Sympathetic Ears (A Short Story)

“There ya go. First one’s on the house … you look like you could use it”.

The haggard man blinked and shook his head, as if coming up for air from somewhere deep within himself. After looking at the beer for a long time as if it was the most welcome thing he’d ever seen, he looked up at Earl.

Earl was an innocuous sight at a little under five feet, though weighing in at nearly three hundred pounds. Santa Clause hair spilled out of his face and ran up to hide under a worn, woolen beanie. Like jolly old Saint Nick, Earl also had a kind twinkle in his eye.

“What’s the problem, stranger?”

The haggard man leaned back on his stool as if to get his brain around just why this man was being so kind to him. After all that had happened to him lately, he wondered what possible interest the bartender could have in …

… but then he managed a half-hearted smile and realized he was in the place to talk about his problems. Hell, the man behind the bar probably did nothing but listen to people’s problems, day in, day out; strangers pouring out their sorry tales to him.

It maybe even helped a little.

So the haggard man began, thankful the bar was empty, with the exception of himself and Earl; thankful it was so far off the main road that nobody was likely to come in while he let it all out, for that matter.

During it all, Earl merely listened, nodding occasionally as if he had, indeed, heard it all before. The haggard man took solace in this: If his problems weren’t as unique as he thought, he didn’t feel quite so alone with ‘em.

The beer flowed for a good hour or so, and the haggard man – though still haggard – felt at least a little less burdened, having unloaded his woes; no closer to a solution, but a little better.

The beer was obviously going some way towards that. And it awoke a hunger in the haggard man.

“Say, Earl”, for they were now on a first-name basis, “you got anything stronger than beer?”

The corner of Earl’s mouth moved towards the twinkle in his eye, and he began nodding again.

“Yep … I reckon there’s something stronger out the back …

… you wanna come out and help me look for it?”

As if it were the best offer he’d had in a long while, the haggard man climbed down none-too-steadily from his stool and headed for the doorway Earl was gesturing towards.

“Through here?”

Earl just nodded, moving towards the door himself, though pausing until the haggard man had gone through.

The room was dark – a pokey little storeroom – and Earl made no effort to find a light switch. What little light fell through from the bar illuminated only kegs of beer, shelves of something in glass bottles and wooden boxes …

… wooden boxes of something possibly better than beer … ?

“Look over the back there”.

Earl’s voice seemed close.

“What am I looking for?”

In a movie, the haggard man would have heard Earl say something like, “You’ll know it when you see it”, before he saw what he saw. Truth be told, even if Earl had shouted something like that at him, the haggard man wouldn’t have heard it: Blood was pounding in his ears in time to his heartbeat like some sort of wet bass drum.

A sudden inhalation stopped the tattoo as something stabbed into the space between the haggard man’s third and fourth vertebrae. An instant later, he was on the floor.

Knowing nobody would be by, Earl set to work. As he began cutting away, he looked up at the bottles, to the last thing the haggard man had seen …

… and spoke.

“Yep … another Sad Sack tonight. Whining to me like he’s the only one in the world with problems. As if I’m supposed to listen to everyone else’s problems when there’s nobody to listen to mine … ”

As he settled in for a long night of talking about his problems to the only ones who would listen, Earl finished his grisly job and rinsed his trophies under the sink, before adding the haggard man’s ears to his collection.

Copyright © 2008 by David Scott Aubrey
All Rights Reserved
723 Words

This short story is a work of fiction. Any and all names, characters and/or incidents are either products of my imagination or are used fictitiously. Where any such resemblance may exist to actual persons (living or dead), actual events or locales, it is purely coincidental.

Please don’t assume that my characters speak for me or carry my own opinions on various matters in any way, shape or form (though some might – you never can tell).

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It Shouldn’t Have Happened to a Vet (A Short Story)

With Apologies to James Herriot.

“Ahh … the new bloke. Murphy, wasn’t it? Come on in”.

“Tea … ?”

“Yeah, I don’t take sugar, either. The milk hereabouts makes it sweet enough”.

“Through here … take a seat … ”

“You’ll have to excuse the mess. I know the place looks like a tornado’s hit it, but I haven’t felt much like cleaning up since … ”

“Ahh … it’s all right … no need to walk on eggshells about it. This is just an informal chat, I know; the new bloke seeing if the previous guy has anything to tell him about the job, the region … the people. But I figured we’d get around to that subject, sooner or later. Might as well be sooner … ”

“I figure you’ve probably read all in the papers about it. ‘Journalists’. Huh … ! Couldn’t spell the word ‘truth’, let alone write about it. All sorts of rumours flying around at the college, too, I’ll bet, hmm … ?”

“Ah, well … bear with me …

… and I’ll tell you what really happened”.

“She’s strugglin’”.

“Yeah, mate … I knew you wouldn’t have called me if it was just a normal birth”.

And I did know. For Jim McGrove – and every other farmer in the area – a cow giving birth was nothing to ring the vet about. Even if the cow was having trouble – the unborn calf not having turned properly, for instance – most farmers (and I’m talking third- and fourth-generation folks, out here) think nothing of getting in there and turning it themselves.
I was only called out when there was something they couldn’t handle … and that was rare enough that I hadn’t done an outcall since I first moved here and started my practice, going around to introduce myself to everyone; a fair while previous …

Anyway … as I knelt down beside the cow, for some strange reason my mind flashed back to when I was first learning my skills. Our job for an entire semester was to dissect a horse.

(You’d remember that … wasn’t that long ago for you, was it?)

Funny thing … in the cold of the dissection room, the horse’s coat always looked wet, somehow. And McGrove’s cow had that same sheen to her.

I put my bag down with my 100 watt lamp so I could glove up. It was late enough (or early enough depending on how you looked at it) that the field we were in had already started to dew up, and stray blades of grass used that moisture to stick to the sides of my bag.

I don’t know why I notice little things like that. The way my mind works, I suppose. Still, times like this – even when I’m about to stuff my arm up a cow – I’m glad I do. It was about ten past two in the morning, the sky was so black the stars almost seemed to provide more than enough light on their own. The Milky Way was more than a dusting of stars above us – it was a storm of them. The air was crisp and hard in my lungs, but I like it brisk.

We were so far out from McGrove’s farmhouse I couldn’t even see the light he still had on back in the kitchen, where he’d sat waiting for me after he’d called. When I arrived, he’d been standing outside the door, though, so – even if he hadn’t told me anything about how hard a time his cow was having trying to give birth – I could’ve guessed, because he didn’t even offer me a cuppa.

(You’re from the city, originally, right? Anyone living in the country would know that – unless something is really wrong – you offer a guest a cuppa before anything else).

