Das Vampir II – The Farm
The skin on one side of her face doesn’t match the rest any more. Long tangles of matted hair hang from only one side of her head, the other half barren and scarred from where the sun had once touched her. The light of a long forgotten world had finally found her one morning, briefly trapped and exposed without shelter as the end of night came.
She dreams of it now, the nightmare burning her flesh all through her tortured slumber, her own screams blending in with those of the faces that dominate her nightly visions. Faces she cannot recognize, people she cannot remember, thousands of lives she had ended to extend her own. They haunt her sleep, a strange conflict permeating her being; the euphoric taste of their essence struggling against a fading disgust of their slaughter, a remnant emotion of a former, more human existence. This was how she awoke tonight, as she has for a thousand years.
The old storm drain, cold and damp, isn’t quite big enough to stand in. She nests hunched over, deep within the cool wet darkness, half hidden under sticks and branches and human trash that wash in during the rains. Rats wander close, drawn to her body heat, scurrying away too quickly for her to catch. Beside her lies a stray cat, not quite as fast as the rats, drained of its life through two large punctures in its neck. On her leg a leech clings firmly rooted into the flesh, to steal the blood she has stolen from others; the ironic, inevitable circle of life.
She stares blankly down through the long rusting tunnel to the circle illuminated by the last fading rays of the setting sun that has searched for her throughout the day, eager to burn more of her flesh. With each minute the comforting darkness grows deeper, the chorus of nocturnal insects growing louder; a familiar and soothing symphony that slowly drowns out the screams in her head, the screams of the once living that she has made dead.
~ * * ~
Helen’s arthritis chewed on the cartilage in her joints, and as she often did she awoke in the middle of night from the pain. With a hip nearing need of replacement, the journey to the bathroom for aspirin always seemed like treacherous miles. It wasn’t fair getting old. You spend your life gaining wisdom and wealth, just to watch your body fall apart before you can enjoy it. Next to her, Peter’s labored breathing made him sound like some kind of monster. This had been going on for the last fourteen years. Now, at seventy two, the breathing machine he was supposed to connect himself to at night stood pushed into the corner collecting dust because he refused to use it.
Helen sat up in the darkness, swinging her legs off the edge of the bed despite the reluctance of her hip. Many a consultation had been had with the family doctor to decide whether or not she would go through with the surgery. At her age, such a major operation like this, and the recovery and rehabilitation that would follow was not something to be taken lightly. She glanced at the clock as she stood, trying to read the time without her glasses. Even with the extra-large glowing numbers it was still a bit fuzzy, but it seemed to read 2:35am.
The bathroom light switch made a snapping noise and what Helen swore was always a little sparking sound, and the old fluorescent light on the ceiling flickered and sputtered to life. Reaching into the medicine cabinet for aspirin, she caught the reflection of herself in the mirror. She had always thought it was strange that no matter how old she got on the outside, she always felt youthful on the inside. She was a prisoner; a teenager locked in an old woman’s body. Like right now, as she stood for several moments staring at the old woman in the mirror, wondering how she got here, when all she wanted to do was run through the flowering fields of her childhood.
From across the dark room Peter gurgled and choked momentarily before he rolled over to where the snoring would soon resume. Outside, from the pasture across the farm Helen momentarily heard the cows. They rarely made noise at night. Only when disturbed by bad weather or some other event had she ever heard them after dark. She made her way to an open window, where from the second floor she could look out over the farm. A light wind was blowing in off of the fields to gently dance with the curtains. She lingered there for a moment, to smell the air and feel the cool breeze push against her nightgown. Crickets chirped loudly from the darkness that would sporadically be broken by the random glow of lightning bugs.
Suddenly there was something else.
A shadow, even blacker than the darkness around it, moving slowly along the edge of the wheat field. Helen strained to see it clearly, her old blurry vision telling her it was a person, but her common sense not so sure. She turned and moved to the bedside table to grab her glasses, her hip fighting her the entire way. Returning to the window the nighttime landscape was now much clearer but the shadow, whatever it was, was gone. Helen looked up and down the field for as far as she could see, but there was nothing there except lightning bugs and tall wheat gently swaying in the breeze. Beyond the wheat field at the other end of the farm the cows had gone quiet again. Helen stared out into the darkness for a while longer, feeling the breeze and listening to the night, until the sounds outside the window were drowned out by the wheezing of Peter in the bed behind her.
Almost reluctantly she returned there beside him, hoping the aspirin would work, hoping she would sleep, hoping she would escape into dreams of running through the flowering fields of her childhood.
~ * * ~
Tonight the darkness has little to offer. Blood is light on the wind and its sources are few and far between. The hunt for food had started late, her preferred source of nourishment already sealed up inside their homes to await the return of day. She can see them, through their windows; the red glow of their arteries a stark contrast to the colorless shades of black and white with which she viewed the world.
Small animals darted everywhere around her, too fast for her to catch. The cows are slow, fat, and full of nourishing fluid. Bovine blood is not her preference, but feeding on them is easy. For now it will have to suffice.
~ * * ~
The coffee smelled extra powerful this morning. Peter always made it strong, and somehow he was always up before her to make it. Helen preferred to sleep late. It wasn’t that she went to bed too late, or that she didn’t get enough sleep; she simply wasn’t motivated to get up anymore. But life, whatever was left of it, had to go on. So in spite of a hip that had turned against her and the arthritis that twisted and distorted her fingers, Helen made her way downstairs to the kitchen. Alongside the coffee Peter had made breakfast. Eggs, bacon, and hash browns sat on a plate upon the table in front of the chair where Helen always sat.
