Chapter II: Night Stalker, page 12Mature

She was roused by the sensation of a strong hand shaking her shoulder gently. “Girls,” the priest whispered. “Wake up. We have a problem...”

She opened her eyes, and so did Sally, to a black iron grid right in front of them, with a wall of old stones behind it, lit by torches, like a dungeon. The cold hard iron under her legs, as well as the rocking sensation she felt, revealed to her that the three of them were in a small square cage with heavy bars, dangling in the air, held only by one large chain. What the? She started looking and below, and the two girls screamed in abject horror at what they saw under their feet: the cage was dangling over a stone well, about seven feet deep, at the bottom of which were roaming four unholy creatures, four wretched figures of what used to be men, growling and snarling at each others like starving hounds, baring their rotten teeth and swinging their claw-like fingers. One of them still had human traits, however with the sickly greenish complexion of dead skin. The others showed various advanced signs of decay, their green skin and blackened flesh falling apart at various places, showing their bare bones. There were flies buzzing all around, and the smell was so revolting that she actually threw up.

“What are these things?” Sally asked in the high and shaking tone of raw terror as Rebecca struggled to catch her breath.

“Ghûls,” the priest whispered quietly, with the calm attitude of one concentrating on finding a way out. “Of the feral cannibal kind...”

Rebecca couldn't believe her eyes. She couldn't believe she had put herself, and her friend, in such a situation. To think her life was so normal before she was pushed down that hole! She had always enjoyed reading horror stories of flesh-eating ghouls... but to actually live it, that was far less enjoyable!

“Greetings,” a baritone voice echoed from behind them. They all turned around to see a large vaulted hallway , with several vaulted recesses on its walls, and a black curtain masking its other end. In that hallway, standing before the edge of the well, were the two young vampires from before, flanking a middle-aged, raven-haired man, dressed in an elegant navy blue suit, and whose countenance inspired authority and some kind of ferocious appetite hiding behind his classy appearance. His face was pale, and his delicate lips the colour of blood. “Welcome to my home,” he continued. “I shall introduce myself, even though you obviously know me, else you wouldn't have bothered fighting your way here: I am Sir Nigel Moorcock. No, no, priest, don't bother, I already know who you are. After all, who else but a member of the most holy Abbaye de Sainte Croix could have accomplished what you have... and you brought two little girls along, good evening, young ladies! I'd make an educated guess and say you are here for your friend?”

“Donnie!” Rebecca shouted. “Where is she?”

“Oh do not worry, little angel, she is here all right. Gents!”

He snapped his fingers and one of the two younger vampires went in a vaulted recess, probably to activate some mechanism, because soon after, the hall was filled with the repetitive noise of some heavy machinery, and the curtain behind Moorcock withdrew to reveal the poor red-haired girl tied by her wrists to a chain hanging from the ceiling, dangling like a slab of meat in a slaughterhouse. What Donnie could see that the others couldn't was the awful machinery right under her feet, the slow, implacable turning of some heavy iron rolls covered in sharp, cruel blades and dried blood. Mad with horror, she screamed until her throat ached, and then screamed even louder, calling those people in the cage over there she couldn't clearly see, begging them for help. The sound of her screams angered Rebecca to a point that it covered her fear. She couldn't conceive that a man could be so sadistic.

“You blood-sucking bastard!” she roared out. “What are you doing to her?”

In response, the vampire snapped his fingers again, and everyone yelped as the cage was suddenly dropped, stopping dangerously close to the ghouls' heads. Rebecca heard a high-pitched yell of terror, and saw that Sally, in the drop, had found herself with a leg sticking out of the bottom of the cage, and a ghoul had been quick to notice and grab it for a snack. Immediately, Rebecca and the priest grabbed her and pulled as hard as they could while the poor girl kicked and jerked her leg around to prevent the monster from biting. Another ghoul took a grip at her shoe, and the two others were coming in, when, after an excruciating game of tug-of-war, her shoe came off and they managed to pull her leg back inside. Rebecca watched with dread as the monsters, disappointed, took revenge on the shoe, tearing the leather apart and chewing at the rubber sole like it was a raw steak.

“I do not tolerate such language, young lady,” the vampire warned casually. “Now, to answer your question, the mechanic sound you are hearing is my grinder. For you see, we vampires, unlike the other undead, only need to drink the blood of humans in order to survive, and we are actually physically incapable of consuming the flesh like my pets do. Most of my kindred claim we have actually evolved beyond the flesh-eating stage, but you know what? Drinking blood is an awful bore. I discovered fairly recently the sensual pleasure of the consumption of flesh, and bones, and organs, their delicate taste on the palate, like a fine French wine. I used to love French wine when I was still a youthful, living man. Of course my kindred do not encourage such... appetites, but I believe we have reached the summit of evolution, our race, pure, far above the mere zombies, werewolves, basilisks or other hybrid abominations. So... what's wrong with indulging shamelessly in our most primal appetites, then? The media call me Jack the Ripper, however insulting I find it! I met Jack, long ago, and he didn't live up to the legend... a pathetic, deranged lunatic who killed without a sense of purpose, acting out on an impulse he didn't even understand... but I do! I do not butcher young women for nothing, I grind their bodies entirely in order to extract the most divine of liquors out of their wretched mortal shells. And your lovely friend over there will soon be granted this honour. Gent!”

He snapped his fingers again and Donnie shrieked even higher as her chain began to lower down, down to the grinder, at an excruciatingly slow pace. Just so he could enjoy her terror for a little longer. “Now,” he continued, “I guess I should thank you for bringing me... this.” He produced a bundle of fine silk from one of his pockets and gently unwrapped it to reveal the Cross. Rebecca gasped: so close, yet so far! He was handling it carefully, cautious not to touch it directly so as not to get hurt. He was hiding it but the girl could see the simple fact of looking at it made him uneasy. “I've been looking for this item for quite a while... after all, this was the sole reason I founded the LBPS. However, I don't feel like being grateful for the number you did on my protégés. Oh do not worry, I will find more disciples, new vampires are born every day, after all. When there's no more room in Hell, the dead come back to Earth. But still such crimes demand retribution. So instead of honouring you, I shall feed you to my pets. Goodbye, priest. Goodbye, young ladies.”

The End

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