Anyway, all this went through my mind as I gloved up and got into it.

My hand was about halfway up when I felt the calf …

… or so I thought.

Normally, you find the head, check the umbilical hasn’t wrapped around its neck, then work your way back from there and find the back legs. You know the rest: You grab ‘em and muscle the calf around so it’s turned properly. Watch the hooves don’t tear the placenta … all that. And then you let nature take care of the rest.

But when I tried to identify the head – feeling for the umbilical – I couldn’t feel what I was expecting …

Even through the gloves, you get a sense of the animal waiting to be born. You can feel the shape through the placenta of the ears, the nose …

I felt …

… I felt this …

… dome …

If McGrove’s cow hadn’t been on her side, nearly exhausted, with low vitals, she might’ve bolted – calving or not – when I jumped back.

At first I thought, “This must be something artificial … !” Thoughts bounced around making me wonder if some other vet had been doing some sort of experiment – implanting some sort of sensor, or something. But three things chased those thoughts away:

One, I knew that McGrove wouldn’t have allowed any such thing.

Two, I knew I was the only vet in the area.

And, Three, I’d never heard of any such thing! Implants in cows … ?

But … that’s what it felt like to me … something …

… artificial … !

I should mention that – yes – there’s often times when unborn calves are deformed – you’ll feel odd bumps and lumps. But … you can identify them …

… I had no idea what this was.

McGrove couldn’t see my face from his angle – he was just behind and to my left, holding the lantern. And he must have figured that my ‘jump’ when I touched the thing was probably just me trying to turn the calf.

Still … his presence served to remind me … in front of these lifelong farmers, you don’t show any sense that you don’t know what’s going on. Even if you’re the only vet around, if you make a mistake, or seem as though you don’t know what’s going on … word gets around. Some farmers in the area would rather lose stock than subject their animals to a vet they didn’t think was what they deserved.

So …

… I didn’t withdraw my hand.

By this time, the cow was moaning. Yes, it’s normal …

… but not like this.

In the couple of seconds that I was there trying to figure out what to do next, the cow’s moans grew louder and louder …

… and turned into screams.

I don’t know if anyone else had heard a cow scream, but I’ve … I mean … I was a vet for over a decade, and I’ve never heard anything like it. Couple that with the fact that it was just me and McGrove out there – seemingly in the middle of nowhere – and you can understand why the hairs on the back of my neck stood up straight enough to push against my collar.

“Jesus Christ!”

“Just hold the lamp still … there’s … ”

I was about to say, “Something … ”, but I didn’t have to.

McGrove got to see it all for himself …

That poor cow …

Sorry …

It’s just …

… nothing should have to suffer like that …

Anyway …

… I fell back. All in one go, my arm was out and I was suddenly on my arse. And just as well, too, because that’s what saved my life.

That poor cow kicked like she was having a seizure. I’d never seen anything as violent, though. I remember seeing McGrove out of the corner of my eye jumping as I scrambled back, too, fast as I could.

Didn’t save him, though. But it did save me.

The … legs, I guess you’d call ‘em … the legs tore out through that poor cow’s side, instead of coming out through the birth canal. McGrove was nearest that side, and I was where I was expecting a calf to be delivered, so that’s why he got …

… sorry …

… all right … I’m all right …

… it’s just … I’ve never seen anything like …

… sip o’ me tea, here …

… anyway …

… those … legs … they tore her open like … like meat going through a grinder … ! You know those hand-winding meat grinders … ? Just like that. Only this was bone, tendons … flesh! And it all happened instantly. It was like whatever was inside her just … flexed.

Chunks of that poor cow hit me and I ended up flat on my back. I was trying to wipe the blood and meat out of my eyes when I saw this shadow … six or eight legs … some sort of dome shape for a head … rise up out of what was left of that poor cow …

… next thing I know, McGrove was screaming.

I thought the cow’s screams were bad …

It didn’t last long, and when I finally wiped enough bits of the Bessie out of my face to see properly, that … thing … had disappeared. And all that was left of McGrove was … ribbons, I guess. Ribbons of meat. Ribbons of bone.

The blood … the bits … the cow’s and McGrove’s … on me, it felt like they were as warm as if I’d poured kerosine on myself.

I don’t know what it was. I can’t even remember what happened in the next couple of hours, actually. Doctors said shock. Police said a neighbour had heard the screams even from a couple of hundred acres away! Thought them chilling enough to ring the coppers. Coppers found me and what was left of McGrove … and that poor cow … up on that hill. I was in shock, or something, like I said …

Took a couple of days before the coroner determined that I couldn’t have done what had been done to McGrove. No … human could have …

During that time, I was in custody in the hospital … doped up on something for the shock.

But … like I said … I don’t know what it was. I do know it was enough to make me retire. Even though I’ve got a good couple of decades ahead of me in this job, I don’t want it anymore … not if there’s ever the chance I’ll see anything like what I saw that night …

Of course, I’ve done some research since then. Trying to figure out what was going on. What the hell was in that poor cow. How it got there. I’ve got some loose theories. You know those stories about cattle mutilations? What if they really were caused by aliens? But what if the aliens weren’t trying to kill the cows, but study them … work out how to breed with ‘em, or something … ?

Anyway …

“Huh … ! Lookin’ a bit pale, there, Murphy. Drink yer tea … “

… plenty of good cow’s milk in it … !”

Copyright © 2007 by David Scott Aubrey
All Rights Reserved
1,872 Words

This short story is a work of fiction. Any and all names, characters and/or incidents are either products of my imagination or are used fictitiously. Where any such resemblance may exist to actual persons (living or dead), actual events or locales, it is purely coincidental.

Please don’t assume that my characters speak for me or carry my own opinions on various matters in any way, shape or form (though some might – you never can tell).

Bear With Me (A Short Story)

THIS STORY IS being written on a dark and stormy night. You know … the kind of atmosphere that begins hundreds of different stories the world over:

“It was a dark and stormy night … ”

However, the actual weather isn’t the main focus of this particular tale.

Rather, it is the time …

… night.

Night.

Dark.

The unknown.

That’s all anyone ever fears, really.

The unknown.

Since time immemorial, what lurks ‘out there’ – during the hours when the sun sleeps – has been the stuff of horror. Terrifying tales of obscene creatures, events too powerful and too evil to contemplate with the rational mind claw at the subconscious.

Those selfsame forces – said to be responsible for all that is wrong with the world – lurk on the edge of your dreams, in the time before the dawn, in the dead of night.

In the unknown.

This story (if you choose to accept it, to believe it) could be about a facet of those unknown forces, those unspeakable demons that drive weaker beings in the daylight world to commit atrocious acts of depravity and sadism.

It could be a story about devils.

