The night is overcast.
The night is gloriously overcast, a pall of beautiful charcoal clouds obscuring the moon and stars.
There is no breeze. The air is still and you can smell everyone.
The air is still and you can smell sweat, cologne, organic homemade deodorant and passion.
They are dancing in the park. It is a Wednesday, but they are dancing, dancing in shorts and jeans and miniskirts and bathing suits, in muscle-shirts and graphic tees, in plain, unadorned tank tops, and bright, Hawaian T-shirts. In bare skin.
It is the perfect [[time to feed.|Title]]
(set: $beer to 0)
(set: $dance to 0)
(set: $visitFrat to 0)
(set: $killFrat to 0)
(set: $visitHippie to 0)
(set: $killHippie to 0)
[[''Time to Feed''|Searching]]
by Sharang Biswas
NOTE: This game contains violence with sexual undertones.
It begins to rain, fat pellets of rain greasing the bodies that gyrate against each other. The rain hums its own beat, a counterpoint to the thumping music.
People are joyful.
You cannot smell the rain. You do not feel joy. You haven't been able to in a long time.
But you can smell the bodies and you are hungry.
You are [[on the hunt]].
(set: $visitFrat to 1)
You intercept the glossy abs before they can enter the undulating mass of human flesh. You place a gentle hand on a shoulder. An invitation.
Blue eyes widen, startled. He is used to making the first move. He is confused at being approached by a man.
But you are not a man. [[Not anymore]].
(set: $visitHippie to 1)
Others give this figure a wide berth as she twirls and swirls in the rain.
She does not notice you.
Perhaps [[joining in the dance]] will get her attention? Or should you just [[wait until her body tires out]]?It has stopped raining.
The sky is still overcast. The clouds form a granite vault overhead, entombing you under it.
People still dance. They are still joyous. They do not know the things that stalk them.
You do not want to speak to him.
Someone emerges from the trees. He leaves behind a puddle of hot, metallic piss, and his breath emerges in fumes of alcohol. He is wearing a pair of loud boardshorts and black sandals. His torso is marbled with abs, smooth, hard, and cold. He is horny. [[You can approach him.|frat dude]]
A skinny figure with green hair and a face full of metal is dancing on its own. Her skirt is a multi-coloured kaleidoscope as her body whirls. There is joy in her isolation. [[You can go to her.|hippie]]
Then there's Sam. He is sitting under a tree, with a grin on his face, watching everyone. He hasn't seen you. Not in years.
You are not ready to speak to Sam. Not yet.You have done this before. You can [[play it cool]], maintaining his fragile sense of hetero-masculinity, inviting him like you imagine one frat-dude would another.
Or perhaps [[a more direct approach]] will work? He is horny, after all.(set: $beer to 1)
You mention something about a lighter, though your lungs are devoid of air.
He offers you a beer, and you take it, though you will have to vomit it out later.
You talk about alcohol. The party. Girls.
He is studying psychology at a local university. He wants to become a therapist one day.
[[He lives nearby]].
You pull up close next to him and whisper in his ear. Your voice is a velvet glove: smooth, soft, warm.
Against you, you feel his muscles tense.
But there's something in his eyes. A degree of wanting. A hunger, not unlike your own. The hunger cares not for person or personality. All it needs is the hot rush of blood.
The game has gone on too long. It is time to [[be bold]].You reach out to caress his chest.
His throat gulps delightfully as you feed him your words, sweet and poisonous.
You can hear his pulse. It reminds you of the subway, thundering past the underground tunnels you now call home.
After an uneasy look around, his head bobs in acquiescence.
[["I live nearby..."|apartment]] his lips breathe out.
There is a tremble in his voice.
(if: $beer is 1)[The beer you vomit into the alley is mixed with old blood and smells stale. The rain will wash it away.]
The park is still full of warm bodies.
Sam is still under that tree. He's still shy, quiet, and enjoying the happiness of others. (if: $visitHippie is 1)[[[You should go to him|Sam]].]
(if: $visitHippie is 0)[Then there's the metal-studded [[dancing figure|hippie]] cloaked in whirling colours.]
His studio is small, but surprisingly neat.
On the windowsill sit potted herbs. Basil and rosemary, your eyes tell you, even if your predatory nose does not easily register their scent.
A framed photo of an older man in a baseball uniform sits on the desk. Beside it is a textbook.
The bed is dressed in crisp white, with sharp corners.
On the bed sits his shivering form. His eyes are fixed on you.
"I-I don't normally do this-I have a girlfr-"
His stutter, like a gleaming pair of shears, chops his sentences into ribbons.
"I mean-I //had// a girlfriend. As of this morning."
(set: $killFrat to 1)
That's the only sound that issues from him when you bite down.
His blood tastes sweet like milk and bitter like rue. Funny that you still remember those flavours.
His body goes limp. His last heartbeats are discordant, like a drum being thrown down the stairs.
He is dead.
And you are not.
[[That's how it always works]].
All you can think of is Sam. You do not want to think of Sam.
