The curtains were drawn over all the windows, and only a reading lamp on a small table next to a recliner was lit, with an aged leather bound book splayed under the lamp. Drake noticed Lee gazing at the book.
“Are you a fan of the classics, Officer?”
“Actually, yes, I am. But that’s not the reason we’re here Mr. Drake.”
“Yes, I already know that you’re here on business, so let’s get to the matter at hand, shall we?” he said in that pure English accent. He didn’t look any older than Thad Wendt.
“Mr. Drake, what is that horrible smell? It seems to be coming from everywhere,” Fisher asked.
“Well, I imagine part of the reason the last residents moved out was because of the rodent problem.”
“Actually,” Lee said, “a man committed suicide in the master bedroom, after being accused of shaking his baby to death.”
“Well, no matter,” Drake said, and the two policemen looked at each other slightly bewildered. “I saw a lot of things from my days in London, so nothing really shocks me.”
“The smell, Mr. Drake?” Fisher said.
“Oh yes. Well, I don’t know if the owner of the house was being helpful or what have you, but he must have laid food everywhere, all laced with poison, of course. And I never had a chance to see the place before I moved in . I move around a lot, you know , so when I arrived here there were dead mice everywhere. On the floors, the counters and sinks, in all the cupboards, in the walls, and I’m still trying to clean the place up. I told the owner to void the deposit, or the deal was off. He agreed. Let me show you something.”
He led the two men onto the back patio, where there were several black garbage bags sitting on the cement. He untied the knot on one of them and pulled the bag open wide to reveal more mouse corpses than any of the two men had ever seen at one time.
“Okay, we get the point, tie that up,” Lee said.
“I had cats all over my house last night because of that,” Drake said.
“We have a witness that says you were breaking cat’s necks and backs and tossing them off in different directions.”
“With all the drugs young people do nowadays, I’m not surprised.” Fisher and Lee looked at each other, and then back to Drake. “No, I did no such thing. I climbed on my roof and scared them off, but I would never kill a cat, officer. I even had to kick some of them off the roof. But you know cats, they’re indestructible. They say they always land on their feet, you know.”
“Yes, they do say that,” Lee said. “But there are always exceptions to the rule.”
“Are you saying that I purposely harmed any animals, officer, because those are very serious charges that could very well backfire on you.”
“No, Mr. Drake, if this were the movies, I could take you downtown just because you don’t look right to me. But, you do look alright, though the mice bother me a bit.”
“But we did get a few calls about some mutilated cats,” Fisher said. “Would it be too much of a bother for you to come to the station in the morning? Just simple statements, you know. Routine.”
“I’m simply afraid that would be impossible, Officer. You see, I suffer from a rare disorder known as Xeroderma Pigmentosum. You haven’t noticed how pale my skin is? Well, anyway, are either of you familiar with the malady?” He looked back and forth at the two men as if it were the simplest question in the world, something the simplest mind would know, but the two looked at each other and then back at him, looking slightly taken aback at being put on the spot.
“It’s quite alright, gentlemen. Most people wouldn’t know the term, either. It means I can’t go out in the daytime. The daylight, that is. It would kill me. Artificial light, if weak enough, is safe enough. I have to read my novels, you know. But I’m sorry, going out in the daytime is just out of the question. You’ll have to ask your questions here, I’m afraid.”
Lee opened a small notepad and sighed. “Ok, Drake, let’s be straight up. Two young men broke into your house this evening, and now one is missing. The one we spoke to said that his friend screamed and was injured on the face – scratched with fingernails, or something like that. He said a face appeared in the window, a face so frightening that he ran like hell. And he said your basement windows were painted black?”
Drake tapped a finger on the pale skin of his face. Fisher noticed that the nails were short. He said, “That’s right, the skin condition.” Drake smiled, a knowing, intelligent smile that spoke silent words. Fisher and Lee were caught in an almost fearful silence of their own until Drake spoke.
“Yes, in fact, two young men did break into my house this evening. I’m afraid they wanted their car keys back. You see, last night-”
“We know about last night, Mr. Drake. And I suppose there are a lot of people who would love to shake your hand, but still.. .by the way, you have a first name?” Lee asked.
“I prefer Drake.”
“I understand, but we still need the information for our report. First name?”
“Dominick, if you must.”
“Ok, Dominick, about the break in?”
“Mr. Drake, the break in? A person is missing.”
“Oh yes, the missing boy. Well, he really isn’t missing at all. I can assure you of that.”
Fisher and Lee glanced at each other again, the confusion working its simple magic on their minds.
“Just what do you mean by that?” Fisher asked.
“He isn’t missing, but yes, he was here, and we had a nice chat. He called himself ‘Bones’. Very likeable young man. You see, he crawled into my cellar window, and was scrounging around down there, in search of the car keys, I would imagine. Now, you must know, officers, that I am not one to cause trouble, and coming from London, I often found it much easier to handle the young ones without involving the police. So, I did just that. I snuck down into the cellar and captured Mr. Bones and dragged him to the window so his poor friend could see. I merely threw Bones down and made the scariest face I could, and the other took off running like the devil was after him.” Drake laughed heartily, and continued. “And poor Mr. Bones, he begged me not to kill him. I grabbed him by the arm and took him upstairs, sat him down in the kitchen and offered him a drink. He said he was twenty-one, so we had a few scotches and we laughed at the whole affair. I apologized for frightening him so, but I told him that they would have to search for the keys, as I threw them away into the night, probably landed in someone’s yard. Under the condition that his friend doesn’t cause anymore late night disturbances, I would help retrieve the keys. In fact, if you look in my kitchen, I believe the two glasses are still on the table.”
Fisher went into the kitchen, and returned, nodding to Lee. “We’d like to take a look in the cellar, if you don’t mind?”
“Follow me, my friends.”
They traversed through the kitchen (where indeed there were two glasses on the table, each with a finger or two of scotch hi their bottoms), and into a small laundry room, where an old green washer and dryer sporting layers of dust stood like ancient relics.
The narrow wooden door was itself a relic, its many layers of paint decades old peeling off in large patches that revealed at least three different colors chosen by residents long gone. Below was a stairway just as narrow, rickety steps scuffed and worn away from hundreds of footfalls. Drake went first, flicking a switch that lighted a dim bulb somewhere in the belly of the cellar. The steps creaked and groaned as they made their way down.
The room was rather small, empty save for a furnace and water heater; and the beams in the ceiling harboring the hidden but watchful eyes of the architects of webbing that stretched across every darkened space, every dampened corner. There was a padlocked door to the outside stairwell, and two small windows, painted black, along the south wall, one of which was still open and inhaling the cool night air.
In the dim light, Drake’s face looked like that of a doll, plastic and discolored and sculpted to one expression. He pointed to the open window. “That is where he entered.” The policemen scrutinized the room, the floor, and finding nothing to feed their suspicions, asked if Drake wanted to press charges. “No, as I said before, I don’t like to involve the police in these matters.”
“We’ll be in touch, Mr. Drake,” Fisher said. Drake walked them to the door and smiled.
“Good evening, gentleman.” He locked the door, still smiling, more to himself than anything, a smile of secret knowledge and secret things, of which his life had been full, had been made of since his crossing over.
“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me!” Randy had his fists clenched, white knuckled. “I saw what I saw!”
Lee and Fisher stood in Thad’s living room, trying to stay calm as the big jock spouted off steam. Thad, Tim, and Worm distanced themselves from him for fear that he might lash out and break a bone or two. Randy’s letterman’s jacket represented to them an armor not to be reckoned with.
“You need to calm down right now, and I mean now, or you’ll have to answer to me!” Lee said. And for the first time Thad saw under the uniform, and saw there a man that could stand up to Randy Wilkins.
The room remained silent for a time. Fisher put his hand on his partner’s shoulder. “We’re not saying we don’t believe you, Randy, we do. But you may have taken things the wrong way. Mr. Drake admits you were there, and that he caught your friend in his cellar. He even admitted to trying to scare you off.”
Randy fumed, yet formed his words in a more civilized manner, though it was evident that he was struggling with the raw anger inside him. “But I saw him hurt Bones. He had long fingernails and tore into his face, and threw him down. Bones was hurt!”
“We searched the cellar, Randy, and we saw no evidence of violence. There would have been blood. There was nothing,” Lee said. “I’ll admit, the whole thing is strange, but there’s really nothing we can do at this point. I’ll be honest with you, Randy. I think he’s a weirdo myself, so you’re not alone. But for the time being, we can do nothing, and Mr. Drake was gracious enough to forget about pressing any charges. Bones will probably show up, and everything will be cleared up. In the meantime, stay away from his house.”
