The scent of
blood worked like a sensual beacon as Daniel moved through semi darkness.
Hulking snow banks cast turquoise shadows. Wind in the alleyway whipped the
swirling snow into a vortex that sucked him forward, and like some wintry
telescope, it took him toward its end - an exploding kaleidoscope pane that
was Christmas bustle in Yonge Square.
He halted at
the alley mouth and reeled momentarily from the glare. His frozen ears were
tuned out, but here the sight of spinning red emergency lights cued him and
he listened. The sound of the sirens rose to a high wail - a mournful
announcement of death in the cold. Rescue workers and caped police raced
over slippery concrete toward a mangled auto that had just fused itself to a
metal rail at the street side of the square's huge Christmas tree. Flames
rose on the tinseled pine, blood and battered bodies littered the long
salted walkway; it was clear that the driver had somehow jumped a barrier at
high speed and cut down pedestrians.
Daniel saw a
patchwork crowd forming, a fat man in tears, a woman screaming, but he
wasn't sickened or sympathetic. Instead, the odors of fresh blood reddened
his cheeks and rose in his nostrils again. It uplifted him like a song - a
superb symphony of departed life, detached and melodic. Yet this time it
wasn't his song. He didn't feed on the dead or particularly enjoy the sight
of corpses. There really was nothing for him here, so he put his hands on
his hips and snorted. Then he spun left. Dark shadows formed in the streaks
of blowing snow and something grotesque and winged raced up the night to a
Icy wind raced
over the wall as he looked over the city. A glow of yellow blue filtered
through the millions of snowflakes from buildings falling away to the
horizon. This was a cold and lonely view, and it left him feeling strange
and exiled. He found himself briefly longing for yesterday then a glow of
red rising from below reminded his sharpened senses of blood thirst and
Snow rushed in
putting false tears in his eyes and through the melting glimmer he saw
frightening symbols of Christmas . . . the silver and gold, and the
evergreen . . . tiny angels, a star rising and the painful cross. Bright
colored bulbs swirled in memory and more than any other hue he saw red;
radiant on friendly faces, decorations, plants and reindeer images. Red that
dripped like beautiful blood to the knees of children from the suits of a
thousand rogue Santas.
This was a city
of blood and anyone who could direct its flow had a greater gift. Red could
be any gift, and it could be memories of how things used to be. Daniel's
eyes glowed with that peculiar crimson of the past and a sudden tint lit the
snowflakes, so that across the city people suddenly looked twice, thinking
that the wind was blowing with ruby tinsel instead of snow.
in the eye of night then stepped out on a dim street. The wind was blowing
hard and only a few of the many streetlights were lit. The central city
towered beyond the snowy rooftops of this empty neighbourhood. It cast a
haze of bluish light across the sky and out of it came white as the gusts
swept snow off the rooftops and sent it down in billowing clouds.
He wrapped his
scarf up over his chin and walked slowly past the boarded buildings. His
heels seemed to click in time with the high roaring sound of the storm
racing in the distant scrapers. The streets were open; windswept clean with
huge snow banks piled on junked autos, building facades and doorways.
The house he
used to inhabit stood by a crumbling variety store. Daniel halted and looked
up at the boarded bedroom windows. It didn't seem like home any more, but
like the loneliest place in the world. Its spirit had departed long ago so
that nothing of its past remained.
crusted snow from his cheeks as he turned from the stinging wind; ahead warm
Christmas lights illumined the windows of his old watering hole. He could
barely see through the steamed and frosted windows, but he did hear music.
And it was the same music that used to play thirty years ago, when he was
younger and untouched. Beyond the glass, people were conversing, laughing
and dancing as they partied; and though they were only silhouettes, he knew
all of them.
in boldly but was almost unseen, and suddenly he found himself under the
mistletoe with his old flame, Linda. She had stars in her eyes like some new
Christmas decoration. Yet she was much more than porcelain, her skin being
just as pale but with the luminosity of youth that sends life beyond any of
her there and he danced with her as the band played rock tunes and covers of
carols. They drank rum and if he could see nothing in the mirror behind the
bar perhaps it was because of the steam.
It all became
happiness and the subterranean warmth of yesterday. Later they joined old
friends at a table and they laughed and talked in slurred voices about the
simple things of the waterfront neighbourhood they used to know.
By one o’clock,
they'd partied and drank too much. Linda felt hot; perhaps feverish, so they
put on their coats and stepped out into the cold blast of night. He put an
arm around her as they looked down the frozen streets and saw the last small
ghosts of yesteryear. Then she stepped away in the darkness, and he saw her
full lips rise to a smile. Fangs cut at the edges leaving bruised blue
flesh. "Yesterday we drank the wine and now only blood remains," she said as
she faded into the wind and the snow.
A howling gust
blew behind him and he heard the sign knocking above the door. He took a
last look over the snow-laden sill and saw faint light, knife-edge shadows
and desolation. Turning from the frosty window, he walked away, and he felt
his bones rattle as the cold cut through his clothes. Something cruel bit at
his stomach and something wicked shrouded the street ahead. Snow and
blindness settled as he shivered and tried to forget.
But he could
not do it, and his eyes flashed with faint fire just before the power swept
him over the chimneys to the sky and the city.
------ The End