I had been told as a boy once that no man ever grew more prosperous than from having his own land. To till your own soil, and grow your own food. To raise your cattle to raise their own young someday. And of course, to have your own horse. That was most important of all. That’s what riches were to Robert McTannen.
It was the first and only time I’d ever spoken to the man. The next day I’d heard word that the McTannen farm was burned to the ground. Cattles slaughtered, and the land razed by some people that he owed a sum of ten dollars to. His wife and baby girl were found dead inside the remains of the house, but there was no sign of his horse, or the man himself. Seems that Robert wasn’t telling a stretcher, a horse really was something to feel rich about. After all, it saved his life. At least until he was gunned down two days later at a tavern not twenty miles away from his home, the horse hitched just outside by the trough.
Damn, I wish I had a horse right now.
I got stirred from sleep mighty quick. Not even sure I’d really closed my eyes before a loud crack sprung em back open and back on the burning building. The fire grew as the tavern collapsed around it. Inside I could see a dark figure, as if a shadow could exist in such violent light, rising from the ground. It stood twice as tall as the tallest man I’d ever seen, but the head on his shoulders was wide, and horns wrapped around towards its mouth. When he rose to his fullest height, he let out a great sound, as if screaming was laughing, into the night sky. The last standing walls of the building collapsed, and the figure stood there, its flaming eyes looking right at me.
I didn’t move. I’d done my share this night already, and doing more didn’t sound like a fair bit on the part of me. The way I was seeing it was that this was the Vampire’s fault. He went and killed the piano player. If we’d just let him be to play them keys every night, we’d a been sleeping like babes in this here town. Well, I would. Vampire probably would of gone out and killed the piano man anyway. So no matter a way to see it, this falls back on him. Of course, the idea of him coming and saving me makes me want to take a steamer on a toilet made a’ cactus’, so I figgered I’d just as well get up and deal with this.
I bent up on my hind quarters and slowly rose to my feet, dusting my keester off as I went. The whole time I could feel those eyes burning a hole right through me. I’d felt something like it before, and it weren’t nothing I cared to recall. That hollowing feeling of a dark thing trying to gnaw at your soul, which in my case wasn’t gonna happen, but damned uncomfortable nonetheless.
“You ain’t gonna find it, Apocitus.”
“That which speaks the name Apocitus, you are missing a soul.” It said in a dark low growl.
“I already know that. Seems to do me just fine.”
“That which has not a soul, do you come to guide Apocitus to take this world for his own?”
“I ain’t doing any such thing.”
“Then be gone meat sack. The hole in your chest smells of rot. I would feed on the living, and soon.”
“You ain’t gonna find much alive around here. Everyone of them townspeople is already dead. The only things left here is me, a vampire, and…well, let’s just say that we’re it.”
“The meat sack continues to speak to great Apocitus. It knows not its place. I should be rid of it yes? Indeed, the stench of it is foul.”
“You ain’t smelling so good yourself.” I lied. There was still something about that smell that was damned comforting. “And seeing as how I hunt things like yourself, I ain’t gonna be able to let you out of this here town.”
“Apocitus stands before you, and yet you still spout impudence. Be gone!” The great monster said before waving a hand from his side to point at me.
Flames from the rubble behind him shot out as if being directed and flew towards me. I jumped out of the way just in time to see the fire explode and char the ground right where I’d just been.
“Why if it does not fear Apocitus does it cower? Speak meat sack?”
“Cuz I really like my new hat and don’t need it going up in your flames.”
“Ignorance. Soon all will be engulfed in my flames. Your world will perish and be born again anew, alight by my hands.”
“Sorry, fella, but I ain’t gonna allow that.”
“You cannot stop Apocitus.”
“I’ve stopped worse.”
“Intriguing. I will teach you otherwise. Instead of charring your flesh,” Apocitus began before raising a wide hand and whipping it toward me. I hadn’t noticed that the smoke from the building had gathered all around me. And as Apocitus closed his fist, it was too late. “I will take control of your body.”
I tried to move, but nothing was working. I couldn’t even turn my head where I wanted to.
“What have you done to me?” I was able to ask.
“Apocitus demands a guide, and he has claimed you to be that which he demands. Take me to a soul that I might dine upon it.”
“I already told you that there weren’t no souls left here, they died in that fire you came from!”
“Apocitus senses all. Now you will go and gather the one soul left in this place, I will would have all souls of this place before moving on to another.”
My feet turned and I started walking to the west end of town and I suddenly knew who it was I was going after: the girl. I tried to stop myself, but it was as if I was struggling underneath a boulder and my body was broken. I had control of nothing but my words it seemed. I kept trying to find something inside myself to struggle against, but no part of me had any feeling to my own senses anymore.
I had no idea where I was going. Whatever Apocitus sensed, he alone felt it, cuz I had no idea where I was going. It was only when I stopped and turned to face a small two story building that I had any idea where I was going. Seemed the Vampire’d had a good idea where to hide out and rest, and a part of me was somewhat relieved when I started walking toward the town Jail house.
The door was unlocked, no surprise there. No lights were lit, and it was nearly pitch black inside save for the light that came in through the barred windows from the moon’s light.
“Vampire?” I called out. “Vampire, you gotta get the girl out of here! I ain’t in control of my body, and the thing that is is looking for that girl!”
Nothing answered. No sound rang out save for a slight gust of wind against the wood door I’d come through.
“Come on, Vampire! I know you gotta be in here. That monster we was trying to stop from getting put back together got back together anyway. He knows you’re here somehow. He can sense the girl’s soul. He sent me here to get it for him!”
