Ambrose sat on his cot in his sleeping cabin. He sat silent and still and listened to the steady clacking of the train’s wheels.
What am I running towards?
The shell of my home.
What will I find when I get there?
Echoes of loss.
And nothing else.
But I need to go there.
It had been just a thought. A nice, “Hey! Let’s visit the old homestead” thought.
It’s more than that now. Now, I need to go home. It’s a drive. A need. I can’t turn back. I can’t go back. Not yet. I can only go forward.
I can only go home.
He laid down on the cot.
He wasn’t tired.
He was wide awake.
But the regular clacking of the wheels and the feel of the tracks had a soothing effect on him.
He closed his eyes.
He fell asleep.
Breathing fast, faster, faster.
He pulled his knees up to his chest and wrapped his arms around them.
That hunter is going to find me.
She’s going to stake me.
I don’t want her to find me.
I don’t want to be staked.
I don’t want to die.
The barn doors slid open – thick and heavy.
He pressed his forehead against his knees. Mama, I don’t want to die. Tell me what to do. Help me. I don’t want to die.
The scent of peppermint tea wafted up into the loft. “Come out of hiding, vampire. There is only one true way for this encounter to end: with my stake piercing your heart.” Her boots clomped on the wooden floor.
He could feel his pupils widen. It isn’t the only way.
His claws unsheathed themselves. There are others.
I could escape.
I could kill her. No! I don’t want to do that. I don’t want more blood on my hands.
“The loft?” Her boots clomped towards the loft’s ladder. “It’s a foolish place to hide. It is all too obvious.”
But if I am to survive, I will have to kill. Innocent people. Not so innocent people. Hunters.
She climbed the loft’s ladder.
He raised his head. Her. I will have to kill her or she will stake me. I don’t want to be staked.
I don’t want to die.
She stepped onto the loft’s hay bale cluttered floor. “Come out, vampire. I know you’re hiding up here. Come out and die.”
Ambrose laughed. It was half a laugh and half a sob. I don’t have a choice. He uncurled himself and walked around to the other side of the bale stack.
She stood at the edge of the loft, dressed in a man’s fox hunting outfit trimmed and tucked down to fit her small frame. She wore a thick swath of linen all around her neck in place of a cravat. Her boots were too thick to be a woman’s and too small to be a man’s.
“That’s hardly fitting attire for a woman to wear. And you wonder why you can’t find a suitor.”
She raced towards him.
I don’t want to do this! I don’t want to do this! He let out an anguished yell and ran towards her with bared fangs.
She staked him in the small space between his clavicle and his neck muscle.
The stake’s tip blunted.
He smirked. “That is not where my heart is, hunter.”
She assaulted him in a series of fast and hard blows, driving him back, keeping him on the defensive.
She’s going to kill me! She’s going to kill me! No. No! NO! He lashed out with his claws, slashing both sides of her face.
She staggered backward.
He slashed through the linen around her throat. Pieces of material fell to the dirty floor.
She tried to resume her dance, but her momentum was lost and her rhythm was gone.
He grabbed her wrists and pushed her against the nearest hay bale.
She struggled and squirmed and kicked.
I’m going to hate myself in the morning. He leaned forward with open mouth and sharp fangs.
“No! No! Don’t bite me. Don’t!” She struggled all the harder.
Until he bit her neck.
She gasped in horror and pain. Her body jolted and spasmed.
Then, everything fell into the darkness of a blood high.
In the darkness, Ambrose saw his home. But it wasn’t real. It was only a painting. A beautiful painting of light and warmth.
He reached forward to touch it. so he could feel its warmth one more time.
The edges bent and cracked and blackened.
The house grew dark and cold.
He lowered his hand and started to turn away from it.
The painting transformed into the actual house. A candle-lit figure appeared in the doorway.
He couldn’t make out her face.
But he knew her.
“Mother.” He ran towards her.
Ambrose woke with tears on his face. He looked up at the paneled ceiling and whispered, “Mother. Why? Why do you want me to go back?”
He listened with all of his power and abilities.
There was no response.
Just the steady, soothing clacking of the train’s wheels.