The hospital was the perfect place for him. In a hospital people die all the time, so if there was a mistake no-one would notice. People also came and went regularly, the effects of his hunger wouldn't be as obvious than if he chose just one person to maintain him.
He'd haunt the wards at night, hidden in the shadows. He'd long ago mastered the skill of being nearly invisible in the dark. Sometimes a nurse on her rounds would walk past him. He'd push himself back against the wall and hold his breath while the nurse passed, oblivious to his presence.
He'd go from patient to patient, snipping out a day or two of their lives. He left no trace and who would notice their lifespan reduced by a few hours? It's not like anyone knew when they would die.
It wasn't blood he drank, nothing so base. What he took was time, nibbling away at the thread of the person's lifetime.
The only time that someone would die would be if they were near death already. He'd learned to avoid those that were too ill. Once, many years ago, he'd been feeding from a patient and he felt their life just slip away. Alarms had sounded at the nursing station and he'd barely managed to clamber through the window before the crash team arrived.
He could still taste that final drop of life. It tasted like ash.
Sometimes he would risk the maternity ward, what baby, with seventy years of life left in them would notice a week or two of life drained away to feed him?
It was only fair, after all he kept darker, nastier things away from the hospital.
Each life tasted different, some had the flowery taste of opportunity, others a heady broth of experiences and regrets.
He'd started to feed from the staff, the doctors and nurses who'd seen so much – he liked their flavour the best because they had witnessed it all, life, death and all that lay between. Their lives tasted of a thousand things at once, each experience adding it's own distinct seasoning to a life well lived.
He'd started feeding from them more and more often, the taste of other lives could not compare to that of the nurses. He knew it was wrong, that to take too much from one person would cut their life short by years, not days but he couldn't help himself.
The nurses would say that it was the work, the shifts, the stresses that aged them. But he knew the truth.
Yep – I've completely run out of things to write, which means that I might be posting fragments of fiction for the rest of this week – perhaps even a sneak preview of what I'm working on at the moment.
I really need to get back to work. Only then will normal service be resumed.