An Act of Contrition (pt 1)

The Calm is a moderately popular cafe in Normal, IL, located in a strip of commercial shops frequented by the local university population. Students could be found there at all hours studying quietly, trading stories, and finding love, all with house coffee and exotic teas expertly made. The location had a knack of never being too busy, but also never being slow, so if you wanted a seat, one would be available and you never had long to wait for your order.

The owner, Sapphire Smith, was a well-loved fixture of The Calm. If she wasn’t making drinks, she was always in the office. She was a warm personality known for motherly hugs and an instinctive ability to tell when her customers needed a kind word. Sapphire was instantly recognizable. Tall and lush, with hair dyed to match her name and skin like the earth, she was as popular for her looks as her business. She also wasn’t human.

Sapphire was a succubus, an ancient race of inhuman creatures that fed off the life energies of humans via touch that the population at large only read about in stories. Her racial anonymity was important to her survival, as even rumors of a succubus would invariably draw dangerous attention from the ancestral hunters of her kind. Sapphire wasn’t particularly old, only about sixty, so because of her success in gaining a large pool of constantly shifting food sources in her patrons, she wasn’t interested in testing her luck via clumsiness.

It was a cool spring day that found Sapphire out of sorts. She found herself distractedly sitting in her office doorway watching her baristas work and scanning the floor. Something was wrong, but she couldn’t quite place it. She allowed her dark brown eyes to drift from person to person, and face to face without any purpose to guide them. Before long, they settled on the face of a pretty young woman with strawberry blond hair and a purposeful tan. She was a freshman at the local university named Amy, who’d been a frequent patron since enrolling. Today, she wasn’t with the usual friends, but instead a man of middling age. He dressed too nice to be a student, wearing a short sleeve button down and well pressed tan slacks. He was fit and admittedly handsome, but something felt off about him. Perhaps it was the relaxed hardness around his eyes that spoke of authority beyond his years or the mild sense of readiness she could see in his posture, but whatever it was, the Succubus knew she didn’t like it.

“Hey, Amy,” Sapphire said as the young woman came to the counter to order her drink, smoothly taking over the order in the process. “The usual?”

“Yes, please.” The young woman replied cheerfully.

Sapphire noted her cheery disposition and set about making Amy’s drink, an Americano with light sugar but extra cream. Sapphire had a reputation for knowing every customer’s favorite drink, if they had one. A simple task for any Succubus. “I notice you have some new eye candy.”

“I know, right?” Amy replied, her tone hushed yet excited. “He’s a historical lecturer and tours unis. Talking to him is like brain sex.”

“Mmm,” Sapphire purred back, expertly matching Amy’s tone. “Is it serious?”

“No, but it’s fun,” she replied, drawing the last word out almost conspiratorially.

“You’ll have to dish sometime.” Sapphire handed Amy her order and gently brushed her fingers against the freshman’s, taking a sip of her energy in the process. The Succubus’ day was filled with dozens of such interactions. Tiny sips of energy from touches so minor and gentle her prey never even noticed them. Such things took tremendous self-control as the hunger that forced her to feed was as powerful as it was relentless. Humans could feel the pull if they weren’t suitably distracted unless the pull was very small, and while distracting humans was very easy in a more private setting, such things were also more likely to get one noticed or allow for mistakes.

Amy’s life force had changed. She normally tasted like a sixteen-year-old’s first day driving without a ride-along, but now she tasted like a mosquito-bitten summer’s day at the fair. The change was distinct, and the flavor had familiar overtones that told Sapphire exactly want she needed to know.

Sapphire allowed her desire to be ignored fill her heart. She breathed it out like smoke, letting it linger in the air. She thought of arguing parents at their child’s sporting event and water-bugs in a bachelor’s apartment when he’s finally had a bit of luck at the bar. Concepts and memories copied from the mouths of their owners were tools to a succubus. They formed a complex language that only they could understand and allowed them control over their enigmatic glamors.

With the feeling of invisibility firmly in mind, she rounded the bar and followed Amy back to her man. He was scrolling absently through his phone, though the subject of his idling meant little to Sapphire. She was already busy with keeping her repellant glamor in place while controlling a deep sense of revulsion that threatened to crack her long perfected veneer. She tapped the man firmly on the shoulder and cleared her throat, taking care not to take any energy from him.

He glanced up at Amy, then to Sapphire. “Can I help you?” He asked as he glanced to Amy again, confused by her sudden deep interest in her own phone.

“Yes, you can.” Sapphire’s voice was barely a whisper. “You can leave my establishment and never come back.”

The man adjusted himself in his seat to allow a better look at Sapphire, his expression filled with amusement. “Why?” He asked.

“Because I don’t allow your kind here under any circumstances.”

The amusement drained from his face, leaving him thin-lipped. “And what kind is that, exactly?”

Sapphire sneered and casually licked the back of one of her canine teeth. “You know what kind,” She said after a moment.

The man looked around, suddenly aware that the room seemed to be incidentally ignoring them. His expression shifted into one of defeat and he allowed a belabored sigh to escape his lips. “Have I done something to offend?”

“You exist,” She said simply.

“Of course,” the man said, looking away. “I’ll gather my pet and leave.”

“See that you do.” Sapphire turned to walk away, allowing her desire to be ignored to fade.

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