“But I saw his face – it wasn’t…normal, man. It was horrible.”
“He says he made a scary face at you. Maybe the guy used to work in a circus or something. He’s from England, we don’t really know anything about this guy. But, we’ll see what we can come up with.”
The two officers left, and Thad’s living room was encased in a bitter silence, a mood which nothing could have lightened or swept away, and the four were left to their thoughts.
The thin person huddled in the pitch black of the closet, able to discern every detail of the scant space: An upper shelf on which amidst a layer of dust sat several aged cardboard boxes. Below the shelf, a metal bar that held no clothing, nor even a hanger. On the floor next to him, a trunk standing upright on its side. Dust on the floor panel. Marks on the walls. The texture of the carpet. He was transfixed by the spectacle, for this seemingly simple act of seeing in the dark was indeed a spectacle, one not obtainable by normal human senses, only that perhaps of particular animals.
At first the person had been surprised at his newfound senses (for his other senses were increased, as well), but the surprise was fleeting, short lived. He knew what he was, that he had crossed over, and he had heard about such things for most of his young life, but had always been, as the majority of people were, ignorant of the truth.
Now he lived the truth. His former life had died for the truth. With the truth came the hunger, or thirst, if you will, of which he would forever be a prisoner. As he heard the voices in the house, the thirst taunted him, gnawed at his innards with a sweet temptation that no normal human temptation or hunger could equal. So strong it had been that he had nearly heard their heartbeats. Pulses racing with the nectar of his kind, the warm, fluid life that it carried.
He sat and waited.
The sudden heavy footsteps and ensuing silence told him that the visitors had left. Someone approached from the hall and into the room. The closet door opened, and standing there looking curiously down at the huddled figure was Drake.
“Come out, my friend, let’s have a look at you.”
The figure rose and left the closet. “I’m hungry,” he said.
“Yes, I know. I hunger, too. We will get to that soon – show patience. Come with me, I want to show you something.”
Drake went into the tiny bathroom and turned on the light. A single, forty-watt bulb glowed from the row of sockets above the mirror and sink. Drake gestured to the mirror.
“Look at yourself.”
The figure turned and looked in the mirror; and was overcome by the horror of what he saw; and seeing absolutely nothing in the mirror, shrieked and jumped back against the wall, covering his eyes. “What have I become?”
“The powerful being inside you has been unleashed. You have a strength no man can match. And what we thirst for keeps us strong, and immortal.”
Bones lowered his hands from his eyes and held them out for display. Long, thickly pointed fingernails were buried in flesh that was so white it was nearly translucent. Just under the skin, a jagged network of darkish red veins coursed seemingly everywhere, bulging and throbbing with a life of its own.
“Think not of it as ugliness, my friend, but as a new form of beauty far beyond that of human. No one but our kind will ever understand that, and man will treat you as a plague on the Earth. But no matter. First things first. I want you to close your eyes and let your human side take over – let the calm inside. Become the old Bones.’1”
Bones closed pale eyelids and let his arms fall to his sides. At first, nothing happened.
“Think of your human side Bones,” Drake said.
And then, as if someone were swiping a paintbrush over him, his skin began to change, to become the tanned skin of the original Bones. As it washed over him, the network of veins faded, and the fingernails shortened, as did the two pointed teeth.
He again raised his hands for inspection. He saw normal human flesh, normal human veins, though they were the wrong color and a possible threat to his safety in his new life.
“Very good, Bones. You are going to do quite well, I should think. Now go home and show yourself to your friends. We don’t need anymore policemen snooping around here, you know. Come back here and wait for me. I shan’t be long.”
“They call us kids,” Bones said, in a guttural voice.
“Who calls you ‘kids’?”
“Everybody. Everybody in the neighborhood.” His mellow drawl had returned. “Like we haven’t grown up, yet.”
Drake considered this. “But they really are children to you now, are they not?”
“Yes, they are,” Bones immediately said, and he reached back to tug on his ponytail, as if checking to see if the precious hair was still there. A satisfied smile crossed his face, and he stared at the empty mirror. “Yes, they definitely are.”
Tim Dewolf, Randy Wilkins, and Lester “The Worm” Kleck (though it was unusual for Worm to be just sitting around when he could have been at his computer) sat brooding around various spots in the living room, slightly confused and worried that Bones had disappeared. They spoke not a word, but drank from long neck bottles of beer as if that would eventually put new knowledge into their brains as to the whereabouts of their friend.
Randy still could get over what had transpired earlier that evening, and the subsequent explaining away of the whole affair by the strange man across the street. It left a bad taste in his mouth, as if he had been horribly violated and cast to the side as delusional.
Tim opened his mouth to say something, and the three of them started as someone knocked heavily on the front door.
“Jesus Christ!” Tim said, putting his hand to his chest. “About gave me a fucking heart attack!”
They all looked at each other, and finally Worm, throwing his arms into the air, stood to answer the door. His mouth nearly dropped when he saw Bones standing on the front porch.
“Bones! Where’ve you been? We’ve been worried sick about you!” Behind him, Randy and Tim jumped to their feet and gawked at Bones in disbelief. “What are you doing out there?”
“Can I come in?” Bones asked. His calm manner, his failure to recognize the question as ludicrous, though it was certainly a false attempt at best, lent a peculiar feel to the moment, and left Worm looking at him as though he were the craziest man on Earth.
“What are you doing out there? Have you lost your marbles?”
“No, I haven’t lost my marbles,” Bones said, “I just want to know if I can come in.”
“Ok, I’ll buy. Come on in, Bones.”
Worm stepped aside, and Bones walked into the living room expressionless.
“Where in the hell have you been?” Randy asked. “We called the cops and everything. I thought you were dead or something!”
“I was over at Judy’s,” Bones said, tossing the car keys to Randy, who snatched them out of the air with a fleshy hand (with his new senses, Bones had no problem finding the keys lying in the grass of a front lawn three doors down).
Randy clenched his fist into thick, fleshy hammers. “What the fuck did you say?”
“Calm down, you big dork, I was just pulling your chain.” Bones made for the hallway, disappeared around the corner.
“Hey, wait a minute!” Tim called out.
Bone’s bedroom door slammed shut.
Tim went to the door and knocked. “Hey, Bones, you can’t just walk away and not tell us what’s going on. Get out here.” Randy and Worm appeared behind him.
Silence from behind the door.
“Screw this,” Randy said, brushing past Tim and opening the door.
The door yawned open and a burst of cool air escaped across their bodies. The window was raised, and the curtains swayed in the breeze. Save for the furniture and heavy metal posters on the walls, the room was empty.
Thad was not that disturbed that Markus had called, and was now ranting on again about the money. And though Thad still held the receiver to his ear, his brother’s heated words became the chattering of a bug. A bothersome little bug.
He was standing at the living room window when he saw someone leave the house across the street, someone who looked familiar. He absent-mindedly pressed the talk button on the phone, thus putting an end to the incessant chatter, and set it down on the coffee table.
The person ambled into the street and passed under the glow of a streetlight.
Bones! The one they called Bones! My God, the police were just there looking for him. The big jock said Bones had been hurt. The man who calls himself Drake said Bones had been fine and dandy, and had even had a drink with his new friend before leaving, he thought.
Drake himself left the house a second before Bones disappeared from view, and Thad’s heart clicked a notch forward. Drake walked in his direction and his heart did a double-flip. He jumped away from the window, and grabbed his chest, thinking, Oh that was just great. Just wonderful. I just made a total ass of myself, and 1 know he saw!
He frantically looked around the room as if seeking escape, but found the idea as ridiculous as jumping away from a window in full view of an unwanted neighbor. He considered not answering the door at all, but that, too, seemed ridiculous and childish. He had no time for further cogitation, for the doorbell rang, and he froze like the proverbial rabbit caught in the headlights of an oncoming car. He had no choice but to face the beast bearing down on him.
He grasped the doorknob with a clammy hand and yanked open the door. There, standing on the other side of the glass storm door, was Drake.
Drake wore simple enough attire: blue jeans and a black silk shirt, running shoes. Though there was nothing odd about him, his face was instantly familiar to Thad, like the face of a friend you haven’t seen in ten years. And like an old friend, amused that you couldn’t recall his or her name, Drake wore a faint but knowing smile that was almost intimidating.
For a moment, Thad was speechless. His eyes were locked onto Drake’s, and something invisible had stolen his voice.
