Category Archives: Contest
The voting has closed on the Blood Vengeance: Vampyre issue story contest and the results are tallied:
1st Place: “The End is the Beginning,” by Carrie Clevenger. Carrie’s gritty tale of a Roman military deserter initiated to lead a different kind of legion garnered 32 of the 95 votes. Well done, Carrie!
2nd place: “I AM,” by Helen Howell. Helen took the Vengeance theme to heart with her story, centering around a disgruntled bloodsucker taking revenge against her creator. Helen received 20 votes.
3rd place: “Foreign Soil,” by Andy Goldman. Andy cleverly melded science fiction and horror together in his tale of vampire vs. aliens and readers rewarded him with 15 votes to help him gain 3rd place in the contest.
Congratulations to the winners! I will be in touch with you shortly about how we go about getting your prizes to you.
Thanks to the entrants and readers. If you didn’t win…chin up, we’ll be having another contest at some point in the future. Meanwhile, we have other issues coming up and information on the themes can be found on the Call For Submissions page, while you can find out how to submit your stories by clicking on Submissions Guidelines.
Coming up next we have a bit of a challenge for you.
Probably many of you have read or have at least heard of the horror novel “IT” by Stephen King. If not, you’ve been living under the earth somewhere in Siberia. That book changed the way I looked at clowns. Prior to reading IT, my clown reaction was sort of like “Look. A clown. Meh.” Post-IT and I became “OHMYGOD! A Clown! RUNNNN!!!!” Pennywise struck a fear-chord in me I’ve never gotten over.
What I want the She-Clowns issue to be is that kind of clown fear…but with women as the killer clowns, something I don’t think we’ve ever seen, at least as a full out theme for a magazine.
ARTICLES: If you want to write an article for this issue, email me. I’d love to feature a non-fiction piece or two on clowns and the psychology of fear or how they’ve been portrayed in contemporary speculative fiction.
I’m happy with the number of views the vampire issue received and I hope it bodes well for the future success of this little side-gig o’ mine. I’m working on making it completely legit, with a Duotrope’s listing and all, so you can add your Were-Traveler submissions to your submissions tracker there.
Now… Send in the (she) clowns!
This issue is about thirst and hunger…feeding and drinking. Mmmmm… children of shadows, we have some tasty stories for you in this issue. Blood Vengeance: Vampyre is about our favorite nocturnal predators, and we don’t mean owls.
Blood Vengeance is also a contest. The authors of these stories have a chance to win some cool prizes for their hard work, so be sure and visit the VOTING PAGE to pick your favorite toothy tale.
I’m not sorry I’m not casting a vote myself… all of these stories are fan-bloody-tastic! It would be too hard to pick my favorite. Whether you like classic bloodsuckers or genre-blending vampires, there’s a story for all…ahem…tastes.
I drove my horse as fast as she would go, not Servo, that one died in Egypt, but another, a sorrel mare, light and quick as an arrow loosed from the fletcher’s grasp in test. We dashed through the streets, turning this way and that until we reached the gates, just in time, for they were closing.
The light from the city fell behind, leaving me with the thundering hoof beats, the jingle of the bridle, and the harsh breath of my mount as I fled Rome’s grasp. For me it was Rome that took my life. I only intended to finish the job. My dagger was a branding iron for the accused, burning into my thigh, the weight of which felt like stone laid across the muscle.
I’d been warned by the physician not to ride, lest my hip not heal properly, but this was to be the last ride, and none of it would ever matter again.
It was honorable to dispose of oneself, a sacrifice to the gods lest I hurt another. Lest I kill one more innocent and become the horrible thing I’d battled against all those years. Scalding tears blurred my vision and I let my mount gallop randomly, seeking only the cover of the surrounding forest; a deep grove that I might take my leave of this world undisturbed. It was a special grove—a place that Mehet took me to play as a child while she and her sister sat and talked, a small basket of bread and wine nearby. No one else knew of it. No one else would think to look there, and after the scene I’d caused at the villa with my supposed wife, I could not chance a discovery and swift arrest.
I would harm her, just as she had harmed me. To await a point of vulnerability that I might not retaliate, and then—I could think on it no more. We’d arrived. I pulled back on the reins and the mare came to a skittering stop in the damp grass, her breaths hot and deep, her nostrils moist and flared, her heart hammering against her sides. I’d nearly killed another one. I seemed to be good at pushing my mounts to their absolute limits for after my Servo, they were but beasts of burden; disposable and replaceable, just as I was.
I was replaceable. I was disposable. I was a soldier. A wolf sounded nearby as I slid down from the mare’s back, removing her bridle and unbuckling her saddle to allow it to drop to the ground. She nickered and regarded me with dark and shining eyes.
“Go,” I whispered, shoving her head away from my shoulder. With an almost visible shrug, she turned and walked back towards the way she came.
I drew my dagger and gladius, clutching one tightly in each hand, in case the wolf I’d heard decided to investigate the human out here in his territory. I do not know why I feared harm, and not so much death, but it was as if each heartbeat was measured as a countdown to my final breath.
The proper way to dispatch one’s self was to drive the blade upwards into the abdomen, causing a searing streak of intense pain, followed by massive internal bleeding and of course, death.
