(From the Vampire Cheats Death stories)

I woke to incredible pain, pain I hadn’t felt in decades. I was chained and wrapped in a tarp made out of some harsh fabric. There was a red hot line in the back of my head where my skull had been fractured when they ambushed me and bashed me with that pipe. You had to love the legends. Had they simply beat my brains out, they would have killed me, but they probably want to put a stake in my heart or something more intricate than that.

There wasn’t enough leverage for me to break the chains, I was bound well. I was already weak, I hadn’t fed in some time, in fact, I had left the motel tonight in the full grip of the thirst.

“He’s awake, Red,” someone with deodorant spray said. I could smell him through the bag. Once those cheap scents became popular, going out at night was torture for someone with my advanced olfactory senses.

“Pull over here,” Red rumbled through a big barrel of a chest. “It’ll have to do. He’ll get through those chains soon.”

“Got my shotgun,” another man mumbled.

“It won’t kill him,” Red said. “Its not enough.”

The pickup truck lurched as we went offroad. I had a suspicion where we were. Where it was fairly quiet, and only the insects made noise. Where it was cold, but where occasional warm breezes carried the sun’s breath. The bay was opened, and I was rudely dropped to the ground. Someone started digging, and someone else began to unload equipment out of the truck.

“Soon as we get the stuff out of the truck, Jimmy,” Red said. “You get gone. We don’t want him driving this home if something happens to us.”

 The shovel dumped its load onto the ground. It sounded like coffee grounds.

Sand.

I was in the desert.

They were going to leave me in the desert. Let the sun cook me like a casserole. I heard about the pain, all of us have. I know one of us that survived it. It was a hundred years ago, and the wounds have healed to the naked eye, but he still feels the pain an hour before sunrise.

“Get the stakes,” Red said.

Great. Stakes in the heart probably wouldn’t kill me, but they hurt like you wouldn’t believe. It was going to be a long night. Anyway I could talk my way out of this?

“Don’t,” I gasped.

Hands tore slightly open the brittle fabric before my face. Red’s eye gazed at mine, more maniacal than any I’d seen in my long life.

“Don’t you dare beg,” he said. “How many lives have you taken in your unholy life?”

“I kill to eat,” I said. “Nothing more. Just like any other predator.”

 Someone came back from the truck with stakes. They were rusty and dull. They were stakes for horseshoes. The pain would be immense. I’m already weak.

“You eat animals,” I yelled. “You eat cows, chickens. You do it to live. That’s the way it works. Well, I eat people. I have no choice. There is no other food I can eat, and there are things that eat me. The food chain is so much larger than you would imagine, and I hate to tell you but humans aren’t near the top.”

“You hear him, boys,” Red said, fingering a cross. “That’s the devil in him speaking. He ain’t nothing but a corpse with a devil in him. Get gone Jimmy.”

The engine roared to life, and then faded. The truck was gone, my only real way out. On foot, I was dead.

“Its not true,” I cried. “I’m no closer to a man, than you are to an ape. I just look like a man.”

Red leaned in close to me, with the stake in his hand, and a small sledgehammer.

“So why do you look like a man,” he said.

“For the same reason a lion hides in high grass,” I said. “To blend in with his surroundings so he can get right next to his prey.”

Red put a heavy foot on my shoulder. He lined up the stake and raised the hammer. In the moment, I saw his hair blowing in the breeze. There were scorpions in the sand. There was a tinge of pink in the sky. The stake plunged into my chest, barely missing my heart.

I sat up and gurgled a scream since the rod was in my lung. He fell to the ground, and then the shotgun hit me in the side. As I fell to my left, I saw various shapeless pieces of meat that had once belonged to me.

“You idiot,” Red yelled. “You winged me!”

They turned their backs to me. My right arm had a three inch section of bone showing, but I saw the chains were damaged. My hand found a small piece of stone shaped like an arrowhead, and I clutched it in the fingers I had left, and with my last bit of strength I snapped the chains.

The man with the gun turned around primed to fire again, but I hit him right between the eyes, and he was immediately unconscious. Red stumbled to his feet, and I grabbed both of his shoulders and drove my knee into the right side of his ribcage, right on his liver. He dropped to his knees and began to vomit.

The third man was weaponless. Mr. Body spray.

“Don’t,” he said, with his hands raised. “Don’t.”

