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Crime Fantasy Horror

Calum looked at the woman waving to him from the roadside. She wore black on a hot day. Green skin and red hair.

“Can I help you? My name's Calum.”

“I'm Gene. Any change I could sit behind you on the horse?” she asked with the accent of someone from a private school.

“Of course. Where did you walk from? There's nothing back there until long past the horizon.”

Calum looked over his shoulder at the woods where he'd come from, hunting rabbits. It was trees, trees and more trees until the mountains.

“From the shuttle port. I'm here to meet a scientist. Can I ask, why a horse? Why not a car?” she nodded to Calum's handsome brown mare.

“Because cars don't breed wild around here,” said the hunter smiling. “It's a new colony here. Brand new world. The first settlers arrived twenty years ago. I've been here for six. There were a few containers and a big house made from the first ship. That was it. I didn't even know we had a shuttle port. We must be heading up market.” Calum laughed at his own joke. Gene didn't.

She was a serious looking woman. As he hauled her onto the saddle behind him Calum felt the strength of her arm which he'd expected to quiver with the exertion of holding her own weight.

Though he tried to make conversation with her as the horse trotted towards his village she was silent. He couldn't help feeling used. As she'd gripped his hand to mount the horse and held her arms around his stomach on the ride he'd noticed she was cold. Deadly cold.

“Do you know Doctor Yelena Romin?” asked the cool skinned woman behind him, breaking the silence as they passed the fields that had been more forest when Calum arrived.

“We call her Yella. She lives up the hill from the village in her hut.”

“Hut?” asked the redhead.

“We all live in huts or sheds however you look at it. There were trees all around and its faster than mining stone so we built using the trees. That's what it is to live on the frontier. Horses instead of cars, huts instead of stone houses.”

Calum's horse rode into the village past fields of lean goats. Gene gasped behind the hunter. He looked at the wooden huts with their thatched roofs which were nothing special to him anymore. Some of them had flowers of yellow and white in gardens marked by rounded stones. The villagers wore the rags of clothes made by machines on other worlds. They were still learning. Still adapting to the frontier.

“Welcome to Wood's Edge Village. The name was more apt when they came up with it I guess.” He spoke to fill the silence because when he didn't talk Calum couldn't help but notice that Gene didn't seem to breathe. It was a quiet day. There was no wind to drown out the sound of his breathing and Calum had good ears.

“Thanks Calum. I'll get off here. I'm sure you have things to do.”

“Rabbits.” He laughed, not knowing why. “Got to skin and hang them so they don't rot.” He helped her down. Gene nodded to him.

Her smile was the warmest thing about her, brilliant white teeth spread and vanished in the blink of an eye. As the smile died, so did her warmth. From the green skin and blank expression he might have thought she'd died in her sleep. Calum knew better though. He'd seen the horrid grey eyes of the dead.

“Say hello to Yella. Just up there.” He pointed up the hill as if the serious woman didn't know what a hill was. She nodded and walked away without another word. An involuntary shiver came over him at that moment as if it had been waiting for her to go. Waiting for her to turn her back.

Calum skinned his rabbits as he'd learned to and placed them in the vacuum locker taken from the settler's ship. It was the most advanced technology he owned. A solar cell powered the vacuum pump. After that it didn't need any power if you kept the door closed.

On Monday nights it was custom for the villagers to feast together. They shared food and talked about any problems facing the settlement. Yella would be there. Sadly that probably meant Gene would be as well. Putting it out of his mind he changed from a sweat soaked shirt to a dry one faded and stained with blood and sweat. All of his clothes were six or sever years old. No one judged him. Theirs weren't much better.

Heading to the village hall, a hut without any dividing walls, he carried two rabbits to cook on the spit in the hall's fire. When he arrived Yella wasn't there yet. It wasn't odd. She was always caught up in her work until people had started eating. Unlike most of them she had some electric lighting for her lab.

Yella was older than Calum's thirty by that much again or more. She had long grey hair with subtle curls in it. Her face was lined with the creases from a life of smiling. Her eyes were brown like most and yet there was more life in them. Calum was glad he didn't have a wife to slap him for looking at Yella who sat with him most Monday nights.

When Yella failed to arrive long after both of his rabbits had cooked and been stuffed down, Calum grew curious. He was certain Gene had kept Yella from the feast. Smirks rounded the table as he said he was off to find out what the doctor was up to.

Calum stepped out from the warmth of the hall into the cool of the early evening. The pink moon was winking a half closed eye at him. Rubbing his hands together he stuck them in his armpits and walked up the hill. There were no lights from the windows of the cottages. Everyone was in the hall.

On the hilltop the light of Yella's windows glowed with the steady electric quality Calum had almost forgotten. Feet slipping a little in mud, he chose the grass beside the path to avoid ending up on his ass.

Yella's hut distinguished itself from the others with two large solar panels sitting on the thatch. Her door was wooden like the rest. Calum's knuckles hurt a little as he rapped the oak panels. He waited, shivering a little and began to dance a little to keep himself warm.

