“You never play with us, Cora,” Eddie said. “You wake up, you watch us play, you go out, you come back, you watch us some more, and you sleep. We get lonely. And bored.”
Cora stared at Eddie with the same indifference she always showed. Her smooth pale skin could have been made of pearl. She stood unblinking, unbreathing for a moment, then turned and went out into a night that was never as cold or dark than the house she left behind.
Out in the open air and moonlight she felt most comfortable, almost alive. Though her house was on a quiet block of a quiet suburb of a largely quiet college town, the tree-lined streets made her think she was in the country again, running through fields, sleeping in barns and farmhouses, feeding off what and who she could find.
Wrapped in a black knee-length raincoat over her grey skirt she seemed more like a shadow drifting up the block, feet barely touching the sidewalk. She knew the house she was looking for by memory, but she let her nose and ears guide her to what she sought. A small thing, warm and sleeping.
Half a mile from her home she drifted to a dead-end street leading to a pond. The last house before the pond was a small two-story saltbox with a willow in the front yard, hanging toward the pond. Cora walked beneath the willow and listened, then drifted to the side of the house and hopped effortlessly up to the lower roof. She landed without a sound and crept to the window, peering inside.
Inside, lit by a plug-in LED night light shaped like an elephant, was a toddler’s room. A small child’s bed with flowers stenciled on the white headboard. A pleasant, small white dresser for the little toddler clothes. A lamp on top of the dresser with a wind-up carousel that played Brahms’ “Lullabye” at bed time. Stuffed animals and toys displayed neatly in the corners, to be strewn about in the morning.
Cora tapped at the window until the child looked her way. She reached out with her mind and smiled.
“Do not be afraid,” she whispered in the child’s mind. “I’m a friend. Open the window. I’ll teach you to fly.”
Cora angled her head back to let the moonlight gleam off of her skin. She made sure to smile with her lips together. The hunger was on her now and it would be unwise to display her teeth. Eddie, as inefficient as ever, had failed to find anything to ease her hunger when she woke.
The girl smiled, climbed out of her bed, and went to the window. She reached out but could not reach the window.
“Do you want me to come in?” Cora said aloud. “Do you want to learn to fly? Like Peter Pan?”
The girl nodded and smiled, “Yeah!”
“Then I’ll help you,” Cora said. She gripped the bottom of the window with one hand and kept smiling at the girl, staring in her big blue eyes. The window latch opened itself, and Cora carefully opened the window.
As she lowered one leg into the child’s room she heard a voice in the hallway.
“Candice? Are you up?”
The child turned toward the door. “Uh huh!”
A man of about 30 with sandy brown hair, wearing pajama pants and no shirt appeared at the door. “Why are you…”
In a fluid motion, Cora slid through the window, swept the child up under her raincoat, and crossed the room. Before the man could even register that he was in front of her, Cora slashed her nails across his throat with her right hand and pulled his head back by his hair with her left.
“Guk!” the man choked as a spray of blood spewed from his throat.
Cora clamped her mouth over the gash and sucked, gulping down blood. She regretted the small amount that had been lost when she struck him, but didn’t waste a drop as she fed. In less than 5 minutes he was dead, crumpled on the floor like a hamburger wrapper. Cora’s eyes gleamed and her skin took on a pinkish glow. She opened her raincoat to reveal the girl, clinging to her leg.
“Where’s Daddy?” the girl asked.
“He’s sleeping. Do you want to come with me and play with new little friends?”
The girl nodded.
Cora smiled. “Sleep is boring!”
The girl laughed.
Cora picked the girl up by her head and gave it a quick twist. The girl let out a yip as her neck snapped. Cora then put the girl on the bed, snapping and reshaping limbs. She put the dead girl under her raincoat and climbed through the window.
She drifted back through the quiet streets with the bundle under her coat, feeling warm and sated. At her house, Eddie was waiting at the door. She closed the door and opened her coat. She pulled up the girl’s pajama top, then sliced open her belly with one nail. She then sliced open a vein in her arm and let the blood drip in the girl’s belly before dripping more in her mouth. The girl’s belly sealed up and the girl began to stir.
Cora looked at Eddie. “Puppy.”
Gene Lass has been a writer and editor for more than 25 years, working in all areas of publishing, from books and magazines to blogs. He has released three books of poetry to date, including the most recent, Ashes on the Sun, published in May 2020. His fiction and poetry have appeared in Electric Velocipede, KSquare, The Albatross, Coffin Bell Journal, Schlock, and Every Day Poems.