This is the final part of the short story I promised to post quite a while back (the last installment was in April 2008). When I get the chance, I’ll be ripping it to shreds… but for now, here’s the end of the story. Why did it take so long? I only had a hard-copy, but I finally found a CD full of burned docs including all of my old articles from various news-stand magazines in the UK! (Yay!)
“Finally you wake” I heard a man's voice say. Slowly the world came into focus, and I could see that I was in a large, well furnished room with a tall roof and a wooden floor.
I was laid out on a large leather couch, a cushion beneath my head. Behind the man was a large wood fire, banked up and spreading its flickering glow throughout the room. Above him was a stag's head, flanked by two portraits in gouache. He was standing, wearing immaculately polished shoes on a bearskin rug, between two leather upholstered chairs pointed towards the fire.
"I do hope that you will not even think of trying anything as rash as violence - it would be most... " he paused "Inconvenient".
I did not feel I had the strength - nor the will - to even consider fighting him. And anyway... why should I? I felt confused, disorientated and suddenly so cold... so very cold...
Without conscious thought, I rose from the couch and started to move towards the warmth of the fire. My limbs moved with no input from my mind to make them do so - my body desired the warmth.
"Good." I heard the man whisper, as much to himself as to me. "My name is Alexander Potter, and I feel we may get to know each other a lot more ... intimately in the next few hours."
I moved forward faster, the fire's warmth inexorably pulling my body towards it, its incandescent glow dragging me onwards.
I reach Alexander, and stop. Standing where he is, he is preventing me from reaching the warmth... and then, inexplicably, I am no longer cold. I no longer need the fire.
He reaches down and tilts my head to the side, exposing my neck. And I realise what it is that is happening.
I try and break away, try to push him back, and I succeed, except it is not him that moves, it is I, stumbling backwards. I try and ask him what is going on, why is he doing this, but I cannot. Instead, I find myself moving back to him, tilting my head for him, watching him bend towards me, his fangs bared, glistening in the dancing light of the flames nearby.
Again I push away, but this time I am not able to break his grip. Again, my head tilts to the side for him, but this time I cannot break away from his grasp. Transfixed, as if I were an animal trapped in the gaze of its predator, I cannot do anything.
Pain floods my neck, head and wracks my torso. I stiffen, my body spasms and my back arches with the feeling of the two intrusive needle-like points. Further in they burrow, piercing the living flesh below the dead skin, digging into the thin sheaf of muscle fibre and nerves, into my pulsing artery. White hot lights dance in my vision, as the artery is opened, my life blood spilling out of the twin channels broached by my captor.
His lips close over the open wound, teeth withdrawing as he sucks and drinks deep. His mouth curls into a gruesome smile, smearing blood over his cheeks and chin in the process. The pain, still incessant surmounts me, and as he drinks further of my very life essence, I thankfully grasp at the curtain unconsciousness lowers over my mind.
* * *
I awaken in a dungeon-like room. The walls are damp, the floor cold stone. In one corner straw is scattered. A long gnarled wooden table, soft and rotten, riddled with woodworm is in front of me. At the room's far end a small set of stone steps lead up to a large strong oak door, locked and bolted, the only opening being covered with a square of solid steel.
I feel incredibly hungry, incredibly thirsty and incredibly weak. There is no strength in my arms and legs as I drag myself up from the damp stones. On the table is a large plate, dressed with salad, upon which a large, prime quality steak lies. It is still steaming, its succulent smell and deep brown colouration causing me to salivate wildly, only increasing my thirst. A large pitcher full of water stands next to the food, light from a torch on the far wall dancing through the glass that stands on the table by the pitcher.
I almost run to the table, grabbing the pitcher and drinking from it eagerly. I vomit violently, water tainted with digestive juices and enzymes splashing over the damp stones of the floor.
Realising my error, I take a tiny sip of the water. But this is to no avail. Instantly, I vomit again, bringing the water back up from my empty stomach.
With a low groan, I tear a tiny portion of the steak with my teeth and cautiously swallow it, but within seconds it too joins the water on the floor, my guts not accepting what they cry out for...