“Calum?” asked Gene's voice from inside.

“Gene? Why didn't the two of you come to the hall? Yella always comes to the hall.”

“She's not really in the state to go anywhere,” said the cold voice beyond the door.

“What? Let me in.” He said desperately. “Is she sick?”

“No. Not sick.”

“What then. Let me in Gene. I need to help.”

“Fuck.” The redhead opened the door.

His eyes took a moment to adjust to the light. She pulled him inside and slammed the door behind him, throwing the bar over the door because no one had locks.

Gene's cold hand gripped Calum's as she pulled him from the bedroom at the door to the lab which was the only other room.

Blood drained from his face. His jaw dropped open as he breath leaped from it. He saw the red first. Sprayed up a wall. Then Yella. If she had bled to death then some of the blood was missing. Killing animals for a living, Calum knew how much they bled.

He had a belt knife. It wasn't much, just for cutting thread, sculpting, but it was all he hand. He pulled it from the little sheath beneath his shirt and tried to hold it to the green woman's throat as he pushed her against the wall.

“What did you do?” He yelled, realising as he did that the knife was gone.

“To her?” Gene nodded at the dead woman on the floor. “Nothing. To you if you try to threaten me? Who knows what I might do. Calm down.”

“Calm down? Fuck you. Calm down?” He pointed to the corpse. “She was my friend.”

“Then help me find her killer.” She sniffed in a forced, showy way. “She was dead when I got here. Had been for hours before that. You work killing animals. You must know the smell.

“I do.” He could smell the stench of death but it proved nothing to him.

“She was bitten by a vampire Calum. Drained dry. We need to work out who.”

Vampire? What was she talking ahout? There were no vampires. They were a myth. Complete nonsense. They were a Halloween costume excuse for pretty girls on old worlds to show cleavage and do stupid accents.

“Vampires aren't real.”

“They are real. She was one. So am I.”

Calum's head spun. His friend was dead. Murdered. The woman who had done it was talking shit about vampires and saying Yella had been one. Bullshit. He said so.

She asked if he had ever seen Yella in daylight. Not much but she was always doing her experiments. Did she wear ridiculous clothes outside to protect her from the sun? Yeah but she had the skin condition, she was scared to burn.

Gene made a sardonic smile as if he was being a damned moron. She pulled a comm device from her pocket and played a hologram message on it.Yella's face appeared. She was smiling. She looked incredible. He turned to look at the body again but Gene clicked her fingers impatiently.

Yella was saying things about immortality. She was talking about blood-lust and sunlight and things she missed doing. She smiled wider than ever. It was a smile from which the sun shone in Calum's opinion so he didn't know why she missed the light. Was she joking?

Was this whole thing an elaborate prank? Maybe Yella wasn't dead. Goats blood on the wall and old manure for the smell perhaps? No. Sadly he knew the smell of both as well as that of a body.

“How do I know you didn't do this?” Calum asked with tears running down his face. He wiped his snotty nose on his sleeve.

“Because I'm not covered in blood and she doesn't have green skin under her fingernails.”

“So there's another vampire in the village?”

“Unlikely,” said the redhead.

“What if she bit someone? Maybe that person came back to return the favour?”

“No. She was working to cure vampirism. She said time and again that becoming a vampire was a mistake. It's why she'd stopped drinking from humans. She was barely feeding at all.”

“She ate every Monday night. With me.” Calum protested, slapping his chest.

“Vampires need blood. Regularly. Food doesn’t do anything for us.”

“Who killed her then?” Calum asked, his voice high and breaking with grief. 

“Someone else who fell for her story.” Gene looked around.

“Another vampire who came here looking for a cure and found snake oil. Yella hadn’t found a cure. She wasn’t even close. The notes she wrote were gibberish.”

Calum looked at Gene anew, hearing the dismay in her words. She wanted to be cured. That’s why she’d walked so far. She hung her head.

He looked at the very small pool of blood beneath Yella’s neck. He looked at her hand stretched out. He had to see for himself if Gene was lying about the skin under the finger nails.

Taking his pocket knife back from the redhead he got to his knees next to Yella. There was something under her nails that he scraped out with his knife. In the white light, on the silver blade, the skin was light brown. Not green.

He looked around the lab. The equipment was strewn across the floor around the body. Paper had been ripped from the walls. On one sheet there was a handprint, in Yella’s blood.

Gene was watching him as he measured the handprint against his own and found it bigger. To prove herself she held her green hand over the red print on the white paper. Her hands were smaller than his. He checked that the handprint wasn’t Yella’s but it was too big for her as well.

“The killer’s.” Calum said.

Gene nodded. She had already seen the print. She’d already worked that much out. She was waiting for him to catch up.

“Her windows are from the ship like all of them. They don’t open. They’re not broken so the killer used the door. The door isn’t damaged, so Yella let them in.” Calum paused. “Oh gods. She let them in.”