 It was getting hotter. My right eye began to dim from the damage I had taken. I needed to feed. I slashed his wrist open with the stone and pressed it against my mouth.

We don’t have fangs. There’s various ways of getting around that. But what we do have is incredible suction if we need it. Hungry as I was I had downed a liter of blood, before he realized what I was doing. He tried to struggle, but I clung too hard. He was bigger than me, sloppy country muscle, hell, the size I am everyone is bigger than me, but I clung to him the way a baby clings to its mother’s breast. He clawed at the remnants of my face, until his eyes went glassy, and I watched the whole time.

The other man was awake, trying to regain his balance. There are few worse headaches than the one you get after you’ve been knocked out. Except, of course, being bashed in the skull by a bunch of religious rednecks who somehow figured out the habits of a very solitary vampire.

His lip curled in hatred, but I had a lot of strength back. I had intended to cut his throat, but the cut nearly took his head off. I grabbed his chin with my left hand, and his collarbone with my right, and snapped his spine. It was like eating a crab. I didn’t care for his blood, he didn’t take care of himself, and it tasted like engine oil, but I had to eat.

There was a tingling on my body. The sun was rising. The tarp wouldn’t protect me, not by itself. That would be a slow death, like being sealed in a crockpot. I needed to think.

Red was crawling away. Big, broad-shouldered Red. I walked toward him.

“Its funny,” I said. “You make plans. You think they’re perfect, you think you’ve really done something. And now you guys die in the desert. Nobody will find you, nobody will think about you. Scavengers will eat the best parts, ants will climb over your bones, and none of this will matter. It reminds me of a poem, I can’t remember the name.”

“Make it quick,” he said. “Please.”

“I have no control over how long it takes you to die,” I said.

I had an idea. There was a blade on the sand, a real one. It was a crazy idea, but the sun was rising.

“How far from town are we,” I said.

“About one hundred and twenty miles from where you live,” Red said. “But there’s towns along the way.”

It was possible. For once, I was thankful for my slight stature, and I hoped that my years of observing mankind would pay off now. I had about ten minutes.

I killed him quickly, and fed even quicker. I cut him open from collarbone to groin, and decided how I would do this. I needed his ribcage and at least some of his spine to maintain the shape, but I removed his arm-bones and hips. My hands were slick with viscera, but there was no time, no time at all. The sky was mesmerising, colors I had never seen, but I had no time to watch. I pulled leg bones out of stubborn joints, and whereas I kept the cranium, I used rocks to bash the rest of the skull.

 And then I did the impossible. I wore his body like an overcoat, fighting the urge to vomit. I stepped into bloody stumps where his legs had been, his spine and ribs poked at mine, and although I had removed his face, his cranium laid flush against the back of my head-a skull cap if you will. I drew the tarp over me, and then I dug into the sand and I waited.

The sand heated up. It was like being immersed in boiling water.

A million things could go wrong. If there were any holes, the sun could bore right through me like a drill. If animals came after the flesh, I wouldn’t be able to fight them off. Not to mention police.

The ants came at noon. They invaded my every orifice. Red’s meat began to stink. I thought I would smother. I distracted myself. The towns lay ahead, over dunes spread over the ground like cake icing. I was not safe, even at night. There were ghouls in places like this, not very picky eaters, ghouls, and even I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between them and men until I was too close, until they had me. They are old as the sands. Some say they are the sands themselves.

But I was alive, as improbable as that was. I should be dead. I should have died in 1922 actually. But somehow I keep going. And when the sun sets, I’ll hit the road again. I got sloppy. Forgot how smart people are. The key is to keep moving and I will. When they get a chance to watch you, things like this happen, and although they don’t kill many of us, even an ant can start an avalanche. I was stupid. But I will learn, or it will be me forgotten in the desert, dead and un-mourned.

The sun is setting. I can feel it even when I can’t see it. I feel this calm come over me. I feel the predator in me rise up. I feel renewed. The sands began to cool. I imagine the sun setting, and it is blood red, I think. I start to shift my weight in the supple sands. In distance, I hear growling, I hear padded paws on the sands. Coyotes? Wild dogs? Are there wolves around here? I don’t know. But the night is on, and its time to hunt.

I know how they feel.



Written by Tom Moore @ Chicky5150@aol.com who developed a sudden aversion to Arbor Day.




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