David woke up smiling, the morning after a great night. He met Austin, an amazing man who truly seemed interested in the young twenty-something, at the club and they went back to Austin’s place to cuddle, talk, and make love all night until they passed out in each other’s arms. He looked around the empty master bedroom of the newly built home located far outside the city. ‘I need to ask what he does,’ David thought to himself.
He crawled out of the fresh linen of the comfortable California King-sized bed and headed over to the attached master bathroom. For a moment, he considered just washing his face, but he decided to take advantage of the over-sized claw-footed tub. He added bubbles to the water and relaxed for almost an hour until he saw his pruned hands.
Once dried off, he re-dressed in the same clothes he wore from the night before, freshly washed and pressed. ‘How thoughtful! God, is this the one?’ he laughed in his head.
Downstairs, he went into the kitchen where he saw a fresh set of pancakes and bacon sitting on a plate for him. He looked around the open-concept kitchen looking for any signs of his host but saw none. “Austin?” he called. No answer came and David wondered if he left. ‘Maybe a call from work or a quick errand?’
He ate the breakfast in the kitchen standing and washed his dirty dishes before finding refuge in the high-vaulted-ceiling living room with a cream-colored, suede couch and matching loveseat. On the coffee table, he saw a tablet sitting there with a picture of Austin displayed, a recording left just for David. ‘He’s too much,’ he thought.
Pressing play, he watched the still image of Austin’s face come alive. “David,” he said, a smile plastered on his face. “I had a fantastic evening last night. Thank you for sharing your time, body, and love with me. It reminds me that there are good things out in the real world, and I can forget all about the last four months of Hell I’ve been through.”
David was confused by the man’s words. ‘He never mentioned being in so much trouble.’
Austin’s smile faded as he continued. “Unfortunately, while the Hell ends for me, it only begins for you. I apologize for leading you on, David, but it’s the only way of saving myself.”
All the color left David’s face. What was going on? What’s happening? He suddenly felt watched.
“Let me tell you my story: four months ago, I met Kyle, and he was fantastic. Treated me the same I’ve treated you the past fourteen hours. I woke up to a similar message, but it was a hand-written note telling me the same thing I’m about to tell you.” Austin stared in the camera, his blue eyes serious and full of regret, but he seemed relieved. “He passed on a burden to me, a kind of curse, and the only way to get rid of it is to give it to someone else.”
David’s eyes grew big at the word ‘curse’. What kind of fucking curse? Like HIV? Did he need to go to the doctor? A sound from upstairs caught his attention, but he moved his eyes back to the screen as Austin continued talking.
“This isn’t an STD,” he explained. “This is worse than that. An STD you can live with. This is an unimaginable horror. I tried living with it, swore never to pass it on to anyone like Kyle had with me and like the woman who had done it to him. Her name was Amber. She was done the same way. Anyway, I tried, but I couldn’t any longer so I went out last night and I found you. God, I didn’t want it to be you, but you came to me and I had no choice. I had lucked out so far for the past month. I took what I could, and it was you sadly.”
Austin took a few minutes to breathe and try to calm himself. He looked back into the camera and moved on. “There’s two of them. I don’t know what they are, but they only eat fresh meat. There’s an entire freezer full in the garage that I slaughtered the other day. Don’t let it run out, David. They won’t kill you or eat you, but their hunger will become your hunger. No matter what you eat, no matter how far you run away, that hunger will tear you apart until you do what must be done. The best thing to do is to lure the homeless. Nobody cares about them enough to keep an eye on them. Just tease them with the idea of a warm home, a hot meal, and some clothes. Poison their food and then chop them up in the garage. All the tools you need will be inside.”
David couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He started to shake when he heard a door open somewhere in the house.
“The only thing you can do, David, is to pass it on. Sleep with someone and then the link with them leaves you and goes into your victim. It’s fucked up, and I’m so sorry to do this to you. I tried killing myself, but you become their Guardian, their Protector. They can’t let you die, so they will you to live. Forever. And here I am, still alive despite all the attempts.”
Austin laughed with tears in his eyes. “But I’m free now. Thanks to you. Really, truly, thank you.” He held in a bout of tears as David could see the guilt rising behind his eyes, but his freedom meant more than anything. “We would’ve dated had this entire thing not been a ruse. For that, I can only say sorry.”
Little footsteps came down the stairway and ended behind the couch where David sat watching Austin on the tablet.
Austin finished with a few more pieces of advice: “The house is in your name now; their money becomes your money; and you’ll never be able to leave unless you’re hunting. Find your replacement quick, David. I believe in you. You. Can. Survive.” With that, the video stopped and a still image of Austin smiling stayed displayed on the screen.
David felt a chill run down his spine while tears poured down his cheeks. He shook with unease as he tried to process all the information he was given. And he tried to fight the urge, the curiosity, to turn around and look at his two wards.
“Hello David,” came a soft, angelic female voice. “You will be our new Procurer.”
“Yes,” came another, similar voice but male. “Now, fetch us some food. We’re hungry.”