The sun had barely set beyond the horizon and the thickly clouded sky concealed any traces of lingering sunlight. Thunder crackled in the distance and lightening danced across the heavens in an elaborate show of electrical discharge.
Travis Jordan did not pay much attention to the weather, nor did he care about the distinct possibility of heavy showers, which were bound to begin at any minute. He simply sat on the ground in the middle of the empty park, contemplating the pale corpse resting near him in the dirt.
He was responsible for the murder and he knew it. Yes, he could admit it to himself; it was murder. It did not matter that it was born out of a need, a thirst, which he could not control at times. Travis often went for as long as he could but in the end, the thirst always caught up with him.
At least it is just a homeless bum, Travis thought with a frown as he stared down at his latest victim. The poor man appeared to have been in his late thirties or early forties, dressed in baggy clothing and a ragged scarf. His hair, moustache and beard were long and unkempt, obviously neglected proper care and grooming for a long time. His shoes were filthy and one of the soles had a hole worn through it; it looked as though the bum had gotten them out of a dumpster somewhere, which was very possible. In fact, it looked like the poor soul had gotten most of his current wardrobe out of someone’s trash.
Travis shook his head in disgust with himself as he rose, taking a step back from the body. It did not matter who this person was; all that mattered was that Travis had taken his life. He always tried to limit himself to individuals who would not be missed much; he usually had that much willpower over his actions at least when it came time to feed, but that did not make it any easier. The fact remained that he was a monster and he hated that fact with all of his being.
At least I managed to get the one responsible for this, he thought, his lip curving upward into a smile. He knew absolutely nothing about the vampire who bit him. In fact, Travis was certain that the other vampire had meant for him to be a next meal and not intended to turn him into a vampire. Travis had been lucky--if you could really call it luck--because the vampire had chased him into a dark alleyway and the stench of some disregarded garlic in one of the dumpsters had driven away the vampire. However, the vampire had still managed to bite Travis in the throat before taking off, leaving Travis with enough venom within his veins to circulate in his system and turn him into a vampire.
It had taken Travis days just to accept what he’d become. He had refused to believe it at first because vampires were not supposed to be real; they were the stuff of nightmares, the things that existed in horror stories and creepy, Halloween movies. In the end though, he had not been able to resist the burning thirst for blood and he had acted purely on instinct, taking down his first victim. It had been a woman of all people, one who was out to do some late night shopping, perhaps intent on beating the crowds. Travis would never be able to forget her screams or the look of horror on her face; he would remember that for the rest of his life. It was the only reason why he was grateful vampires did not dream, because he was certain that he would have had nightmares about her every day.
It was soon after that that he had begun to track down the vampire who had bitten him. It turned out that the other vampire had actually been watching him for some time, apparently curious. When they confronted each other face to face, however, it turned out that the other vampire wanted nothing more than for him to perish, for at least a couple of reasons. One reason was that he did not like the idea of other vampires in his “territory”, competing for food. The other reason was that two vampires in the same area were more conspicuous.
They had ended up playing cat and mouse with each other for at least a week, always during the night because they always had to go to sleep in a dark place where light could never penetrate whenever the sun came out. Eventually Travis managed to subdue the other vampire and thrust a stake through his foe’s heart, setting the body afire afterwards to ascertain his death.
Thus, in the end, Travis had had his revenge and felt quite pleased with himself for getting rid of a public menace. The only problem was that he was the public menace now in his own way, and he was just as much a monster as the other vampire had been.
So, in the end, what did it really matter that he had taken down another vampire? He was a danger to everyone around him. However, the fact that he knew he had taken an innocent life helped him maintain control, at least to some extent. Every time he thought about that poor woman he had killed, he could still hear her screams and smell her terror like a sickening sweet scent. Somehow, vampires could sense fear and feel drawn to it like a bee to a sweet-scented flower. That alone made him even more disgusted with himself.
In addition, his first victim had been wearing a gold band on her ring finger. What if she had been a mother? She was a young woman and it was possible that she could have had an infant or toddler. She could have been pregnant. He had no way of knowing one way or another, but the fact that the possibility existed haunted him to no end. Somewhere out there a husband grieved for the loss of his wife, and possibly a young child would have to grow up without a mother.
