Friday, May 15, 2009

Roads Not Taken: Chapter 5

“It’s over.”

“I wish it were that simple.”

“What else is there?”

“That… depends on you.”

It had all gone to hell. Cole Buchannon’s worst-case scenario was playing out right in front of him and despite is beastly strength and speed he was powerless to stop it. The training had been fruitless. His efforts had been in vain. He was going to die at the hands, claws and fangs of his fellow monsters, and he knew he would not be the last.

Michael Bralter approached the group in the woods. Cole had seen him transformed before during the brief training earlier that day. The strength in Michael’s werewolf form was obvious. He had taken incredibly well to the training. Cole had been positive that Michael would be able to resist the sway of the full moon. But there Michael was. Cole did not want to think about what had happened to Michael’s wife and young daughter. It was all on him. His mistake has cost them their lives, and would soon cost Cole his.

The vampire that had become a wolf clenched its jaws hard, biting deeply into Cole’s arm. His accomplice gripped Cole fiercely keeping him on his knees. Cole struggled against them, but they had the strength and leverage to hold him. The pain Cole was in was a minor annoyance compared to the dread and regret he was feeling.

The blond vampire that was the ringleader was smiling. He watched Michael approach and stop near him. In it’s animalistic style a werewolf was easily controlled by the mental powers vampires developed over time. Once under a vampire’s control it would obey it’s master whenever it transformed. The blond shot Cole a condescending glance and then turned to Michael.

“Leave him alone!” Cole snarled, his transformed vocal cords struggling to form words.

“Shut up.” The blond said flatly. He walked forwards Michael. His other accomplice flanked him. Cole continued to try to pull away, but was held fast. He snapped his wolven jaws at the vampire holding him, but it did not faze his captor. The blond stared at Michael intently. “You’re all mine now.” He said calmly and Cole knew he was taking control of the poor man who was just a victim in all of this.

“Like hell I am.”

Cole was shocked and he was not the only one. Michael Bralter had just spoken. The vampires holding Cole loosened there grip ever so slightly as the surprised hit them. That was more than enough for a desperate werewolf to take advantage. Cole got a foot under him and pushed himself to his feet. The powerful motion threw the vampire off balance causing him to loose his grip.

The blond vampire turned to see Cole getting free. He had no time to utter any commands before he felt Michael’s claws digging into his face. It was a simple slashing strike, but enough to take about half of the meat from the front of his skull. The blond barely managed with his remaining eye to see Cole manhandling the vampire that had transformed into a wolf. It was already trying to change into something else when the sickly sound of its neck breaking was heard by all. It was the last thing the blond vampire saw.

The fight had been short but brutal. The nature of the combatants demanded it. Cole had one more thing to teach Michael, and that was the proper way to kill a vampire. When it was over Cole and Michael were left standing. Both were sore, but the bleeding was quickly stopping. The bodies of their opponents would combust once the morning sunlight hit them. Both men took on their human forms and returned to Michael’s house.

Cole was washing the last of the blood off of himself in the utility sink in Michael’s garage. The wounds were already healing nicely. The pain was still there, but it was not the worst he had felt. Not even close.

“Here.” Michael offered Cole a bottle of beer, which Cole accepted with a smile. “I see myself needing a lot of these tonight.” Michael took a long drink from his bottle, and shivered a bit. “God. We killed them.”

“They weren’t human, Michael. Don’t forget that. And don’t forget they had every intention of killing your family just to get to you.” Cole took a drink from his beer. It had been a while since he had one, and he realized he had missed it.

“I know that… it’s just… it should have been…” His took a moment to find the right word. “Harder. It should have been harder.”

“I know what you’re thinking. You’re wondering if maybe you’re on your way to becoming a killer despite what you’ve learned.” Michael leaned against the wall in him garage. His eyes told the whole story. He was still scared. “Look, I’m not going to tell you that you’re out of the woods. Yeah, you’re dangerous, but you know that, and knowing that is what’s going to keep your family safe. You’re also a target now. You’ve got power, and that’s valuable.”

“You think more vampires are going to come after me?”

“Vampires or something worse.”


“There’s lots of nasty stuff out there.” Cole reached the interior of his jacket, which was lying on Michael’s workbench and pulled out a business card. He handed it to Michael who looked it over. There was a phone number on it, but nothing else.

“If you think something nasty might be heading your way, you call that number.”

“Is that your number?”

“No but they can get a hold of me, or they can send someone else to come check on you.”

