That afternoon I had curled on the bed, trying to sleep away the fear and the foreboding feeling that time was ticking toward some unknown climax. I found myself remembering the warmth of Kane. Somewhere in that zone between waking and sleeping, I started thinking about the farm and the ever- increasing oddities that had been a part of my life for 18 years.
I remembered the little old lady, family guardian? Curse? She had visited family members often, with each seeing and drawing from her different things, calm, hope, fear. Each overtime trying to solve the mystery of her visit, the purpose of her presence in our lives. Had she brought a message that I had somehow missed? Had she been offering some clue of future events? My head started to ache from thinking about it and eventually I drifted into a fitful slumber.
She came to me in my sleep. Her face calm, gentle, skin wrinkled by time but somehow she radiated a youthful energy. I could see her, as if outside my body, watching my sleeping form on the bed. She reached out, placing her palm upon my cheek, strangely warm for an apparition. She ran her finger across my forehead and it was then I noticed the bracelet on her left hand, woven of string and beads, alternating red and black. She suddenly moved her right hand to roll the beads of the bracelet between her fingers, as if reading my thoughts. She looked over her shoulder, away from my sleeping form, in the direction I felt myself hovering. She smiled and nodded, then I felt a swoosh of air and suddenly I was rolling over on the bed, warm from sleep.
Now I stood, chilled by the window peering into a darkness I did not welcome and didn't understand.
On the Other Side of Town
He scratched at himself as he rolled his bulky form over in the pipe. His movement caused dull thuds to echo along the pipe, carrying through the darkness like a horrific melody. His talons brushed through the thick hair on his head, pulling an insect loose from the matted mess. His stomach rolled, grumbling with a hunger, empty, needing to be filled. Thoughts of sweet soul morsels flashed through his minds.
Tonight he would hunt. Crawling from his hideout into the brisk night air, he felt something flowing through his body, a strange energy, charged with something else. A strange new feeling he couldn't identify. But the gnawing inside of him made him quickly discard any thoughts of this new sensation. Instead, he contemplated his hunting ground. On the far east side of town, seedy bars nestled along a forgotten street, forgotten except for the lonely, the empty, the careless patrons that overcome by a desperate need for companionship found them surprisingly welcoming.
It took him a little over an hour to walk across to the other side of town, hiding in the shadows along the way, although few cars were out, people instead exhausted from a week of work, crashed on their sofas in front of a TV. Still, he stayed hidden, weak from lack of feeding, his senses dulled by the gnawing inside him.
Now he crouched behind a dumpster waiting. Smells he had grown accustomed to but still found strange drifted toward him on the light breeze. Unpleasant to most but creating little distaste in him, rotting food, stale urine. He knew the smells helped in the hunt, disguising his own odor, people ignoring it, shrugging it off until he was upon them.
He must have dozed because as he became suddenly alert, he noticed that the lights of the bar across the street had blinked out. He wondered how long ago? Had he missed his chance? Then he heard the tinkling laughter and the sound of footsteps. He salivated, moving closer to the mouth of the alley.
Two figures stood entwined, leaning against the dark car, wrapped in such a way that it wasn't clear which arm belonged to which being. The laughter sparkled in the air as the female threw back her head and tossed her blonde hair about. Even in the dark night, it glistened almost white.
He crouched at the mouth of the alley mesmerized by her hair. His mouth agape, saliva drooled down his chin. With a crusty hand, he wiped at his mouth, at the same time his stomach once again rumbled with hunger. His eyes closed briefly as he let a wave of desire course through his body. He opened his eyes just in time to see the female slipping into the car. The male thumped the roof of the vehicle in frustration but she paid him no mind and started the car, pulling from the parking spot with a wave of her hand and disappearing down the street.
He had witnessed this before, the back and forth struggle between the males and females in this land of heat and light. He didn't understand it. In the world of darkness, one simply took what was wanted. Power and strength dictated who and what was available. Here a different sort of ritual played out. Not the raw race for power, claiming any and all in its path but rather a subtle exchange, almost like a dance, swaying at different speeds at different times. So lost was he in thinking about this strange ritual that he didn't notice the male had started down the street.
Slipping from the alley, he stayed close to the buildings, brushing against the rough brick as he followed along. He sniffed the air, the man's scent rolled through him, causing his body to lurch forward in a desperate hungry instinct. He stopped himself, hanging back, waiting for the perfect time. The man stumbled a couple of times and ran his hands through his hair. He turned, looking behind him, his human eyes searched the sidewalk but failed to locate the bulky mass crouched against the dark brick of the storefront.
Without warning the man stepped into the road and crossed to the other side. He fumbled with keys next to a white pickup and suddenly there was no choice. It was act or go hungry. Stepping away from the building he lurched into the street. The male looked up and briefly saw his charging form. Then his key slipped easily into the door and he was inside his truck. The engine roared to life.
Sitting in the middle of the street, the darkness surrounded him as the lights of the truck grew dimmer in the distance. He snarled in frustration. Hungry. Blood rushed and pooled in his brain, he struggled to clear his thinking. Across the street, he could hear two cats hissing and spitting, fighting each other in their hunger, working their bony forms into a large metal trash can. They would not fill him but they would sate the gnawing inside of him and so he slinked across the street toward them. No longer feeling powerful, only longing for a morsel to sooth his desire.
