1035

1035

1035

$1035. That’s all Tom needed to make extra a month to survive this summer. He hadn’t been sure how he was going to make it until his cousin had told him about this job. But as his moped pulled up to the rundown apartments in the middle of what he assumed was a dump yard, he wished he would have thought of another way. Weirdos and creeps always lived in these parts. And he didn’t feel like getting stabbed or having his moped stolen. He just hoped his customer would answer the door and pay for his pizza fast.

He looked down at his flickering phone once again and peered up at the numbers hanging on the doors. 41C . . . 41D . . . 41F . . . wait. He stared back up. Pretty sure that F was actually a broken E, and the landlords hopefully knew the alphabet, Tom knocked on the door. And stood there.

He couldn’t hear any rustling on the other side of the door.

“Great,” he muttered, looking back up at the number . . . please let that be a broken E.

He knocked again.

Nothing.

A large man squeezed past him in the hallway, squishing him and the pizza up against the door. Thankfully pizzas can endure tight situations.

The man fiddled with his own doorknob, eyeing Tom. Tom just nodded slightly and turned his eyes back to the door in front of him. This customer better hurry up.

Once the man disappeared into the other apartment, Tom knocked once again.

This better not have been a prank call-

The door swung open and a woman flashed him a smile. Her tight tank and tiny shorts showed off her tanned skin. Her red lips framed pearly, sharp teeth. And her eyes . . . her eyes were dark – pitch black, just like her hair. Tom could feel the drool inching down his chin.

“You in there?” her lashes fluttered, catching his attention.

“Uh . . . oh!” He lifted the pizza up. “H-here. For you.”

“Thanks.” She took it and sat it down inside, bending down to show off her legs and . . .

Tom shook his head. What was he thinking?! He still had two deliveries to go before turning in for the night. He didn’t have time to stare like a drooling idiot at this woman.

“Here you go.” She stood up, flipping her hair back. She walked back over, a wad of cash in her hand.

“Thanks-“

She snatched his extended hand and gave him the money.

He stuttered.

She chuckled. “My. You have beautiful eyes.”

“Uh-uh-“

She pulled him closer and leaned in, kissing his nose.

“Uh! Uh!”

As she pulled back, his head felt lighter.

She sucked in air and his vision blurred.

He wobbled back and forth, his world dimming as she pulled away from him.

Tom fell back, a scream piercing his ears.

And black.

***

Tom blinked, the blurry world sharpening as his eyes adjusted to the fluorescent lights.

“Wha . . .”

“Tom Billings.”

He looked over.

A man in a plain suit looked down at him. He looked past him to see a heart monitor beeping steadily. Above that was a plastic bag with some clear liquid dripping down into a tube . . .

“The hospital?”

“Yes. You arrived here a few days ago.”

“Wh-what?”

“You had an accident. Blacked out while delivering pizza.”

He looked the man over again. “Wh-who are you?”

“Call me Jax. I’m with a special department of the government.”

“Huh?”

“I’m here about your accident. Do you remember the young woman you were delivering to?”

Tom squeezed his eyes shut. The woman came to mind. But instead of the tanned skin and long legs, all he could imagine was oiled, damp hair, pitch-black eyes, and fangs. His hand twitched at the thought of something sharp – a hook? – digging into it.

“Th-that wasn’t a woman!” he shot up, heart pounding in his chest. He stared back at the man. “Wh-what-“

“It was a shadow creature personified as a woman. It has been luring unsuspecting victims to suck out their souls for weeks. Thankfully one of our officers was there to save you. He said he eyed you in the hall and knew it was about to strike. He acted fast and attacked the creature before it took your soul.”

Tom shook his head. “What are you talking about?!”

“It was trying to eat you.”

B-but that woman. She was beautiful and sweet and . . . and those pitch-black eyes . . .

“Those eyes locked onto yours right before it locked onto you right?”

Tom stared at the man.

He smiled. “I can hear what people are thinking. Just in the moment though.”

“She was real, then?”

“It was real. And it was trying to kill you. But you’re still alive.”

Tom slowly nodded. Damn.

“Well, thank you for your information, sir.” The man nodded before he turned away.

“Wait! What information?”

“You’re confirmation.” The man walked towards the door. “Now we know how it starts its eating process.” He tapped his lips.

Tom could feel the fire in his cheeks.

“By the way, did you have a scooter?”

“A moped.”

The man nodded. “Well, when the creature was fleeing the scene, it jumped out the window and landed on it.”

“What?!”

“Yeah. Smashed it as flat as a pizza.” He chuckled. “Don’t worry. Our department at least covers medical expenses. Have a good day.”

And with that, the man left.

Tom slumped back down. Great. No tip. No moped-

A buzz came from the bedside table. He reached over and snatched his phone up. The flickering screen showed a new message.

From his boss.

So no moped and no job, then.

And he still needed $1035 a month.

Just great.


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