Travis’s face contorted with pain and anger as he stepped away from the new corpse, putting some distance between himself and it. He could not continue to exist like this. He was no longer alive anyway; mirrors and store windows did not show his reflection when he tried to see what he looked like and the thirst for blood was the only thing that drove him on. He had considered the idea of just ending it all many times, knowing that he had options. He could stay outside until the sun came out and allow it to fry him, or he could swallow some garlic or drive a stake through his own heart.
Nevertheless, part of him wanted a more noble death than mere suicide. Why could he not have simply died a victim of that other vampire? Better yet, why could he not have died during the battle with the other vampire? If both of them had died, that would have solved all problems.
I could always become a vampire hunter I suppose, he thought wryly, and then dismissed the idea. He had no idea where to search for other vampires, even though he was sure they were out there somewhere. Surely, he was not the only one left simply because he had taken care of the one that turned him. One thing that vampires seemed good about was covering their tracks and keeping a low profile. How else would they keep their existence hidden, allowing the general public to dismiss their existence as mere stories?
He sighed heavily, and turned back to look at the corpse. He supposed that he should disregard it one way or another, considering it would not do to leave it in the middle of the park. He was certain that someone would find it eventually and take care of it, but he was not in a habit to leave a mess behind. If one camped somewhere, the rule of thumb was to leave the campsite cleaner than when you found it. If you killed your prey, it was best to clean up the site afterwards and put the carcass somewhere so that it would not be an eyesore or smell up the area.
Travis grimaced in disgust. What kind of a sick being had he become where he could trivialize murder? You became a vampire, it is what you are, part of his mind told him.
He shut his eyes briefly, allowing a moment of shame to pass over him. When he opened his eyes, he turned back toward the body, preparing himself to go dump it down a sewer drain or something, when he suddenly froze. His eyes widened in surprise at what he saw.
There was an enormous creature moving toward him, something that resembled a very large dog. No, it was far too vicious-looking to be a dog, not to mention the mangy and unkempt fur; it looked more like a wolf, even if its size suggested it to be a small bear.
It’s definitely a wolf… or something like a wolf, he thought, narrowing his eyes at the sight of it. The creature was a shaggy beast that moved along on all fours, growling softly as salvia dripped from its bared teeth. It had a muscular upper body and a distinct wolf-like head that was somehow beautiful and terrible at the same time, much like looking at a magnificent animal that could bite off your head at any moment. The fur was coal black, shading to sort of a grayish underbelly, and the eyes were blood red and somehow seemed to hold a keen intelligence.
Those eyes sent a metaphorical chill down his spine; they looked so much like the substance that he consumed whenever he could not resist his thirst any longer. Looking at those eyes did not make him thirsty, but it compounded the horror of what he had just done--what he had done many nights.
Travis looked away momentarily, forcing himself to stop focusing on the eyes. A few moments later, he had managed to regain his composure, and he looked at the beast again. He remained perfectly still, watching in calm fascination as the beast came forward and towered over the corpse, sniffing it. What did he have to fear anyway? He was not truly alive, and he had already seen and done things he never thought anyone would have to see or do. So perhaps it was for this reason that this wolf-beast did not shock him all that much.
The wolf creature began to eat the corpse, filling the night air with the sounds of knawing flesh and bone crunching between strong teeth. Obviously, the furry beast was hungry, and it made short work of the corpse that he was more than finished with. The sick, vampire part of his mind wondered if the body tasted less succulent considering it had no blood in it, once again making him wonder if he was gradually losing what humanity he still had left in him. Regardless, the furry creature downed the corpse in just a couple of minutes, leaving only the clothing behind in disregarded shreds.
When the wolf-creature finished its meal, it sat on its haunches and licked its chops, raising its head to glance toward the sky. Travis was not sure what it was doing or what it was looking at; perhaps it was merely savoring the taste of its meal, or something. After a moment or two, those blood red wolf eyes turned to regard him. Their eyes met and they simply stared at each other in silence for a few moments.