“Hello, Thaddeus, I’m Drake. From across the street,” he said, on the other side of the glass.
That this man seemed to be at the center of all the strange activity left Thad even more nervous and hesitant.
“Aren’t you going to invite me in?” he asked in that strong English accent.
That broke Thad’s reverie, and then he was reaching for the latch on the storm door. “I’m sorry about that.” He held the door open for Drake, but Drake did not walk through the door.
“May I come in?” he asked the bewildered Thad.
“Uh…yes, please come in,” Thad said weakly.
Drake brushed past him, and Thad detected a scent that he couldn’t quite place; it surely was not cologne, for that would have been pleasant to his nose. This scent was different somehow – wrong. And yet, his scent, much like his face, was vaguely familiar in that it touched something unpleasant in his memory.
Drake stood in the center of the room with his hands clasped behind his back, studying the framed photographs of Abby that Thad had put up on one wall. The wall wasn’t buried in pictures, just a few in remembrance of his mother: Abby when she was young, Abby when she was older, Abby in black and white, and Abby in color. The pictures showed a bright and pretty woman who had been filled with love for everybody and everything.
“Is this your mother?” Drake asked.
“Yes, it is. She…she passed away just recently.” Thad lowered his head.
“Oh, I’m very sorry, I didn’t realize.”
“It’s alright, Mr. Drake, she’s in a much better place, now.”
“You really loved your mother, didn’t you?” Drake asked sympathetically.
“I loved her a lot. She took care of me. Would you like something to drink?”
“Oh no, I’ll only be a minute. I wanted to thank you for your concern the other day, after the incident with the car. I would have come out to meet you then, but I have a rare malady that prevents me from going out in the sunlight.”
“That must be horrible,” Thad said. The familiarity of Drake’s face taunted him, teased him.
“Oh, I’ve grown quite accustomed to it.”
“By the way, how did you know my full name was Thaddeus?”
“I am from England, if you haven’t already guessed by my accent,” he said. “I am quite used to using proper names. They seem more, well, more dignified. Don’t you think, Thaddeus?”
“Well, I suppose,” he said, and something appeared on the movie screen that was his memory. It was a face, horrid, hateful, glaring through the glass of a bedroom window. A terrible truth dawned on him, and it was all he could do to keep his composure.
Drake had been the face in the window!
Drake was saying something, but Thad had become detached, and the words were only distant gibberish. It became apparent that Drake was trying to grab his attention.
“Thaddeus, is anything wrong?”
“No, I… I was just thinking about my mother,” he said. He became overly self-conscious, shifting from foot to foot, rubbing his moist palms together.
“I suppose you know that the police were at my house a short while ago? Of course you would know, they were here as well.” Drake said with a somber countenance.
He’s trying to put me on the spot, that’s what he’s doing? Who is he? What do I do?
“Yeah, they were here, alright.” Thad could not elaborate to the man on whom everyone had placed the finger of suspicion. He grew increasingly uncomfortable at this line of discourse, and that Drake seemed eager to speak of it only increased the feeling.
“They thought I had hurt the one called Bones. Those kids called them, you know.”
Thad turned away. “I know.”
“I thought I saw them over here as well.”
“They wanted to borrow my phone.”
As if he had spoken a magic word, the telephone rang, visibly startling Thad. He was unstable on his feet as he picked up the handset from the coffee table.
Looking at Drake, he said, “Hello?” He already had an idea of who it was on the other end of the line, but it was nonetheless a welcome break from the unwanted conversation.
“Thad, don’t hang up! It’s Markus. Just listen to me for a minute, would you? I’m just trying to help you. “
“Just how are you trying to help me, Markus? By trying to take my money? Why can’t you just leave me alone?”
“Because, you don’t know how to handle that much money! I can get you into some good investments -where you could be making money, not spending it.”
“Leave.. .me.. .alone!” Thad said, pressing the talk button, teeth grinding in anger. He switched the ringer off and placed the handset on the coffee table.
“Family?” Drake asked. Again, that intelligent smile.
“Yeah, my brother Markus. My mother left me some money and he wants it. He already has tons of money, but he won’t leave me alone.” Thad realized that the phone call had actually been a good thing, for the anger had suppressed a lot of the nervous tension, and he felt more at ease with Drake standing in his living room. A man who had been staring in his window one night, his face twisted into something different altogether.
“Selfishness and greed are not good traits in men,” Drake said. “They only serve to create enemies, to leave an impression of yourself, and most people will go out of their way to avoid such a person. They don’t make good friends, only a few that will endure them.”
“I don’t see how my brother could have any friends.”
“Sad. So sad. But getting back to the subject, I wanted to reassure you that I did no wrong tonight. The boys broke into my house and I gave them a scare. I wanted to keep them away. Now, there isn’t anything wrong with that, is there?”
“No, I don’t think so,” Thad said. He kept picturing Bones leaving Drake’s house after the police had been there looking for him.
“Well, I did want to speak with you, to set things straight. After all, I wouldn’t want you to think badly of me.”
“No,” Thad muttered, “I don’t.”
“Good. Very good. Thank you for having me. You must pop in and have a drink with me sometime. But for now, I’ll let you get back to whatever you were doing. Goodbye, Thaddeus.”
Watching you, that’s what I was doing.
“Bye,” was all Thad could muster, and then the door closed and it was all over. Thad leaned back against the door and breathed a sigh of relief.
The two vampires took flight into the night, one leading an uncertain course, and the other following precariously behind. They were two phantom figures, shadows, unseen and unheard as they made their way into unknown territory in search of sustenance.
They leaped from rooftop to rooftop, moving with the speed and agility of something other than human, through trees and over shrubbery, stalking down alleys and back yards. Oftentimes, Drake traveled so quickly that Bones would lose sight of him (which was for a vampire difficult to do), only to catch up with the impatient Master, hiding in the shadows and waiting. But Drake was never truly angered, just merely annoyed with his newly acquired apprentice, and he tried to maintain his dignity, and that of Bones, for he knew what it was like to experience the world as a changed person. And the change had not been something as menial as quitting smoking or losing weight. This was much, much more of a life changing experience.
The two would have to hurry – much of the night had already been wasted on kids and cops and a nosy neighbor. But Drake was quite adept at the hunt, and it would not be long before he found suitable quarry.
They found themselves in a shadowy alley between two houses, small, quaint little homes decades old. Drake approached a window that was partly raised, and he breathed in deeply and smiled. Bones went to speak, but Drake put a long-nailed finger across his lips.
“It is of utmost importance that we do not raise any alarm,” he whispered, and Bones, wearing his new skin, nodded.
Drake raised the window and slipped through as soundlessly as a cat. A moment later he was pulling out of the window a struggling young girl of about sixteen. Drake had his hand clamped firmly over her mouth. Once on the ground, she took one look at Bones’ face, saw even in the dark that terrible, terrible transformation, and screamed into Drake’s hand.
“Feed, my friend,” Drake said, canting the girl’s head sideways to expose the neck.
An intense heat rose in Bones, and he felt himself losing control over to it, instinctively becoming a part of it; this was his new calling, his new existence, and he fell into it as easily as one rides a bike after not owning one for years.
He opened his mouth impossibly wide, two thin fangs curving down to tiny points. From one side of the mouth, drool ran onto his chin and dripped onto the ground. He bent lower to partake of the struggling girl. He could feel the young, hammering heart beneath the chest. The warmth of the blood. It called to him.
He saw something move in the shadows behind Drake, and he raised his head to get a better look. Something small and lithe darted from the shadows, and then Bones had a cat attached to his face, digging its claws into the cool flesh and screeching in his ear.
“Get it off of me!” he roared, as he attempted to tear the cat from his face.
With one swift motion, Drake reached up and yanked it from Bones’ face, its claws raking across his face. Drake twisted its neck and tossed it aside. A window in the adjacent house lit up, and Drake said, “We must be quick, they’ll be coming!”
He dragged the girl a few more feet toward the back of the house, and before he could say anything else, Bones leaned over and tore a large hole in the girl’s neck. He drank until Drake forced him away from the dying girl.
“We must go now. There will be others.” He grabbed Bones by the hand and they vanished into the bloodstained night.
Article from the morning edition of the Compton Register:
Cult or Vampires?
by Joel Schmidt
With the recent discovery of two bodies in the Compton area, locals are asking themselves that very question. While it is not unusual for authorities to consider the possibility of a cult as such a threat, is it also not unusual to consider the threat of vampires?