In the Streets, In the Night
Annie wasn't the only one looking out a window, into the darkest of nights. Kane gazed into the black void of the night, through the windows of his pick up. He had been cruising the streets since nightfall, searching, watching, thinking. He had paid particular attention to the bars in town, as they closed, tumbling people out into the night. People oblivious to much, senses dulled with alcohol and fatigue. Some of the bars were close together but not all of them. The town wasn't big but it was big enough that he missed the man who slipped from the grasp of the Evil One. Even so, as he cruised the streets he picked up on an overwhelming sense of despair. The air was thick with frustration. It drifted into his truck through the window he had cracked to allow the colder air to keep him alert. It played across his nose, mingled with the stale odor of fried food and beer.
Kane turned down Jasper Street and slammed on his brakes. Cats were everywhere. Running down the sidewalks, perched on benches, slipping along the street between parked cars. He tried counting them, ten, twenty, maybe more prowled on Jasper Street. Tilting his head to one side he watched them. Were they hunting something? A female in heat? Or was something hunting them? They seemed edgy, slinking, turning their heads right to left, or perched somewhere silently staring into the darkness. Kane waited there in his truck, watching, but after about thirty minutes he grew restless and drove down the street carefully avoiding the cats. The cats, eerily parted for him as he eased down the street.
A short distance down the street an odd foul smell tickled his nose. Frowning he tried to draw in a deeper breath of fresh air but instead only managed to gag from the stench. The air was thick with the smell, a mixture of decay, burnt ashes and something else. Something he couldn't identify. An oddly familiar yet foreign scent, both musky and ancient.
Rolling the pickup to a halt, he gazed into the narrow, dark alleyway. His senses tingled, much like they did when he was on the hunt for an ordinary felon but this was no ordinary anything. He sensed more than saw movement toward the back of the alley. Something there behind a dumpster. The black shadows appeared different than the regular night air. The shadows shifted and pulsed, as if a creature heaved breaths, trying to fill an enormous mass with oxygen. He grimaced from the cloying stench, opening the door slightly he dropped one foot to the pavement, only to jerk it back quickly when shrieking and growling and hissing filled the air. He slammed the door as several dozen cats fled from the alleyway, surrounding his pickup, landing in bunches on the hood, colliding with each other as they flowed over, around and under his pick up like a flooding river of felines.
He didn't open the door again, he didn't pile out of the pickup with a gun in hand to explore the alleyway in search of a villain. Under other circumstances, he would and even now he felt compelled to do so as he remembered his oath to protect citizens, But he also felt a tingling sensation crawling over him, a foreboding grew, starting in the pit of his stomach and traveling up to lodge in the back of his throat. Bravery was one thing but many deputies died from being foolhardy. He was alone. Without backup. Up against an unknown enemy. He silently eased the pickup forward making note of the location. He'd come back tomorrow and nose around. Gathering as much information as possible about this opponent would be wise and not all information came from books and folklore. Valuable information came from field work, looking for patterns, understanding habits, examining the terrain in which the hunter lurked
Pulling into his drive he suddenly felt weary and overcome with sadness. He felt tears brim up in his eyes as he felt sorry for those cats. Those damn cats! They had saved his life, kept him from venturing out of his pickup and he had left them there to fend for themselves against the creature. A fluffy buffet for the loathsome stalker. The tears cascaded down his cheeks and he brushed them away with the back of his hands. Allowing himself to sob silently, he mourned for the cats, for the lost souls, for the world that had allowed the darkness to enter and feed and grow. When he was finished he climbed out of the truck, entered the house and collapsed on the sofa. He lived to hunt another day. And hunt he would. When the sun came up he still snored softly and slumbered deeply but soon he would arise and then he would gather the others and take action. They must, they could wait no longer.
In the Early Predawn Hours
As he crawled into the sewer pipe he felt empty, a deep gnawing hunger consumed him and for the first time in his existence, his hands trembled. He looked down at them, even in the darkness he could see a few stray cat hairs clinging to his bloodied nails. The pitiful creatures had scattered like dandelions in the summer, tossed carelessly across the lawn. He had pounced on a few but after ripping into them and still feeling the emptiness he had lost all interest in gobbling their whispery souls.
Anger seeped through him, white flickering flames of rage, reaching deeper inside him with each step. He crawled as far back into the pipe as he could manage. He could already sense the light seeping into the world outside. It toyed with his senses and lessened him somehow. Making him feel weak. Somewhere in his mind, a seed was planted. A seed of destruction and he knew those that hunted him must be destroyed. Yet he trembled with doubt, another new experience for him. He tilted his head and contemplated what it meant, exhausted whatever its meaning, seemed to elude him.
As he let his head droop in slumber, he entered a dream state, almost trance-like. In it he ruled in the World of Darkness, the old ways reignited and power surged through him. In the darkness, he felt no foreboding, only comfort. It reminded him of The Beginning, of the rutting, of the dominance, of the power of The One Who Had Always Existed. He smiled in his sleep.
In the Darkness below, things were not as he dreamed. Years had passed and those still there scrambled to survive, turning on each other with increasing frequency, many sought the roots of the Birthing Tree. Those horrified by the brightness of the world above, stayed hidden in the bowels of the earth, gnashing their teeth, miserable in their fate.
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