It could be a story about blood sacrifices.

It could be a story about murder.

It could be a story about an old stuffed toy.

To whom it once belonged is … unknown.

The old toy bear, once some happy child’s plaything, now cast out under the elements in the old, deserted woodlands near the outskirts of the small country town. Its once orange-coloured fur long ago transformed to a sickly yellow ochre under the wind and rain, its once cute button eyes now staring lifelessly, unwillingly … out into the world beyond this one.

During those lonely hours between the dusk and the dawn, when most people have barricaded themselves (subconsciously, for the most part) into the relative safety of the home, away from the horrors alive in the night …

… what do you suppose this old toy bear (assuming it possessed some small sliver of sentience) …

… could have seen?

Of course, such a thought is purely and plainly irrational. Stuffed toys aren’t sentient, and only contain as much life as the child to whom it once belonged imparted to it.

But suppose …

… just suppose that it was sentient … that it was alive … the energies of its previous owner building and building until the old stuffed bear possessed – however rudimentary – the first stirrings of a life of its own …

… of consciousness.

Not in the same manner as people, of course.

No.

But … in some special – unknown – ‘stuffed toy way’ …

… suppose it was alive.

After all, toy bears are crafted with anthropomorphism in mind, aren’t they?

Assuming that could possibly be the case …

… assuming it was alive …

… just what do you suppose that old toy bear might have seen in those dark hours, where the unknown reigns, cast – as it was – out into the night?

If one could witness such events in the middle of the deserted bushland, with eldritch forces swirling ’round and ’round the poor stuffed bear, do you suppose that one would see the once-cute button eyes suddenly appear to widen … as if terror gripped its plush little heart?

Do you suppose that one might see the old toy attempt to move its shabby paws up to its mouth …

… as if to stifle a scream?

A reaction to terrors only it could witness?

Of course, nothing like that could ever happen, you say.

It’s just an old stuffed toy.

But suppose …

… just suppose …

… that the unknown was enough to terrify even an old stuffed bear …

If it was so, then just what manner of inconceivable horrors would be out there? And what effect could those nameless terrors have on the toy besides its fitful, fearsome shuddering?

Would it surrender to the maddening forces assaulting it during those dark hours?

Would it turn from a simple child’s plaything …

… into something that would do almost anything to keep those arcane powers at bay?

Would it turn, and – fearing for its nascent soul, its elementary sanity – desperately bargain, turning to some unknown horror to do so?

No.

Of course not.

Who’d even think such a thing, you’d say.

That’s why, when the child saw the bear, he instantly picked it up … overjoyed at his newfound prize.

Little Adrian was only five years old, after all, and something like the old stuffed toy bear – found, abandoned in the bushland as he explored it while his parents held their picnic nearby – represented (to him) a most valuable treasure indeed.

Of course, he would have to keep his newfound treasure hidden from Mum and Dad. Grown-ups didn’t understand such things, and would only make him throw it back where he found it, saying that he had ‘no idea where it had been’.

But little Adrian knew better … and – according to him – there was nothing wrong at all with the old toy bear.

That’s why he didn’t give a second thought to picking it up and hiding it in his jacket to take home. And – of course – he didn’t even consider for a moment what the old toy bear might have ‘seen’ during the dark hours.

Perhaps, sometimes, children don’t know more than their parents, after all.

Upon arriving home, little Adrian raced upstairs to his room and closed the door behind him. He wanted to find a safe hiding place for his newfound toy. Somewhere his parents would never find it.

Ah! The cupboard where he stored his clothes!

He put the toy bear under a pile of size three t-shirts, closed the door, then went downstairs to watch TV.

The afternoon passed, the dark coming early due to the heavy clouds in the sky that were pregnant with imminent deluge. The night – when it came – was dark and stormy …

Stormy enough to awaken little Adrian from his slumber.

Ordinarily, he would have asked if he could stay with his parents until the storm had passed …

… but not on that night.

That night, little Adrian knew that he had something that could protect him against the storm.

Or so he thought.

Lightning spat with thunderous tongues as little Adrian headed from his bed and over to the cupboard to fetch his newfound toy.

He reached under the t-shirts and grabbed the bear by the paw.

Quickly running back over to his bed with his toy bear protecting him, little Adrian thought that he wouldn’t have to worry about anything ever again.

And with that, he fell asleep.

An explosion of thunder reawakened him barely ten minutes later.

He wasn’t half as startled by that, though, as he was by the fact that his toy bear was … gone.

He didn’t even notice the tiny roar – a roar a bear might make if it were the size of a small, stuffed toy – as the lightning flashed through the window and the thunder bellowed overhead.

His only focus was looking around his room frantically for his new toy.

And suddenly …

… he saw it.

His little stuffed bear was leaning up against the door of his clothes cupboard where he had put it earlier that day … to keep it … safe.

It seemed to be … pawing … little arms held in the air, mimicking the actions of someone pounding upon the door … as though …

… trying to get back in?

Little Adrian didn’t think of any of that, however.

He only wanted his toy back, and rushed quickly over to retrieve it.

As he reached out to grab it …

… he yelped.

A tiny roar had protested his lifting the toy from the floor …

Turning the bear over, little Adrian saw the cute button eyes … eyes that were now wider than he remembered them.

Eyes that were laced with a horrible fear.

And the tiny protest roar sounded again.

Unknowingly, little Adrian padded back over near his bed, closer and closer to the window … to the storm outside … to the night … holding the toy at arm’s length as he did so. At this, the bear’s tiny roars grew more and more frequent as the distance between it and the cupboard grew.

Little Adrian didn’t know what to make of this at all.

But he did know one thing:

The expression on the toy bear’s face was unnatural, and nothing like it had been when he had found it that afternoon.

In a burst of panic, little Adrian surged forward, tore open the doors of the cupboard and threw the toy bear back in before slamming the door.

He spent the rest of the night awake – the covers pulled as high as he could – with his eyes glued to the door of the cupboard, his young mind desperately trying to fathom what had gone wrong with his newfound toy.

Eventually, however, fear gave way to exhaustion (or, indeed, exacerbated it), and – as dawn pushed through the clouds and into his room – little Adrian gave way to sleep.

That day, little Adrian was troubled.

His problem, of course, was the bear.

It had changed.

He didn’t quite know how – or why – but he accepted it without the scepticism of an adult.

And he feared it.

Bustling to and from his room during the day, little Adrian gave a wide berth to the side of the doorway closest to his cupboard. When in his room, little Adrian was afraid that the toy bear – now no longer a toy but something horrifyingly different – would somehow close the door to his room behind him, cutting off the protection offered by the mere presence of his parents downstairs.

Nonetheless, he entered the room when he had to, but always hurried out again.

