It was another beautiful summer night and I couldn't help but savour the warm July air as I walked east along Bloor Street.
It was just past two o'clock Sunday morning and the bars had all finally closed, which meant there was another little surge of people out on the mostly-quiet streets. A group of revellers across the road spotted me and started cat-calling. From the look of them I'd guess they were all college guys. I flipped them off and continued on my way.
They hollered at me a bit more but fortunately they gave up fairly quickly and resumed their drunken stumbling towards home. That was for the best. They were a bunch of ignorant kids who didn't know any better, and I wasn't in the mood to teach them a lesson tonight.
I knew what they saw when they looked at me. To them I was just a small cute teen girl. To most humans in fact, I looked weak and helpless. An easy target, especially being out on the streets alone at this time of night.
In truth I was a lot older, stronger, and much more dangerous than they could ever imagine.
And I wasn't just out for a quiet night-time stroll. I was on the prowl, patrolling my territory. I wasn't hunting though. We didn't do that here.
This city belonged to me and my family, and we didn't hunt humans. We had a truce here, that dated back long before my time. We didn't hunt them, they didn't hunt us. We lived together in peace. Of course most of them didn't even know we existed. We kept to ourselves and left the humans alone.
Well, mostly. Sometimes if I was bored I'd mess around and have a little fun with them. Or if I came across some of them hurting someone weak or helpless, I liked to play hero. And it was always fun to put bullies in their place. I never killed anyone though, I was careful not to break that rule.
My work within the Family wasn't about messing with humans, it was about clashing with our own kind. My job was to make sure nobody broke the rules or jeopardized the peace. I was expected to deal with travellers, outsiders who came here looking for trouble or didn't know about our rules. Or anyone who deliberately broke the rules.
That's what I was up to tonight. There was a rumour someone new in town was looking to stir up trouble and break the truce. So I was on the prowl, patrolling my streets and looking out for telltale signs or scents.
As I continued walking east I passed a few more humans. There was an old homeless guy camped in the doorway of a closed shop, then a couple more late-night drinkers stumbled past me smelling of alcohol.
When I got to Sherbourne Street I hesitated for a moment. This was almost the eastern edge of my turf. I could turn south and head back towards the downtown core, or I could continue east across the viaduct, outside my normal patrol area. Intuition said go east, so that's what I did.
The street had a slight chicane to the south were it passed through a quiet greenbelt. There weren't any shops or bars along this stretch, it was mostly trees and a few houses, and the art school nestled in the woods on the south side of the road. A moment later the viaduct came into view, and that's when I saw him.
He wasn't one of us, I knew as soon as I laid eyes on him he was a human. And I knew exactly what he was up to, what he was planning. This was the only situation where we were allowed to feed on a human.
I stood motionless on the sidewalk for a few moments, before I started to slowly approach him. He was about a hundred meters from me, but even at this distance I could see the fear and desperation on his face. When I got to within about thirty meters I stopped again to observe him.
He was young, in his early twenties. Another college kid, I figured. He looked healthy. His clothes were relatively new and high-end. This kid wasn't living on the street, he came from money. He was tall, and fairly handsome. He had a nice face, clean-shaved and well groomed. His hair was blonde and neatly styled. His eyes were blue. He looked like the kind of guy who had everything going for him. And for some reason, he was thinking of throwing it all away.
The viaduct normally had anti-jump screens along both sides. They'd been there for years, since my time anyways. But they have a saying here. There's only two seasons, winter and road work. And this wasn't winter. The north side of the viaduct was closed for repairs, and that section was missing both the screen and the railing.
This kid had gotten past the construction barriers and now he was standing at the edge. He was some forty meters above the river, and I was positive he was just a few minutes away from working up the courage to jump.
If he seriously meant to end himself, then I'd be allowed to help him on his way. I'd be allowed to feed on a living breathing human.
Except I didn't really want to do that.
Something about this kid made me feel sorry for him. As I stared at him I realized I wanted to help him, not hurt him.
After a few more moments I decided to try and talk with him. I figured that might be all he really needed, like a friendly ear or someone who'd listen.
I moved quickly but quietly, I didn't want to spook him. I spotted the hole in the construction barrier he probably squeezed through, but the fence was only about two meters high. Easier for me to just jump over it. Then I walked slowly up to the edge, a few meters to his left.
There was a smell of alcohol on his clothes and his breath. He'd been drinking, but I didn't think he was completely drunk. He probably had enough to quiet his nerves, to make this easier on himself.
He still hadn't noticed me, he was just staring straight down at the darkness below. Well, not total darkness. To the right were the lights of the highway down in the valley, and on the left were the lights of Bayview Avenue. The river was the dark bit in the middle.
I could see the river clearly, as a nocturnal predator my eyes were adapted for the night. I could also see that the kid's aim was off. He'd miss the water by about two meters and hit the eastern bank instead. Not that it would make any difference to him, a forty meter drop would be pretty fatal either way.
After a few seconds of silence I finally spoke. I kept my voice soft and tried to sound friendly as I asked, "Hey. What's up?"
• • • • •
I nearly had a fucking heart attack when I heard her voice, which would have been pretty damned ironic. Not to mention convenient, it would have saved me from having to do this myself. My heart was already pounding from looking over the edge into the darkness below, having this kid sneak up and startle me cranked my nerves up to eleven or twelve.
"Fuck," I sighed. "You nearly scared the crap out of me."
She shrugged slightly and said "Sorry. How's it going?"
I turned and snapped at her, "How the fuck do you think it's going? Why are you even talking to me? Who are you, are you a cop?"
She almost snorted, "Seriously? Do I look like a cop?"
I had to admit she definitely didn't look like a cop.
