Fiction Fragment Friday

This story started out being inspired by both a conversation and a general feeling. I tend to feed off of crowds even though I am an introvert. That got me thinking about it from a supernatural perspective. As I wrote the story it quickly became a character profile building the world around a character. I wanted it to be a bit more of a story though and as I was writing the connection started to build in my mind and continued tying it into the much larger novel I plan on returning to in a few weeks.

                The raucous laughter of the crowd was my best meal in years.  I had only seen live comedy once before, but it paled in comparison.  I couldn’t be sure if it was the crowd, my own lack of good meals, or a combination of both.  In those moments I didn’t care as I sat back soaking in the energy.  Surrounded by thousands of people I could give in to my own gluttony without fear of damaging the energy. 

                As an emotional vampire I nearly died during the pandemic.  It wasn’t just the lack of crowds to eat from, but the energy that was in the small gathering I could find in grocery stores.  Everyone was down so all I could take in was that negative energy.  It was like poison in my very core.  I could eat from a single individual, but that would drain them.  After a few moments I would just be eating the exhaustion or depression that would make me hungrier.  It is a vicious cycle of feeding causing the energy to sour making me need to feed more. 

                By the time of the show, I could barely make it to my seat.  Pains racked my body with every movement, and I could hear my joints cracking.  It was hard to even lift my leg to take a step, but I had powered through it.  When I reached my seat, I collapsed into it short of breath with no energy left.  It felt like I could not have taken a single step more, but I knew that if I needed to I would have.  That is the power of stubbornness and an unwillingness to give up. 

                My pains started to fade as I drank in the energy.  I could feel the muscles in my leg threatening to spasm, but even knowing the pain that might cause didn’t matter.  I felt better than I had in longer than I could actively remember.  As much as I hated being out in public it was the only way to get a good meal and I knew it.  It can’t just be any crowd though.  I need the energy of excitement and preferably happiness.  Sporting events are great for an energetic crowd, but laughter just has a different taste to it.     

                By the end of the show, I was ready to stand and walk back to my car.  The muscle deterioration and joint damage had not healed from just one feeding much like it hadn’t developed from one lack of feeding.  It is more like an adrenaline rush.  The pain just fades away and becomes something I can ignore.  I couldn’t help but wonder If there were any others like me in the crowd.  With that much energy there was more than enough to go around without impacting each other.  I’ve always wondered what would happen if two of us tried to feed off of each other at the same time, but it isn’t something I am brave enough to try.  I reached out for my door handle when a voice behind me caught me off guard.

                “The past few years must have been pretty hard if I was able to sneak up on you.”

                “Benjamin Eversole.  To what do I owe the pleasure?”  He wasn’t wrong.  At my best I was faster, stronger, and had more heightened senses than a regular human.  On that night I hadn’t heard or smelled him.  When I turned to look at him though he looked worse than I felt.  His eyes were haunted, he was leaning on a cane, and I was pretty sure his ribs were bandaged under his shirt. 

                “I’m in over my head and I need help.”  This shocked me.  He had never been so open about any sort of weakness.  The man usually oozed with false bravado just like every other magic user I had ever met.  “I’m calling in all my favors and could use some local friends to watch my back.”

                “I’m not sure how much help I can offer at the moment.  I’m kind of a shell of my usual self.  I need a few more crowds to really start getting back to functional.”

                “Now that is something I can help with.  In two days, we can have you back up to full strength.  So, what do you say?  Help an old friend save his son?”

                 “This is about your kid?  Why didn’t you say so? I’m in.”

                “Thank you,” he said and then dropped the spell keeping his companion hidden from me.  I was once again face to face with one of the most twisted women I had ever had the misfortune to meet.  I suppose only his son would cause Benjamin to work with his ex-wife.  The look of disgust and dismissal aimed at me filled her entire face.  Benjamin reached out handing me a card.  “Be here at noon tomorrow and I’ll fill you in.”

                I just nodded and got in my car.  The further I could get away from her the better.