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The Elder – Part Four (Finale)

<< The Elder – Part Three

She was sewing the hem of her new pair of pants when the police rang the doorbell.

Mr. Brooks kicked and trashed for all he was worth but the massive men pried him from the woman and subdued him.
“She’s dead,” the Alpha said. “Wrap her up.”
The wound in her neck seemed consistent with the one on the first body. The Elders would enjoy having one more proof against the stupid newborn who exposed them. As if the werewolves witnessing a public feeding wasn’t enough for the old man to receive the ultimate bite. At least there wasn’t any human around.
“Calm down, vampy. You’re neck deep in shit no matter what you do now. Don’t force me to bite you.” While the Alpha could probably get away with the execution without a trial if it proved necessary, he would lose his pay bonus for sure.
Mr. Brooks lost his will to fight as soon as the feeding frenzy receded. “What are you?” The smell of his assailants wrinkled his nose.
“To you, I’m ‘yeah sure, Officer’,” the Alpha growled for emphasis before he turned to his men. One of them threw the wrapped cadaver over his shoulder. “Good, let’s go.”
Mr. Brooks knew he was no match for the young, strongly built pack and opposed no resistance when they carried him out a minute before the train arrived.
Their secrets were safe.

She paled as soon as she saw the uniforms and almost fainted when she looked at the officers’ face. All the papers had written about how deformed the body was when it washed up on the beach. Twenty-five, brown hair. And her son hadn’t answered his cellphone when she called.
She phased out while the officers explained the reason of their visit. She didn’t need to hear it. She didn’t want to. She nodded at irregular intervals and thanked them when they offered their condolences. They weren’t sure when her son’s body would be released for the burial.
She closed the door when they turned their back and crumbled to the floor.

Mr. Brooks couldn’t stop staring – though he had been properly raised not to do so. The hall rose several feet high, like a cathedral despite being underground. The soft lighting revealed frescoes showing a variety of sharply fanged monsters battling against furry ones. The far wall showed both species shaking hands.
The characters towered over a row of six people, half of them rather flimsy compared to their over-build neighbours.
“Or are they?” Mr. Brooks wondered.
A sizable audience sat in the bleachers around the room, silent and oppressive. The mix of scents tickled Mr. Brooks’ nose. Some spectators were like him. Some were like ‘yeah sure, Officer.’

The Alpha pushed Mr. Brooks to the central area while his man unwrapped the body on a nearby table.
“Noble Elders!” The Alpha and his men curtsied. “I deliver the vampire responsible for the recent fiasco. We witnessed him killing in the SkyTrain station this very night.”
“Bloody hell!” The tall and skinny vampire in his twenties wore an old looking velvet coat. “Have you no control grandpa?”
“Have you no respect for your elders?” Mr. Brooks had no intention to let a kid bully him.
The crowd gasped but the young man sitting directly to the left of the first speaker burst into laughter, his large cowboy hat’s shadow barely hiding his reddened face. “Quite a wise ass that one, huh?” The crowd burst in laughter. “You were turned what? A month ago tops? You wouldn’t think so because he got stuck in Victorian London but he’s a thousand years old.”
“And you’re mad as a hatter if you thought we’d let your messy kills slide! Ultimate bite!”
The Alpha moved in to execute the sentence.
“It’s not my fault. It just takes over!”
The crowd suddenly grew completely silent.
Mr. Brooks wasn’t necessarily against his death; it was better than having a hunger attack while he was with his daughter. However, he didn’t want to be accused without proper trial.
“You wait for the frenzy to kick in before you feed?” The woman looked like a living statue.
“I didn’t know I had to feed like that. And when it’s gone I don’t have the force to move the body.” Mr. Brooks hated how whiny he sounded but he wouldn’t let a dog-smelling man maul him for something he had no control over.
“Tell me, kiddo,” Cowboy Hat said, “who turned you?”
Mr. Brooks shrugged. “I don’t know anything about this.”
“That explains why he isn’t more scared of Drake. Or us.” The woman whispered to the Englishman. “Wolves are our Kryptonite.” She added for Mr. Brooks benefit. “The only thing that can kill us, really. And vice versa.”
“Don’t educate him! He deserves death,” the Englishman belted. The crowd approved.
“But he has no idea what he’s into!” the woman said.
“Yep. His maker’s the one I’d rip to shreds.” The crowd shut up. “Seriously, who’s the dumbass who turned a grandpa to begin with?”
“Likely an accident.”
“Which makes him dumbasser.” Cowboy stood up. “All in favour of adopting the newborn pappy and shredding his sorry excuse for a maker, growl.”
The sound was deafening and everything had happened very fast but somehow, Mr. Brooks was at peace. With his new family’s help, he might be able to visit his daughter without risk.

