Crypts & Cannibals: A Collection of Short Horror Stories
Bloodlust: Regret and Redemption
I traced my finger along the top of my lover’s cold, damp headstone.
She is dead, buried in the earth below.
My bloodlust killed her.
I took her life in a futile attempt to douse my unquenchable thirst.
The tremor gripped my lungs again. I pull the frigid air harshly in through my clenched teeth, pressing it deep into my being, hoping to stifle the sobbing.
An impenetrable, pre-dawn fog crept slowly through the graveyard caressing and embracing the headstones and statuary. Its cold, wet air crawled across my face, cooling the warm tears that dripped from my eyes.
Dew from the grass seeped through the fabric of my pants to my knees. I knelt, but not in prayer, for I know that there is nothing holy in this life. I know no angels or saviors, but I danced with a demon that granted my darkest desire.
The dominion of man is an illusion. In the darkness is real power.
My finger traced her name, reminding me of how I would run my fingers gently across her naked body as we made love. I can still feel the soft caress of her hair on my face while my fingers draw a tender line from her shoulders to her thighs.
The first hint of dawn cracks across the sky.
A day before, I would have fled to shadows, hiding from the oppressive heat that would have scorched my very flesh. But not today.
Am I free, or am I damned for the remainder of my brief human existence?
I must have angered or disappointed the demon, the master of the night, the dark lord that severed my ties to the day and bound me to the night. Only a few hours hence, he cast me off the immortal path to return to the light. To be human again. To suddenly begin experiencing the life that I left behind.
My bloodlust was gone. My senses felt dull and ineffective. The sounds of the city are distant and garbled. The beauty of the night returned to impenetrable shadows and monotone, indistinct shapes. I looked forward to the sunrise, more for clarity of sight than warmth.
The first rays of light hit my pale skin for the first time in years. I winced in agonizing anticipation, yet the searing sensation I braced myself for never materialized.
I freely traded my soul, my human existence, and my mortality for raw power. To live forever may appear the greatest reward, but immortality is nothing more than an added benefit of the seductive power of the black gift.
To bend the will of others with a mere glance, to mold another’s consciousness and actions, to create a subservient creature with the power of thought alone was the real power — the gift of becoming a god. Or so, I thought. But, it was not the truth.
I was merely an impatient child with a powerful gift, lacking any comprehension of the real cost.
She was my first victim.
At that moment of her passing, as my fangs tore deep into her neck, her blood and fading life fueled an emotional surge beyond what my reborn, immature mind could comprehend. No drug nor adrenaline rush could compare to that moment.
Unbridled power surged into my mouth, coating my throat as I voraciously sucked her blood. Scorching heat and throbbing energy radiated into my core and an electric pulse ripple through my veins and into my smallest capillaries as her life force feed my lust.
I looked down on her naked body, the body of my lover, the woman who had given herself freely to me. I felt no remorse. At the moment of her climax, she sacrificed herself to me. Without a scream. Without any terror. I drained her of life, and my humanity was washed away in her blood. The emotions that kept my desires in check, those thin threads that separate humans from beasts, unraveled and crumbled away.
I was a creature of the night, a lord of the darkness, and a crown prince of the damned. I was a vampire.
As the sun hit my face, I remembered its warmth. The penetrating rays burned the fog away until the day had driven the night into submission.
The caw of a distant crow made me raise my head, bringing my thoughts to the mausoleums deep in the overgrown depths of the cemetery. I knew the place well, for I slumbered away many days in those dark tombs, hiding from the sun.
Morning clouds gathered quickly, and the penetrating sunlight dimmed. I slowly stood up and walked in the direction of the old stone structure, keenly aware that I would be passing other victims of my thirst.
Before I reached the crumbling stone houses of the dead, a bench beckoned me to rest. My mortal body lacked the strength and vitality that resonated in my vampire being.
Frustration. Anger. Confusion.
What had I done to deserve this new fate? Why had the demon cast me out of his dark graces?
