…and where was Sam before Echoes of Balance began?
ECHOES OF SAM
It was getting cold out, he supposed. He didn’t really know anymore, or at least, he didn’t actively know. His senses were sharp enough to feel the vibrations of a rain drop hitting a puddle, not that he cared to pay attention to that, either. It didn’t help him any. Sure, it had been interesting 30 years ago when he first changed, but if he didn’t need it for survival… well. What was the point?
Regardless, he pulled the thin black jacket tighter around his torso. He didn’t need the warmth; he needed the image. That was what survival required, that was what survival had always required, be it thirty years ago when he had been human or now that he was what he was.
Sam’s memories of Before were cloudy, but he remembered having a similar hunger to the one he felt now. It was a deep, hollow feeling that never quite ceased because he never quite had what he needed. Before, those things had been a place to sleep, or food, or money. Now it was just… well.
Now it was just survival.
It was one of the few things his Maker had taught him before his demise. Rule number one, make sure you blend it.
Sam snorted. As if his creator had ever followed his own rules; if he had, he wouldn’t have picked such foolish fights in towns where he was well known. Maybe he would still be alive, but instead… well.
Never linger. That was a rule, too, never linger. Sam had followed that rule when he was still human, as well. He remembered train cars, dimly, in the depths of his mind. Mostly empty and with a biting breeze that might have felt like the biting breeze coasting in on the crisp fall air now. He wouldn’t know; he tried to ignore the feeling then and he didn’t care now.
He only cared about not lingering. He was good at it, really. Even now, his feet carried him without his mind or the rest of his body being very aware of the direction they were headed. Sam had been in this town before, this small little place that his maker used to love to go.
Used to love to linger.
It was the smartest decision, maybe, but no one knew him here. His long gone maker, sure. But Sam?
Wanderlust, survival key point.
Sam would be off soon, anyway. He always was. He assumed it came with what he was, but there was always a stirring in him that was not quite satisfied with where he was, with what he had. A vein under his lips and he still couldn’t seem to care. It made him irritable and frustrated; he found his anger was quick to rise, now, and the times he saw red… it was a lot to contain.
He had heard from others that there were certain traits passed down in the blood, but his creator hadn’t been around to explain that, either. So he had to guess that maybe anger was one of them. Anger would certainly why his maker had not been particularly gifted at the act of survival, of course, but Sam knew better.
He knew that survival was all that mattered.
Presently, he brushed a dark lock of hair away from his pale forehead and squinted up at where his feet had taken him. It was a far edge of town, some ramshackle dive bar he had been to only once before. A vampire bar, the classless type that attracted all sorts of supernatural riffraff. The occasional human, too, but for one reason or another they were never around for long.
It wasn’t the best place for someone in search of survival, but it certainly wasn’t the worst, either. At least not when the sun was only just dipping below the horizon. It would be mostly empty for hours yet, he knew. So he gave in to the wanderlust wiggle in his gut and pushed open the door.
The place was windowless and even in the low light, it was easy to see it was in a state of disrepair. Many of the upholstered chairs had been patched with shiny silver duct tape, and few seemed to fill their original matched sets. A pool table off to one side, the best lit area of the place, had noticeable scuffs threatening to become full blown holes in the felting.
As he had predicted, the place was near empty. A burly barkeep was lounging languidly against the far corner of the bar. He was an easy read: vampire. The pool table currently housed a were-something, the stench of fur and dirt all over him despite his human appearance, and a shifter, both focused far too heavily on the colored balls spinning on the table.
He scanned the bar again. No humans yet, just… In a back corner, tucked away on her own, was the sharp feel of a different sort of presence. It was one that he recognized only vaguely, in passing, because it was something that survivors avoided at all cost.
Witches were not, of course, hunters by trade. In fact, very few lines still held those ways, but it was better safe than sorry in most cases. A witch could gain the upper hand in a fight easily, and they had ways that could find you. He didn’t like it one bit, he hadn’t liked the idea of it when his maker had first explained to him their existence, and he liked it even less when his creator explained that most witches were hunters.
Killers. The enemy.
He repressed the shiver that demanded to shiver down his spine. This witch was least likely to be dangerous, and the last thing he wanted was to look weak. No one else in the bar seemed bothered, and she certainly looked non threatening: a skinny thing in a white slip of a dress, no jacket or coat despite the cold outdoors. She was barefoot, as well, another confirmation that she was far from human.
Rule number one, blend in.
Her dark hair fell heavy in front of her eyes, which were currently downcast at her drink as she spun a cocktail straw around and around in the ice. She was chewing her bottom lip, turning it cherry red.
It made Sam’s stomach turn. But that wasn’t for him – humans only, that was the rule, even when his stomach demanded otherwise.
He gave a nod to the bartender and shuffled to the sagging couch on the back wall, flopping into it to watch the pool players debate the legality of a move. He didn’t much want the view, but it allowed him to keep the witch in his periphery. And it was better than getting a drink. He knew from his last venture that there was nothing exotic on the bar menu; they relied on clientele for those sorts of drinks.
He had been watching for twenty minutes as the game began to wind down – two grown men now fighting over who could hit an eight ball – when he realized that the woman in the white slip dress had left his range of vision. The realization struck almost as soon as a warm body bumped the side of his leg.
The witch stuck her arm out for balance, her fingertips brushing over his as she teetered forward. He had never made contact with a witch before: it felt like static, and then it was gone.
“Sorry, pet,” she crooned in a silky smooth voice. “I’ll be more careful next time.” And with that, she had stepped passed him and was nearly at the pool table.
His stomach stirred, and something of that empty hollow hunger seemed to groan.
Rule number one, he thought, grinding his teeth. Be a survivor.
He would need to move to another town soon.