To his surprise, the wolf actually spoke. “You’re not like the others.” The voice was deep and gravelly, but there was something about the tenure that somehow made it seem… less masculine.
It took Travis a moment to recover from his surprise that the beast could speak. “What others?” he asked.
“Humans. You know, normal people.”
“Ah,” Travis said. “Well, I’m not human.”
The furry creature glanced down at the tattered remains of the clothing. “This flesh did not have blood in it,” the wolf said. “I take it you’re responsible?”
Travis bowed his head. “Yes, I am.”
The wolf-creature narrowed its eyes and pressed its ears flat against its skull. “Vampire?” it asked.
For a moment, there was only silence, and then the furry creature nodded. “I am a werewolf,” it said. “Not my choice, but I… cope.” That was when Travis noticed that the face did not seem quite so ferocious now; the eyes held traces of sadness and hopelessness, and for once Travis felt as though he was looking in a mirror and seeing the things he had been feeling for so long.
“Have you killed?” the vampire asked in spite of himself.
The werewolf growled. “No. That is I… well; I try to refrain from killing. I get very hungry, but I only eat things that are already dead or I hunt animals. I never kill a person.”
“You could try drinking animals, couldn’t you?” the werewolf mused, cocking its head to one side.
“I can’t, they never satisfy,” Travis sighed with regret. “I always thirst for human blood, and…” He stared down at his bare feet, forlornly. “Nothing else will cut it,” he admitted with shame.
“That is… very unfortunate,” the werewolf said after a moment. “You seem like a very kind person, for a vampire.”
“That’s far more than I deserve,” Travis replied. “For whatever it’s worth though, you seem very kind for a werewolf.”
Another few moments of silence passed, where each of them simply looked at each other, again. Travis knew that they had sort of an empathy with each other now; they each knew how the other felt, at least to some degree.
“I have a feeling you never wanted to be a werewolf any more than I wanted to be a vampire,” Travis mused aloud.
The werewolf lowered its head and whimpered. “No, I never wanted to be like this,” it acknowledged mournfully. “In my human form I am beautiful, but whenever the sun sets, I turn into this. I think the curse has something to do with the moon--at least it responds to the movements of the moon and the Earth--but it happens whether it is cloudy or not.”
“Does it happen every night, or only when there is a full moon?” Travis asked curiously.
The werewolf grunted. “Every night,” it said bitterly. “I thought that this was only supposed to happen when a full moon appeared, but… I guess as long as there is even a sliver of moonlight; I still turn into this beast.”
The hairy creature looked up at the sky again. The clouds were thick and heavy like an ominous blanket coating the sky; it was impossible to see the moon. Yet both of them knew it was up there, the catalyst for the werewolf’s… condition. “I wonder what it would be like during the night of an eclipse,” it mused aloud. “Would I stay human, then?”
The vampire had no answer for that, so he did not bother attempting to answer the question. Instead, he asked, “What is your name?” In all honestly, Travis had not thought about names all that much until this very moment, because such forms of identity seemed useless and trivial when you were murdering monster who would be undead for the rest of eternity. Yet he was rather curious about its name for some reason.
“Why do you want to know my name?” The werewolf cocked its head to one side, narrowing its eyes.
“Just wondering,” Travis shrugged, wondering why it was acting skeptical. It is probably not used to being asked its name while looking like this, he thought. “My name is Travis Jordan; at least it was while I was human.”
“Does that mean you’ve changed it?”
“Then why do you say it ‘was’ your name?”
“Because I am no longer human.”
The werewolf seemed to consider that for a moment. “Is there something else you’d rather go by? Such as ‘Count’ or ‘Pearly Fangs’ or ‘White Skin’ or something?”
“Uh… no, not really.”
“Then ‘Travis’ it is.” The werewolf grunted and shifted its position to scratch an itch near its rib cage, using the claws on one of its hind legs. Travis used his keen night vision to peer at the area it was scratching, yet could see no evidence of fleas or other parasites. Then again, it was hard to tell in all that fur.
“My name is Melissa,” the werewolf said when it-she-finally stopped scratching.
“Then you are a girl,” the vampire said.
“What did you think I was?”
