I. THE FUTURE
The vampyre ran and hid, or rather he tried to hide. Although he was faster and stronger than the humans who hunted him (not superhuman, but still better), the numbers were against him. Even were he the superhuman monster the peasants believed him to be, when the entire village and neighboring farms arose, they would win. Especially when they burned his lair to the ground with him hiding within. He wasn’t an ancient vampyre, but he was old enough to have been chased from three other lairs to this one which would be his last.
The Sun was up and although he wouldn’t burst into flame, he would be blinded by the glare and weakened and would burn badly within an hour of the Sun’s rays striking him. And that weakness and sensitivity to the Sun would allow the peasants to capture him, stake him and burn his body. The problem was that everyone knew about vampyres. Everyone knew their strengths and weaknesses. Everyone knew how to kill them. And even those who did not believe, would eventually try the legendary methods out of desperation.
If only there were some place that had never heard of a vampyre, someplace he could start over, feed and grow strong, form an army to guard him…. So he hid, hoping that they would loose interest or give up the search when they couldn’t find him. He hid for hours, under bushes, in trees, between rocks as he made his way home, listening to the humans pass his hidden alcoves a number of times as they searched until he reached his fortress, but they found him there and searched within. Perhaps they’d give up and he heard them leave, disappointment in their voices. He’d feed well tonight then seek another home elsewhere.
The building was burning now. And not the stone walls for even in a stone castle, flames found something to feed upon be it furniture, drapes, flooring… only the barest cavern would be safe from fire and who wanted to live like a bat?
The vampyre ran to the roof, braving the sunlight, wasn’t it traditional for peasant revolts to be done at night with torches when the vampyres had the advantage? He felt a pain in his side, they were shooting at him! They had set fire to his lair and surrounded it and were actually shooting at him! It was this desperation that drove the vampyre to pray, only not to God or Satan or to any other divinity that had abandoned his kind, but to Mars, the Red Star above, the God of War and Blood that shone above. As his body jerked to the impacts and the flames flicked at his feet, he raised his arms to the Red planet and prayed for escape.
II. THE PRESENT
Carol lay there, the sun entering the motel window, warming her body, listening to the snores next to her. Then, sighing, she got up, a twinge of pain between her legs. Each time she thought it would be different and each time it was the same. Getting up, she glanced at the dried blood on her thighs, “no longer virgin” she thought as she walked to his pants. It always hurt but, over the years she had learned to like pain. It made her life easier if she did. She ignored the badge and handgun as irrelevant and pulled his wallet from the back pocket.
“What the hell are you doing!” the man’s voice demanded. It wasn’t a question, people like him never asked questions, they made demands.
“I’m taking your cash, your bank card and your credit cards. In forty-eight hours you can cancel them but until then… consider me to the most expensive piece of ass you ever had.” Her voice was empty, she had given this speech so often.
“The hell you will!” he was there, looming over her by a good foot and his grip was crushing, would be crushing but she broke free easily and pushed him against the wall, hard.
“That’s it, you’re under arrest for prostitution, theft and assaulting a police officer!”
She laughed, “And what WILL you tell your boss when I tell them that YOU threatened to arrest me if I didn’t put out!” then in a little girl’s voice, “Please mister policeman, I’m only sixteen and a virgin. Don’t make me do that!” angry again, “Look at those sheets, look at my thighs!” She reached down and taking some of her blood and his semen from between her legs and smeared it on his face. “I was a virgin! And you are a pedophile! What will your boss, the mayor the newspapers and your wife say when they learn that you use your badge to pop the cherries of young schoolgirls! What kind of job will you have when you spend the rest of your life registering as a sex offender! Take the deal, pervert! Forty-eight hours and then you get your life back!”
“I can… I can have this room cleaned up in an hour!”
She laughed back, heading for the bathroom, “Sure you can, and can you remove ALL DNA evidence from the mattress, the rug and everywhere else. Burn the motel to the ground with me inside and maybe. But there is a big difference between child molestation and arson-murder. I’m offering you a deal. Take it or I start to scream and I bruise easily.”
Beaten, he struggled into his clothes, not even bothering to wash himself. Good! He wasn’t thinking now and her blood would be in his underpants and uniform. Once he settled down, he’d remember this and remember too how difficult it would be to remove all evidence. Two days and he’d be free of her but it would be the longest two days of his life. He watched her collect the bloody sheet and shove it into a drawer, seeing the stain on the mattress as she easily flipped it over. Too easily. As he left, she called out, “Take my advice and pick up women your own age. Leave the young meat alone.”
She locked the door behind him, not afraid, for he wasn’t a bad man who would murder her to protect himself, he was just a pervert with a taste for too-young girls and a job that gave him easy access to them. And even if he did return with blazing handgun, well, she had so many bullets lodged in her body she wondered why she didn’t set off metal detectors.
She wiped herself carefully to ensure that his DNA and hers would appear on her underpants then showered, washing inside and out, not really trying to scrub his stink off her soul. She had gotten used to this too many years ago. Then when clean, dressed in conservative clothing and without make-up (she wasn’t hunting), took her purse and left for the store down the street.
She bought ten pounds of the best steak she could find, a couple large cokes and little else save as much cash as the machine would tender (swiping the cop’s credit card and signing his name on the reader) then returned to the motel room, stripped naked and returned to the bathroom. Before entering she looked around, she was very good at spotting a tail, and saw that he wasn’t watching her. He had given up. Good! She wouldn’t hesitate to kill him but preferred to murder only her prey, not innocent bystanders.
Sitting in the tub, she opened the steaks and ate them, tearing at the bloody meat with firm white teeth until she was full. Then she tossed the packages into the trash and showered again, washing the blood of the steaks from her body. Then dressed again, picked up her backpack and the trash bag containing her lunch packages, and went to work.