I stalked through the dense thicket until I broke out into the small grove where I could imagine my mother’s spirit could inhabit, if she had not yet fled this world or passed over to the other side. I was alone. The moon slid behind a copse of clouds high in the sky as if hiding from what I willed myself to do. The night was quiet. A breeze that halted as I glanced upwards, whispering words I have long since forgotten. Prayers, no doubt. Selfish phrases to guide my soul into the other realm where I would be received as an eternal warrior.
I was no warrior. I was a fool and a coward, but I felt that should I remain among the living, it could no longer be in Rome. It could no longer be with Junia. It simply could not be.
I did not want the child to grow up a fatherless son, she’d said to me. The military is all you care about. You haven’t been home in months. No letter. No word at all whether you were alive or dead.
Yet she’d done the unthinkable, and just a short period of time after I received the letter, it was done. Over with.
I glanced down at the dagger in my hand, and the moon greeted me as if to say farewell. My eyes locked on the celestial body, I reversed the blade and drove it into my gut, pulling up to rip my intestines apart. The pain was immense; I sunk to my knees and sobbed as my insides wept over my clenched fingers.
“Such a waste of fine blood.” She stood before me: A petite woman, stark-black hair, glittering indigo eyes; red, red lips like a courtesan.
“Magnus,” she said almost tenderly when my knees buckled. I struggled to speak, but I was dying.
“You would rather take your own life, than demand the others give you theirs.”
I shook my head, confused. My blood-starved brain struggled with the meaning of this and settled on the reasoning that this woman was clearly an apparition. Perhaps she’d come to take me to the next life,yet from what I could tell, she was real. Her smile broke the serenity of her features; I eyed her tiny fangs. Fell into her as my life extinguished but she pushed me away to hold me at arm’s length.
“You are not done here.”
My lips parted to respond, but only blood welled up and out.
“Do you truly wish to die Magnus?”
It’s Arcien, I wanted to say. Magnus was a military nickname, there was no greatness here, only a pathetic dying young man whose heart hurt worse than any dagger-wound.
“Why?” she said, and I realized I was blind. The feeling and strength was gone from my hands and arms and I felt heavy. I sagged against her with labored breaths.
She gripped the handle of the dagger protruding from my chest. Pulled. I cried out, blood spilling over my tunic. I felt the point of the blade against my cheek. Shivers threatened, but I had no strength for those either.
“Just. Let me. Die.” I gasped, and she gripped me tighter.
“No,” she said, her breath sweet and cool, like an evening breeze. “Come and serve as my warrior. Command my militia.”
I panted, straining to stay conscious. Blackness filled my brain. “It’s too late,” I said, and saw a shining light in the distance. A white figure. Drawing closer.
She shook me and I swayed in her arms.
“Serve me instead. Want for nothing. No pain. No sorrow. A fresh start.”
I recognized the figure then and smiled weakly. “Servo,” I whispered and she shook me again.
“Do not go Magnus.” She touched cold fingers on my cheeks. “Let me salvage a fallen warrior.”
Barely perceptible, I moved my head, just as my dead horse arrived and waited. A strong urge resided in me to go to him. To ride with him. I nodded at the woman, hoping her promises would ring true, but I believe I was justifiably dead.
I felt a solid form at my lips, and then a trickle. I was thirsty, so thirsty. The liquid flowed over my mouth and I managed it open a notch, tasting it and finding it to be good, and a burst of energy flooded my being. It drove out the blackness of Death and filled me with a cold that emanated from the marrow of my bones. I clawed at her breast, tearing at it with flat human teeth until I felt an ache inside of me, a slight tingle in my jaws, and was thrown back like a weightless rag. I lay sprawled on the grass with the taste of her blood in my mouth and a desperate desire to get more.
On the outskirts of town, sitting back from the road and partially concealed by overgrowth, the house stood in various states of disrepair. Once a splendid home it had long being abandoned and left to decay.
It was not abandoned any longer. A dozen or so cars were parked haphazardly across the lawn and the flickering light in the windows suggested candles littered the rooms. Loud music and rowdy, drunken antics invaded the night.
Alexandra Vargas watched. She would taste the blood of revenge this night. The screams of those who had wronged her would reverberate around the city night, haunting the sleeping neighbour’s nightmares to linger in their memories for rest of their human lives.
The phone rang. Sophie leant over the pile of textbooks and term papers to turn down the stereo and pick up the handset.
‘Hello Alexis,’ said Sophie with a smile.
‘How did you know it was me?’
‘Who else would call at one in the morning?’ Sophie said. ‘Bloody Vampires,’ she added with a soft giggle.
‘Sorry. Were you sleeping?’ Alexis asked, her tone suggesting she didn’t care but Sophie knew better. Alexandra rarely sounded anything but bored.
‘It’s finals. Is there a college kid in the world sleeping right now?’
‘I’m over two hundred years old. Would I care?’
Sophie laughed. ‘You try so hard to be a badass.’
‘I’m a vampire Sophie. I don’t need to try. Badass comes with the territory.’
‘I know you’re all mushy on the inside.’
‘Keep it to yourself. I can’t have mushy vampire rumours around town. I’d never be able to lift my head at a vampire gathering again.’ Alexis chastised but Sophie could hear the smile on the vampire’s stone cold features. ‘You better get back to those books. I’ll be home tomorrow night,’ Alexis said.
‘Really? You’ve been gone for ages. I thought it was a quick job?’
‘There were some…complications.’
‘You won’t be elaborating will you?’ Sophie sighed. Vamps and their well guarded secrets, she thought.
‘So, you ready for an un-dead house guest again?’
‘Why wouldn’t I be?’ Sophie frowned.
