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Hunted: Jake The Ripper By Artie Margrave Copyright Š 2012 Artie Margrave Published By Artie Margrave at Smashwords Smashwords Edition Front Cover designed by Artie Margrave. All rights reserved. This is a work of fiction. The events and characters described herein are imaginary and are not intended to refer to specific places or living persons. Any resemblance to any person or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. All Rights Reserved No part of this eBook may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the express written consent of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form in any form of cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser. Smashwords Edition, License Notes This eBook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This eBook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

HUNTED: JAKE THE RIPPER ~Title Page~ ~Hunted…~ ~…Through The Forest…~ ~…Into The Light…~ ~…At The Chapel…~ ~…Unseen…~ ~…Upon The Crucifix~ ~An Excerpt From The Curse In The Chest~ ~About The Book~ ~About The Author~

HUNTED… Jack grabbed the broken piece of the spear and pulled it out of his blood-caked arm. It didn’t give him the sort of pain he expected it to. It gave him very little pain, as much as a pinprick, and lasted seconds. It drew blood with torn muscles and dark-grey, decayed flesh, leaving a bleeding hole the circumference of the handle of a mop and which passed through the length of his bicep, opening at the other end. He looked at the mess of his right arm but didn’t panic. It was going to take a short time to heal and he had other problems to take care of. An owl hooted nearby. He saw its deep, gloomy, yellow eyes noticing him, studying him, bearing down on him. He dismissed it. It wasn’t important, barely worth worrying about. It dismissed him too and turned its attention to the forest floor. His panting slowed. He swiped at the sweat formed on his forehead and took it clean and listened. There were no noises, save the grave swish-swish issued by the night breeze on flexible tree branches and dislodged leaves. He could hear, albeit not too clearly but acceptable enough, from a little over two kilometers. It was one of the highly developed abilities he’d first noticed and understood. And he understood it because it made it easy for him to find food. Food, his basic need! His survival not only depended on it, without it, and so much of it, the paled skin that held his flexible bones together would’ve fallen into dried pieces long, long ago. He’d seen one of his own die that way. He sat and relaxed on the branch. He gazed at the moon – full in its splendor. It glimmered through the almost starless sky, sending a dim light down the farthest end of the forest. He preferred the darkness here. It felt safer, even if momentarily. He was one with the dark. He wasn’t scared of it. His eyesight was infinitely better than the mountain cat’s. Another one in his armory of incredible abilities. He could actually see a drop of black ink fall in the dark. He looked at the owl again. Its focus had shifted from him to the forest floor, searching silently. Now those were eyes, those spectacularly large and round, yellow eyeballs. Eyes that was better than his. Eyes keener. A sound! It came so sudden. He panicked. Flung himself off the branch, up on his feet. He was on the branch in a second, bending. He searched the forest floor. The sound again. It squeaked like rotten, dried-up leaves being disturbed. He searched again, hands gripped to the branch between his legs. There! A large rat, its snout silently sniffing the air, revealed itself from behind a tree. Searching for late night snacks. A swoosh beside him, so fast, so silent, it sounded like a whisper made him whimper. He turned. The owl had disappeared. He returned his view to the rat. It had disappeared. His search was drawn to a shadow that floated at the corner of his eyes, up towards the moon. The owl had its struggling prey caught in its talons, its own late night snack. He was instantly enamored by its magnificence. How incredibly fast. How silent. How wondrous. The stuff of magic. It was little wonder the science people marveled at the technology of the owl’s aviation, why they struggled endlessly to recreate that art. Because that was what it was. Art! If he had those wings, why he would be invincible. Another sound. He turned back to the ground. Another rat surfaced as well, in ignorance of its already preyed upon partner. Then he heard another noise! Distinct, different. A crunch sound of twigs snapping drew his attention to it. He tuned his hearing, filtered out the whistling of the leaves of the forest and then he heard it. Pumps. Soft pumps. In twos. They sounded different, apart but more ordered. And there were different sounds of those twos. Difference in intensities. Hearts pumping. He understood what it meant. They had breached his comfort zone. He started to turn around, to see

how many they were that’d found him. He turned to see something black floating towards him so fast. Straight towards his face. An arrow! He drew his arm up to block it. It sunk into his arm, pierced his flesh, bore through it and came out the other side, stopping only inches from his eyes. The pain was a tremor that coursed his entire body. It stung him ferociously, made him convulse and almost sent him to swoon. The pain lasted awhile. If he could feel the sting of a cobra’s venom, this was definitely more than it. He looked at the tip of the arrow. The smell, that powerfully irritating smell, was designed all around the tip of the arrow. Designed in blood. Dead man’s blood! His poison. The hunters had learned. They had learned more. He felt power boil out of him, felt it vaporize into the thick, blank atmosphere. Out of that thick atmosphere, a raspy voice called, from below. “You got it!” He recognized that voice. “Call to the others,” another voice ordered; this one gruff and a straight to the point kind of way. “We can’t let it escape this time.” They still referred to him as ‘it’, something he considered highly offensive. It didn’t matter that he wasn’t one of them anymore, that his kind were no longer their kind. Demons, zombies, even ghouls and spirits, they still referred to their masculinity or feminism, and those ones weren’t even in the same class he, and his brothers, were in. He deserved respect, given what he’d accomplished among his brothers. Yet he and his kind had been hunted. Down to the last one. Him! The pain sent another wave of nausea through his gut. He jerked his hand up. The wound was below the first one. Almost half of the previous wound had been repaired with a flesh grayer than a month’s old cadaver. As he studied the arrow, a loud whistle blew from one of the hunters below. A few seconds, about five apart and another whistle, just as loud but more distant, responded a few kilometers from them. Jake realized he was a few minutes to being cornered. He had to escape. The hunters had both night and day to make their move. He had only night and had to make every second of it count. He turned to jump off his branch to a higher one and suddenly his hand, the one with the arrow was forcefully yanked back. His entire body was rocked backwards. He lost balance, fell in the direction the arrow tugged. With a reflex faster than the recoil of a hand gun, he threw his left arm around the branch. It bent a little, creaking feverishly to the strength of pull from below. He looked at the arrow once more. Yes, they had learned just so much! A thin rope was firmly tied to the base of the arrow. He hadn’t noticed it before. Plus the person tussling it out with him had the shrewdness of the one person he’d heard so much of and seen very little of. Two torches were lit. He could see them clearly now. They were four. A big, burly man sporting a ten-gallon hat and an oily, lightly bearded face headed the group. He held a crossbow pointed at him, the other end of the rope firmly attached to somewhere above its trigger. In the bright light of the torches, Jake could see the burnt section of the man’s face, from his left cheek to his ear. He said a grin from chapped, half-burnt lips. He looked up at Jake through ferocious, hungry eyes. Eyes that Jake was scared enough of. Stan McCulley. The most feared hunter in all of Hangleton. Probably in all of the mid-west. This man had taken down half of his breed on his own. He’d never crossed McCulley before but he’d known just enough that he wasn’t supposed to play around if the name sprung up. The tales Jake had heard mentioned about this man could’ve filled a library. He also endeared so many names to himself, none of them too friendly: The Mad Prophet, Saw, Hell Killer, Crazy Purger, Big Stan were just a few Jake had heard of. At least Big Stan was the most attractive. Paranoia squeezed his belly.