In her house, a mother cried the loss of her son. Alone. Forgotten.
That was where her husband found her when he came back from work after picking the two remaining kids up at school.


The Elder – Part Three

<< The Elder – Part Two

Dear Journal,
God knows I’ve shared some crazy things with you over the years but these past few days have no equal.

The woman’s cellphone rang. In the silence of the station, Mr. Brooks couldn’t avoid hearing the conversation.
“I’m not going, Pat,” she said, her smooth voice layered with both annoyance and hurt. “I’m starving. I’m beat.” She snapped her mouth shut on another justification. “Ah for God sake! We had one fight. I don’t need a pity party.” The voice at the other end of the line rose enough for Mr. Brooks to hear it humming. “Because he’ll get his pride in check and be back out of his mom’s skirt before the end of the month.”
“But it’s been two weeks!” the unidentified voice said.
The woman grunted and hung up. Her piercing blue eyes dared Mr. Brooks to make a comment – enough for anyone without a pacemaker to skip a heartbeat.
“Sorry. My wine’s gone to help my daughter through a rough night.”
She laughed and relaxed against the stiff bench. “At least I got off work early.”
There wasn’t anything else to say, really. Mr. Brooks shifted his weight on the bench. The wine strained on his bladder and he doubted he would make it home clean. He looked at his watch: fifteen minutes was plenty of time. He rose from the bench and began his slow walk toward the bathroom. He hadn’t made three steps when his foot slipped on an oily residue.
A puff of pizza smell stopped his backward fall.
“Why don’t I accompany you?” The woman said, her hand still on his shoulder after setting him straight. “Bathroom break’s a wise initiative.” She slid her twisted metal stick in a pocket and walked with Mr. Brooks.

I never found a dead body until this week. I’m not really surprised I had nightmares about it; they’re apparently down to dental records to figure out who that “what” used to be. But what’s really bugging me is the number of gaps in my memory lately. That can’t be normal, can it?

The Vancouver Elders were antsy; the hounds hadn’t tracked any culprit down. The community provided bits of information but nothing case-closing. The morgue attendant had been scolded. The press controllers had been starved for two days, then returned to their position so they could help the ones infiltrated in the police keep the identity of the victim out of the papers; they didn’t want to rekindle the public’s attention.
Still, the Vancouver Elders were running out of scapegoats to appease their international peers.
“We picked up the smell in the SkyTrain,” the alpha werewolf reported. “It’s hard to track, what with the stink and all. And the stations’ air is too filtered and conditioned. We’re canvassing.”
“Bloody hell.” The first elder received a dark look from his neighbour who then turned to address the werewolf.
“Thanks man.”
The werewolf bowed and headed out, eager to join his pack to track the owner of the smell left on the murdered human. He found his job thrilling, and though the SkyTrain station was hardly a pleasant place for a sensitive nose, the pay bonus for the catch would settle a few gambling debts.

How did I fall asleep with my salad on my lap? I can’t even remember what was playing on the TV when I nodded off. I’m such a light sleeper; I should have heard my father come in! His visit calmed me but I’m fuzzy on some part of that conversation too. Maybe it’s the lack of sleep and intake of alcohol.
I should call the psychologist the police recommended.

Mr. Brooks uneasily accepted the unsolicited help. They parted at the men bathroom door. The woman continued to the women’s; Mr. Brooks released the breath he had been holding and limped toward the urinal.
Burgundy liquid streamed out, biting with its alcohol content and leaving resonance space for Mr. Brooks stomach’s growl.
“Damn it! Not again.”
He zipped up his pants, cleaned his hands and headed out only to collide with the woman. The cellphone and its half written text message flew five foot away while its owner and Mr. Brooks crumbled with a couple of yelps.
The twisted metal stick clattered next to Mr. Brooks’ shoulder and the woman landed on top of him.
“Are you alright?” She scooted aside and winced when her knee hit the stick. She picked it up.
All Mr. Brooks could hear was the blood thumping. And thumping. The bump of his pouch pressed against his flank. His vision blurred.
“Oh my gosh! I am so sorry!”
“Not as sorry as I am.”
In a move too fast for the eye – a survival reflex of supernatural nature –, Mr. Brooks’ hand closed around his corkscrew, snapped it open and stuck it in the woman’s jugular. Mr. Brooks pulled her on him and closed his mouth around the open wound.
She tried to struggle but when hunger took over, there was nothing either of them could do.
As Mr. Brooks drank, he thought about the next step. Fresh feeding should give him the strength to dump her body on the tracks. Mulching should disguise his involvement. He didn’t have any other choice.
A howl resounded in the station.