“Good morning beautiful,” came Peter’s voice over the sound of the dishes in the sink. “Morning,” Helen replied, as she sat in her familiar chair staring at the back of his head. He was a good man, and she loved him. Even after almost fifty years of marriage he still called her beautiful and did the dishes. Sure, she wished he would use his breathing machine at night and she hated that they were getting old, but the love was still there. She studied him silently for a minute, looking at the way time had aged him, remembering her own reflection in the mirror the night before. He had always been a good looking man, but time had begun to steal that from him. He had let himself go years ago, both from age and a lack of concern, as if it didn’t matter anymore. They had stopped having sex over a decade ago, just having no interest in it any longer. The hormones that created those desires had left their bodies long ago. She wished that she wanted to have sex, she just didn’t anymore.
The car horn pulled Helen out of her thoughts. Kelly always beeped the horn to announce her arrival as she drove up the long dirt driveway past the fields and up to the front of the house. At thirty one, Kelly was their only child, and today she was dropping off their first and only grandchild. “Are you sure you guys are up to this?” she had asked them, worried about the burden of looking after a baby for several days at their age. “Yes Kelly, we’ll be fine. We had you didn’t we?”
“Yes, but he’s a real handful right now.”
“You’re still a handful,” Peter had teased her.
A small cloud of dust followed Kelly’s car to the house, quickly dissipating into the blue sky as Peter and Helen walked out onto the front porch to greet her. Smiles, hugs, and several moments of fussing over the baby ended with Kelly’s underlying concern. “Are you sure? I’m not sure if my cell phone will work up at the cabin.”
“Yes, we’ll be fine. You and John deserve to get away for a few days. Go and enjoy yourselves. Stop worrying,” answered Helen while she tickled the baby’s cheeks. Peter wondered if anybody knew for sure if kids even liked that.
“Where is John anyway?” he asked.
Kelly answered while rummaging through the diaper bag making sure she hadn’t forgotten any supplies. “He went to the office to finish up some things at work before we go. I still need to get to town for a few things too. I won’t be able to stay, is that okay?”
“Yes dear. Go ahead. We’ll all be just fine.” Helen was holding the baby tightly to her grandmotherly bosom while wiggling a pacifier into his mouth.
Kelly leaned in to kiss her son on the forehead. “We’ll be back on Monday. Thank you so much for this. I’ll try to call you, okay?”
“Don’t worry. It’s just for the weekend. Go relax,” Peter told her as he walked his daughter to the car.
Peter glanced back towards the porch where Helen was gleefully cooing at the baby. “Trust me; this is as much for her as it is for you. She loves this.”
Kelly smiled as she turned the ignition key and waved, and the two grandparents watched the back of the car shrink down the driveway, followed by a cloud of dust.
~ * * ~
The old engine fired up with a stuttering rumble, a huge plume of black smoke billowing skyward from its exhaust. Peter patted the dashboard several times, as if a trusty old dog had just behaved. “That’s a good old girl. One more season, just give me one more season.” His hands, looking as old and wore out as the controls they held, shoved the tractor into gear, and the huge iron behemoth lurched forward. Its wheels were four feet high, and it rolled like a tank from the barn and out towards the acres of wheat fields that awaited it. Out in front of the monstrosity spun several huge blades; enormous rakes that would sweep the fields clean leaving nothing but chopped straw in its wake.
This would be Peter’s last year of working the farm. Out in front of him, at the far end of the acres of wheat he had yet to harvest, loomed retirement. For decades he had toiled away upon this land, and for decades it had worn him down. He had neither the strength nor the desire anymore. The farm had provided them a good life, but now he wanted something different for both Helen and himself.
Selling the farm would fill his bank account more than crops ever did, and they would move to a retirement village closer to Kelly and the baby. It bothered him at first, the notion of putting himself into an “old folk’s home”. He was after all, a marine, a veteran of multiple wars, a self-proclaimed tough guy. One night Helen sat him down and gave him a dose of reality, convincing him there was no shame in growing old, and that he just had to accept it.
So he did, standing in front of the mirror looking at saggy skin where muscles used to be, and he wept.
Now he sat inside the cab of the combine that had aged as much as he had. If they could get through one more crop season together, he could park it for the last time. After that would be the easy life. Nothing to do but sleep late, spoil his grandson, eat dinner early, and fall asleep in front of the TV.
It took a couple of slams for Peter to get the cab door to shut properly before he could slide the little latch that would hold it closed. On the other side of the combine the door had a crack in the window, so he never used that one for fear the glass would break completely and fall out. He turned the large windshield wiper on momentarily, not for rain, but to clear off the dust that seemed to find joy in clinging to the glass. The morning sun, attempting to shine through the dirt, scattered and transformed into a blinding haze until he could clear it.
Peter took one last glance back towards the house before steering the combine towards the fields. There on the porch he could see Helen, cradling the baby in her arms in the old rocking chair he had bought for her years ago. He had bought a pair of them at an old garage sale up the road at the Wilson’s place, so they could sit on the porch together and sip iced tea and grow old watching the midwestern sunsets.
Helen was a good woman. He often thought she had taken better care of him than he had of her. He fully planned to make that up to her in their new life, in their ‘golden years’. She had stuck by him when he deployed overseas, she had put up with the isolation of being a farmer’s wife out in the middle of nowhere. Now they were just around the corner from beginning a whole new life together.
Adjusting his old hat and shoving a few levers, he urged the great iron beast to a slow crawl towards the fields. There he planned to work the wheat fields for a few hours, and then tend to the cows before heading in for lunch.
~ * * ~
She shifts uneasy in the mud, wet leaves sticking to pale flesh. Her sleep is restless, a demon of fire hunts for her just outside the storm drain. Its light peeks into the end of the pipe, warm fingers reach in, searching, gnats dancing in their light. Machines roll overhead, vibrating the ground, disturbing the rats that bite at her feet. There is no peace to be had here, only survival, only existence.