‘You might have met someone or gotten a new roommate who won’t be as cool about the un-dead thing as you are.’
‘If I’d met someone that special I’d have rung you to gush about how fantastic he is. And I would never take an un-dead racist roommate.’ Sophie said.
‘You’re so funny,’ Alexis said in her usual bored tone which of course Sophie found even more amusing.
‘Seriously, I can’t wait for you to get here. It’s so dull without your sunny disposition and sense of humour,’ Sophie teased.
‘Get back to work you silly child. I shall see you tomorrow evening.’
‘Yes, you terrifying monster of the night. Love you and see you tomorrow.’
Alexis growled, revealing her terrifying nature and Sophie laughed, hanging up. Sophie missed her brooding, fanged friend.
Alexis shifted gears and pushed the sports car a little harder, her thoughts already back at Sophie’s tiny apartment. For some reason she felt a desperate need to see the girl was safe. A nagging worry ate at her and she drove even faster.
Alexis had long wandered the Earth in relative silence until she’d met the young woman. Sophie’s inclusion in her life was akin to being deaf and suddenly hearing for the first time. Where there was once silence the world became vibrant, colourful and full of music of which Alexis had been completely unaware.
Sophie had transformed the vampire and Alexis had resisted the changes, at first. But the girl had a way about her that touched a part of the immortal creature. Parts Alexis had thought long dead with her body. She’d learnt a very valuable lesson from the young woman. A physical beating heart was not needed to have a feeling and loving one.
Alexis often wondered what her existence would be like if she’d not saved the girl from the sadistic human male intent on violating her. Sophie, sixteen at the time and shaken by her ordeal, witnessed what Alexis did to the man and still had not been afraid of the vampire. Sophie saw beyond the monster.
With the sports car easily chewing up the miles Alexis had to be honest. Sophie terrified her. More so the way Alexis felt for her and the inevitable pain and grief she would eventually feel when Sophie passed. She was, after all, only human. Be it an accident, health or violence, at some point Sophie would be gone and so would the music. The silence would return leaving Alexis in its dark clasp again.
Alexis finally arrived at the apartment. She pulled into Sophie’s allocated parking space and maintaining a human pace she went to the door. She knocked, impatient to see Sophie safe and well.
Alexis’s anxiety gnawed at her further as the door remained unanswered. Alexis tried the door, finding it locked. Something was very wrong. She broke the deadbolt and pushed the door open. Alexis knew what she would find. A part of her had always tried to warn her this day would come.
The apartment was trashed. There had been a violent struggle and sure enough she found Sophie in the bedroom. The moment Alexis saw Sophie’s battered and lifeless body the darkness descended. The music was gone.
Alexis knelt down beside her friend, covering the girl who deserved more than being left naked and destroyed. Alexis roared with outrage and pain. The sound of hell bent revenge ripped from her throat.
Weighed down with grief and guilt but intent on hunting down the ones responsible Alexis followed the scent of Sophie’s killers. She’d smelt five human male on Sophie’s brutalised body. She tracked them to where the group had separated not long after the attack, heading to different locations.
The hunt was far too easy and did not satisfy Alexis’s craving for bloody revenge.
The first killer was found at his home, showering away Sophie’s blood. His blood splattered clothing sat in a discarded pile on the floor, staining the bath mat. Blood seeped from the wet clothing and travelled towards the drain. The sight fuelled Alexis’s rage.
She pulled the terrified naked man from the shower and dragged him screaming from the house, tossing him brutally in the back of a stolen van. She did not bother tying him up. He would not get far even if he ran.
She tracked down three other members of the gang, each having washed away Sophie’s blood as if she were merely dirt to be cleaned from their bodies. Alexis tossed them in to the van like the garbage they were.
Alexis stood outside the decrepit house where the final killer was drinking away his part in an innocent girl’s death. Her four captives were crumpled at her feet, begging, snivelling and pleading for their lives. By this stage they were well aware their kidnapper was not human. Alexis basked in their terror.
‘Move,’ she ordered, her inhuman voice dripping with her seething hatred.
The men stumbled to their feet, petrified and surely aware the ram shackled building would be their murder site.
The party ended quickly once the drunken attendees spotted Alexis and her somewhat bloodied and battered entourage. She had her target in sight, the fifth killer, and she smiled when his pants became stained with urine as she approached him.
Alexis allowed the five men cowering before her to see the real monster. She dropped the human facade and bared her fangs. Her beautiful features twisted in rage as she released an animalistic growl, her eyes those of a pure predator.
‘That girl you killed tonight,’ Alexis spoke. Her voice chilling, mixing with the pathetic cries of her begging prey. ‘You picked the wrong girl.’
Alexis took her time. She lingered, drawing out each death and forcing the remaining men to watch her tear, rip, slice and maim with an unhurried, torturous and deliberate slowness. Their screams of utter agony filled her ears. A symphony with the empty house proving to be the ultimate concert hall, echoing each scream, reverberating the wails of anguish with perfect pitch and harmony.
The neighbourhood was filled with the long drawn out screams of her revenge.
Then there was silence.
Myrella regains control over her body and flings herself out of the crystal coffin that has been her prison. She winds up on her hands and knees, retching up some pearlescent pink goo onto a grated floor. Around her, myriad voices moan and scream and cry out in confusion. She squints against the medicinal white light that is flooding the chamber and sniffs the air.
