I stumbled on, staggering and tripping over my half-frozen legs. The snow was piled high along the edges of the street, frozen in a muddy slush that failed to support any weight. With every step I sank a little deeper, fell a little further, came a little closer to giving up entirely. But the thirst drove me on.
“You there,” someone called from so far away, as though they shouted through a screen of thick glass. “Stop!”
I tried to ignore the voice, grating and jarring and so very harsh in my ears, tried to ignore the scent that came wafting on the icy breeze, but my body reacted without my consent. The hunger that had waited there, coiled inside my weakening body, exploded to the forefront of my mind, and suddenly taking another step seemed impossible. I fell then, fetching up against the frozen glass of the storefront and sliding down to the ground.
My eyes slid shut as I became nothing more than that aching hunger, that agonizing emptiness. It pulsed within me, pounding in time to the heart that would never beat again, a steady, familiar rhythm.
“You ought to know better than this. Alcohol production and consumption is against the law, and by the looks of you, you’ve had a few cups too many.” The words might have meant something to me once, but now they were just sounds, guttural and irregular and smelling of such sweet relief.
Once more I moved as though in a dream, my eyes still closed, guided only by instinct. The smell was so strong now that I could pinpoint exactly where they both stood. But I was slow, weighed down by weakness and fatigue. My body felt so heavy, as though I carried the world on my shoulders.
Still, I was fast enough. Or, perhaps, the police officer was slow enough. Either way, the result was the same. My teeth bit into his neck without difficulty, sliding easily beneath his skin to sink into the tender, warm flesh hidden within. Hot, thick blood flooded into my mouth and I drank it eagerly, feeling the life return little by little to my sluggish limbs.
“What the hell?!” the other man screamed, stumbling back. The one I held was already dead, of course. He just hadn’t realized that yet. But the other, he was still troublesomely alive, and, it seemed, preferred to stay that way.
He was just a bit too fast. Or, perhaps, I was just a bit too slow. The difference mattered little. What did matter was the burning, agonizing pain that ripped through me as the bullets entered my chest. As I collapsed beside the still bleeding corpse I’d created, I could feel him there, a warm speck of life in my cold, desolate world. What, I wondered, did being warm feel like? It seemed like so long ago, those glorious days when my heart had beat properly, when my blood had run boiling through my veins.
“Monster,” he whispered through clenched teeth as that warmth drew closer. “Demon.”
I lifted my eyelids just in time to see the barrel pointed at my forehead, just in time to hear the shot.