My body kept walking through the dark. It knocked against a chair by a table, but just kept going and the chair fell to the ground with a racket. The door I’d come through suddenly slammed shut. Before I knew it my body’d turned completely around, drawn my gun, and shot four holes through the wood. Nothing but the night’s light shone back through the holes. My hands reloaded the piece, then put it back in its holster as I continued to the stairs and headed up.
Each step creaked loudly in the quiet. I hated that no one was answering. As much as I hated the Vampire for being the thing he was, I didn’t have a thing against the girl. But now I needed the Vampire to protect the girl from me.
“Vampire! I’m coming up the stairs. If I’m still coming that means the girl is still here, and that means you ain’t listening to me! I tell ya again, I ain’t got any control over myself. Apocitus is using me somehow. And you know as well as I do that you don’t want a fight with me. Answer me dammit!”
Again only silence and the creaking stairs were all I could hear. I passed the final step and moved into the hallway where before me were a number of jail cells, all of em opened. I continued walking toward the last cell, the one hidden in the most shadow.
“You hear me, Vampire? I’m coming for you.” Still nothing. “Girl, if you can hear me, you gotta get out of here. I think I’m here to kill ya. And that ain’t something I want to do.”
I stopped in front of the last cell, turned, then stepped inside. I could see a bed in front of me, and a tattered old sack covering a body.
“Girl!” I shouted out as I moved forward pulling my gun from its holster. “You gotta wake up! I’m coming to kill you!”
Nothing stirred as I stopped over the bed and reached down to grab the sack over her. My hand holding the gun flipped the piece over in its hand to face the butt of the gun to strike her. I raised my arm high over my head, shouted out one last time for her to get up, then pulled the sack back and flung my hand down.
“I’m sorry!” I shouted.
My words still hung in the air, echoing between empty walls and iron bars. The gun had not struck anyone. Staring back at me was the Vampire, his eyes turning a bright red as if a glowing blood rage was illuminating his eyes before me. His hand was against my wrist, having stopped me from my task. He had been the one under the sack, waiting for me to make my move.
“I was wondering where you got to. So you heard me then?” I asked.
“I have heard you, Abacus Jones.”
“Then why is she still here?” I asked knowing the girl must be under the bed, throwing off the sense I was being led by.
“It is a Jail, Abacus. It is made not to allow for easy escape. You should know this, you have spent more than one night contained in one, correct?”
“You’d be more than correct on that mark.”
“So, we are to fight then?”
“It may be dark, but I can tell you’re smiling, Vampire. Don’t forget you still need me.”
“I can see better than a human, and you too, Jones, are smiling.”
“As I said, my body’s being controlled.”
“You have control of that mouth of yours it seems.”
“I guess you’re right on that. Can’t say I haven’t been wondering why I ever agreed to let you tag along with me.”
“If we had not rescued you, you’d still be in shackles and hobbling through the land with a gun in your back.”
“I’d have gotten out sooner or later.”
“Can I get your word you’ll get her out of here?”
“There is no need.”
“You really think you can take me?”
He didn’t answer, but I could tell that grin on his face had gotten wider. I didn’t like that he wasn’t taking me seriously.
“I told you before, Vampire, that I’ve killed more a’ your kind than you’ve turned. You ain’t no different than a one of them.”
“I remember your fool words. The stories you believe to be truths. And again I would remind you that you are no match for me. Soulless or not. I would remind you that I would never fear one such as you.”
“That’ll be your mistake.” I said, but it seemed my body’d grown tired of waiting and talking. My arm holding the gun pulled towards me with the Vampire’s hand still over my wrist and my left leg kicked out towards his nethers.
He was fast, I’d forgotten just how fast as his feet were already off the ground as he jumped on my lifted leg and kicked off to launch himself over me and into the corner of the cell where he gripped himself against the bars like a bat ready to strike its prey. I spun around raising my gun to where he hung, flipped it in my hand so the barrel’s sight fell on the monster, my finger just barely grazing the trigger as it went off.
I missed. The Vampire had jumped to the other side as if crawling along the ceiling. My gun followed and again went off to where those glowing eyes stared at me from the corner of the cell. Another miss. The Vampire’d gotten behind me, I could feel it as if it’s presence was a dark blemish in my stomach. I ducked as a quick fist of his swung through the air. I fell on my back and raised my gun to shoot him through the underside of his jaw. He moved just in time and I saw the spark as the bullet imbedded itself in the wood ceiling.
His foot came down to stomp my face, but I got my gun in the way and braced the barrel with my other hand. I kicked my right foot up and it met in his chest and the pressure against my gun fell away. I turned over onto my knees and fired my gun where the vampire was and I heard as it ripped into flesh, not wood or iron. I cocked again to shoot as I got to my feet but stopped as another pair of eyes stared back at me through the darkness. Her skin shone even more pale in the moon light, and her eyes illuminated a pale blue, something eerie if it weren’t beautiful.
My hand flipped the gun again, as I tried to fight against the control that had its hold on me without any success. My hand raised into the air and came down. That’s when I found the Vampire had come behind me, again his hand fell over my wrist and kept it from striking.
“I warned you not to turn your back on me.” The Vampire seethed between his teeth.
“I ain’t in control of my self. But it looks like I gotcha in the chest.”
“A minor wound that will heal.”
“You need me, Vampire. This ain’t the end of our journey.” I said feeling that cold dead breath against my neck.
“Perhaps, Abacus Jones. Or perhaps not.”
His teeth sank deep into my neck. The darkness around me swirled as I stared at those eyes in front of me. If I didn’t know better, they looked more sad than I’d seen them look before. I closed my eyes and all I felt was pain as the teeth in my neck sank deeper, and I felt my blood being pulled into the Vampire’s mouth until the gun fell from my hand and hit the ground. A shot fired again, the deafening ring of it filling the room until it faded and all I heard was screaming.