Food. She is surrounded by it, and the hunger burns a raw hole in her gut. She crawls like a sick baby from between her coffin and the next and emerges next to a middle-aged man who is likewise on his hands and knees, dry-heaving . He looks up and sees Myrella pulling herself toward him.
“Are you okay? Where the hell are we?” he asks.
Myrella opens her mouth as if to reply but the look on the man’s face shows that he does not like the answer. He screams briefly as she collapses onto him and plunges her fangs into his waiting flesh.
Usually she is a dainty drinker, two fang holes on an otherwise bloodless and unmolested corpse. Now she gnaws at his skin, bursting the blood vessels beneath the surface and lapping at his blood like a wild animal. It is all she can do to not howl in satisfaction when she is done.
Strengthened but still ravenous, she stands up and takes in the room. It is a massive warehouse filled with row upon row of crystal coffins. Everywhere she looks she sees mewling, sobbing humans staggering about, hugging each other, praying, mumbling, fighting and generally looking as lost and confused as she feels.
She strides aimlessly amidst the chaos, catching up whatever food crosses her path. With each long drink her strength and awareness return. After a baker’s dozen of humans, she comes to a stop, her face a red mask, and takes a deep and contented breath. It feels so much better to be full, it almost makes up for how wretchedly exhausted she feels. Almost.
If the people around her were confused and scared before they witnessed her feeding, now they are positively horrified. They push and shove to get away from her, but in the next instant, the tide shifts. The same people who sought to flee Myrella now run toward and past her, heedless of any danger she poses to them. Thinking that perhaps there is another vampire here, Myrella leaps up into the latticework of beams that criss-crosses the ceiling and takes a look. From her perch, she can see thousands of coffins identical to hers filling the cavernous chamber. She also sees the source of the mortals’ fear. It’s not another vampire, not even something remotely human.
Giant, slug-like creatures move amongst the humans, zapping them with three-foot-long electric prods, herding them toward a hallway at one end of the room. They have swiveling eye-stalks and multiple pseudopodia, and they bark orders in some unknown language. Resistance is met with repeated use of the zap-stick, which jolts but doesn’t kill.
Whether out of some hidden altruistic streak or because the slugs are taking away her food supply, Myrella curses at the sight. She races through the jungle of beams until she is above the nearest slug creature, and plummets feet-first out of the girders and onto its fleshy, corpulent mass. It explodes with a satisfying splat and she stands in the epicenter of its viscera. Slugs and humans alike stop and turn to see what just happened.
“Damn straight,” a young man says. He picks up the slug’s prod and waves it in the air. The crowd breaks into a weak cheer.
Surprised, Myrella basks in the adoration for a second. These are humans, they are food. But she was human once, too. Better to stand with them than these aliens.
She bares her teeth and turns in a slow circle, her eyes sunken, her hair a scraggly mess. People gasp and back away, but the young man stands his ground, holding his stolen weapon at ready. He eyes her warily, smiles.
“Let’s kill some slugs,” he says.
She smiles back. This one has possibilities. “Yes, let’s. I’m Myrella, by the way.”
Their flirtation ends when more slugs arrive and it is all Myrella can do to hold her own against the massive brutes. She becomes a blur of twisting kicks, raking fingers, and powerhouse punches that sink deep into slug flesh. The wave of slugs seems never-ending and Myrella can barely hold herself up after a few minutes of fighting. She clutches at her latest attacker and sinks her teeth into its flesh, to no avail.
Its blood is bitter and makes her gag, and while she is trying to bite it, it manages to bring its zapper to bear against her repeatedly. She sags to the floor and the slug holds the prod vertically above her chest, ready to impale her, and for a moment she fears death from this ersatz stake. Dylan appears and plunges his stolen zapper into the slug’s mouth. He triggers it again and again until the slug collapses backward with a moist squelch.
Myrella tugs at his leg and he looks down at her.
“Are you okay?” he asks, a rakish grin on his face.
“I will be,” she says, and yanks his feet out from under him.
He crashes to the grating beside her and she makes quick work of him.
There, all better again.
And so it goes until the room has been cleared of aliens. Dozens of humans are killed by the slugs in the chaos, and at least eight more fall prey to Myrella’s voracious appetite, but when the ichor settles, there are still hundreds of liberated humans in the room, many armed with their kidnapper’s weapons.
Myrella steps onto one of the glass coffins and addresses the crowd:
“I won’t pretend this partnership is going to last forever, but until we figure out what’s going on, I think we have to work together.”
An older man, drenched in slug slime, steps forward and stabs his finger at her.
“My son’s blood isn’t even dry on your lips and you want to work together? You go to hell! I’ll take my chances with the aliens.”
“You’re right,” she tells him, looking down her nose at him. “I killed your son, because I had to. Because if we stand a chance of getting out of here, I need to be strong. I’ll need to feed. But I’m in control now, I promise. I’ll only take what I need. I won’t kill and I won’t turn you.
“I’m your best chance. Are you with me?” she asks the crowd at large, eliciting a mixed response of cheers and boos.
The old man looks up at her, despair and determination etched on his face. Myrella can tell that he has somehow become the pivot on which the crowd’s decision will turn. She jumps off of the coffin and lands in front of him. To his credit, he stands his ground.
“You may think me a foul demon,” she whispers. “Because I murdered your boy. But don’t let your grief condemn these people to whatever fate the aliens have in store for them.”
He fumes silently, teeth clenched, tears cleaving a path through the grime on his face.
