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.

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