When we think of vampires, we think of the creations of books and movies over the years. We have a being with supernatural powers that drinks human blood to survive. It’s a good story, but that’s all it is – a story.
The real threat to society is those who are unusually obsessed with death or doing harm to others. It is these unbalanced few who go over the edge, thinking themselves “God”, or “vampires”.
Vampire cults have existed for years, right alongside the satanic sect, and other forms of ritualistic activity. If these recent deaths are part of one of these dangerous alliances, there are sure to be more than one person involved, and police will have their work cut out for them.
Police are urging people that if they see anything out of the ordinary, do not get involved, but quickly call authorities. I for one will heed that advice, as I’m sure most you will, for I never considered my destiny to be the victim of a vampire. Which leaves us with one final question: Do vampires really exist, or are they the mere fables and old stories handed down through the centuries to entertain folks that had nothing better to do than tell stories by firelight?
Worm stared at the glowing computer screen, reading the article over and over again. The article had failed to mention one little bit of information, one that perhaps had simply been overlooked, or considered unimportant.
Near the body of the young girl, police had found a dead cat. It’s head had been nearly torn from its body. A mutilated cat, then.
Over the next few hours, Worm again searched the Internet for stories of cat mutilations and vampire cults. He printed out everything he thought pertinent to the subject, and was both shocked and surprised at the size of the mound of paper on his printer.
When all was said and done, he sat at his desk mulling over all the information, indecisive at just what he should do next. It obviously would not be right to just sit on this information, for it all seemed to have incredible implications. But, these were implications that most would scoff at, ridicule. Those except Worm, that is; the truth was becoming more evident every minute, and as shocking as it was, he knew he had to convince someone of it, of something he was still having a hard time believing in himself.
Mutilations and vampires. While there had been nothing proven by hardened evidence, the evidence was still there, ignored by those who again did not believe in what they could not see, or in stories so old as to have been the creation of pagan societies inventing evil in the same way they had invented their various gods. But there were those over the years whom had drifted closer to the truth that anyone could dispute. The talk became reality, and paranoia set in as people kept their doors locked and collected weapons as an protection against something they knew nothing about – for these rational few thought that if good existed, evil had also existed in order to balance the universe. It was the nature of life.
In the end, Worms hid the thick stack of papers until he could come to a rational moment when telling everyone his theory would be at the least listened to and not ridiculed. He knew his friends better that anyone, and it was just not the right time to reveal it to them. They would laugh, and that might prove to be their undoing. They would prove to be a difficult group to convince.
But, there was one person that he knew would take him seriously, and eventually he would have to present what he had to this person, and if it was laughed at as well, he would leave Taylor for good, for if no one wanted to believe in what he had to say, then they could suffer alone.
The morning went on as usual, the kids sleeping in later than most of the neighborhood, which left them victims of lawnmowers and other gas powered devices created to make the life of the average man much simpler and yet often times confusing, leaving people to wonder if it was really worth it to own these new- fangled devices that were solely meant to advance and better the life of man. Still, if it was meant to make a person’s life easier, and the person a little lazier, it was apparently worth the money.
More so than not, however, for those who slept late, they were simply nuisances.
Worm had made decisions of his own. He would visit the only person who might put credence in what he had to say, and possibly help to convince his friends of the same possibilities.
The one person who seemed to have any sense at all, an open mind, an adult mind, one who may listen seriously to what Worm had to say.
Although it was still rather early, Worm got up and took a hot shower, grabbed his notes, and reluctantly walked next door to Thad’s house to present his case and somehow convince the man that something strange was happening in the Taylor and Compton areas.
After several soft, early morning taps on the door, Thad answered and opened the door for Worm.
“Come on in, uh…”
“Lester. But my friends call me Worm.”
“It’s really early, Worm. I didn’t sleep well last night. Is this important”
“It’s very important, Mr. Wendt.”
“Call me Thad, I’m hardly older than you are.”
“Ok, Thad. And it is very important. It’s about Drake, and I think you need to know this ”
Thad’s sleepy eyes suddenly went wide at the mention of that name. “Let me make some coffee – only take a sec.” With licked up hair and thin, aged robe Thad went into the kitchen, calling out after him, “Why don’t you come in here?”
Worm sat at the round table, the complete opposite of Thad – showered, clean clothes, completely alert. He had a stack of papers in one hand.
“I’ll be just a minute,” Thad said, leaving the room. Worm heard a door shut softly from somewhere in the house, and a few minutes later Thad returned looking much better, except for the puffy eyes and five o’clock shadow.
“Have you been sleeping well?” Worm asked.
“Not necessarily,” Thad said, “especially since the little visit I got from you know who across the street.”
“Drake visited you?” He asked incredulously.
“Yes, he seemed very polite, but I somehow got the idea that he was warning me of something. Perhaps to mind my own business. But the way he spoke was very polite, yet threatening at the same time. It’s hard to explain.”
The coffee was still brewing, almost to the top. “Just give me a minute, and we’ll get into this a little more,” Thad said. He stood by the stained coffee pot until the brewing slowed to as trickle, and he poured two cups, never minding the drips onto the hot plate, and set the cups onto the table, where he began to spoon cream and sugar into his own. Worm preferred black. After a few sips, the words began to flow.
Thad said, “The night Bones disappeared, and the police left, you and your friends were pretty pissed off, weren’t you?”
“Well, I don’t get pissed off as my friends do, I become more intrigued than anything to find answers.”
“Thus the name Worm. The intelligent one.”
“If you want to call it that, thank you. But, I went to my computer and started to search for any possible links to what was happening here. But then, out of the blue, Bones shows up, and with no reasonable explanation as to where he’s been. He goes into his bedroom, and we went to look for him for answers.”
“Let me guess,” Thad said. “He was gone.” He took a sip from the hot coffee.
“How did you know?”
“Call it intuition, I don’t know. But it wasn’t very long after until the man himself paid me a visit.”
“What did he look like?
“He looked like anyone else. But his demeanor, his very words, seemed threatening. In an off-hand way, of course. It was almost as if he was trying to read me, to see what kind of threat I could be. But, he was very pleasant, as well.”
“I think you should drink some more of your coffee. I’ve got things to show you,” Worm said.
And Thad did exactly that, downed more coffee, for he knew there was more to come, more that would not be pleasant, especially from a person he had already begun to trust. But, he tried to listen patiently as Worm laid out all the facts he had.
Thad was taken aback, almost shocked at everything that Worm had discovered. There simply was no doubt that what had happened in different parts of the country was now happening here, and there seemed no way to stop it, for the police would not believe in such ludicrous stories and would not waste their time.
Thad and Worm sat silent from a long while, unable to consider a means to an end.
“Bones came in and left as quick as a heartbeat, Thad. He’s changed over, I know it.”
“I believe you, Worm. There’s one thing we must do – keep this to ourselves.”
“You’re more of a sensible person that I thought you were, Thad.”
Thad only smiled.
“What do we do now?” Worm asked.
“I don’t quite know, Worm. Just keep this to yourself, and I’ll do the same, and we’ll go from there.”
“One more thing I’d like to mention, Bones didn’t show up at work. One more day, and he’s fired.”
Thad said, “I think he has a new job now.”
It was a mere two days later that, in the small community of Taylor, another body was discovered in the weeds bordering the two sets of railroad tracks that ran through a field across the southern outskirts of Taylor. No one but derelicts and homeless travelers ever traveled along those sections of tracks, and these derelicts were rarely known for committing such heinous crimes. They were more interested in moving along from state to state, living their lives without the complexities of those who chose to live their complex lives that can drive a person mad.
But, it took a more decent derelict to go straight to a police station (which wasn’t a very pleasant incident to begin with, as the police weren’t in the habit of taking the word of a transient), to go straight up and tell them that something was terribly wrong out by the tracks, a dead woman’s body, believe it or not.
“I don’t want no reward or nothin’, I just thought it was just the right thing to do.”
The man’s name was Jared Smith, and the police knew nothing of the man or his name, but they nonetheless followed through with the tip, and were completely shocked to find that they found exactly what the derelict told them they would find. In fact, the homeless man had been waiting by the tracks to show the policeman where to look.
By his very panicky demeanor and sincere lack of suspicion, the police were right in their determination that this was indeed a citizen, no matter how down on his luck, that was doing the right thing. It was also evident with his reaction when he showed the police where the body was, and just how difficult it had been for him to lay eyes on the scene.
They asked the man to sit against a tree that was a short distance away so they may ask him a few more questions.
