Vampire’s Daughter – Chapter 6 WIP, part 3

Vampire's Daughter

Vampire’s Daughter

Towering around the cabin, coned pine trees crowd needle and branch against thin red oak. But close to the cabin, a tiny circle is clear of even scrub brush or wild blueberries. It is not as clean as the yards in the Southern portion of the country, where tired residents daily sweep the dirt in their yards to keep down the growth. Here, around this cabin, clots of grass grow near the porch.

Even with the bogs so close, it is quiet, but for the constant whine and buzz of flies and other insects. Flickering above, bats are silent, like small demons swooping through the feast.

A dozen yards in front of the cabin I see graves. Ten of them closed, one more lies open. The earth around the open grave is fresh. It has been recently dug, the dirt packed to one side and covered with a blue tarp. Someone means to use it soon.

Now I stop, every sense wide open and alert. Perhaps I assumed too quickly that the hunter has taken a wounded friend to the hospital. I stare hard into the trees and strain my ears for the slightest sound that would be out of place in the night.

buzz. whir. screech. snap.

Normal enough, and the shapes moving in the darkness are all night creatures. A mouse tittering to itself as it chews something tiny in its paws. A fox slinking near the rodent. An owl twisting on a limb high above.

I hold in silence for a moment more, then continue.

The blood trail I follow skirts the open grave, though there is a small pool near what could be the foot of the pit. I remember the perfume and consider the movements of the two. If she was dead, it’s possible that he paused here and considered dumping her body into the open grave.

But then, why carry her? Why not simply drag the body? Indeed, he has a vehicle. He could have driven the woman to wherever he needed. Have they left together?

Something is wrong here. The scent of blood from the cabin. Ten graves, the eleventh open. And the pool of blood by the grave, not near the Jeep track. If he loaded her into a vehicle, the blood should be closer to those ruts, not here on the raw earth.

The scent of fresh blood hangs heavy outside the cabin: It calls me.

A rough-hewn pine door is bolted to the cabin’s door frame. It padlocked from the outside, a hunter’s caution against thieves. I know where I am in this forest. Vandals and looters would be rare this far out of the city. No matter, and with the hunter gone, no need for silence. The lock twists easily against the hasp as I pull it from the wooden frame. My hands are much tougher than they used to be. The lock gouges my flesh, but my skin heals as quickly as it is ripped.

The door swings outward and creaks as it does so. It is silence inside. No one is here. Just one tight room, cluttered with broken wooden furniture. On the back wall, near the fireplace, is a long box. It is a bed, almost like a coffin. From here, I can see old blankets stuffing the box. A warm nest on a cold night. The hunter could burrow down into the blankets and shield himself from the cold.

There is no kitchen, just an area for cleaning dishes. There are a few cabinets on the wall and a small shelf. Two large pots, likely one for washing, one for rinsing sit on a another cabinet below the first two. No dish drainer. A couple of rusty knives held to the wall on a magnetic shelf.

Vampire’s Daughter – Chapter 6 WIP, part 2

Vampire's Daughter

Vampire’s Daughter

Despite the cold, there is no smoke pouring from the chimney, yet there is no doubt that someone has recently used this dilapidated dwelling as his lodging. The scent of death is here, though much of the scent that hangs in the air is human blood. I expect the odor of deer or wild pig, but the scent is predominantly human. That peaks my curiosity.

Death has an odor, and most humans shy away from that scent. In doing so, they miss the subtly of the textures in aroma. The death of a skunk is quite different from that of a fox. And a human has a completely different kind of smell when left to rot. And though there are animal scents here, most are vigorous with life. It’s human death that gives this area its unique scent.
This hunter is clearly more than he seems, and I approach the cabin with care. I am accustomed to human death, but it’s out of place here in the forest. Something is wrong. I scent the air cautiously for anything that might hint of vampires.

Nothing.

There are hunters of my kind, though they, like so many of my kin, stick to the cities to carry out their slaughter. Vampires and hunters are rare in a deep forest. But then, so too, should human death be uncommon.

Not far from the cabin, I see bogs that would slow entry to this place. Anyone not mindful of where she places her foot would find herself mired in muck and snarls of roots in the dark water. Yet there is a jeep trail that winds neatly off to one side of the bogs to avoid the standing pools of black water.

This hunter has as been here recently, though he is gone now. There is no vehicle nearby, and the scent of gasoline hangs in the air. The vehicle and hunter were here not long ago.

That realization offers an answer. A wounded hunter, one carrying the other back to the cabin and vehicle for the trek back to the city. That might explain the scent of death in the air.

But there’s too little blood. A few drops in the forest. A few more here at the cabin. None of it having the richness of arterial blood.

Curiouser and curiouser.

Vampire’s Daughter – Chapter 5

Vampire's Daughter

Vampire’s Daughter

“You’re late.” Tom tapped his beer bottle on the table and glared at Laura. The bar was dark and smokey, and Tom seemed to be a part of the gloom.

Five empty beer bottles were pushed to the far end of the table, against the wall. Tom was drinking more these days. When he drank, he got mean. “Sorry,” Laura said. “Homework and Monica.” Laura slid into the booth opposite Tom. “You know how she gets.”