The Elder – Part Four >>

The Elder – Part Two

<< The Elder – Part One

Vampires, harken the blood hunt’s call. The hounds have been released.

Edith’s doorbell rang and she stiffened. Every time she had risen from her couch, she had returned to it minutes later after slamming the door on the nose of another journalist. She was halfway through her DVD collection as she didn’t dare to step outside yet and avoided TV for fear of hearing more details about the body she found.
The doorbell rang again.
With a heartfelt grunt, Edith dropped her bowl of barely touched salad on the coffee table and fought her way out of the couch. If only people stopped reminding her of that morning on the beach, maybe the nightmares would finally cease.
On her front porch, a smartly dressed man stood, unabashed by the weight of summer’s heat. The night hardly brought any freshness. Edith began closing the door as soon as she saw the notepad in his hand.
He stuck his foot in the doorframe. “Pardon my intrusion, Miss Brooks -”
“- Hell no!” she snapped, reopening the door so she could look the disrespectful journalist in the eye while she gave him a piece of her mind. “You invasive cockroaches don’t deserve pardon.” She wanted to yell “Leave me alone!” but something in the visitor’s eyes locked the words deep in her throat.
“Now now,” he murmured, “that is no way to address a visitor.”
Edith shook her head no. A strand of hair escaped her loose bun and fell in her eyes. For a moment, her mind seemed to push through the fog.
Almost tenderly, the man reached and pushed the hair back behind her ear. His hand was way too cold for the weather. Edith’s heartbeat sped, panic kindled her survival instinct. It pounded against her skull, each thump echoing with the same imperative: run.
But she couldn’t move. Couldn’t shout.
When the journalist took a step forward, she took a step back. He closed the door behind him with his foot, never breaking eye contact. Edith kept looking at his pupils, oscillating left and right almost too quickly for the eye to follow.
“I have a few questions for you,” was the last thing Edith heard before the hypnotic movement of the intruder’s eyes lay its leaden weight on her shoulders.
She wasn’t scared anymore.
He smiled – a half grin, crooked on the right – and flipped his pad open.

Per tradition, members of the community must assist in any way they can. Failure to do so is punishable by starvation. Aiding the hunted, punishable by the ultimate bite.

“Darling?” Mr. Brooks shook his daughter gently until she came to. “Are you okay? Maybe I should come back some other time?”
Edith blinked a few times fast until dizziness stopped blurring her father’s wrinkles. She took in the lettuce littering her lap and the couch. She had been so tired.
“What a klutz!” She smiled – a half grin, crooked on the right. “Sleep finally caught up with me.”
Mr. Brooks’ wrinkles deepened, swallowing his traits in the abyss of worry. “I’m so sorry you saw that.”
“You can’t protect me from everything.” Edith grabbed her bowl and collected her ruined salad. She never fell asleep so suddenly before.
“Right!” Mr. Brooks shifted his weight. “I can help it go down!”
He pointed the bottle of wine on the dinner table. His daughter nodded. Mr. Brooks pushed himself off the couch and grabbed his cane hooked on the arm rest. As he limped toward the kitchen, he reached in the small pouch tied to his belt. Edith’s smile straightened and deepened. When she was little, the pouch always had a reserve of lollipops in it, next to her father’s wallet and house keys. Over the years, candies turned into medicine, the wallet and keys changed but one element remained untouched; the corkscrew.
Edith took the decanter and two wine glasses out of the China cabinet; her father couldn’t reach that high.
“And a glass for my teeth, please,” he said. He hated it when denture glue altered the wine.

If the culprit is a vampire trying to disguise his or her kills, he or she could be anywhere by now. Restrain any suspect and bring him or her to your local Elder Assembly for smell comparison.
If it’s a sick human playing pretend, bleed him or her dry after you’ve confirmed culpability under compulsion.
Find the sucker!