The library opened at ten so she spent the last half hour on a bench watching people. She liked to watch people. They had such normal lives, lives she could never have. Mothers with children, she would never have children of her own, fathers and husbands going to work. Homeless people like herself but without her skills so she rarely had to seek a meal in a dumpster. Birds, she had eaten enough pigeons in her life, and squirrels and even the occasional dog (she refused to eat dog again) passed by. Her life was anything but normal and would never be.
A couple of high school kids sat next to her, seeing a girl their own age ditching school too but she ignored them until they left. Boys were so… childish, she thought, preferring the maturity of the older man. Someone with life-experience and a brain and some ability to hold a conversation that wasn’t interspaced with ‘cool’ and ‘ya know’. Was it so long ago that she thought these children were cool and pursued them with the vigor they now used to seek her? She may look sixteen but she was far older inside where it counted. She knew that she was decent-looking, not one of the beautiful girls that the boys chased but athletic, trim, enough to fill a bra but not enough to bounce if she forgot to wear one. Her hair was normally brown but she kept it dyed black, as bait, to match her Goth attire that ‘they’ found so desirable in prey. The same look that she wore back then, when her family….
Her keen ears picked up the doors being unlocked so she stood and entered the library, smiling at the librarian and asking, “Excuse me.,” She was very pleasant for a good librarian was an ally in her work. “Can you direct me to the periodicals room?”
“Certainly, to the right, second floor, then left.”
Another smile, “Thank you,” as Carol continued on to work. She didn’t get paid for it and wished she could quit and settle down but, like children, this was denied her so she continued on.
Carol spent the next few hours reading every newspaper she could find from cover to cover, always taking notes.
“African woman stoned as a vampire.”
“New Jersey man committed for biting women in subway. Claims he was a vampire.”
“Fourth victim found in a dumpster, throat slashed. Police claim to be close to a solution.”
Her former French teacher had told her that she was smart and could go places if she applied herself but then, in High School, she had laughed and claimed that she’d never use French so why try. Now she could read a half dozen languages well and speak a few decently. She was mostly self-taught but only because she needed that skill.
Finally she was done and carefully replaced the newspapers and magazines she had been reading. Failure to do so could get her banned from the library and she needed that resource more than she needed money. She smiled and thanked the librarian and left for a fast-food place where she ate three very large grease-burgers, a large fries and a thick shake, taking more cash with the officer’s card. She may never have children but she’d also never get fat, suffer heart disease or clogged arteries no matter what junk she ate nor would she contract any STD from her occasional liaisons. Hell! She had once eaten a sheep she learned had been infected with anthrax and suffered only mild symptoms for a day, then she was well and never suffered again. But she could never enter a bar or night-club without her fake ID being checked and cross-checked either.
Carol glanced at the clock and saw it was well past check-out time. Her motel room, paid for my her former paramour, was being cleaned, the bloody sheets removed from the drawer as the maid thought with disgust about the older, skanky man and what he had picked up. That memory may be useful if the cop actually tried anything and she needed a witness. Well, she was homeless again. Everything she owned was in her backpack and nothing there, save her notebooks, were important enough to worry about so she read them again. Then cross-checked them again. There it was, the clue!
Carol owned no cell phone, she couldn’t afford the fees, so she made a collect call from a pay phone to someone she knew. A stewardess she had once saved and who now owed her. Carol made it a point to help people as you never knew when you would need help, a meal, a place to stay the night or even another set of clothing. She could have called Jason who would be glad to help, but the price would be too high. Jason would insist on helping her out and would even set her up with an identity, bank and credit accounts and even deposit funds as if she earned a regular paycheck. But the cost to Carol’s independence and the constant reminder that Jason did what Carol could not (live well) hurt more than the loss of her family.
It took a number of rings before she heard the reply, “Hello?”
“Grace? Carol….. Carol from Las Vegas! Yes, that Carol. I’m calling in that favor you owe me. … Yes, another one so I need to get to Hungary and can’t afford the fare and have no ID that will pass security. I need you to get me there. … I don’t care how but think of this.. what almost happened to you is happening to others right now unless I stop him. … No, I don’t have a phone or address but I can call you back. Thanks.”
Grace might come through. She had watched two of her friends murdered by what she thought was a strew-bum, a man who liked to date stewardesses but turned out to be much worse… until Carol arrived at the last moment. Too late for her friends but in time to save Graciela.
Carol had been to Europe twice so far and each time it was getting harder and harder to travel even with the fake ID that passed almost every check. People were terrified about terrorism when there were things in this world that made the most hardened terrorist shit their pants in their own fear. And Carol hunted those nightmares.
Carol spoke no Hungarian and only a little French, Spanish and German though she could read all three easily. But in today’s world, you could find an English speaker almost anywhere so she left the airport in Budapest and sticking out her thumb, waited as car after car stopped, she ignoring them all until one driver spoke English.
“Yes, I’m trying to reach Veszto?” That was the closest city to her real destination. She was dressed as a catholic schoolgirl and not her normal black leather, thinking that she’d get a higher class of driver this way. She didn’t want to waste time fighting with school boys who saw her as easy.
“That is a long way east, nearly 200 kilometers. I can take you part way.”
“Thank you.” She got in after tossing her bag in the back. Then she endured the inevitable small talk until, an hour later, he let her off with a warning, “This isn’t a safe area, you should take care.”
Smiling, she replied, “Thank you but I’ll be fine. No one will hurt me.” And the thing was, she was telling the truth. No man or woman or beast had been able to seriously hurt her in twenty years. So she entered a bar, or the Hungarian equivalent, and ordered a beer, asking “Excuse me, how far to Veszto?” until someone was able to answer.