She always seeks shelter where the living fear to go. The dark places that fill their imaginations with dread. Dirty, damp holes where people are never found and they can never find her.
As she sleeps her dreams always come in rapid waves, built on memories that her mind cannot rationalize as being her own, even though they are her own; her past, her life, such as it is. Faces of nameless people, hundreds, maybe thousands, drift through her sleep like ghosts. Phantoms from nights past, years past, decades, centuries; time has no measure.
The dreams are always the same. Broken, fleeting glimpses of a former self, a former life that she can barely remember anymore. Something, someone, that she used to be. Someone she could never be again. Hints of sorrow lace themselves into her visions. Emotions, feelings, human attributes that the being she is now can never fully erase. She only feels them in her dreams, reflected off the faces of those she has fed on, before the faces begin screaming. There is always screaming, and there is always blood. Everywhere.
Night came, night went, and the living went dead as her urges were fed.
Rolling over on her back, she feels a lump there and reaches for it, removing the leech. It is swollen, engorged, wiggling in her fingers. Without opening her eyes she eats it, taking back what is hers, what she stole from others; the ironic, inevitable circle of life.
The hunger is growing within her again, as it does every sleep. The need to feed, to steal life from others to prolong her own. To find more faces, to make them scream, to add them to her dreams. She must wait though, be patient, until the darkness comes to envelop her, until the light is gone.
There’s a new scent in the air today. A younger type of blood, untainted by years of ingesting unnatural products like cigarettes and alcohol. Human skin, but fresh and soft, intermixed with the smell of urine and feces and curdling milk. A child, somewhere near, its aroma mesmerizing, beckoning for her to search for it. She begins to dream again, that scent lingering in her mind. The smell of younger blood, untainted by age. It’s so close, so near, so beautiful. She dreams of holding it, caressing it, bathing in it. Tonight, she must find it.
~ * * ~
“There’s a dead cow in the pasture.”
Henry was angry as he entered the kitchen, so distracted with frustration that he forgot to wipe off his boots at the door before coming in. “And it isn’t just dead. It’s torn apart.”
Helen’s face met his comments with surprise and concern, as she reached into the pantry for a dust pan and broom. “Oh no. I heard them last night, like something was wrong. Is it wolves again? We haven’t had any of those around here in a while.”
“Wolves, coyotes, I don’t know, but whatever it was tore that heifer’s throat out.”
Peter threw his hat down on the table and sat, following a subconscious pattern of waiting for Helen to set a lunch in front of him. She was still sweeping up the trail of dirt that had followed him in. “I don’t want that happening again. I have to do something,” he grumbled.
“Was the fence closed?” She asked, dropping a chicken fried steak and grits in front of him.
“The fence don’t matter. Coyotes’ll hop right over the fence or dig under it. I’m going to have to set the traps out.”
“The bear traps? Now Peter you know I don’t like those things. They’re downright cruel. Can’t you just scare them off somehow?”
“What am I gonna do? Sit out there all night? The traps’ll do just fine.”
“They’re horrible. Snapping the poor thing’s legs like that. Why can’t you trap them in a box like a raccoon and release them somewhere instead? Something more humane.”
“I’m not a damn wildlife relocation service. Go take a look at the heifer and tell me if that’s humane.” There was a long pause, one of those moments of silence when one spouse doesn’t want to drag the other any further into an argument. Peter sighed deeply and reeled in his tone as Helen sat at the table with her own lunch. “Don’t worry about it. I’ll figure something out. Ok?”
Helen nodded, and just as she began to take the first bite of her lunch the cries of the baby came down from upstairs. Peter smiled. “Remember those days? No rest for the weary.”
“Yes, but it’s a labor of love. I would do it all over again.” Helen stood and headed for the stairs, the baby’s crying growing more impatient with each second. Peter sat relieved in the knowledge that they would never be doing it all over again.
~ * * ~
Out in the old barn Peter was digging around in the pile of ‘things I’ll probably never need, but don’t want to get rid of’. There, in the back behind a rusted car jack and a broken pair of crutches, he found the old traps. Heavy steel jaws, spring-loaded leg breakers, they were old school just like Peter. He hadn’t used them in years, not since an overgrown wolf population had been killing cows and sheep all across the county, and these had become a farmer’s self-defense of choice.
Attached to each trap was a length of heavy chain, meant to hold whatever it caught in place until a hunter could return to finish off the kill. Peter knew that where he wanted to place the traps the chains wouldn’t be long enough, so he set about extending them. He oiled each spring, wiped off the rust, and prepped one to test in the barn.
The pressure needed to open and set the trap was almost more than Peter could manage. His strength wasn’t what it used to be, and setting the trap took tremendous pressure. At one point it almost slipped loose from his grip to slam shut on his own arm. He cringed at the thought of having to explain that to Helen. He planned on not even telling her he had set the traps tonight. He would tell her tomorrow before she wandered out near them, but for tonight, it was just a discussion he didn’t feel like having.
Once he got a trap set and placed on the floor, he searched around for an old piece of wood. Leaning in the corner were several old fence posts. One of those would do just fine. Bracing himself, he jammed it quickly into the center of the trap, and the iron teeth slammed shut fiercely with a disturbing clank, snapping the thick wood in half.
For the next several hours Peter set traps all around the barn and in the pathways to the cow pasture. He bolted each length of chain to various places on the walls of the barn, ensuring whatever he caught during the night would still be there in the morning. He carefully covered the traps and chains with hay and leaves, and late in the afternoon as he made his way back to the house, he struggled to remember exactly where they all were to not step in them himself.
