1963-09-20 - Still Falls The Rain
Summary: Vlad Dracula settles into his new home
Related: None
Theme Song: Born Yesterday: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zs4tjbqyVaM

Dracula, Chamberlain, Ragged Man, Blue Woman, the Starving

The flight from Paris is on time. A slender man sits by the window, silent all the way across the Atlantic. A small, carved box sits at his feet — oddly, he uses it as a footrest. His briefcase is on his lap, under his folded white hands. He has no other luggage.

At New York, he disembarks with the rest, briefcase in hand and box under his arm. He takes a cab to the PanAm building like any other businessman and, there, he steps through the doors of an out of order elevator. No one questions him, no elevator car arrives for him. He stands on nothing as the doors close behind him and no one notices.

On the top floor, the slender man picks his way past construction materials, skirts workmen welding iron into cages. He heads unerringly for a throne made of twisted, blackened I-beams, rebar, and other scraps of steel.

"How are my affairs?" The man on the throne doesn't look away from the scene playing out in front of him, a half a dozen emaciated, naked figures feeding from a seething, screeching barrel of rats. "Slowly, my darlings," he says to the starving vampires. "You must eat slowly at first."

"In order, my Lord." The slender man hands the carved box off to an elegant auburn-haired woman in a new blue dress. "It will take some time to convert your investments into liquid wealth, but we will manage until then."

"Did you know there is a place here that they call Hell's Kitchen?" Dracula chuckles softly. "So aptly named. The Orientals and the Slavs carry out their business there, as well as the Italians — one does enjoy the Italians."

"My Lord?" A handsome, arch-looking man in a patchwork coat steps over a pile of rat corpses to approach the throne. "Shall I feed the Countess?"

"Water." Dracula snaps his fingers at the slender man, who takes the briefcase over to a table to open it so his master can peruse the contents. "Only water, I think. And if she does not eat, then not even that. It must be her choice, but choice…it's an illusion, isn't it?"

A frantic rat escapes the barrel, crawling up and over one of the feeding creatures, and darts for freedom. The only clear path leads directly to the black throne and its occupant. Dracula raises his foot and brings it down just as the rat realizes it is racing toward an even more dangerous predator. The crunch is very final and a pool of red spreads under Dracula's boot.

"Make her a path, and she will choose it," he says mildly. When he lifts his foot, one of the creatures crawls over to lick up the pool and gnaw the corpse. "The hungry will eat."

Hell's Kitchen is overcast with a gloom that penetrates the skin. At first, it was just rain, torrents thick enough to slow traffic and cut down on trade. A young woman braves the downpour and the rolling greenish fog to step out on her street corner. Hunger makes people do things they would prefer not to do and heroin is its own hunger.

It's so cold and getting colder but something hot hits her cheek. One heavy warm drop, then another, and another. She puts her hand to her face and it comes away red. Red washes over a bright yellow cab, sluices down windows, fills the gutter. It tastes like copper, the air smells of meat. Down the street, hidden in the fog, someone starts to scream.

"Don't know what it is." Twenty years as a cop on the street in Hell's Kitchen and Bill O'Reilley has now seen it all. He's clutching his radio with a white-knuckle grip, as though that's going to keep him connected to dispatch. "Not a fire. It's not smoke."

Smoke isn't a wall, smoke isn't that shade of light-sucking black, smoke isn't wreathed in streaks of lightning, and smoke doesn't march down the street with a measured pace. Street lights pop and burst in showers of sparks. Someone in the fog is wailing that they can't see.

"I can't see! God help me, I can't see."

"Sir, I need you to get back." The screaming shakes Bill out of his stupor and he lets go of the radio, abandons his car to go after an older man standing in the street, watching the fog with the same stunned curiosity as Bill. "Sir!"

The man doesn't turn around, not even as Bill charges toward him. The leading edge of the fog is already on him. A static charge washes over Bill, makes his hair stand on end under his policeman's hat, heats his buttons.

"Sir!" Bill knows he said it but he can't hear the word. "Sir!" He can't hear himself speak. He can't hear his own heart. He grabs the man by the shoulder and the man looks at him at last, baffled.

I can't hear. Bill can read the man's lips and the way he touches his ear. The silence is so complete, Bill's terrified that he's stopped breathing.

"Come with me, sir." Bill says it, or he thinks he says it, as he turns to lead the man back out of the fog but there's nothing to say which way he's facing now. He can't see more than a few feet, can't even see the curb.

No matter how far he runs, there's no end to the fog, as though he carries it with him. In only a few seconds he's alone and lost in the neighborhood where he's spent his whole life. When his vision goes out, there's no one to hear him anymore, not even himself.

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