He says, “So we work together. We kill all the aliens and figure out how to turn this ship around. But when it’s just you and us left, there’s going to be a reckoning.”
“We’ll burn that bridge when we come to it. First, we have slugs to crush. Agreed?”
The old man stares her down, his eyes bright flames, and then turns to the massed crowd behind him.
“I can’t speak for all of you, but—”
Myrella snaps his neck, lets him drop to the floor, and steps over him.
“I don’t respond well to threats. Now does anyone else want to discuss this all day, or should we go kick some slug ass?”
The crowd answers with silence and clears a path to the hallway that the slugs came through. Myrella accepts this as agreement and strides through them.
“Anyway, these slugs aren’t so tough. We should be able to clear them out in … no … time.”
She stops. More aliens pour out of the hallway, blocking it. These aren’t slugs, though. They look like seven-foot tall, hairy T-Rexes on steroids, and they are armed with rifles as tall as they are with wicked curved bayonets on either end.
Myrella blows some hair out of her eyes and crouches down, ready to pounce.
Slugs, dinosaurs? Whatever. She’ll make all these alien bastards pay for the mistake of abducting her. And if a few humans have to be sacrificed during the battle and the journey home? Well, no one ever said revenge was easy.
I didn’t want this for myself. It just happened. Now he calls me his child. I would have ripped his heart out and crushed it in my hands, but I needed him to show me the way. I woke to this new reality like a child being born; torn from the warmth of its mother’s womb and tossed into the cold world of its existence. For in life is death and in death, another life.
Those first waking moments were pain filled, as a hunger surged through my body. But he whispered soothingly to me and offered me my first drink. From that my fate was sealed. I had no choice. No, that’s not true but I didn’t realise it wasn’t.
He handed me a beautiful evening dress and cape and told me to change. He said we would be dining in only the best places. I changed. Some part of me hated him, wanted to destroy him here, now. But another part of me knew I couldn’t, shouldn’t, not yet. He, already wearing full evening dress, took my hand and led me out into the cool night air. I walked silently beside him through the dark cobbled streets. We were like shadows, there, yet unnoticed by those who passed us. The sound of their blood pumping through their veins echoed in my ears long after they had gone. A fire burned within me and a need to feed it became stronger with every breath I took. He seemed to sense my want, smiled and murmured, ‘Not long now my child.’
Time was like an illusion as we travelled the distance from one end of town to the other, in what felt like only moments, to arrive in front of an exclusive club. The doorman acknowledge him and opened the door to let us enter. Inside people were gathered, drinking, laughing, some around gaming tables. He surveyed the room and keeping a tight hold on my hand, headed towards a couple sitting ensconced within a seating booth on the far side. It appeared that we could see through objects others could not. We arrived as the young couple were clinking their glasses of champagne together. He introduced us and within seconds had cast his spell over them. They did as he asked like puppets whose strings he could pull at will. Pushing me towards the young gentleman he said, ‘Eat, you won’t taste finer blood than in the aristocracy.’ The young man tilted his head and opened his arms. I embraced him with my fangs, sinking them into is jugular. I drank deep that night, still inexperienced and uncontrolled, I drank, till there was no more to drink.
I stayed with him for several years until I learnt all that I needed to know. Then having grown strong, I held him in my arms and looked into his eyes.
‘You made me. You are my creator. You gave me this life, but you never asked me if I wanted it, did you?’
He opened his mouth to reply, his eyes searching mine. But before he could speak, I punched my hand through the wall of his chest and ripped out his heart. It still beat as I held it. I watched before squeezing my fingers around it and crushing the last life out of it.
I think of what I did to him and I feel that some small essence of my humanness existed then and perhaps still does. For now, I live my life as it is in the darkness of the night, never to feel the warmth of the sun kiss my skin again. I do not kill my victims anymore. I just take what I need and make them forget.
I am controlled, I am seasoned, I am—Vampire.
I will never forget the way they smelled: sickly sweet, like rotted roses. Mother was facedown on the ground, her neck ripped apart, her head barely still attached to her body. Baby John’s head had been crushed like an egg against the stove, and he lay tossed in the corner. Tamara lay still on the floor, facing me with serenity. But her pretty blue dress was now a dull brown. She had been stabbed, again and again, and now she lay dead in a pool of blood.
I couldn’t believe my eyes, but the smell was everywhere, shouting the truth I did not want to face. My family was dead, slaughtered while I was away. I had been shadowing my mentor, attending to a sickly lady on the other side of the valley. It was pure chance Mistress Slate had asked me to go along last night instead of another apprentice. Pure chance the case was tough, so we stayed the night, and pure chance it was far away, so I was arriving home at nearly noon. Pure chance that I also did not lie dead.
There was no sign of Father in the house, though he should have been home last night. Whoever had done this must have caught him in the forest, returning from his work or heading out this morning. If he had been there, he would not have let his family die without a fight. He would lie dead beside them, and since he did not, his body must lie somewhere in the forest. I would have to search for it later. His spirit wouldn’t settle until his body rested in the Earth by blood of his blood. And I was the only one left.
I didn’t have time to go to a neighbour’s for help. My family needed to be buried as soon as possible, and as blood kin, the brutal task fell to me. I tried not to see what I was doing as I worked. I tried not to hear, or feel, or smell. But I could not stop my thoughts from circling back again and again: who could have done this to them? They had been murdered by someone they had trusted, that I could tell. Someone who seemed harmless. Mother wouldn’t have turned her back otherwise. But who could it have been?
