264: Special Delivery

on August 6, 2008 in Book 10

In Which Steff Spills Mackenzie’s Blood

This was it… the moment was upon us. The jewels above the lift doors were lighting up one after another as the delivery climbed inexorably closer and closer to us.

“You know, we’ve been eating a lot of those crackers,” Steff said. “And the cheese… that’s about as filling as it gets, right? Bunch of crackers and big chunks of indigestible dairy products.”

“Yeah,” I said, though honestly I felt like I might as well have been throwing the food away as much as eating it. My stomach felt empty… actually, that’s an understatement. It felt like emptiness itself… like a vast expanse of nothingness that went on forever. “We have been eating a lot.”

“What I mean is, we don’t have to eat right away,” Steff said. “I mean, this place has a kitchen. We could put it away for a while.”

“Yeah,” I said. It might have been my imagination… it probably was… but I thought I could smell something coming from the lift doors. An aroma like that in the steam baths, but… more. It was a scent I recognized from unremembered dreams and the unwelcome memories of my hungry episode.

“I mean, it’s not like we’re in any rush,” Steff said. She was talking so quickly, and the lift seemed to be moving so slowly… it was a toss-up which was more frustrating. “There’s no hurry… we don’t have to do anything with the food right now, right this minute. We… we could even sleep on it, right? Have… take care of the whole thing tomorrow? I mean, you said we don’t have to be back until the afternoon.”

“Uh… yeah,” I said, though I couldn’t quite remember what she was talking about. Tomorrow? The afternoon? What about now? Now was feeling pretty important.

“When’s checkout, anyway? That’s something we should probably find out,” Steff said, prattling on. “I mean, it’s important. Probably the meal will have to wait while we get that figured out.”

The lift chimed and the doors slid open. A man wearing a Havenwood uniform pushed a linen-draped trolley with a large covered platter, two tall thin wine glasses, and three bottles in ice on it. He was followed by what had to be the deliveryman from Tender Mercy’s, a nondescript man in a nondescript but very nice suit, carrying a large black bag with no markings.

“Good evening, folks,” the room service guy said. “Would you like to take this in the dining room, or out here?”

Steff looked at me. I didn’t return her gaze… I was staring at the bag. It smelled so good. I could also smell the room service guy and Steff all of a sudden… the guy with the trolley made my stomach rumble and stretch like it was waking up from a deep sleep.

Steff smelled oddly appetizing… nothing like gourmet fare by any stretch of the imagination, but a little exotic, and certainly not bad. Anyway, wasn’t there a saying like “hunger is the best sauce?” If so, the whole world could have been marinating in it…

“Um, dining room, I guess,” Steff said.

“Dining room it is, then,” he said. He wheeled the cart through the living room and into the dining area. We all followed, the silent man with the black bag only moving ahead of me when he realized that I wasn’t going to move ahead of him and his cargo. He walked sideways… one eye on me and one eye on where he was going.

Once we were in the dining room, he waited there silently until the room service guy cleared out, leaving his cart behind. The deliveryman set the oversized pouch down on the table and opened it. I swear my knees swayed as the aroma that had been trapped within it hit the air. From the bag, he pulled out a plastic domed take-out plate.

I took a step forward as soon as I saw it. Even with the clear part fogged up with steam, I felt it pulling me in like a lodestone pulls iron filings. He held up a white gloved hand and I stopped dead in my tracks, the hair on the back of my neck standing up as some primitive instinct held me back and kept me from running and tearing the plate out of his hands… or the flesh from his throat.

He set the dish down on the table and then produced two more and a large earthenware jug. I heard a growl echoing in my head, and started forward again.

His head whipped around and he looked me straight in the eyes. I tried to stare back, tried to force the fire into my eyes to make him back down… but his eyes were as empty and dark as the pit in my stomach. I whimpered, and had to look away.

“Sit,” he said. Though I’d never heard his silky voice, the steely tone underneath it was one I recognized and responded to without thinking. I sat. “Stay.” He turned towards Steff. “Would you care to inspect the meal?” Steff must have shook her head, because he simply said, “Enjoy.”

“Wait,” Steff said as he turned and headed for the door. “Don’t we pay now?”

“It has been taken care of,” he said. “Enjoy.”

“But we didn’t charge it,” Steff said. “I have a little pouch of gold with my clothes, if you’ll just…”

“Enjoy,” the man repeated a third time, and he left without waiting for further objection.

We both held our positions in silence, the meat tantalizingly close but too far for me to reach. The man’s feet made no sound, but after a short while we heard the lift doors open and then close. Steff let out a breath… even that smelled good.

“Okay… that was creepy,” she said. “I know that isn’t right. They made such a big deal out of getting payment… this is the smallest part of the order, but they should still collect it.”

I didn’t say anything… I just stayed crouched where I was, looking at the stack of covered plates and the sealed jug with a fierce longing.

“Maybe we should just put all that stuff away without touching it, in case there’s any dispute?” Steff said, though from what she’d said that sounded like a horribly naive view of Mercy’s dispute resolution process. “Or maybe we should let the restaurant know that we tried to pay and see what they want us to do… I don’t know. What do you think, Mack?”