Tom spun the longneck bottle between his hands. It was almost empty, and the beer in the bottom of the bottle turned to froth. “No, I don’t know how she gets,” Tom said, his voice dropping to a growl. “Why don’t you tell me?” The last was a challenge.

“Don’t be angry,” Laura said, motioning to the bartender. “It’s just–”

Tom reached out and grabbed her hand. He yanked Laura hard into the table so that her face was only inches from his. “I said you’re late.” Tom jerked her arm with each word.

“Tom–”

“Just shut up.” Tom shoved her back into the booth. “I told you to be here at 6, and it’s quarter after.” Tom swallowed what was left of his beer and signaled for another one. “Where were you?”

Laura rubbed her wrists. Tom rarely acted this way. She wasn’t sure what to do. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I didn’t think–”

“You’re right.” Tom spit the words out. “You didn’t think. I told you when to be here. You’re wasting my time.”

The waitress came up beside the table. Her voice was high, and had a lilt to it. “Two-fifty,” she said. “You want something?” she added, nodding to Laura.

“She doesn’t want anything,” Tom said, throwing three one-dollar bills onto the table. “But I might, later on.”

Laura’s mouth dropped. Tom had never been so crass, nor so cruel. “Are you all right?” she asked.

“I’m fine.” He bit the two words off one at a time. “I’ll be better after I’ve had this beer.”

The waitress winked at Tom, and slipped him a small piece of paper with the bottle. Laura saw it, but didn’t say anything. Tom took both the scrap and bottle in one hand. He didn’t appear to notice the paper, but when he put the bottle down, the note was gone.

“Look,” he said. “I’m sorry. I’m just wound up. Finals next week.” He tipped the bottle back and swallowed about a third of its contents. he put the bottle down. “And you know my sister is sick.”

Laura watched Tom’s hand, not his eyes. She didn’t see the scrap of paper and thought it had probably fallen to the floor. She looked up. He was staring at her.

“My sister,” he said. “You know, the one with cancer?”

Laura was still waiting to meet Tom’s family. She had hoped for a dinner at local restaurant, or at her home. But one crisis after another had prevented them from sitting down to a meal and conversation. Tom’s grandfather had died just a few months ago. He was a private man, Tom said. The kind of person who wanted only family around the coffin — only family to cry and remember. Laura tried to offer what comfort she could from an emotional distance. She wanted to help Tom get through the death of a man he so plainly loved, but Tom was private about the death.

“He would have wanted it that way,” Tom had said. “It’s family. It’s who we are. That’s what Papa taught us.”

Then, not long after, Tom’s brother was hit by a car and spent a week in critical care. “It’s his face,” Tom said. “He doesn’t want anyone to see him this way.” Apparently the boy’s face was crushed in the accident. He would live, but with scars that would make living a normal life difficult at best.

Tom was depressed about how his brother would have to live, and he drank more than usual through the time his brother was in the hospital. Tom was angry and unforgiving of mistakes. But nothing like this.

Tom swallowed another third of the beer and sat the bottle down carefully on the table. “I’m sorry, Laura,” he said. “I just–” He stopped and toyed with the bottle again. “I don’t want anything bad to happen. When you were late, I thought–” He pushed the bottle around in the wet circle condensation had left on the table from earlier drinks. “I just thought, well, that you didn’t–” He looked up at Laura. “I love you, Laura. I don’t know what I’d do if you ever left me.”

Laura’s ribs hurt from being pulled into the table, but she put out one hand. “Tom, I know it isn’t easy. If I could do anything to help, I would.” She took his hand in hers and thought about Monica. “I don’t know what I would do if I ever lost my aunt. I know–”

Tom interrupted her: “You don’t know,” he snapped. “You don’t know what it’s like when someone you love dies.”

Laura gripped his hand tighter for a moment, and her eyes glazed. Something she almost remembered — something she almost knew: someone close to her had been murdered. But the memory eeled away.

“I’m sorry, Tom.”

Vampire’s Daughter – Chapter 5 WIP, part 2

Vampire's Daughter

Vampire’s Daughter

The waitress winked at Tom, and slipped him a small piece of paper with the bottle. Laura saw it, but didn’t say anything. Tom took both the scrap and bottle in one hand. He didn’t appear to notice the paper, but when he put the bottle down, the note was gone.

“Look,” he said. “I’m sorry. I’m just wound up. Finals next week.” He tipped the bottle back and swallowed about a third of its contents. he put the bottle down. “And you know my sister is sick.”

Laura watched Tom’s hand, not his eyes. She didn’t see the scrap of paper and thought it had probably fallen to the floor. She looked up. He was staring at her.

“My sister,” he said. “You know, the one with cancer?”

Laura was still waiting to meet Tom’s family. She had hoped for a dinner at local restaurant, or at her home. But one crisis after another had prevented them from sitting down to a meal and conversation. Tom’s grandfather had died just a few months ago. He was a private man, Tom said. The kind of person who wanted only family around the coffin — only family to cry and remember. Laura tried to offer what comfort she could from an emotional distance. She wanted to help Tom get through the death of a man he so plainly loved, but Tom was private about the death.