 Gene nodded and said they were finally on the same page. A vampire with naturally tanned skin had been let in by Doctor Yelena to see her cure. They had talked until the vampire worked out

Doctor Romin didn’t have a cure and was either lying or delusional. They had fought, Yelena had scratched her attacker before having her jugular vein cut with a blade. Gene explained that teeth would not have been effective in a fight between two vampires.

Explaining that she was one of a kind, Gene said that the vampire must have left the house in the night to hide somewhere further away, probably hoping to head back to the new shuttle port.

They moved to the door. It was dark outside. Cold too. Calum had never been scared of either before but after seeing Yelena like that he had to force himself to look for footprints that were unfamiliar. Besides Gene, the villagers wore hide boots with either hard leather soles or soft soles.

Gene showed him the bottom of her shoes, small feet with a herringbone pattern on the bottom. He saw one set of boot prints in the mud. The soles of those boots had studs around the outside, machine made. The boots weren’t old at all. Though the tracks went to the door they did not go back. He had to get on his knees in the muck to see one half print almost destroyed by his own. The killer had fled along the side of the hut.

Gene followed him as he moved along the side of Yella’s home, following steps in mud and bent grass. As they turned the corner the hill sloped down again alongside the house. The killer had slipped down a length of bare mud and ripped out grass trying to catch themselves.

From there it was easy to follow grass that had been flattened Yelena’s murderer had run down the hill. The steps were long strides as the vampire had made haste through the grass. Gene thought the killer feared the sunrise, depending on when they had left the hut.

Through the grass the trail led into the western woodland which Calum didn’t know as well. Someone had said there were wolves or bears in there. He’d kept away. Without moonlight to see by he was near blind.

Gene took Calum’s hand and told him she could see footprints in the mud and the leaves. All he saw were blue flickers of light between the black fingers of the trees covering the sky. An owl hooted. There was wind enough to shake the branches. The waving trees cracked and whispered.

On they trudged. Calum slipped in this. He fell over that. Gene picked him up kindly then hurried him on impatiently. On and on. The moon had moved when she swore.

“Fuck. Why would you do that? Fucking hell.”

“What is it?” Calum glanced around frantically. He couldn’t see a thing.

The odd glow of a torch on Gene’s comm illuminated brown leaves on the ground. She turned the beam up to something in the trees. Swinging from a branch. It was a man. A tall man. Wearing brand new boots on his feet. The blood on his clothes had soaked deep. His eyes were open and bulging. They were grey and milky.

“Why did he kill himself?” asked Calum. He thought it would have been harder for an immortal to commit suicide.

“For the same reason he came here in the first place. For the same reason he got angry with Doctor Romin. He didn’t want to be a vampire. He was tired of it. Tired of the guilt. Tired of having to live in darkness. Just plain tired since none of us ever sleep. It makes us angry. It’s part of the reason we can be so vicious. Ever stayed up for a few nights? Know how irritable you get. That’s us all the time.”

“Not Yelena.” Calum said. “She was joyful. She was beautiful.”

“She was delusional,” said Gene in a bitter voice. “She’d seen humanities trek from Origin to the far frontiers of the endless colonies. She was thousands of years old. Yelena was from a noble family in eastern Europe before the invention of combustion engines. She made it all this way. Must have lost a few marbles along the road.”

Gene moved the beam of light away from the body swinging from the branch. Disgusting as it was, knowing it was there and not being able to see it made him worry it might move.

A projection flashed up from Gene’s comm. It was oddly two dimensional. A painting. A painting of a young woman in a ridiculously expensive looking dress and jewellery. It was Yelena. She was beautiful. He saw the glow in her eyes which had always melted him.

Gene took Calum’s hand and walked him back through the darkness. When they were at his door, she said goodbye and wished him luck. There were hints of pink in the dark blue of the night as she walked away. Bolting his door, Calum thought of Yelena in the painting and hoped he would never see Gene again.

September 06, 2021 07:40

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2 comments

Alice Richardson
02:47 Sep 16, 2021

An interesting story Graham, well written, easy to follow. Good descriptions of the lifestyle of the people. If I may say, I was a bit confused in one place. 'On Callum's horse, Gene behind the hunter,'. Gene is a woman, but the next sentence says 'He'? Reading on, it sorts itself out but it broke my thread of the story for a moment. Also, about halfway through when Callum goes to Yella's hut, there are three 'little's in two sentences. Perhaps you could replace one 'little' with another or just cut one out altogether? I know when someone ...

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Graham Kinross
11:53 Sep 16, 2021

Thank you Alice. I have been writing about the same characters on here using different prompts to expand their story. Gene is a character in a book I’m working on so I thought it would be good to create backstory on here to see what people think. I should edit more than I do but it’s very freeing to work through the rush of creativity. I’ll never take constructive comments badly. I prefer people to point out my flaws so I can work on them. Thank you for reading my work. I’ll have a look at yours as well.

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