He was careful not to let his parents see him doing this, of course. He didn’t want them to know about the toy bear. It was his way of protecting them from its evil.

However, such a thought – that he might somehow protect his parents as they were (even unknowingly) protecting him – barely kept the fear at bay.

And that night, little Adrian didn’t sleep.

Instead … he thought.

His mind’s eye spun over the details of what he should do to alleviate the problems posed by the toy bear.

He knew that it wasn’t the same plaything he’d thought it was when he’d found it on the picnic.

And he knew that he had to get rid of it.

Somehow.

Especially without his parents knowing.

And there, staring at the cupboard doors in the dark, long into the night, he finally came up with an answer.

And a plan.

Little Adrian waited a few interminably long hours until after his parents had gone to sleep. He peeked out through the door of his room to check that all the lights were off and stood for several minutes listening to the regular sounds of his father snoring. He then dressed in some warm clothes as quietly as he could.

And picked up a towel.

With trepidation, little Adrian snuck over to the cupboard where the toy bear hid.

Mustering up all the courage his heart could find, little Adrian quickly (but quietly) opened the doors of the cupboard and threw the towel over the bear, trying to hide its evil from him, trying – somehow – to shield himself from its snarling face and terribly, horrifyingly wide button eyes.

The towel was thin, but – perhaps because little Adrian believed it would – it protected him, at least long enough for him to wrap the bear up further and stuff the horrible toy into his knapsack.

Then, with all the quietness and skill he could manage, little Adrian scampered out the window, down the drainpipe and out into the yard, before heading off in the direction of the picnic grounds …

… and into the night.

The picnic area was only a few kilometres away, but by the time little Adrian had reached it, he had been away from home for nearly three hours. He was cold, and knew that it was because he was scared.

Nearing the edge of the picnic area, little Adrian decided that all that would be needed to rid himself of the cursed toy would be for him to merely throw it back where he found it.

Gingerly, he took it out of his knapsack, nearly dropping it in fright as it squirmed in his hands.

And then, with all of his might …

… he hurled the towel-wrapped toy bear into the bushland that ran alongside the picnic area, before turning and running away as fast as he could.

But … within a few metres …

… he stopped.

And turned back.

The little toy bear had landed just outside the bushland.

And – with a desperate sinking feeling – he knew what needed to be done.

His mind told him that he’d actually have to take the toy back to exactly the spot where he’d found it – back to the very middle of the bush where it first caught his eye – or else it was sure to follow him home.

Timidly, he stepped back over to where it rested on the dew-soaked grass. The towel had come adrift somewhat, so that the bear’s horrible, terrified eyes fixed upon him.

Fighting against the instincts that screamed at him to run, little Adrian carefully picked it up (only touching the parts of it still covered by the towel).

Breath coming in gasps, he started off at a run, wishing only to get his dreadful task over and done with so that he could go home.

He ran faster than he ever thought he had run before, despite the pain lancing up his shins.

He ran and disappeared amongst the trees …

… into the night.

What was it in that old bushland that little Adrian ran into?

What happened to him in those cold hours before the morning?

What caused his parents to simultaneously wake up at that exact instant, sweat cold on their brows and fear pounding in their hearts?

Could they have heard little Adrian’s screams?

That is … unknown.

Well.

Not a happy ending, was it?

Of course, happy endings are for fairy tales … and stories of the unknown are never that.

However …

… to possibly bring some sanity to an otherwise insane tale …

Several townsfolk reported to the police the sighting of a homeless man, lurking around the area of the picnic grounds once word of little Adrian’s disappearance had spread. Barely the day before, they had said. However, the day after, he was nowhere to be found.

Of course, the police and SES searched the area, but the only trace of the transient’s passage through the bushland was an empty bottle …

… and an old, tattered trinket.

The trinket was something the police couldn’t fathom. Nevertheless, they suspected that it could have meant a great deal to the apparent homeless man.

It was a toy.

More specifically, it was a small stuffed toy bear.

Something the homeless man had found somewhere, no doubt. In a Lifeline bin, perhaps, back in the days when the doors on such things weren’t configured to keep people from climbing in and sleeping in them.

Certainly, little Adrian’s parents didn’t recognize the thing.

Left in the bushland, one night had passed before the police found the toy.

During those hours, between the darkness and the dawn …

… what do you suppose this old toy …

… assuming it was sentient …

… could have seen that night?

That, of course …

… is unknown.

Copyright © 2007 by David Scott Aubrey
All Rights Reserved
2,632 Words

This short story is a work of fiction. Any and all names, characters and/or incidents are either products of my imagination or are used fictitiously. Where any such resemblance may exist to actual persons (living or dead), actual events or locales, it is purely coincidental.

Please don’t assume that my characters speak for me or carry my own opinions on various matters in any way, shape or form (though some might … you never can tell).

Reading by Red Light (A Short Story)

IT’S BEEN NEARLY a year to the day since I died.

Nevertheless, over that time I’ve grown to accept my … condition.

This acceptance, however, is something rarely portrayed in the vagaries of the available information relating to my state of affairs. In the books and films on the subject (the only reference I had been able to actually find pertaining to my kind, and of these sources of reference there are many, although so few of them are within even spitting-distance of the reality), the protagonist/s are often portrayed as if they’ve been – in a ‘developmental’ sense – frozen in time.

It’s almost as though they’ve been trapped at exactly the stage of physical, mental, spiritual and emotional development that they’d attained when their lives had ended. Gifted with the curse of the night, these characters had traded their potential to learn, to advance, to mature (as any being – living or dead – must) for the advantages which the darkness can bring.

The sometimes great age these figures had reached, their unguessable life-experiences – these things seemed of no help to them whatsoever in maturing any further. The ‘lives’ of these people – cold, now, under their new shadow – were constrained, it seemed, by whatever pettiness or generosity of spirit, by whatever maturity or immaturity they carried within them … when their number came up.

As I say … I had grown, evolving (deliberate word-usage, there) to accept my condition. It had taken a while – and accepting it and liking it were still two different things – but I could function again. And (believe it or not), I had actually managed to regain some semblance of my previous, past life.

In a way, it could be said that – despite my condition, whatever the future holds for me – I’m just like anybody else (so to speak), insofar as I am simply trying to do whatever I can, to live the life that I want.

No easy task, that – being dead ‘n’ all.

I possess, however, an advantage over the characters in the books and the films. When alive, I’d always been a person who tried to seek out whatever aspects of good might present themselves in any situation I found myself – no matter how terrible the circumstance.

Not that it was a conscious thing I was doing at the time; more an instinct, something ingrained, which enabled me to survive. Often, the only thing I gained with this subconscious point-of-view was experience – be it good or bad.

kind of wisdom, I suppose.