The girl had also been bitten on the neck and drained of most of her blood, leaving her stiff and white lying there in the weeds, her eyes painted on in a horrific stare. Not one person there could look at the victim with simple nonchalance. This was the stuff sick dreams were made of.
Watching from the safeness of Thad’s living room, he and Worm witnessed the carrying of the body out of the field and into an ambulance. Thad leaned forward and grimaced. On the TV, among the crowd watching the carryings on, policeman rushed pell mell with notepads and cameras, comparing notes with each other.
And standing in the middle of the confusion, seemingly unaware of what was happening around him was Drake. He was dressed formally, with a long black overcoat that must have cost a fortune. He was not happy; in fact, he looked downright pissed off.
“What do you think is wrong with him?” Worm asked.
“I think his little partner get a little out of control last night. More bad attention for Drake.”
“You may be right. Wait, I just thought of something!”
“Well, don’t keep me in suspense, what is it?”
“It’s Friday, Thad. There’s going to be trouble.”
Thad rubbed his chin. “Maybe if we convince them to go home, that it’s too dangerous to be outside.”
“Oh, right. Good luck doing that.”
“Well, it can’t hurt keeping an eye on things, you know Drake will be around, and maybe even his little sidekick.
And so the two waited until dark, and started a vigil at the windows, looking for anything in particular.
Much to the surprise of Thad’s and not so surprising to Worm, the party continued on as if nothing had happened. And it seemed that the bulk of the party had already moved outside. The noise itself was enough to call upon the police (Randy had some dork named Travis Hancock minding the scanner, which was itself quite a feat considering he was instead getting possibly the best blow job he had ever gotten). But, taking on the duty that he was supposed to be mindful of, he did try to take a listening ear to everything . Almost.
At last, Randy barged into the room.
Travis Hancock was consumed with the ecstasy of the act being performed upon him now, and that was all it took to put an end to it; Randy literally freaked out, and told the two to leave the bedroom (telling them that he had kicked guys asses for less than that), which they did among a flurry off cheers.
Randy stormed off the porch with a sneer on his face, headed straight for the Mustang.
“Come on, De Wolf!”
Tim, who’d been orbiting around a couple of beauties on the front lawn, nursing a beer and his best impression, rolled his eyes at the sound of his name. “What do you want, Randy?”
“You. You’re coming with me.”
“Why me. I’m busy.”
“Don’t you want to share in the glory?”
Before he could say anything, voices urged him on, pushed him toward the gray beast with its owner waiting to take the maiden run.
“Are you sure this thing’s safe?”
“Get in the fuckin’ car Dewolf.”
Two men stood just this side of Thad Wendt’s fence, slightly crouched down in their dark clothing, while the car on the other side fired up, raising a bellow of voices, urging the machine on while the clatter and dust rose into the night air. Though the noise was all but foulness invading their ears, the dignified two crouched and waited for it to blissfully end.
The Mustang squealed out into the street, dragging gravel and dust and blue smoky oil with it, and then it hurtled down the darkened street, mimicking a night at the All City Raceways. Around the corner it went, spewing blue smoke out behind it, and then it was gone. No one could tell if it was still running or just rolling along down the asphalt.
The passengers in the Mustang could barely hear the shouts of the onlookers as it roared down the street. At the corner, Tim’s heart palpated as he wondered if Randy was actually going to make the turn; and of course, Randy did make the turn, bellowing as the tires gripped the asphalt and propelled the car forward.
“Fuck YEAH!” he cried, not bothering to look in Tim’s direction. Tim, in the meantime, was struggling to find something to hang on to and looking for a seatbelt at the same time.
The people outside the kid’s house heard the Mustang traveling along the next street over, and then approaching as it rounded the corner.
“The cops are gonna come!” Tim shouted, as they flew by the blurred figures of those screaming and yelling and holding up cans of beer as if in salute. Randy said nothing to Tim’s protest, only watched through the windshield intently as the scenery passed by like dim watercolor. The interior reeked of hot oil and grease, and almost had a pervasive, addicting smell.
Strangely enough, Tim Dewolf did not know that a majority of those residing in the homes they passed were caught up in confusing dreams, awake only to those people and things that plagued their minds as they rested.
It was a ghostly, invisible force that unintentionally spread through the area into those weak and vulnerable. It was there and watching them, as simple as if they not watching where they were going and bumping into a telephone pole or even the side of a building.
Around the corner again they went, Randy’s devilish grin flagging as the car lost power and stalled.
“Fuck!” he cried, and swerved down the darkened street, caught completely off guard by the sudden crisis. Tim’s eyes widened as he clutched onto the door handle, waiting for Randy to crash into one on the various cars parked on the street.
Randy swerved sharply to the right, and at first Tim thought that they were headed for a house or car, or anything, for that matter, that might put a abrupt end to their flight. But, when they made the turn, headlights sweeping across the last two houses on the short, dead-end street, Tim realized that Randy had thankfully remembered the obscure piece of asphalt that ended at a large field that had for months left everyone guessing what was going to be built there.
Into a shallow ditch that demarcated the end of the street and the overgrown field the two front tires sank and came to rest, marking an end to the fabulous flight, bottoming out and bringing silence to the gray beast that had once breathed fiery life from its exhaust.
The abrupt jerk spared them from banging their heads into the windshield, and yet it was enough to leave them staring at each other as if checking to see if the other was alive in the eerie green glow of the dash lights.
“Don’t say a fucking word,” Randy muttered, and all Tim could do was nod.
Thad and Worm looked at each other and shook their heads. The noise outside was the worst it had ever been, even by Worm’s standards, who had once been a silent partner to that behavior, only a youth fitting in. Thad could tell by just looking at him that it really was not a behavior fitting of him. But it was no mystery how Worm could get caught up with that group – after all, nobody, no matter how different or strange, could be called a stranger of this society.
Thad had begun to learn that in new ways as of late.
After the Mustang had made its second run down the street, and the two were still looking at each other in dismay, a knock came at the door which startled them both so much that you could see them twitch in their clothes.
They both hesitated, as if waiting for an answer to whom may be at the door. Thad thought of Drake, what part he may be playing in this whole scenario, and considered that although Drake might be on the other side of the door, that he had nothing to do with the kid’s antics. That was all their own doing.
Worm watched from the entrance to the kitchen as Thad switched on the porch light, and opened the door.
The two men on the porch did not strike Thad as threatening – their hands clasped behind their backs like perfect gentlemen, they regarded Thad and Worm as not any particular threat to them, as well; they were, however, dressed rather oddly considering the environment, and the warmth of the season. Black pullovers and slacks, shoes that were black as well, but certainly not dress shoes – these were running shoes. The strangest thing of all were the thin, black overcoats they wore. Even late at night during the cool temperatures, it was still too warm attire for summer.
Both men, who appeared to be in their early thirties, remained for the moment expressionless, waiting for a response from Thad, and the other who stood behind him watching as if he recognized the two men from previous confrontation.
“Thad Wendt?” one of them asked, and Thad thought he heard a hint of an accent not too unfamiliar to him.
“Do I know you?” Thad asked.
“No, you wouldn’t know us,” the other man said, and then Thad placed the English accent immediately.
“How do you know my name?”
They ignored his question, countering with, “We came to discuss your neighbor across the street. May we come inside?” one of them asked.
Thad opened his mouth, but from behind him Worm piped up.
“Can you guys come in without being asked?”
Thad turned around and looked at Worm quizzically, and then recalled what he had said about Bones asking to come inside what used to be his own home.
The two strangers looked at each other, to Worm and Thad. “So you know, then,” one said, and he stepped into the house as moths were beginning to flutter around the bulb overhead.
Thad stepped aside, apprehensive, fearful that the two men were of the same vein as Drake; and yet, Worm was actually coming closer as the second man entered the living room, and he closed the door, nodding slightly to Thad.
“Who are you?” Thad asked.
“Let’s just say we’re friends, of course,” one man said. “What do you know about Drake?”
“There are some very strange things going on around here,” Thad said. “I want to know what’s going on.”
The man who seemed to be the older one looked at Worm with intelligent eyes, eyes that seemed to already know everything going on. “Hasn’t your young friend told you?”
“He’s told me a lot of things. Crazy stuff that seems real nowadays. We don’t know.”
“Judging by your friend here, you know enough – it is true, now-”
“Wait a minute,” Thad said. “Cut the mystery bullshit. Are these guys.. .vampires, or what? Because I’ll tell you what, I grew up being told that these were just stories. What the fuck is the truth?”
“The truth is what you see happening all around you. Drake is like a disease, and everywhere he goes, those around him get infected by it.”
