks of cash the women had left in the alley. It took me a few moments to gather everything, put it in the man’s wallet, and then turn to her, but when I did, I let out a shocked gasp and took a step back.
It appeared that she was eating the man.
The strange woman was crouched on all fours with her face over his neck. Her long black hair concealed what she was doing, but I heard the sounds of her lips smacking together.
“What are you doing?” I growled as soon as I gained my composure. The woman didn’t answer, and I felt rage fill my stomach. How dare she not answer me? I had saved her life. I had killed for her. I had—
I couldn’t move. The effect was sudden, and I saw that the woman was holding her left hand out to me. Her fingers were spread as if she was trying to touch me, but we were two meters away from each other. My boots weren’t actually touching the surface of the street, and I tried to jerk myself back onto the ground. It was as if there was a rope tied around my entire body. No, it was as if I was paralyzed since I couldn’t even flex my muscles. All I could do was watch the strange woman crouch over the man.
My anger turned to disgust, and then into terror, and then into anger again. How was she keeping me like this? I had seen her take off my collar, and fling the grenade back, but I was a half-monster bulk of a man who could lift hundreds of kilograms over my head with ease.
Be still, my Adam. I am almost finished.
Her words came to my mind, and I felt my anger fade. This woman was strange, but she had saved my life. I owed her a blood debt, and I felt shame coil through my stomach. I knew it was the beast feeding my anger, but I was the beast now, and I didn’t want to hate this strange woman.
She moaned and stood from the corpse of the man. Her face was covered with blood, and it dribbled down her chin to splatter on the front of her filth covered lab coat.
She opened her mouth, and I let out a gasp despite the paralysis.
She had no teeth or tongue.
The people who held her in the tank must have yanked them out, and my emotions sprinted from sadness to anger again. I knew what it was like to be experimented and tortured, but the idea of them pulling out this beautiful woman’s teeth and tongue made me want to kill every last one of those fuckers.
The woman made a soft growling sound, and I saw white dots appear on her gums. The dots turned into small teeth five seconds later, and then the smaller teeth continued to push out until they were proportioned to her face.
Her canines kept growing, though.
They extended another three centimeters past where normal human teeth would have stopped. They were fangs, like mine, only the rest of her teeth hadn’t taken on the sharp structure that a carnivore's should possess. Her tongue was also healing or growing, or maybe regenerating, and it rolled to the front of her mouth like a flower petal.
“That is better. Ummmm,” she moaned aloud, and I felt my boots touch the ground.
I could move now and look back to the corpse of the man I cut. It didn’t look as if the woman had actually eaten his neck. It just looked as if she smeared her face over his wound.
“I just needed a little sustenance. It has been so long,” she said, and I turned back to stare at her. The woman’s voice was a dark, husky tone, and it looked as if there was actually a bit of color coming to her cheeks.
“What are you?” I asked as I stared at the blood dripping from her face.
“I am like you, Adam. Changed into something beyond human.” She wiped some of the red off of her face with her fingers, and then she licked it off with her new tongue. Her red eyes rolled back into her skull when she tasted the stuff, and a shiver of dread cascaded down my massive spine.
“A vampire?” I asked. I felt like an idiot asking because everyone knew vampires weren’t real. But here I was, talking to a beautiful pale woman, with dark hair and fangs, while she licked the blood off of her fingers.
Weretigers weren’t supposed to be real either, but I was evidence of such a thing.
“Hmmm. That word might work, but it doesn’t explain everything. I am sorry for feeding in front of you. I know you are starving as well. It has been so long since I have had a taste. I need to remind myself not to overindulge,” she said as she licked the last bit of blood from her fingers. There was still a lot on her face.
“How long?” I asked.
“I don’t know for sure. There was no way for me to count the passing of days. One of the men who captured me had a son. The boy grew into a man and had another son. All three of them were tasked with experimenting on me.”
“That sounds like a lot of years.”
“They took my teeth and tongue out first, and only gave me enough to live, but not heal. It was the beginning of my torture. You have endured a similar treatment, Adam. We are the same.” The woman smiled at me, and I felt the dread in my stomach leave.
“How did they capture you in the first place? You seem very powerful.” My words came out as a growl, and I felt my hunger start to push on my rage again.
“We will talk about that later.” The woman gestured to the motel. “Let us get a room, clean ourselves, and get you sustenance. You will also need to rest.”
“Okay,” I said as I adjusted the tarp over my head again. Changing back into my human form would take me an agonizing half minute, and I’d have to sleep immediately afterward, so I wanted to wait until we were safe in the room.
I followed the strange woman to the front of the street, and into the door of the motel. The place was the kind of shithole that reminded me of where I grew up, and it brought me memories of my previous life. The memories were painful, and I forced my angry brain to push them aside.
“I need a room. One with a large bathtub and clean linens,” the woman said to the old man at the front desk. He sat behind ten centimeters of armored glass, and the vampire had to lean into a microphone to speak.
The man said something in the language I didn’t understand, and the woman replied in the same tongue. He said something else, and he pointed at her dirty lab coat. He sounded angry, but she calmly replied. The conversation continued for another half minute, but then she seemed to have said something he agreed with, and he nodded with a smile.
“Give me the wallet, please,” she asked, and I passed her what I had taken from the pimp. The vampire pulled out a card from inside of the folds and then passed it through a slot in the glass. Then she grabbed a dozen of the bills from the wallet and passed them through the same slot. The old man smiled, bobbed his head, and then passed us a room key.
“Thank you,” she said as she grabbed the key from the slot. The beautiful woman nodded to me, and I followed her out of the narrow entrance hallway and into the small lobby. There was an elevator there, but it was covered in tape, and I guessed that the archaic lettering on the sign meant it was out of order.
“Up the stairs. We are on the top floor. The man is going to get us some clothes and food. Then you can rest. Just a few more minutes, Adam.”
“Confirmed,” I growled, and my vision started to swim. I felt like I wanted to tear the place down around our heads, or kill the man at the front counter, or take off my armor and run until I turned into the creature I looked like. I just hated these walls being around me like a cage. But I didn’t do any of that. Instead, I followed the half naked woman up the stairs to our hotel room.