Thus, something of value was usually taken from even the worst of times.

My ‘sunny, positive disposition’ aside … there are, in fact, advantages to my situation. Stunning ones, to say the least. Things seemingly totally unimaginable to the writers I’d briefly considered my ersatz guides into this afterlife.

Somehow, a new freedom came with my condition.

This advantage presented itself in the guise of my being forced to walk on the dark outskirts of society. I was a law unto myself, it seemed – for whom could police one such as I? I, a now anonymous power.

‘Power corrupts’, it’s been said, but I wasn’t too worried. The few old scores I settled not long after gaining my newfound power were eminently deserving of their fates.

And so very satisfying besides!

Soon enough, other positive aspects to my situation presented themselves.

Like my current activity.

I’d always loved the Australian bush – especially at night, from the moment old camping trips with school friends had evolved from mere social gatherings, into grand adventures.

I remember being fourteen years old (not that long ago, but it feels like forever), and feeling alive in such a way as I’d never been (nowhere near imagining what my future held)!

With friends from school, on weekends and holidays, I’d found myself running through often perilous tracks and gullies by the light of the moon; breathing the cool damp air of the night deep into my lungs, invigorated by the glow of the moonlight on the clouds and the aura it gave to the trees.

During these adventures, I did manage to hurt myself, more than once – lest I’m accused of remembering my past life through only rose-coloured glasses. A full spectrum of hindsight reminds me of the time that I badly twisted an ankle; and of other times when I received cuts and scrapes from snagging my foot on unseen tree roots and being forced to meet the ground under less than ideal circumstances; painful lashes from barbed-wire fences; blisters; leeches.

And much more.

These things, however, were more than made up for by the sense of awe I gained from the scenery, as my friends and I cavorted through the bush on our search for even greater experience and adventure.

More than a few times I watched the steady progress of an old freight train in the distance, labouring steadfastly along its unyielding, inexorable path – the regular whistle wailing mournfully as through it were alive, calling all who heard it to consider its endless toil.

‘The driver must have had the greatest job in the world’, I’d thought then; travelling through such countryside at a time when most other people were asleep – the fresh air; the night sounds; the steady pace; no people bothering him – along with him being responsible for such a machine. ‘As soon as I finish school’, I told myself, ‘I’ll join the railways for the same work’.

My plans altered somewhat since then, of course.

But that’s life, I suppose.

So to speak.

Other times in the bush, there was the complete opposite. No noise at all, as my friends and I dared plunge into the freezing waters of a country dam – the mud sliding up between our toes; the reflection of the moon breaking up as splashes and ripples ruptured the calm surface. There was a curious sense of vulnerability from plunging into that most necessary of elements wearing only a pair of flimsy shorts, in the middle of the night, in the middle of the bush.

It didn’t last long, however, as we would soon leave our attempts at night swimming when the realization finally penetrated our adventure-addled brains that the temperature of the water was near to freezing. Madly scrambling to the bank – there to continue our adventures – mud from our toes would be drawn along the inside-seams of jeans once we’d dressed, making the remainder of the night’s undertakings most uncomfortable, yet no less enjoyable.

Coming out of the water, the silence was as all-enveloping as the darkness. With nothing but the trees and the night around us, it was like we were in another world, some bizarre Earth belonging to an alternate reality, where all the people were gone.

Mysteries presented themselves on these sojourns, also.

We spent some time trying to figure out why – out in the ‘middle of nowhere’ – there had been a sheep carcass stuffed inside a plastic bag. Or why there’d been a cow’s head pushed inside an old hessian sack and left lying in a dry gully. What caused a whole stand of trees to drop their leaves and abide, brittle and white, as though under some terrible weight – ghosts of themselves, with their bark coated in dry, grey dust – while all around them, the rest of the bush continued to grow?

No doubt, common answers could be found for such things. The remains of the animals were traps, baited with poison for livestock-worrying dingoes or foxes. The trees suffered nothing more sinister than a virus peculiar to their species.

Nevertheless, at the time, the sense of mystery was what we enjoyed.

So many memories. They’d fill a book of their own, with me hopefully managing to put an endearing love of this country between the pages.

Especially for the bush at night.

In my life after death, I had rediscovered a spot that was very common for the pursuit of knowledge, relaxation, entertainment and social gathering – situated in the small country town of my youthful adventures.

The Library.

A simple country library, yes – set amongst the wonderful scenery of the bushland I so loved.

But The Library, nonetheless.

Oh, of course, I knew that as far as knowledge was concerned, the sum total contained where I sat in peaceful contemplation would not have made up a fiftieth of that in some of the greater libraries of the world – libraries which I would also visit … in time.

But this place would always be prefixed with, ‘The”, for me.

I had not been at all studious when younger. But The Library had always afforded me a place of silence; an oasis of calm amid the clamour of the country town where I then lived, small though it was.

Many a time, it also provided sanctuary from an occasional, and, I suppose, inevitable bully (see the above-mentioned paragraph mentioning the settling of scores).

Once, it provided the setting for the beginning of a long-ago relationship, which started with a fleeting kiss and a promise she would phone that night, as my first ‘real’ girlfriend quickly left to meet her train.

Despite my non-scholarly leanings, many a time The Library had also been (again, inevitably, I suppose), a place of learning – outside the ostensibly enforced brand of erudition provided me by school; one wherein I could find information on subjects which actually interested me, instead of repetitive factoids concerning people and places, times and events, that I would surely have no practical need to know in the so-called ‘real’ world.

Science fiction, naturally, was a staple of my reading diet as a young man, as well as just a touch of the esoteric – although it was not much more beyond a supernatural thriller or two that I was searching for then.

Wholeheartedly embracing the conviction that learning is its own reward, my tastes evolved over time, and reading – upon most any topic, any subject, for the sheer sake of learning – blossomed into an activity that granted me ever-greater pleasure as the years went by.

Shortly after my ‘condition’ manifested itself, I realized that there was no reason at all to be denied this pleasure! Just because I could no longer be counted among the living, still could I ‘lose myself’ amid the pages of a book – if only for a short time – and this was a wonderful thing indeed.

I considered this as I gazed through the big picture window of The Library, seeing the creek that ran behind the old building, and the dense bushland beyond. Were I to look out the other side of the structure, I’d see nothing but more trees, and – in the sky overhead – the clouds lit by the moonlight into spectral shapes.

And that suited me just fine.

The Library was at least fifteen kilometres away from the nearest houses and bush properties, and they, themselves were hidden behind the small hills that pushed their way across the land nearby.

Obviously, I’m partial to isolation.

Not that I don’t ever speak to people. I’m not a complete hermit!