“About a half hour that way,’ someone pointed. ‘Why there?”
“I don’t want to go there, but it is the closest big city to (she tried to pronounce the name and it took three tries until someone recognized it).”
“That is a farming area filled with superstitious peasants. They say that there is a vampyre living there. You are perhaps interested in vampyres?”
“Very much so,” she laughed. “Aren’t all Americans?”
“This is not America, little girl. Better you return home.”
“I think it is too late for that. Can anyone take me?
One man, a big farmer with bad teeth stood, pushed everyone away and laughed, “I take!”
Carol finished her beer and picking up her bag, replied, “Good! Now?”
“Now!” and he laughed. Carol knew his type. Clearly the others were afraid of him and more afraid to warn her, thinking that any American stupid enough to get in his truck deserved her fate, thus washing their hands of responsibility.
She got in and opened the window to air out the cab, he stank so, as the truck rattled down the road. Why don’t these fools drive a Porshe or Lamborghini? She asked herself.
Carol ignored his clumsy and insulting comments until he rested his hand on her thigh and slid it up under her skirt. At least he had good timing for they were on an isolated road where no one would hear any screams. “How far?”
“soon,” he laughed, sliding further.
Sighing, Carol took his hand and pushed it away. “How far?”
“Soon little girl,” he grabbed her left breast. She wasn’t any busty beauty but she did have something under her bra and had no wish to be mangled so she took his hand, easily pulling it free, then slid his dirty thumb to her mouth and asked again, “Last time, how far?”
He laughed so she slid his thumb into her mouth, looked at him then bit hard!
The farmer screamed as the bones crunched and he pulled free to see her calmly chewing, munching the bones until she swallowed. Then she leaned over, her sharp teeth gleaming as a bit of his blood ran down her chin. “How far?”
“Get away!” he cried as she slid closer. The truck came to a stop, stalled and he tried to force the door open until she took his hand again, forcing it into a fist with one finger exposed. “You have four fingers. That is four times I will ask. Then…” she bit the exposed finger free, ignoring the striking fist of the farmer as she chewed. She had lied to the police officer, she didn’t bruise at all but the strikes irritated her so she grabbed the flailing hand and crushed the bones easily. She swallowed and exposed a second finger and bit that off as he screamed, “Ten kilometers. That road! Please for the love of god!”
Carol let him go and watched him scramble from the cab, holding his mangled hands to his belly. Then she slid into the driver’s side, spat the finger to him and starting the truck, drove on.
It wasn’t dark when she arrived so she wandered about, seeing the closed doors and windows, a bad sign. How to play this? A scream decided her and she ran to the sound, finding a shadow leave by an open window. The smell of the blood within was overwhelming but she ignored the victim, thinking that she had time to clean up that mess later as she ran after the shadow. Although she loved heels and tight leather bustiers, she was glad her schoolgirl outfit required flats for they made the running easier. She could easily run barefoot but preferred to not have to search for cast-off shoes later. But the shadow moved ahead, loosing her. Carol ran on, tireless, or rather saving her strength for when she caught up with the shadow, she’d need all her energy and strength. That shadowy man was the most dangerous thing in Hungary but Carol was used to overcoming danger.
Then she ran into a crowd. No, mob is more accurate. It was like something out of an old black and white movie. The torches (in daylight?), the pitchforks and even the antique rifles, though here and there someone carried a flashlight and another even had a baseball bat. One man caught her, his concern for her preventing her violence as he spoke to her in Hungarian. “I don’t understand. A woman,” Carol pointed back to the town.
There was a hurried consultation but for once, no one spoke English or German or even French so she was lost. The mob argued and finally, an agreement was reached and they moved on, following the Shadow and taking her along. She knew that they thought it was for her own good but she was trapped and couldn’t change while surrounded or they’d shoot her before she was naked. No matter, they knew where the Shadow lived and would take her there so she relaxed and followed.
Soon enough the smell of blood made her realize that the monster was aside, not ahead and so she worked her way to the back of the mob then allowed it to move on without her. She followed her nose through the woods, her night vision excellent in the increasing gloom. Usually the hunt was harder, for they were cunning with age. Those that were stupid were caught by the police or a mob similar to this one. This monster had murdered at least two dozen women and a dozen more children over three countries in Europe. She had been collecting information on him for ten years until the key had been found, the key that brought her here.
Finally she found him, standing in the light of the half-full moon by the ruins of a small shack. “Monster,” she called to him. “Face me and die for your crimes!”
He turned, his red lips clear in the night, the blood smell reeking from his mouth. And he waited, saying something in Hungarian and patting his belly. Carol imagined he was commenting that he was full but would enjoy her as a snack.
Carol unbuttoned her blouse and skirt, allowing the latter to fall to the ground as the monster smiled and commented again. These kind had no use for sex, pain was their aphrodisiac, blood their drug. Then he struck.
She had her arm up easily but the silver headed cane, shining in the moonlight easily broke her arm and drove her to the ground in pain. Like a stupid schoolgirl, she was taken that easily.
Carol struggled from her blouse, trying to snap her bra free and change as the second and third blow struck and then she lost consciousness.
He awoke, alive, repaired, as the sun began to set.. He could easily see in the dark, that was his greatest strength for he was glare-blind in the day. But at night, when the human prey were blind, he could see and strike from the shadows. He looked around, curious as to where he was and how he had arrived. The Moon was overhead, his vision seeing that it was much smaller than the one he had lived under. There! A second, more a bright star than an actual moon, and moving normally while the larger seems to be moving backwards as if they were crossing in orbit. The air was thin, too thin as if he had climbed the highest mountains in Europe but for his kind, the lack of air was at best a minor hindrance. He heard a howl and saw a naked man approach with bared sword. The man, savagery in his features, approached then hesitated and glanced beyond to warn the vampyre who turned at the last moment to avoid the thrust aimed at his back. He grasped the arm and crushed it easily, too easily as if he were superhuman or they were overly fragile, then as the first thrust, he avoided that too, clutching the first and finding the neck of his victim, drank deep and when drained, he killed the second, leaving it on the ground, also empty.
