Bleeding 2.5

Sitting at the base of a barren valley was a church, a truck and a hunter. A few weeds were scattered here and there along with a few dead, white trees. Harris was an average sized man that looked to be in his late forties. He had a few deep wrinkles at the edge of his eyes. Lately, shaving his face let him notice his skin was stretching more than it used to.

Most of his scalp was balding, so he kept the rest of his head shaved clean to match. Sitting on one of the few boulders in the area, he accidentally reflected the high sun’s rays into his eyes. A steady wind made a few spurts of dry weeds bristle against each other. Thin branches from a dead white tree to the side of the church also clicked and clacked together.

Harris tried to blink the spots out of his eyes, now more aware of how the polished sword sat across his lap. The hunter had been told it was called a falchion. The blade was as wide as his palm, gradually widening towards the tip with a soft curve. Recently he had just had a new hilt attached made from pure silver.

Someone had explained to Harris how silver hurts vamps, but he couldn’t remember the specifics. Hearing the story at a bar hadn’t helped the memory either. His sword had needed a new hilt regardless, and he had received the silver handle as a reward. Might as well try it out. He wouldn’t rely on it, but if needed, he’d use the hand guard like a set of brass knuckles.

The sun was warming the flat clearing enough that Harris guessed it was around ten o’clock. He stood up from the knee-high rock he was using for a seat. The abandoned church sat at the base of a short ridge facing north. Dragging the vamps out of the front door wouldn’t put them in direct sunlight unless he pulled them another ten meters or so. Harris wasn’t worried about that.

He wore brown cowboy boots, faded blue jeans and a white t-shirt. Walking past a small gathering of weathered tombstones, Harris scanned the front of the building one last time. The front double doors were wooden, coated in old white paint. He slid his chainmail gloves on before sliding into his aged, white leather jacket. The windows on either side of the doors were smashed out, and barricaded from the inside.

On the second floor, a window sat above the lower two, as well as over the door. They had been smashed out and barricaded as well. A casual glance to the ground and window sills showed the glass had been smashed from the inside. He slid on a nylon sash over his left shoulder to his right hip. Each side of his torso was now equipped with a flat, rectangular light bulb no bigger than an average hand.

Harris gripped the falchion in his right hand. He unlatched the four-barrel shotgun on his left hip. Two horizontal barrels sat atop the other two, all about a forearm’s length. All four shells were loaded. When he had started clearing buildings like this, he used to take a deep breath with a slow exhale. Over the years, his ritual had devolved into a prolonged sigh.

Harris slowly gripped the door handle and gently pulled it open. He slightly winced with the creaks of the rusted hinges. The inside was pitch black. Only a faint glow of residual sunlight spilled through the front door. Opening the second door only helped the light reach in a few more steps. No movement. Too quiet.

The hunter reached into his left jacket pocket for a hand sized flare. He struck it against the door frame to ignite a blinding yellow torch. Heavier than it looked, Harris managed to throw it past the toppled benches into the upright podium.

As the flare flew over the aisle, eight red eyes on either side refracted from the light. Over twenty corpses were littered over the floor and benches. The vamps didn’t move. Some were merely silhouettes from the powerful yellow torch. Of the ones that Harris could see, crusted blood caked their mouths and claws. Three or four looked naked, the rest wore tattered clothing of some kind.

Harris took one step in the doorway. Nothing moved. He called out, “Wanna talk now, or should I deal with the lackeys first?”

A hearty laugh echoed back. “Good job!”

Heavy boots clomped down some wooden stairs out of view. Harris squinted to see Daniel approach the podium from behind. A head taller than Harris, Daniel had piercing blue eyes and loose black hair that nearly hid them. He wore a blood soaked, blue v-neck and brown leather vest. It looked like he was about three days unshaved.

Son of a bitch looks the same.

Daniel leaned over the podium to let even more light splash him from underneath. He then blocked the flare with his hand and squinted towards the door. Another laugh echoed, “Holy shit! You look like an old man! How fuckin’ long you been at it now?”

Fifteen, seventeen years? “Too long.” Harris didn’t dare let Daniel out of sight, but he kept a peripheral tab on the eight goons, “I see you’ve been recruiting. I guess you knew I’d find you someday.”

“Honestly, no.”

The two men stared each other down. Harris felt his heart pumping faster.

“Are you having a heart attack old man?”

“How can you live with yourself? Look at this. Do you have any remorse left?”

“Harry, I’m having the time of my life!”

“I loved you god dammit! Now look at you! We used to tell each other we’d die before we turned!”

Daniel seemed to have lost his humor. “I remember. You tried to blow my head off with my own gun,” he gestured to Harris’ hip, “Thanks for bringing it back, yeah, thanks. Just for that, I think I won’t kill you. No, I’ll turn you too, then let you starve for a week. That’s the worst part. Knowing you need to open up someone like a juice box so you can live. I mean, now I can’t wait for the next meal, but for a newborn… I know you’ll hate it too.”

Harris tried to shove his tears back, “Danny, this is it.”

Daniel stared back with his icy blue eyes. “Yeah it is… Get him!”