Occasionally, I’d meet someone in a 24-hour Café, or Convenience Store, in one of the various cities I’ve travelled to since I died, and have fine conversations. There are other intelligent people out there who also know the allure of the night.
However, they made their choices to be among it deliberately. Should they so choose, they could stay to watch the sun rise at the breaking of the day.

I could not.

In any case, most of the time, I preferred my own company.

This propensity for isolation is something I’ve learned over the years, so it is another of the advantages that my condition grants me – living on the outside of society as I now do.

But … even before my death, I’d known that the best time for solitude was at night.

And the best place …

… always, always, a library.

I hadn’t been to this particular library in some time. Certainly, not since my life ended. But – aside from some new computers out near the front desk, new cataloguing systems, a reasonably wide range of new books and periodicals grafted onto the existing stock, and the addition of the Internet for the public – it hadn’t changed all that much from when I was growing up, poring through the seemingly endless volumes contained in its shelves, and soaking up the information therein.

I was surrounded by thousands of books, and they always left me with a feeling of … security.

Memories in this place weren’t only in the hearts and minds of the people who’d come and gone here throughout the years, but also in the words and pages of the books themselves, which lined the walls and filled the shelves almost to overflowing … if you knew how to read between the lines.

Knowledge, wisdom, experience … and the feeling of security and safety these concepts granted me – all packaged together in one building, which stood now under the canopy of night, surrounded by the Australian bush I so loved. And now, I had the opportunity to browse through The Library of my younger days to my heart’s content. And, with an added incentive to a person definitely preferable of solitude …

… it was empty.

I must amend the above statement somewhat, and say that I had the opportunity to browse to my heart’s content throughout The Library – bereft of people as it was – but only for a limited time per twenty-four hours.

As you can surmise, sunlight and I do not mix well any more.

Nevertheless, this was no limitation to me. Seeking the positive, I’ve discovered that – in the quiet hours when everyone had gone home, when the air was bereft of the outside bustle of humanity – my own company in this cocoon of peace was all that I required. A silence presented itself there in the dark hours, comparable to the kind that must have provided the origin of the passage, ‘Silence is golden’. A silence found and realized only in comparison to the memories I possessed of the sounds of people moving about The Library when I had known it previously.

This library from my youth, on the outskirts of the small country town where I grew up, had always provided me (when I lived) with the same sense of sanctuary some derive from a Cathedral.

And it did the same for me now.

It was an opportunity I availed myself of eagerly.

At first, it was the sheer delight of finding that I could simply walk in – moving through the aisles and along the walls, the shelves – as undetectable as mist, and take my time looking over the titles. Searching out a book without anyone else there filled me with a strange, serene pleasure.

Then, an added freedom presented itself – that of having no limit to the number of titles I could absorb if I so desired. Why take a knapsack to carry my previously limited ‘allowance’ of books to borrow (as I did in my past life), when I could easily move one of the conveniently-placed trolleys and collect fifty, or a hundred books … and have them all back on the shelves by the end of the night, read and memorized with a speed and alacrity possessed by not even the most skilled proponents of so-called ‘speed comprehension’ courses?

Security systems posed no difficulty for me. Nor did the locked doors. And the lack of internal lighting was less of a problem than any of the above. Indeed, it was almost a blessing, for even the tiniest sliver of light coming from a lone street lamp set hundreds of metres further down the road illuminated the interior of The Library to my eyes as though a thousand candles burned therein.

Sitting in The Library, ‘poring over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore?’

Not quite.

Rather, luxuriating in a sense of serenity I’d so rarely known.

True, The Library had been a place of sanctuary for me on occasion in the past, and I suppose this puts the lie somewhat to my earlier statement about being Reborn to the Night without being held by previous habits and desires.

This, then, I suppose, I do have in common with my fictitious counterparts. I have one unchanging facet carried over from my previous existence.

My love of solitude.

In any case, night after night, I’ve found myself drawn here – for months, now. Scarce had I awakened than I fed and rushed to The Library, secure in the peace I found here, magnified to a degree I could never have imagined in my time before.

The smells of the night flowed through my body as I breathed in the deliciously crisp air, and noted with a gentle pleasure the sound of a tiny cricket, calling for a mate in an outside garden.

I was, of course, also aware of the residents in the town, barely a couple of kilometres away, but I paid them no mind. All were asleep, except those toiling through the night – with whom I felt a vague (if unreciprocable) sense of kinship.

Bakers were creating their wares, and nurses in the nearby Hospital I visited so often to feed (a pint or two from unconscious patients in private rooms making for unobtrusive dining) worked diligently. An occasional security guard drove by the sole bank of the town. The shuffling of paper, the rich aroma of coffee (which smelled wonderful despite the fact I could no longer sup mortal food), and the curious harmony provided by the almost rhythmic striking of computer keys by a good typist echoed throughout the small Police Station kilometres further down the main road.

Of course, other occasional nocturnal residents were in their homes, watching television, or listening to music. Some pursued their household chores, while others continued their work of the day. And still others ate, or made love, played with their pets, listened to talkback radio, or worked on hobbies.

But the majority of the townspeople were asleep, and all of the residents were easy to ignore from my, ‘Fortress of Solitude’.

I was seated in a comfortable chair, of the type with long wooden arms and plush foam padding, covered by a very soft imitation leather, situated right at the back of The Library, behind the non-fiction shelving to the left of the main aisle. I had recently found a most entertaining ‘fringe-science’ work supposing alternative origins to the Ancient Egyptian civilization, a theory tying it to a possible connection with Atlantean lore …

… when The Gnawing made itself known.

It had been building in me for some time – however, I had been ignoring it tonight, preferring to get to The Library as soon as I possibly could. There was a book I’d wanted to finish last night, but sunrise had prevented me, and I had been eager to return to its pages.

Nevertheless, I knew that surcease from my Hunger was close at hand, should I become sufficiently needy.

In fact, it was the footsteps of the man, as he finally moved out of the small alley-way a few kilometers further down the road – between the old hotel and the small army disposal store – which had sent the pang moving within me with a steadily-building ferocity.

I tried to continue with my reading, but eventually it reached the stage where it was no good. Something within me (and didn’t I know what) told me that I would have no more rest, no more peace, until my need was satisfied – just as it told me that this man who had been waiting in the alley-way, slowly smoking cigarette after cigarette and draining beer after beer for the last two hours, was up to no good.

And, as further disruption to my peace …

… he was heading here!

It was obvious that he was coming to steal something from what he perceived to be an ‘easy target’. But what? Such a man would not appreciate the pricelessness of the knowledge that abounded herein, so it was obviously not the books he wanted. There was no actual cash on the premises (that I could smell), and the computer systems were a good year or so out-of-date, surely unable to fetch much of a price in a Pawnshop.

