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Toxic #2: When Good Cheesecake Goes Bad

Feb 19, 2014

I was screwed, and not in a fun way. Actually, thanks to the ping of rusty metal above me, I was pretty sure I was more than screwed—I was dead. I couldn’t see what had made the noise, but I was betting on it being more vampires. It had been that kind of night. Heck, it had been that kind of life.

“Look, this is a misunderstanding.” I didn’t have anything against vampires beyond the sucking my blood thing. It was only when they started chasing me and looking thirsty that issues cropped up. Well, that and the whole bit about them being undead, soulless creeps. That was kind of squicky. Assuming it was true. Seeing supernaturals didn’t make me an expert on them, and I wasn’t stupid enough to hang out with them to learn what was real and what was B.S.

The point was, soulless undead or furry fanged whatever, it didn’t matter what kind of supernatural someone was. If they left me alone, I was happy to do the same.

“We just want to talk to you,” the vamp on the right said. He looked more prep school rich boy than bloodsucker. The creases in his khakis were perfect.

“I have a cell. I would have been totally happy with a phone call.” I eyed his buddy, the surly one on the left. He was in full Vlad mode, flashing his fangs and being creepy. My instinct was to back away from him, but really—where would I go? I still had that other vamp somewhere behind me, pissed off and wet.

Vlad slid forward. His suede jacket was a polka dotted mess from the coffee. Given the perma-frown on his face, I was betting he’d never heard of Scotchguard. “You’re not so brave without a drink to throw, are you?”

“Look, it was an accident. What if I pay for dry cleaning?”

The short vampire blinked in behind me, moving so fast he brought a waft of alley funk with him. It mixed oddly with his pizza breath. So much for the garlic myth. “What if you shut up so we can eat you? No one likes food that talks back.”

I blinked, the hair on my arms standing up. I’d always known I’d screw up someday, slip up in front of a supernatural and get into trouble, and that day had arrived. My brain knew it even if my mouth didn’t. But why was it vampires I’d annoyed? It would have been safer to piss off a troll. “You wouldn’t want me. I’m anemic.”

Pizza Breath pushed me, a light rap on the back that sent me forward a few inches. “Anemic is good. My girlfriend has been bugging me to go on a diet.”

Prep School reached out and pushed me back to Pizza Breath. “She’s not just nagging, either. He could stand to lose some weight.”

Sweat started up along my hairline. They were getting too close, moving in a little with each push. “I’ve heard fasting is good for weight loss, too. Have you tried it?”

I imagined the ghost of my grandmother groaning and shaking her head. Thank God she hadn’t followed me out tonight. I had a habit of mouthing off when I was in trouble, and it drove her crazy. It was better than going catatonic from fear, though. Usually.

Tonight wasn’t one of those times, obviously. The vamps kept pushing me back and forth like they were playing hot potato, but now they were less gentle about it. My sneakers slipped on the gunk in the alley, and I pinwheeled my arms to keep upright. “Guys, I’m sorry. Can’t we let this go?”

Vlad shoved me hard as an answer. My feet lost their traction, and I went down to the ground in an explosion of lights. It took a second to realize it was from my head colliding with the cobblestones. The waves of black rolling in were what clued me in. That and my stomach heaving.

I dragged myself onto my front as everything I’d eaten that day joined the funk on the ground.

I was dead. So dead. My arms wouldn’t push me back up, my limbs too rubbery to do what they needed to do. And this close to my own puke I regretted only one thing: having cheesecake with dinner. Blood from the back of my head was dripping into it, making it look like brains.

My head dropped to the ground, right in that nasty pile of dessert and garbage. As my consciousness went in and out like the tide, a pair of immaculate black and white wingtip shoes appeared. My eyes crossed, unable to focus on anything higher than the laces.

“Idiots,” Wingtips hissed. “You weren’t supposed to crack her skull open.”

Before the world went black, I had enough time to think that my grandmother was going to nag me about dying face-first in puke forever. And when you were dealing with the afterlife? Forever was a depressingly long time.

© A.M. Schilling  2014. All Rights Reserved.



Toxic: Installments