With a cry of resignation, I crawl to the straw bedding in the corner, curl up in a foetal ball, and sleep...
... I wake to see a fresh, steaming steak on the table, the pitcher of water topped up to the brim. My hunger and thirst overwhelm me with their strength, I scrabble towards the table and bite then immediately swallow some of the steak, its odour tormenting my appetite. As before, the steak is propelled vigorously from my stomach, and as I look up, bent forwards by the force of my expurgation, I see my captor's eyes looking through the view-hole in the door.
"Look to the right of the door, Jeremiah - and make your choice. To eat, or to die."
Confusion wracked my mind as I looked where he had told me to. In the corner of room a bundled figure lay. I rolled it gently over.
To my horror, I found that it was my beloved, Kathryn. She lay unconscious on the floor before me, battered, bruised and broken. Anger filled my mind at what had happened; I shouted, a long primal scream of rage, "WHY???". Alexander's eyes looked on from the doorway.
"As I said, my dear friend, you must choose. To live or to die. To eat and survive, or to die from your hunger."
"What do you MEAN?" I screamed to him, but the panel in the door had been closed and bolted. Hunger overwhelms my anger and pity for my ravaged lover. I bite a chunk out of the steak on the table, sucking the juices from it in a vague hope of satiating my hungered, wanting stomach. Spitting the drained meat out, I lie next to Kathryn, hugging her gently, crying over her battered state.
Within a minute, I heave. The few drops of fluid fly from my body, flung with the sharp, crippling motion of my unrelenting body. Whimpering, hungry, thirsty, almost deadly weak I hold Kathryn in my arms, rocking her gently in self pity.
. .. .... .......... thud...... thud .......thudd ... thuddd... THUD.... THUDDD... THUD .... THUD......
The sensation, the noise permeates my body. The warmth of my lover's body in my arms, the relentless pressure of her heart, the sonorous ring of the blood running through her arteries and veins, her very life force that coarses through her body... The noise stifles me, paralyses my being. I bend down, lying her head in my lap, her neck across my thigh.
Her neck twitches in time with the sound, the movement exaggerated by my mind and imagination... My hunger overwhelms me, the sound of her heart taunting me with its pounding relentless attack.
My mind detaches its control from my body, my very consciousness looking on in terror, confusion and disgust as my body moves and bites deep into the neck of my Kathryn, of the golden hair, the perverse raping and defiling of her body by my own, the destruction of the one I love the most by myself horrifying me... Yet still I bite, drawing blood...
The coppery taste of the warm, thick fluid overwhelms my tongue. I drink deep, the fluid sickening me as it flows down my throat into my stomach, stealing the life from my poor, dear Kathryn... More I drink, drawing the crimson liquid from her neck, satisfying my stomach as my mind reels, uncomprehending,
horrified at what it is that I am partaking in.
I drink deep, until my stomach is satisfied, and then, somehow knowing that I should stop, I release Kathryn, her body dropping to the stone with a thud.
I lick my lips, and wipe my mouth with the back of my hand.
Conscious action returns, and I weep. Uncontrollably I cry, not knowing why or what I have done, only that I have destroyed the only thing that I love. Then, mercifully, I sleep.
I awake, and Alexander is beside me.
"You chose rightly," he said slowly, "and she will probably recover, with the medical help I have provided for her. Probably."
“What have you DONE TO ME?" I shout.
"You are, as I am. A beast you are, lest a beast you become." He sighs. "It is an ancient riddle, yet it is probably the truest thing you will ever hear. And I am sorry to have caused you so much pain, so much agony, so much... well, it is over now and you shall never be the same again.
"I have known you and your family for a long time. I met your father in Africa - you will not remember me, you were too young. We made... an agreement. Anyway, come with me to the fire place. We have much to discuss, and no doubt you are cold and shocked from your ordeal."
He left the dungeon, and I followed him, my head in my hands.
* * *
Simon Cooke is an occasional video game developer, ex-freelance journalist, screenwriter, film-maker, musician, and software engineer in Seattle, WA.
The views posted on this blog are his and his alone, and have no relation to anything he's working on, his employer, or anything else and are not an official statement of any kind by them (and barely even one by him most of the time).