By the time I finished the burial, only an hour remained before sunset. I stared at the crude headstone, with the three names on it. How could I be the only one left? I prayed my father was still alive somewhere, unlikely though it was. Tomorrow morning, I decided, as soon as it was light, I would start my search. Until then, I would make the empty house my fortress for the long night. I washed myself at the well as best I could, not daring to go down to the stream to bathe. What if the monster who had done this came back?
Thankfully, I could do more than pray it did not. I went inside the house, locked the doors, latched the windows, and barred every entry with furniture. Only when I had thoroughly barricaded myself in did I realize I ought to have a weapon. I thought longingly of the many tools in the barn. I wanted a pitchfork, a shovel – something longer than a knife, something to keep a monster at bay. But the sun was setting, and I was not brave enough to venture outside again.
Instead, I pulled the legs off our kitchen table, sharpened them with the one knife we had indoors, and hardened them to points in the coals of our fire. I tucked one of my makeshift spears into my belt, lay the others within easy reach, and then settled in to wait out the coming darkness.
It was quite dim but not yet full dark when I heard a knock on the door. I waited.
Father’s voice. He was alive!
“Lilian, what happened? I spent the night in the forest, and worked again today, and I come home to find a grave…” He sounded broken, grieving, in shock – but he was alive! I pulled my barricade away from the front door and ran outside. Father was standing by the grave. He looked gaunt and empty. I ran to him, threw myself into his arms.
“Oh Lilian – I am so glad you’re alive!” He pulled me close and stroked my hair. I leaned into him and took a deep breath, finally able to relax. But something wasn’t right. No – it couldn’t be! But it was.
I gathered my nerve and grabbed my stake from my belt. In one strong thrust I drove it through my father’s heart. He fell to the ground, writhing in pain, but no blood came from his body.
“Lilian,” he cried, “Why? I am your father!”
I stood in silence and watched as the light faded from his eyes. Then I locked myself back into the house, though I knew the monster was dead. His hands had smelled like rotted roses.
She wore a cheap black summer dress. In January. The tat running down her leg identified her as “ALYSS.”
Perfect, thought Hunter. She wasn’t alone — the two girls with her were similarly dressed — but fortune favored the patient, and a Zaxby’s along GA400 made him one faceless nobody among hundreds of nobodies who came through the place every day. He looked her over while they placed their order: plain face, adequate tits, soft belly, round but lumpy ass, thin hair obviously dyed deep black. Redneck trying to look goth. Alyss caught him looking, and he gave her a brief nod. She turned back to her friends, dismissing him. Good for him, bad for her: Hunter was both his name and his calling. He worked the shallow end of the gene pool.
Hunter ordered a Boneless Wings Meal and chose a table where he could keep an eye on Alyss’s back, playing with his phone and watching them over it. The girls were alternately loud and whispering, acting nowhere near their age. After a while, Alyss got up; Hunter counted eight seconds then took his drink to the fountain. She turned toward the bathrooms.
As Hunter refilled his cup, the two friends brushed past him and slipped outside, shrieking at cold air on too much bare skin. They jumped in their car and took off just as Alyss emerged. She squawked at the empty table and bolted for the door — too late.
“Heyyyyy!” she yelled at the departing Vibe, arms wrapped around herself.
Too easy, Hunter thought, snapping the lid on his drink. He set the alarm on his phone for eight minutes, and stepped outside. “They ditched you?”
Alyss turned to look at him. He worked hard to cultivate the “harmless” look: soft edges, nerdy glasses and hair, easily forgettable. That, and pitching his voice a little high, left an impression that girls might not be his thing.
“Yeah,” she said at last. “With my jacket and my phone.” Her voice held back tears, and she shivered.
“That sucks. You need a ride?”
She stood there for a moment, freezing as her rusty brain tried to think. “I dunno,” she said at last.
“Yeah. I understand. They’ll come back for you anyway. Won’t they?”
“Probably not.” She unwrapped her arms. “I knew those whorebags would take off. But I had to pee.”
“Come on. I’ll take you home.
“I got nothing better to do tonight.” He hit the unlock button and the Volvo wagon chirped and flashed its headlights. He’d backed in to hide the stolen plate. “As long as you’re not all the way past Atlanta or something.”
She laughed, already walking toward the car. “No. I’m just two stoplights up from here. Thanks. Thanks a lot.” She got in, still shivering.
“These Swedish cars get warm fast,” he assured her. “But there’s a blanket behind the seats if you want it.”
“Oh, I’m Hunter Greene.” The last name was fake.
“I’m Alyss Trapp.”
“Seat belt? This car gripes a lot if you don’t wear it.”
She snapped the belt, sealing her fate, and he took his time through the parking lot. “Hey, where’s the back seats?” she asked, retrieving the blanket.
“Flipped down. I bought a bookcase yesterday.” As he turned onto the four-lane, his phone alarm chimed and he talked to nothing as he drove. “Hey bro. Mercy mission. Yeah. Pizza? Yeah, if you call it in. I can pick it up —”
“Hey, you missed my turn.”
“Oh crap, I overshot. I’ll call you back, okay?” The turn he wanted came up, and he made the left, crossing the southbound lanes onto an empty side road.
Alyss shrank under the blanket. “You’re not taking me home.”
“Not right away.” He pulled off.
