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From Inside the Flap
1st place winner: A Stake in Murder - Donald Allen Kirch
"Kirch offers an unusual twist on the overdone vampire mythos...And he makes a horrific monster." - Kirkus Reviews.
PROLOUGE: PHOENIX, ARIZONA - 1991
The vampire softly touched the bloodied cheek of the boy. He could feel the child trembling and wondered if it were from the knowledge that he was about to die, or was it from the cold. Such soft and wonderful eyes peering up at him, pleading. There was poetry to the kill that no human seemed to understand. The boy was blond. The vampire had a weakness for children considered "toe headed."
The boy started speaking in Spanish.
"I do not understand you, child," the vampire softly whispered. His hands touched the child again, trying, in his own way, to comfort. As much as the creature tried to fool himself, he knew that he was dealing with an animal that held deep feelings. Animal. That is what he had to continually tell himself. Humans were nothing more than food for survival.
The boy coughed. His crying was becoming complex and he was finding it harder and harder to breathe. The cough was too loud. Soon, this vessel would have to be destroyed.
For about a week, the vampire, Anton Gerrold by mortal naming, had tried his best to remain within an abandoned envelope factory. The place was dark, dank, and held within it a certain charm that kept away the curious. Several homicides -- drug related -- did the rest to keep away the stubborn.
"Your dressing is coming along, I think," Anton grunted, inspecting the boy's lines.
The boy, Anton never knew his name, was captured on his way to a corner store on Friday night several months ago. The vampire strongly suspected that the parents were frantic, demanding that the local constables inquire as to the whereabouts of said child. It was only logical. That is, after all, what he would have done.
"Mee'st'ar," the boy cried, his teeth grinding in divine agony. The effect of Anton's work had always mystified him. So beautiful!
"No more talking to the food," the vampire huffed.
The boy had attached to him several bottles of blood Anton had managed to steal from a local blood bank, hoping to constantly use a "host" to help feed him. It, unfortunately, was an approaching election year, and the local politicians had been playing the two-dimensional game of giving a damn, making it harder and harder for the creature to hunt.
It had been raining for close to three hours. When it did rain, waterfalls trickled into the factory, causing the whole place to smell even worse. Vampires had keen noses. It was one of their defenses from encounters with the living.
Old rolls of brown paper held within them several layers of mold, which provided some nourishment. From time to time, Anton tore off some of the green slime, chewing it as an in-between snack.
The child was frightened. The blood coursed through his veins at an incredible rate. Anton could hear the rhythmic beating of the kid's heart. It was steadily gaining in both speed and blood volume. It was like ambrosia to the ears.
"Just about time," there was a slight twitch in the creature's bottom lip. "Almost there!"
The young boy cringed, trying his best to look away from the vampire's eyes. He shook his head, not facing Anton. Had he been praying? Sometimes the vampire had stopped to wonder. There was no help from God! God was out of his office. God could not help Anton Gerrold, how did this boy think He would stop to help him?
Humans and their stupid hope.
"It will not be much longer. I have worn out my welcome, it appears, and need to move onward."
A series of police sirens could be heard in the distance.
"Hey?" the vampire asked the boy, softly. "Would you like to see a trick?"
The crying and coughing paused, if only for a brief moment. The boy had become too weak and pale to respond with excitement. He simply looked up at the vampire from under the bed he had been chained to. The child had been hiding there like a frightened dog, battling his sniffles. There was a child's curiosity in those hollow and hungry eyes as he smiled, cautiously nodding his head.
The vampire had sensed a rat trotting their way.
Anton closed his eyes and opened his mouth.
The vampire's tongue, as fast as lightening, extended, wrapped around the rat - it was at least four feet from the two of them - broke the rodent's neck, and pulled the dead beast up to Anton's waiting teeth. Like a dog killing a rabbit, his instincts took over, and he found himself ripping the neck open and draining blood before he even had a chance to blink.
The child began to cry, again.
Anton had not meant to kill the rat. His hunger had taken over.
"It is a good trick, no?" he whispered, wiping fur and serrated flesh from his lips.
The boy retreated deeper into his self-made hole, trying his best to avoid eye contact.
After feeding, Anton's eyes always filled with blood.
The police sirens sounded as if they were getting closer.
"Most women would appreciate such a trick of the tongue," the vampire huffed. Only when he was amused, or trying to remember the sex life he had enjoyed as a man, did his French accent come out of him. The boy was too young to understand the crudeness of the joke, and this made the vampire feel even more awkward. "No talking with the food," he softly repeated.
A helicopter flew over the factory shining a bright light into the place. Anton hated electric light as much as he hated the sun. As a creature of darkness, he did all in his power to avoid such things.
He rose from the bed, making sure that all intravenous connections from the boy to his bottles of blood were intact. In a few hours, the food would be so full of blood, it would start coming out of its ears. The vampire found himself giggling at the mental picture. Feeding on the boy would be one of the last things he would do before leaving the city of Phoenix.
Perhaps...he would go to...Los Angeles?
The sirens stopped -- suddenly.
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