People say they love the smell of fresh cut daisies, but I far prefer the scent of what pushes them up, the dead. You see, death has a scent all to itself, slightly tangy and bitter, pleasing and calming on the palate. Sure there are other aromas I love too, not just that of death, which can chase the chill from my heart, or would, if I had a heart; at least one that could beat and warm the night’s cold from my blood.
Every day I crave the smell of death and evil, I have since my birth. But living in a sea of flesh and blood, I have developed an appreciation for other human and earthly scents; Like the ocean, its sea salt assaulting my senses with a clean, pure bouquet, quite unmatched by anything manufactured. Or the first morning smell of fresh-cut, wet grass and, of course, women. Women smell so much sweeter than men. They, over the millenniums, have refined their scents out of necessity as much as pleasure, each expertly adapting their sultry, seductive and secret combinations of body lotions and perfumes. Honing this craft throughout the ages, to tempt and seduce men out of their minds.
But these are not the only olfactory delights to curl my toes and tickle my senses. For nothing—not the tangy stench of death, nor the sweet scent of a woman—compares to the most inspired aroma of all. Coffee. Nothing in my three-hundred-plus years of experience has compared. Sure, coffee itself has evolved, from non-filtered to filtered, from espresso to cappuccinos, and now from mocha’s to Frappuccinos, but the essence is the same. The intoxicating sweetness, the mild-to-bitter flavors that leave you wanting more—needing more.
You see, that’s my drug. Some people need cocaine, others heroin, and some crave cigars or alcohol. I, on the other hand, have the most
decadent, refined and expensive vice of all. And it’s because of this little addiction—or weakness—that I can be found most nights here, sitting on the dimly-lit, damp, covered balcony of Martin’s Books and Coffee.
I sip my overpriced drug while the not-so-distant smell of the ocean creeps its way through the maze and tangled web of Seattle’s wet streets. The cars filing by below enhance the scent of the ocean sitting not too far from here, as the sound of their tires splashing through wet, potholed roads echoes that of the rush of a wave over a rock and the sound of ocean spray.
On most days, Martin’s tends to be a good place to relax. One of the few independently-owned book stores left in Seattle, the atmosphere here is calming and the lighting muted. Not so dark that you cannot read a book and enjoy your coffee, but just dim enough so that someone of my, let us say fair complexion, can go unnoticed by the everyday person stopping by for a fix and a good book.
The décor is modern contemporary, although the designer clearly relied far too much on his collection of old IKEA catalogs, with a thousand shades of tans and browns with brushed steel accents scattered throughout, for effect. I do think that they might have gone a little overboard with the alternating redwood and pine floor boards. The effect is still pleasantly calming if not somewhat dull.
So, why so critical, you may ask? It’s an occupational hazard, I’m afraid. We all, Reapers and humans alike, must have a day job and mine happens to be that of a wine critic. The crème de la crème of critics, although, truth-be-told, I’m not a big fan of wine. However, I have been gifted with a palate most French chefs would give their sous chefs right hand for. Not their own hand, of course. No French chef I have ever met, and I have met more than my fair share, would ever think of giving that much for their craft.
“Mr. Reid, would you like another?”
The sound of her sing-song voice pulls me back to the moment, temporarily suspending my hazy, drug-induced stupor.
The question comes from Sarah, one of my favorite wait-persons here at Martin’s. Yes, I said wait-persons. Living—if you can call what I
do living—in a world of political correctness, I’ve learned it is no longer appropriate to refer to someone as a ‘waitress’. That would be such denigration. Sarah is just the typical twenty-something coffee house wait-person who can be seen in any of the hundred or so coffee houses that pepper the Seattle Landscape—not Sarah herself, of course, but the type. Tall, but not too tall, with long blonde hair. A lightly tanned complexion and the body, a perfectly sculpted masterpiece. I’m not sure about the other Sarah’s out there, but my Sarah has one defining attribute that I find hard to resist, her smell. The bouquet that wafts around her is subtle and ambiguous, what is that? Lavender with a hint of vanilla and cinnamon, perhaps?
I shift my head to look up at her. She really is a beautiful girl and I can tell I make her a little uncomfortable, but I’m used to that. Being a Reaper does have certain perks after all and it isn’t all about death and feeding, we have our needs, too. And women, well, they always find us Reapers attractive, mysterious and alluring. If they only knew the truth.
Sarah’s question hangs suspended in the air a few seconds, patiently awaiting my response.
“Do I want another? How many is that tonight, Sarah?” I ask.
She gives me a seductive little side grin. You know the kind; the grin that accomplished women practice in the mirror at night, trying to hone their craft to better seduce their prey.
“You’ve only had two tonight,” she replies.
Two is not entirely true. I have only had one and a half so far. Let’s not cheat me out of my other half cup.
Most nights at Martin’s are about the coffee, but not tonight. Tonight is not about my vices. Tonight is about my needs. My vices will have to wait.
