There she sat, the tickling sensation building into a crescendo as the sweat bead finally reached the end of her nose and dropped in to the cup of horrific black liquid beneath her. She didn't even bother wiping the next bead that began its trek, knowing that the sign of discomfort would be seen as nothing more than a weakness by the being she had come to meet.
Around her, people bustled and shoved, slaves to the modern day need to have routine in the blandness of their lives. Many waited in line, the ones at the back turning in disgust as the door opened and closed, letting out the stifling warmth and pleasant aroma but spewing out more meat for the grinder that served them.
Two teenagers struggled at the front of the inevitable tide, throwing cup after cup into the crowd, though it seemed their efforts were in vain as the throng kept growing. Her though, she sat staring at the door, flinching every time it opened, the sweat nothing to do with the heat.
Until he came.
People at the back of the queue did their usual turn of annoyance as the door opened into their back, but then suppressed a shiver as their mundane eyes couldn't locate the source of their ire. Human eyes just couldn't pierce the veil, not like hers could. Killing your own twin in the womb had some benefits, though this was the only time that it served her with anything except sadness.
He looked like a kindly old man, slightly stooped with square, black glasses, wrinkles permeating his face. A trace of humour gave him the crows feet beside his eyes, though the smile gave no inkling at mirth. It was his eyes, though, that cut the biggest swath of fear through her. Coal black, like his soul - or lack thereof. He sat across from her, the bench emitting smoke as the infernal skin touched mortal materials, and she pushed over the still hot sludge over to him. Glancing down, he sniffed in distaste and then focused his full attention on her. She went cold.
"The simplest of human beverages and you can't even get that right. Please tell me the main course will be more satisfying?" he crooned; voice laced with underlying threat. She didn't trust herself to speak, so she only nodded, rolling a small metal tube across the table to him. She had only ever seen two emotions in this entity before. One was always directed at her, which was disdain. The other was always directed at the tube that contained his favourite delicacy, but she didn't have a name for that one. It was a feral sort of hunger, churned together with elation and appreciation, but hidden behind a calculating mask within seconds. It terrified her, as always.
He cracked open the tube, revealing the strand of silvery light that was contained within. When she had captured it after weeks of planning, it had wriggled frantically. Now, it swam lazily in the air, not even attempting to escape. His second emotion came in full force at that moment, as he breathed in harshly, dragging the beautiful thing into his dirty airwaves and leaving the table dim again. Smacking his lips, the man rose.
"That was possibly the best breakfast I have ever had. Pray tell, my dear acolyte, where did you harvest this one?"
She didn't answer at first, as if her actions weren't real until she voiced them aloud. But keeping quiet in this situation was never a possibility, not if she wanted what she came for.
"A child," she whispered, mortified. "A child of a priest."
He whistled, and she witnessed a new emotion, one which made her feel sick: Adoration.
"You really are one of us, aren't you my dear? Or you will be, soon, with all the pleasures that it has to offer."
She nodded meekly, knowing she was powerless to resist the temptation. She'd come this far; she wouldn't stop this close to the finish line. He reached forward suddenly, clamping his vice grip on to her shoulder and causing her to cry out, getting a few strange looks from the people around her.
"One soul for an extra five years, that was the deal. But my master has seen potential in you, he feels you're destined for more. Next time you see me, I want three souls. Their quality does not matter, just that there are three. Then maybe, we can talk further."
He released her and with it she felt a flood of vitality course through her veins, making her sit up straighter, her eyes focus more, strength course through her limbs. Even the fear receded, though only a little. He smiled his usual horrific grimace, then vanished into thin air. Finally, she could breathe again. Glancing around her, she shook her head in disbelief. The whole place hadn't noticed a thing, aside from her outburst. How could they know the feeling of absolute power that was now at her fingertips?
Five years for one soul always seemed like a bad deal. Condemning an innocent to the fiery depths had never appealed to her. Condemning an innocent person to the fiery depths for immortality and power? That did appeal. Leaders around the world killed millions for less than half of what she currently possessed; she only had to sacrifice one.
Dragging the still full cup towards her, she downed it in one gulp, letting it burn her throat on the way down. It seemed fitting that she should take the slight heat, to alleviate the minor bit of guilt she still felt over the child; it was always worse before she got her reward, this time it almost crippled her. It faded away after her gains, as though she was tainted by the exchange, further and further each time. She sighed and placed the cup back down on to the table, one thought running through her head.
Coffee wasn't actually that bad.