Chapter 27: Last Night on Earth


I had no idea how Keel's brain didn't just melt down from the constant sensory overload. Every time I thought I could see, hear, smell things at maximum clarity, everything sharpened, again and again.

I could feel every pebble under my new high-top black sneakers as I sprinted across the pavement. I could smell the blood of at least two dozen rodents and small mammals in the direct vicinity, of four different species, and roughly twenty humans, none close. The city of Buffalo sounded like a discordant symphony playing all around me - insects were the strings, birds the woodwinds, and vehicles and the rest of the urban soundscape the bass and drums. It wasn't so much beautiful as incredibly dense; honing in on any one sound led me to other unheard textures and rhythms, which in turn led me to even more. A rabbit hole of never-ending warrens. The way humans saw the world was so flat compared to this; this was Technicolor, with a hundred thousand channels of surround sound. I was in love.

Keel was trailing behind me, starting and stopping frequently, employing utmost caution. More than anything else in the world, in the night, I was aware of him. Whatever he'd given me had come with an invisible tether.

I avoided residential streets as much as possible, opting to head deep into a cluster of industrial buildings, where there was much less chance of encountering people in the dead of night. Keel might've thought I was being reckless, but this was my world, and I knew how it worked. I spotted a vacant single-storey building with the rusting hulk of a dumpster tucked up beside it, and swerved in its direction. Climbing the metal container was easy; jumping up to the lip of the roof and then hoisting myself onto it was trickier, but even so, I managed it like a pro.

For the first time in a long time, I didn't feel like a victim. Not at all.

But something new was bothering me.

As I waited for Keel to catch up, I walked along the perimeter of the roof surveying our surroundings. It was a quiet night, probably a weeknight, when most working folks stayed in and went to bed early. As Keel came into view across the street, I flagged him over, though it was unnecessary; my blood would have led him straight to me anyway.

I could tell he was angry even before he set foot on the roof, but the way he stormed towards me cemented it. His expression was as hard and unyielding as that of a marble statue.

"Are you crazy?" he shouted. "Someone is going to see us!"

"You're overreacting," I said.

"How am I overreacting? Do you have any idea how bad it would be if humans found out about us?"

"Yes, Keel, I get it, you don't have to keep telling me, especially when there's no danger of that happening." He should have known that too. His senses should have been telling him the same things mine were.

"And how can you be so sure of that?"

"The closest human is inside that building across the street and the nearest one outdoors is more than a block away." Keel's anger turned to shock. Once that faded, all that remained was a slick veneer of worry. But, for once, I wasn't worried. Nothing bad could feel this good. "But there's one thing I still don't get," I continued. "If this is how you experience the world, why did it take your father's troops so long to find me in the smashed-down cabin?"

Keel looked confused, as if he couldn't make sense of the question.

"The cabin, remember," I said. "I showed you it that night we discovered I could share things when you drank my blood."

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