is what most
one of us.
Only the person
with the right
can set that
©2020 Jai Lynn
(a collection of independent vignettes)
It was just like a drum that was picking up the tempo. My heart, that was.
“Can you see him?”
Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. A rising crescendo I couldn’t get a handle on. “I can’t see anything. It’s too dark.” The most I could make out was an outline. The slope of the stairs with the creaking last step, the lamp with the twisted metal where I had scraped my shoulder, and the barricade of wood nailed to the door. There were only traces of light trying to find a way in through the cracks in the boarded up windows. It had to be nearly dawn by now.
“Not for long.” Dmitri leaned back against the surface of the overturned dining room table, brushing his shoulder against my own. The contact pushed my already frayed nerves more on to the edge, making me wince. He didn’t seem to notice, as he continued “We have to hold out.”
That was the goal… but the longer the music played in the background, the harder it was to control my breathing. That drum in my chest and the phonograph were marching a perfect beat to the classical music that hadn’t stopped playing the entire time. In an empty mansion, with no one around for miles, I guess even monsters needed something to fill the silence that too much solitude brought on.
I almost felt bad, for a second. The smell of blood was too prevalent for the feeling to last any longer. It was dripping down my arm, faster than I could stop it and Dmitri was no better off. The monster had stabbed its nails into his side.
“He’s going to find us again.”
Dmitri grunted, guttural and low, and in hindsight it might even have been a laugh. “Beyond all doubt.” Between the smell of blood and the creaking last step it was a matter of moments.
The music was getting louder by the second and I knew that it was getting closer. It seemed to follow wherever it went. In the library it had been overwhelming, like trying to fight with an entire orchestra bowing in your ear. Not ideal circumstances for a hunt.
Behind the fallen table, I stood up. The hiding spot would not hold forever. Nothing could. Not even immortals were entirely safe. Dmitri looked up, but he didn’t say anything. I sidestepped carefully over his long legs but he caught me quick, with startling strength, and squeezed my ankle. Then just let me go… as quickly as the gesture had come. I nodded, but in the dark who knew if he saw.
Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. BANG.
Exposed and hesitant, I stepped into the center of the foyer. The strings were getting louder from upstairs so there was only so much time. Dodging any pointed furniture and watching for any debris on the tile floor I edged my way closer to the window. It was just planks of wood covering the light. All I had to do was rip one away. That would be enough.
Anchoring my fingers around the edge of the board, I pulled.
And it didn’t budge.
“You are not strong enough for that, Love.” My heart stilled. At the top of the stair, his shape was clear. Skinny like a scarecrow and his silhouette edged like barbed wire, a shadow moved taking one leisurely step after another easing his descent down. Splinters hooked into my fingers the harder I struggled and the music, despite my rush, became deceptively slow. Mellow even. Nice, soothing…
His hand was at my shoulder in barely any time at all. With almost no effort, he turned me around. In that little glint of light his fangs seemed almost beautiful. But then again all vampires were beautiful. And humans couldn’t help but be entranced by pretty things. But the wound on my shoulder put me in no mood for pretty.
At the opposite end of the room, Dmitri ripped off a board from a different window and the sun came streaming in. The music hitched as the vampire hissed and with sudden, brutal clarity the world slowed into focus again. I stabbed the monster through the heart.
Then the music finally stopped.
Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang.
There was sunlight streaming in. Groggily, I opened my eyes to the window.
Bang. Bang. Bang-
With a thump my alarm abruptly went silent. I placed my phone back on the end table and sat up slowly. It was morning… one day over and another beginning. I threw the covers off of me, and then cringed.
“My shoulder…” I massaged it, squeezing the muscle to relieve some of the tension but not even that made all the pain go away. Rolling my neck, I blinked still not quite awake. “Must have slept funny… what was I dreaming…?”
But for the life of me, I couldn’t remember any of it at all.
(a collection of independent vignettes)
The forest was alive.
I could tell from the ground. Solid and unyielding, it was the only thing keeping me standing. Like two lead pencils, I felt like my legs were inching instead of walking. Each heavy step I took seemed to echo and reverberate back to the core of the Earth. The dirt was marking my path, I only hoped they weren’t paying too much attention.
I could tell from the roots. Thick and strong, worn with time but all the more wise for it. Nearly tripping over one, I braced myself against the tree and took a breath. Keeping my head down, my eyes drank in the sight. Wrinkles, like memories, etched into their bark as deep as trenches, hiding secrets that were waiting for someone to come and figure them out. They looked like hands reaching down to grab that which I didn’t know. But something worth while. I wanted to stay here, I wanted to figure out their truth. They were the reason I had come at all.
But I had been rash, and overlooked something. Something important.
I could tell from the air. It was breathing. The wind inhaling with slow, gentle breezes letting the leaves, as green and vibrant as life, take the exhale. I was alone. That was the lie they were telling me. And the worst part was I wanted to believe them. But that would make us both liars.
And it would make only me the naive one. It was a word my mother had called me too many times. In hindsight, I guessed she was right. About that, and something else.
Don’t go into the forest.
I smiled, but there was no happiness in it. Everything was quiet. And then all of a sudden, everything went loud. They found me.
Three shadows had come up behind me. In all of my struggle to get away from them I didn’t have much energy left. I had been running for five hours straight. Any normal human being, especially a girl who looked more like a flower than a tree, shouldn’t stand a chance against the watchers of the forest. The hulking ones I had thought only existed in legend.
In the hard way I guessed I had learned of one of the forests secrets. But the revelation was more bitter than sweet.
At least now there were only three human sized ones left. The first of the five had drowned when I ran behind the waterfall. The second had gotten impaled on that sharp, low lying branch a mile back. Black carapaces that upon closer inspection looked like armor instead flesh, spread knife tipped wings blocking the way I had come, and beady black eyes that never changed focus. My mother was right the deeper you travel, the scarier the forest becomes. These insects looked like they had come straight from the Jurassic period. No wonder she had kept me inside for all those years.
On the other side of these bugs there was me and, locked into my grip, my small hunting knife.
“Fine. If that’s how you want to do it.”
The forest was alive. And right now, so was I.
That was the way it was going to stay.