“No more tonight. I’ll just be finishing off what I have left, Sarah.”
With that, she gives me another of her little sultry side grins, flips her hair over her left shoulder and strolls back to the bar. My eyes cannot help but follow her. She really does have a certain something about her walk. Perhaps it’s been too long since I let a woman seduce me. But tonight cannot be about that; tonight I have other needs that must be attended to.
I glance down at my watch to check the time, enjoying the novelty of it.
I find wearing a watch is such a novelty here in the twenty-first century. No one wears watches anymore. All around me I see people texting, playing games and talking in quiet whispers to unknown others on their cell phones. A cell phone may be the one-stop shop of entertainment and information overload, but it is also the tool slowly killing the faithful and dependable wrist watch. Progress be damned, I still love my watch. This is reinforced by the fact that I hate cell phones. They are the digital leash of the twenty-first century and unless it’s leather, I’m not wearing it around my neck or anything else for that matter.
My watch reads 9:45 p.m.
Soon, very soon.
Two weeks ago there had been a new addition to Martin’s. A customer, but not just any customer: This one had a certain scent about him, if you will. The sweet nectar of evil; I could smell it, I could feel it. It was palatable in the air, like an early morning mist hovering over the shore, waiting for the early entrance of sunlight to wash over it and chase it away.
I know evil. And yes, I suppose it does take evil to know it. But what is evil?
Is it the monster who kills? Or the monster who kills the killer?
This man’s evil was distinctive. He had killed and not out of necessity or duty. Those who have killed in that way had a different essence. But this man murdered for pleasure; he lusted for it. Ecstasies of power drive him to kill, control his actions and decide for him who is to be next, and when.
Not long to wait now. Soon. It will be very soon.
I can feel my hunger building; excitement, I suppose.
It has been almost three weeks since my last snack, a 42-year-old CEO who used his position to sexually abuse and harass those in his employ. Not as tasty or satisfying as a kill-happy psychopath or the hidden sociopath next door, but a tasty morsel nonetheless.
I crane my neck to the left a little, stretching to release the building tension.
Over my shoulder I can see the bestsellers rack and the number one book for this week; another vampire novel. How original.
Vampires. If only the world knew the truth.
People have told old-wives tales about vampires for centuries, desperately trying to explain what they could not understand. Very human, I suppose, but oh-so wrong. Vampires, werewolves, goblins, ghouls and banshees, oh my. All fictional creatures and all created in a desperate attempt to explain the inexpiable.
To grasp understanding of the supernatural. To try to embrace the unbelievable. Although, truth-be-told, misinformation can be a useful distraction for humans, when the truth lies far beyond the boundaries of their comprehension.
I’m fascinated by humans obsessions with the supernatural, especially in the Twenty-First Century. The stories have been so sensationalized over the ages that these romanticized creatures have had humanity grafted into their lore and being.
Really, humans should rethink their reality. Do you romanticize about a warm steak, or a perfectly cooked duck breast before you eat it? No, I don’t think you do, and neither do we.
I suppose it’s not hard to see how, at one time or another in history, one of my brethren may have been seen as one of those monsters. After all, every urban legend has its basis in truth. I wouldn’t be surprised if sometime in the past, someone looked at one of the smaller members of our group and the emergence of little gray aliens came to be. As I said, we do look a little pasty in the skin. In some lighting, you might even say, light grey.
This thought always brings a smile to my face. I mean really, what sorry excuse for a Reaper was ever mistaken for a four-foot, big-headed, skinny alien? And if it was one of us, what’s with the anal probing? Feed—Yes. Catch and release—sure. Fishermen weren’t the first to coin that phrase. Play with our food—we’re all children at heart. But anal probing? Well the Devil only knows where that may have originated.
What you have to understand is that, as Reapers, we have our proclivities to perversion in one form or another. I mean, you can only live for a few centuries before normal becomes boring and a little bit of deviancy spices up your day.
The sound of heavy footsteps atop the redwood floors capture my attention. I know those footsteps. I’ve been waiting for those footsteps.
9:55 p.m. exactly.
Predictable and punctual; always a nice trait to find in a fellow monster. I mean, really, could I ask for more? I suppose he could come on over, take a seat and let me kill him right here and now. But where’s the fun in that?
I track his steps as he stops at the counter to place his order.
What will it be tonight?
I feel like a kid in a candy store, waiting to see what delicious delicacy Mother has picked out for me. Of course, I have my preference: coffee, thank you. What could be better than a late snack and a cappuccino-flavored dessert? At this thought, I wipe away the smallest sliver of saliva that crests the corner of my mouth.
“Large coffee, black, to go,” he says smiling broadly.
Coffee, black. What, no cinnamon coffee cake? It’s excellent this time of year, I hear, and the sweet aftertaste of cinnamon. It’s divine.
My mouth starts to moisten and I have to swallow so as not to drool. Oh well, beggars can’t be choosers.