Date: Sun, 9 Jan 2011 08:55:50 -0500 (EST)
From: BertMcK@aol.com
Subject: Tales of a Night Walker chapter 9

Tales of a Night Walker
By Bert McKenzie
Copyright 2010

Chapter 9

He finally found a spot of land that suited him.  It was in a very remote
section of the Ozarks, on the upper side of a high ridge.  At least some of
the Count's money could be put to good use, purchasing the land and giving
him access to a remote area, sheltered from humanity.  Not many people
could come looking for him here.  Jefferson set himself the task of
building a home.  It was a very simple cabin, but he enjoyed the physical
labor of constructing it.  He chopped the trees, cleaned and prepared the
logs and hauled them into place all by himself.  Slowly it began to take
shape.  He spent the nights working on his home and the days in a cave he
had found not far from his homestead sight.

Soon he had the cabin completed and moved in.  It had all the comforts of
home, four walls, a floor and a roof with a sturdy door to keep out the
elements.  What more did he need?  Windows?  That was something he didn't
bother with.  Certainly he didn't want the bright sun shining in.  He did
build a stone hearth, more as a piece of decoration than anything else.  So
far he hadn't found the need to build a fire for warmth.  Since his
awakening all those years ago, he found he never seemed to suffer from the
cold, his own body temperature being so low.  And he certainly didn't need
a fire to cook with.  His dinners consisted of what wild game he could
catch in the area.  He was quite good at surprising deer, one of his
favorites, although he had tangled with a coyote, a mountain lion and even
a black bear.  His speed and agility kept him from harm while his strength
and his teeth were able to provide a swift end to any hunting he did.
Jeff's only concern was that he might lose his humanity and become just
another wild animal predator.  But even that didn't seem to frighten him.

And then he met May.  His first encounter with her was a surprise.  He had
been out hunting on a particularly bright night.  The full moon was
beaming, illuminating the forest.  Jeff was following a game trail a way
down the side of the ridge, into the valley, when he crossed the scent of a
human.  It was unmistakable, and instantly caught all of his attention,
obliterating the game trail he had been tracking.  Instinctively he began
to follow the human scent.  Something in the back of his mind warned him to
return up the hill, but having lived as an animal predator for several
months, he found it hard to fight the natural instincts he had developed.
Instead he went on alert and followed the new path through the trees.  They
soon opened into a clearing and there in the center was an old woman.  She
had constructed an altar on the top of an old tree stump.  It held a bowl
of water, a bowl of salt and some burning incense and candles.  Jeff
stopped well back in the tree line and watched the old woman.  She made
gestures over the altar, and then took a pinch of salt and dropped it into
the water.  She swished it around and then began to sprinkle the area
surrounding her, making a big circle.  She then spread her arms open wide
and looked up at the bright, full moon, and invoked the goddess.  Jeff
quietly stood in the shadows and watched her ritual.  It was simple and
beautiful in a very natural way.  At the end, the old woman began to pack
up her belongings in a cloth bag.  Jeff realized it was time for him to
move on.  He melted back into the forest.  As he did, the old woman turned
and looked in his direction.

Jeff normally slept through the day.  But he was wakened about mid morning
one day shortly after encountering May's scent in the woods.  A pounding on
his front door was what disturbed his sleep.  He quietly slipped to the
door and stood in total silence.  The knocking came again.  When no one
answered the door, he finally heard the visitor leave.  Jeff waited till
sunset before opening his door.  There on the doorstep was a fresh backed
gooseberry pie.  He appreciated the gesture, but of course it wasn't
anything he could eat.  He had to throw away the pie, but kept the pie tin,
washing it.  The truth was, he had grown lonely living his solitary
existence and decided to return the pie tin and perhaps meet the lady who
had brought the neighborly gift.  He knew it was the same woman by her
scent.

The next evening, just after sunset he went higher in the hills and picked
some exotic wild flowers, the type that weren't common to the area.  He
then tied them into a neat bouquet and hurried down the hill into the
valley, following the old woman's scent and tracking her to her cabin.  It
was a neat little homestead with a few small outbuildings.  Over the door
to the homey looking cabin was a sign that read "Aunt May's Home Remedies
and Country Crafts."  She was still quite a way off the beaten track, but
apparently lived close enough to civilization to have her own small home
business dealing in herbs and homemade crafts for the tourists that came to
the Ozarks.

