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By Phil Partington
The raw meat Devv had left her tasted like it had spoiled a day or two ago, but it was fresh enough to do the trick. Already her wounds were beginning to heal as she became warmed by renewed vitality.
Despite the heat, inquiring crows lined up along the tree branches and telephone wire above, talking to one another in their own language of caws and grunts. The crows had always gone hand in hand with her condition, though she never knew why.
These days, vampire was the favored term, though Gemini had always refused to oblige the times, preferring instead the original title of Lilit after the very first of them. The disease was demon-inflicted, and though its symptoms were similar to a common cold when another demon was affected, to a human…
…Stacey knew there was no cure. At least she had managed it fairly well for this long; at least she hadn’t turned into a Biter, though she wondered what her chances of continuing that without Gemini’s protection.
Peering down at her from one of the low-hanging eaves of the tavern was a rat whose fur was as pale as candlewax. It sniffed the air with a pink nose, staring blankly with eyes of matching hue.
“Coward,” Stacey muttered. “When you left so quickly, I’d thought you were looking for help!”
The rat lowered its head, though she couldn’t tell if it was out of shame, to assess her wounds or simply because that’s what rats do. Suffice to say, she was glad for his company. At least he kept her from thinking the worst. If Gemini had truly lifted his care of her, it could mean only one of two things: the coven now deemed her an enemy or something bad had happened there. For now, she wouldn’t entertain either possibility—she’d hold out for a third option she had yet to uncover, if for no other reason than to keep her composure. Gemini had taught her that trick.
She finished all she could manage of the rotting meat, avoiding all thought on what animal it might have come from, and tossed the remains in a trash can.
“Time to go, Rat,” she said, looking up at her small friend. The rodent stared and sniffed a moment longer and then climbed down the wall with the skill of a gymnast before hopping onto her shoulder. A continuously growing army of crows wished them well with a series of squawks that always evoked a groan in Stacey.
“We’re damned if we stay here,” she muttered as she began the walk, and then snorted at her unintended joke.
Word Count: 440