Warning! This is a horror/dark fiction story so may be disturbing to some. There is strong language and sexual situations.
Vince guided the Jeep Cherokee off the lake road, which showed signs of having recently been plowed by the State Highway Crew, and turned onto the narrow track running up through the trees toward his place. The wreck at Condor Pass had been an all-niter and, after rendering first Aid to the victims, he had enlisted the aid of a couple of stalled motorists to stop traffic while he single-handedly guided a LifeFlight Rescue Chopper to a tricky night landing on a patch of Forest Service clear cut half a mile from the scene, shuttling three of the most seriously injured to the makeshift LZ in the back of his unit.
Another Sheriff’s unit and a CHP car had finally arrived on the scene half an hour later and together the three officers had gotten down to the serious business of clearing the road of wrecked vehicles, taking statements from the witnesses and drivers and filling out the endless forms involved. The snow had stopped and the sun was climbing over the mountain by the time he had climbed wearily into the warm cocoon of the Cherokee’s front seat and he had barely been able to keep himself awake in the early morning crawl of tourist traffic that was already jamming the road to the ski resorts clustered around the Village.
His radio had crackled annoyingly just as he was about to turn onto the lake road and he had groaned in annoyance, anticipating a call to yet another accident on the slippery mountain road. Instead, he had been pleasantly surprised to hear the gravel-voiced morning dispatcher ordering him to take the day off.
Vince yawned, thinking of the cozy warmth of the big bed and feeling good about the night’s work just completed. If he hadn’t been there to call in the rescue chopper when he had, the pregnant woman in that blue van might not have made it. He allowed himself a tired grin, content in the knowledge that he had made a difference. That was, after all, why he had gone into police work in the first place…
The Jeep’s knobby tires bumped over a deep rut, jarring him back to the present, and he looked out through the spattered windshield just in time to avoid smacking into the big pine tree marking the spot where the track forked off toward the Kramer cabin. Damn! He really was wiped out. Vince squinted into the glare of sunlight bouncing off the fresh snow, realizing he was more tired than he had thought, and noticing that the small cabin was still dark, the snow around the van parked out front, untracked. He resisted the temptation to beep his horn and wake the kids, who would probably be kicking themselves later for missing the chance to get out on the slopes before the thousands of day-trekkers from L.A. had screwed up all the beautiful new powder that had fallen overnight. Ah, the folly of youth. The little darlings had probably stayed up half the night drinking and screwing to the screech of Heavy Metal and were all now nursing magnificent hangovers…. Vince caught himself in mid-thought. Annie was right. He was turning into a stodgy old man.
His own house emerged through a sun-dappled opening in the trees and he drove up into the clearing, noting that Annie’s red Blazer was already gone from the sheltered parking area below the deck.
He pulled the Jeep into a sunny spot, got out and stood stretching in the cold, clean air. A whole day with nothing to do but lie around and catch up on his sleep. He glanced at his watch. He’d have plenty of time to rest before Annie returned. After he’d caught a few Zs, maybe he’d drive down to the market in the village and buy some groceries. He’d surprise her by having dinner ready when she got home.
Trundling up to the steps, he noted that they were still covered with snow. Better clear them now, while it was still dry and powdery. He stepped into the carport beneath the deck, squinting in the dim light. The handle of his snow shovel lay on the floor beneath the rumpled tarp with which he’d covered the windshield of Annie’s Blazer the night before. Frowning, he bent to pick up the discarded mound of blue fabric. He stopped, peering at the floor beside the empty parking spot. The thin dusting of snow that had blown in to cover the concrete was studded with fragments of glass from the shattered overhead light.
Vince looked at the broken glass, perplexed. How had the damn bulb broken? And why was his shovel lying on the floor? He shrugged, picking up the shovel and scraping the glass into a heap to be cleaned up later.
Warm and drowsy.
The pale maiden stretched languorously. Her enticing lips peeled back from the line of sharp teeth in her jaw and she yawned, reaching out with her tongue to lick sleepily at a smear of dried blood staining the back of a slender hand.