I’d started crawling towards the table… slowly, low to the ground to avoid notice.

“Mack, you can stand up, you know,” Steff said.

“Yeah,” I said, getting to my feet. Of course I could. I crept towards the food, stalking my way up towards the domed plates. As hungry as I was, I didn’t want to move too quickly… I didn’t want to give myself away too soon, or else I’d spoil everything and be left with my pangs.

“I guess we should probably take a look,” Steff said, crossing in front of me and unstacking the containers.

I froze, certain that… wait, what was I certain of? That they would scatter and run? That had been the thought in my head, but that was ridiculous… I was treating dead meat like it was live prey, like Steff.

I shuddered. What was wrong with me? Did I really have so little self-control? Was my demon side buried so close to the surface that the smell of cooked flesh was enough to wake up some sort of sick hunting instincts? I wasn’t a hunter…

“These are the ribs,” Steff said, peering at one of the containers. “Looks like we got two racks, or sides, or whatever they call them. These other two are the… oh. They don’t look much like steak. Well, I guess they wouldn’t. But on the other hand, they don’t look like… I mean, you can’t tell what they are. If you didn’t know, I mean, you’d never guess… aw, fuck, I’m babbling.”

She giggled nervously and pulled at her hair.

“What do you think, Mack?” she asked me. “I guess… I don’t know, maybe we should at least try it? We can mix a bit up with the rice and it wouldn’t be so… I mean, that might give the best effect. I don’t know.”

I started to growl, but it came out more like a whine. She was standing between me and the other food… and I was so hungry.

“And this, obviously, is the blood,” she said, looking at the jug. “‘Magically stabilized and temperature controlled.’ Huh.” She popped the top off and my eyes filled up with red mist. Steff stuck her finger inside the neck of the jug and swirled it around. I could taste the sweet tang on the air. “At least we can be pretty sure nobody actually died for this… why would anybody sacrifice a virgin when their blood’s worth so much?”

The blood… its scent was sweet and heady. It promised so much: satiation, fulfillment of purpose… it would fill the hole in side me, slake the awful hunger that felt like it would devour me along with the rest of the world. I could drink the blood and I would be at peace, content. I could drink the blood and be full.

Maybe I should eat the other food before I drank the blood.

“What do you think, Mack?” she asked, pulling her finger out and turning towards me. “Stick all this in the fridge… or stasis box or whatever the hell they have… and figure out what to do with it later?”

I stared at her finger… the long, supple digit was wet and red to the second knuckle.

“Mack?” Steff said. I was having a hard time remembering what that word meant. “Hon? Are you okay? It’s just blood, hon… I know you’re kind of a w… sensitive girl, but the sight of it shouldn’t… oh, um.”

Something had changed, in her face and her stature and even her smell. She was a lot more appetizing all of a sudden… everything about her was screaming I am prey, I am food. The instincts that had been wasted on takeout containers were waking up again.

“I’m just going to get my clothes and go downstairs for, like, an hour or so… give you a little time to eat.” She took a step back in the direction of the bedroom and the pool. I took two steps towards her. “Or, maybe I’ll just go hang out in the lobby in my underwear for a bit,” she said.

With a fierce roar, I flew through the air at the blood-dabbed morsel, but three things happened faster than I could follow: a chair ended up smashing into kindling against my face, the jug of blood was knocked over onto the floor, and Steff was gone out the door.

I could hear her voice frantically whispering “come on, come on, come on,” I could hear her jabbing at the lift controls… but she was all the way out there and the blood was right there with me. I fell to the floor, lapping up the spreading pool.

It was so good… not quite the ambrosia of fresh-from-the-vein, but far better than the cold offerings I’d made do with for most of my childhood or even the coffee cup of blood I’d had most recently. It was warm and so close to fresh

As slow as it oozed from the narrow opening and as fast as I drank, it spread faster than I could feed. I wanted it to last forever, and it seemed like it just might.

There was a rustling sound from somewhere nearby, but it wasn’t important, whatever it was… how could it be? It wasn’t the blood, after all. There was another sound: wooden legs scooting across tile, and then creaking slightly under weight. Then came a voice.

“Please, don’t let me stop you,” it said.

I wasn’t going to.

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3 Responses to “264: Special Delivery”

  1. pedestrian says:

    And I thought that when I miss a meal, I get loopy! Being hypoglycemic is no picnic, so to speak. My temper gets very temperamental. I learned to always carry a couple of food bars with me just so I don’t go all Diva on people.

    Current score: 3
  2. Cadnawes says:

    People are sometimes very hard on Steff in the comments, but I think that here, you see her as she is. She can talk a creepy game but when push comes to shove, she’s just that: all talk.

    Yeah yeah, spooky necromancer… working with bodies of people who probably donated them, if her cadaver lab is like the ones at any school I ever went to.

    Current score: 8
    • Moridain says:

      I like steff, and agree that she is more into the idea of pain and death than the actual event.

      I honestly expect her to end up an artist, perhaps involving necromantic items?

      Current score: 4