By Steven James Cordin
Burning cold filled his chest. Voices in his head screamed for warmth.
He awoke with a start, his body so cold it burned. For a moment, he wanted to let the cold embrace and consume him. The mad echo of the voices in his head drove those thoughts away. Their urgent need filled him as much as the cold. He needed to find warmth. Nothing else mattered. So soon.
He arose and stepped out of bed. He walked out to the main room of his penthouse, leaving a trail of dirt. He cared little about the mess. As he left the bedroom, the voices grew fainter. But their frantic need did not leave him. After a few steps he staggered as the cold’s burning grasp grew tighter.
He opened the door to the patio and stepped out into the summer evening. A warm summer breeze caressed him but didn’t dispel the iciness inside. He gazed across the space to the skyscraper that towered over his building.
In a moment, he perched on the roof of that tower, looking down at his penthouse, down to the maze of streets below. He searched for warmth. For prey.
He reached out with his senses, searching the packs of mortals moving through the maze. He shuddered as their heat, their life, grazed him. He sighed, not enough to drive back the chill in his heart. Or the faint echoes in his head.
He found what he wanted almost immediately. A middle-aged female, walking by herself to a more deserted part of the city. He shook his head and forced himself not to think of her as a person. It mattered little what kind of person she was. He concentrated on her, allowing himself a brief taste of her loneliness, her isolation. She would not be missed. Perfect.
He tracked her progress from above, bounding from rooftop to rooftop. The chill crept through him, trying to extinguish the last ember of warmth deep inside. The pins and needles in his limbs told him he didn’t have much time. He struggled not to take her too soon in front of witnesses.
They reached a more residential neighborhood away from downtown. The buildings became more run down, older apartment buildings. The twilight of the early evening faded to true night. He drew close enough to study his chosen prey. She was a small woman in her late forties, dressed in simple attire. But to him she was nothing but a shell wrapped around a burning flame. The heat of her life. Prey. He needed that flame.
She was oblivious to her doom. He waited until she crossed a deserted avenue between two five story buildings. He hesitated on one roof for only a second. And pounced.
He came down to the street, landing on his powerful legs in a crouch. He grasped her shoulders and lifted her effortlessly. He resisted the need to take her there on the street and then lunged upwards, onto the next rooftop.
He tossed her across the roof. She tried to scrabble away, to beat at his chest as he leaped on her.
He would not be denied.
Cold iron fingers ripped her open, like a candy wrapper. He buried his face in the gaping hole.
Warmth filled his mouth and exploded into his chest.
The flame of her soul filled him, giving him strength to beat back the chill. The last ember of warmth that his body could no longer keep going on its own flared up. His limbs went rigid with ecstasy. He reared back, his mouth stretched open in a soundless roar against the night.
He dropped the wrapper over the side of the building into an open dumpster below.
He trembled with her power and life. He gritted his teeth as the ecstasy turned to pain. Her white-hot warmth threatened to consume him. As he soared from building to building, he struggled to keep the flashes of her memories and feelings at bay. The last parts of her consciousness battered his own as he fled across the summer night.
In his penthouse, he sank down into his bed and the cool soil enveloped him. He drifted off, allowing her thoughts and emotions to finally wash over him. He smiled at her memories of first love. Her marriage. He wept over the loss of her child after the doctors terminated the pregnancy to save her life. He grew angry at her sense of loss and depression when her husband left.
As her memories mingled with his, the other voices began to flood his mind. The voices of his past victims trapped in his bed of earth. They drowned her voice out as they pulled her down and consumed her. The echoes of her voice merged with the other voices and lost meaning.
He awoke the next morning, the cold gone and no voices in his mind beyond his own. He showered and dressed for a meeting with prospective clients. He presented a bid on a building project that went over quite well. After work, he joined friends at a local jazz club. The calm smooth tones and melodic lines of cool jazz soothed his spirit.
He chatted with an attractive woman at the bar for an hour about jazz and other music. He knew with little effort he could take her to bed. Not his bed of course…
He shivered as a slight chill crept along his back. The faint whispers of voices stirred in the corners of his mind. So soon.
He let out a deep sigh and decided to take her for dinner.
Bio: Steven James Cordin is a native of the Chicago South Suburbs. Steve has worked in banking as a repo man, foreclosure guru and fraud investigator. He writes about fraud. crime and horror fiction. His stories have appeared in Shotgun Honey, Mystery Tribune and the anthology Write Where We Are. Steve is currently working on a collection of crime fiction short stories.