Fiction 440: Shadows

Words: Creole, Parish, Jazz

The raucous laughter of his crew rang in his ears as he wobbled down the dock, his legs trembling after months at sea. The men urged him to wait until he was steady, but he didn’t. He had to see her.

She pushed her way out of the bar, hiking her dress up around her knees, not caring who judged her exposed skin. Her elbow met the soft cushion of what felt like someone’s gut, but she kept going. Regular customers called out good night. She didn’t look back.

The din of men yelling, waves crashing and the mist of sea air dissipated as he stepped into the late-night crowds of the city. The slurred speech and angry growls of a crass and wild fishing crew were replaced by a methodic mixture of English, French and blended Creole. He was home.

The door slammed behind her, cutting off the sounds of gambling and jazz. Her head pulsed with the sounds of the streets. Night in New Orleans did not mean peace. It did not bring quiet. But tonight, her heart was waiting beyond the music and noise. Her heart had come home.

She did not yet know, but with one, accidental brush of an elbow, she had met her end. Following her out the door, he caught a glimpse of her pale skin, smelled the sweet stench of her blood pumping through her veins. The hunt was on.

He pushed against the rush of people, fighting the current. They were heading into town…he was heading out, to the church they had attended since they were children, to the parish that had practically raised him and would now see him married.

She stumbled down the cobbled streets. The church was only blocks ahead, but the crowds made it farther. Her heart was pounding, her forehead beaded with sweat, but suddenly a chill washed over her. She glanced behind her.

She sensed him. They always did. He lived on the edge of their nightmares, only breaking the veil to feed. She shook her head, convincing herself he wasn’t there, and pushed ahead. To the church, he noticed. The church she would never reach.

He stood on the stone steps. He could see her. His heart smiled and he started to call to her but stopped. She wasn’t alone. Her shadow was not her own. His blood froze. He urged his weak legs to descend the steps, to get to her.

She saw him running toward her. But something was wrong. Panic flashed in his eyes. The hairs on the back of her neck prickled and she froze.

And then, he was there.

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