‘Whatever killed that heifer,’ he thought to himself, ‘if it comes back tonight I’ll catch it for sure.’
~ * * ~
In the shadow of the old pines she lingers, the wandering breeze becoming ensnared in her matted hair. The trees creak gently above her, their limbs nearly as old as her own. Around her the night moves in various shades of black and white, her senses revealing every sound, every movement, every scent of blood.
Tonight she found the scent that stood out so strongly from the rest. The sweet aroma of young flesh, of youthful blood. Clean, unspoiled, utterly satisfying. She followed it here, to the edge of the farmhouse, where now it was almost within her reach.
The gentle crying of the infant drifts through the thin veil of window curtains, spilling out into the darkness. Within her a strange inner conflict begins, confusion tearing at her once human mind. A long dormant instinct, maternal and nurturing, struggling against the urge to feed.
Distant memories from hundreds of years ago flit through her thoughts, tainting them with visions of a life she can no longer recognize as her own. A tingling sensation in her rotting womb, a heartbeat in her ears that isn’t hers; they echo through the centuries pushing back the desire to soothe her hunger, until the scent of warm blood flowing through soft flesh becomes too overwhelming.
Stepping out of the shadows into the moonlight, her wings spread and flex, the open window just a short sprint above.
~ * * ~
Helen startled awake so suddenly and hard it was painful. From outside a horrible screeching rushed in through the open window, shattering the silence of the night. Peter woke up as well, coughing and choking as he sat up until his breathing stabilized. “The baby? Is that the baby?” he asked, still in the fog of sleep. It quickly became clear that the loud wailing outside was not the baby.
“Jesus Peter, what the hell is that?”
Out in the darkness, animalistic wails of distress echoed across the farm. Loud and haunting, it was near human sounding, yet more guttural, more wild. The hair stood up on Helen’s arms as a chill ran down her spine. It was terrifying.
“Is that a woman?”
“Has to be one of the coyotes. I got one of the bastards.” Peter was sitting on the edge of the bed now, already pulling on his pants.
“What?” Helen turned on her bedside table lamp. ”Did you put the traps out? I told you I don’t like those things. Good lord Peter. Listen to that thing.”
“Would you rather we keep losing cows?”
“Those traps are cruel.”
“I need my cows.”
Outside the wailing continued. Horrific sounds, the sort of things heard only in nightmares. They came in through the window on the breeze as Helen tried to rub the goose bumps away. Startled birds flew from their nighttime resting places as disturbed cows complained from the pasture. Peter was cursing in the back of the closet, digging out his rifle.
Helen had made her way to the window, despite all attempts by her hip to stop her. There she slammed the window shut and turned to face Peter who was coming out of the closet with boxes of old ammunition. “What the hell is that Peter. That’s not a coyote.” He noticed her face was as white as the window curtains behind her.
“Whatever it is, it won’t be there much longer.” Peter was jamming bullets into the rifle, his nervous fingers stumbling a little from goose bumps of his own.
The old rifle hadn’t been used in so long, Peter wasn’t even sure if it still worked. The ammunition had been sitting around for decades, and it too might not work. Helen had often told him he should sell his guns, but Peter liked them. They made him feel macho, like a John Wayne, even though his shaky aging hands would never allow a steady aim.
“Just stay here until I come back,” he told Helen as he made his way down the stairs and into the foyer.
~ * * ~
The steel jaws leapt up from the grass and clamped on to her leg, digging in and fracturing the bone with brutal speed. Like a medieval torture device, the pain was sudden, shocking and severe. Emotions rare and unusual suddenly overwhelm her; pain, and fear.
Bony fingers and long dirty nails clutch at the device. Blood flows from the wound as subconscious instinctive sounds flee from her throat. At first there is panic. The same panic she had felt when the morning sun had kissed her on the forehead, searing it with pain. She tries to take flight, but the links of chain follow along, snapping tight and slamming her back to the ground.
Fury follows next. Fear morphing into rage. She must be free. She claws at her leg, calcium nails breaking against the metal teeth of the trap. Moments later, without hesitation, without human thought, she squats down and pulls her injured limb to her face and begins chewing on her own leg. Her fangs dig deep into her own flesh, feeling the shattered bone as she tears the meat away. Free. She must be free, before the night ends, before the sun finds her again.
~ * * ~
Peter clicked the porch light on and stepped out into the night. The screeching had stopped. The sounds had changed now to something more akin to sobbing. Helen was right, it was sounding more and more human, like a woman. Peter felt a twinge of fear as he peered out into the darkness, beyond the reach of the porch light; trying to see the animal he had caught. He had travelled the world, fought foreign wars, faced death every day, but this, this was somehow different. This thing wailing in the darkness, this shit was downright scary.
As he crossed the driveway and his boots shifted the gravel under his feet, the noises stopped completely as if the animal heard his approach. All he could hear now was the chain that held the trap rattle and shift, moving around in the darkness in front of him.
~ * * ~
A man is coming. Footsteps on the gravel. Artificial light slowly overpowering the darkness of the black and white world. A mix of instinctive emotions; the fear of being trapped shoved against the lust to feed. The footsteps and light, so close, the insects nearby grow silent. His scent is so strong now, his aroma unmistakable. He is old, weathered, his blood and flesh carrying the scent of those close to the end of their own existence. The younger ones are so much more desirable, full of nutrients and more vibrant energies, their aura so stimulating. But she will take what comes, all serving the same purpose.
She gnaws furiously at her own ankle, desperate to release herself from the iron teeth that have dug into her leg to the bone. The pain as her fangs dig into her own meat is intense, unbearable. Somewhere deep inside, the bits of old human DNA that course through her veins are repulsed by it, but the animal instinct of survival overrides all as the old man turns the corner of the barn and a blinding light hits her eyes.