The blood tasted different. Nutritious, but different, as if he had drank from another race or species entirely. Then the sun set completely and with it, light. It was now pitch dark and the temperature dropped almost instantly, causing the vampyre to shiver in his nakedness. Naked? What had happened to his clothes? And the wounds in his body were healed as if they never were. What was this place into which he had been dropped? With the need to feed no longer important, he picked up the best of the two swords, weighing far less than it should and despite the lack of care, had no rust showing, and explored his new home, searching for a lair for the morrow, searching for more cattle.
The land was rocky, covered with moss which he remembered in the light to be red. There were no trees or grass or bushes, just that red moss that covered almost everything.
Looking up, he spied a star, no a planet, Earth! He could see it clearly in the sky and identified it only because of the familiar moon next to the tiny disc. Vampyre eyes were designed to see in the dark, to avoid illusion and see reality and thus he knew that the disc next to that tiny moon was the Earth. Somehow he had been transported off the Earth of his birth and rebirth and given a new life on another world? But which? Mars? Possibly according to the two moons he saw overhead. He had never thought about other worlds, his life being concerned with food and safety so he had not the mental tools to evaluate the situation. Things like that became lost as the human changed to Vampyre and Vampyre aged, dwelling ever more into their own scarlet desires. As a vampyre aged, he grew in power but weakened in thought until he became little more than the bloated tick the humans believed them to be. Ultimately laying in their nest, awaiting stake and axe and torch, unable to move, almost wishing for oblivion.
He explored, seeking shelter as the air grew colder until he smelled food. Not real food for he consumed only the life-giving blood of his victims, but… something that was and was not food. Looking closer, he saw an egg hidden within the warm rocks. But what an egg. The chicken that lay this monster must be the size of a large house. Cracking it open with his blade, the shell more grayish-white leather than anything familiar, a child fell forth. It died quickly, but he saw it was human. A world where humans came from eggs? No wonder they tasted strange. And where were the rest? The men he had killed were of normal size. Were the women giantess’, massive as a queen termite to be served by diminutive drones? Did they crawl about this mossy world, dropping gigantic eggs as they flowed, leaving their young to hatch alone, unwanted, unloved?
Searching further, he found more, a full dozen in all, each hidden from observation and each other as if the hatchling would consume his brothers if he could, and each smaller than the other. Did the mother lay a tiny egg then another daily or monthly, each egg growing to gigantic size? When he was still human, he would have sought the answer but now, he cared not, only that this was a steady source of future consumption.
It was getting colder and with the dropping temperature, he became sluggish. He found a couple, man and woman, naked, both armed with naked steel, huddling between rocks in a lair even a dog would not dig, seeking warmth from each other and the rocks that had absorbed heat during the day, to radiate that same heat in the darkness. He could hear their dreams, dreams of eating, dreams of food and nothing else. It was a vampyre talent to sneak up on food. Were he as clumsy as a human, he would have been skewered by they who slept but they knew he visited them not and he left them alone, marking their lair for the next eves repast.
And colder it became until finding a safe, warm lair became a priority. Any cave would do though eventually… There! A house. Hidden among the boulders, he approached to find it long abandoned. The windows boarded and broken, the inside empty and bare though a bed still hung from four chains above the floor. He sat on the floor, in a corner away from the windows and waited, seeking some fleeting thought until a pain in his leg snapped him awake. Without though he struck with his sword and the sound of rent flesh and bone drove him to investigate. The thing was a… it resembled a six-legged rat of gigantic size and one where the flesh seemed to have rotted and sloughed from the jaws, leaving the bony snout naked and bare of all save teeth and bone. It stank and even had he been starving, he would not drink of its veins. This then was why the beds hung from chains, to avoid these things.
Deciding, and desperate, for he could feel the sunrise approach, he secured the windows and doors to the best of his ability, then made himself a bedding under which to burrow and as the sun rose, he fell into a sleep that was filled with nightmares of undead rats, naked cannibal man-beasts and multiple moons burning him with reflected light. He would need slaves to guard him in the day and he would need them soon.
Carol wasn’t out long, she wasn’t that weak, but she was broken and bleeding and revenge drove her on. Twenty years ago she had brought home a man like this one. A man she knew her parents would hate. Always a rebel, she did it to hurt them for some imagined slight and the result was… The man was a vampire who murdered her parents and sister before her eyes then tossed her to his assistant who had tortured her for days in their basement until the police found her, scarred and broken and insane, and set her in that institution.
She had nightmares for weeks until.. the Full Moon came and she changed, broke free, killing two guards and the doctor who had laughed at her fears. That stupid doctor had died begging for mercy as she ran, on four furry legs, hunting the one who had murdered her family. And she hunted others since. Guilt driving her ever forward.
She shifted, fur growing, bones changing as revenge and hatred drove her on, no longer needing the Moon to change, though it helped. The silver had damaged her badly, but still she chased the vampire, seeking by smell, for her eyes were damaged, covered with blood from a cracked skull. On three legs, dragging the broken forth, she followed into the ruined hut, down a tunnel to the manor which was already burning. They wouldn’t cheat her, she would take this one as she had so many before. Even if she died in the chase, she would kill this one last monster who had murdered her family.
A part of her was confused and she thought this was the one who had killed her family. But that one she had killed years ago. Still her injured head could not tell the difference and she dragged herself on.
Rifle shots, smoke and flames surrounded her as she dragged her broken body up the stairs to find the vampire raising his arms to the skies. Praying.
