The lonely girl sits at the bar. Mia can’t remember if she’s supposed to call it a bar or a pub or what. It’s like all the other bars in all the other towns in all the other countries she’s been to. She even worked in one for a while, in Cardiff. She couldn’t even remember why she had ended up in Cardiff in the first place. Probably chasing something, as usual. She was chasing something when she came here. On the dusty wooden floor her battered, ripped backpack kisses her feet.
She’s drinking vodka and smoking a cigarette. She doesn’t like the whiskey they give you here, in the small continental towns that have been here since the Romans ruled. If she drinks straight vodka and smokes one of those big, dirty European cigarettes, it’s almost the same thing as drinking a Jack Daniel’s. As an added bonus, it kills you even faster.
Some part of Mia notices the girl long before she sits down at the stool next to her. The girl has shoulder-length black hair and wears a black halter top. Her lipstick is a dark shade of purple. This girl says something to Mia. She understands a couple of the words, but the rest is gibberish. She shakes her head and takes another sip of vodka.
The girl tries again. “You are alone.” Yes, that’s a true statement. Mia nods, and the girl is smiling.
“You are American, yes?” the girl asks.
“Canadian,” Mia says flatly.
“Yes,” the girl agrees knowingly. “Of course. What are you doing in Prague?”
“Looking for something.” Mia takes a pull on the cigarette and holds it in, feeling the smoke settle into her lungs. She likes the way it both burns and relaxes her at the same time. She can’t remember what that reminds her of.
“Oh, and here I thought you were running away from something… or someone,” the girl says.
Mia turns and looks harder at the girl. She’s got a tattoo, some twisted, arcane symbol, in black ink on her shoulder, and her eyes are the color of a frozen river on a mid-winter morning. She is maybe in her late twenties. Mia has to swallow before she can say anything else. “Why would you say that?”
“It is easy enough to tell,” the girl says, a sly smile on her lips. “The eyes, the shoulders, the way you drink your vodka. So, she break your heart?”
“You are going to say it was a he, in this bar?”
“All right, okay, yes, it was a she,” Mia puts out her dwindling cigarette in the ashtray. One final orange spark arises in protest, then disappears. “It’s always been shes. That’s the problem, isn’t it? Why I got kicked out of the house, why I ended up there…” The girl was looking on with an interested look on her face. “But you’ve got it wrong. She didn’t break my heart. I broke hers. That is, if I ever really had her heart to begin with, y’know?” Mia swings her legs around, beginning to get up from her stool.
“Where are you going?” the girl asks.
“I’m out of vodka, and I’m out of Euros,” Mia says. “Something tells me it’s time to blow this joint.”
“Maybe later,” the girl says in her accented English. “How do you say… I tell you what. You tell me your name, I buy you more vodka.”
Mia considers this for a moment before she hops back on the stool. “Mia. Just Mia.”
The Czech girl smiles and raises a hand to get the bartender’s attention. Mia’s eyes drift over to an old wooden jukebox in the corner, filled with songs that the old communist government approved of. A middle-aged woman is putting a coin in the slot. Mia wonders when and why people stop liking new music and start wanting to hear the same songs repeatedly.
There is more vodka in front of Mia, and the girl is smiling that dry little grin of hers. “So, you left America. Why?”
“Canada,” Mia reminds her.
“Of course. I forgot.”
Mia takes a swig of the vodka. It isn’t the cheap stuff she’s been drinking. This was top of the line. “It’s a long story.”
“I am listening,” the girl insists.
Mia sighs. “When my father found out… about the shes, he kicked me out. And I wasn’t too unhappy about that. He was old-school Japanese. Gave me my eyes and not much else.”
“I like your eyes,” the girl says, and a mechanism ticks over in the back of Mia’s brain, reminding her just how long it’s been since she kissed anybody. Did anything with anybody.
“I ended up in, of all places on the god-forsaken Earth, Cleveland,” Mia continues after a moment. “We thought we were doing all right, but we weren’t. It catches up to you after awhile.”
“I have lived on the street myself,” the girl says. “I know what you are saying.”
“And then I met these people. They gave me a roof over my head, three squares a day, some decent cash. They seemed like they were trying to do the right thing, y’know?” The girl nods and Mia takes a sip of her drink before continuing. “And she was there.”
“So you were saved,” the girl says, “and she was your savior.”
“That’s what I thought,” Mia says. Part of her wonders why she is saying all this to a stranger. She had been all over Europe and hadn’t told this stuff to anybody. But it wasn’t as if the girl was about to go tell someone. “And then... they had me do things. They were the sort of things that change you, y’know? And I felt like I had a choice. I could leave and hang on to who I was, or I could stay and become that girl, the girl in the armor firing the machine gun.” The other girl’s eyebrow moves a fraction, but she says nothing, and motions for Mia to continue. “So I left. But after a couple weeks I realized… why should I care about hanging on to who I am if I don’t even know who that is? I don’t even have a last name.”