You do not want to think of watching Sam through the window. Watching him pace, back and forth like the pendulum of a grandfather clock. Watching him worry why you weren't home.
Why you never came home.
Why you //could// never come home, not after what you had become.
Should you [[step closer]], ignoring the emotions that are welling up? Feelings are for the weak, after all.
Or perhaps you should [[keep listening]]. He cheated on his girlfriend three nights ago. He did not tell her.
She found out and left him this morning.
You do not want to listen anymore.
But he keeps talking about what a terrible person he is, about how he deserves what he got.
He wants to call her and tell her everything. To tell her that he was a bad person.
He is not terrible. He is not like you. He has not killed hundreds of people over the last five years.
[[You do not want to listen anymore]]You have learned to blockade your feelings behind cold logic and rational arguments. It's all about survival.
Sometimes though, feelings make it through.
No matter how many times you do it, killing another person never gets easier.
[[But you're still hungry.|frat next victim]]You would like to see his apartment.
And leave the party?
Just for a while. For as long as he wants.
Your smile is easy-going. Your eyes are not.
He catches your shade of meaning.
He looks around. He adjusts his shorts.
[[He nods|apartment]].[[Sam.|Leave apartment]]He does not protest when you leave.
[[You head back to the park|frat next victim]].(set: $dance to 1)
And the world spins around you. Your motion makes the rain form thick, wet bands that surround you, encircle you, hold you.
Sam held you like that, the day you met. His arms were strong. You tried to break out, but he laughed, wafting coffee and trail mix into your face. His arms were frigid with lakewater.
Now it is you whose arms are cold.
She smells like patchouli, but that scent is weak. She smells more like food.
Her body stops twirling. [[So does yours|hippe looks at you]].
You stand and watch her spin.
Her skirt shifts in and out, from one colour to the next. Her hair blossoms outwards, like the spindly tendrils of a climbing plant, reaching for something to cling to. Her earrings jangle.
Now her back is bent over, her hands on her knees. Her chest heaves. Her hair hangs over her face like wet seaweed.
It takes you back to a curtain of soggy reeds draped over a pair of freckled shoulders. To tiny, brown snails clinging to a bare back. The water was so cold, you were almost surprised his breath didn't fog up when he invited you to join him.
But now is not the time to think of Sam.
It is feeding time, and you are hungry.
You greet her. Politely.
She says nothing. [[She stares at you|hippe looks at you]]
The canopy of leaves throbs under the rhythm of the rain.
You have some privacy here.
"I know what you are," she whispers and begins to take off her dress.
Her body is scrawny, almost emaciated. She is inked all over. Butterflies and ribbons festoon her skin.
Her hair she removes in one, swift motion. Underneath, her scalp is bare.
"I thought I'd meet someone like you here today," she says.
Should you [[lunge at her|bite hippie]] and get it over with? Or should you [[listen to what she has to say]]?
Sam is still under that tree. He's still shy, quiet, and enjoying the happiness of others. (if: $visitFrat is 1)[[[You should go to him|Sam]].]
(if: $visitFrat is 0)[The [[set of abs|frat dude]], gleaming and rippled is still there. It is certainly enticing.]Her eyes move up and down your frame. They linger on your fingers, thin and strong. They linger on your throat, devoid of pulse. They linger on your lips, bleached and hungry.
(if: $dance is 1)["I like the way you move," she says. Her voice is high pitched and creaky, like the squeal of an antique door.]
She smiles. Her piercings twist her face. She [[beckons towards the trees]].A hiss escapes her lips as her soft flesh gives way to your teeth.
Her body jerks when you begin to drink, but you hold fast.
You can taste it in her blood. Cancer. Her blood is thick with it.
"That's enough!" she bleats. "I-that-that should be enough to cure me!"
You keep drinking.
"That's enough, please!" she squeals and tries to pull away. Your fingers and teeth are a vice.
It is not enough. Not for you. If you [[let her go]], you will still be hungry. If you [[drink your fill]], you will kill her.
But it is hard for you to think when you are feeding.
She is sick. She says the doctors have not found a cure. She thinks you can help her.
She believes your bite will cure her.
She raises her wrist to your mouth. The veins are pale and shallow.
She is offering herself to you, just like Sam offered himself to you, years ago, under the blind darkness of the cabin. He giggled when he kneed you in the stomach. He shivered when you kissed him.
You cannot resist your hunger.
[[You bite down|bite hippie]]
It takes a great deal of willpower but you manage to tear yourself away. She whimpers as you break contact.
Her spindly form collapses. She lies on the ground, clutching the wound.
You have never released a victim mid-bite.
She is sobbing. Her bare shoulder blades are shaking erratically, a staccato series of oscillations interrupted by deep, throaty breaths.
Sam shook like that. The first time you saw him laugh, the fire was dangerously close and the shaking of his hands threatened to drop the marshmallows, but he laughed like he had just heard the richest joke in the world. He laughed and his body vibrated with joy like a guitar string. His laughter was music, and it struck in you some chord that said, "This is a man I want to laugh with!"