No matter if he went to Heaven or Hell, she’d follow and kill him and so she tensed and leapt as the roof caved in, burying her as the flames burned her fur. Struggle as she might, her one thought was to seek the throat of the monster above, she could not free herself and the frustrating howl she cried was answered only by the sight of the red star above, a red star that called to her as the flames burned her body as revenge burned her soul.
Carol awoke, healed and starving and near frozen, alive only because of her thick fur. A large wolf of 120 pounds on thick moss that covered a host of rocks, she saw two moons in the sky, both tiny and she smelled meat. She moved forward and found a man, naked and carrying a naked sword approach another and stab the second in the back. Then the first began to eat his victim. Wolf-Carol didn’t think, her canine mind had no logic, only drives and hunger was a drive.
She struck, killing the murderer easily and she ate, tasting the flesh that was bitter but filled her stomach. Then, stuffed, she sought a den and slept, dreaming about the vampire she was hunting and would hunt until he was found and killed.
Carol awoke, refreshed but naked and freezing in the thin air. Memories of one hunt in the Swiss Alps came back and for a moment she thought she was there, then. Until the memories returned. She was used to waking up naked. Her wolf-form knew no clothing so she tried to hide her attire nearby where she could find it again. Over the decades since her … change, she had become very good at that. Occasionally someone would find them, stashed in her bag under a bush or in a tree or behind a box but eventually she managed to recover them. Sometimes she would be forced to steal clothing but her notebooks she always tracked down. She had also woken up in the cold of Winter upon occasion so she ignored the cold biting at her body and stood…..
She was in the air and falling, flailing as she struck the ground. Not hard but disturbing in its own way. “Dammit!” she cursed. “Times like this I wish I had become a werecat and not a werewolf!” She rose, more carefully, now awake, and looked around. She felt lighter, her breasts feeling as if they weren’t there so she felt and discovered that her small chest was higher than normal. She was no man’s ideal of physical beauty, possibly a ‘b’ but still, she had always known their presence and now, moving, she didn’t even jiggle, she felt so light.
As always, afterwards, her legs and armpits needed a shave and she knew that she was re-virginized again. Going from human to wolf was easy. But the return meant that all her injuries had healed. No more pierced ears. Another hymen. All the scars she suffered in her hunting vanished leaving her skin smooth and clear. And she could shave herself bare but when she changed back, her legs, armpits and pubes would look as if she had never shaved in her life. European was the term, but hardly attractive in modern America. She looked at her hair, pulling the strands before her and saw the dye gone. Her hair had returned to its natural mousey-brown color. That was strange as people who had seen her as a wolf had commented on the big German Shepherd-like dog with brown fur and a black thatch on its head. And her hair had always remained dyed black when she changed back. And without looking, she knew that although technically thirty-five, she still looked sixteen and would look that age forever. At least the only two werewolves she had ever met had stopped ageing when they had changed. The one at thirty, changing only ten years before and the other at twenty(?) and he was around two centuries old. If only she had stopped ageing at twenty-five, her life would be easier for no one would hire a teen in the modern world.
Reflections. She always reflected on her life when she changed back. Considering some of the things she did as a human, she really was glad her memories as a wolf were but shadows. Her wolf form had the advantage of her human intelligence though she knew it didn’t think. Her human form had the advantage of strength and enhanced senses. And she used them all now.
She smelled dust! Just dust. All the stinks and odors of a city or woods were gone! The sky was pink and when she sneezed, her snot came out pink. Not blood, but dust. There was so much dust in the air it colored the sky, hiding the natural color.
The air was thin and cold as if she were on a mountain-top but she warmed quickly in the sun light. The sun was too small. Far too small. She could almost look at it, it was so faint. And the moon, no, moons. She felt them in the sky, but couldn’t see them. Finally, one she spied on the horizon, tiny as it set. Two small moons. Well, remaining human during the Full Moon was difficult but not impossible. Now it wouldn’t matter at all. The ground was rocky and reddish-brown moss was everywhere. In some places it was so thin she could kick the rocks and dust but there was only the moss. No trees, no grass, nothing but that moss that covered the red rocks. Carol had been to Sedona in Arizona once, seeking a cure for her affliction in that new-age city but found only the high desert vegetation and that eternal dust from the local red rocks that resembled this place.
Choosing a direction at random, she moved, falling at first but to a life accustomed to shifting between two and four legs, soon learned to walk in the lighter gravity. Mars! She remembered her wolf-form seeing a red star as she bayed in frustration. Somehow, her color-blind wolf-form had seen the red star and she was here. Why?
Smelling blood, she moved to an area of higher rocks and found two bodies, their throats torn and dry. Six-legged rat-like things already chewing at the corpses. The things hissed at her and when she growled, a primal sound that made dogs and even people wet themselves in fear, they backed off but refused to run. The things looked as if you had grown a rat to gigantic size, given it an extra pair of legs and then allowed the snout to rot away for the end of the jaws were of bare bone. And the things stank! She wanted to gag at their stench so threw a rock at them which instead of causing them to run, incited an attack.
She leapt back, landing poorly a dozen feet behind, surprised, but alert as the rat-things continued after her. One then returned to the kills, the other continued towards her so she grabbed it, her enhanced reflexes allowing her to avoid the jaws, and she crushed its neck easily. It had no hair and the stench as the thing’s bowels voided in death was overpowering and she gagged as she threw the thing aside.
She forced herself to approach the bodies again, braving the other rat-thing and saw that the throats had been torn out in the same manner as would a vampire. No pretty twin points of Hollywood FX but large chunks ripped out and spat aside as the monster sought the shredded juggler beneath.