~ * * ~
Peter stopped abruptly at the sight before him, his old knees going weak at the vision. A humanoid figure bent over before him, chewing her own leg near the trap. Still some twenty yards away, his old eyes struggled to see clearly in the small circle of the flashlight beam. His mind told him that something was wrong, that this couldn’t be real. It was a woman, but she looked dead, her skin ashen gray, leathery, disgustingly thin at the ribs. Wild tufts of matted hair dangled from her groin and armpits, her breasts sagging like she was a hundred years old. Most surreal of all were the wings that protruded from her back, folded now, pressed against her body like a cape. Peter could smell her, even from this distance, the unmistakable smell of death. A nausea grew in his gut, mixing with his fear.
Suddenly the creature turned and faced him. The light reflected slightly off her eyes like an animal’s, Peter noticing that they were oddly colorless. The creature stood abruptly, the trap on her ankle rattling the chain that connected it to the barn. Suddenly her wings spread and her mouth opened and out came a loud strange wail. It echoed across the farm, a terrifying sub-human screech. Just inside her thin gray lips Peter could see large pointed teeth, tainted with her own blood from tearing at her ankle. Peter’s worn out bladder released, the warm fear running down his leg.
A moment later the creature lunged forward, leaping, wings spreading. Peter saw her feet lift off the ground as she approached, the chain from the trap dragging across the ground behind her. Terror filled the old man, a panic he hadn’t felt even when facing the worst humans that world wars could throw at him. He had faced ruthless enemies, torturers, cold-blooded killers the world over. But this, this was something different entirely. My god, what was this?
He fumbled for a second with the old rifle, trying to cock the hammer, to aim, but there was no time. The horror was upon him, and all he could manage was to stumble backwards as his old feet tripped over themselves and he fell. A small rush of air moved into his face as the wings of the monster pushed towards him, then suddenly stopped short as the creature landed on the ground near his feet. There was the sudden sharp metallic sound as the chain on the trap pulled tight, the slack stopping the monster’s movement just a few feet away.
Peter lay on his back, the dropped rifle somewhere in the dark grass, the flashlight in his hand shining into the creature’s face now directly in front of him. The monster’s wings were spread wide, her mouth agape, her fangs bared in aggression. The chain locked onto her leg held her tight to the barn, stopping her from reaching him, just barely. She swung her arms wildly at him, long aged and dirty fingernails, grown into claws, swiping just inches in front of his face.
~ * * ~
The primordial rage is all consuming. The old man, so close, just out of reach, taunting her. He is panicked, his heart rate pushing the blood-pumping muscles almost to failure. His lungs wheeze powerfully, sucking in the night air, exhaling his scent. She can smell his fear, his panic, the blood racing through his veins, his very essence, beckoning to her, so desirable. The trap on her leg won’t let go, infuriating her.
~ * * ~
The creature turned away from Peter for a moment, reaching down to the trap on her leg. She growled and hissed and pulled at the chain, and Peter seized the moment. He crawled away at first, then rose to his feet. Frantically he turned the flashlight towards the ground looking for the rifle, but the fear of losing sight of the monster kept the flashlight darting back and forth between the creature and the ground. A quick flash of fangs and colorless eyes, then a quick look into the grass and leaves, then back to the monster furiously pulling at the chain. Every time the light hit the creature she would reach out to him, hissing, teeth snapping, desperately trying to reach him, her colorless eyes reflecting the light back at him as if illuminated from within.
Then Peter saw a glint in the grass, a quick spark of reflected light. The rifle, there on the ground just a couple feet from where he had stumbled. He realized that it had fallen within the creature’s reach, and for a brief moment he struggled with the knowledge that he may not be able to get to it without the monster getting to him. He inched forward, the narrow beam of the flashlight fixed on the horror that screeched and clawed and reached for him, its wings flapping wildly in the night air. A second later the white light of the flashlight turned a dim yellow and went out. For a few terrifying seconds Peter stood in total darkness, the creature snarling and clawing just outside of reach. He quickly began to bang on the flashlight. With every smack of his hand the light would come on for a second, lighting up the snarling monster before him in a quick flash of light, then would go out again, leaving both man and monster in total blackness, inches from each other. This repeated several times; Peter smacking the flashlight, and a strobe light of horror flicking on and off as the hellish nightmare before him fought against the chain, reaching for him, teeth and claws flailing wildly. A moment later the light went out for good despite Peter’s urging slaps. He stood there in total darkness, listening to the monster hissing just in front of him, feeling the shifting air pushed by her wings, hearing the rattling of the chain that he now prayed would hold her from reaching him.
From his left, towards the house, another sound came forward, the familiar voice of Helen, calling out to him from the darkness.
“Peter! Peter, what is it? Are you okay? Peter!”
“Helen, go back!” he desperately screamed out, trying to warn her. But there would be no time, no chance. Air suddenly rushed hard against his face, and in the darkness he could hear leathery wings leap skyward, the old rusty chain dragging along the ground away from him, the creature taking flight. In the darkness Helen had no idea what was coming for her.
~ * * ~
The other human comes, confused, isolated, reachable.
Just a short leap, a quick glide on agile wings, and Helen is in the monster’s embrace. It presses down upon her as it lands, and her hip buckles under its weight, finally breaking completely. Helen hears the snap of bone as fiercely as she feels the pain. It races up her back, up her spine, to collide with the pain now gripping her throat.
Long sinewy arms and cold leathery wings wrap around Helen as sharp teeth penetrate deep into her throat. Too weak to struggle, with fangs penetrating her vocal chords, there is no screaming, only the taste of fresh warm blood flowing into the creature’s mouth. Euphoric, the monster’s colorless eyes roll back into its head and it moans slightly, a demonic evil sound, guttural, inhuman. This is the moment. This is what its existence is about. The feeding. Glorious, orgasmic lust-satisfying feeding.