Mr. Brooks left his daughter’s house a little bit after midnight. She offered to drive him back home but he refused. It wasn’t safe for her to drive, all tired and half drunk. Mr. Brooks told her he intended to walk as much as possible while he still could. And he loved taking the SkyTrain at night.
The station was thoroughly lit and perfectly empty when Mr. Brooks found a bench to settle on. So the entrance of a woman in a yellow uniform t-shirt drew his attention instantaneously – nothing to do with the curves and pouty lips that would have eclipsed the intellect of any younger man.
The woman sat at the other end of Mr. Brooks’ bench and pulled a twisted metal stick out of her bun. Her black hair cascaded down her back. She ran her fingers through them while absentmindedly twirling the stick between the fingers of her other hand.
The station filled with the smell of pizza.

Coming next Friday: The Elder – Part Three >>

The Elder – Part One

Vancouver, BC – The body of a twenty-five year old boy drifted ashore this morning, drained of all its blood.

The news spread like wildfire. The whole town talked about that murder before the morning’s coffee break. Helped by blogs, Twitter and other Internet channels, the news rippled further and the whole world swapped opinions during lunch. By the time the woman who found the body washed her dishes after dinner, she had already been asked plenty of times if the yet-to-be-identified victim had two puncture wounds. She received a bunch of emails about it too.
That was bound to happen when popular culture drilled the idea of vampires in everybody’s head.
“I should never have given the first interview to begin with,” she yelled in the receiver, hanging up on the last of the regional newspaper.

Edith Brooks made a gruesome discovery while taking her usual walk along the Pacific shore. She stumbled upon the half decomposed body of a young man that probably reached the beach sometime during the night.
Forensics have yet to identify the body. So far, we know the man was about twenty-five years old with brown hair. He would have been killed at least two weeks ago. The official cause of death is a wound to the neck that caused him to lose all his blood.

While everyone shuddered and whispered about the horrifying event, the vampire society tensed and investigated – an attempt to figure out if one of their own was indeed responsible. Negligently disposed of leftovers was a punishable offense and they had every intention to make someone pay.
“It’s bloody enough for the movies to desecrate our name, I’ll do without a second inquisition!” One of the elders snapped at the assembly. The decibels rarely rose within that room – supernatural hearing and all – but everyone was on edge tonight.
To the elder’s outcry, murmurs answered. Some disliked his passion, others agreed with his outrage and a small portion mumbled that they rather liked some of said movies.
“Calm down, yall.” The assembly always liked that elder and were quick to obey. “The first vampire I’d summon is the morgue supervisor. Where’s that dumbass?”
The crowd agreed in a unified roar. That vampire should be starved for his failure to dampen the news – not that it made sense to blame the guy with no ties to the press and who slept like everyone else when the body’s autopsy was rushed in at 8 o’clock am.
He would also be able to explain his contradictory report: traces of vampire smell on the body but only one small puncture wound made with sharp, slowly spinning object.

The police are doing everything they can to identify the body and contact the next of kin. They hope that the victim’s whereabouts before his death, along with the evidence left on his body, will lead to an arrest.

A few miles east, in Burnaby, a brown haired mother leaned in the doorframe of her eldest son’s empty bedroom. He had left home three weeks ago to get an apartment with his girlfriend in the city.
The mother hoped her son was alright; she never liked the girlfriend.
It was just weird for a young woman to be ecstatic about working nights at a pizza joint.

Coming next Friday: The Elder – Part Two >>

The Hunger

Today is my friend Alyssa’s birthday. For the occasion, the NaSties dubbed the week “Vampire Appreciation Week”.
As you know, I’m in a sprint to finish my novel (only 10/15k words left! Yay!). Yet, I wanted to write a story for Alyssa because she deserves it. I haven’t but as much time on it as I usually do (or as I wanted to do), but I hope it still makes a awesome gift.
Happy Birthday, lovely Alyssa, and may this year fulfill your heart’s desires.

* * *

I remember what it was like to be human. I’m too young a vampire to have forgotten yet. I don’t want my memories to disappear in the fog of years; I enjoy comparing them with what I live now. Or is “live” the appropriate word?
I recall how hunger felt like when I was human. The stomach seemed to fold onto itself, shrinking like a dried fruit. The dull pain of its complaint barely disturbed me at first, then intensified until eating became an imperative. Sometimes, a humiliating growl gave away my condition to everyone within hearing range. If I starved for too long, I got a headache. Eventually, I saw stars though the sky was nowhere near. That was the “eat or faint” threshold. I never went further than that limit.
Hunger, as a vampire, is another experience altogether. People might want to argue semantic because we are on a liquid diet but thirst doesn’t cover the feeling. Human thirst caused me to feel dizzy and weak. Hunger was what drove me forward in my quest for sustenance. Because of that, hunger is more accurate to describe a vampire’s craving, though it hardly covers the feeling.
The only context in which thirst seems appropriate is when I apply a Scottish proverb to my life. “They speak of my drinking, but never of my thirst.” It might be true for human drunks. It is just as true for vampires. People never talk about what we feel but only about our death toll. They’re unaware of our restraint, ungrateful for our constant effort.