“I wasn’t exactly sure, though part of me had guessed since you said you are beautiful in your human form,” Travis said with a shrug.
“You aren’t flirting with me, are you?” Melissa snorted. “No offense but fleas aren’t exactly my type; I’ve had my fair share of those anyway.” She scratched another itch as if to emphasize her point.
He shook his head. “I’m not flirting with you.” I haven’t even tried flirting with anyone ever since this happened to me, he thought sourly. What girl would possibly be interested in him, except perhaps another vampire? Even then, having another vampire around would not be a good thing; it would just be another public menace.
“That’s good,” Melissa snorted. “Besides, I think we could both say that I don’t exactly look my best.”
“You look fine to me.”
“Yeah right,” the werewolf huffed. “I look like a big shaggy dog from someone’s nightmare… or from a horror movie. My life has been ruined ever since this happened to me. I am a college student, yet I never get any rest because I have to sneak out during the night so that no one catches me like this. My grades are doing poorly, and sometimes I’m not even sure what I do while I’m out here. Disgusting, horrible things I’m sure.” She glanced at the torn remains of clothing and visibly shuddered.
“But you seem to be doing fine right now,” Travis mused with a thoughtful frown. “We’re talking like two civilized beings.”
“Maybe it’s because you’re speaking to me like a civilized being,” Melissa said. She seemed to ponder that for a few seconds. “It does help keep me… focused, to have someone speaking to me,” she said. “I still feel a hunger burning inside of me, but speaking to you… it keeps me occupied.”
“Maybe it’s because I’m speaking to your humanity,” Travis said. “Have you tried speaking to anyone before?”
The werewolf’s ears pressed flat against her skull and she growled. “What do you think?” she snarled. “If I go near anyone normal, anyone human, they’d be scared to death of me. And I certainly couldn’t talk to anyone else.”
“Why did you approach me in the first place?” the vampire asked curiously.
Melissa’s blood red eyes blinked, as though she had not even thought about it herself. “I don’t know,” she finally said. “I don’t think I even saw you at first. I only saw the corpse, and I just felt so hungry… I couldn’t resist it.”
“Well, it doesn’t matter,” Travis said, taking a tentative step toward her.
She stiffened, but made no threatening moves. “You’re taking a pretty big chance, don’t you know that?” she said.
“I think if you were going to do anything you would have done it already.” Travis took another tentative step.
Melissa sighed. “What do you want?” she asked, her tone a mixture of wary resignation.
“Just to talk, and to get to know you better,” Travis told her. “I think we can both agree that we’re lonely, and neither of us asked to be this way.”
She looked at him then, and she seemed to poke through her emotional wall just a little more. Her wolf face was no longer a mask; it showed the pain, loneliness and despair she had been feeling for some time.
“Tell me about you, then,” she requested. “What happened? How did you become like this?”
Travis inhaled deeply, a habit he had retained from his days as a normal human; vampires had no real need to breath. He then told her his sad tale, giving her plenty of details when she asked, simply because he felt she deserved to know and he doubted he would ever get the chance to share his story with anyone else who would have hope of understanding.
By the time he finished, the clouds had parted and he knew that sunrise was coming. Melissa had to get back to her dorm room and Travis had to get back to his hiding place, lest he burn up in the sunlight.
“I guess this is goodbye,” Melissa said wistfully.
“For now,” Travis amended. “We could meet back here tomorrow night.”
The werewolf’s ears perked up. “I’d like that,” she said.
“And tomorrow you can tell me your story,” Travis added.
“I will,” she promised. “I just wish you could see me in my human form. I look so much… better.” She whined plaintively.
Travis smiled slightly and reached toward her face, brushing her furry cheek with his fingertips. “Trust me, you are beautiful the way you are.”
She growled and shrank away from his touch. “How can you say that? I’m hideous!”
“But you have a wonderful personality. You should be proud of that.”
“My personality is nothing when I look like a wild animal and act like one sometimes. I can never be seen with any of my friends at night!”
Travis sighed. “We’ll talk more tonight, I really need to go.”
“So do I. Take care of yourself, Travis.”
Then they parted ways.