As it was only nine o'clock in the evening, and there was a warm, inviting
light shining out from her windows, Jeff decided to visit.  He knocked on
the door and waited.  A moment later the old woman opened it and looked
curiously up at him.  He introduced himself and thanked her for the pie,
offering her the empty pie tin and then presented her with the floral
bouquet he had picked.  But at that moment the light from her kerosene lamp
reflected in his eyes and they glowed like a wild animal.  May looked up
with a startled expression.  She took the pie tin and flowers, thanked him
again and said it was very late, then closed the door firmly.  Jeff felt
crushed having been so summarily rebuffed by the old woman.  He slowly
climbed back up the hill to his own cabin.

Two nights later, just shortly after sunset, there was another knock on his
door.  Jeff stepped to the door and opened it to find May standing on his
doorstep.  She apologized for her rudeness from the previous visit and
handed him a jar with a brightly colored label and ribbon around it.  She
said she hoped it was too his liking, then quickly turned and left, walking
off into the dark.  Jeff shook his head and stepped back into his house,
thinking to toss the gift into his trash.  It was obviously a home canned
jelly or jam.  But before he threw it way he took a closer look. The label
read "Fresh from year old steer."  The contents in the jar appeared dark
red and liquid.  He carefully unscrewed the lid and found it filled with
red blood.  When he took a whiff, he found it smelled very inviting, more
so than the wild game he had been living off of.  He tipped it, taking a
sip and then sat back, relaxing in his favorite chair and finished off the
entire jar.

The next night he was again at May's door with the freshly washed jar and
more wildflowers.  This time she invited him in for a visit.  She
apologized again for her earlier rudeness.  She said she was just startled
and unfamiliar with his kind.  But the fact that she had gone to the
trouble to make the delightful blood concoction spoke volumes.  She told
him she had a friend down in the valley who was a butcher.  She just added
a few herbs, some cinnamon and vanilla.  "After all, you might as well
enjoy your diet as much as anyone else," she laughed.  As they sat in her
living room, she told him she was a witch and familiar with many of the
things that ordinary people shunned.  But she had not had any contact with
the night walkers as she called him.

"I like that term," Jeff replied.  "When I was a young boy my family owned
slaves.  That was what they called my kind.  It sounds so much more refined
than vampire."

May just laughed.  "Yes, it doesn't conjure up images of Bram Stoker and
bats in the attic."

They had a delightful visit and Jeff looked up at her mantel clock to
realize it was just past midnight.  He apologized for keeping her up and
said he must be going.  May took his cold hand in her warm ones and told
him he was always welcome.  She invited him back for a long visit another
evening, and told him she would make a plan to have more refreshments he
could enjoy.  She said her butcher friend owed her a favor or two.

As Jeff climbed back up the hill to his own cabin, he thought about May.
What courage it must have taken for her to come to his cabin at night with
the jar of blood.  She knew what he was and still came to be neighborly as
she put it.  She didn't know that he wouldn't rip her throat open, but she
took the chance.

* * *

Jeff and May became great friends.  He visited her often.  It was much
easier for him to make the trek down to her cabin than it was for her to
come up to his.  Although she did make the climb several times, bringing
him little things to add a homey touch to his dwelling.  She occasionally
would come in the daytime and tell him to just stay away from the door when
she came in.  She made curtains that they hung on the wall to give the
illusion of windows.  May said it made the cabin seem more like home and
less like a wooden box.  She said she would be lying in a wooden box soon
enough and didn't want to visit her friend in one.

Jeff joined her several times for full moon rituals out in the woods and
she taught him about the nature religion that she followed.  She told him
that he was another part of nature and that he had nothing to feel ashamed
of or guilty for.  "The goddess wouldn't punish you for being yourself as
long as you try to be a good person.  You haven't attacked and killed me,
and I'm about as helpless as a person can be, so I know you are a good
man."  Jeff just laughed with her, telling her he was certain she was far
from helpless.

He did volunteer to do several tasks around her small homestead that she
wasn't up to, such as patching the shingles on her roof and making some
repairs on her outbuildings.  He also went with her on moonlit hikes into
the forest to help with harvesting herbs during specific moon cycles that
she said were the most efficacious for their magical or medicinal
properties.

One evening when Jeff arrived, May was sitting at a table with a deck of
tarot cards.  "Sit down," she said.  "I felt an uncomfortable feeling all
day, like a premonition, so I got out my cards to see what was going on.
It looks like I'm in for a bad spell."

"How so?" Jeff asked.  "Is it your health."

"No, just some trouble brewing on the horizon.  I'm not sure what, but I'll
know it when it gets here.  There's no sense in fighting destiny.  Speaking
of destiny, take these cards and shuffle them.  I would like to know what
your destiny is."

Jeff shook his head.  "I don't think I have a destiny."

"Don't be silly," she scolded, handing him the cards.  "Every human being
has a destiny."

"But I'm not human," Jeff argued.