“You do not need a last name,” the girl says. “Look at Madonna.”
Mia smirks, but her voice doesn’t change. She thinks the joke is funny, but she isn’t really ready to be happy about it. “I think maybe I made a mistake. Despite the problems, what I was doing… that year was the best year of my life.”
The Czech girl sits next to Mia for a moment, elbow resting on the bar and her chin resting on her hand. “All you are looking for is someone to care for you, be loyal to you, not to make demands on you, to let you figure out who you are.”
“Preferably a hot chick that wants to have sweaty, naked sex with me,” Mia adds. “But you’ve pretty much got it.”
“So that is why you came to Prague?”
“I don’t know why I came here,” Mia sighs, and turns her attention back to her drink. She and the girl are going around in circles. For some reason, though, Mia can’t just get up and walk away. Her legs simply aren’t willing to work.
“I believe you,” the Czech girl says after a moment. “You are honest with me. I like honesty. There is so little of it in the world, to find it is like finding a jewel in the gutter.”
The girl was right again. “Yes,” Mia says softly.
“I will be honest with you. A fair exchange, I think. I am of the immortals.” Mia says nothing, looking at the other girl over the top her glass as she drains the last of her vodka.
“You would call me… vampire. Yes?” the girl continues.
“Yes,” Mia agrees, setting down her emptied glass. “I know.”
“You know?” For the first time, the girl sounds surprised. “You are human, I smelled it. You…” Her eyes widen. “You are one of them. One of the…”
“I am,” Mia says, turning to face the girl. “You’re not wrong much, I’ll give ya that.”
“Ah,” the vampire says. “It makes more sense now.”
“It does, doesn’t it?” Mia nods. “You’re Daniela, right?” And now it was the vampire girl’s turn to nod. “I’ve heard about you. You’ve been here as long as anyone can remember. They whisper your name in alleyways and the basements of ancient buildings. You’re quite an urban legend around here.”
Daniela sighs before she says anything. “Many of my kind travel from place to place, avoiding the mob, avoiding girls like you. But I loved Prague too much to leave. I have walked these streets for centuries, through wars, kings, plagues, revolutions, and renaissances. None have ever stood against me here.”
“Strange way to repay a city you love,” Mia says, “by drinking its blood.”
“We all ask certain things of those we love,” Daniela replies. “You gave me your list, if you remember. So are you going to… stake me?”
“I had thought about it,” Mia answers enigmatically.
“I have a better idea,” Daniela says. She reaches down and takes Mia’s hand in her own, and Mia wonders how such cold hands could feel so wonderful and soft. “Your life has betrayed you. You ask for more, for understanding, for support. For an unconditional savior. I can give you that, Mia. The universe makes us rivals, but the universe is easy to defeat. Look at me… I may never die. How better to defeat the universe? Let us leave here together, tonight.”
Mia feels the soft, cold hands, and the flashes of gunfire that always light the pathways of her mind fade into darkness. All that is left is an icy warmth, and Mia yearns in that painful center of her soul to go with Daniela and let that last forever.
And then the vampire leans forward and kisses her. A strange, purple kiss, a kiss that gives Mia dancing visions of flames and pitchforks, a kiss that tastes of warm iron. Mia’s mind is too fried from lust and vodka to realize that it is the taste of human blood.
When Daniela breaks the kiss and leans back, the icy fog recedes to the edges of Mia’s consciousness. Awareness returns.
“Let’s go,” Daniela says huskily, and Mia feels herself nodding.
The two women stumble out into the night. The smoggy spring air feels close and wet on Mia’s skin as she follows Daniela around the side of the building. The bar is old and built out of stone; some sort of tavern has stood on that spot since long before the Czechs had their own nation. The alley next to the bar is dirty in the dangerous sort of way one finds in the decaying, organic old cities. There are a few stray needles on the ground and there is no doubt that rats frequent the place.
Daniela leans Mia back against the slick stone wall of the bar. She looks deep into Mia’s eyes and whispers “I am going to save you.”
The fangs don’t hurt as much as Mia thought they would. It’s almost nice, she thinks, suddenly completely lucid. She is completely aware of Daniela’s mouth on her neck, the penetration, the suction, the sudden dampness of her own blood. It is as if she had never been quite so alive as in this moment of having her own life siphoned away.
Daniela pulls back suddenly. There is a surprised look on the vampire’s face for a fraction of a second before she explodes into tiny particles, disappearing in a sudden gust of wind.
Mia looks down at the stake in her hand. She tries to remember where she got it from, and fails. With a sigh, Mia roots around in her pocket for a cigarette before she remembers that she smoked her last in the bar. She is out of cigarettes, out of vodka, and out of cash. She has found what she was looking for. It is time to move on.
The lonely girl walks back towards the entrance to the bar. She needs her backpack. And she should probably clean the blood off her neck.
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