Blood Runs Cold
This story is for my one -- and probably only -- fan, Danielle Zazulak. Thank you for the continued support, and I truly hope you enjoy this tale. . .
Richard D. Cooper
I know what I am. Awareness did not die with my body. I understand things and learn things just like you do; although I do not attend classes or indeed speak to anyone to obtain knowledge.
I think I’m better for it. Think I am, anyway. I have nobody to confide in. Nobody to spill my thoughts to, not now. I had them once – years ago. How many? Umpteen. That’s how many. Feels like that, anyway. See, if I try really hard I can half recall a sort of life; what you might call family time. I think – think – I can even remember a child. Sometimes, when I sleep, I dream of it. I dream of sunny days, of standing in a park with the child held aloft in my arms. It giggles as I spin around on the spot, and in my dream I laugh too at the look of joy on the child’s face; and then I wake and those emotions seem alien, desperately unfamiliar.
I’m a hunter, you see. I hunt on grounds that feel oh-so familiar now; like I’ve always been here, but yet not. In many ways I am like the mighty lion. I rule this area here about. They fear me. I know they do. I can sense it every night as I rise from my hiding place. It’s a rich, coppery smell, is fear. It hangs in the air like an invisible mist; swirling and ebbing as if tidal, driven by the moon – which (in a way) I am, too.
The moors of Bodmin (yes, I know my hunting ground is called this, but for the life of me (ha ha!) I can’t remember where or when this knowledge came about) roll out before me under threateningly dark skies. To you, in the dead of night, they would appear spooky and devoid of light, but to me – with my twenty-twenty vision – they look perfectly stunning.
Oh yes, and I can run fast. Ok, my body may be a rotting shambles (I stink. I can actually smell the rot as it eats my limbs and liquefies my innards) but don’t ever think I can’t run! Sometimes, when I spot an animal that looks quite tasty – which is all of the time – I can pounce on it without too much fuss. But some of the bigger ones, like sheep, quite often try to run away from me. I allow them to. I enjoy the chase. I let it get way in front of me, bleating and scrambling over grassy tussocks in wild panic. I like to think it believes it can escape, you see. And then, at the last moment, I leap into action and sprint after it. I jump over stones and tangles of gorse bush; I land and gambol, spring back to my feet and carry on running. The night air always smells so wonderful during a chase. Fear and excrement making a fantastic perfume in my nostrils. I grin as I run, and it’s then that I feel my teeth scraping on my bottom lip. Sharp as needles they are. Deadly. At the last possible moment, I propel myself up into the air and land on my quarry, driving it flat to the ground. A sheep can struggle. Can it ever! It’ll kick and wriggle like mad in my iron grip, but I know it’ll never get away from me. I bury my face into the thick fleece behind its head and bite.
Divine. Pure nectar! Blood will squirt hotly into my mouth and pour down my throat as if powered by a hosepipe. I drink it all; never waste a drop.
Afterwards, I eat the flesh as well. I don’t waste food. I will shred it and greedily devour it where I squat, cramming fistfuls of bloody meat into my mouth as if I’ll never eat again.
But I do. Always do.
What about humans? I hear you ask. Do you hunt us humans, too?
Please. Of course I will, given the chance. The problem is, not many of you lot tend to go wandering about on the moon-lit moors at night. Some do, believe me. Some foolhardy individuals still lurk amongst you; those stupid enough to sling on rucksacks and pick up a torch.
Why, only a few nights ago this young couple interrupted me as I was finishing a meal. I’d caught two ravens (get a lot of them around here, for some reason) and I was just swallowing the last mouthful of scant meat when I heard voices behind me.
‘Look at those stars!’ said a male voice.
‘Beautiful,’ replied a woman. I spun around and hunkered low, keeping myself in the shadows. They were both wearing hiking gear; thick jackets and rugged boots. Their breath smoked on the freezing cold air (which I don’t feel) and each one wore a head-torch strapped around their woolly hats.
The man sniffed and wiped his runny nose on the back of his glove. ‘God, it’s bloody freezing out here! Wish we’d stopped at the hotel now. I mean, whose stupid idea was this?’
‘Yours!’ laughed the woman, nudging him with her shoulder.
‘Oh, yeah,’ he said, acting dumb. ‘Well, in that case, never allow me to have another idea ever again.’
I can see to that, I thought, eyeing them hungrily.
They both stood there, gawping up at the night sky, unbeknownst that I was hunkering close to them, perfectly still and utterly silent.
‘Look! That’s the Big Dipper, isn’t it?’ asked the woman, pointing up at the constellation in question.
’Yep. And I’m the Big Dripper for bringing us out here!’
They laughed happily.
I didn’t. I don’t happen to find you lot very funny. I just watched.
‘Anyway,’ said the man, ‘I guess we should head back. Probably not safe to go any further. And certainly not on this path.’
‘What ever do you mean?’ the woman said, sounding perplexed.
Sighing, he replied, ‘Think about it for a second. Bodmin Moor. All of those stories we heard. That little town. All those deaths. Vamp –’
‘Yes!’ the woman suddenly said, cutting across him. She sounded alarmed now. 'Yes, I remember now. And don’t say the ‘V’ word out here, for God’s sake!’
They both turned and began to walk away, their boots crackling on frosty grass. I followed, keeping low, trailing them without their knowledge. This was too much of a good opportunity to miss.
My mouth was awash with saliva.
As they walked they kept up their inane chatter. Boring stuff that did nothing for me; except to heighten my sense of an impending kill. I kept to the shadows and paced them, sometimes crawling on all fours, other times prancing so lightly that my feet hardly made a sound at all.