You don't remember what joke you had made. But you always remember the laughter.
The woman is still sobbing. You do not want to make a scene.
Like a drop of blood spilled into the ocean, [[you dissolve into the crowd|hippie next victim]]. You are still hungry.(set: $killHippie to 1)
Her muscles slacken as you drain her. Her voice becomes weaker.
A whispered "please!" is the last word that escapes her lips before her eyes become glassy and lifeless. Her body, now merely a pile of rags and sticks, collapses into a heap.
Your stomach roils, and it is not the cancer in her blood that's causing it.
She is not the first person you have killed, nor is she even the hundredth, but you cannot help but wonder: where would your victim's life have gone had you not cast your shadow over them? Would she have survived her cancer?
You will probably think about that later on. For now, you [[head back out of the trees|hippie next victim]]. You are still hungry.
He sits on a green hillock, under a tree. He sits on a pale blue blanket, watching people dance and enjoy themselves.
The blanket was his favourite. Even before your transformation, you could always smell him on it.
His sandals are neatly placed by his side. The soles of his feet are muddy.
He would always come home with dirty feet.
You are not sure how to approach him. Should you [[call out]]? Or is it better to remain silent and simply [[walk up to him]]?
You haven't said his name aloud in a long time. It tastes strange on your tongue. Almost as though you're not meant to say it.
He hears you. He frowns. He turns his head, searching.
He sees you.
His eyes go wide.
Before he saw you, they were full of merriment. Now his eyes are like the glaciers that float about in the Artic Sea: huge, blue, jagged, and bitterly cold.
[[He is not happy|follow Sam]].
This is what it must feel like to be in space. Your arms and legs feel weightless. They don't want to obey you and move as you want them to. They want to float away, away from this place, anywhere but here.
But you steel yourself, and force your limbs to move.
He looks up at you. His eyes grow wide. His mouth opens.
Then he closes his mouth and it is one, hard line, a clear boundary drawn between the two of you.
[[He is not happy|follow Sam]].
Sam gets up, puts on his sandals and deliberately turns his back to you.
That single motion crushes you. Is this how he felt, five years ago? When you didn't come home? When you didn't call? When you disappeared?
He walks down the hill and into the crowd.
You can smell him.
[[You cannot lose him]].
He is dancing. He has taken of his shirt and his body glitters. His arms are in the air and his eyes are closed, and he is swaying with the music.
You remember the last time he took you dancing. It was a week before you left. Before your transformation.
On the dancefloor, his back was slick with sweat but you held on as though he were never coming back. You never thought until now how clairovoyant that had been.
Now, bodies press around him, against him.
A woman in a bikini grabs his shoulders but you glare at her until she shrivels away. A twink barely past his teens tries to grind against him, but you bare your teeth and he dwindles into a puddle of fear.
You come up to Sam and put your hands on his waist. You draw him in.
He does not resist. If he feels how cold you have become, he does not show it.
(if: $killFrat + $killHippie > 1)[[[You dance|killed both]].]
(if: $killFrat + $killHippie is 1)[[[You dance| killed one]].]
(if: $killFrat + $killHippie < 1)[[[You dance| killed none]].]You can feel how much he wants you. You feel it the sweat gliding down the deep trough that marks his spine, in the quiver of his lips by your ear, in the press of his body against you.
You promised yourself once that Sam would never know what you became.
But this is who you are.
You are a monster, a thing of instinct, passion, and violence. Of hunger.
You have fed twice today and you are [[still hungry]].You dance. Mud squelches under your feet, and Sam's body squelches against yours.
His sweat is sweet and intoxicating. His throat is warm and inviting.
You've only fed once today, and that was [[not enough]].You dance like the first time you danced together, in the beer-stained basement of a dirty fraternity, where every incredulous gaze was on your awkard shuffling steps, but where Sam whispered into your ear about how it didn't matter who was watching and you believed him.
Your movements go against the music, but it doesn't matter because you make your own rhythm.
When you changed, you became a monster. You became a thing of instinct, passion, and violence. Of hunger
But you are not your hunger. Today was the first time you resisted. You do not have to be a monster.
[[You do not have to die a monster]].
You promised yourself once that Sam would never find out what happened to you.
Sam presses tightly against you and you continue to dance.
The sky is clearing up and you continue to dance.
You feel the sun's first rays crawl down the back of your neck, venomous, insidious, and you continue to dance.
The last thing you touch is Sam. The last thing you feel is joy.
Sam cannot save you.
You kiss him one last time. He melts into you.
You imagine sinking deep into Sam, drawing out his blood. It would be so easy and so satisfying.
You shove Sam off you. He falls clumsily onto the ground, entangling himself in the limbs of your fellow dancers.
He is shocked. This will be the second time you leave him without an explanation.
But you can never give him an explanation. You promised yourself long ago that he would never find out.
You do not want a scene. Like a dagger being sheathed, you recede.
There are more bodies, more blood. There is still time to feed.