Now she remembered, the vampire had injured her, then sought refuge in a building. She had chased, determined to kill it and the villagers had burned the place to the ground. The vampire had died but some part of it had fled here, to Mars and she, in her dogged determination, had followed somehow.
Didn’t the Mariner Probes prove that Mars was dead? Still, she was here, she had no doubts and the vampire from Hungary was here also. She had no fear of the bodies reanimating into vampires for that was rare and mostly Hollywood imagery. So she left them and began to track, seeking his smell in the moss and rocks, looking for tracks and so moved on, unconcerned with her nakedness.
Carol knew that she was insane and this lack of concern over her state of undress was as much a symptom as her determination to hunt and kill vampires. Sometimes she thought of counseling, but mostly she simply accepted it as were she cured, who would stop the blood-suckers? So she moved on.
The Vampyre awoke as the pale sun set, the temperature falling in inverse ratio to the sunlight. The rat-thing he had killed earlier was gone, a few scraps remaining as if it had been eaten as he slept, unaware of the intrusion. Vampyres rarely slept in coffins but they were always aware of their surroundings even if they were helpless to act on that knowledge. Something had entered, eaten the dead rat-thing and left and he knew it not. That fact scared him. He had been sleeping, aware that searchers were within feet of him and passed by as he lay helpless but he had known of their presence. Now, something here, on this place, was invisible to him. That made him feel even more helpless and vulnerable and he determined that he’d soon have a thrall to serve and protect him.
Hungry, he wrapped some ancient silk and fur from the bed about his nakedness and left, seeking sustenance.
The night was moonless, the stars so bright that he was almost blind with their glory and for a moment, he stood and stared. There were too many stars for him to make out the normal constellations, they were that drowned in the numbers and brightness. Then he gave up and moved towards the dawn.
Climbing a tall hill, he saw that the rise was just the edge of a crater. It was as if someone had tossed handfuls of pebbles in soft mud to create these pock-marks in the landscape. In vain did he search for lights or croplands or orchards or some sign of habitation. If humanity had set her vile hand to this land, they did so as beasts for there was no sign of habitation and so he continued his lonely search for the builders of that ancient retreat..
Eventually, he detected a group of people, beasts in that they were naked and unwashed yet human in that they walked erect and carried naked swords. It was obvious that the group was hunting., but what? The previous night they had sought his life but he was accustomed to that action and it registered not to him as strange.
Seeing the vampire, the group changed course, surrounding him easily as he made no effort to run or hide. They were beasts, but beasts with the rudiments of intelligence and even beasts could be tamed and trained.
Before they could react, the vampire leapt forward, grabbed his chosen victim and easily leapt back to the hillock to the wonder of the beasts, tearing at the throat of his victim and drinking the bitter blood as the others froze in amazement. Soon enough they would overcome their astonishment and charge so he fed quickly, watching the group and as they were about to advance, he stopped feasting and cast the dying body to their feet.
As expected, the man-beasts abandoned the living danger for the dead meat and consumed it, tearing at the flesh with teeth and nails until they were bloated with their meal. This could work well, he thought. The blood for him, the meat for his followers.
First though, he held the sword in his hand and called, “SWORD!”. Then again, and again. One man-beast rose and approached, his blade at the ready, growling in irritation.
The Vampyre waited, then threw his own sword with such force that the only reason it did not penetrate the body was the guard struck the ribs, snapping sternum and ribs easily as the man-beast fell to the ground a dozen paces back. The Vampyre leapt forward, took the fallen sword of the dead man from the ground and leapt to grab a woman, then back to his peak. She fought and screamed as he pulled her black hair aside easily, then as he was about to feast, he stopped, dropped her and forced her face to his feet.
She didn’t bite, nor did she kiss but she did lick his bare toes in gratitude for her miserable life. Thus did he receive his first slave.
Carol explored and found bones scattered all over the landscape. Bones in groups and bones alone. Human bones. Bones with teeth marks. Human teeth marks. As much as Carol had done since her Change, the thought of hundreds or thousands of people being killed and eaten by cannibals made her shudder.
Still she looked about and found, here and there, bits and pieces of things other than bones. In a small hole she found a number of metal cans, white like aluminum but harder than steel. All were scratched with what appeared to be shallow dents. Obviously, someone sought the contents but, like a chimpanzee, were unable to open the can. Carol looked them over, then easily opened the cans to find them filled with slices of something that resembled a potato stored in cream. She tasted one, then ate the contents, scraping the last of the cream with her finger, then proceeded to consume every can she found.
She also found a treasure, a silk-like blanket which she used to wrap around her body, tying it behind her neck as a sort of sarong. A belt salvaged from a number partially chewed held her dress together and so her confidence increased, so much does clothing matter, even to a woman who spends a considerable amount of her life in naught but fur.
Eventually, after considerable searching, she was dressed (sans undergarments) and even armed with a knife and a strange revolver that had no trigger, but a button. The caliber was small, maybe that of a twenty-two or a bit smaller for her knowledge of firearms was limited to those pointed at her. What kind of civilization would use a .22 & a sword? She pointed the weapon at a distant rock, said ‘bang’ and touched the button with her thumb. There was no recoil or report of any size but the explosion as the rock exploded was almost deafening in the thin air.
She eventually found a holster and pouch and then set off in search of her prey, the empty cans and whatever else she could find carefully stored within.
The smell of the vampyre was easy to find and track, the thing left a trail that smelled of rotting blood and she soon found the trail and the house where it has spent the day. But she arrived after it had left and so she searched on, resting in a grove of pineapple-like plants whose leaves faced the sun. The smell was familiar and sniffing, she used her knife to cut free a scale to find the creamy milk flowing. She quickly opened an empty tin to catch the precious fluid and drank three tins before she was full. She then filled each can and sealed them for later, then looked around for something different than the moss. There wasn’t much in the desert but the plant-milk would do as water and an hour later, she saw some vines on the ground and digging beneath, found the roots possessing nodules that resembled a potato, a fact that she confirmed when she cut one open. So now she had milk and starch and so if she could find these, would not starve, though the inner werewolf accepted that occasionally, she’d eat whatever animal (or man) she could catch. A werewolf does not live on milk and potato.
