Warmed by the afternoon sun, new blossoms upon the nearby bushes gave the air a floral perfume of lavender and rose. Birds sang at the edge of hearing. Aside from the movement and laughter of men and women celebrating the arrival of spring, the park was still and quiet.
Two men sat together on a bench in the shade of an old oak tree. The park was a place that had become very familiar; they did enjoy change but tended to find themselves falling into a routine. The lake, a mile or so down the road, had a nice breeze but there were usually far too many people there to get comfortable. Instead, they sat on their bench, beneath their tree, where they would not be disturbed. They’d shared a bench every day for a long while. Most of the time it would be one man talking about anything that popped into his head while the other tried to read.
The man with long charry brown hair sat back on the bench with a book in hand, occasionally flipping a page with the flick of a finger. He was doing his best to ignore his companion, who fidgeted in his seat.
“Whose idea was it to make this many layers of clothing fashionable?” his companion said miserably, pulling at his tie. “I swear, if I find out I’m going to hunt them down and eat them.” He pulled his legs up in front of him at an awkward angle and swung his arms over the back of the bench, somehow more comfortable than when he’d been sitting normally.
“Stop it, Grendel,” he said without taking his eyes from his book. “If you keep that up, you’re going to make yourself look like a tramp.” He glanced over only to see that it was already too late; Grendel’s tie was hanging loose and wrinkled.
Grendel noticed the sidelong stare glanced down. He straightened his tie as best he could. “Will you be embarrassed to be seen with me, Dexter?”
Dexter gave him a disapproving look. “Yes,” he said flatly, turning back to his book and ignoring the other’s frown.
“Oh?” He swung his legs out and let his head fall into Dexter’s lap. Dexter shifted his hips and lifted his book in a single practised twist. Grendel looked up at him as if he was a child beginning to whine. “I’m hungry.”
He flipped another page. “Then go get someone to eat.”
“Aren’t you coming with me?”
“I already ate yesterday,” he said in the same flat tone.
“Without me?” His brow furrowed petulantly. “How rude.” As quickly as it had come, though, the mood was gone. “What are you reading? Is it any good? I read a book about blood drinkers the other day.” He plucked the book from Dexter’s hand and held it above his own head. “An explorer’s account of Eastern European stories. I don’t get why they are always depicted as being so nasty.”
“Because we are nasty,” Dexter said as he snatched his book back.
Grendel stared up at the sky for a moment, thinking. “I don’t think we are,” he said, looking back to Dexter with puppy-dog eyes.
“No one ever sees themselves as the villain. You have to keep in mind that these stories are written by humans and for humans.”
“Well, maybe I’ll write my own book.” Grendel’s grin widened and he poked his friend in the chest. “It could be about me and you.”
“Why would anyone want to read a story about us?” His voice was just as flat as before, but the beginnings of a grin made the corner of his lips rise.
“Because we’re amazing!” Grendel leapt up and spun in his seat, thinking himself a genius for the idea. “You know, if you think about it, humans are far more brutal than us.” With his hands stretched out against the seat of the bench he leaned back and looked up at the sky, allowing the occasional beams of light to flash across his face as the warm breeze ruffled the leaves of the trees above. “I mean, they eat, what, five times a day? And most of their meals contain meat. Besides, the way they kill their animals is a lot harsher than how we do it.” He glanced over at his friend to see if Dexter was paying attention to him. “We only eat once a week and we let people run around willy-nilly and have a good life beforehand.”
“I’m not disagreeing with you; I’m only saying that they have reason to fear us.” He turned another page of his book, not wanting to get back into this same conversation again.
After a long minute of silence and contemplation, Grendel finally spoke again. “Well, I think it’s stupid. I don’t like being thought of as evil or nasty.”
“This coming from the necrophiliac,” Dexter said under his breath.
Grendel shot a cool glance over to him. “What was that?”
Dexter closed his eyes and heaved a long sigh. “Nothing. Go get someone to eat.” He looked out to the lake and his eyes became fixed in front of himself, almost as if he was lost to all that was around him. “There,” he said, pointing toward the lakeside a mile away. “That girl over there.”
Grendel’s face scrunched up as he fixed his eyes to the same spot. “Nah. I don’t like her nose.”
“Hm?” Dexter moved his head close to Grendel’s and looked back out into the lake. “Oh, no, not that one. The one on the other side of the lake.” He moved Grendel’s head a little to the right.
Grendel looked much happier as he jumped to his feet. “She should do,” he said with a smile.
“Don’t do anything stupid,” Dexter said, his attention already back to his book.
Grendel turned to face him as he ran, still taking a few steps backwards. “I’ve been doing this for thousands of years! I think I know what I’m doing.”
Dexter waved his hand distractedly in the direction Grendel had run. “That’s what you said about Pompeii, and we all know how that went.”
A few minutes later Grendel was on the other side of the lake, just outside of the tree line, watching the girl throw some bread to the ducks that had gathered nearby. He flashed a seemingly innocent smile at her, and she blushed and looked away.
He waited for her to glance back over before waving at her ever so slightly. Something told her she should ignore him, but she found him too irresistible to ignore for long. A few minutes later she was walking his way.
He stood his ground as she walked over to where he was standing. “What’s a handsome man doing peeking on a lady such as myself?” she asked, finding herself flirting more than she had intended to.
“Just hunting,” he said as he pushed himself away from the tree, taking a few steps closer to her.
“Hunting?” Part of her began to feel like she should run the other way, but her heart would not listen to what her brain told her to do.
“Yes. You see...” He took another step forward and leaned in close to whisper in her ear. “They say there are monsters in these woods. I was hoping for your company, and help to find one.”
“That sounds a bit silly.” She normally wouldn’t let any man this close to her, not even those she had known for a long time, but somehow she felt comfortable around him.
Grendel placed his hand on his own chest in disbelief. “You think I’m silly?” His brow creased as if he had been upset by what she had said.
“Well, no,” she began, not wanting to hurt his feelings. “I just...” She scrambled to think of the words she wanted to use.
He smiled at her. “No need for words,” he said as he took her hand. “Just join me.” She didn’t see him look quickly around to make sure no one was watching them as he led her deep into the woods.
Grendel leaned against a tree, rubbing his tongue against his enlarged canines as he gazed upon the dead girl sprawled out on the ivy that lined the forest floor.
In the far distance were two wolves making their way to where she lay. “Come on,” he said impatiently. “I don’t have all day.” They eyed him as they approached. “She’s all yours,” he said with a smile.
He turned his head as the first one ripped into her skin. He couldn’t remember a time in his life when he didn’t need blood to survive, but ever since that one night, he couldn’t bear the sight of it. He glanced back to see if he would be able to stomach the little blood that was left. Not even a half-second later he spun away again, fighting back the urge to vomit. No, he thought to himself, still can’t do it.