Worm said, “My friend – my old friend, that is – Bones. He was turned over, or whatever you call it, by this Drake. It was obvious to me, anyway.”
“You should be lucky that this gentleman knows just what is happening,” the older one said to Thad.
“Well then, what do we do?” Thad asked. “The guy’s been creeping around my windows. And then he came over for a visit. A short visit. I don’t know what he wanted, it just seemed like, well, he was just trying to find out who I was.”
“You are in danger,” the younger one said. “He obviously knows that you know something about him. He’ll come back.”
“Just what are you guys, anyway?” Worm asked.
“We are here to try to put an end to him, as we have tried for years,” the older one said. Thad suddenly noticed just how much older the man looked than the other one; he hadn’t paid much attention to it through all this subtle chaos, but he now saw how lined, how gracefully chiseled the man’s face was, and it added an air of wisdom to the words he spoke. And it was that same man who without warning reached into his overcoat, causing Thad to step back, and produced a large wooden crucifix that looked to be hand-carved out of a sturdy bit of wood. As he did so, there came a glint of bright silver from beneath one side of his coat, which Thad automatically thought to be a gun. “Keep this with you at all times, and keep a tight grip. Drake is no fool.”
He handed the crucifix to Thad, and when Thad took it into his hand, he felt how smooth and heavy it was – perhaps more purposeful than at first sight.
“What do we do?” Thad asked.
“Just wait,” the younger of the two said. “Wait until we finish our job. And protect yourselves.”
“I know just what you mean,” Worm said, and Thad was speechless as the two strangers left.
The quiet was pervasive without the drone of the Mustang’s engine, and they sat for a moment, not speaking. Then Randy slammed his palms against the steering wheel, nearly breaking it off with the weight of his anger. “Shit! Piece of shit!”
Tim held his tongue, for he knew to speak now might earn him a broken body part, perhaps something valuable, like his neck.
Randy kept uttering obscene phrases, and Tim turned toward the windshield so as not to let the angry jock see him staring at him; and it was then the he saw the shadowy shape flying through the night’s darkness toward the car, and he could not help himself but to shout out, “Randy!”, to which the pissed off jock turned and said, “What the fuck do you want?”
Tim had about a second to point to the shadow approaching the windshield, and when Randy saw, even his angry, bloodshot eyes saw what left him speechless with was not quite fear, but a sudden addition to his present irritable condition, until he saw for an instant was it really was soaring in his direction.
If Randy did not know who it was, Tim did, for the raw ferocity and facial expression became apparent as a phantom in a nightmare that in sleep one could not stop or escape from.
The form was thin, arms and legs spread out like a huge bird in flight, hair not tied back but flying loosely around its head like an angel, hair that flailed out long and loosely like as an insane being from another world. The dark eyes and taunt, angry face filled with jagged teeth became apparent just before this being landed on the hood of the Mustang with a heavy thud that dented in a substantial section of the metal hood.
It instantly became apparent that it was indeed Bones on the hood, in jeans and bare feet and no shirt.
Bones opened his mouth to reveal teeth not unlike that of a small shark, and while Tim shrank away in terror at the sight, Randy only stared as if he had seen this creature a hundred times before.
Tim struggled with the door handle as the thing spoke, as if directly to Randy: “Hey, you big fuck, just came to say howdy!” His voice still had that mellow drawl he had always been known for, but his horrible countenance seemed to mock himself in a horrific way that left him wasting no time as he burst both pale vein stricken hands through the windshield of the car and latched onto Randy’s neck. Glass flew everywhere, and Tim managed to cover his eyes to protect himself, but Randy had glass piercing his eyes and face and the creature that had once been Bones reached in and grabbed Randy by the neck, jerked him close to the hole in the windshield, and chomped down on his neck with fangs that were that of an animal.
Randy screamed like never before, but the screams turned to the watery gagging of one who has just barely escaped drowning from swimming too far out into the ocean; and Bones, with his pale, veined face and hands and blood-stained face looked at Tim with pleasure as if it had been his life long ambition to rid the world of the likes if Randy.
Tim somehow managed to get the passenger door open, and then took flight into the night, his pounding heart urging him to take run like never before down the street toward his home, which seemed his only safety in his desperation.
In his flight he kept looking back to see if he was perhaps being pursued by the thing that Bones had become, but he saw no pursuer, and still he ran like an animal being chased by a lion or tiger through the fields of an African outback.
Tim De Wolf ran through the night like he had never ran before, continuously looking over his shoulder to watch for the creature that might have decided he was next, but he saw no pursuer, so he kept running until he reached Thad’s house, which seemed a much safer place that any he could think of, and the sounds of Randy’s suffering followed him only so far through the twilight until quieting altogether. Human instinct told him to run back, to help his overbearing friend, but fear drove him on with legs of rubber.
And the stillness, the presence of the unknown, the mystery, kept him flight.
He ran past his own house, the faces of the confused, comical gathering regarding him, some open-mouthed, as he dashed by.
“Run! Get out of here!” he screeched without stopping, but his voice rose in alarm, and he knew that most would probably take flight, thinking the police were on the way to break up the party, and possibly arrest those under the age and also under the influence of alcohol.
Dominick could wait no longer, for nature -was also calling him outside to relieve himself.
“But, I so wanted to accompany you, Dominick, ” Annabelle said.
“I am quite sorry, my dear. Perhaps tea tomorrow? “
“I will hold you to that!” she said.
Jason Hunnicut said, “You’ve got quite a lad there, you do, Jack. You should be proud.”
“I am very proud of him, believe me my friend. ” He smiled widely at his son. “Go and think your thoughts, son, and we shall talk in the morning. “
“Thank you, everyone, and I bid you goodnight.”
As he left the smoky library, his last images were of the disappointed Annabelle, and the ogling eyes of Joseph Barnaby, who would most assuredly partake in the large breasts that never seemed to loose his attention.
Drake left through the kitchen door, out onto the stoop, where he paused to breath in the cool night air. The stars sprinkled high above, and from the woods, crickets and birds alike left their mark, the birds fluttering high in the branches of the ancient trees, the crickets in their own cacophony of music as Drake strode along the stone path that led wide of the Stills cottage with his dogs always at bay, and into the woods that surrounded most of the estate.
A couple of short barks followed him past the Still’s cottage as he entered the woods, but all fell silent, save for the crickets, and the occasional hoot of a large owl perched somewhere among the large boughs.
Drake stopped long enough to unbutton his trousers and urinate against a mossy trunk. He then continued on through the woods, a path he was familiar with, one he had always followed when he needed to be alone, or oftentimes just to appreciate the beauty of the woods themselves.
He reached the clearing which had always afforded a private place for him, but it became evident that he was not alone on this night, that something else was there for purposes unknown.
In the clearing, all noise stopped – the birds foraging through the tree tops, the owls hooting for their own, territorial spaces had ceased. Silence pervaded the stillness.
From a cluster of bushes at the far end of the clearing came a low, guttural growl, and Drake stood as still as possible, for fear that some wild animal may burst through and maul him.
There also came the jangle of thick chains from behind the screen of bushes, but Drake only had a second to ponder on what they may be; and the wild animal emerged from the bushes, a huge black hound dragging a thick silver chain that had been wrapped around it’s neck.
Drake had not time to escape, only to turn and try to run which was futile, for the beastly dog had a hold of his leg before he could scream. But scream he would not, for the Drakes were not among those who screamed in terror or pain. They simply had to deal with it.
“We Drakes don’t scream or whine like normal folks, because we are strong, We take the pain gracefully,” His father had once told him
He lay in the clearing, grimacing with pain, for the pain was immense – the beast had it’s teeth buried deeply in Drake’s right calf, a nice fleshy spot for it to hang onto. And all the while it dragged that bastardly chain along with it, like it actually had anything to do with keeping the dog at bay.
The teeth sank in deeper, and Drake drew back his head and clenched his teeth at the pain that seemed to permeate every inch of him.
He did not see the figure approach, nor did he see the figure grasp the chain and yank the animal from his leg.
The dog yelped as it was held in mid-air by the stranger
“I’m so sorry about the dog, my good man, but I cannot change what has already happened.”
“Just what do you mean? ” asked Drake, clutching at his torn pant leg and feeling the warm blood flowing.
Instead of answering right away he took the dog, which was still biting viciously at nothing but blank air, and chained it to a tree with a large brass lock. It pulled and strained against its bonds but could break free.