And so she searched.
The Vampyre had a following. Stupid and more animal than human but still a following… so long as he fed them. And feed them he intended. No more hiding the bodies of his kills for now he had means to dispose of the bags of emptied flesh.
It didn’t take long before he found a number of savages, killed by sword and left to rot and so he fed his charges but he, himself, needed blood. Fresh, warm blood. Still, someone was hunting the man-animals and that could be dangerous to him so he determined to raise and train his army as quickly as would be possible.
Deciding that the ones who had killed these savages were still nearby, he managed to track them by smell to a small crater which was being patrolled by a couple of men, similar to his charges save these were dressed and armed. He had apparently arrived in an area that had reverted to savagery and the civilized neighbors were exterminating the creatures. Once he was King, that would change and these hunters would become his cattle.
Vampyres are predators and the older ones live because they are good at taking down prey. So he approached and quickly, silently killed the first sentry.
People think all sorts of foolish things about vampires, mostly coming from bad movies. But the truth is that they are not undead. Vampires are simply, very close to death. They do possess fangs but these are not the suction devices of the films, they simply inject into the victim a narcotic and anti-coagulant. The first puts the victim to sleep quickly to prevent resistance and the second allows the blood to flow easily as the vampire rips the throat and drinks to fill his stomach.
Young vampires drink their victim dry and so are found next to the body, bloated like ticks. Older ones drink maybe a couple pints, then leave, still able to run. If the victim survives the vampire may return again and again until the person is dead, but few of these victims change for the vampire infection is rare else the world would be overrun.
In this case, his bite slowed the first sentry and when the vampire had his limited fill, he repeated with the others, leaving them alive but torpid. Then he searched the camp, removing the swords and firearms but not harming the sleepers. He had other uses for these men.
He then returned to his savage charges and led them to the camp. The howling as the savages attacked was met by the cried of the sleepers as they awoke to find themselves outnumbered and unarmed and so the first group was quickly overrun. Now the savages knew that the Vampyre could and would feed them and so their loyalty was assured.
Vampyre King! It sounded good. No more hiding, seeking prey in the shadows then running from angry mobs. He would now be king and the humans would be his cattle.
And so his army grew.
When the savages brought to him a living man to drink, he knew that his status was accepted.
The Red Men were concerned. Before, the savages of U-Gor were just that, starving savages who could barely hold a sword and whose communication skills has degenerated to a hunting howl. But now, they were using tactics. At first, only a few small groups of trained warriors were overrun, but now, larger were being killed with flanking movements, feints, ambushes. Someone or something was changing the tide of battle and unless something was done and done quickly, the savages of U-Gor would overrun Jahar.
Sonoma Tora made her decision. U-Gor MUST be quelled before they overran the country, then Barsoom. And so she advertized for Panthans to enter and fight the savages. She offered daily pay plus a bounty on every savage killed and so Panthans arrived alone and in groups, not the least these strange Vartanians who offered entire companies to her service. No one had heard of Vartania, doubtless a small and poor nation, but they kept to themselves and took her money so she paid them and sent them in first.
It wasn’t easy but Carol finally found the Vampire. She had caught a large fat lizard as it was eating bugs and while munching on the tail (she had no problem crunching and digesting small bones), she saw overturned rocks and checking, the smell of decaying blood. Vampires rarely bathed and never brushed their teeth. Something to do with an aversion to running water, so their breath always reeked of rotting blood. It made people avoid the monsters but the Goth-types be didn’t seem to care and so the vampires focused on this sub-culture. Looking sixteen, with her hair dyed black and in leather, Carol often assumed that visage to attract the beasts. But their breath always gave them away and you could smell them if you were downwind…. And had a strong stomach.
The vampire was being followed by the savages on this desert. She had met a few, easily killing them in their weakness for they had only to grow as strong as necessary to move about in the low Martian gravity while Carol’s body and muscles had evolved to fight Earth’s greater pull. Then her greater werewolf constitution and strength made hee a superwoman on Mars.
A part of her hoped the savages would find him, making him suffer as they ate him alive. But another part wanted to kill him herself.
An hour later she realized that the vampire was not being stalked by the savages, he was leading them!
Somehow it had turned these naked savages into an army. They were still naked and had poor tactics, even she saw that. But they were growing in numbers as more savages joined him in the hopes of food. And food he gave them. He led them against the Red Men and they brought him sacrifices to drink as they ate the dead that they had killed. That much she worked out examining the ruined camps she came across while following the monster.
Now she watched the savages approach an army of the civilized Red men who were making a stand on a hill. The Vampire had divided his thralls into three groups. One to attack the civilized, then two more to flank when their attention was concentrated on the main force. The plan was simple but would work IF the savages had numbers and suprise. They easily had the former.
Carol carefully removed her clothing and folded her belongings which she hid in a crevasse. She’d need them later. Then she stood naked and sniffed the wind! There he was, in the dark. She couldn’t see him but his reek was impossible to avoid.
She looked up to the twin moons, she had yet to figure out the Lunar Cycle here but no matter. It was enough. She focused, felt the anger and then she slipped away as she changed.
She began to run even while she was still half woman but no matter. She had learned that she was faster and stronger than any human on Earth and on Mars, she was a superwoman! Able to run faster and leap farther with the strength to crush bones easily in this reduced gravity. True, she winded easily in the thin air but eating enough red meat had built her blood to the point where it didn’t bother her… too much. At least not as much as the memory of what meat she did eat. Mostly lizard but the occasional….
