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Tuesday, October 28, 2014


            Bernie opened his eyes slowly, and it took him a moment to remember where he was. The smell of human waste flooded his nostrils and he jerked upright, his eyes quickly scanning the sewer tunnel around him for any signs of danger.

            Three hours earlier, he had carefully tracked the thralls and two human children that had fled from the diner above, his wounds screaming at him to feed, to find the children before the undead had a chance to tear them apart and to feast on them himself. The blood that he’d taken from the dying adults on the diner’s floor had helped his wounds, but hadn’t healed him fully, and he would need his strength if he was going to take on the swarms of thralls wandering the streets above. Now, after slogging through the refuse and water, he was finally closing in on his prey.

            The sewer had widened into an underground cistern with only a narrow metal catwalk running along its rim. It was no river, but the swimming pool sized tank made Bernie’s guts churn as if they were clamoring to escape his body. A pipe from assorted storm drains and gutters emptied out a few feet away, and the rushing water that fed the tank was pink from massacre happening at street-level.

            On the catwalk, Nathan and Alex crouched, the older girl trying to block the thralls from getting at her brother. The shambling dead had run into some trouble getting up the series of steps that led up onto the metal grating, as their feet were much less nimble in death as they had been while alive. Alex brandished a metal pipe that was slimy with rust and a brown substance that's origin was better not to speculate about.

            “Stay away!” she shouted, her voice sounding weak and desperate. Nathan had curled into a ball and was sobbing into his coat, offering no help whatsoever.

            The lead thrall managed to gain a foothold and climbed sluggishly upwards, its jaws opening and closing with loud clacks. He never managed another step: something caught the light and gleamed as it rested for a moment against the thrall’s throat, severing the head clean from the neck. The snapping skull toppled a few feet away, landing in the cistern with a loud plop.

            The second thrall turned around slowly and met a similar fate, except that its last sight was that of Bernie’s grim frown and terrifying burned eyes. It collapsed onto the ground, blocking the stairs with its headless corpse.

            Alex’s eyes were so wide that the skin around them looked stretched. She bravely held up the pipe, her hands shaking so badly that it made drunken circles in the air, “Stay back!”

            Bernie cocked his head to the side, all too aware of how terrifying he looked. He had lost the hat and shades that helped to tame down his appearace, and in the gloomy half-light of the sewers he looked a bit like Max Schreck in ‘Nosferatu.’ He tried a smile, but from the look on the young girl’s face that only made things worse.

            “I am not going to hurt you,” he said carefully. The thundering water nearby made his head feel like it was being pried apart, but he still attempted to be charming.

            “The hell you aren’t!” Alex shouted. She pointed to his chest, “I’m not stupid, I saw how badly you were hurt! How did you…?” she looked at the body still twitching on the stairs and swallowed hard, “How did you manage that?”

            Bernie shook his head, “No, you aren’t stupid…you notice more than other people.” he carefully picked his way around the thrall on the stairs, keeping eye contact with Alex like a cobra with a bird.

            The pipe lowered slowly, and Alex’s eyelids drooped under the power of Bernie’s hypnotism. Bernie reached out and guided the pipe to the ground with one hand while the other reached out for Alex’s free hand. At this moment, Nathan uncurled and peeped over his sister’s shoulder, a long wail escaping his lips when he caught sight of the vampire. That was enough to shake Alex out of her trance, and she swung the pipe up intending to hit him directly across the face with it.

            Bernie’s hand snapped up impossibly fast and he batted the pipe away with enough force to send it into the cistern. His other hand snaked out and grabbed the girl by the throat, lifting her up into the air as if she weighed less than a sheet of paper. She struggled weakly and Bernie could feel her veins throbbing under his fingers, so tantalizingly close that his mouth began to water.

            He was just about to start feeding when Nathan found enough courage to charge forward and start hitting him in the stomach, his tiny fists doing no damage whatsoever. He shouted, “Let her go! She’s my sister, let her go, let her GO!” Bernie looked down at him like a man half asleep and for an instant all of the faces of the dozens of people he had killed were mirrored in the little boy’s terrified eyes.

He had never admitted it, even to himself, but Bernie had tired of killing a long time ago. The thrill of the hunt, the almost erotic chills that ran up his spine when he took a life, all of the things that had driven him to kill while he was alive had faded s much over time that they had nearly been forgotten. He had pledged his loyalty to Timeaus, however, and his one and only task had been to kill. He had taken out rival vampires, curious humans and the full spectrum in between, and as the years had wore on, his work had become loathsome to him.

Now, confronted with two children who had no real reason to die, he faltered. He gently set Alex down, and as soon as he released her, she grabbed Nathan and darted to the far corner of the catwalk, not even bothering to regain her breath. Bernie let out a long sigh and sat down hard, his back hitting the guardrail hard enough for it to chime softly.

For an instant, none of them moved, their silence punctuated by the roar of the blood-saturated water spilling down into the mirror-like depths of the cistern. Finally, Bernie lifted his eyes to them and he smiled weakly, “`If you head back the direction you came, you should be able to find your way to a manhole. Be very careful, be very quiet, and you could make it back to the diner. Stay there until everything is quiet all around you. More humans should be coming to the town soon, find them and you might be safe.”

“Why are you letting us go?” Alex gasped.

Bernie shrugged and looked at his feet, “Because I still can. Now go, quickly, before I change my mind.”

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