Short Story: Horror? Psychological Vampire Thing
One night he ushers me and Hamidi into the car. “I will show you another way to hunt,” he tells me.
As we motor away from my house I feel a moment of panic, as if I’ll never see it again. I watch Alexander steer the wheel back and forth minutely, and he notices me looking.
“I will teach you to drive one night,” he says.
I balk. “I couldn’t. What if I broke it?”
“Then we’d get another. There are millions of these things.”
I don’t believe him, until we pull onto a more well-traveled road and the headlamps of other cars blaze past us. My mouth must hang open, because he laughs and grasps my hand, squeezing it lightly, steering our car easily with his other hand.
He drives us for about an hour to another quiet road, and stops at the side of it.
“You must park far away,” he says as we get out, “and walk the rest of the way. You can’t risk the car’s engine waking the farm’s owners.”
“Farm? What are we eating then?” My mouth waters expectantly, eager for blood. Incredible that I once went centuries with no blood at all; now just one night is too long to go without it.
“Cows, of course,” Hamidi says in his thick Kenyan accent. “They’re not bad. Not as good as human, but decent.”
We walk for another thirty minutes, by which time I am famished. The cows are dozing in the barn, large but stupid. Alexander and Hamidi instruct me how to drink only what I need, from two or three cows, leaving them alive for the farmers to have no indication of what happened.
“No one must know we were here,” Alexander says. “Your survival depends on it. Do you understand?”
We walk back to the car, filled to burst but slower, the long walk taking its toll on me.
“Would you like me to carry you?” Alexander asks me.
I shake my head, knowing he can see it in what is to me pitch blackness. I wonder again vaguely at his willingness to help any of us, how he showed me where the cow’s veins were, pointing to them with a little flashlight. At the food he shared. Even humans, which we could hardly manage to catch ourselves. A thought occurs to me.
“Are you planning to feed on us?” I say.
I hear him sigh. “You aren’t the first to ask. But no, I do not plan to feed on any of you.”
“Then why do you dig us up and teach us to hunt and give us your catches?”
He doesn’t answer for a time. I can only hear our feet swishing through the long grass, the crickets chirping incessantly. When he does speak his voice is different. Strained. “It’s a defect in me. A vampire should not have such impulses, but I do.”
“A defect,” I say. “Like our defects?”
I can almost feel him smile. It’s in his voice. “Not quite. You are more vampire than I am.”
I think for a time, wondering if it was some sort of sympathy, like we had when we were human. “Did you have trouble leaving your grave?”
“Not at all. It was a tomb actually. I just about blew the door off getting out. Didn’t know my own strength at the time.”
“Then why?” I ask again, like a child that won’t let a question go.
He sighs again. “I may not have been trapped in that tomb, but I still feel for those that are in their graves, unable to get out. And the ones I’ve found I have to care for. You’re like my children, all of you.”
I try to make sense of this, and can’t. “I don’t understand.”
“I don’t either,” Hamidi’s deep voice booms from the other side of Alexander.
I can barely hear Alexander when he softly says “I know.”
When we reach the car it’s just in time. I collapse into it, unable to go any further, and Hamidi does the same. I had suspected he was doing better than me, but it turns out he had just been hiding his fatigue better, not letting on that he was exhausted as well. Alexander drives us home, past the blinding lamps of all those other cars, and as they go by they illuminate his face and for spare moments here and there I can see him, serene and content and limitless.
At dusk we set out, yet again, for another hunting lesson. I am getting better, actually hitting the animals now, if only in the leg or rump or even an ear, which Alexander praised me for profusely, making me think I really am close, I really can do this. Just practice.
We lay in the brush, and I listen for the rustle of any deer or rabbit or the beating wings of an owl. The breeze blows cold, winter on its way, but I feel it only as a curiosity. Its chill doesn’t affect me. Alexander lies beside me, probably listening to creatures miles off, waiting to see if I notice one. I try again, as I so often do, to listen for his heartbeat in the stillness, but I can’t hear it. If I didn’t know he was there next to me, I would have no clue anyone was there at all.
Still trying to listen for a heartbeat, I hear the crackle of dry leaves. A deer on its way. I look through the scope and see the deer trail in shades of green, and wait.
The deer steps gingerly from the brush, and I steady my rifle. This time, I assure myself, this time I’ll bring it down. This time it will be my catch.
Alexander jumps up, shaking the bushes, and the deer flies into the air and bolts away. I look up at Alexander, expecting him to go after it. Perhaps he expected me to miss before I even fired. Perhaps he can tell even that much.
But he doesn’t move. He stands stock-still, and there’s enough moonlight for me to make out that he’s looking in the direction of where we came from, to the house.
“No,” he says, so that I nearly don’t catch the word. Then he breaks off into a run.
I lie there for a moment, dazed by the turn of events. Then I stand and make out for the house as well, though I have to move slowly so as not to trip over a root or slam into a branch.
As I pick my way through the dark, I begin to notice a faint illumination in the sky, a dim orange. Closer, and I smell smoke. I try to hurry, and I do trip several times, the trees tear at my face. I’m thinking of my house, of my stables, of all those damned candles we never put out.
I break out into the clearing of the yard and see only burning wreckage. The house and stable already collapsed in on themselves while I was stumbling through the woods, and they are only bonfires now, burning bright but unsalvageable.
I step forward and trip again, falling flat on my face. I look back and see a body of a man, his throat torn open and intestines spilled onto the dirt. His precious blood has seeped into the earth.
I pass more bodies, some are savagely torn humans, one with a crossbow in her forehead. Some are burning, crackling to dust, falling in on themselves. I can’t recognize them in this state. I can only assume they are Isis, or Hamidi, or Gratiana.
A great boom of fallen lumber comes from the house and a puff of burning cinders climbs into the sky. I round the house and find Alexander, kneeling in the gravel driveway, his back to me, sobs racking his body. When I reach him, I see that he is holding Josiah’s head in his arms, the stump of neck red with blood and bare muscle, the body gone, humans finally succeeding in dividing one from the other.
I’m still clutching the rifle. I place it on the ground and kneel beside Alexander. His head jerks up as if he hadn’t known I was there, and he stares at me as if seeing me for the first time. His face and hands are covered in the blood from the humans, but through it I see in his eyes what I saw in that woman’s – the first woman he gave me to feed on – but without the haze, only pure raw horror. I’m taken aback by the force of it, but he lets fall Josiah’s head and grabs me, pulling me to him with such force I wonder if he will crack my ribs, and he cries into the crook of my neck as the house burns and smolders.
He drives. The passing headlamps light up his face, but its not like that night after the cows. His expression is not serene or content. It is empty, as if he’s shattered. As if he’s been buried for centuries, just unearthed and lost in the world.
I try to think of something to do, and I think of all the cars on the road. I take one of his hands from the wheel and squeeze it lightly.
“We’ll get more,” I tell him. “You will find them.”
He sobs again, lightly. He grips my hand so tightly I again think he must crush the bones, but I don’t let on that it hurts. His voice shakes when he speaks, the first he’s spoken since that No in the woods. “They won’t be them.”
I look out the window, at a hundred myriad lights spotting the dark landscape. I don’t understand.