The world around the monster disappears. It bathes in the electro-magnetic aura of the living while swallowing the essence of Helen’s being. Her warm flesh radiates life, and pressed up against it the creature’s nipples harden at its touch. The monster sucks furiously at the wounds in Helen’s throat, her jugular pumping life into the creature, painting both of them in deep red as it drips down their bodies to the grass under their feet.
An eerie dance of existential contrasts begins; Helen’s life being slowly extracted, her existence slowly fading away, as the creature feels its own existence renewed. Each swallow of Helen’s life gives strength to the creature’s own.
Another sound breaks the night, a loud frightening roar. The sound and a surge of bright light pull the monster from its euphoric embrace. A large black and white mechanical beast looms near, moving in her direction, its teeth thrashing round and round, threatening her.
~ * * ~
The massive combine roared to life, its old engine puffing out black smoke into the darkness of the night. Peter, unable to find the rifle in the dark, had run to the tractor to fire up its lights. He shoved the great machine into gear, and it lurched forward as its roof-mounted headlights turned the night into day. Peter could hardly catch his breath, his heart pounded in his chest, knowing he had to get to Helen. Yanking the steering wheel towards the house and stomping down hard on the gas pedal, he barely noticed that he had also engaged the mighty blades that now whirled in front of the machine.
Up ahead just barely within reach of the lights, the creature stood transfixed with Helen lying at its feet. It stared into the lights momentarily as if in a daze, and as Peter drove the machine forward it suddenly took flight. It headed straight to the cab of the tractor, attacking the glass furiously trying to get to Peter. Behind it on the ground, he could see Helen crawling towards the house. ‘She’s still alive,’ he thought, ‘Thank God.’
The creature clawed at the glass, its long nails making sharp scraping sounds as they slid along the window. With just a thin barrier between them, an invisible shield between life and death, Peter stared directly into the face of the monster. Inches away, fueled by the instinctive need to feed, the creature screeched and screamed like some primeval nightmare. Its mouth opened wide, revealing large weathered fangs, blood dripping off its lips and onto the glass. It climbed around the outside of the cab, moving from one side to the other, looking for an opening, looking for a way in, looking for a way to make Peter dead.
Peter held each door tightly closed; as tightly as his eyes closed as he prayed. He prayed to survive, prayed to wake up from this nightmare, prayed Helen was okay. Quickly glancing to the porch he could see her crawling through the front door into the house. Peter’s mind raced; ‘Maybe she was going to the phone. Maybe she would call 911. Dear God please send someone to help us.’
The monster clung to the door on his left, and Peter’s blood ran cold as he watched the old small latch strain to protect him. The creature pulled on the door and bit at the window, its teeth actually scratching into the glass. Its breath fogged up the window and a second later it disappeared up and over the top. Peter watched the sheet metal roof buckle above him just before the monster reappeared to attack the other door. This was the door that locked more firmly but had a cracked window, and Peter was sure the creature would break the glass in. It pulled violently at the handle for several moments, and Peter could smell its breath seeping in through the crack in the glass.
Suddenly the monster took flight again, and through the front windshield all Peter could see was the dangling chain from the coyote trap. It swung left and right with the movement of the creature, until it lowered and caught on the whirling blades of the tractor. Suddenly the chain went tight like a kite string does in a strong wind. Peter heard a loud horrifying screech and the tractor suddenly jerked up as if it hit a speed bump. He could hear the monster’s wings flapping vigorously now in the darkness above him, and with each thrust of leathery wings the tractor jumped just a little. Peter watched as the chain was rolled up and dragged into the blades like a fisherman reeling in the big one.
Seconds later as the monster squealed in furious protest and the tractor rocked like a bull ride, Peter could see the creature come into view again as it neared the whirling blades. Little sparks like flint jumped from where the old chain met grinding mechanical steel. Once again the living and the pseudo-living met eye to eye, and for a brief second Peter swore he could see the humanity in the creature’s colorless eyes. Just a hint, just a glimmer, of life, of fear, of a woman turned into something else. Time seemed to morph into slow motion, and Peter found a brief moment of sympathy in his racing heart. He braced himself for the massive splattering of blood, bone and flesh that would come any second as the creature was pulled into the blades.
Instead he saw only a huge spark, the breaking of metal, and a link of chain hit the windshield with a powerful thud as the blades cut through the steel leash, and the monster broke free. A dangling ten foot piece of chain suddenly shot skyward and the creature disappeared into the darkness above.
Peter sat alone and isolated in the cab, the only sound the chugging engine of the old combine. In front of him the blades continued to whirl in the headlights, and beyond that there was nothing except the light from the porch of the house in the distance. He thought of Helen inside, the overwhelming urge to get to her building up inside him. Peter struggled for a few moments, the need to get to his wife battling the pure fear of the monster that lurked somewhere out there in the darkness. He sat, looking, listening, waiting for some sign of where the creature had gone. Leaning over he strained to look upwards through the windows of the cab. He could see nothing but darkness, broken only by a few twinkling stars and random lightning bugs that seemed oblivious to the horror taking place all around them. Long moments went by as Peter sat in silence, listening to his own pulse pounding in his neck. Then came the moment when he couldn’t wait any longer. The driveway between the barn and the house was bordered on both sides by trees, and too narrow to drive the combine any closer to the porch. He would have to make a run for it on foot.
A moment of prayer, longer moments of fear, several minutes of courage gathering, and Peter slid back the small yet faithful latch and eased open the door of the cab. Just a few inches at first, his hand white-knuckled on the handle, waiting for some unearthly reaction from the darkness.