"You most certainly are.  You're just a different kind of human."  This was
almost an echo of what Sarah had told him several years ago.  Jeff shuffled
the cards and handed them back to May.  She carefully laid them out on the
table between them, nodding and occasionally clucking her tongue.

"Well, what do you see?" he asked.

"You aren't going to stay here," she said as her fingers moved over the
colorful cards.  "You are meant for something else, more experiences.  And
you are meant to help others.  There is a dark cloud in your past and it
will return, so you have to be prepared to fight against it.  But you will
also know love and happiness."

"May," Jeff said as he looked at the cards, "This is the sort of thing
anyone could say.  I'm a night walker, so of course there was a dark cloud
in my past.  And undoubtedly I'll have troubles in the future."

She sat back in her chair and arched her eyebrows.  "Oh, so you want
specifics, do you?  I'm too vague for you, am I?  Very well."  She got up
and took a candle, lighting it and sitting there gazing into the flame.
"I'll give you specifics," she growled.  "Haven't done this in a while, but
I'm sure I still have what it takes."  Jeff just watched her with an amused
grin on his face.

"You will be here to help me in my time of trouble," she said.  "But you
can't fight against that storm.  You will have to let me go.  It is almost
my time.  After I'm gone you will have to go away from here and find your
destiny.  Go to Kansas."

"Kansas?"  He was surprised at that direction.

"Auburn Kansas.  Is that specific enough for you?  You'll find your heart's
desire there, and a new way of expressing yourself."

At that moment, May's large black cat jumped up onto the table, knocking
the candle over.  The flame quickly went out as hot wax sprayed on her
cards, the table cloth and the floor.  "Oh, Hermione, what a time for you
to decide you need attention!"  May reached out and picked the cat up as
she uttered a mournful meow.  The animal looked at Jefferson and let out a
hiss.  "She senses a rival predator," May said stroking the cat to calm her
down.

"Maybe she just thought you were getting too specific," Jeff laughed.
"Auburn, Kansas?  I've never even heard of it."

"Neither have I, but that's the information I got, so there you should go."

"Well, you are an amazing woman, May Jensen, and I appreciate your advice,
but we'll see if I ever go to Kansas."  Jeff excused himself for the night
and returned to his cabin.

Two days later, Jeff returned to visit his friend and found her out
scrubbing the walls of one of her outbuildings.  Someone had painted
'Witch' on it.  "What's this?" Jeff asked.

"Just some mischief from the local boys," she grumbled.  "It's the truth,
so I wouldn't bother to even try to scrub it off, but the tourists who make
it up this far don't want to be told I'm a witch.  They prefer to think of
me as just some colorful old lady who grows herbs and makes things out of
them."

"Let me help," Jeff offered as he reached to take another rag from the pile
she had beside her and dipped it in the bucket of soapy water.

"If you want to help, see if you can find my sign.  Those boys tore it off
my house and must have thrown it somewhere out in the woods."  Jeff put
down the rag and went looking for May's sign that hung over her door,
advertising her country crafts.  It didn't take him long to find the
remnants.  The scent of the trespassers led him directly to it.  But it was
beyond repair, having been broken into several pieces.  It looked as though
someone had taken it down and stomped on it, breaking it up.

"I'm sorry, May," Jeff said as he brought the pieces back to her.

"Well, it will make nice kindling for my wood stove," she said with a sigh.
"I can always paint another one."

"I'm worried about you, May," Jeff said.  "You need more protection from
vandals.  Maybe I could stay here with you."

"Don't' be silly.  If they come by in the daytime, what are you going to
do?  Step out and burst into flame to scare them off?"

"Well, at least call the sheriff and make a report.  Maybe they could keep
an eye on things during the daytime, and I can be here at night," Jeff
suggested.

Three days later Jeff came out of his cabin shortly after dusk and saw
smoke billowing up from the area of May's cabin.  He streaked down the hill
faster than any other creature would be able to.  The outbuildings were all
on fire and Jeff found the old woman trying to beat it out with a rug.  She
was dangerously close to toppling into the flames herself.  He grabbed her
and pulled her back, then took the scrap of carpet and tried his best to
douse the flame himself.  But in a short time it was evident that the
outbuildings would be a total loss.  Jeff went back to the porch and sat
beside the old woman who was sitting on the stoop weeping.  Her cat,
Hermione gave a mournful yowl and climbed into her lap to nuzzle the old
woman.  "All my harvested herbs," she said as she stroked the cat and
watched all of her carefully collected plants go up in smoke.  "What will I
do to carry me over through the winter?"

"This is probably a silly question," Jeff said, putting his arm around her
and eliciting a hiss from Hermione in the process.  "But what about
insurance?"