“I don’t know what to say.” Michael studied the card for another moment. “Thanks.”

“Don’t worry about it.” Cole took another drink.

“God, I don’t know how I’m going to explain any of this to my wife.”

“You’re on your own there, man.” They both chuckled.

“What did you tell your family after you got bitten and you knew?” There was a long pause after Michael asked that question and he saw the smile leave Cole’s face. He knew he had just touched a raw subject. Cole did not give him the chance to back peddle.

“I don’t have much family. Only family I still talk to is a cousin I see maybe once a year. I was going to get married. Then I found out the hard way about all… this.” Michael stayed silent. He wanted to apologize for bringing it up, but could not get the words out. “Marissa was taken from me. Lost some very good friends. Hell, I lost just about everything. I don’t want that to happen to anyone else. Getting bit didn’t bring me into this. I got bit for payback. I got bit to put down monsters that treat people like a walking meal.” Michael saw anger flash in Cole’s eyes. He was not angry with Michael. Despite Cole’s talk about protecting people Michael knew that the man who had saved him and his family that day had a vendetta.

“You could start over, Cole. I know it hurts. God, I can actually smell it on you, which is freaking me out a bit. But seriously, man. You’re life isn’t over. There’s no reason you can’t still find someone.”

“Oh, I’m looking for someone, but that’s business. The rest of my life is on hold.” He slowly ran his fingers along the stubble on his cheek. He let out a heavy sigh. “Whether you tell you family, or try your best to keep it from them, just hang on to them. You fought for them tonight. Don’t stop fighting.” Cole finished his beer. “Because it sucks if you lose them.”

Cole left after that. Michael Bralter spent the night in his living room thinking about his future. More than once he checked out of his window to see if anything was lurking in the yard. He checked on his sleeping wife and daughter. He thought a lot about Cole Buchannon. While he was thankful that the road Cole traveled brought Cole to him when he most needed it, he was more thankful that he was not on that same road with him.

About the artist: Owen Gilbride is an experimental musician from New Brunswick, Canada. When he isn't devoting all of his time to getting synthesizers to make scary noises, he enjoys churning out abstract colour patterns in Photoshop.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Roads Not Taken: Chapter 4

“Come with me, we can be together forever.”

“That’s not you.”

“Of course it’s me.”

“No. I wouldn’t kill you.”

It was dusk, and Cole was nervous. The training had gone well. Michael had been a much better student than Cole had been. Still, Cole was not certain about the training paying off. He had told Michael that the training would let him be in control once the moon came up. What he had not told him that there was a very good chance that it would not work. He had considered restraining Michael or telling him to just take off for the night and get away from the situation. That would have shaken Michael’s confidence, and confidence was what he needed. If his will faltered then the day’s work would have been for nothing. Then Cole would have not only keep those wanting to take Michael away at bay, but also try to save the man’s family from him.

Cole sat on the steps to Michael Bralter’s house and waited. His clothes were loose fitting despite his large frame. His jacket was heavy as he had it stocked with things he knew he would need soon. Cole was not sure what he had told his wife about his presence on the stairs. She had not said anything to Cole’s knowledge about it, and he was thankful not to have to deal with that inconvenience.

It was a pleasant enough evening in the quiet suburb. People had returned from their commutes to work. Lights were on in the houses as they settled in with their families. The air was crisp and cool. The sun had just set, but the moon had not risen yet.

Cole pondered the situation as he looked at one of the houses. His keen eyesight could clearly make out a young couple playing with their toddler in the living room. There was a time when that was all he wanted. A part of him still wanted it, but he knew it wasn’t in the cards for him.

His daydreaming came to halt when he spotted their scents on the evening breeze. He looked around and saw a fine haze down the street. It would have been over looked by anyone not familiar with what to look for. It was a mist, the same kind the visitors the previous evening had vanished into.

“Cute.” Cole looked away from the haze for see a man lunging at him. The man was thin and pale with brown hair. He was wearing a black buttoned and trousers. The man snarled as he lunged revealing a set of fangs. “Too bad I’m not stupid.” Cole sprang from the steps and grabbed at his assailant. He caught hold of the vampire’s arm and pulled him forward and down. Cole had successfully sidestepped his attacker and grabbing the now off-balance vampire, drove him face first into the cement steps.

“UK!” The creature stammered as Cole jerked him back up to standing. Blood covered its face and Cole noticed it was now missing several teeth, including one of its fangs. It was flailing wildly in pain and did not even notice Cole pulling a wooden stake from the interior of his jacket. With a grunt Cole impaled the vampire, piercing its heart. The creature went limp in his arms. Whether it was truly dead or just in a state of shock Cole did not now. What he did know is that this was one down. Unfortunately, it wasn’t one of the ones from the previous evening.