His heart raced and his lungs wheezed.
Cautiously he swung the door open wide, stepping out beside the cab, jumping off the machine and down to the ground. Peter took a few steps, the slow and cautious quickly evolving into reckless and hurried. He ran as fast as old bones could carry him, leaving the chugging engine and whirling blades of the tractor behind him as he raced for the house, to Helen.
Just twenty more feet. Almost there. He could see Helen lying on the floor in the foyer. Run you old son of a bitch. Peter’s foot hit the first step of the porch just before he heard the flap of wings, the rattle of chain, and felt the claws puncturing the skin in his shoulders. The pain was intense. He had taken a bullet during the fall of Saigon, and that felt nothing like this. Fingernails too long to still be human dug into his flesh, penetrating skin and muscle right to the bone. Falling forward onto the steps of the porch, the creature landed on top of him, its weight holding him down. Looking up he could see Helen lying on the floor, just a few feet away, just inside the door of the house. “Helen!” he screamed out, and he extended an arm, reaching for her, just before the monster leaned in and sank its fangs into the side of his throat.
It felt like a vise clamping down on his neck. A strange combination of crushing and cutting as the creature dug in and began sucking. Pinned to the floor of the porch, Peter could see his own blood begin to pool around him.
~ * * ~
Finally, to have him, to taste him, to consume him. She lingers in the moment, savoring each satisfying second, a physical and psychological euphoria. He struggles, but is too weak, too old, too tired. She tears at the back of his neck, ripping flesh, exposing his spine, licking the bones. The feeding is glorious, spiritual, orgasmic. She presses into him, rubbing herself in his fluids like a feline in catnip. As her needs become satiated, as she calms, she becomes more aware of her surroundings. The porch light above them is bright, bothersome. She wants to move away, to seek the comfort of darkness, but the feeding isn’t finished. The other human is still alive, but there’s time to come back for it. In the air is another sound, the crying of a baby, up through the window, calling out, beckoning, defenseless. She pauses momentarily to inhale deeply, to smell the flesh and the blood, to fill her senses with the potential of the moment. This is what she exists for, what she craves, what she needs. This was death, becoming life.
~ * * ~
In his final moments of consciousness, Peter felt himself being jerked backwards, dragged along the ground. The creature’s grip on his throat never released as they moved, and every few feet Peter felt himself lifted into the air as the creature attempted to lift him away. In slow motion he saw his world fading. Blood dripped from him, a red trail leading back towards the house, where in the blurry fading distance he could still make out the form of Helen lying on the floor. He felt himself jerked upwards, drops of blood slowly falling to the ground, the rush of air pushed by unnatural wings passing by his face. The familiar sound of the tractor seemed to grow closer beneath him, until a few feet below he saw the whirling blades still spinning in the headlights.
A sudden spark, a loud metallic clank, and Peter saw the piece of chain dangling from the creature’s leg catch in the blades. Ten feet of metal links rolled up in seconds, and a splatter of grayish blood and bits of flesh splashed across Peter’s face as they fell onto the machine together and the creature’s legs were ripped into pieces. The monster released his throat and screamed a horrific sound that echoed across the farm. Several startled deer ran across the field at the sound. The engine of the tractor slowed and struggled as its blades strained and almost jammed under the intrusion of the monster’s body; but the old faithful motor chugged on, and the shredding of flesh continued. The monster screamed and flailed about as the blades drew it in, tearing it apart as pieces of it flew all about.
~ * * ~
The pain was bizarre, foreign, and unimaginable. The machine bit and chewed and grinded away, and the creature knew she was being torn apart. She struggled against the iron teeth that pulled her in, but there was no escape, and now centuries of torturous restless slumber, of unknown screaming faces and endless hunger, ended in blood. Blood everywhere, just like in her dreams.
~ * * ~
Lying on top of the creature, Peter was momentarily spared the horrific butchering of the blades as the monster was eviscerated beneath him. But he knew his turn was coming. Almost unconscious, his jugular spouting blood a foot into the air with each beat of his heart, he was helpless. The steel trap that had caught the monster clanked noisily beside him as it bounced around inside the rotating blades. It was a strange feeling knowing that there were only a few precious seconds of your life left. The creature had gone silent, its body, and its existence decimated into bits and pieces on the ground beneath the machine. Peter had just a micro-second to ponder his own life. At a speed too fast to comprehend, the mind jumps from insufferable fear and panic, to surrender when you know you simply cannot stop the inevitable. A defense mechanism against unbearable psychological trauma, the brain releases endorphins to sedate the nervous system overload. Peter involuntarily relaxed. He stared upwards at the sky, at the stars, at the lightning bugs. For a fleeting moment it was surreally peaceful, somehow strangely liberating, knowing that nothing in the world will ever matter again.
Then the tearing came. Scraping at first, as the spinning blades dragged along his back, tearing his clothes, taunting him. Then the deeper cutting started, and with the little life he had left Peter began to scream as steel met bone and the real butchering began. A moment later, still conscious and aware, Peter’s body quickly folded up into the blades, exploding into shreds of bone and flesh to be strewn about the yard.
For a long time the old combine faithfully chugged on, its blades reaping their harvest, spitting drops of blood across the yard, until the steel bear trap wedged into a gear, jamming the machine, and the engine sputtered and stalled under the backpressure. The farm went quiet, and slowly the normal sounds of night crept back into the air. Large eerie shadows danced upon the wall of the house, caused by the moths that danced in the headlights of the tractor now kept lit only by battery power.
~ * * ~
Helen’s eyes were darting back and forth behind her eyelids. Deep in a semiconscious state, her mind raced through dreams beyond what a conscious mind would recall. When she awoke, prone on the floor, open-mouthed and drooling, she had no idea how long she had been there; seconds, minutes, maybe hours.