“What — what are you gonna do?” She tried the door, locked of course. The tears in her voice came back.
“That’s up to you,” he said. “I’m going to fuck you, but it doesn’t have to be violent or anything. Make it easy — I fuck you, then I drop you off a block from your house. You can keep the blanket to wrap up in. Make it hard, I still fuck you, but you’ll be in a lot of pain afterwards. Cuts, bruises, maybe a broken nose, and you’ll limp home from here with your clothes half torn apart. So how’s it gonna go?”
“I thought you were a nice guy.” Her voice went flat. “If you’d just asked, maybe I woulda gave you my number.”
“Maybe means no. Easy or hard?”
“Good. There’s a pad behind your seat. Roll it out in back, then take your clothes off.”
He switched on the dome light and watched her undress, whimpering as she laid down with the blanket over her, then joined her. She watched the back window as he rolled a condom on.
Hunter pulled the blanket away and wrapped it around his shoulders. “Your tits are a lot nicer than I thought. You need to get a decent bra, though. Stop shopping at Wal-Mart, okay? Maybe have a tailor make your dress fit better.” He laid on her, pinning her arms. “Just close your eyes and think of England.”
“What — ow-uh!” as he pushed into her. The car was quiet for a while, the only sounds his movements and her quick shallow breathing. After a minute, he pushed up to watch her tits jiggle to the rhythm of his thrusts, which got him off sooner than expected. He finished, then rose.
“Are you done? Can I get dressed now?” Her voice was shaky.
“Sure. Unless you want to wait ten, fifteen minutes, then I’ll be ready for more —”
She threw her clothes on, then looked up to see a long leather strap in his hands. “You’re gonna kill me.” She scooted toward the back.
“Sorry. Leaving a witness is a bad idea.”
“I won’t tell! I promise!”
“I can’t take that chance.” He advanced, backing her into the corner.
“Please!” The tears flowed freely now.
“I wish I didn’t have to. But seriously. You won’t contribute anything positive in your life. Just some kids, just like you. Best to keep you from breeding in the first place —”
She tried to dive past him, fell, and Hunter was on her back. He slipped the strap around her neck and pulled it tight. It was over in a few minutes.
“Clean kill,” he said, flipping the blanket over Alyss’s still body. He clambered into the driver’s seat, thinking through his next moves: drive to the lake, maybe do her again, tie on the weights and toss —
Twin clamps seized his arms and jerked him over the seat, snapping the headrest and nearly dislocating his shoulders. Before he could scream, Alyss was straddling his chest.
“I trapped big game this time,” she snarled. “Rape and murder. Would you like to beg for your life now?”
She opened her mouth — he saw the fangs and screamed at last. But not for long.
Alyssa shed the glamour, revealing the elegant form of a vampire queen. Around her swirled the confused and hurting spirits of Hunter’s victims, the pain and terror of their final moments binding them to his car.
“Go, sisters,” she whispered. “You have been avenged. Find peace and rest.” As she climbed into the front seats, the spirits began to transcend. Some tried to hug her, others thanked her. One by one, they moved on to a place Alyssa would never see.
She pulled her phone from her boot, and punched a number.
“Cleanup on aisle 400.”
“Serial rape and murder.”
“Wow, good one, Alyssa! I bet he tastes better than that spammer from week before last. Where are you?”
She gave directions, and the ghoul said, “Okay. Twenty minutes.”
“Hurry. I’m getting sleepy.”
Hunter’s blood had fed her. His flesh would soon feed the ghouls. His soul was already in Hell, and his car would go to a nearby chop shop. By the time she awoke tomorrow evening, all physical traces of Hunter “Greene” would be gone.
Trapp was both her name and her calling.
Her bait drew sociopaths.
The Six on Park and Twentieth is the be-all and the end-all, at least, it’s the place to be when a party is happening, which is usually most every night. Creative people can always find a reason to party.
The biggest party that happens at The Six is the Hell’s Gate pre-Halloween party. It’s made up of equal parts; half party and half calendar week. Hell’s Gate starts generally in mid-October and only really ends because a bit of mopping up needs to be done right before the annual Halloween Party begins.
Hell’s Gate is a drink-fest, let’s be honest, oh, and a costume party as well. There’s no real rules, per se, since there’s no real identities. The drinks are real. Real drunks, too, more than you can count. Some bats. Mostly real, the bats.
One real bat in particular loosed it’s grip from the crest of a filigree lamp post and fell. It back-flipped a parachute-like maneuver involving the cupping of the wingskin, and landed fully sized as a crouched woman on the pavement. She stood, glanced around for witnesses. None.
She walked around the corner, and filed into the line of costumed people waiting to gain admission to The Six. Another woman was at the end of the line with a long fake cat’s tail. She was laughing and screaming and spilling liquid from a red cup she was trying to carry with the three fingers she wasn’t using to hold a lit cigarette.
“WHAT ARE YOU?” The woman with faux-fur cat ears attached to a headband asked over the noise of the crowd.
“I’m a vampire,” she replied.
Cat-lady looked her over. She was dressed impeccably in black, with the pants and the form-fitting shirt, not a scrap of lint; but Vampires are supposed to have capes, or a talisman or something. She had no… shine… to her at all.
“YOU’RE A SHITTY VAMPIRE.” Cat-lady took a drink from her red plastic cup, spilling some on her face. She smudged her eyeliner-drawn whiskers while drying herself off with back of her wrist in a paw-like contortion.