“Let him go.” Cole turned. The mist was gone. In its place was the blond vampire from before and he had three others with him. Cole recognized two of them from before.

“Kiss my ass.” Cole replied with a smirk. He tossed the body of the impaled vampire over his shoulder and broke for the woods. The weight of his undead hostage did not slow Cole down much. Cole had already triggered the change. His skin felt like it was burned and his muscles screamed in protest as they spasmed and convulsed, yet were still made to run.

Cole was familiar with his path. It was the same one he used when he confronted the vampires the first time. He glanced over his shoulder, and saw them in pursuit. One of them had taken the form of a wolf. Cole grimaced, not from the pain, but in the knowledge that these four would not be as easy to dispatch as the first one. The first one obviously was the rookie of the pack and had not yet turned how to transform himself.

Cole made it to the woods in a matter of seconds. Whether or not anyone saw the chase, he did not know nor care. His shoes were feeling loose around his transformed feet and he slipped out of them as he ran. The transformation was complete, and with that, Cole came to a halt. He turned and saw the four vampires. They had stopped too and were moving to surround him. The gray wolf that the one vampire had become stalked between the trees looking to try to get behind him.

Cole rose up to his full height and held the limp body of the staked vampire by its shirt in his outstretched claw. His dark brown fur blended in with the dark woods, but the vampires had not trouble seeing him.

“Give up, wolf. We’re going to take our friend back one way or another.” The blond vampire said calmly. The others hissed at Cole, ready to pounce on him. Vampires were tough to actually kill. Sunlight was out of the question. He did not have the means to burn them either. That left decapitation or completely destroying their hearts. The stake may have done the job, but then again it might not have. There was only one way to be sure.

Cole released his hostage and struck with his other clawed hand. He was a blur of motion. The body had barely begun to fall before its head was taken off. Cole heard the pine straw on the ground rustle softly and knew the wolf was making his move. He heard the leader curse as he caught sight of the wolf in mid-leap towards him. He backhanded the wolf, sending it flying into a tree. It slumped to the ground, but quickly got it’s feet back under him.

Cole turned and roared at the blond vampire. “You’re not getting him!” He shouted in a guttural inhuman voice. He quickly noticed that he saw only two vampires. The leader was smiling and one of his henchmen from last night flanked him. Cole did not have time to look for the third before he felt its hands on him. It was materializing out of mist and clutching for Cole’s throat. It hissed as Cole attempted to throw him off. The vampire’s strength was nearly equal to Cole’s and the last thing the massive werewolf wanted to do was get into a wrestling match with it.

He heard the pine straw rustle again. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the gray wolf leaping at him again. Its jaws were open and poised to tear Cole’s throat out. Cole got his arm up and the wolf’s teeth sunk into it. The pain shot up Cole’s arm. The vampire grabbing Cole stomped down on the back of Cole’s knee, driving him down.

Cole felt the fur on his head getting grabbed roughly and jerked back. The blond vampire was walking over to him with his other minion right behind him. Cole struggled to break the grips of those holding him, but they redoubled their efforts and kept him on his knees.

“Idiot.” The blond vampire sneered. “What did you think was going to happen here? Did you think you were going to kill us and then somehow stop Bralter from killing his entire family?” He laughed cruelly as Cole continued to struggle. “The moon is up, wolf. I wonder if his wife and daughter screamed when they saw him change. Do you suppose they begged him not to hurt them? “

“Go to hell.” Cole snarled. He stopped struggling when he smelled it. There was a new scent in the air.

“I suppose we’ll get to find out soon enough.” The blond smiled. He smelled it too. He turned back to the suburb and saw it skulking through the woods towards them. It was another werewolf. This one was a lighter brown than Cole and not as massive. It was wearing a pair of now stretched, Navy blue sweat pants. It quietly made its way towards them.

They all knew it was Michael Bralter.

About the artist:Erick Barroso was born in San Sebastian, Spain. He majored in visual arts though specialized in photography. Nowadays he works as a designer. He likes music, he likes it a lot. Probably that's his foremost hobby and everything he does he does thinking in a song. He likes soccer, though maybe he's most interested in the visuals of soccer than in anything else, more exactly, he loves soccer jerseys, they're the best. Oh... and he likes colors. A lot.