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Anastasia King

She strummed the last chord on her guitar, the sound reverberating through her fingertips just as it filtered out into the air of the bar. The bar that was, by all accounts, mostly empty. The lights on the small stage were harsh, but did wonders for her golden hair. A halo effect, even though she was nowhere near an angel. It glinted off the small crystal necklace she had draped around her neck, making the purple stone seem to glow in the dimness of the bar. A smile graced her lips, hazel eyes soft and peaceful as she let the words of what she had just sang settle in her stomach. Music moved her, whether she was listening to it or playing it, she just felt it down in her bones.

From somewhere in the near darkness of the ‘audience’, a slurred voice shouted “Show us your t*ts!” This was followed closely by the sound of raucous laughter. Ana let out a loud and annoyed sigh as she pushed herself up off the stool and slung her beaten Gibson across her back. It had come from a pawn shop, where she’d bought it years ago. It had seen better days then...and by now it was barely keeping itself together. She understood that feeling all too well. Maybe that’s why she couldn’t bring herself to get rid of the old thing. Besides, as long as she maintained it, she probably had a few more years in the thing before she would have to break down and find another one.

From somewhere behind her, a voice sounded into a second microphone. “Give it up for our very own Ana King!” The owner of the bar, and her boss, Ray. He was trying his best to be supportive, and she turned back to give him an appreciative smile before making her way down the two steps to the table where she’d stashed her case, and her apron. Open mic nights were just a way for her to practice, she told herself. To get used to being in front of an audience. Or, to get used to being heckled. It’s not like she would ever do anything, anyways. She flew under the radar as much as she could. That was exactly how she had found herself here, in this tiny town out in the middle of nowhere. It’s also how she ended up in this bar, where the drinks were cold and the men were old, but the tips were decent enough for her to keep herself fed, clothed, and in a small apartment. The only people that came in lived in the community, or on their way to one of the cities. It was situated right on the highway, so they got enough travellers in that she didn’t have to count on townies only for her daily wages.

The few patrons tonight weren’t going to make that easy, though. At least there was a small round of applause before someone started the jukebox up and she tied her apron around her waist. “Break’s over, I guess,” she said to herself mostly. As always, she was the only one performing tonight. Well, she didn’t have to worry about competition! Ray always offered a hundred dollar prize to whomever did the best during open mic. She knew that it was his way of helping her out without helping her out. The first time she had tried to refuse, but somehow she’d still ended up with the cash in her hand, despite the argument that had ensued. Now, she just took it with a smile and a ‘thank you’.

The evening went slowly. It always seemed that way when it wasn’t busy, but thanks to the prize money, at least she was sitting pretty for the evening. Of course, she deserved every cent with how many times she had to fend off hands from their regulars. At last it was closing time. Ray was busy helping one of those regulars out now, and into one of the three cabs in town. Ana kept wiping down the tables, chairs, and bartop so that everything was spic and span for the next day. Sure, it may be a dingy hole in the wall, but it was her hole in the wall and she liked things clean. Bent over, swiping the bleach water soaked rag over the wood, was exactly where she was when she felt the hairs on the back of her neck rise up. Nothing had changed. Ray was still outside. She was alone. But still, a familiar sense of unease began to gurgle through her body. The rag dropped and she pushed herself back into a standing position just as she heard the creak of the door. A smile was forced onto her lips, swallowing down the fear that was rising like bile in her throat. They could smell fear, after all. She turned towards the door, feigning surprise when she saw a man standing there. “Oh, you’re not Ray. I’m sorry, hun, but we’re closing up for the night. You can come back tomorrow though.”

He was tall, about a foot taller than her five foot six frame. Inky black hair was pushed back from his face, looking like it hadn’t been washed or cut in a very long time as it hung to his shoulders. He might have been good looking, once upon a time, with a wide jaw and a pronounced nose. Deep set, bright blue eyes, were sunken into a face that looked like skin stretched thinly over a skeleton. The guy wasn’t just skinny, he was emaciated. The clothing he wore hung on him, like a little boy trying on daddy’s shirts, though the effect wasn’t nearly as endearing. “I need a drink…” his voice rasped across his vocal chords, gravelly and quiet, like it hadn’t been used very often.