“Going somewhere?” McCulley’s unpleasant voice sang. A half-finished cigar whistled wisps of smoke from between his lips. The whistle rang again. The second man also wore a ten-gallon hat. Almost completely hidden beneath it was a much younger face, squarish, free of hairs save the bushy mustache beneath his nose, and a pointed chin. He had this air around him that commanded as much respect as the man Stan. He was taller too. Jake had seen this man a lot of times. He was Sturgis O’Reilly, Sheriff of the midwest. He was drawn there by a need, a need to finish Jake off. The very last one. No time! Jake yanked his hands back carefully and with as much agony as he could bear, the arrow slowly pulled out of his hand. Blood rushed out of the wound. He pulled the arm up to the branch and slowly, arduously lifted himself onto it. He could hear the familiar sounds now in their multitudes. Hearts thumping! Hearts beating! Hearts pumping blood through those arteries. Many of them beat in fear, others in resolve, mostly in fear. He could tell. Many of them were beating faster than others. They were right to fear. They were wrong to fear him though. He was the one afraid. His kind had a long history of manslaughter. It was the reason he was down to the last one, the only surviving one and they wanted him dead at any cost. He heard Big Stan curse and reared his bow up at him again, trying to fix in a second roped arrow. SWOOP!! Too close! Another arrow whizzed past Jake’s head and stuck into a large branch above him. That shot was inches close to his forehead. It would’ve taken him out definitely. Not kill him, no. He looked down again. Another crossbow was held by a young guy with features strangely very much like his own: he was tall, had good, if not fantastic, body balance, deep gimlet-eyes and a face atop a neck that found it easy to rotate in all directions. His expression however was as taut as Big Stan’s but his complexion was sickly like he hadn’t been fed regularly on the right nutrients. He had a black leather jacket that illuminated the lit torches. He looked up at Jake, seemingly satisfied with his shot. That was before Big Stan’s bellow rang out. “Idiot boy,” Big Stan bawled, strode over to the guy and slapped him at the back of his head so heavily he would’ve crumbled. “You don’t miss targets these kinds of time!” The guy dropped his face slightly, disappointedly. “Sorry, papa,” he muttered, “but I did not miss. Only it was going to be difficult staking him while he’s staying up there so I was hoping you’d shoot earlier and I go up to stake him.” Dad? So he was Joey. Jake had also heard tales, not too much of them, of Big Stan’s son, save the occasional ghouls, werewolves and succubi hunting and from what he’d heard, the boy was quite good. Just probably not good enough for Big Stan himself. Big Stan mumbled a few gibberish to himself but then turned to his boy still looking dejected. “It’s a ‘it’,” Big Stan corrected. “You ready?” he spat. Joey looked up, beamed and nodded. That was the cue Jake needed. He leapt off the tree and disappeared into the dark, cries of anger, of loss and curses following him.

…THROUGH THE FOREST… It was pitch black. The darkness was his friend. The night had worn on. It felt sometime around two. He had jumped all the way through the forest. He had little bearing of where he was but he knew where he was headed and he knew he was safe now. Safe again. But for how long? Jake looked back. He saw dim lights in the distance twinkling in their tens. The hunters were far away now. He’d crossed the backup without alerting them. They were over two dozen. He’d stretched a fortune of distance between himself and them. Now he had the luxury of thought. He inspected his two arrow wounds. The older wound had healed completely. Pale, wrinkled flesh had filled the hole that had bled. The second one was still open but it dripped less blood. The hunters had outsmarted him twice. They’d killed his brood, his brothers, every one of them, even those from bits of his old life. Something that had seemed very much impossible to do. That was the thing: all of his primary senses were honed to perfection the day he died and resurrected. His eyesight was better than the hawk’s, his sense of smell sharper than the shark’s. He grew hearing sharper than the owl’s. He was also stronger, more flexible, tread long distances meant to take him hours in minutes and endurance, endurance that bettered the Dipodomys. He also had the gift of thought transference. Telepathy. The Psychic communication. He could read minds, feel thoughts, particularly with people he was in some way connected to. He also had the ability to push thoughts into people but he hated it. There was nothing worse than being controlled. Being used. Forced to do against one’s own will. Forced to flee. He was also blessed with the ultimate gift – Immortality. The span of his life was increased hundred-folds. Unending! He could live for decades, centuries even and wouldn’t age a minute. However, all of these abilities came with a price. A curse. Of course, why wouldn’t they? They were all too good to be true. Every contract had loopholes. His, as well as his kind, had an arcane lust for blood as everlasting as their life span. His body needed blood to stay fit. Blood was the nutrient that kept his pigment fresh and kept him healthy. For centuries, his kind had lived off people, killing them, infecting others, bringing up a dysfunctional bloodline. There was no denying that huge fact. He was a vampire. It was little wonder they had been hunted ever since. The hunters had studied them over the years. They’d grown smarter. And they had slaughtered them till he was just one left. He, he’d gathered a bunch of ‘misfits’ together. Many of them hadn’t come to terms with their vampirisms yet. They believed they were lost for salvation and had no place among the free living people. He became their Xavier. Jake Xavier. He brought them together, made them his family. Some of them had killed to survive, killed a mighty few. He turned them around. He gave them hope. He taught them how to live off animals. Animal blood was definitely not as juicy, delicious as human blood but he taught them to take animal blood and go by. And it worked. The people identified them as Rippers. His merry band of Rippers. Why? They always left a bloody mess in their wake. Cow limbs torn apart, horse bowels flared to the public, one hoof here, a bloody dislodged chest there, probably some spilled random animal’s guts soaked up in pig fats, those sorts of things. It was how they caught their fun, how they lived their life. The people complained bitterly but hey, it was rather the animals than them. They were satisfied. He was satisfied. The hunters weren’t. They were smart, he gave them that. He was strong, flexible, sharpest in all of his senses, immortal, but they were clever. And they had weapons. Weapons plus brains equals a very

formidable foe. There was every reason to fear them and all of those reasons centered around him. He was the last one so figures. Big Stan was the mad leader of their merry band of hunters. He was there when the hunters had stormed his nest and turned it into a bloodbath. He’d escaped, just barely. He hadn’t seen the Mad Prophet that time and wasn’t as scared of him as he was now. Half of the moon had been eaten up by the night. He looked behind him. The tens of twinkling lights were still afar off. Old Compshire was a little less than hundred kilometers before him. He believed he could get there unhurt. Get there and then what? The small town was all of the time quiet, organized, not the kind of place to be suspected for hosting ‘monsters’ like him. It was a small town and those hunters were a mighty plenty. They could comb the place in seconds. But as small as Compshire was, it had a vast number of hiding places. Other vampires had made nests there; in dried up wells, underground trenches, even some in old forgotten houses with old forgotten dungeons, at the cemetery… He knew where he had to go. There he believed he could survive the rest of the night and faintly, hopefully, the day. He’d stayed at Compshire several times in the past and knew the town even better than the hunters. The tiny town had its own dark secrets too. Ghouls against Vampires classics. That was many a decade ago. He sighed, breathed out, and was beginning to relax but his senses tinged startlingly. That familiar sound, he was hearing it again. Soft, whispering drums, beating in twos. Half of a second between the two and a second after the two, intermittent, continuous. Then another, distinct from the first, just as intermittent. Then two others much faster than the first two. Heartbeats! He attuned his hearing, just in time. A metallic scraping sound of something slicing through the air. He dodged and the arrow zoomed past his ear. “Found him, papa,” a sickly voice declared.