“Just what are you talking about? I am of the Drake estate, you know, and we don’t take kindly to strangers walking about our grounds. ” He kept grasping his leg, perhaps in a attempt to stop the bleeding.
“Do not worry about the bleeding, it will stop soon. In fact, the wound itself will disappear as if it were never there. “
Drake could not make out the countenance of the person he spoke to, for he chose to remain in shadow.
“What are you talking about? I shall die if I remain here much longer!”
“You will not die, my friend, it was just an unfortunate accident.”
“Just what do you mean, unfortunate? “
“Do you know of vampires, Mr. Drake? “
“I know they are stories and myths handed down through the ages, campfire tales to scare those who would believe anything in that type of setting.”
“You are very ignorant, Mr. Drake, for it is because of my folly that you have become one of us. One of the undead. I was so bored with my life, that I decided to bite my own dog to see what would happen. I can’t guarantee that your life will as normal as mine, and you may have a strange affect on animals, I don’t know. “
“I don’t believe you!”
“Look at your leg, Mr. Drake. “
Drake looked at his leg, and not only had the bleeding stopped, but indeed the wounds themselves seemed to have begun to heal at an astounding rate.
“Soon you feel the hunger, my friend, but not for food, for blood, for this is what you will live on the rest of your days. “
“You’re crazy! Absolutely crazy. I shall call the dogs on you!”
“And I shall kill every one of them, if you wish. If you come to this very spot tomorrow evening, you will find this hound quite dead. Mere ashes from the light of the sun. It must be destroyed. Hark my warning, stay out of the sunlight, or you will suffer a similar fate. You are a nightwalker now. You shall never again walk in daylight.”
“I don’t believe you! You are a madman!”
“Well then, let me show you what you don’t believe,” the shadowy figure said, emerging from shadow. At first, all Drake saw was a handsome man, not quite in his thirtieth year, wearing a cloak and shiny black boots that crunched over the twigs and leaves. Drake drew back slightly, aware that the pain in his leg was gone; he stood to meet this madman head-on.
“I will convince you of what you don’t believe, and then I will leave you to live the rest of your years, which will be many, my friend. “
He suddenly grasped Drake by the shoulders, and just as suddenly the man’s face changed, his grip became of iron, and even in the dark Drake saw the horrible countenance before him.
He saw a face of aged, lined leather, lips cracked impossibly deep in spots, hair that sprung out in different hues of gray, around his face as if from an electric shock into some hideous halo.
“But how, why, ” Drake began. “You ‘re hurting me, sir “
The stranger realized that he had been clutching Drake’s shoulder with his inhuman strength, and although he did not release his grip, he lessened it to a degree, for he had more to show. “Are you beginning to believe? ” the stranger asked.
“Yes, I am, I just don’t know-“
The vampire’s eyes turned black as coal, and he drew open his large maw, which revealed two long, slightly curved fangs on either side of his two front teeth. His furnace of fetid breath blew into Drake’s lungs, and he was forced to bend over and vomit.
After a time, he stood, using his shirt sleeve to wipe whatever remained around his mouth.
The vampire was normal again. “I’m sorry. Like I said, it was an unfortunate accident. But there is no turning back, now. “
Drake felt the strength in his leg and knew it was completely healed. “But how can I…isn’t there a cure? “
“There is a cure – death. After all you believe now, you may not believe what I am about to tell you. Within a day’s time you will already feel the hunger for blood, and you will embrace what you have become. You are more powerful now than you will ever be. “
“Well then, what is stopping me from killing you now? ” Drake asked rather harshly.
“You have just turned, and you have a while to learn of your new powers. Remember, those like yourself that you encounter possess those same powers, and perhaps great anger. And you will meet them from time to time. You must master what you have become, and it you happen to run across another, then you had better mention my name, for most know me, and even fear me, but most simply know me as no threat to them. It is better to fit in, than be killed. “
” What is your name? ” Drake asked. The hound at the tree growled as if the question were taboo.
“My name is Cross, of the family Cross.”
“But they lived a hundred years ago, a well to do family… “
“Yes, my friend, a hundred years. I am the last.”
“But how can that be? ” Drake asked, backing against a tree trunk.
“It is the curse of the dead, Drake. The living dead. You will live for as long as you wish, or until someone ends it for you. And beware, there are those unlike us that mean us harm.”
“Who? What do you mean? “
“I have spoken too much, already. In time, you will learn who is friend or foe, who is dangerous or harmless. Perhaps, we will cross paths again, Drake. “
“You can’t just run off and hide like that, ” Drake said. He again felt for the wounds on his leg, and felt no pain whatsoever. “You’ve got to tell me what kind of trickery is going on here!”
“No trickery, just the truth,” Cross said, and the area where he had been standing became blank space. He was simply gone, leaving Drake perplexed.
Without any trouble Drake stood and stretched his limbs; the dog growled frustratingly, knowing that it was there to stay, always hungering for something that would never reach its belly. It whined as Drake rushed off through the woods toward the great house. He and the dog would meet only one more time.
Drake awoke with a start and stared about the room, unable to discern where he was or what was the actual time, for the room was darkened by the long, red velvet draperies that hung over the windows on each side of the bed on which he lay.
He sensed more than felt the sleeping figure in the bed next to him, and when he gazed at the nude body under the sheets and long, flowing dark hair across the pillow, he recognized Annabelle Sutler.
Drake was left utterly confused. This was entirely out of his benevolent, and strict, moral behavior.
A naked woman in his bed. He did not smile, nor did he ponder over sweet memories of secret activities in the night. Nay, he frowned upon the whole thing, and immediately jumped out of the bed, finding himself naked as well.
Abnormally exposed, he searched for his clothing, and found a heap of clothes on the hardwood floor next to the bed. His torn and bloody pants, stained silk shirt, Annabelle’s frilly dress and undergarments. Clothing haphazardly piled on the floor as if someone were about to bundle them up and take them to the laundry.
And Annabelle lying sleeping in the bed as fit as a fiddle.
He rushed to the tall windows and pulled back the thick, velvet curtains to reveal the thin white drapes beneath.
And even filtered through the cloth the sunlight hit him full force on his skin, and like scalding water smoke rose from the exposed flesh and pain like he had never felt before wracked through him as if he were encased in a room of fire. But, at that moment, it was exactly that – a room of fire, the fire being the very skin of the man standing before the window, and Drake growled from the sudden pain.
He instinctively leaped away from the window, and onto the floor against the side of the bed where the girl lie sleeping. With wide eyes he saw wisps of smoke curling up from patches of burned skin.
You shall never walk in daylight…
It was then that he turned and saw the face of Annabelle. She stared directly at him without fault, skin as pale as the sheets that covered her, her throat torn open in a ragged gash, a circle of congealed blood on the sheets beneath her. She continued staring as if transfixed by the sight of the one man she had had her sights set on, Dominick Drake.
Annabelle had been dead for a long period.
Drake jumped up, flaccid penis hanging between his legs, and as he backed up in horror, momentarily forgot the window. Filtered sunlight struck his right arm, and like a branding iron it seared flesh, causing him this time to cry out in surprise and pain.
Jerking out of the light, he found himself struggling through clothing to pull on his torn pants. He started as there came light taps on the bedroom door.
“Mr. Drake, should you like breakfast now? I have it ready for you. ” It was one of the young maids whose name he could not remember, one who he assumed had eyes for him as did the rest, which added to the frantic irritation he felt at that moment. A surreal picture, a horrible portrait he had been painted into against his will, the picture portraying a scene akin to those of the early artists whom created scenes of devilish obscenity and death. He was now a character in a framework that was so real his mind reeled in confusion.
“No, thank you,” he blurted out. ” I am fine. I would like to sleep longer.”
“But Mr. Drake, I have the most wonderful- “
“Please! I said no! Go away and leave me alone for the day! I am sick!”
“But the lady, sir… “
“She is gone! Go away and tell everyone I will not be disturbed for the day! I am sick!”
He heard the maid let out an air of exasperation while she pushed the squeaky cart down the hall away from his bedroom. He thought he heard her muttering something under her breath, and he felt a slight urge to rush out into the hall to grasp her shoulders and shake her like a child’s rattle.
Drake managed to close the thick drapes over that window, and lock the door, which left it dim and benign in his bed chamber. He yanked a coverlet off the bed and wrapped it around himself, cowering in a corner in plain sight of the recently deceased Annabelle. He could not bring himself to look directly at the window, for it felt if he did, his eyes would burn from their sockets.