She took in a deep breath, slowly let out, and let his scent permeate her senses. Of course she didn’t really have to do that, because she knew what he was the moment her skin pricked up in goosebumps. Ana tried to dampen her sense of smell through sheer will alone when she worked at the bar. There’s only so much beer, liquor, sweat, and other bodily fluids a girl could stand to smell before it really got to her. Now, though, she let all of those smells in through the flood gates, sifting through them as they moved over her olfactory senses. Yup. Vampire. Not just any vampire, either. Underneath his scent was something else. Blood. Decay. Rot. A sickness that wasn’t usual for vamps and it caught her off guard. She tried her best acting when she talked, though, focusing on her heart rate and keeping it under control. The worst thing one could do around a predator was show fear. She would know. She’d been one often enough. “Like I said, darlin’, you’ll have to come back tomorrow. We’re closing up. Why don’t I have Ray get you a cab.” Her voice rose as she called out towards the doors. “Ray! I’ve got a friend in here that needs a cab!”

When she pulled breath in to speak, the blood scent hit her again. Stronger this time. And familiar. Ray. This thing had killed Ray, and that meant she was all alone in the bar with a decaying vampire. She thought her night had been going badly before.

In the same instant, the creature spoke again. “I said...I need...a...drink…” his words stalting and louder with every emphasis of word. Then, he lunged. He was fast, they all were. But, then again, so was she. She ducked under as his arms came swinging towards her, ready to grab on and pull her close. She could hear the growl of frustration behind her as he came up empty handed. Her legs worked, feet pushing into the floor as she vaulted herself towards the door. A flash of movement beside her before he was in front of her, blocking the passageway. Her boots skidded to a halt, making sure she didn’t end up pummeling right into the man. Vampire. Thing. He growled, blue eyes bleeding into black, the whites shifting into blood red. “You smell….good. What are you?” It was, of course, a rhetorical question because he didn’t pause to give her time to answer. She wouldn’t have, anyways. When you are pretty sure she’s the last of her kind, she didn’t go around telling every Tom, ******, and Harry.

He rushed at her again but this time she backed up until her butt hit one of the chairs, and she reached back with one hand to grab the spindled back. Just as he reached where she was, she swung it to smash against shoulder. It wasn’t enough to hurt him, but it stopped him in surprise. Also, it left her with one of the shattered pieces of wood in her hand. Was it makeshift? It sure was, but it was also the closest thing to a stake she had. It had been a long, long, time since she’d had to kill a vampire. Hopefully it was like riding a bike. An evil, fangy, bloodsucking bike.

She tried to use the momentary stun of her adversary to move into action. She stepped into his frame, thrusting upwards, aiming her ‘stake’ under his ribs instead of through them to get to his heart. She mentally congratulated herself as she felt the jagged tip slide into flesh and muscle. Then stopped. While she had herself a handy dandy wooden implement to try to slay a vampire with, there was a problem with using broken wood. It was easy to break again. His hand slammed down on her wrist to send a shockwave of pain up her arm. The wood she had been holding broke out of her grasp just centimeters away from its intended target. His other hand reached out, his fingers wrapping tightly around her throat and pulling her up. Feet dangled from the floor as the digits suppressed her airways. Her own nails grabbed and scratched at his vice grip. “You smell….good” he said, again. An another time and place, she would have made a snarky comment. Even now as her vision began to darken around the edges, she was thinking of witty comebacks. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, that’s where they stayed.

Her leg swung back, and with every ounce of strength she had left in her body, she kicked right between his legs. Vampires had balls, right? She felt the moment of impact. A loud sound cracked through the air, the sound of shattering glass and a loud pop that left her ears ringing. How hard had she kicked him? The vampire let out a loud grunt of pain both from her kick and the bullet that was now imbedded in his left shoulder. She was dropped carelessly on the floor of the bar and gasped for air to fill her oxygen starved lungs. Her vision swam back and she blinked a few times, not really understanding for a split moment what had happened until she saw the shattered front window. In the frame was the bloody figure of Ray, pistol held in his hand and aimed at the vampire. Ana used this moment to run towards her boss, boots crunching on broken glass, coughing out the words “Aim for the head, Ray!” as she jumped through the now (mostly) empty window frame.