…INTO THE LIGHT… He squinted into the darkness behind him. Joey, Big Stan’s boy, was looking up at him, directly, unmistakably at him, aiming an arrow. “Good!” The familiar grunt of Big Stan made him shiver. “We’re taking ‘it’ down this time.” He stressed the ‘it’ with a louder voice like he was silently saying ‘don’t make that mistake next time’ to Joey. Jake caught a glance of Big Stan running through the trees, faster than his huge body was supposed to allow him. The man had the pace of an Olympic athlete. Three men followed him, one of them he recognized from back then. He was muscularly built, huger than Big Stan, huger than everyone else that had chased him and carried a couple of lances. He was black, completely bald his head reflected moonlight, and his nose boasted five black rings – three in the right, two in the left. His menacing eyes were so black the white didn’t shine from it and he wore a large whistle around his neck. The other two looked like regular, volunteered town folks with brown woolen jackets over denim trousers and revolver holsters attached to their belts. Their faces poured sweat and the way their hearts were beating – fast – he knew they had so much fear. How they’d tracked him he didn’t at first understand. The twinkling lights of torches lit were still in the distance. He realized they had made it to him right through the dark. The lights far away were meant to deceive him, to make him think everything was okay. They had once more outsmarted him. Again! Snikt! Trigger release. An arrow was released, right at him. It was fast. He was faster. He jumped off the tree branch and onto the next tree, a little higher up. “Don’t let that vampire get away,” Big Stan ordered. More arrows made for him. Then gunshots followed too. He jumped off the tree onto the next one, looked for another safe spot and jumped. Arrows rained. He dodged all the arrows but got a few slugs to his leg. The bullets were untrained and he was okay, just the regular pinpricks easy to endure. The arrows were big and he had minimum difficult seeing them clearly but the bullets, there wasn’t much he could do against those. He was simply lucky they weren’t lined with more dead man’s blood. That would’ve weakened him considerably. The regular folks were still amateurs. “It’s not stopping,” Big Stan grunted. He rushed forward, his long, black overcoat sweeping the forest floor. Jake retracted, released, jumped again, landed with both hands firmly on a thick branch, swung two full angles around it, released and landed on the next one. He didn’t stay there past a second. He was off again. “Malik!” He heard Big Stan call. A dark, hoarse voice responded, “Yes?” Jake assumed it was the huge, black guy. “Think you can…” the rest of the sentence was lost on Big Stan’s lips but was automatically carried through the thick atmosphere to the black guy who understood instantly. “Of course!!” Malik replied in his thick, gravelly voice. Jake looked back at the new threat. Malik had kept behind the others before, probably keeping out of their way, but with two long strides, he appeared in front, dwarfing the others behind him. He kept taking those long, heavy, giant strides, bringing his foot down in loud thumps that shook the forest floor. He took one of the lances with his free hand. The lance had a

large circumference, a scary length and an even sharper point. Jake knew he didn’t want to get impaled by any of those spears. He leaped further, had to create distance. Malik aimed, stretched his hairy, gorilla hand back and threw. The lance zipped through the air with a chilling speed, faster than the arrows had been, and the arrows had been really fast. He leaped off the tree. One second late and an inch more accurate and the lance would’ve struck through his leg, or hand, maybe through both. It struck the branch, bore a hole through it and tore the branch off the tree. Malik didn’t stop. He kept taking those giant lunges. It was as if he inherited an incredible jolt of energy that only increased when they’d meant to burn. In seconds, he’d armed his hand with another lance. He aimed. He launched. The lance this time floated with more speed and accuracy but failed to properly connect with its target. It grazed Jake’s shoulder, spun upwards and took a slow descent back to the leaf caked ground. Jake got more panicky. Things were getting pretty rough. Malik cussed. Big Stan growled behind him. They were struggling to keep up with him, with both of them. Then Jake was forced to perch. The next tree, a very large one too was a questionable jump away. He had to calculate before making that jump. Malik slowed down and prepared to aim. He drew his arm back, poured momentum into it and released, as simultaneously as Jake jumped. Jake, in mid-air, looked back and realized his error. Malik had also calculated. Malik’s lips snarled into a wicked grin. As Jake floated up to the branch, the lance followed his route. He’d barely placed his hands on the large branch before the lance rammed into his back, crushed its way through his tendons and muscles and stuck out of his chest in a crazy spurt of blood and torn flesh. The pain it inflicted on him swooned him right there. His hands collapsed. He fainted and it was the impact of him falling from that height, almost twenty five meters high, to the ground that shook him awake. And when awoken, the pain raged inside once more. He howled, so loudly a werewolf could’ve mistaken him for one of its own. “Gotcha!!” hailed his enemy, Big Stan. They were close. Their heartbeats rang in his head. He had to hide. He had to get himself away from an encounter. The lance had been trained with dead man’s blood. He saw the disgusting blood burn his own blood off the blade of the spear. He rose weakly, stretched his hands to his back, grasped it and pushed it deeper within himself, allowing it to come out of the front. His blood ran down the full length of the lance, burning off at the tip. The dead man’s blood was still active. He could feel it within him. He drew his overcoat back and saw the large hole the cursed thing made. The poison was making him sick. His senses were numbed. The wound wasn’t going to heal quickly, he was certain of that but with the poison slowing him down and the hunters approaching, he ran out of choice. There was certainly no way he would reach Compshire now, not with his present condition. Footsteps! He dropped the spear and moved towards the tree he’d attempted to land on. His walking grew impaired, almost as if his feet were about to buckle and he still had to endure the pain within his chest. As he disappeared behind the tree, he witnessed the hunters emerging, Malik and Big Stan bringing up the fore. A few seconds silence. The tree he hid behind was large enough to hide one more person. Beyond that was a dark, dark forest and… a bright flash of light instantly sprang into view, filling the corner of his eye. “I know you’re there,” Big Stan croaked. “You don’t have to make it hard for yourself, Jake Ripper.” Jake! The Mad Prophet knew him. “What do you want from me?” Jake asked. Of course he knew the answer – death! His dead heart on a gold slab. “Why have you been hunting me?” He turned to see the white light, sending