Sensations that I long forgot returned to me. The injured knee throbbed again. An old tear in my shoulder ached. My stomach grumbled for sustenance.
Hunger, but not the thirst that I had come to love, began to dominate my consciousness. I would have to eat. I turned and left this sanctuary of the dead to return to the city.
The meal was bland. The sights, sounds, and smells of the city mixed in a tangled, gelatinous mush oozing and mutilating my every attempt to focus. My senses no longer separated, sorted, and comprehended the onslaught of my environment. The painful dullness of my return to humanity blended in my heart with the guilt, and the grief of a single life destroyed.
Hundreds of innocents had given their lives to me, but she was the only one that mattered. My soul felt wrenched and haggard.
I walked for hours, lost in confusion.
She had been my anchor in life. Soulmate was the term she loved to speak softly into my ear as she ran her fingers gently over my face. Those moments, so long forgotten, flooded back.
When I made that deal with the demon, I naively believed that his gift would be entirely under my control. Influencing the fate of others seemed a fair bargain for occasionally feeding on the weak.
The dark gift was far more than I ever fantasized, as was the bloodlust.
Wealth was effortless to accumulate. Servants bowed to my every need. Experiences reserved for the elite became mine to enjoy.
All was folly. In truth, the need to feed controlled my life. Moments after arising each evening, the bloodlust became all-consuming. Any enjoyment of the dark gift required endless quenching of my need for blood.
Within hours of the demon bestowing the black gift upon me, she died. Her lifeless body was the first in a constant parade of human cattle.
I found myself standing once again at her grave. The shadows were growing long and air beginning to cool again.
The night had become my lover and my protector. To experience it again without my vampire senses and devoid of her love was unbearable.
“I’ll be with you very soon,” I spoke gently to the spirit I hoped would hear, “forgive me for all that I’ve done.”
The walk to the mausoleum was agonizing. My back and feet throbbed. My knee gave out more than once, dropping me to ground. Each time I rose, my determination grew stronger as my limp worsened.
This body could take no more. My spirit was defeated. I would join the countless souls in this foreboding place. I shuffled past the stone buildings, named for the families of those decaying corpses entombed inside.
It took all my might to force the door open. I knew this place well. I’d hidden here many times because of its secret. This building was more than a mausoleum with a few stone coffins. A secret staircase led to an underground crypt.
The top of the sarcophagus slid forward effortlessly. Its ingenious design released the lid to move freely if you knew where to touch.
I moved the stone lid back into place over my head as I began to descend the narrow, dusty staircase hidden inside. The click of the mechanism that held the sarcophagus lid echoed deep into the earth below me. I switched on my lantern for this final trek into the black of the tomb.
I steadied myself on the stone walls as I slowly stepped down the narrow, winding stairs. A thousand stairs I marched to arrive far below the cemetery above.
This was no earthen cave, dug for hiding the dead. The entire structure was stone. The high walls and ceiling of this vast space remained in shadows even with the light that I carried. In the evenly measured and stacked holes in the walls lay the dead from many centuries ago. Their brittle bones crumbling into dust.
My knee had become almost useless, and I was forced to drag my foot across the floor to keep my balance. The dust formed a grit on the floor that made an awful grinding sound as I marched to the far end of this dark chamber.
At the back of the room, I threw a match into the small opening. Within a few moments, this hall of the dead glowed with an eerie, flickering light emanating from the top edges of the high walls.
My task was about to be completed. I quickened my pace as I trudged to the front of this unholy sanctuary, for this had been a place of religious ceremonies in a time long forgotten.
An unsettling light tumbled down from the ceiling in the front of the long room, bathing a dark altar adorned with the bones of ancient royalty with an unholy glow.
Above the few stone stairs that led to this long-forgotten king’s final resting place was a stone beam.
Years ago, I’d brought a sleeping cot into this secret place. It made my days of slumber more comfortable. I pulled the small metal bed below the stone beam and tossed one end of my rope into the air.
