Both of the misery vampires hadn’t eaten in hours. Even the apprentice knew there would be plenty of prey to hunt.
Social media made it easier. Just as humans could merely send a picture of a pizza to certain establishments and expect food to come to them, misery vampires all over the world didn’t need to wait long to find a tasty morsel.
The master’s phone bleated. She took it out from under her cape and scrutinized her feed with the care and attention a true artist reserves for their magnum opus. Although the apprentice had not been fledgling for long, he already knew she treated every hunt with that level of interest. Some might think that if she was enraptured by every element of every night, then no night would be special, but—
“Ah hah,” the master said quietly. “There was a fire in that tenement building on the outskirts of town. It’s already out of control”
Goose flesh bubbled down the arm of the apprentice. There were going to be families of those that died. And survivors who have lost everything and are displaced from their homes. To say nothing of the people who would watch on the news and feel helpless.
The master’s phone bleated again. “Drat. That damned state senator already sent thoughts and prayers. So much for that great idea.” She put the phone to sleep.
“The state senator is one of us?” he asked.
“You’re surprised to learn most politicians are?” She said it like no one had ever compared politicians to vampires before. He kind of found her irritating in that moment, and worried if eternity was going to be like this, and how long his apprenticeship might last. It didn’t mean she was wrong; he was re-thinking a lot of politicians.
“Now what?” he asked, but he knew the answer. The hunt would continue, and it did.
“You have a question,” she asked, not asking a question.
“I have lots of questions.”
“We have plenty of time.”
A couple passed them on the sidewalk. Their steps exploded into a sprint once they passed the master and the apprentice.
“People are afraid of us, why?”
She thought about the answer. “You weren’t afraid. If anything, you were eager to learn more about us. But then again, you were a special case.”
“That’s just it. We eat people’s pain for food. I would think they would be grateful.”
She stopped walking, and he followed suit. Whatever she was about to say, he got the sense that it was a lesson he needed to understand. “To take a human’s pain completely away would be—to borrow one of their terms—an unsustainable agricultural process. We never take their pain away entirely. If we did that, the world would be without misery in months. We leave a little bit behind for them. Think of it as a seed that will grow more. For a while, they think they’re getting over it. Instead, they only forget why they’re depressed. They can’t quite point to what they’re angry about. And that crushing, despairing feeling just starts coming from nowhere and everywhere. That way, no one learns from their pain. They never get better.”
She might have said more, but in the distance, squad cars and ambulances flashed a symphony of blue and red. A white massive, gas-guzzling SUV—the kind that looked silly outside of a warzone—had completely engulfed the driver’s side of a bright green economy car that someone probably should have given up for scrap decades ago.
“And so, we never go hungry,” she explained.
They floated closer to the wreck. A young woman sat on the curb, her face a tableau of savory wonders. Whether she was the driver of the SUV, or the passenger of the economy car, her night was much closer to its beginning than an ending.
“Follow my lead,” the master commanded, then turned her attention to the human. “Bless your heart, dear.”
The master looked to the apprentice expectantly. He then looked to the human. “So sorry for your loss.”
They ate absentmindedly, and the apprentice’s mind wandered. Before he had joined her, some part of him thought there would be nobility to all of this. He now understood that had been naiveté. If there was a part of him that was still human, it might have despaired, too. Instead, the knowledge that his hunger would be sated—if only for a moment—would have to be enough.