17: The Bads of Consequences
Madison knew that taking the shortcut through the woods was a bad idea. It was dark, it was lonely; and it was the middle of the goddamn night.
A futurist highschooler, Madison’s idea of fear was robots taking over the earth or a biologically engineered virus hellbent on turning all humans into zombies.
But that idea was quickly changing, especially in the light of the murder that shook the entire town of West Harbour a few days earlier. Now, fear meant anything that lurked in the corners, that crawled underneath the ground; that thrived in the darkness.
Picking her way through the woods which looked almost like a monster itself in the pale light of the full moon, Madison thought about all the things she had done wrong that day.
For starters, she should never have accepted Becky, her best friend’s invitation to the school weekday night party, or defied her father and snuck out of the house when he vehemently told her she couldn’t go, and she definitely shouldn’t have stayed when she realised that the party was going to be a lot later than the 9pm she had planned.
But she had and now, she risked suffering the consequences; her father grounding her till her grandkids were old enough to go to college.
That was the reason why the shortcut through the woods had become a necessary evil for her to bear. It was her only hope of survival.
Madison had just reached a very thick part of the woods when she suddenly heard a sound. It was a growl coming from among the trees. She was unsure of what had made it; and even worse, she was unsure of how to respond.
She did the only thing that came to her at that moment; she stood completely still. Her hope was that whatever animal had made that sound- she presumed it was a bear or a wolf- would assume there was nothing in her direction and just move along.
But that wasn’t the case. Instead of fading away with time, the growl grew nearer and increased in its sinisterness. It was almost like it was waiting for Madison to move; and that was exactly what she did.
Gearing herself up for what was to come, she said to herself, “M., it’s time to jet.” And then, she ran like crazy.
No path was in front of her, no bearing in her head; not even a definitive plan to follow. All that was on her mind was escaping from whatever it was that was in the woods with her; and that was all she focused on.
It wasn’t sure exactly how much later but Madison finally broke through the thick into a less dense part of the woods; the growl chasing her effectively lost behind. Unable to control herself, she crashed and slumped against a tree.
She was exhausted, she was lost; and she was very angry. She was angry at the fear coursing through her veins, pressing against her heart to the point that it felt like it was about to burst. She was angry at the night for making it so damn hard to see anything.
But most of all, Madison was angry at herself. Regardless of whatever she might think, the truth was that it was no one else’s fault but her own and that of her bad decisions that she was in the precarious situation she found herself to begin with.
She thought about crying to alleviate the tension within her but that wasn’t her style. Or perhaps scream but that would attract her pursuer. So, she went for the logical option. She picked herself up to find her way back home.
But just as Madison looked up, her eyes fell upon a sight that made her blood run cold. She screamed then; and that was the only thing she had the opportunity to do as death came in to pounce.
Mortals, lots of them; that was the first thing Michael’s senses picked up as he opened his eyes.
He looked at the grandfather clock ticking beside the empty fireplace and a scowl fell upon his face. It was six o’clock; very early in the morning; and definitely not the time for the annoying ruckus of feet his ears were picking up even from far up on the third floor.
The ancient vampire hated dealing with mortals. He hated their brashness, their obnoxious attitude, and their arrogant sense of self-importance.
But he did tolerate them. They were important to his survival; or rather, their blood was. While the vampire community had adopted the modern day practice of getting their blood from blood banks or synthesising it, Michael still preferred old-school: right from the mortals. It was fresh, it was traditional; and it was the very reason why he wasn’t fast to kill every mortal who crossed his path with that ridiculously fragile chin of theirs held high.
Survival or not however, the ancient vampire wasn’t about to tolerate a disrespect to his abode in Festningen.
Getting out of bed with the intention of teaching every mortal he would find in the castle an unforgettable lesson, Michael made his way to the wardrobe to choose one of his monochromatic dark vintage suit. But the door opened then and Henry walked inside much to his surprise to see the ancient vampire already up.
“What is it?” asked Michael, his voice anything but friendly .
“Visitors, sir,” the butler replied with a bow. “They’re requesting your presence.”
It was about fifteen minutes later when the ancient vampire finally descended down the stairs to the foyer where he saw so many uniformed men wandering up and down the halls it was like they had moved in. They all looked very busy checking through every nook and cranny of the castle for what Michael couldn’t place.
But ignoring them- at least, for the time being- his eyes focused on one particular person who was staring intently back at him as he descended; Clarice White.
The mortal woman was front and centre of everything that was happening in the castle even though she herself didn’t move from her spot. She controlled the men, told them where to look and what to touch; and strange as it was, Michael felt an odd sense of admiration for that authority.
But Clarice’s presence at Festningen was anything but good, as the ancient vampire himself was soon to discover. “Miss White, are you here to tell me about an information you didn’t find on me again?” he said when he reached her. “Or perhaps it’s something you actually did find this time around?”
Clarice wasn’t the one who answered him though. Instead, a man whose physical features greatly resembled that of the mortal woman’s stepped in front of Michael. “Sheldon White, Sheriff of West Harbour,” he said, holding up his badge. “I’m very sorry for the intrusion, Mr. Holger, but I was hoping you could come down with us to the station to answer a few questions.”
“What is this all about?” asked Michael, very confused.
Sheldon gestured and the ancient vampire followed, the aura of danger he had previously been missing hitting him in full force when he saw the sight that awaited him. The Minotaur imposter had struck again; and this time, he left the body right on Michael’s doorsteps.