“He would have wanted it that way,” Tom had said. “It’s family. It’s who we are. That’s what Papa taught us.”

Then, not long after, Tom’s brother was hit by a car and spent a week in critical care. “It’s his face,” Tom said. “He doesn’t want anyone to see him this way.” Apparently the boy’s face was crushed in the accident. He would live, but with scars that would make living a normal life difficult at best.

Tom was depressed about how his brother would have to live, and he drank more than usual through the time his brother was in the hospital. Tom was angry and unforgiving of mistakes. But nothing like this.

Tom swallowed another third of the beer and sat the bottle down carefully on the table. “I’m sorry, Laura,” he said. “I just–” He stopped and toyed with the bottle again. “I don’t want anything bad to happen. When you were late, I thought–” He pushed the bottle around in the wet circle condensation had left on the table from earlier drinks. “I just thought, well, that you didn’t–” He looked up at Laura. “I love you, Laura. I don’t know what I’d do if you ever left me.”

Vampire’s Daughter – Chapter 4

Vampire's Daughter

Vampire’s Daughter

It’s rare to find human blood this deep in the Pine Barrens. Animal blood is common enough in this primeval forest. Creatures often tear one another apart, feasting on still twitching remains. It’s a brutal and dangerous life for the unwary, and so a little scattered in the rotting bed of pine needles isn’t unusual. If you move faster than the scavengers, you’re likely to stumble across a blood trail sooner or later.

But much of this forest and murky swamps are virginal — inaccessible to any but beasts and insects with the will to kill and survive. Yet, splattered there plain to anyone with keen sense are a few drops of humanity on ragged leaves and pine needles. Three tiny splashes, nearly lost in brambles and the browns and blacks of the Pine Barrens’ floor. Even in the dark, I see the edges of each bloom of blood and how those drops have spread like a flower.

I love the scent, and I take a long, slow breath. I do not need human blood to survive. I got over that myth years ago when I learned that any animal will provide me with what I need. Two legs. Four legs. It makes no difference. It is the blood – so long as it is red and rich – that sustains me. I have lived in forests for most of my new life as a vampire, taking the lives of creatures and living safely in solitude.

It is only the taste of the blood that differs, like the difference between a hamburger and steak. Both give me what I need, though one is admittedly more desirable. Yet, I am not above taking the solitary hunter in the forest. Careful in my bloodlust not to arouse suspicion, I take those humans who poach what would be my meal.

Now that taste for humanity beckons; it’s the blood that calls me.

I have no fear in the Pine Barrens. There are no hunters of my kind. Just me and the occasional unwary human. I take them if I feel safe in the knowledge that they’ll not be missed before I make my way to another forest.

I look toward the moon to make sure I’ve enough time to follow the blood trail. The moon is low in the sky — still time enough for me to follow my interests for one evening.

Only a predator made for the hunt could have found these drops of blood. One must have a taste for blood to pick just three drops from the myriad of delicious sensations aromas that hung in the air.

A werewolf, its nose to the ground, already tracking prey, snuffling along like the animal it is might have found those drops. But few other were-animals would even have bothered to slow down at such a tiny spoor. Wolverines, single-minded creatures, would have snuffled and moved on. Rats, certainly, would investigate. But most weres are too lazy to pick up and follow such a small trail.

Weres don’t have the patience to really track a victim. Too easily distracted by the abundance of more accessible prey, they screech, whirling in different directions until they stumble across a creature too slow and stupid to outrun them. It doesn’t matter whether a were is in the middle of the forest or a city. A were can run all day and into the following night: It doesn’t slow down long enough to think about what it’s doing. Just run and run until it catches something.

A vampire, understands understands tracking — the single-minded pursuit of one animal, following it from moment to moment, until its heart leaps in syncopation against its rage and fright. I know the sweet taste of stark, rabid fear, adrenaline shouting along, coursing through the brain.

Urging. Demanding. Run — RUN!

To me, finding and tracking is the appetizer before the meal, those delicious moments in which I can I lose myself.

My sense of smell is the sharpest of my senses, but even with that, there is what is plain to the eye: a broken branch; a fourth drop of blood nearly hidden against the side of a rotting log; a wisp of perfume — not the ruddy smell of aftershave — but perfume, delicate, like a puff of smoke.

And something else in the air. Dark, sweaty, an odor that grunts its presence. There are two people here. One is definitely male, the other female.

Two humans. One carries the other, and it is probably the female that is bleeding. Mixed in with the blood on the ground, perfume. Footprints are gone, swallowed in the spongy earth. But the broken branch is enough. With that branch, I can draw a circle and move out from here. And there is the scent of blood. Enough, for now.

It’s not a straight line to the pair’s camp, but wider and wider circles, and I know I will find another blood bloom. Even if one human carries the other, the latter still bleeds.

Not deer tonight.

Tonight, human fear and blood. I smile and run my tongue over my fangs.