The skin beneath her tongue felt strangely smooth now, warm and flexible, and she opened her eyes, blinking owlishly as the jet black pupils dilated to accommodate the meager light filtering annoyingly into her comfortable hiding place.
She must have slept far longer than she had intended when she had crawled into this temporary refuge.
Coming suddenly alert, the maid stirred beneath the soft covering of rustling man-fabric beneath which she had concealed herself the night before. Her body felt somehow different than before, and she looked down at the length of herself in wonder. Her belly no longer bulged uncomfortably with the slosh of the meal she had gorged. Her limbs, previously stick-like and emaciated, had filled and smoothed while she slept, their smooth, graceful shape restored.
And there was something else too.
The maiden’s hips, which she remembered from the time before she had been trapped in the cave as having been narrow and tightly muscled, had somehow spread so that they now curved inward to her waist. She slid her hands gently over the new flesh, letting them continue up to the twin swells of firm, budding tissue that had magically grown onto the wall of her chest.
She closed her deadly mouth, suppressing the yawn and allowing the smooth elastic sheath of protective skin to slip back over her fangs. Closing her eyes in the momentary security of the warm space she occupied, she allowed itself a long moment to consider the transformation that had occurred while she slept. The maid had seen such changes before among others of her race and she knew precisely what they implied: No longer a youngling, she had reached full maturity. Become a breeder.
For the first time in her long life she allowed herself to dwell upon her own feelings of uncertainty. The onset of maturity implied that, henceforth, she would no longer be driven solely by the burning of the hunger in her belly.
Henceforth, a new fire would burn within her soul. A fire, so intense, according to the dimly remembered whisperings of her old mam, that the hunger for food would be no more the bite of a flea by comparison.
A fire that would rage and smoulder without mercy.
A fire that could be quenched one way and one way alone.
Turning onto her side, the maiden drew her long legs up to its chin and began to whimper, lamenting the cruel fate that had caused her to become entrapped in the mountain grotto: Entrapped and made dormant for numberless seasons, just days after she had first detected the sweet, musky taste of pheromones on the wind, the unmistakable signal that another of her kind had been approaching…. a strong breeding male, traveling up from the far coastal plain in the south to claim her for his mate….
The maid placed a slender hand into the cleft between her legs, feeling the warmth there and trying to imagine the feel and shape of the breeder. He would be lithe and sleek and wise, a wary hunter. Together they would share their kills, protecting one other from danger, whispering ancient tales of legendary heroes and great conquests…
Her eyes suddenly snapped open. The sensors beneath her lower lip were tingling. Something was approaching the hiding place.
Something human and dangerous.
Her lips peeled back, exposing the evenly curved set of her wickedly sharp fangs.
Vince Wright climbed the thickly carpeted flight of steps to the second floor, pausing wearily at the landing to shuck off the weight of his gun belt and peer in through the open door to Annie’s office. Sunlight beamed down on the spotless desktop and, as always, an electronic note written in fanciful violet script and towed by cartoon airplane floated across a velvet sky impressed on the black screen of her computer terminal.
ANNIE LOVES VINCIE!!!!
He smiled, stepping down the short hallway to their high ceilinged bedroom and hanging the gun belt on a hook behind the door. He kicked off his shoes, peeled off his uniform and started toward the big oak four-poster they’d rescued from the back of the junk shop in Yucaipa. The colorful down comforter she’d ordered from Dansk was humped up in the center of the bed and he frowned as he reached for a corner, preparing to whip the covers aside. Annie was forever stacking pillows beneath the comforter, sleeping nestled among them like a puppy….
BAM! BAM! BAM! BAM! BAM!
Vince whirled to face the open bedroom door.
BAM! BAM! BAM!
Someone was on the redwood deck downstairs, pounding on the front door with enough force to rattle it in its frame.
“Son of a bitch!” He muttered under his breath, retrieving his pants from the back of the wooden valet and struggling to pull them on.
