Vitalius paused at the corner of the street and breathed in deeply. The heavy, acrid fog of the London’s East End sent most reeling, but to the vampire, it was a balm. It had been a good decision, he thought, to leave Dubrovnik and hide in the holds of so many ships that brought him here, eventually, to the thriving capital of Queen Victoria’s Empire.
He picked his way carefully over the rough cobbles. Earlier in the evening he had attended a performance of Carmen and then joined with the intelligentsia of literary society for a late supper. He had barely touched the creams and jellies that had been spread out and he had avoided the devilled lobster. He hungered for something completely different.
And here it was. Barely half an hour in a hansom cab from the glittering West End to this – the murk of London’s darker side. As he paced slowly, he watched. The contrast was stark. From the expensive gowns and lavish dinners to the cheapest of the cheap. Women were clustered on corners, their outlines softened by the clinging fog. Vitalius sneered. They were his for only a few coins. But he would not take someone from a group or somewhere well lit. He was not ready to get noticed. He pushed further into the dark, cramped alleys and back streets of Whitechapel.
It was easier here. In the wealthy areas of North and West London, the new aether technology was causing interference. Here in the poor slums, there were no aether lights or stoves to disturb the flow that curved and snaked overhead. Like all vampires, he could see the aether trails with their currents, the ebb and flow of the energy that was now being harnessed by the new engines and their crystals. Here, where the flow was undisturbed, he could walk unimpeded by the darkness and the fog and search for prey.
And prey there was in abundance. Life was so cheap here. An unregarded child, a drunken woman or a sick and crippled man were all easy to find and unlikely to be missed, at least, missed by anyone that mattered. Vitalius turned left into a maze of alleys and then right, into a back street that had been fruitful before. Dirty public houses lurked at the corners with light and music dispersing into the deadening fog. He smiled. The taste of the cheap gin added a certain piquancy. Some vampires fed solely on the aether energy. Vitalius preferred more robust food.
He paused. His ancient instincts told him that someone was following him. He smiled at the thought. Few in this bustling city knew enough about vampires to even guess that they existed. None of the people in his old home would have followed him into narrow spaces in the dark. Of course, the local thieves had not had a chance to learn from the mistakes of others. This could be more fun than the opera. He ducked suddenly right into a narrow alleyway.
Even he found it difficult in the dark and the smoke as he picked his way over the cobbles. The aether energy was thin overhead and barely flickered as he moved steadily forward. A cat fled as he approached and his perfect hearing could hear the rats scratching over the stealthy approach of his hunters. He smiled again. The prey was bringing itself to him. He ducked right again away from a drunken couple and then jinked left to avoid the lights of a pub. He slowed. Ropes across the top of the alley gave him pause. Someone hung their clothes here when the fog wasn’t thick in the air. It made one escape route trickier, but there were always other options. He could hear the movement behind him. There was more than one, but that was unlikely to be a problem.
Vitalius paused and then slowly turned. The wall behind him was solid and there were no crates or barrels to impede him on either side. Three shapes emerged from the mist. His smile grew. Three of them! He would feed well tonight. “Do you have any idea of what you have followed tonight?” His fangs lengthened and his claws grew from the tips of his fingers. Unexpectedly, a cold chill of fear ran through him. The three facing him also grew fangs and claws and they did not look ready to back down.
“We know what you are,” the leader said. “And we know what you planned. We do not permit that here – and we police our own.”
Welcome to the first day of the October Frights Blog Hop! I hope you enjoyed my contribution and will look out for another story tomorrow.
And why not dip in to the giveaway of great stories at Story Origin? You can find them here. It’s a selection of free stories from some of the people taking part in the October Frights Blog Hop and you may find a new favourite author. Just in case, there is an associated Book Fair here, where you are always welcome.
While I am talking about the goodies going on, there is the panel taking place today which you can find here where some of the authors who are part of this amazing event will be chatting
And speaking of authors, here they are!