November 05, 2017 01:33 am

Anastasia King

Anastasia was a pretty average height for a woman, but Ray wasn’t that much taller than she was. He was an inch or two above her, at the most. Still, he was massive despite his short stature. Older than her, somewhere in his fifties, he was built like a brick sh*thouse. That did come in handy when you own a dive bar. Maybe that’s why it really hit her when she got a good look at him. Blood loss had made his normally reddish face pale and tired looking. He leaned against the frame of the window, not seeming to notice or care that there were still pieces of glass clinging to the wood. Red matted his short, greying, hair, to his scalp. His shaking hand lifted the gun again to shoot. The shaking was too much, though, and it clattered to the ground.

Behind her, she could hear the shuffling feet of the vampire as he got back to his feet, the soft crunch of glass as he ran towards the two of them. She knew exactly how fast it could move, and she knew she was at least that fast, if not more so. She dove for the gun, adrenaline pumping through her body. She reached it before Ray had even finished falling to the ground, which is exactly what he was doing right now.

Rolling over onto her back, she aimed it up at her assailant. One shot in the chest. One in the brain. He had been in mid leap, and half a second later she had the solid weight of an undead creature on top of her. She sucked in a breath with the impact, a sharp pain stabbing into her side. The gun dropped from her hand so she could use both to push him off of her. Her voice, strained from exertion, rasped out “Ray? You okay?” Now that she could think, she listened intently on her friend and boss. It was light, weak, and barely there. It was there, though, the soft thump of heartbeat.

Ana let out a sigh of relief, and there was that sharp pain again. Hazel eyes move down to where the pain was radiating from. A large piece of glass was sticking out from her side. As the adrenaline started to fade, the pain only got worse. This was bad...really bad. At least she knew better than to pull it out. There was a chance it was stopping any of the real bleeding, and she’d have to take that chance for now.

There was work to be done and she couldn’t let a little thing like possible internal bleeding stop her. She fished in her apron pockets for her cell phone and dialed the emergency number, explaining that someone had attacked Ray at the bar. He was alive, but they needed an ambulance. She shifted on to her knees and carefully got to her feet. Gaze shifted to the incapacitated vampire. Since the bullets weren’t wooden, she doubted that the shot to the heart (and this was a really inappropriate time for Bon Jovi to pop into her head, but it couldn’t be helped) was going to kill him. Or the brain, if he started to heal. Trying to ignore the ripping and tearing sensation of the glass, she pulled at the collar of the vampire’s shirt, dragging him back through the window and into the bar. She was stronger than she looked, and this wasn’t her first rodeo in the vamp killing department.

If he was going to heal, he was going to kill. Her. Ray. Anyone that got in it’s way. She had noticed when he came in that he smelled different than other vampires. Normally they just have this scent of...unlife...about them. Not death, but not living. Almost like ice on a cold winter day. But this dude? He’d smelled like rotting meat. It wasn’t anything she’d ever dealt with before, ever smelled before, and part of her wanted to make sure he would heal up so she could ask some questions. No, she’d just have to find answers on her own. Like it or not, she was getting used to this little town, and she had no idea if he was alone. Then there was that niggling curiosity of how he’d become that way. For now, though? She was pulling him back through the mess they’d made. This time, when she broke off a piece of the chair, she made sure it was long and sturdy enough to reach his heart. He must not have been old, because he stayed in pretty much the same shape he’d been in when coming in. That just made the whole situation even more confusing for her. Staging his body so it looked as though the impaling had happened as a result of falling, from being shot multiple times, she looked down at her side again.