All eight vamps leaped from the shadows towards the entrance. Harris slapped a button on his sash to activate the lamp on his chest and back. Ultraviolet light blinded the first two naked attackers. He reached down to the shotgun at his hip.

The weapon wasn’t holstered, it was bolted onto his belt. Instead of drawing it, he pressed down on the handle until the barrels swiveled forward. There were two triggers, they fired two barrels each. With a hipshot, both vamps were shredded with jagged shrapnel and blasted with a wide stream of fire.

There was a brief whistling sound just before the vamps erupted in a blast of green fire. Harris noticed the six remaining had stopped dead in their tracks. They unsteadily glanced to each other and Daniel.

The leader’s eyes had shot wide open, “The fuck was that shit?!”

“Come on down and find out.”

Daniel slowly snapped out of it with a forced laugh. “You know what always bothered me about vamps? Out of all the nests we cleared out over the years, why didn’t they ever use weapons?” He reached under the podium and drew a revolver.

Harris didn’t move fast enough. Daniel fired twice before Harris could jump outside. He landed in the sand next to a tombstone. The aging hunter quickly shuffled behind a larger stone for cover. Flicking a switch at his hip allowed him to fully draw the shotgun from his hip and aim at the door.

Nothing came.

Something heavy thudded inside. Harris heard a hammer cock above him. He looked up to see Daniel leaning over the second story window above the door. “This has got to suck for you. All this time and preparation… I even heard you walking around the building just after sunrise. Looking for weak spots? I think I know how to pick safe nests by now.”

Harris shook his head, “Wasn’t looking for weak spots.” He revealed a small black cylinder in his palm and flipped one end open with his thumb, “I’m giving you a sunroof.”

Explosions erupted at each corner of the church. Harris shielded his face as he was shoved by the concussions. Debris flew out in all directions, a few chunks hit Harris, but he had been anticipating that.

The dead white tree had splintered, leaving almost no trace of itself except a brittle stump. Harris narrowed his eyes as he stood up. The dust was already being blown away by the wind. He saw a few pale limbs reaching out of the debris, some still, some twitching.

Daniel had landed on his face in the small cemetery. Harris had to walk around the side before he could see Daniel’s head cracked open against a tombstone. Yellow-green slime and bright red blood oozed out. Harris turned off his ultraviolet lights before getting closer.

Harris’ old partner wasn’t knocked out, but seemed paralyzed. Doesn’t breathe, could easily be faking. He kept his gun trained on Daniel as used the sword to slide the revolver away.

Daniel was either laughing or crying, “I can’t move.”

“Looks like it.” Harris didn’t see so much as a twitch. Against his wary nature, he knelt down closer. He let the tip of the sword drop into the sand. Swallowing the lump in his throat, Harris quietly asked, “You want the gun or the blade?”

Green tears began to trickle from Daniel’s eyes, “Blade. Need to save your shells.”

“I’m sorry.” Harris rose the falchion above his head, but kept his gun aimed just in case.

“Wait!”

Harris felt his heart skip.

Daniel looked up with one eye, “I still love you.”

Harris felt his face scrunch up, the tears wouldn’t wait any longer.

Daniel smiled back with his icy blue stare. Then he pushed himself into the air in a blink. Harris shot him purely out of reflex. The green explosion was bright, quiet and fast.

Harris was frozen as the green ashes blew over him.

He wasn’t sure how long he stayed in that position, but he was suddenly aware of a feral vamp crawling towards him. Harris absently pointed the gun and pulled the triggers. It clicked three or four times before he turned to make eye contact.

Harris dropped the gun and stood. He chopped off the only arm it had, then casually circled to the side. One swing wasn’t enough to remove the head. He stepped on the back of the head, removed the blade and tried again. Still attached.

Screaming, Harris took the blade in two hands for the next swing down. The head rolled away, and the sword was partially buried in the dirt walkway. He didn’t notice any more movement in the rubble.

Standing in place, he limply searched the debris for any gear he may have dropped. Without looking, he fumbled to reattach the shotgun in its swivel brace. He forced a little more attention as he sheathed the sword on his back.

Harris claimed Daniel’s pistol, tucking it in the front of his belt. As he walked back to his green pickup, he noticed a dust trail approaching from the main road. He sighed as he drew the new pistol and checked the cylinder. Four shots.

Approaching was a small buggy with chocolate chip camouflage. Harris holstered the pistol and resumed walking to the truck. He opened the door and tossed in his sword, ultraviolet bandolier, jacket and gloves. By the time he had done that, the buggy pulled up beside him.

Cliff stepped out of his seat and marveled at the former church. “Deimos, did you use all the C4 or what?”

“Yeah.”

Cliff gave Harris a more thoughtful look. “You didn’t have to do this alone.” The sheriff had no idea about Daniel, he just didn’t think one man should clear out a nest alone.

“I just wanted to test the C4.” You’d be dead if you helped.

The sheriff shook his head, “Listen, even though you lied to me about what time to be here, I still need to tell you about another job.”

“What?”

“James and his fiancé got clearance to hunt down the Red Bone tribe. Natti doesn’t want them to come back either.”

Harris nodded, “When?”

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