She hit the left flank, not stopping but snapping and clawing and tearing as she passed, leaving dead and dying in her wake. Many of the savages fell upon their wounded fellows, not yet disciplined enough to focus on the task at hand for the Vampyre had trained them with meat and the occasional execution. They were a mob, not an army, and Carol’s devastating attack was crippling them.
Then she saw the Vampire on a hill, directing the main force. She stood and howled, then rushed forward, killing and maiming anything that stood in her way. And a lot of them stood in her path as the kill-lust took over.
The Vartanians were trapped. An army form many worlds, disguised as Red Men of Barsoom, they had been assured that the savages where just savages, fit only to be hunted and killed like animals. But now, these were showing tactics and leadership! And they were attacking in numbers far greater than expected. Outnumbered, all they could do was to go down fighting.
The Leader, a Vanthi Saxon, was on the hill, swinging his heavy great sword in figure-eights to kill as many as possible when he heard the howl!
No Vanthi had heard that howl in a Thousand years since they had left Earth just after the Norman Conquest, but thousands of years of human history were in his blood and the short hairs on his neck rose. He wanted to run in terror without knowing why, instead he simply swore, “Fenris!” and began a funeral song to Odin as he went Berserk!
Eibhlin was killing, even her enhanced strength beginning to weaken when she heard the howl. Years before, as a Kris prisoner on a Skree planet, they had done things to her, things that made her a werewolf by enhancing long-dormant DNA. They had sought to turn her into a weapon to kill her Demon masters in the Kris War and these changes were seeking to answer that howl.
An inner part of her wanted to respond! Wanted to hunt and she had to fight down the change. She howled in frustration and remained… not-a-werewolf… as she kept slashing. But the desire and need were there!
Carol heard the howl and almost stopped, holding a savage in her arms as she tore the throat from the one in her jaws. She had met exactly two werewolves in her life and she wanted to pack! Another werewolf with her to kill this vampire! A pack to hunt meat! Savages, bitter tasting but still prey and the call of the Pack was strong.
The pain of a sword thrust through her back brought her to reality. She killed the one she held, spat out the one in her mouth, then turned to see the savage, his blade dark with her blood, soiling himself as he faced that which even Barsoomian nightmares could not imagine. Carol pulled his entrails from his still-living body and turned, dragging the dying savage with her and she charged the vampire, killing and maiming as she ran, oblivious to the wounds they gave her, her unnatural vitality wounds healing almost as fast as they were created.
She faced the Vampyre at last, standing alone, sword in hand, her wounds already healing, his followers breaking and running. Serving a vampire that fed them was one thing, facing this unkillable nightmare was another Werewolves healed or they did not. Carol healed! But enough damage, or a severed head would still bring her down.
She rose to her full werewolf height, nearly six feet and growled.
The savages still near the Vampyre backed away, some dropping their swords and running, leaving their king to die. They had seen that the Vampyre was the most dangerous thing on Barsoom. Now they realized that they faced that which gave nightmares to terror and they wished nothing to do with this thing.
Suddenly alone, the Vampyre laughed at the monster, raised his blade and readied to cut her head from her body, a thing he could easily do, but…
Carol sprang! She had seen too many people die from waiting. With the instincts of a wolf, a monster, she had no human hesitation and instead of chopping, the Vampyre was dorced to thrust. If lucky, he could split her heart and kill her but she reached out to deflect the blade.
She didn’t, the point penetrating her paw but her momentum was too great and her paw moved the blade enough. It entered her chest, then as she continued to advance, thrust deeper, more so as she grabbed that sword hand with her free arm and pulled herself forward.
The Vampyre tried to break free. If he could, he could retreat or hack at her before she could recover from the stabbing thrust. But his arm was held by the monster’s claw.
It pulled him closer as it howled in pain, as it pulled itself onto the sword.
Three feet of Forundus steel passed through her chest, tearing lung and rib and spine as it did so, but missing the heart by a bare inch.
Then they were face to face and the werewolf bit, her jaws closing on the vampyre’s face. Carol crunched, tearing the things face off, then she opened again and went for the throat, ripping and tearing as he died on a long distant planet.
The Vartanians won. How, they never knew. Only that the savages of U-Gor, on the edge of victory, broke and ran.
Later examination showed hundreds of bodies torn and dying in the desert. “Doubtless they turned on each other in the passion of killing,” offered a Mon who towered over them all.
“yes, doubtless,” replied their Vanthi leader, his guts still reeling from the howls he had heard during the battle. Mon were Pagan but not Odinists! They never knew about Ragnorok or Fenris, the demon-wolf! Odin must have been able to delay the end of the world, once again for Fenris was, again, chained. It would have been nice to see Valhallah. “yes, they turned on each other. Come, let us rest then continue to hunt.”
But a careful search for clues found only the mangled and burned body of a white-skinned man on a hill, his face and neck torn away, his right arm shredded and torn form the socket, that mangled hand still holding a bloodied sword. But what that man had killed before it had died and burned in the sun, no one found.
Carol awoke in the ruins as the local villagers removed the burned lumber from her naked body. She couldn’t understand them and passed out again.
“It’s the American schoolgirl!”
“The monster must have stripped her to force himself on her.”
“Check her neck, any marks?”
“None! Thank God we got here in time.”
“Sergei found her clothes on the trail, cover her with my coat and we’ll take her back. What of the monster?”
“Gone, burned. Hopefully forever!”
“What a nightmare this poor child suffered. God grant that she remember nothing. Take her back to the village and contact the American Embassy, they’ll take her home.”
Rick Johnson Feature Articles and Fiction in ERBzine
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