Warning! This is a horror/dark fiction story so may be disturbing to some. There is strong language and sexual situations.
Annie Melman-Wright placed a bookmark in the novel she was reading as a shiver ran through her body. Even though she had climbed into bed hours earlier, the fat paperback, a gruesome chiller featuring a lone woman stranded in a snow-swept mountain cabin, had kept her awake far longer than she had intended. Now, with the novel’s deranged serial murderer stalking the woods around the hapless heroine’s barricaded refuge, Annie had had quite enough horror for one night. She glanced at the bedside clock and groaned, vowing to give up reading any more of the pulp shockers to which she had long ago become addicted unless Vince was snoring gently beside her.
It was nearly two A.M. and she had an early morning.
Refusing to admit to herself that her wakefulness was as much a product of the silly book as the fact that she seldom slept well when Vince was out on the road somewhere, Annie got to her feet and walked barefoot through the deep plush of the forest green carpeting to the window overlooking the clearing in front of the cabin and the nearby lake.
The snow was still coming down hard and she wondered if Vince was warm enough. Not unexpectedly, the dispatcher’s office down in San Bernardino had called her several hours earlier to relay the message that her husband would probably be out on the road working a big wreck near Condor Pass for most of the night.
Annie frowned, hoping they’d at least have time to share a cup of coffee and toast in the morning before she had to leave for her early lecture at the college, and she wondered again whether she might someday talk Vince into considering some other line of work now that it seemed they were going to have plenty of money. No, that wasn’t fair. He loved what he did and she would just have to live with it. After all, she reminded herself, if it hadn’t been for the insights she had gained from listening to Vince and his friends endlessly analyzing the burgeoning crime statistics and deteriorating quality of life in Southern California she might never have written Silent Thunder in the first place. For that matter, if not for the security of his job and the long, empty nights while Vince was out on patrol, she would certainly never have had the dual luxuries of time and financial support necessary to the task.
Support. That had been the main thing; not the financial part–although that had been nice–but the belief and encouragement he had showered upon her through all the tough times. She grinned, biting her lip and remembering the time less than two years ago when a smirking Hollywood agent in a baggy Armani suit and ridiculous blue patent pumps had casually tossed her newly completed screenplay across the polished expanse of his empty desk, advising her that the picture could never be made because it didn’t contain a single scene involving fellatio. When she had raised her eyebrows the supremely self-assured little freak had gone on to graphically describe what he had in mind. Watching for her reaction from the corners of hooded eyes while pretending to gaze at his glossy manicured nails, he had offered to guide Annie through a live demonstration of “a fascinating new variation” on the time-honored art of the blowjob. She had stormed out of his Century City office flushed and angry with herself for having waited six weeks to meet with the bastard.
Arriving home at their small apartment in tears, and following much prompting from Vince, she had finally blurted out the whole horrible story to him. His normally placid features had gone purple with rage and she had ended up having to physically restrain him from immediately driving the forty miles into the city and, as he had so delicately phrased it, “showing the perverted little bastard a fascinating new variation on the art of ramming a thirty-inch riot baton up his ass.”
Annie had finally calmed him down by promising to take revenge on the offending agent in some creative way that would not jeopardize either her career or Vince’s.
She had almost forgotten the unpleasant incident until a few months later, after her screenplay had been purchased by a Major and gone into rewrites. Alone at her computer terminal late one night, she was trying to beat a studio deadline when the answer came to her. Silent Thunder’s cretinous villain, a slimy real estate developer with an unhealthy taste for young girls, needed a more memorable name than Jim Claiborne. Ka-boom! The sleazy agent’s smirking countenance had flashed instantly into Annie’s mind; the sleazy agent who bore the rather distinctive monicker of Jilly Swick. A few strokes of the keyboard and Jilly Flik, her slimy villain, had been re-christened. She had waited up until four A.M. to show the result to Vince and the two of them had laughed themselves to sleep.
To her amazement, the studio had loved the name change. Jilly Swick had been played with flair by a well-known actor who had the reviewers comparing his performance with the likes of Nicholson and Anthony Hopkins, and within weeks of the picture’s release a new word had crept into the language. Dennis Miller had started it, referring to someone who had been screwed in a bum real estate deal as having been “jillied.” She had since overheard that Jilly Swick, the agent, had started insisting on the use of his given name, Horace.
