Tim is a shapeshifting being who feeds off the emotions of humans. Every emotion has a different flavor and Tim is a connoisseur of these tastes. Tim's favorite place to feed is at the airport because there's always a cornucopia of emotions to choose from, so Tim spends a lot of time traveling. When their latest flight is canceled, Tim meets Stan in the rebooking line. He's a man whose emotions are hard to read and have a very odd flavor, which is intriguing to Tim, so when Stan suggests they share a room for the night, Tim agrees. At the hotel, Stan shows a different side of himself, but so does Tim, leaving Stan in an unexpected and amusing predicament.
"Distressed Travelers" is a stand-alone short story about a shape-shifting supernatural creature, possibly an alien, who feeds off the emotions of humans. The creature is currently going by the name "Tim," but appears to be neither male nor female, and instead can change their body at will to blend in with the human populace. Tim's preferred place to find a "meal" is at the airport, and they're a connoisseur of emotions, all of which have different flavors. The flight Tim was on has been canceled, and as they're waiting in line to rebook, they meet Stan, a man whose emotions are difficult to read and have intriguing new flavors. Tim agrees to share a hotel room with Stan with unexpected but amusing results.
I very much enjoyed "Distressed Travelers" and feel it's one of the best stories by far in the Blood Lite III: Aftertaste anthology where it's found. It's a touch suspenseful, but not particularly gory. I like that Tim has scruples and seems to be a generally peaceful creature who doesn't truly want to harm anyone. However, the same can't be said of Stan. I love how Tim handles the situation that arises with Stan at the hotel. It was absolutely perfect and funny, too. Until reading this short story, I hadn't heard of Nina Kiriki Hoffman, but I was so delighted by it that I'll definitely be on the lookout for more of her work.
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