slivers of rays through the dark woods. It was ineffable, brilliant, beautiful and most of all, it felt bioluminescent. It was emanating from a source, a source that seemed to be alive. Somehow it seemed familiar. It was to his right, coming from beyond an opening out of the forest, an opening too near to be easily concealed. “Oh, funny question that… funny,” and Big Stan drew a long laugh that felt like a sneer. Jake returned his focus to the hunters. “I haven’t done anything to any of you,” he protested, “to be hunted like an animal.” “Pretty talk, hombre,” Big Stan responded. “So why are you hunting me?” he continued. “Aren’t my brothers’ blood enough? Huh?” Big Stan tsk-tsked. “It’s not about spilling blood, no.” “So what is this about?” He looked back at the light. It was shrouded in mystery but it was inviting. It injected a feeling of hope into him. Light was meant to be his number one enemy, he knew that. However, this light didn’t look like, or glow like other lights. It was ethereal, celestial. Too, it was endearing. It seemed to understand him, to call to him. “Whatever’s dead has to stay dead,” Big Stan’s voice pulled him from his worship. And he immediately figured out why they’d been slaughtered. They wanted them to remain in the grave. A very noble gesture, only he wasn’t ready to die at their hands, no! Not when he was seeing the light. It called to him again, a soft definitive flicker. The hunters knew he hated light. Now this light, it was the last place they would attempt to look for him. the wound still throbbed madly but he’d long found the strength to walk however little. He was going to make it silently into the light. “There has to be another way out,” Jake said silently, staggering away from the tree, into the dark. “There’s no goddamn way out,” Big Stan snapped angrily. “The stake, boy.” Jake could see them all clearly now. He pulled himself through the trees, heading towards the light. As he edged closer to it, he felt its pulsating energy, felt it drawing him, pulling him, embracing him. Light that was warm, light that was friendly. As he dragged himself closer to it, its brilliance began to make it difficult for him to keep a sustained look at it. He looked back. Saw lit torches making an arc around the tree he’d left. They were planning to surround him and they definitely would’ve succeeded had he lingered. They probably had no knowledge of his disappearance as an alarm hadn’t been made. He stumbled out of the clearing and headed towards the light.

…AT THE CHAPEL… The light diffused from an old chapel with the size of a Stave church, old in a sense that rhymed with abandonment. His eyes, as strained as they were, were beginning to adjust to the light. The chapel stood in the midst of a large, poor clearing where the population of Alligator grass and capeweed and carpetweed were all too discouraging, and with a splash of leguminous grasses here and there, the clearing looked like the remains of an old, long finished war. The grasses had been unattended to since forever. He had to push stinging strands of nettles out of his way as he staggered forward. The chapel was made of very tattered bricks, some stripped of their colors, several others stripped of their positions on the construction. As he walked into the light’s brilliancy, he realized it didn’t hurt him. It didn’t scare him. In fact, he felt peaceful, like a huge burden was removed from him. He forged forward. He was still weak, incredibly weak but his pain was lost in his feelings of reverie. A fairly large entrance made of concrete jutted out of the mist that swirled around the chapel. The edges of the entrance had been gobbled up by thistles and carpetweed that were simply intent on spreading. Erosion had pumped some of the concrete out of the ground and made the entrance feel like a fallen soldier, badly battered with age. It was absent of insects which didn’t particularly strike Jake with as much as a thought. He heard their chirpings though and that was enough. A statue of Christ on a cross was mounted on a pole that connected with the upper portion of the front of the chapel. As he looked up, he noticed that Christ’s eyes owned that brilliant light that’d drawn him towards this probable safety. The eyes spurted a magnificent glow that spun reflections everywhere. It was a beautiful sight. He had to bend his eyes away from it to keep his senses intact. Beneath the statue, a label that was supposed to hold the name of the chapel hung but it was broken in two, one side larger than the other and whatever was printed on it had faded. The chapel’s multicolored windows reflected the light. The inside of the chapel was black. His body dropped in exhaustion. He was spent, sapped of that incredible energy he once had. The chapel was uninhabited, he was sure. He expected nobody to survive in a place like this… and then laughed. Here he was, hoping to last the night. He stared at the floor beneath him. It was missing his shadow. He remained on the floor. That felt very good, the cold running up his legs from the concrete, the heat pouring down on his head from the light. A white, metallic crucifix almost as long as his leg stood out in the centre of the entrance to the chapel. Its metal was rusting. It had very thin depth and sharp edges. Jake sat there, safe, watching, his senses dulled by the poison inside of him. As he relaxed, he swam in memories of those who had been his family. One of them would’ve been happy at his find. T. Phillips. He used to be a Reverend. He’d preached to large crowds, he used to say. The man had been a firm believer in second chances. He believed there was a reason he had been turned. He always had hope for tomorrow. “Search for it! Bring it out!” A voice bellowed. He sat up. His eyes blinked till everything came into focus. What were those? Fires? Torches? Or fireflies? Figures erupted into view. Hunters! They surged forward, holding weapons: pickaxes, rifles, axes, shotguns, sabers, and crossbows. They emerged from the clearing he’d passed through and made their way towards the chapel. Leading the line was the hunched, menacing, eager figure of Stan McCulley. He lifted a torch and a crossbow. Anger licked at his eyes. His black coat floated

over the ankle length grasses. He was followed by the sheriff. Joey was behind them, immediately in front of about three dozen men. Jake tried to stand. He had to escape but his body failed him. It wasn’t the pain though. Something was pinning him down, bringing all of the weariness he had not felt before to the fore. He’d never been this vulnerable. The moon was a little more than a sickle now in the dark blue sky. He looked back. He still felt the light. What then had gone wrong? How had they decided to come to find him here? The light was still brilliant. However, none of the hunters seemed affected by it. They didn’t as much as flinch before it. It was like it never existed. They loomed. They were plenty. And he was weak. He couldn’t take one down even if he tried. His body wasn’t responding to start with. Now Big Stan was looking right at him, a wicked smile spread across his half-burnt face.

…UNSEEN… They approached the chapel and stopped above the weed carpeted edge. Big Stan stopped smiling but kept his stare on him, unblinking, silent, almost pensive. He took a step forward. O’Reilly stood behind him. The others seemed to be looking elsewhere, waiting for orders. After a few seconds, O’Reilly broke the silence. “You think it’ll be here?” What? Big Stan kept his eyes grimaced at Jake. “Yonder,” he answered and it took Jake precious seconds to understand the unbelievable. The loutish hunter wasn’t looking at him. Big Stan was staring past him, into the darkness of the chapel. The Mad Prophet couldn’t see him? He was right there, sitting before him, unable to move and even if he could, had zilch chances of an escape. Big Stan pointed his crossbow towards the dark of the church. “Yonder,” he repeated. “The laddie’s fast but its bloody trail ends here. It’s inside. It has to be.” O’Reilly jerked his hand forward and made a back and forth motion with his second and middle finger with an air of superiority. Seven of him men surged forward. Jake counted two crossbows, a rifle and four revolvers. They all held torches. “Search the inside. Turn it out. I want the vampire found.” A command. An instance. They rushed towards him. Five went around him and into the chapel. The other two jumped over him, actually jumped like he was an obstacle they would sprain their legs if they landed on. “Malik!!” Big Stan called. The black brute cleared the smaller guys like they were weightless packs of feather and, majestically walked to the hunter. One hand held a blood-stained lance. The other hand held his other lances. Sweat rained down his muscles. “Get some guys, marshal to the back. Anything as much as bloody moves and you strike, comprendré?” Malik grunted. He meant ‘okay’. He disappeared once more into the crowd. Seconds later, he detached himself from the group and a dozen men went with him. They went around the side of the chapel towards the back. Seven men remained with the big boss hunter, his sheriff counterpart and Joey. Big Stan’s breathing came in short snarls. He muttered gibberish beneath his snarls. He’d grown the habit of doing that. Joey flashed occasional glances at the inside of the chapel, at Jake and back at his father. His expression was blank. He waited for instructions. Of course, none of them could see him. Jake sighed. He mopped at the beads of sweat running down his nose from his forehead. They couldn’t see him. He relaxed. Rough noises of pillaging rang inside; wood crashed on wood, metal clanged on wood and glass and glass shattered. Big Stan paced the entire length of the entrance. Joey kept sending occasional glances to Jake and the inside of the church. A few minutes passed before two of the men returned from the inside of the chapel, disappointment designed on their faces. “Clear!” One of them reported.

