You’re awake? Good.

Don’t try to move or talk. Just lie there for the time being.

Relax. Drink this.

No? All right. I’ll just leave it here in case you change your mind, Stephen.

Yes, we know who you are.

You’re Stephen Cushman. Age thirty-two. Self-employed software engineer. Husband to Doris. Father of Stephen Junior and baby Michelle.

I’m sorry to have to tell you this, Stephen, but you won’t be seeing your family again. That would put them in extreme danger.

I know, I know. That’s a lot for you to absorb. Just hear me out.

You see, Stephen, you were the victim of a particularly savage attack. You were left for dead in a public place.

Much as I hate to say it, it was one of our people who did this to you.

Fortunately, it was also one of us who found you before anyone else did, and brought you here.

No, this isn’t a hospital, but it is a safe place.

We’re going to help you get through this. I have to warn you, it’s a long process. We’re not talking weeks or months. We’re talking years.

You’re wondering who I am, aren’t you? My name isn’t important. Just think of me as a member of a group, an order, if you will. We’ve been around for a long time.

Throughout history, we’ve been stalked, persecuted, hated.

And slaughtered.

Over the years, we’ve learned how to blend in, to keep ourselves  — what’s the term? — “under the radar.” The one who attacked you may have drawn some very unwanted attention to us. Don’t worry, we’ll find out who it was and deal with him — or her.

We’ve been among you for generations. It’s quite likely some of the people you knew were members of our order. Friends you’ve socialized with. People you did business with. Women you’ve made love to. People you voted for.

How do you feel, Stephen? Are you Hungry? Well, that’s understandable.

No, don’t try to sit up. Hey, quit fighting me, dude; I’m way stronger than you are!

That’s better.

I know how powerful the Hunger is. Right now, you’d gorge yourself on anything. Or anyone. Am I right?

Normally, a simple pinprick is enough to satisfy us. Our “victim” awakes, doesn’t remember a thing and goes on their way with a feeling of mild dizziness or lethargy. They don’t even notice the tiny puncture marks.

The one who attacked you hasn’t learned to control the Hunger. It’s something we try to avoid.

That’s not to say we don’t bring others into our ranks. When we do, we’re much more discreet about it. Mostly loners; people with few or no family ties. And always in a secluded spot.

Are you ready to drink this now? Here.

Careful. Not so fast. Just sip it. Good.

It’s 3 AM. There are a few more hours before dawn. For the time being, you’ll want to limit your activities to the nighttime. In time, you’ll be strong enough to tolerate the daylight. You’ll also build up a resistance to garlic and crosses. Be patient; it only took me a hundred years to get there.

What do you say, Stephen? Feel up to grabbing a bite?

Sorry, couldn’t resist.

C.I. Kemp is the author of two e-novels, Demon Ridge (Barbarian Books) and Autumn Moon (Taliesin Publishing). His short stories have appeared in Under The Bed, Encounters, Isotropic Fiction, and Speculations From New Jersey.

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Every Day Fiction