She felt a strange heat within herself, sweat beading on her forehead and neck. It was like the menopausal heat flashes she had hated so much twenty years ago, and yet this was different. Instead of a weakening, draining feeling, this warmth was somehow invigorating.
Her vision was odd, confusing. The color had been strangely drained from the world, and around her only black and white met her dazed stares. The only color she could see was in the blood that had pooled and dried around her, a vibrant red hue contrasted against shades of gray. Her throat hurt, but it was a dull fading pain, like wounds that were already healing.
She searched her mind to understand what had happened, how she had gotten to this state. There were brief fleeting memories of running out into the night, of a man on a machine. She remembered the lights in her eyes, pain in her neck, then nothing. She struggled to make sense of it all. She struggled to remember herself, to remember who she was. The man in the tractor, his face slowly faded more and more as the minutes ticked by, and her head began to hurt with the effort to remember.
A strange new hunger swelled in her gut, as if she hadn’t eaten in days. She stumbled through the front door, slowly at first as her head tried to clear and give her balance. Outside the bright lights of the tractor momentarily blinded her, and as she raised her hand to block the lights, she noticed how strange the ground appeared. The grass, like the rest of the world, was washed in shades of greys and blacks and whites. But sprinkled all around were little dots of red glow, shining beautifully, like stars in the sky. She wandered out across the porch and down onto the gravel driveway. A powerful smell inexplicably caught her attention, and she couldn’t turn away from it. It beckoned to her, seduced her, drawing her to it. The now black and white tractor was speckled with glowing red splotches, and beneath it the ground was awash in brilliant red puddles.
She moved towards it, not understanding why, but simply needing to, subconsciously, instinctively. As she walked she didn’t realize that her hip no longer hurt her, that her strides were steady and strong. She was already forgetting the pains of the past, her morphing mind focusing on the needs of the moment, of the desire to be closer to the blood that dripped from the blades of the tractor.
As she neared the machine, its headlights slowly faded as the battery died, much like the old Helen was fading away, becoming something else, something more.
The night air, crisp and clear, was ripe with an intoxicating scent. It was visceral, exciting, and seductive. It drew her forward towards the large combine, where the black and grey machine glistened with red splatter. Her transformation was occurring quickly. Her old aging form, being almost void of natural hormones and immunity, gave little resistance. It absorbed the new foreign biology like a dry sponge dropped into a pool of water. Her human ailments were already being rewritten out of her DNA, and she walked with new confident strides on a strengthening and more stable hip.
As she reached the machinery, she paused momentarily, the last shreds of humanity and reasoning making her question her next actions. The new signals from her brain stumbled momentarily over the old as a vague disgust and a fear of a changing reality wrestled with an overwhelming, irresistible drive to do the unthinkable. A fleeting moment that quickly disappeared with her fading humanity.
She dropped to her knees, her lips quivering, her body shaking, just above the red soaked ground. The aroma of blood, deeply inhaled, drove her rapidly morphing DNA into a frenzy. Without a second more of conscious thought she was suckling the earth, slurping blood from grass, dirt and gravel. Euphoric moments drifted by, time now meaningless as the feeding filled her with new sensations, new urges, new strength.
Several drops of blood fell upon the back of her head, red lines running down along the side of her face, seeking shelter in the wrinkles of her aged skin. Looking up, she saw the body parts in the blades. Her hands, no longer contorted with arthritis, easily pulled several hunks of flesh free with renewing strength that her limbs had not known in years. She bit and sucked and slurped on the tissue, its life-giving fluid running down her throat, filling her with sensations she had never before experienced.
The noises of the feeding blended in with the other sounds of the night around her; wheat stalks gently blowing in the breeze, crickets in the tall grass, until a new sound suddenly caught her attention.
Mild at first, like whispers on the wind, then slowly growing in intensity until the wailing of defenseless life overpowered all other sounds. The crying of an infant brings Helen to her feet, the sound strangely familiar, yet not. It stirs something within her, and for another brief moment the old sensations wrestle with the new. She inhales deeply, instinctively, her heightened senses revealing the scent of young flesh moistened with urine. Intermixed is the unmistakable smell of warm blood, young and pure. The infant’s cries and the trail of odors drive her back to the house to stand beneath the open window where inside she can hear the child shifting around inside the crib, helpless, defenseless, and intoxicating. The old inhibitions struggle to resist the new urges, but only for a few moments longer.
~ * * ~
Engorged from feeding, her body is overwhelmed and overloaded with new sensations. A new surge of hormones races through her bloodstream, a sudden and renewed desire to mate welling up inside her; an urge she hasn’t felt in quite a while. Her fingernails itch, as if a new growth spurt is pushing them out from within. She rubs them, not noticing that the hands that were formerly twisted with arthritis are now straight and strong with renewed flexibility.
Through the fields she runs, driven by the exhilarating feeling of rejuvenated strength and agility. All around her the black and white world beckons to her with the promise of new freedom and renewed life. Across the pasture she bounds, cows shifting uneasy at the passing of the shadowy creature in the moonlight. At the farthest edge of the farm she crosses a road, the asphalt rough on the bottoms of her feet. Off in the distance, lights, an engine, coming closer. An instinctive need to hide washes over her, her body not yet grasping its abilities or needs; bearing an infantile understanding of her new place in the food chain. Just down the embankment, an old storm drain close by offers her its dark shelter.
She will remain here, until the over-whelming need to feed drives her out. For tonight, she will huddle amongst the trash, rats, and leeches, dreaming of running through flowering fields like a child, the petals of each flower now covered in blood.
~ END ~