“There’s no one inside,” the other explained. “But there’s a crypt beneath the storehouse and the men…” the first one added. “Ladies, all of them I believe,” Big Stan finished, his voice somewhere between annoyed and frustrated. The two men shook their shoulders in agreement but had their faces brought low. It was clear they had no will to see the Mad Prophet’s expression. It was good that they kept their faces away too. The wrath displayed wasn’t nearly nice to see. Big Stan kicked at the air in a rage. “Do I always have to do everything?” he growled. He armed his crossbow and marched towards the chapel, then stopped and turned. “The rest of you, scour into the woods. You find anything, take it down! Joey, stay here. You see anything…” “I take it down… got it,” Joey finished, abruptly. Big Stan looked at his boy like he seriously had the desire to knock the back of his head but he turned instead to O’Reilly. “You coming?” O’Reilly looked like he was going to say no at first but he instead withdrew his pistol from his holster and went past the huge hunter. Big Stan whistled softly and followed and the two men marched behind them into the chapel. The rest carried out their orders – they scattered into the overgrown bushes around, completely disappearing from sight. Jake stared at Joey. Joey was left alone. Vulnerable but not defenseless. Joey couldn’t see him. From the little he’d studied about the McCulley father-son relationship, he realized there was much to tell. First, the boy was a hunter quite all right and a good one too, but he was nowhere near his father. He was the kind that stopped to think before acting. Big Stan was a straight to the point hunter, brutal. Joey didn’t have that brutality. It was probably why the man hid a mighty little of his disappointment of his boy, actually it looked like disdain. The man probably saw the boy as his failure and jumped at every chance to bully him. He never treated the giant negro – Malik – the same way. And yet, the boy was all of the time trying very hard to impress. Jake looked at him. One quick lunge and he believed he could so easily knock the dude’s head off his shoulders. Big Stan and his hunters had killed off his family, everyone of them. He could repay that favor, starting right here, right now. Only, he just wasn’t that person. He never believed in vengeance. A numb feeling ran across his stomach. The poison had finally been nullified and his wounds rapidly started the healing process. A jolt of energy sprang up within him. He was beginning to feel his legs. He stared up at the Christ statue. White light glowed. It poured on him, spread around. They couldn’t see the light and they couldn’t see him. He looked back and noticed Joey also looking at the statue. Joey returned his gaze to the darkness of the overgrown grasses and before long sighed. “Finally,” Joey muttered, almost whispering, “’bout time they left.” He slung his crossbow over his shoulder and walked to the crucifix. He stared into the dark chapel. They both heard gunshots and loud metallic clangs somewhere beneath them. “It’s gonna take a while,” Joey informed. Who was he talking to? Jake looked at him. And he looked back at Jake and furrowed his brow quizzically. “I wonder,” Joey continued in his quiet voice, just too gentle to belong to any hunter. He walked to Jake. He actually walked to him, dropped his crossbow noiselessly and dropped

himself beside Jake. He kept his face straight, plain. Questions tried to form in Jake’s mind but it had run dry now, as dry as his throat was. “One second and you could’ve taken my life,” Joey said matter-of-factly. There was no hiding the fact. Joey could see him and seemed to be the only one who could. Yet the guy looked cool about it. He did not look like he was ready to give him out. And he wasn’t scared or bothered. He didn’t look anything particularly. Just sickly and bored. “It’s not me,” Jake answered dryly. Joey nodded in acceptance. Silence. “I wouldn’t even if I tried,” Jake continued. “You are the hunter. Why haven’t you taken me down already?” Joey shook his shoulders. “That’s dad. Always straight to the point. Once his mind’s on something, it’s impossible to make him stop.” “Heard you’re quite good too,” Jake said. “I used to be,” Joey answered. “I wanted to take after the old man. Many a Tuesday ago, me and my boys found a nest, somewhere deep in Corxam. Six vampires, two of ‘em babes. Bloody hungry they were. A dismembered ram was propped in a corner. They passed the blood in a large bowl amongst themselves.” “They were my brothers,” Jake said. And then a feeling washed over him. It felt weird talking to Joey, especially in this absurdly calm manner. Maybe it was because the guy had not pulled a slug into him yet. “Well,” Joey continued, paying the littlest thoughts to his expression, “we rushed them. Orders were orders. After the massacre, I couldn’t help feeling it wasn’t right. Those guys stayed like they had no idea we were upon them. Even when we attacked, they didn’t retaliate. It got me thinking. They weren’t the usual vampires we were used to hunting.” A ball of regret knotted in Jake’s belly. He regretted telling his brothers to not defend themselves, regretted telling them to not fight back. He wished he could’ve taken those orders back, turned time’s hands back. “Magnificent light,” Joey remarked. He could see the light too. It was still a question that remained unanswered. “How can you see the light and the others not?” Jake asked. It felt like the right question. Joey shrugged. “He that hateth his brother is in darkness and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes. First John two verse eleven.” Jake nodded. A reasonable answer. “Seems I’m the only one that doesn’t want you dead,” Joey accentuated. “You base your belief on a sentence of the scriptures?” “What do you believe?” “Second chances,” Jake replied, thoughtful. “One of my brothers made me believe. I was resurrected into a life filled with misery, hatred, savagery and blood. He was a reverend. T. Phillips. Black guy, graying hair. He was attacked and bitten. Escaped and left the church before he died and was reborn. Born again.” They both laughed. “Dammit!!!” They both heard Big Stan’s bellow from beneath them. Something foul cried after him, something unearthly. “He’ll find worse demons in there, probably church-grown ghouls,” Joey chipped in. “So T. Philips joined our band. That man spoke a milli about second chances.” “You?”

