Syphons is the title of my debut sci-fi novel published in 2019. The story below is a prequel to the events leading up to my novel’s exciting official story. If you’d like to read an excerpt of the novel just click here.
Chapter 1 – Trouble In Da Club
Ice watered down my rum and coke, and Carmen still hadn’t shown up at the Skyline Lounge. Plus, she’s not returning any of my text messages.
Okay, just chill. I thought to myself.
Carmen’s stuck in traffic. Driving in downtown Tampa was a headache during the day, why wouldn’t it be just as terrible at night? One would think God’s waiting room, Florida, would at least have a slow-paced attitude; but that wasn’t the case when it came to driving in the state.
I really needed to be heading home. I had a rough day at work. And Monday would be here before long. The whole bar scene wasn’t my thing. The Skyline rooftop was swanky; white lounge chairs, tall glass tabletop stands, modern décor, sharp angles, clean lines, and 360 views of downtown more than five stories above the street. Tons of young professionals networking or catching up with friends. All except me. I kept my eye on the entrance. Then, used my tiny damp cocktail napkin to dab at the sweat that collected along my throat and the swell of my chest.
I should’ve stopped home to change into something cooler. I wore an already snug blouse that clung to my chest at this point, thanks to all my sweating, and uncomfortably stretched black work slacks that hugged my hips and thighs and were way too long for me.
It was close to ninety degrees outside around sunset when I first, arrived at the bar, and the temperature only dipped down to eighty-five or so with high humidity. Gotta love a good weather app.
Carmen blew my phone up earlier that day, hyping me up with promises of catching up after her overseas modeling gig wrapped up. She was my girl. I couldn’t say no to girls’ night. And now I was being stood up.
She knew I’d do anything for her. Even stand in heels alone at a bar, melting, while drinking overpriced watered-down alcohol.
Just go home. My inner voice told me. You don’t belong here.
Couples leaned in close at tall tables, whispering secrets while gazing at the cityscape. Groups of friends were celebrating loudly near the VIP booths as drinks were poured and downed just as quickly. And I stuck out, but not in a good way.
She gets fifteen more minutes. If Carm’s a no-show; I’m out.
Music livened up my dull, steamy, late evening.
I wanted to freshen up my drink. Just needed to grab the bartender’s attention. He was on one side of the bar serving a group of guys in business casual work clothes. When the bartender, finally, turned in my direction, I reached out my hand to wave him over but was rudely interrupted.
“Rum and coke, light ice.” A firm male’s voice yelled from beside me. He blatantly stole my bartender’s attention. I glanced over at him, considering whether to confront this guy about his lack of common decency. Assertive was not my middle name. Hiding in a crowd of people to avoid being noticed was more my speed. I gnawed on the inside of my cheeks. Timidity won. I’m as spineless as they came.
“Here’s your drink, sir,” The bartender said.
I parted my lips to place my order next.
“It’s hers.” The barfly said without looking in my general direction. Then, he set a crumbled fifty on the bar for the bartender as he served me the drink. “Keep the difference.”
I was speechless.
“Your drink, Miss,” The bartender set the cup down and grinned at the patron as he snatched up the generous tip.
“Um, thanks,” I managed to say once I realized what was happening.
“You didn’t have to…” I started.
“I don’t drink much. Especially when, I’m on the clock.” The guy was dressed in all black. A tight black tee that stretched across toned arms, muscular chests, and tucked into a pair of dark jeans that cinched his flat waist. I raised my eyes briefly to meet his piercing golden gaze.
“Still, it’s appreciated,” I said in a soft tone. “Not really sure how you knew what I was drinking, however.”
“Lucky guess,” He said and shrugged.
For some odd reason, a vision of my grandmother popped into my head, like a forewarning telling me not to accept the kind gesture. I hesitated before taking a sip.
“It’s not going to bite you.” The man said. His deep golden gaze lingered on me thoughtfully. He frowned for a moment.
I took a brief sip before lowering the cup.
“You should call it a night. Let your friend know you’re leaving, now.” He said a matter-of-factly before glancing over his shoulder and then he pushed away from the bar. “I don’t want you caught up in a frenzy, later.”
He brushed past me; his arm just barely grazed against my elbow. The act sent chills running down my spine.
I hesitated briefly, before turning to ask him, “What do you mean by a frenzy?”
As soon as I asked the question, he was ghost. Odd, there wasn’t a place to lurk anywhere near me and I didn’t even grab his name. Who buys a drink for a random stranger, warns them to leave, and then vanish in thin air?
That guy’s right, though.
Carmen was so on her own tonight. She ditched me plain and simple. This is not how friends treat their long-time besties since high school.
I clutched the strap of my purse and tightened the grip on my drink. Releasing any hope, she might show up.
As soon as I get to my car, I’m going to start spazzing out wondering why she made me go through all of this. I planned to sulk while blasting a Panic at the Disco ballad or maybe a classic My Chemical Romance track.
No, that person wasn’t me anymore. I’m not the faceless outcast that hid from her own shadow. I’m a grown woman. My stubborn curves proved it to me at least. Still, I hated being discarded by someone I cared about.
Then again, I’m used to being rejected, all on my own. I’ve lived on my own ever since I can high school ended. We’re born alone and we die alone, I reminded myself. That’s me. I’m dying alone.
I raised my drink to my lips. A new, oddball of a stranger snuck up out of the corner of my line of vision. He seemed shifty, not really making eye contact with me, but I felt his presence. He was following me.
I took self-defense classes in a past life and learned the best way to stop a potential creep was to do one of two things: 1) act crazy or 2) call them out on their crap.
“What do you want? You lost or something?” I said, incredulously.
I wondered if this guy was friends with the one who bought me a drink at the bar, was I being set-up? Felt like it.
“I see you’ve got a drink, there. Looks weak. Want something a little stronger?” The guy moved aggressively fast. Long legs, brisk strides, and his slender snake-like body slithered towards me. He got so close to my face, I felt his hot breath on me, and immediately, I doubled back.
“Get lost!” I growled.
“You’re the one all alone here, piglet.” His voice was acidic as he spoke and prowled ever closer. “The only lost one I see here is you, Solstice Bellatrix.”
My face fell and I grasped my drink.
“Screw you, dude. Get out of my face!” I made my voice as sharp and harsh as possible. Hopefully, someone, anyone could see what was going on right now. Unless they were oblivious. I remembered the guy’s warning from earlier. My stomach tied into knots.
A smirk quirked on the corner of his lips. He lunged at me. I doubled back again and threw my drink in his face, then threw the cup down.
“Back off!” I fumed.
Clutching my purse tighter, I raced away from him. Mr. Stalker grasped my arm tightly, and a blow to the side of my face sent piercing white heat scorching my skin.
The only problem about the strike, I never saw him lift a fist. And, the agony lingered, but I couldn’t move. My breathing caught as he grasped my throat with spindly claw-like fingers.
A menacing inhuman glow illuminated his irises, and they seemed to swallow me whole.
“You taste even better than you look.” His voice didn’t belong to a human at all. “Your scent. Your fear. It’s simply mouthwatering.”