“Ahh, but you, you are an excellent, fake, cat,” she replied.
She scrunched up her face, disapproving of her disapproval, and turned back around to be with the people in front of her instead.
The line paced inward and until she was stopped by the bouncer.
“Eh, what are you supposed to be? Costume party, miss.”
The bouncer looked her over. “Where’s your necklace and cape, Vampirella?”
“I have neither, but I do drink blood. Would you like proof?”
“Listen. I’ll let you in, but I know your face now, yeah? So don’t come back tomorrow without putting in a little effort. Some glitter or something, at least. Go on in.”
As she entered, the cool night air was engulfed by a sweaty cloud of cigarette smoke, colognes, and perfumes of every funk. The thick smelly haze flashed with the house lights and lasers in beat with the music, if one could call it that. It was certainly structured noise, without qualification. Seemed to fit the crowd, though, as if they bled off this fog from their skin directly into the air.
She chewed on the air as she swam into the crowd. She wanted to spit it out or choke it back with something more, fresh, less dead.
Through a parting of the crowd, she found herself at a waist-high railing, overlooking the pit portion of the dance floor. She watched as super heroes and lycanthropes paired and tripled up with mummies and zombies and at least one young couple dressed in nothing but colored paint.
“We’ve, come. So far.” she thought to herself.
At that point, any normal person of her stature would have been thrown head-first over the railing and into the pit as a very large, very inebriated, drunk man, dressed like a priest, plowed into her back. She was, however, able to maintain her position and balance with remarkable skill.
They both turned to face each other.
“WHAT’S YOUR GODDAMN PROBLEM?” barked the priest. Cheap whiskey stink dripped off the cloud of his exhalation.
“You, sir, fell into me.”
“‘S’NOT MY FAULT. SH’YOURS. SHORE. IS.”
“I blame your drink, sir, for challenging your self control.”
“YEAH THAT’S RIGHT… HEY THAT STILL BLAMING ME! YOU KNOW WHAT I THINK. I THINK YOU’RE BEING A …WHAT ARE YOU?”
Another large, very drunk, man, wearing saffron robes and costume bald cap wandered over, followed closely behind by another man looking much like the Pope. The Pope, it appeared, had been drinking.
“WHERE YOU ALL BEEN I FOUND A VAMPIRE.”
“Shitty looking vampire,” said the Pope. The Pope’s arm swung around as if carrying a heavy bag. His hand came around into view, latched onto another hand, which was attached to the cat-lady.
“Heyyyyy…” she slobbered, her whiskers had long since smudged beyond recognition. Her nose was still eyeshadowed brown, though. “I fink I know you. You’re that shitty vampire arencha.” She cleanly dropped her red cup while not releasing her cigarette butt, which had long since extinguished itself. Her hand remained shaped, as if holding the cup.
“Then, Father, the fault, must be mine, to have, and to hold.” She lifted her hands and opened her fingers to reveal the palms of her hands. Her palms rippled and split and bled, forming open stigmata wounds, “Forgive me.”
“WHOAH HEY I’M NOT A REAL PRIEST.”
“Your blood will be just as warm.” In an instant, the vampire leapt up onto the cat-lady in a weirdly awkward mount. With one foot on the back of her catty waist and the other on her shoulder, she folded downward and clamped her jaws into the scruff of her neck, sucking hard to get to vein to pop open.
Her eyes went wide and frenzied, and her fingertip bones, the distal phalanges, elongated and pierced through the skin forming curved claws. The palms of her hands split open wider to reveal an esophagus within each hand, nestled between the middle finger and ring finger metacarpals.
The drunken Pope stumbled over to knock her off his date’s back, but the vampire clamped around his neck with one of her sucker hands and began a concurrent feeding.
The monk departed in haste.
She surfed the wilting cat-lady’s body to the floor as she fed. Presently, she released the white Pope, who crumpled downward, and she then looked at the drunken priest.
“Evolution is a bitch,” she said, and slapped her other sucker hand onto his neck and gripped her fingerbone claws deeply.
The panic had taken hold from wall to wall. People were running in every direction, stumbling over high heels and loose costume fabric. Screaming, quite a bit of screaming. The DJ had abandoned post, but it didn’t matter, since the playlist had more or less taken over. Have you ever heard the house-trance version of “Born Free”?
As you might expect, there was a miss-step made at the front entrance, causing a pile-up of patrons, which led to a complete blockage of the exit. Typical.
Mellificious Petronica Gik stood at the pit railing, sucking at her teeth to dislodge a clot, while the screams reverberated.
“Oh, calm down, food,” she said.
She watched them scurry about, then, laughed and yelled, “I’M THE ONLY ONE HERE NOT IN COSTUME!”
She stooped to pick up the cat-lady with one hand, and threw her body across the room. It went up and through a cluster of windows. An inky blackness of bats poured in through the opening. They each took their turn doing the backflip/transform maneuver, landing in the pit, then, picking out their dinner from the throngs.
They each fed, one, two, even three at a time, when they could get both suckerhands free.
“WHY!” Melli mocked the crowd, “Why, why, whyyy! Because, you, are food. Because we, need to eat. It’s no different than lions and zebras, spiders and flies. It’s gone on forever, and forever it shall go. It’s not like any among you is happy. I’d wager none! Who among you is NOT going to die anyway? None! Anyone here without sin? Anyone? No? Very well.”
Hell’s Gate. There was, in fact, a bit of mopping up to do before Halloween.