“I believed him. With him I helped turn our lust for human blood to animal blood. Sucked but we managed. We sacrificed.” Joey licked his lips and looked up. His face was extremely pale in the moonlight. It somehow didn’t feel right. “How did it feel like, when you were reborn?” Jake thought for a while. “Emptiness,” he muttered pitifully. “Void. There was nothing in here and here.” He pointed to his head and heart. “It was difficult trying to get used to. Didn’t know where I was. Almost didn’t know who I was. I cried for help. It was all dark. No one heard me. I was in a coffin. Somehow I broke out. It all became clear. It started with the loud noises, the softest splat of water, pumping of blood in the heart and nose clearer, reflexes that beat the cat’s, speed, eyesight… It was a thrill. I felt free… like there was nothing I couldn’t do, like there were no limits to how far I could go. Then the hunger, the thirst. Still I was powerful. Too powerful. It scared the hell out of me.” At the word ‘powerful’, Joey seemed to flinch. “Must’ve felt great,” Joey muttered. He looked at Jake and for the first time, Jake saw something in those eyes he hadn’t seen before. Hunger? Yes! Hunger seethed within those eyes. They pushed out of Joey’s pale face. His skin looked whiter than ever. And then a lot of missing pieces began to fit into an equation that formulated in the subconscious of his mind inadvertently. How had the hunters kept up with him through the dark forest. Nobody, he believed, had eyes good enough to have seen so well to have followed him all through the night. And Joey was the one he’d seen that had truly successfully tracked him. Found him, papa! Joey had shot at him and missed. Twice! A coincidence of errors? Hardly so. Deliberately? Very likely. Joey needed him alive. He could’ve given him out when he was helpless and they were a full house, only he didn’t. Why? Answers! The answer ignited his mind. For some unique reason(s), Joey was looking for answers and he was the one left to give him those answers. Joey was the only one who could see him when the others couldn’t. Scriptures? Yes but much, much more. There was a link, he and Joey, something existed and it wasn’t simply ordinary. His senses turned on automatically. The poison inside of him had been completely obliterated, down to the last traces. His eyes brightened. The pain that once hurt him instantly dissipated. Every sound within a mile radius exploded in his brain. Hoots irrupted into his head, chirpings were fifty times magnified. Howls rose up from beneath him. He heard footsteps rushing through the bushes, away from them. Hearts were beating, frantically. In every direction, except… Yahtzee! It was difficult to believe at first. Joey had no heartbeat. Nothing sang in his chest. He looked at the paling, sickly face. And he was sure he didn’t miss it. Joey was no longer a hunter. He was a brother. He had also been turned and was in his last stage of rebirth. That was it! He looked at Joey. Joey looked back at him and pressed his lips into a fake smile. He was sure Jake had known. He was becoming a vampire.


Jake jumped up, psyched with rage, the weakness in his legs forgotten. Whatever power had restrained him before released him. Joey flinched at the suddenness of his rise, not by the force of it. Betrayal! Joey had been helping the hunters kill the vampires, his brothers and he was becoming one of them. “Bastard!” He jacked Joey by the neck, off the ground, rough and hard unto the mirror-less glass of the chapel and looked into his eyes. Joey simply smiled. He didn’t make an attempt at a struggle. “How long have you been bitten?” Jake asked, his eyes flaring. “Four days,” Joey answered calmly. That calm fashion in which Joey spoke was getting to Jake. “I die by mid-day.” Four days! In four days, the hunters had killed more than two dozen. And Joey had been an integral member of that group, slicing them, staking them, burning their bodies in heaps of piles, relentlessly. His brothers. “Five of us against seven of them, New Kerklees, they attacked us. We didn’t expect it. We killed them but were all of us bitten. I killed my boys. It made dad proud. He had no idea I…” Joey paused. Something stirred in his voice. “For the first time, he didn’t put me down.” Jake looked at Big Stan’s boy. He was certainly going to die in a few hours. His heart had stopped. Told a lot. The essence of vampirism left in him was the only thing keeping him alive. And then he would be born into the world of chaos that was his. And yet Joey looked indifferent about it. His eyes actually sparkled, reflecting glows of euphoria. The guy was in the least worried about his impending death. Soulless, power-hungry eyes glared at Jake’s. Dark eyes batted his. Jake tightened his hand around Joey’s throat, squeezing the tiny amount of air left there out. There was a connection now. A blood connection. This was someone’s mind he could read. Jake stared into those power-hungry eyes, stared hard at it, into it, past the whites, past the irises, past the lens, into the darkness inside. He slithered successfully into Joey’s thoughts. Vivid images vibrated inside, slowly stabilizing into focus. Blood! There was blood everywhere. It formed large, revolting, thick patches on a roughly spherical sial plate that actually spread to corners he couldn’t see but corners that felt like they had boundaries. The moon cast a dull glow on the surrounds of the plate, and on Joey. He sat on a largish igneous rock also made from the sial in a thrashing black coat, his feet suspended from the ground. He looked straight at Jake. His face was bright, lively, in extreme contrast to the Joey that owned this thought. Blood poured down his chin. Bloody fangs protruded from his mouth, needle-like, razor-sharp fangs. Two from both sides of his wet lips. A body laid beneath him in a crumpled mass of blood: big, massive body, a ten-gallon hat beside him, blood spoiled his lightly-bearded, half-burnt… Big Stan! Jake gasped. Joey’s papa. And then he saw bodies. Bloody bodies. Bodies of hunters sprawled on the floor in several sickening and distasteful positions, some impossible. Body parts were mangled, broken and dismembered, flesh torn. It was a gross sight. “It’s begun to happen,” Joey whispered, his voice felt like echoes that stung him over and over.

The Mad Prophet stayed on the floor. The lower part of his body had been heavily ravaged and a large hole appeared at the part of the chest where his heart was meant to be. “This… this is what you want?” Jake asked in a sick voice. “Old branches need to be pruned,” Joey replied, his dark eyes searching Jake’s. “Why do you want this?” “I’m fed up,” Joey replied curtly. “Tired of the misery. I’ve never been good enough for that man. I’ve always been degraded, demeaned. It’s going to have to stop.” Jake shook his head. Vengeance. It was bitter. “That’s it?” Joey shook his head and looked back. “There’s always a faint idea of what power is until you own it. It’s all about power, is it not? All this time I’ve prayed for this kind of power, almost all my life. To have this incredible strength. The things I could achieve…” he paused and snapped his fingers. Almost simultaneously, figures appeared out of the thick air, behind Joey. They all wore long, misty overcoats, with grim, studying, yellow eyes and a vain expression, so alike so much that Jake believed they could’ve been copies of themselves. They formed an arc around Joey. Their faces were darkened by the thick ambiance they stood in. He could scarcely count their number. “We can rebuild that world once again, you and I,” Joey continued. “Rule that world and rule the living. We have all the time in the world. Live forever.” Jake misplaced himself in thought. The transition from the weak, feeble, smart Joey to this hungry, superior Joey was unimaginable. This was wrong. The hunters had hunted him and the others and killed them. And they scarcely knew that the enemies, the real enemies were those on the inside, putting on coats of hypocrisy and smiling with the rest of the band. A merry hunt to kill him, so much that none of them had discovered that their boss’ boy had ‘become’. He silently pulled himself out of Joey’s mind. The figures disappeared, the bodies, the blood, the plate vanished. Joey disappeared but his eyes remained on Jake’s. Jake looked at Joey’s blank face. “What do you say?” He was a firm believer in second chances. He came back. He taught his group of rippers to feed to animal blood. Right there in front of the chapel, he wasn’t meant to live. Some higher power had other ideas for him. He was kept safe. He was given another chance. A chance that stared him in the face. He spotted the crossbow on the floor and shifted his leg to it. He slid his leg under it and flicked it. The bow sailed upwards and he caught it with relative ease. He placed the armed bow’s arrow on Joey’s Adam’s apple. “You give me a reason why I shouldn’t kill you now,” Jake snapped. Joey grinned wickedly. Jake had never seen the guy this full of confidence. He didn’t shake at the sight of the crossbow, not as much as flinch. “You’re past revenge,” Joey spat Jake’s words at him. “It’ll be a waste of your time. I’ll be dying today anyway. I don’t feel pain anymore. The arrow’s not trained and you don’t want me as an enemy and that’s six reasons.” Jake shot a grin back. “Well count them off your list. You’re dying come sunshine.” He pulled Joey off the ground, up until Joey’s top half connected with the concrete part of the wall. Joey’s feet scrambled for a foothold unsuccessfully. He looked at Jake. “You really want to be the last one, right?” Joey whispered. “If you kill me, what then?” Those words seemed to put Jake somewhere lost in his thoughts for a few seconds but he returned to himself and pulled the trigger. The arrow pierced a hole through Joey’s larynx with a