As they walked I heard the man mention the name of that little town again, and deep inside me – I mean deep down – it chorded something that hurt; something that stirred long-forgotten thoughts to the surface like reeking bubbles in some stagnant bog.
A strong wind blew across me as I followed them, my mind flitting. I saw that child again; heard it giggle and felt the ghost of soft skin against my cheek as it snuggled into me.
Had that child been mine?
I faltered in my step, unsure. I’d smelt something on the breeze that had ignited a hot spark of concern inside of me. Something was wrong, and my hunting instincts knew it. I stopped and dropped low behind a huge mossy rock that protruded from the ground. Peering over the top, I saw that the couple had stopped walking also and were looking all around them, frowning.
The man leaned in and whispered something to her; she nodded quickly and whispered something in return. Un-slinging her rucksack, she dropped to one knee and unzipped it.
From my position behind the rock, I watched her keenly; my fangs exposed to their full length. The sense of mild alarm I first felt swiftly turned into a shrilling fire-drill that wouldn’t let up. I watched as the woman removed two dark objects from her rucksack and rose back to her feet. She passed one of them to the man, and he took it quickly from her. I saw him flick his thumb over it, heard a soft click.
The woman moved away from him, searching the darkness all around her. The bright beam from her head-torch roved this way and that, sweeping across the rock that I crouched behind. As out of touch as I am with the modern world, I still knew what that click had been; and I am certainly not stupid. They were looking for me. How this had happened – how the hunter had abruptly become the hunted – I did not know.
‘We know you’re there,’ the woman called to me, ‘we always did.’
‘Step out and face us,’ the man added. ‘If you’re brave enough, that is. From what we hear the only appetite you have is for dumb animals.’
Anger flared through every fibre of my being. It’d all been a ploy. They must have known I was eating those ravens and just pretended they’d been on a moon-lit hike across the moors to fool me. But why? What was I to them?
‘You’re the last of them,’ the woman shouted, answering my unspoken question. ‘I hope you know that. We’ve flushed the rest of your kind out of the town and destroyed them. Once you’re gone, we can get back to normal.’
The rest of my kind?
Flushed out of the town . . . destroyed . . .
I vaulted over the rock, propelling myself high into the air. The woman jerked back and uttered a small cry of shock, even though she must have known where I was. I saw her point that dark object up at me, holding it in both hands to keep it steady. I saw a stark white flash; heard an echoing CRACK!
Something hot buzzed past my ear as I landed between them. The man, cursing, fumbled with his own gun and tried to bring it to point. I was quicker, though. They’d massively underestimated my abilities. I lashed out with one hand and knocked the weapon flying through the air, along with three of his fingers. He screamed in agony and collapsed to his knees. The woman aimed her own gun straight at me, her face set in hard lines of hatred. Without pausing from my swipe at the man, I pirouetted on the spot and launched a round-house kick with my bare foot. It struck the weapon just as it discharged, knocking it askew. The bullet went high; the bang echoed.
She tried to gather her senses, caught between wanting to help her screaming partner and killing me. I saw her eyes darting frantically; smelt her fear, smelt her blood surging hotly through her veins. I rushed in, grabbing her, driving her backwards. She fell, screaming herself, and I landed heavily on top of her.
Boy, did she struggle! I mean, she really struggled. For my part, I merely let her. I knew she had no chance of getting away. I allowed her to pummel me with her fists; to buck and twist her body and spit in my face. But eventually even she knew it was pointless. I had her pinned flat, whilst behind us her partner screamed about his fingers as he stumbled about in the freezing darkness looking for them. I’d deal with him later.
For now, I had my prize. Exhausted, she could only sob as I leaned in and opened my mouth. I bit deeply into her exposed throat. After I’d drank her dry, I stood up and turned my attention to her blubbering partner in crime. He was on his knees again, clutching his ruined hand in some vain attempt to stop the tremendous bleeding.
‘Please,’ he gasped, 'I need help! My hand, it’s . . . oh, God it hurts!’
I stood over him and grinned. His life blood smelt so good.
‘Carla,’ the man suddenly called, 'what have you done to her? Please, don’t let her become what you are! She never wanted that! At least kill her properly.’
I reached out with both hands, almost tenderly, and took hold of his face. He at once stopped blubbering and looked up at me with his pathetic, watery eyes. ‘Kill us both. We came here to stop you. To wipe vampires off the face of Bodmin Moor forever. Don’t let it start all over again.’
I hate begging. Animals don’t do that – yes, they run, but at least there is a certain amount of dignity when I finally catch them. An acceptance. But humans (which I, too, used to be) just can’t do that. To stop anymore of his pointless pleas, I leaned in and sank my teeth firmly into his jugular. He made a strange barking noise and his body went into spasms, but, after a few moments, and with my thirst sated, I allowed him to slide from my grip and crumple to the ground.
So there you are. That’s me. I found out afterwards that the bullets they hoped to kill me with were made from silver.
Wouldn’t have worked.
I left their bodies lying sprawled on the frosty ground for a few hours, and when I returned – just before dawn – I noticed they were gone. Following their scent, I speed-tracked them across the mist-shrouded moors. I soon caught them up – two figures with only one thing on their mind, to hunt; to kill. I stopped just short of a large sign that protruded from a brambly hedge, and watched them scurry past it and on up the road, which led towards the twinkling lights of civilization.
One that could expect trouble in the coming nights.
My glowing eyes flicked over to it and read the name once more.
Welcome to Raven.
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