Ahh … but some of us are compelled to give in to our baser desires, I suppose. Too often, our compulsions can’t be defeated, however hard we battle.

Then again – this man had obviously fought no such inner conflict against his desires, and so I was likely attributing characteristics that would not sit comfortably with him.

This irritated me somewhat, and I knew why; for I had fought against my difficulty, my combination of blessing and curse, constantly since my Rebirth to the Night. And herein lay the difference between my acceptance of – and liking of – my condition. My inner battles were lost, more often than not – but I fought them, just the same! The battle – the attempt at retaining even a semblance of morality under my circumstances – there was the reason I engaged in my interior struggle, heedless of the outcome.

But when such temptation is placed right in front of me … !

The sour, salty stench of sweat sheened the exposed skin of his arms and grew slick across his forehead as he moved closer to his intended target, his heavy tread crunching noisily on the gravel of the pathway leading to The Library.

No doubt he’d been caught before, breaking and entering, petty theft dotting his Police Record like pebbles on a beach in the moonlight – but he had obviously not learned his lesson.

I felt a kind of proprietorial anger simmering just below my surface as he (finally – it took him nearly half an hour to get from the alley to the Library grounds) made his way to the main door, then merely stood, staring through the glass of it for a full minute (his mortal eyes completely unable to penetrate the darkness), before noisily shifting away in search of easier access. The Library was my place, I felt, my sanctuary!

I was slowly growing silently incensed at his intent to despoil its tranquility.

The back window connected to the internal toilets proved easier for him to move through, for all he had to do was remove the louvres, which he accomplished with a screwdriver that he carried with him.

Forcing the thin metal back that held the glass, he then removed the panes with a grating sound that very nearly set my teeth on edge!

He struggled to force his bulk through the small space he’d made, and fell in an untidy heap near the male urinal – the antiseptic blocks scattered therein making his eyes sting and water.

Increased lachrymal gland secretions have a distinct smell.

All this I could tell, sitting silently in my chair in the depths of The Library. With my senses as enhanced as they are from the Curse of the Night, I could sense the progress of this wretched individual all too easily.

At this moment, though, whether my enhanced senses were a blessing or a curse, I was hard-put to discern.

Quickly (for a mortal in such pitiful physical condition) he picked himself up off the floor and moved to the door of the toilets, heading for The Library proper. I could tell by the way he momentarily stopped short – hand outstretched and immobile mere inches from the handle – that he had considered the possibility that the door may have been locked.

Suddenly, and with no further planning or contemplation of any kind (a state of mind which surely must have permeated his entire life), he reached forward and grabbed the handle, harshly shoving it downwards, while simultaneously pulling back.

It relieved him when the door opened.

Don’t be too relieved, asshole.

With what – apparently – must have been a great deal of care on his part, he attempted a ‘stealthy’ entrance to main part of The Library. He stretched out his arms in a fumbling attempt to find a wall to guide him, while he took sporadic, tentative steps in the darkness.

The shelves thus ‘showed’ him to the front of The Library, where – yes – he was planning to remove the computers.

I gritted my teeth as he began unplugging the cords by feel, lifting (with some difficulty) an old CPU and wrapping them around it. Several difficult seconds passed for him as he attempted to discern just why the monitor cords would not disconnect, before he realized they were screwed into the back of the CPU.

“Fuck it”, I heard him mumble under his breath, and he yanked hard on the cord, reefing the cable free, the torn screws dropping to the carpet with muted tapping sounds.

You could almost hear the resale value of the equipment drop with them.

The monitor was pulled to the front of the desk on which it sat, but did not overbalance enough to fall off, despite his ineptitude.

With the CPU in one hand, and hoisting the monitor into the other, he groped around blindly in the night with his full hands, in order to ‘see’ if there was more that he could take.

Obviously, he hadn’t given much thought to just how he was going to actually carry any further plunder. Nor had he considered just how he was going to make his getaway with that which he already had.

Walking through town – the only possible pathway accessible to him (the bush itself being far too dense) was his only option – and carrying a CPU and monitor with him at this time of night … well! It could surely around the suspicions of the local law.

Suddenly, he stiffened with a sudden spurt of fear, realizing that – without a hand on the wall, or shelves, to guide him, both his hands full as they now were with his loot – he had no way of knowing which direction to go to leave!

He blinked pathetically in the darkness.

As if that would help him to see better.

Moron.

“Shit”, he bit out through the disturbed silence of the night, his fear subsiding into anger.

He placed the monitor on the floor, then half-straightened before deciding to do the same with the CPU.

As he stood upright once more, he raised his hand to his forehead, and wiped away some of the sweat there.

His thick, sausage-like fingers returned to his brow then, to worry restlessly at a scab there; the crust of a pimple, perhaps, or a sore that had begun its life as an insect bite until scratched into weeping.

It was this, I knew, which would push me over the edge.

All at once, The Scent invaded me, sending a small shudder throughout my entire body as his questing fingernail broke the crust of the scab, releasing a pinhead-sized drop of the blood within him.

The Instinct that I almost constantly fought against awakened hungrily within me then, like the old freight train I had watched in my previous life – with a steady progress, unyielding, inexorable. It built and built in me, rising as if it were a sleeping snake in a cave; slowly at first, then with a deadly suddenness, infusing me with The Desire which slammed through my body with every beat of my cold, dead heart.

When I could stand it no longer – this internal conflict fought on my private tableau (which had taken only seconds to view, but seemed eternal), I silently closed my book, and, warming to the thrill that the next few minutes would bring, placed it on the small table beside my seating.

Aw, buddy … are you gonna get it!

I rose from my chair, and moved right up beside him.

In the darkness he had no clue whatsoever – as he further scraped at the lightly-bleeding mark on his skin – that I was there, that death stood beside him.

With some consternation, he attempted to figure out his next move. But – as previously mentioned – foresight is not something he was very good at.

Dickhead.

He could not have seen me there had he tried, so total was the night, and it was all that I could do to stop myself moving in on him there and then!

But, no – the anticipation was as much the bliss for me as the outcome.

Gonna make you sweat, asshole!

Remarkably, he seemed to have actually decided upon his next move, and bent again to take up the roughly-disconnected computer wares.

Hands once more laden with his ill-gotten gains, he squinted into the darkness, fixing in his mind the location he’d chosen as the likely exit.

I brushed my index finger against the tiny, bloody dot on his brow.

Whoooo!

It was as though lightning had struck him!

Ohh, man – how cool is this?!