squelching sound, came out the back and implanted itself firmly in the concrete. Joey’s eyes contorted in pain. He tried to bring a sound through his shattered voice box but released gasps of air and saliva. Blood poured through the wound in his neck, thick dark blood. But Jake wasn’t done there. He pulled two more rounds into Joey’s two shoulders. Blood stained his coat. His arms shuddered in shock. Joey was stuck to the wall of the chapel, hanging centimeters from the ground. “That takes care of the noise and tries to escape,” Jake informed. Joey kept his appalled eyes at Jake, still keeping composed, unnerved. He tried to say something but again failed. Blood streamed down the side of his lips. But Jake had figured what he meant to say. There was an established mind connection already. “Of course not yet,” he seemed to answer, “this certainly won’t stop you. However…” Jake remembered Joey was the one entrusted with the stake. Joey had probably entrusted it to himself. A safeguard. He searched the confines of Joey’s jacket and found it stuck in the back of his belt. The ultimate vampire killer. He looked at it. Joey looked at it too. And his eyes lost its color instantly. Jake pushed the stake right through Joey’s heart. The pain coursed through Joey. His body convulsed spasmodically. The agony shook him. His face fell. Blood and saliva dribbled in long, slimy strings from his mouth. He raised his face weakly to stare at Jake. Jake returned a satisfied look. “With the stake in your heart, there’s nothing you can do now,” he said. “The sun will come and down you go to dust.” Joey accepted. His head dropped again. He felt Joey’s mind slipping into blankness. Jake felt the first twinge of heat on his skin, heat his skin did not like. He looked up. The moon had disappeared. An aquamarine patch streaked across a dark-blue sky. The sun was beginning to rise, distant in the horizon. You really want to be the last one, right? If you kill me, what then? Joey’s question slapped his thoughts. A very good question! He glared at the Christ statue. The light that sparkled from its eyes was starting to dull. And he knew what he had to do. He’d played his part. His job was done. He understood the light now. A way home. His way home. A natural glow, like an essence of the morning, glinted at the horizon. The sun was coming. He saw the crucifix once more. It illuminated in Jesus’ light. The horizontal bar where Christ’s hands were meant to be was lower than where it ought to be on a regular crucifix. It was just perfect. He walked over to it. Another howl floated up from beneath him. The heartbeats coming from beneath had reduced to a mighty few, almost half the number that had gone in. He looked down at the crucifix. It glared at him. Sharp edges and an almost half an inch thicker than a sword. He bent over it. This was how he meant to die, not at the hands of hunters. Of course, he wasn’t committing suicide. You can’t kill something that’s already dead. He placed his heart over it, smiled and felled himself on it. The top of the crucifix crushed his heart and slowly rose out his back as he sank himself on it. He let a whispered gasp. His head spun. Images rushed through his head, thoughts relived. As his senses began to fail, he was the light. He smiled. ~~***~~

Big Stan emerged into the sunlight. Several bleeding cuts ran across his face – the most prominent was a deep gash beneath his eye. He looked at his overcoat and grunted his disgust. Several claw marks disfigured the fabric. Several other portions were rumpled or twisted into shreds. He squinted at the brightness of the day like he’d never seen light in his life. His eyes were glowering in disappointment. Like he’d ran out of time for an important appointment. Three hunters swagged behind him, abreast of each other. The one in the middle supported himself on the shoulders of the other two. He was missing an eyeball and his left femur with its flesh and muscles. His clothes had been ripped apart into something less than rags stained ugly with blood. Pieces of bloody muscles stuck out from his empty socket. The other two were simply caked in dirt and filth of hairs and blood. They were okay other than that. “Filthy ghouls,” Big Stan growled and his eyes fell on the crucifix. And he squeezed his eyes in surprise. The crucifix held what were remains of a dusty skeleton. Pieces of it – particularly sections of the ribs had fallen off into the heap of dust and sand that settled by the base of the crucifix. A dark, clearly burnt coat flapped in the breeze, releasing puffs of smoke. “Yeah, it sure went well.” O’Reilly appeared from the side of the chapel to the crucifix. He was also in a bad shape but none of his organs were missing. A thin, satisfied smile crossed his face. Malik followed him, as well as a dozen men. Others advanced from the overgrown hedges, visibly dew worn. “That boy did it,” O’Reilly continued. “Good ol’ Joey.” Big Stan looked at O’Reilly. “And where’s he?” “Didn’t see him around,” O’Reilly replied. “Thought he was with the negro. Been lookin’ for him since.” Big Stan shook his head. He picked his crossbow and made towards the bushes. “Are your men still in place at Compshire?” O’Reilly gave a vague nod. “Good,” Big Stan said. “Joey’s also infected… and there’s no better place he has to hide.” The sheriff was taken aback. “What are you saying?” His eyes searched the burly hunter’s from a sweaty, drawn-back face. His voice seemed to sift through his brush mustache. “Probably more than three days ago, along with his guys. He killed them. He thought he could fool me,” Big Stan explained. “I simply meant to use him to track the ripper. He ought to die sometime today, tomorrow, I ain’t too sure so he shouldn’t be far. Malik!” The hefty black walked up to Big Stan and they were going to walk away when a crackle and a burning sound stopped them in their tracks. The sound seemed to surprise O’Reilly because he jumped and turned. At first it wasn’t visible but a smoke began to diffuse from the concrete of the chapel wall. And then the smoke became an explosion. Bits of wall brick were blasted off the wall that the others had to shield themselves. The smoke cleared to reveal another dried-up skeleton, two scorched arrows stuck in its shoulder blades and one in its neck on the floor. The half-burnt jacket was all too familiar. A scorched, blood caked stake landed in a thud. Clumps of sand surrounded the skeleton. The men gasped. They recognized the body instantly. O’Reilly looked disturbed. Big Stan himself was bemused. He looked at the bones that was once his son. Pity washed over him, and loss. He pushed his eyes back to the bones on the crucifix in front of the entrance. And then he understood. But he was filled with a new question: Was this hunt really worth it? Did one really have something to prove? “What does this mean?” O’Reilly asked, suddenly standing beside the hunter, still puzzled.