Once the noose was finished, I sat down.
I breathed in the stale air and exhaled roughly.
“Perhaps, I should say a few words,” I spoke aloud. No one else would. My body would dangle in this tomb until it rotted and fell.
“I can’t say that I was a good man.”
The words fell flat. They had little meaning anymore.
I let my mind drift back to the moments before she was gone. All of the pain in my body evaporated. I closed my eyes, and I could see her smiling face. She understood love. She felt it more profoundly than I could fathom.
I was selfish, arrogant, and lustful.
A tear splattered in the dust on the floor. I swore it would be my last. If there was life after this, then I could only hope she could forgive me and let me be with her for eternity.
I understood the truth: if I was damned, then it was by my own doing.
I balanced myself on the tiny metal frame, tightened the noose, and kicked the cot from underneath my feet. As it clattered away, the rope bound itself tightly around my neck.
The pain was exquisite. I deserved every ounce of the torment inflicted upon me. I could feel my eyes bulging and the pounding of the blood in my head beginning to weaken. There would be no last breath as my neck constricted and stretched. My head felt light, and I begged for consciousness to fade into blackness.
The chuckle, a dozen octaves deeper than any man, rippled through the air.
He was here.
The demon was watching my life slip away.
I shuttered as he seeped into my mind. “Do you dare cast aside my gift so easily?” He asked with a voice that pierced and boomed through my consciousness.
“You took the gift away and cast me out to suffer the human reality of what I’ve done!”
“I cannot take back the dark gift once given.”
Panic began to rush through me. Had I been such a fool? What had happened? Why the emotional pain? Why did I not burn in the sunlight?
He chuckled once more, “my child of the night, bits of your humanity remained deep in your soul, waiting to be surfaced and expunged. What you believed to be true turned into the reality that you experienced.”
I felt his thoughts probing through mine, looking for something. I worked to shield him from memories of my last day in this life.
His laugh grew louder, “You baked your skin in the sunlight, and it didn’t hurt. You felt injuries that long ago were healed by my power. And you cried because of the human thoughts and emotions that you unleashed upon yourself.”
He paused and the air in the room grew colder, “Have you failed to learn the most important lesson of the power of the dark gift?”
Suddenly, I realized that I wasn’t dead. I was hanging by my neck in a dark dungeon chapel with a demon tormenting me. But my body still lived.
“Your body will not die because of the rope,” he stated flatly. “You are as near to immortal as any human can be.”
His fingers pushed into my back causing me to swing. “You’ll hang here for centuries before life, as you understand it, ends. Perhaps, the rope will rot away, and you’ll crash to the floor. If you retain enough strength, you might escape this crypt to replenish yourself.”
My unconstrained desire for the dark gift was the very reason that I swung back and forth in the cold air.
The ability to twist the mind of another to my will.
The demon had not rejected me; the last vestige of my own human heart had betrayed me.
I had tricked myself into believing that I was human once again. I masked the truth that I knew with a misty illusion of what my human heart had not left behind.
The demon’s laughter faded deep into the earth as he retreated.
Eternity would be mine.
Withering to nothing in a black pit.
The screaming and laughter that I heard were my own, echoing through my mind, bouncing off the walls of my reality. I saw the pathetic human that I once was.
Weak. Dependant. Helpless.
I drove my anger into his pitiful form, crushing that last piece of my human heart. I tore his essence to shreds, devouring every morsel of his existence.
Reaching up, I grabbed the rope, pulling myself upward and climbing upon the stone beam. The rope snapped as I ripped it from my neck. My feet hit the floor, but I landed softly as a feather, making no sound at all.
The night air of the cemetery tasted of freshly upturned earth. The decaying scent mixed with smells of the city in the distance.
I closed my eyes and focused. I could hear them. Human hearts beating.
The smile crept menacingly across my face. I ran my tongue over the sharp, pointed tips of my fangs.
Once again, it was time to satisfy my bloodlust.