Wednesday, October 28, 2009

By the Light of the Moon by Janelle P. Lanthrum

Eyes squeezed shut, her breath came in gasping pants, broken only by occasional gulps to wet her parched throat. The metallic taste of blood coated her tongue and each breath brought a fresh coppery wave. It made her gag and her full stomach twist. Her heart pounded, blood rushing in her ears. Vertigo made the world tilt beyond her closed lids.

A gentle autumn wind whispered through the trees, chilling bare skin and carrying the promise of rain. She was covered in sweat and something thicker. It was in her hair, oozing down her arms and chest, and dripping from her chin to pat softly on the leaves all around her. Her muscles shook with the effort of keeping her on her hands and knees. Fingers curls in soft earth sending up a heady, primitive scent.

Casting her mind about, she tried to understand how she arrived here. She had been reading when the sick feeling had begun. Her gut had heaved and the world became too bright, too loud. She had tried to make it to the rest room but had ended up retching in the hallways, sickness splashing the hardwood. Then there was dizziness and everything hurt, as if her very bones where being wrenched about. A ripping sound. Heavy floral scents hung all around, too strong.

She was hot, burning, inside and out. Her body tingled, suddenly restless. She paced, trapped by the walls around her. Wild, she threw herself about, heeding the summons beyond the confines. She needed. She wanted. She hungered. The air beyond was sweet and crisp, begging to be chased.

After that was a blur of motion. The world flashing past in the muted blues and silvers of full moon light. Long shadows gather around her, but did not hinder her rush. Cold October air being taken in greedy gulps. The scents of pine and water and earth. And blood. There were others, moving with her and around her. She knew them and yet they had no names. They ran together. Heedless and boundless. Free.

A scream. The race had become urgent, almost frantic. Joy and thrill urged her faster. Consumed by the chase. The others where falling back, letting her lead, there keening voices music in the night. It was hers, faster, closer, to ground. The moment of the kill. Doe eyes widened, then blood flowed. They gorged on tender flesh and broke soft bones. The heart was hers, they insisted. Supple sinew unsoured by age. Sweet blood tracing its path.

Her breath was coming in gasps again, even as the images lost their tenuous focus. A blurry haze of sickness and pain. It could not be real. Just a nightmare. She opened her eyes.

Pale doe’s eyes stared back at her.

The woman was young, barely out of her teens. Her throat was gone and her torso torn open. Entrails and gore littered the ground and blood soaked the leaves. Where arms and legs had once been, were now bloody hollows where the limbs had been ripped from their sockets. What remained of a risque nurse’s uniform lay in pieces among the leaves.

She scrambled back from the fresh corpse, scattering and crunching dry leaves that upset the quiet of the midnight forest. Her wet hair fell into her face, and she desperately shoved it away. Her arm glistened in the moonlight, the pale illumination turning the dark fluid black against her skin. She shook to see she was covered in the gore. It was smeared across of face, arms, and chest, and dripped from her chin and hair. The fullness in her stomach settled heavily before it lurched upward. Blood, coppery and thick, was all she could smell. The gentle wind could not waft it away, only stir it around her.

Then she felt them. The others, just beyond the light of the moon, hidden in the night shadows, their eyes aglow in gold and red. They moved, circling her without a sound. She could feel their exchange though they had no voices. She drew her arms around her naked body. Cold, afraid, but not of the monsters with out. She had nothing to fear from the others, they watched over her, kin.

A crunch of leaves, a whiff of oak and pine, and she spun.

He was beautiful: lean muscle wrapped in pale skin, living marble. Windswept locks fell to shoulder length and swirled around luminous green eyes. He was naked save the dark stains of liquid splashed across his body. His expression was soft, gentle, yet she flinched as he knelt before her. The moonlight worshiped him, wrapping him in gentle silver fingers. The scents of wind and blood and forest clung to him, stirring her soul. She wished to sig for him, sing with him, sing with them.

She licked her lips, tasting the blood there, and his smile grew hungry. His nostrils flared and his chest expanded. He crouched before her, leaning close, he rubbed his cheek to hers, the stubble of a day’s growth scratched at her softer flesh, and chuffed into her ear. As he drew back, his tongue soothed across her chin cleaning off the blood, then each cheek. He moved to her neck, lapping away the gore. Her breath shuddered in her throat and he replied with a rumbling chuckle.

“Fear not, young one, the first hunt is always the hardest.” His voice was throaty and deep, and rough as if from exertion. He rocked back onto his heels and rolled to his feet with supple grace. He reached his hand out to her. “Come. The night is young. Run with us.”

Wide eyes met first green, then pale doe as her heart raced anew. She swallowed, still tasting blood. The metallic sweetness sliding down easily. The wind rose, cold and free, howling through the forest.

She took his hand and music once again filled the night. She found herself singing with them. Her body twisted and warped and again the joyful blur of night consumed her.

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