Big Stan shrugged. “The Jake lad here did us a favor, it looks,” he answered but looked up again. “Actually two,” he corrected himself. O’Reilly looked at the hunter’s badly scarred face, still not understanding. Big Stan didn’t look back. He released his crossbow, allowed it to fall beside Jake’s bones and walked away. ~~***~~

An Excerpt from The Curse In The Chest ( to be published hopefully before March’s end) He pounded at the chisel harder than he’d before done. Sweat poured off his face like driblets of water. His wet shirt was lying on the floor, jumbled with the fodder. He paused for a moment, resting the arm holding the chisel on the lid of the chest and bowed his head. A soft chill consumed him. He despaired, hardly knowing why. Was this box that worth it? He was killing himself over what he wasn’t sure of. It had become so much of an obsession that he’d found it difficult, even disturbing, focusing on other things. He wanted to really believe mighty good could come off the chest, but what if he was tricking himself. Was it a coincidence his finding the chest at that section of the lake? Did it even contain anything? All you need do is believe. Very slowly he gave into his reasoning self. Figuring he just might not get the contents within, he considered the precious stones carved into the chest itself and believed they were worth a mighty much. Too, they wouldn’t be so hard to remove. He resolved and pulled his hand off the chest. Only, his hands pulled free, free of both chest and chisel. He stared at the chisel and couldn’t believe his eyes. The chisel held fast, suspended in mid-air with a little bit of its blade stuck through the lids of the chest. A feat he’d executed himself to for the past few days. He had pried a hole in! At last! ‘Ha-ha,’ he leapt, kicking a pack of fodder out of the way onto a wall. ‘Yes!’ No! His reasoning self faded behind his victorious feeling. He returned to the box, ever determined to finish off the job. He tried pulling the blade for good measure. It stayed stuck. Satisfied, he pressed his hands, one first then the both of them down on the chisel in an attempt to lift the lid of the chest. The chisel remained rigid. Try as he could, which was a well vigorous attempt too, he found it another stiff task to pry the lids apart. After struggling for a most difficult twenty minutes, he halted. His reasoning self quickly took form in his mind. He shook his head. Why was everything so hard? He wanted to give up. He had to give up. There wasn’t any way to sweet talk this thing into spilling. Or is there? He threw a look at the other tools scattered on the table and his look fell on the crowbar. He looked at the handle of the chisel and back to the crowbar and smiled. He picked the crowbar. Its wedge was going to come good. He placed the wedge beneath the chisel’s handle, pushing it upwards so the tool would gain a good grip. When he was okay that it did, he pulled the handle of the crowbar downwards, trying to bring the chisel with it. He failed at first as the crowbar fell off its target and went over the sequence. He pulled harder the second time, exerting a tremendous degree of force to it. It held, it held, it held and then caved in. He fell. The crowbar spun with a dizzying velocity several times in the air and fell on Roy’s face, right on his chisel wound, opening it up once more. He cursed in pain, picked the crowbar and flung it away from him. Something forced itself out of the wooden walls of the shed almost simultaneously. He rose up and found himself in darkness, a darkness he didn’t understand. Something scratched the walls from outside. He couldn’t see a thing. He groped around hoping his eyes would adjust. They didn’t and fear began to work its influence on him. What had he gotten himself to? A piercing cry rang out through the heavy darkness. It rocked the very foundations of the shed, sending a dark chill into him. It sounded bird-ish. It melted almost as suddenly as it had started, into the shadows. The darkness weighted down on him pulling into his mind a flurry of creeps, nightmarish things and filth. He shivered in fear. He had to get out of

the dark. He needed to see the noon. He stumbled forward, at least where he thought was forward. Something soft brushed past his foot, something cold and hairy. It had many shapes, the dark and it did not keep a state. Constantly it moved, constantly it instilled a new form. He dropped to his knees. Hopelessness bit at him. He crawled a few steps frontwards. Something tugged at his shorts. ‘Leave me alone!’ he despaired. Leave you alone? You started this. Wasn’t this what you wanted? Wasn’t this what you always wanted? Yet the job isn’t even finished. He was forced down on his belly, his face welted in the scattered hay. His hands shot up in the air seeking redemption. They met claws instead, claws that burned, claws that pulled him and laid him on his back, claws that clamped his throat tightly. Look upon me now! Look upon your persecutor! He struggled weakly against the force hovering him. As he gazed into the dark, he sensed a presence. It was filled with hate. A feeling he knew well enough. It looked down on him, into the crevices of his soul, searching, filling, taking. It engulfed him, slithered in. His soul flailed. He slept. Roy woke in a start. He pulled himself out of the rubble. Something swam within him, something like the backwash of catharsis. He felt different, capsulized by freedom. The darkness had dispersed, leaving a still, silent shed. On the desk, the chest rested, an abstract of its former shiny self. It remained shut too. The chisel wasn’t anywhere around it. His wound throbbed wildly. The throbbing only gave rise to anger, madness, hatred… Yes! You’re getting there! For a few minutes, he tried recalling what had happened. The most he could make of his memory was falling. Something scratched the walls. It was familiar. It moved to the door. It knocked. ‘Dad?’ Lucy cooed. ‘Is everything okay in there?’ Dad? Roy fought with himself. His hate began to submerge. Lucy. Briskly, he walked to the door and opened it less than halfway. The evening air slapped him and more of it rushed past him. He reveled in it. He’d never been freer in such a long time. ‘Oh God,’ Lucy croaked, ‘are you okay, dad?’ He was drawn to the lithe thing that called him dad. Her voice was beatific. She looked up at him through blue, squeezed eyes, the colour of her skin and shape of her body as that of the temptress. She touched his left cheek, just below his wound. Her touch injected thrills into him. Thrills that seemed alien. He fought with himself again. He struggled until his darkest despairs were forced down. He emerged. He felt her fingers again – soft this time, reassuring. ‘Lucy,’ he looked at her. Her face contorted. ‘What happened in there,’ she asked. ‘I heard noises and here…’ she lifted her hand. It held the chisel. Its blade was misshapen, as a contorted leaf. ‘It popped out of the walls with force. It got me scared.’ ‘Nothing’s wrong, dear,’ he replied, assuming control over his inhibitions. ‘You’ve bruised yourself again, dad,’ she informed, ‘and this…’ she lifted the chisel. ‘Something’s not right in there.’ He sighed. He didn’t want to keep secrets away from his little girl but that box… it was something else. His mind flashed back as he tried to remember what he saw in the darkness when he fell, what he thought he saw. As hard as he tried to think, his memory remained blank, the presence of nonexistence. It nagged at his mind for a few seconds before he shut it off. Things were calmer now and it had to stay that way. Lucy was trying her very best to peep through the half-opened doorway. The shed was however still dark enough to hide his ‘toy’. He closed the door completely.

‘The only thing not right in here is my belly,’ he smiled at her. She looked back at him and smiled. ‘Fortunately for you, there are cupcakes that need eating. Unfortunately, they will be done in another twenty minutes.’ ‘Aw… shucks,’ he muttered and laid his arm around her. ‘It’ll be worth the wait I believe.’ ~~***~~

About The Book At the time I started this book I was completely bereft of ideas where/what to start on. The only thing I had on my mind was Jake, vampire, survivor and hunted and the only word I had on my script was Jake. And miraculously, towards the end of the year 2011, the other characters and plots, situations and twists just poured into my head that it became difficult sorting them out. I did that however and I amazingly finished the book in three days. I actually planned to publish it on the last day of the year but well, things didn’t go my way and I instead had to wait till the new year. So then here it is. It’s my very first book so I’m actually begging all of my readers to please review my book, and drop your comments as it’ll help me grow and mould me into a better author/writer. Thank you very much for your support. It means a mighty lot.

About The Author Tobi is a developing writer currently pursuing a degree in Computer Science. With your reviews he hopes to develop into a better writer. He currently lives in Lagos, Nigeria. Become friends with Artie Margrave on Facebook @ v=info&refid=8 Follow Artie Margrave on Twitter @ AM_Horrorplace. (without the full stop please) Or visit his site @ Also, check him @ Smashwords @

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