Her spirits buoyed by the funny comeuppance she had wrought, Annie impulsively pushed open one of the hinged double glazed windows for a whiff of clean, cold air. A blast of arctic cold whistled into the bedroom and she extended an arm outside, intent on snagging one of the fat snowflakes; the first of the season. Her head snapped up in sudden alarm at the sound of a high, thin wail drifting up to her ears from somewhere down the mountain.
It sounded exactly like a scream.
Karen Evans screamed again.
She was standing at the bottom of the open stairway, looking up, and something white and ghostlike and impossible–a monster with the frail body of a naked human being and a bloodied face straight out of a nightmare–was looking back at her with huge luminous eyes.
Karen told herself to stop screaming, but she couldn’t. The thing at the top of the stairs was crouching now, muscles bunching in shadowed relief beneath skin as pale as death. The creature’s hideous fangs glinted in the dull orange glow of the fireplace, and Karen knew intuitively that it was preparing to spring.
She was dimly aware of something falling to the floor in the direction of the downstairs bedroom and she heard Jimmy’s voice rising in alarm, calling her name from behind the closed door.
The pale maiden fixed the unexpected victim in her unwavering gaze. Her limbs folding automatically into a catlike crouch as her predator’s brain unthinkingly calculated the myriad details of height, distance and speed comprising the leap that would carry her directly to the exposed throat of the terror-stricken human on the boards below.
Sated by the prodigious double feeding she had just completed at the throat of the very large male in the upper sleeping room, the maiden’s usually lightning fast reflexes were sluggish, thus her momentary hesitation. Although it had been her original ambitious intention to take all four humans, the reality of her physiological limitations had become evident long before she had finished with the second kill. Full to the point of bursting, she had slipped from the upper bedroom, intent on making her way back out into the welcoming forest; there to seek a dry burrow where she might digest the rich meal; allowing time for her shrunken body to absorb the heavy load of protein-rich nutrients it so desperately required; trading the blood of her prey for the fresh, strong sinew and muscle that would return her to her former state.
Then the second female had appeared.
Long seconds had passed and the human stood there still, her shrill scream ringing in the vampire’s delicate ears, causing her head to buzz painfully. There was another sound, the falling of some object to the wooden flooring, the calling of the other male… The confused maiden allowed her golden eyes to flick to the closed door of the lower sleeping cubicle. The sensitive neuroreceptors in her lower jaw tingled. The male was moving behind the wood. Coming closer….
She tensed, ready to spring.
The thing on the landing above Karen Evans leaped, the long, pale body stretching and twisting for altitude in the hellish orange glow from the fireplace, leaping so high its arched back seemed to brush the supporting beams of the steeply pitched A-frame ceiling. Karen watched in frozen fascination as it began to descend, a white shadow clearing her head with inches to spare, hitting the floor beyond the spot where she stood with a solid thump.
Karen turned to face the thing, which was crouched on all fours before the front door, its back toward her. The narrow head swiveled around at an impossible angle and the huge golden eyes gazed up at her with what might have been regret. She saw the skin of its face suddenly relax, a smooth sheath of alabaster tissue slipping down to hide the fearsome fangs, and it occurred to her that it was a beautiful face. A human face.
The thing slowly stood, rising up onto slender, girlish legs, grasping the handle of the door with a long hand. A blast of freezing air swept a tiny whirlwind of snow into the room, the sudden draft brightening the glowing embers in the fireplace.
And then it was gone.
As if it had never existed at all.
The bedroom door flew open behind her and Karen looked to see Jimmy Hudson hopping toward her, one leg comically entangled in the pair of sweat pants he was trying to pull on, his naked genitals flopping embarrassingly against his legs. He stopped in mid-hop, letting the tangled sweats drop to the floor, his face filled with concern at the sight of her there in the cold wind. “Jesus Christ, Karen,” he whispered, “what’s wrong?”
Karen’s eyes flickered back to the open door. Beyond the thin line of quickly disappearing tracks running up into the dark trees, there was nothing.
Her voice rose to a hysterical giggle as she pointed out into the softly falling snow.
And then she collapsed at his feet.