The black shirt she wore was soaked from her hip to her armpit, and dripping viscous red liquid down the leg of her jeans. Ana coughed, feeling the trickle of fluid coming from her lips before staggering on her feet. Her hand caught on a table and propped her frame up so she didn’t fall. The other hand went to the crystal she had dangling from her neck. To heal, she was going to have to shift, but the sirens in the background were getting louder as they made their way to the bar. She couldn’t leave. She was the only witness besides Ray, and he wasn’t exactly going to be in any shape to give a statement. Then they would want to take her to the hospital. And they would want to take blood samples, because it was obvious she would need a transfusion if she couldn’t change.

Her choice was to stay and keep from looking a little guilty, maybe bleed to death, or be subject to needles that would lead to questions she couldn’t...wouldn’t...answer. Or, she could play the scared blonde act. She could run off to her safe place, shift, heal, and deal with the fall out tomorrow.

She chose option two.
November 05, 2017 02:11 pm

Anastasia King

She lived in town. Being that the town was small, it made it easier to get around without a vehicle. Not that she didn’t have a vehicle, of course, but gas cost money and she tried to spend as little of that as possible. She was saving for a rainy day, though she would prefer to be saving for a monsoon. That’s where the extra shifts at the bar came in handy, though she was pretty sure she was going to have to find another place of employment after tonight.

This also made it easier for her to get to the tiny house she rented, out in the back acreage of an older couple’s farm. It was 300 feet of her own space with a huge garden in the back yard. She wasn’t really a gardener, but she had rocks there, and a place to be alone in the outdoors without anyone disturbing her. It was also the place where she changed. Not clothes, but skin. The large rocks there, if looked upon closely, were carved and marked with symbols that few would understand unless they happened to be an Aleutian shaman. She wasn’t, but she had learned from her grandmother, who had learned from her mother, and so on and so forth. Of course, she didn’t look like she was native with her blonde hair and hazel eyes, but her father’s DNA had equipped her with something more powerful than outward appearances.

Here, on her rock garden, was where she ended her evening. The blood had stopped dripping, which was not a good sign. Coupled with the fact that she could barely stand, and her normally tanned skin was looking three shades of pale, she knew she was in trouble. Her vision had tunnelled, black and hazy around the edges as she struggled to keep herself awake. She was so very close, she couldn’t pass out now.

With an ungraceful ‘thud’ she landed on the large stones, tears springing to her eyes as the pain seared through her again. If she had any energy left, she might have screamed, but all that came out with a strangled groan instead. Her fingers wrapped around the shard of glass that was still in the same place (for the most part) it had been since she’d landed on it. She couldn’t shift with it there if she wanted to heal. There was a clattering sound as she threw it on the ground, her bloodied fingers wrapping around the amethyst at her neck. A reminder of home, and peace, that made it easier for her mind to slip into the nothingness it needed to shift.

Except, she didn’t have time for that tonight. It was going to hurt. Even now, as she pulled her mind into the gray place between this body and the next, it was rushed. Before she could settle there, she could already feel her other self ripping its way through her body and pushing its conscience upwards. It was like knives ripping through her joints, stretching and pulling her skin against the changing form. Tawny fur rose up from her arms and prickled along every inch of her body. Bones snapped and rejoined, and the entity known as Anastasia King slipped away into the gray. Now, instead of bloody hands, large paws made indents in the grass around the rocks. Claws retracted for now, hidden in the short fur. Black tipped ears swiveled back towards the way they/she had come moments before.

It was dangerous for a mountain lion to go wandering through the streets, especially when ninety percent of the people living in the town owned large guns. There were enough farmers around here that any hint of the large cat coming towards their property would earn her a shot in the pelt. In this form, she only had vague memories of when she was human, and her feline form liked to do things on it’s own. But this was her territory. She had made it her territory. If there were going to be other predators encroaching then she was going to have to stop them. Now, she would hunt. But she would hunt smart. Stay to the shadows. She would find the scent of that creatures and track it back to where it came from, make sure there weren’t any others. Maybe find out just what had been so wrong with it.

She was the apex predator here, and she wasn’t about to share her territory with a diseased bloodsucker.
November 09, 2017 01:23 am
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