I know I shouldn’t be amazed, but such reactions on the part of my prey always both delight and horrify me. It is the reason for my internal conflict – not so much The Act which inevitably follows such a scene, but my helpless enjoyment of it; the guilt I feel at the ecstasy the moment provides as I cause such terror in a living being.

Heh, heh, heh!

As had happened so often before, my morality seemed flung out the window – bereft of all influence upon me – able only to look out through my eyes, as though viewing the world like a helpless observer peering powerlessly through a window laced with muck and scum. Though, in truth, I never saw more clearly than at such times.

Almost instinctively, I moved around behind him, as easily as fog, before the equipment he dropped in his shock at my touch had hit the floor with a clatter which echoed throughout The Library.

I leaned closer so that he was in a position to feel my breath upon his neck, which struck him with a terror that was, it seemed, growing exponentially!

Trespassing son of a bitch! Teach you to invade my property!

While a dimly-rational part of my mind – the small piece of myself which was not running on The Instinct – was attempting to push thoughts of absolute power corrupting absolutely through to the rest of my brain (which was able to ignore it absolutely, as it had surrendered to The Need within me), I heard him curse as I pierced the skin of his neck over the delicious, heady rhythm of the artery.

Tear your fuckin’ throat out!

The indescribable pleasure which welled throughout my being as I drew his life into me – wave after wave of it crashing against the shores of my soul – was always, always, almost too much to bear!

The Blood! The Blood! The Blood!

Only the strength that The Act itself gave me allowed me to tear myself away, and I was across the room, hands raised as though in supplication to either side of my eyes …

… Better than … oh, fuck … ! Nothing like it … can’t handle it … ohh … the Blood …

… as the ecstasy flowed through me, before he could even raise his arm – indeed, before he even realized that half his throat was naught now but a gaping wound, and that he was missing the better part of eight pints!

“Ahh”, he wailed, a small, tinny voice giving vent to his shock, his terror. Such a short exhalation of breath, this bleat, but speaking as many volumes as the longest, loudest scream of terror and anguish ever would. Even this wretch of a man – deep down – wanted his life, and was beyond aghast at the concept that he was suddenly to lose it to the unseen.

I let him stagger … three tottering steps … and allowed him to trip over the abandoned computer wares. He crashed to the carpet, by this time a shivering, writhing wreck of a thing, hands firmly clamped to what remained of his neck in a vain attempt to retain the blood which was no longer there. Terror pulsated from his dying form in sharp, wet gasps.

The ignored part of me could only stare in mute horror, appalled, as I toyed with him in this manner, and could only cry as I moved in for the kill.

He had come to ground in a curious place – near a single reading-lamp placed on a shelf near the computer tables. As I grabbed him by the shirt – lifting him from the ground as though he weighed no more than a pillow – I turned on this small artificial light, that he might better see the death that had come for him.

His blood had spattered earlier as he fell, coating part of the lampshade, and the light which pushed through this screen was tinged red with the colour of his life. I was happy about this, for it added an even more spectacular aspect to this horrific death scene.

I watched his face carefully as I slowly drew him closer.

Whiter than the most pale sheet, eyes so wide they were almost leaving his head, breath coming reluctantly, now, in harsh, choking sobs, as I opened wide my maw, baring my razor-sharp teeth!

Oh, yes … oh, yes.

As I slowly bit into the opposite side of his neck, he could only part his lips, letting his last breath steam faintly into the cold, cold night.

His last heart-full of blood dribbled its way feebly into my mouth.

And then, like he was nothing more than a sack of the most despised rubbish, I let his lifeless form fall to the carpet.

His final position was ironic, amusing to me. His hand had come to rest draped on the CPU he’d dropped, as though his sole goal in death was still to steal it.

Ohhhhh … God … that … that was … !

I rose up in the flush of sudden emotion which followed, my toes barely touching the ground as I stretched out fully – every fibre of my being extended until I was almost wholly rigid, though defying gravity, with my body arced at a nearly forty-five degree angle to the floor.

I settled back languidly then, arms outstretched as though suspended upon the Cross, floating down so gently that I might have been exhaling underwater, then lay so still that an observer might have thought us both dead.

After seeming hours, I stirred, knowing that only minutes had passed in reality.

The rush of emotion that always follows The Act was under control, and the elation and ecstasy I had felt through my deed had permeated me with a serenity I could never match through any other means. The contentment within me was beyond description, as ever, unmatched at any time other than these.

As I lay there, the lamp casting its ghastly blood-hued glow on the shelves, I off-handedly read out the titles of some of the books I saw there.

Carrion Comfort by Dan Simmons.

‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King.

The Golden by Lucius Shepard.

The Stake by Richard Laymon.

Necroscope by Brian Lumley.

Dracula by … well, you get the idea.

I chuckled, lying there on the carpeting on the floor of The Library in the middle of the bush, as the blood dried to a sticky crust on my face (which I found somehow comfortable).

I was reading by red light, and wasn’t that appropriate!

My heightened senses revealed to me that no one in town had stirred, or even knew that anything untoward had happened here.

There were hours yet to come this night, and I rose, eager to make use of them.

I was certain that I would not come back this way – to my favourite sanctuary, The Library – for some time after this. Indeed, perhaps this part of the country itself was out of the question for me for the foreseeable future. Police represent no real threat to me (no jail cell could hold someone with my strength), but such exposure as being arrested might bring could be … annoying.

A twinge of regret almost surfaced within me at the thought of leaving The Library behind, but was suppressed with the knowledge that I would return at some point in the future – when the inevitable investigations had ceased, the attentions of the townspeople had turned elsewhere, and I could read in peace once more.

In the meantime, I told myself, it would be nice to have a memento of my time here, something that I could see again and again, to remind me of the tranquility which this place had granted me.

It was obviously a book that I was going to find sooner or later.

And, besides, it was the latest of The Vampire Chronicles, and I was eager to read this next installment.

As I moved towards the shelf, the notion struck me, harsh as a physical blow, yet wickedly funny, and so, so entertaining.

Perhaps later I would think twice upon this course of action, when the ecstasy I still felt from my recent feeding had passed. So it was all the more necessary to follow it through now … !

There would be little difficulty, so long as I followed the path and direction of the sun but never caught up to it as I moved across the face of the world.

And it would not be long before I would come to find myself in New Orleans.

I was so looking forward to meeting Anne Rice.

Copyright © 2007 by David Scott Aubrey
All Rights Reserved
6,268 Words

This short story is a work of fiction. Any and all names, characters and/or incidents are either products of my imagination or are used fictitiously. Where any such resemblance may exist to actual persons (living or dead), actual events or locales, it is purely coincidental.

Please don’t assume that my characters speak for me or carry my own opinions on various matters in any way, shape or form (though some might … you never can tell).