Humans would like us to drink from animals. Yet, do they find garbage a viable life choice for themselves? No.
They might propose blood banks as an alternative. Is it healthy for them to live off three weeks old chicken? “Heat it up and it’ll be the same” really doesn’t fix it.
Synthetic blood is the silly dream of a mad woman.
Human blood, straight from the source, quenches the hunger. Nothing else.

I step outside my mansion and the wind instantaneously engulfs me. Its caresses arouse every patch of naked skin it finds. Though I have no need for it, I breathe in the scent of the night, of the storm soon to break. I close my eyes to dwell in the feelings.
The air weighs on my body, full of humidity and expectations. It calls for the rain, singing for the glorious release of the night sky to wash away the heath of the day. It carries the scent of humans which hums against my throat until saliva fills my mouth.
It has been a week since I last fed. The hunger is barely stirring and yet, its strength is almost implacable. As it kicks in, the winds’ kisses turn to bites. My skin shies away from the touch of the night but covering it with clothes only makes matters worst. So I leave it to suffer as the first drop of rain stabs me. 

That’s hunger.

My eyes snap open and I know they have taken their unreal shimmering tint. The dancing lights within them hypnotize humans. That’s how clever the hunger is: it leaves no chance for the prey to escape.
My skin burns at the contact of the atmosphere. My body forgets how the rain was supposed to be a release. Each droplet tortures me. That’s how wily the hunger is: fighting it in any way brings hell on Earth.
I growl one time, glad that no one’s around to hear it, and then break into a run. My instinct drives me to track the closer human. My body pushes past any human limits. That’s how strong the hunger is: it fuels our muscles beyond imagination.
Even vampires don’t want to come face to face with a starved member of our kind.

When I find my potential prey, my knees buckle. I dig my hand in the corner of brick wall, breaking fingernails to hold myself back. They’ll grow back. In front of me, an old lady continues to walk, unaware. Biting her will most likely kill her. If the fear doesn’t, the blood lost will. Her constitution isn’t strong enough.
A violent lightning bolt shoots through my stomach and I bend in half, thunder ringing in my head.
I need another target. Fast.
The sharp tang of a long day of hard labor reaches me. The rain washes away a man’s sweat nearby. He smells strong enough to withstand my desire. I round the corner before my mind catches up. There he walks, dirt dribbling away in the rain. The woody scent tells me he’s a carpenter. A very well-built carpenter.
I stop dead in front of him.
His eyes meet mine and I wait impatiently for the few seconds required to dull his senses. The hunger wants me to drink. Now. But I hold. At last, he sighs and relaxes. I lace my arms around him so he doesn’t fall to the ground. He’s ready for me.
I sink my teeth deep in his jugular, then pull them back so the blood can flow through the two fresh holes. I moan when the first gulp of blood runs down my throat. Each swallow dims the hurt of the world, pushes back the incentives of the hunger.
These liters of blood aren’t pleasurable to take. I don’t even taste them. They go straight to the hunger. Once being undead is no longer a torture, blood becomes an addictive nectar. Shivers of ecstasy run along my spine when the man is half-empty. I’ve reached the turning point.
Pooling all my will, I draw back from my prey’s neck. My self-control took years to master and I still shake madly every time I refuse myself the bliss of drinking a human dry. I lick his neck clean, forcing my saliva to close the gaps I’ve created.
The man is unconscious in my embrace. I carry him to a bench. His pulse beats nice and strong. He’ll survive. I flip open my cell phone and call an ambulance to pick him up. With one last look at my meal, I vanish into the night, finally able to enjoy the rain and my eyes back to normal.

Driving us to feed, that’s what the hunger is about. It makes it easy and effortless. It also makes it tasteless. Incidentally, the hunger is also about driving us to kill. Only then can we enjoy our meal. Actually, that’s not true. I could risk killing someone every night so I could feed while the hunger is asleep.
I choose to suffer one a week and never satisfy my urge for delicious blood. Not just hunger filling blood.
Yet, according to human, I’m a heartless bitch.

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