Yet, his eyes did burn, but not from the light, from weariness, as if he had been up for several days straight. He tried to blink away the odd feeling, and came suddenly alert by the strict knocking on the bedroom door. He didn’t have to guess to know that his father was standing on the other side of the door.
Annabelle glared at him like a mannequin in some twisted window display. Sunlight burned like fire on the other side of the heavily curtained window, threatening to burst through and eat him alive.
“Son, open the door, 1 must speak to you! Are you alright? ” Jack Drake’s voiced boomed on the other side of the heavy door.
“I am alright, Father. I just don’t feel well. I need rest.”
“Let me in to see you, Dominick!”
“Please, go away, Father! I need rest. I will be down in the eve. ”
Again as Thad and Worm watched and waited nervously for something horrible to pay them a visit, perhaps their last visit, they heard the frantic voice from the street, and then came the frantic banging at the door. This did not sound as though a calm, collected person were knocking at the door, but something so drastic that Thad did not hesitate to answer the door. Worm stood behind him with the old crucifix in hand, as if ready to throw it into the face of anyone who might be at the door.
Tim De Wolf stood on the front porch, face as white as a ghost, and he immediately demanded, “Please, let me in! They’re after me!”
Thad said something that was inevitably strange to Tim, but Tim was too anxious but to listen while Thad asked his question: “Can you come in without being asked?”
“Yes! Yes!” he said, and nearly knocked Thad over as he rushed through the door. He saw Worm standing there, and was perplexed to see the two together, looking almost as frightened as he was. “Do you know? I-I mean do you really know, or am I losing my mind?” Beads of sweat broke out on his brow as he looked at Thad, to Worm, and then back to Thad.
“We know, Tim. You’ll be safe here.”
From outside came the sounds of car doors slamming shut, and engines starting up, and tires burned on pavement as vehicles shot away from the kid’s house as if it were suddenly ground zero for a Hiroshima-sized bomb.
“Just what in God’s name is happening?”
“Sit down, Tim, and we’ll tell you,” Worm said, and Tim sat nervously on the couch, rubbing his clammy hands together and looking around as if expecting more surprises.
“What happened, Tim,” Thad asked.
Tim was trembling, and his voice reflected an uncontainable fear as he spoke. “Are you guys…are you guys like that thing I saw? I’ve never seen anything so horrible in my life!”
Thad said, “No, we are not like that. It was a vampire you saw. I know it’s hard to believe, but it’s true.”
“I wouldn’t have believed you before, but now…”
“Believe it,” Worm said, and his very expression sank into Tim’s bones and caused him to shudder.
“Tell us what happened, Tim,” Thad said.
“I supposed you heard the party noise next door, right?”
Worm and Thad nodded in unison.
“Well, then you heard Randy fire up his Mustang. Only this time he wanted, demanded, that he take it out for a ride, just to irritate the whole neighborhood. And he also demanded that I come along. I didn’t want to, but it’s hard to say no to Randy, if you know what I mean.”
Worm nodded with a wan smile.
“We went around the neighborhood once, Randy whooping and hollering all the way. I swear, the guy just can’t stop!” Tim said, dramatically waving his arms in the air.
Thad said, “Yeah, we heard.”
“Well, anyway, we went around a second time, and after we rounded the corner down there, the car started to stall. So, Randy turns down that little dead-end street – you know the one – and ends up with his front tires in that little ditch. And the car wasn’t even running anymore. I’ll tell you what, he was one pissed off dude. I didn’t know what to say, so I just sat there. In fact, Randy told me not to say a word.”
“Did he know what was wrong with the car?” Worm asked.
“No, and that pissed him off even more. He started pounding the steering wheel, and screaming, and I swear, I thought he was going to break that sucker right off!”
The other two remained silent, listening but unable to say anything comforting because of their own knowledge – it would been a futile effort.
Finally, Worm’s head bowed down as if it shame, Tim said, “Bones. It was Bones. And yet, it wasn’t Bones. You guys have never seen him like that before. Maybe something in the movies, but nothing like this. Get this…he bashed both hands, or whatever they were right through the windshield and he had a hold of Randy’s neck in no time.”
“What was he doing? Thad asked.
“He opened his mouth wider than I had ever see it before, and then he bit in.” Tim stopped for moment, tears running down his cheeks. “He bit into Randy’s neck.”
“Then Randy’s one of them,” Thad said.
Worm nodded, looking at Tim with a glare that carried with it a seriousness that could not be denied.
“Something is very wrong here,” Tim said. “Randy is one of what? What’s going on?”
Thad and Worm looked at each other as if deciding which one should tell Tim the truth, and it was finally Thad that broke the news.
“Tim, this may be hard for you to believe, but Bones is a vampire.”
Tim stared at Thad in not disbelief but confusion.
“And after what you’ve told us, Randy is most likely one, too. It’s Drake, Tim, Drake. He moves from town to town and takes victims, and then moves on so no one can catch him, or become clever to his little game. He’s here, now, taking victims like Bones, but I’d bet my bottom dollar that he won’t be here long.”
Worm asked, “What did he look like, Tim? Even in the dark there should have been something different about him that caught your eye.”
Tim rubbed his hands over his face, and then told them the terrible truth. ” It was horrible. Randy’s car broke down, and you know how Randy is – it’s at the end of that short dead-end field, and the two front tires are stuck on the ditch. He just go so pissed off, that he began pounding on the steering wheel. He told me not to say a word so 1 didn’t. I didn’t feel like getting roughed up by Randy. Tim’s eyes were bloodshot and moist with tears.
Thad and Worm listened intently. “Randy was so busy being pissed off at the car, that I saw someone or something flying through the air toward the car. Not actually flying, but he must have leaped from somewhere. He landed on the hood of the Mustang, and it was then that you could see plain as day what he was – not normal, nothing humane you’ve ever seen. His skin was white, and covered with veins. But, before I could look any further, he crashed both hands through the front windshield. Glass went everywhere. He snatched Randy, who surprisingly seemed no match to him, and he bit into Randy’s throat with the those jaws.. .jaws wider than on any man I’ve ever seen. And the teeth. My God, the teeth.”.
They stared numbly at Tim.
“I think the best thing to do know is wait for daylight. Everyone stays here for the night. And don’t let anyone in. If we-”
His words were cut off by a resounding knock on the outside storm door.
Three frightened faces looked around at each other. Thad suddenly realized just how quiet it had become outside.
Another knock, and they all jumped like fish in a tub.
Thad stood on shaky legs, and then the others were up quick as a flash. He opened the blinds closest to the front door, at the protest of Tim mainly, who was still reliving the last few moments of his life with Randy. He shook when he saw Bones looking through glass, but Worm seemed to be studying him like a specimen.
“What do you want?” Thad called out.
“They hurt me, Thad, that bad man. I think I need to go to the hospital.” His face appeared normal, save for some scattered scratches which Thad attributed to the windshield of the car. Bone’s hair, the long, luxurious mane which always had the women keeping a close eye on him, hung unusually loose around his shoulders and down his back. This obviously was not the same Bones that they were all accustomed to.
And whether Bones knew it or not, or simply did not care, he had blood smeared over his chin and down his throat. Bones had been a bad boy.
“Go away, Bones, and I mean go away. Now!”
Bones grew closer to the window, and the change in his appearance was already evident. “Come on, man, I need help! Just let me in!”
Worm broke in. “You are not allowed in this house, which is a house of God,” he said, holding up the large crucifix. Bones backed away from the window a bit, but his countenance changed into what Tim has already seen – the thing that would bring terror into any man’s heart. His mouth became a large, wide maw with three rows of jagged teeth, and his very skin was translucent, revealing every vein and artery that still pulsed in his sickened condition.
All three stepped back from the window, as this creature seemed hell-bent on killing them all. “Let me in to the goddamned house, now!” he screamed, hot fetid breath steaming the panes of glass.
“I don’t think so,” Thad said, and began to close the blinds.
“I’ll kill you all in the most horrific ways possible! One way or the other I’ll get you!” and then his presence vanished as if it had been a ghost all along.
“He can’t come in, right?
“That’s right, Tim,” Worm said, “If they’re not invited in, they simply cannot come in.”
Thad remained quiet.
Tim asked, “What is it? There’s something wrong, isn’t there? There something fucking wrong here, isn’t there, Thad?”
“I’ve already invited someone in,” Thad said, head lowered.
“That right,” came the English accent from the man standing in the doorway to the kitchen.
Drake did not lower his head in the slightest, instead held it high and majestic, but not threatening – at least to Thad. Tim and Worm were speechless.