She looked like a high-school kid who was out after curfew. She couldn't have been any older than eighteen. She was more than half a foot shorter than me, probably like five foot three or five foot four. She was slim but there was a kind of athletic feel to her. Her short black hair was messy and in some kind of jagged spiky style, her skin looked really pale even in the darkness, and her eyes seemed unusually dark too. She was wearing black lipstick and dark eyeshadow.
And her outfit looked a little weird. She was wearing black tights, a black mini-skirt, an oversized torn pink tie-dyed t-shirt, and black ankle-boots. She had a loose leather belt hanging around her hips, and a well-worn black denim jacket that was also torn and had a bunch of safety-pins in it that seemed to be just decorative. There were some faded badges here and there, I couldn't tell if they were just random or if they meant anything. And finally she had a length of chain looped over her left shoulder, with the ends tucked in her jacket pocket.
I couldn't tell if she was supposed to be some kind of goth or something. She almost looked like she was going for a goth-punk look, but in a weird vintage way. She actually looked like an extra from some eighties music video.
Despite the oddness of her appearance, I had to admit she was actually kind of cute. She looked too young and vulnerable to be wandering around alone at this time of night though.
I glanced around to see who else was with her, but there wasn't anyone else in sight.
"Ok," I admitted, "You don't look like a cop. So will you please fuck off and leave me alone? I'm busy."
I looked back down into the darkness again. I knew the longer I stalled, the harder this would be. And I knew odds were someone else would come along. It was only a matter of time before someone other than this strange high-school kid noticed me, and maybe tried to 'save' me.
The girl sighed, "I can see that. I know what you're planning. I'm not going to stop you. I just wanted to talk. I'm curious, I want to know why."
"Seriously?" I rolled my eyes. "I'm not in the mood."
"I get that," she replied quietly. "And believe me, I know what it's like."
I felt a surge of anger through me and my heart started pounding again. I yelled at her, "You do not fucking know! Don't think you know anything about me!"
She sighed "I'm sorry. You're right, I don't know what it's like for you. It's different for everyone. But don't think you know about me either, ok?"
After a pause she suggested "Look, we're both strangers right? We don't know anything about each other. So let's just talk? I'm not going to judge, I'm not here to stop you or talk you out of stuff. Tell me your story, I'll tell you mine."
I ran a shaky hand through my hair. My emotions were all over the place. I didn't really want to do this, but I had nothing else. And strange as it sounded, it felt like this odd girl might actually be the last chance I'd have of making a friend. May as well have one friend before I die, right?
"Ok," I sighed. "Fuck it, why not. I came out to my family today. Told them I had something to say, something I had to confess. They said I could tell them anything, said I could trust them. They lied. When I told them, they cut me off. Threw me out. Told me I couldn't... They said I was... That I'd never..."
My voice broke at that point. It was too painful, and I had to wipe my eyes again.
The girl took a deep breath then let out a deep sigh. "I'm sorry. Families can be shit sometimes. Fuck 'em, move on. Friends are more important."
It took me a few seconds before I could talk again. I shook my head, "I don't have any friends. Just guys who pretend. Who act like friends because they want something. I already know what they'd think of me if they found out. I hear what they say, how they talk about... Other people."
"That's rough," she sighed. "Still, you can make more friends right?"
I shook my head, "What's the point? I'll never have the chance to be the real me. I've got nowhere to go, no money, no home, no family, nothing."
She frowned slightly, "What do you mean, the real you? When you said you came out, what did you mean exactly?"
That brought a blush to my cheeks, I didn't mean to let that slip. Then I just sighed. It didn't fucking matter anymore anyways.
I couldn't face her, I just looked down towards the river again. I kept my voice down, not that there was anyone else around to hear it. "I'm trans ok? I told my family I'm really a girl. I told them my real name. And they... They said some awful stuff and they cast me out."
"Fuck," the girl sighed. "I'm so sorry."
The crazy thing was she sounded like she really meant it. She sat down on the edge of the bridge and let her feet dangle over the river.
Once she was seated she asked, "Do you want to sit down? I really want to talk with you but let's get comfortable ok?"
It was strange how calm she was. I mean I was the one who was here to jump, and my heart was pounding and my hands were shaking from being this close to the edge. But this high-school kid didn't seem to even care she was sitting at the edge with nothing but forty meters of air between her and death.
I stared at her for a few moments, then I sat down too. I wasn't right at the edge though, I sat crosslegged about a half meter back.
"Why do you care? Why are you wasting your time with me?" I asked.
"You're not going to -"
The bridge started to shake as another subway rumbled across on the deck below us. The train wheels squeaked and squealed a bit on the old rails, then finally it was gone and the bridge was still and silent again.
The girl repeated softly, "You're not going to believe me, but I really do know what you're going through."
I felt anger again, how could she possibly know? She was cute, she was an attractive girl, she couldn't possibly know what it was like for me. The ache, the pain, the longing. Looking at her almost hurt, knowing I'd never have what she had.
She spoke again before I could lash out at her. "My name's Sam by the way. Well, Samantha, but everyone just calls me Sam. You don't have to tell me if you don't want, but I'd like to know your name. Your real name, not the name your folks stuck on you."
My emotions churned once more as I bounced back and forth between despair, anger, longing, and something else that almost felt like hope. This kid actually acted like she was interested in me. The real me, not the guy everyone else assumed I was, not the guy they all saw when they looked at me.
I wiped my eyes then half-whispered back to her, "Tara... My name is Tara."
Sam gave me a compassionate smile and said "It's a pleasure to meet you Tara. Thank you for trusting me with your name, and thank you for telling me why you're here. May I tell you a little story?"
"Uh," I sniffed as I tried to get my voice and emotions under control. "Ok, I guess?"
The girl smiled again, then said "So this story is from a little ways back. Thirty years ago in fact..."