She looked at him, wiping the tears from her eyes and smiling through her
frustration.  "You're right.  That's a silly question.  Who would insure a
barn load of dried herbs for a crazy old lady in the country?  I trusted in
the goddess to protect me, but I guess she thought it was in my best
interest to let it all go."

"We'll get through this, May.  Meanwhile, you are going to come up to my
cabin and spend the night.  I won't have you down here where those vandals
might come back.  And I don't want to have to worry about you all day
tomorrow."

"No," she protested.  "I want to spend the night in my own bed."

"Then you'll have to find me a dark spot for tomorrow because I'm staying
here with you."

"Thank you, Jefferson," she said, patting his hand.  "You are a comfort to
an old lady.  But my cabin is just too bright.  You go on home before dawn.
I'll manage just fine during the day.  They won't catch me unawares."

After May dozed off in the early morning hours, Jeff went outside and
scouted around.  He easily picked up the scent of four distinct
individuals.  But there was no evidence that anyone was in the area.
Finally with the dawn approaching, he returned home, determined to be up
early and on his way back to her cabin as soon as the sun was behind the
hilltop.

True to his word, he was out of his home and down the hill early.  The sky
was overcast and a cold north wind was coming down the hill behind him.
Winter was in the air.  But as he approached May's homestead he could sense
that something was wrong.  He stepped from the trees and saw May on her
knees, bent over something in her yard.  From the way her shoulders were
moving he could tell she was sobbing.  He hurried to her side.  He found
her kneeling beside the body of Hermione, her cat.  The animal was dead.
It had been crucified, nailed to a bit of wood taken from her fence.  "She
was my one companion," the woman sobbed.  "Why would anyone do that to a
defenseless animal?"  She handed Jeff a note that was delivered with the
dead cat.  It was scrawled in blood, the blood of the cat, Jeff could tell.
It read, "You're next witch bitch."  As they knelt beside the cat the first
snow of the season began to fall around them.  Jeff picked the old woman up
and carried her to her cabin, tucking her into bed.  He put a kettle on the
fire, and then returned outside to bury her beloved pet.

That was the straw that broke her spirit.  May never recovered after
Hermione was murdered.  Her health began to fail and she seemed to lose the
will to live.  Jeff did what he could, playing nursemaid to her, despite
her weakened protests, but he feared she might not recover.  On a
particularly cold night in early December, May passed on in his arms.  He
held her and felt the cold tears come to his eyes.  She was such a sweet,
gentle soul, and he knew the trouble with the vandals was what caused her
spirit to move one.  As he held her there was a sharp crash of breaking
glass.  Someone had thrown a rock through one of her windows.  Outside he
could hear laughter and a chanting, "Burn witch burn!  Burn witch burn."  A
second crash of breaking glass sounded and Jeff turned to see flames
leaping up.  Someone had thrown in a bottle of gas with a wick, a typical
'Molotov cocktail.'  Instantly he was out of the building and hunting the
vandals.

There were four boys, in their late teens, early twenties.  They were
laughing and making crude remarks about their work, taking care of the
witch bitch.  Jeff stepped up behind one of them and his anger flared.  He
grabbed the young man and bit, ripping his throat.  The others turned to
see what was happening and were instantly shocked and angered.  They tried
to fight, but they were no match for an angry vampire.  He broke one's neck
and impaled a third on a stake pulled from the nearby fence they had been
demolishing.  Only one young man was left.  He pulled out a knife and
brandished it, indicating that Jeff should come on and attack him.  Jeff
just walked up slowly and then reached out so fast the man didn't even see
the movement.  His arm was broken in an instant, and then he felt his own
knife plunge into his heart.  The blood inflamed Jeff, inciting his vampire
nature into a frenzy, and he grabbed the man, biting down on the throat and
sucking deeply.  He feasted on the dead man, then tossed the carcass aside
as he looked up to see May's home in flames.

Guilt at what he had done to the vandals swept over him.  No matter how
justified he may have felt it was, or that they deserved punishment, he
still felt guilty at taking human life.  He fell to his knees and began to
sob, looking up again at the cabin engulfed in the fire.  Suddenly he heard
voices coming up the roadway.  He looked up to see movement in the shadows.
Apparently the fire was quite visible and had caught the attention of
people further down in the valley.  One voice shouted.  "May!  May!"  He
knew they would find him there amidst the dead boys and certainly blame him
for the destruction.  It was time to leave.  Jeff climbed to his feet and
began to run through the forest.  He didn't go back to his cabin but
instead headed northwest toward Kansas.  Perhaps it was time to follow his
friend's directions.

 

 

 

 

 

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