BAM! BAM! BAM!
“I’m coming, goddammit!”
Pounding down the stairs in his socks, he glanced at the black Mossberg by the fireplace, dismissed the thought and went to the door still zipping his fly. “What in the hell is going on?” he demanded, flinging open the door. The anger died as he looked at the shirtless kid standing there on the deck.
“My friend, Ferd…” the boy began and his voice suddenly cracked. The young man buried his face in his hands and a deep sob wracked his thin body. “Oh God, Ferd… and Terry…” He looked up at Vince through red-rimmed eyes. “Something killed them!”
“What’s in it, man?”
The kid, a stocky youth named Vasquez, had his hands cupped around his eyes, trying to see into the interior of the red Chevy Blazer through the darkly tinted glass. “Bunch of sleeping bags and stuff,” he replied, shrugging. He stepped nervously away from the vehicle and dropped to a crouch beside the door of the sea green BMW his friend had been unsuccessfully trying to enter for some minutes. “Man, why don’t you leave that thing alone,” he whispered nervously. “Beemers all got alarms and locaters and shit.”
His companion, a pockmarked Anglo in baggy overalls and a Raiders cap, snatched the lapel of the other boy’s jacket with a dirty, tattooed fist. “How the fuck we gonna get to my uncle’s place in Echo Park if we don’t us boost a ride, asshole?” he demanded.
Vasquez, his baby face quivering, shook his head. He was sorry now that he’d ever let the older boy, whose name was Spaz, talk him into walking away from The California Youth Authority Center where he’d been doing an easy six months for shoplifting. They had made their way into the campus parking lot of nearby Redlands University to check out the wheels and Spaz had spotted the Beemer.
Vasquez, a born follower, was already having second thoughts about their escape. He’d already served more than half his sentence, and all they had to do at CYA was walk around and clip hedges and the food was okay and the counselors were fair and treated everybody the same. But he’d listened to Spaz–who was doing ten years for whacking an old lady that wouldn’t give up her purse–and now he was in deep shit; shit that was getting deeper by the minute. He felt a deep ache at the back of his throat and wished he could just walk back to The Center and turn himself in to Mr. Woodbury…. But Spaz was pulling him closer, those ice-hard little blue eyes of his drilling holes right into his skull. Fuck!
“So what’re we supposed to do, asshole?” Spaz hissed. His voice was low and dangerous and Vasquez knew the other would as soon drive the long-handled screwdriver he had liberated from the CYA auto shop toolbox as spit on the sidewalk.
Vasquez’s warm brown eyes darted to the red Blazer and he tried to keep his voice from quavering as he pointed his chin toward it. All he wanted to do now was get the hell away from here without getting caught. Then maybe he could figure out how to turn himself in. “We could boost that Chevy in a minute man,” he suggested. “I don’t think its got no alarms.”
Spaz’s crazy eyes followed his own and the tattooed knuckles relaxed their steely grip. “Yeah, man, good idea,” he said, whipping the screwdriver up and contemplating the blade. “I bet I can pop that sucker easy with this.” He slapped Vasquez playfully on the cheek and got to his feet. “My uncle oughta give us something for it,” he said, casting a regretful eye back at the green BMW, “but it ain’t no Beemer.”
Ronnie Vasquez watched with a sinking heart as the other boy expertly inserted the screwdriver into the gap between the Blazer’s front driver side window and the soft rubber seal of the door frame. Maybe he could ditch the crazy fucker and catch him a bus back to the CYA Center once they made it into L.A… If they made it into L.A.
There was a sharp crack as the Blazer’s front door popped open and Spaz slipped behind the wheel. Ronnie Vasquez hurried around the back, glancing in through the tinted glass at the jumble of sleeping bags in the back. For a moment he was sure he saw something move.
Then the Blazer’s engine roared to life and he was in the front seat watching Spaz back crazily out of the parking space, spinning wheels as he pointed the Blazer’s radiator toward the street exit closest to the nearby freeway ramp.