Rounding the corner of the creaking staircase, I catch a violet glimmer on the floor below. Leaning over the handrail, I search the stairs winding around the pit to the lobby four floors down. Decay and rot flow down the steps. Dampness rises up the well. Thumping music permeating the walls nearly drowns out the carnal sounds of lovemaking. Nothing stirs on the stairs.
Reaching into my coat, I wrap my fingers around the handle of my gun strapped under my arm. Tingles race down into my legs. It isn’t nerves, or the sinking feeling in my gut that holds me. I know it’s him. His scent rides on a wave of mold.
It’s not amnesia. That’s for damn sure. Maybe Steve doesn’t have memories of his own, instead surviving on the memories borrowed from others. Like his knowledge of history, and how he knows how I like being kissed. And backwards. Except for the borrowed memories, everything seems new to him. He doesn’t remember our past because it’s in his future. Like him wearing a modern suit over a century ago, appearing out of nowhere to rescue Yasmine. The creepiness of it all sends shivers down my arms.
The dead should stay dead and out of my head.
I listen to the gasping breaths, squeals of delight, and bedposts banging the wall behind me. If Steve is here, he is on the other side of the shadows. Purple Hell. Stepping away from the handrail, I lean against the wall letting the beat creep inside. The booming electronic music upstairs works into the wall shattering bliss. I consider slipping inside, watch the sweaty bodies move to their music, listen to their heartbeats. Laughter rumbles upstairs. Hunger calls.
The room is three doors from the stairs. Music thunders within. There’s a party here nearly every week, and plenty of tasty morsels. Without knocking, without opening the door, I step into the shadows, my foot passing through the ethereal door. It’s a trick Steve taught me. Glancing around the rising purple mist, I search for him. Nothing, not even one of those creepy shadow things. I slip inside the smoky den.
The chatter roars fighting the blaring stereo system for attention. On the table near the door, sticky pizza leaves cheese trails back to stained boxes. Beer bottles in hands, they chat in small groups taking chugs between chortles or drags on cigarettes. On the sofa, two topless women bounce and dance spilling beer. Orange and yellow auras rise from their warm flesh.
Intoxication makes it easier, but too much alcohol spoils the meal.
Riding the edge of shadows in and out of the silence, I make my rounds. Stepping back into the world, music thundering, I let a man catch a glimpse of me. Gliding behind a woman in dark clothing, I slip back into the silence. Drifting deeper into the shadows, their forms pale into ethereal, nearly frozen shapes. Selecting another, a topless girl on the sofa, I position myself in her line of sight and return, the thud of music and laughter slamming my ears. She spots me and returns my smile, then turns her attention back on her dance partner. Looking at the other topless girl, I recognize Sabrina painted in dark mascara and black lipstick. What is she doing here? Slipping back into the shadows, I continue browsing the selections nearly frozen in their time. Finding potential targets at the back, I return to the world.
In the corner, a man leans in close to a woman talking her up and out of her blouse hanging from her shoulders. His finger traces the black strap onto lacy fabric. She bats his hand away and grins into a giggle.
I lean against the wall between the amorous couple and door opened a crack. Tapping my leg and nodding my head to the beat, I scan the room. A girl topples backward off the couch knocking a lamp over. Laughter erupts, and several men raise their bottles in a cheer. Taking advantage of the distraction, I push the door open and peek inside. A bathtub rests along the wall on the far and toilet on the near side. Empty. Turning my attention back to the party, I find the couple in the corner hugging each other. The woman runs her hand over the prickly unshaven face while the man watches me.