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Winter Hunger: An Outsider’s Tale

Updated on October 10, 2016
Dean Traylor profile image

Dean Traylor is a freelance writer and teacher. He is a former journalist who has worked on various community and college publications.

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I heard them crashing through the icy brush. Every snap and crunch they made stabbed me deeper than any hammer-driven stake could ever do. They were not far, I let a hiss of frozen breath escape from my tighten lips I, Sebastian the hunter, had let my guard down, and became the hunted.

Soon, I saw the glow of their torches confirming my fear. I cursed some more under my breath. They'll be here soon enough, I thought, for me to smell their tempting blood.

Tempting, yes: desired, no. Once I tasted human blood and found it irresistible. She was just a young village girl who wandered into the outside world where I belonged. The look of horror in her eyes stayed with me long after I licked the last crimson drop from my lips.

Frantically, I searched for a way out. I couldn't sprout bat wings and fly away. That's just old tales told around campfires to scare little kids. In truth, I can't transform into anything except for that one thing I am now.

Realizing they were getting closer, I scrambled up the nearest tree and crouched on the highest branch. There I spied them coming out of bushes into the clearing I had just escaped from.

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The mob came as a huddled mass, screaming, cursing in their native tongues. Two men on the outside held the torches while a third man led the way, pulling on a taut rope over his shoulder. He was dragging something but I couldn't tell what it was. The other six men were huddled around this object, punching, kicking and screaming at it. It didn’t take long for me to realize that the object being dragged in the snow was a person. I could smell him.

A part of me was relieved. I wasn’t their target and they had no clue I was nearby. The other part of me – the darker half – wanted them to see me so I had an excuse to sink my teeth into them and drain their bodies of their precious blood. However, years of quelling my temptations kicked in. All I had to do was think of her.

They reached an oak tree adjacent to the one I was hiding in.

"That'll do!" Somebody bellowed.

The mob formed a semi-circle around the source of their bitter taunts. There, the most pitiful sight I have ever seen. He was an old, broken and bloodied man with a rope worn around his neck. He lay in the snow, staining it red (no wonder why the scent of his blood was so strong).

“Get up!” One of them yelled, stepping forward and delivering a kick to his side. “Get up, Devil lover!”

Slowly, the broken man got to his knees and struggled to stand upright. He was so beaten that he wobbled trying to balance himself.

"Bring the witch over!" Another bellowed.

Two men stepped forward and pushed him toward the tree. There, under a thick branch, a heavy set man stood before the broken man.

The broken man uttered something. His voice was weak and timid. I had to lean forward and strain my ears to hear him. In doing so, I nearly slipped off the branch.

My little slip knocked some snow off its edge. The small patch hit the other branches and dispersed into mist. One curious member of the mob shot at glance at the branches below me. I was caught, I thought. Angry, I dug my nails into branch pulled back my lips to show my fangs. If I was going die at the hand of this mob, I was going to take a few with them with me.

"I'm not a witch," the man pleaded weakly. "I just wanted bread. I was starving. Please by the grace of go…"

But my fears were overblown. The curious one shrugged and turned his attention to the unfolding drama in front of him. I relaxed and sighed. My attention soon turned away from the once curious man and back to the others.

The heavyset man pulled out a bible, raised it above the mob, and spoke with an air of piety: “Gentleman.”

All eyes, including mine were on the Pius one.

"My dear friends, this is a sad day," he spoke. "When one of us makes a pact with the devil and becomes his devoted servant, we have all failed."

That “league with the devil stuff” always made me cringe, even if it wasn't directed at me. I may have become a beast in their eyes, but a servant of devil I was not. I was just like them, fighting temptations from my own devils. And, seeing what this mob had done to this man – for whatever crime he committed in their eyes – I could tell they were fighting their own losing battle with their demons.

"I'm not a witch," the man pleaded weakly. "I just wanted bread. I was starving. Please by the grace of go…"

"Shut up you!" One man in the mob bellowed as he socked the poor soul in the jaw. The condemned man crumpled to his knees. He began spitting blood and teeth onto the snow.

The pious one spoke again: "When one of us turns to evil, we must cut our ties. We must send him on his way to explain himself to God."

A cheer rose from this rowdy bunch. But it had little to do with the rousing speech (if you want to call it that). It had more to do with an affirmation that they had to string this poor wretch.

After the pious one completed his pious speech, he nodded to the strongest man in the group. He grabbed the end of the rope, threw it over the branch. The other men joined him and they pulled with all their might. The old man was swept up with a sudden jerk. He gasped and frantically grabbed at the rope around his neck. The men tied the rope around the trunk of the tree, letting the condemned man swing and fight a desperate battle for his life. His eyes bulged and his tongue hung from his gasping mouth and purple lips.

I stood before him, at one moment pitying him, at another moment realizing he was now like me, an outcast. But something was entering my head. Damned temptation was working its way into me.

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The mob howled with morbid delight. Even the pious one couldn’t conceal a snicker from his smiling lips.

As for me? I sat in the tree, helpless, horrified, and ashamed that I was once a part of the mortal human race. It was one of these few times in my long life I was glad to be an outsider.

The old man's eyes rolled back into his socket as the constricted air wheezed out of his mouth. Seeing this, the pious one spoke: “Gentleman, it is getting cold. Our job is done.”

The pious one did his prayer, and then led the mob back through the path they had forged.

A sense of relief came over me. I leapt off the tree and landed near hanging man. I advanced toward him. And, to my surprise, I could smell his blood...and I could hear it, coursing through his veins.

I couldn't believe it. The man was still alive. He was stronger than I had ever imagined.

My nails were sharp enough to disembowel any animal in the wild. Thus, with one fell swoop, I slashed the rope and freed him. He hit the snow and crumpled into a fetal position. He moaned as he caught his precious breath.

I stood before him, at one moment pitying him, at another moment realizing he was now like me: an outcast. But something was entering my head. Temptation was working its way through me.

Here was a man before me, broken, near death, and forever cast out of his village. No one would miss him (the little voice of temptation kept saying). I fought it and put it as far back into my head as I could. I’d find an animal to feast upon, I kept saying to myself. That’s what I did -- even in the dead of winter when they were scarce while humans were plentiful -- I always found a way. All I had to do was recall that village girl’s eyes.

He was near death, or so I thought. He was far from home, far from safety. There was no way he would live out here unless…

A thought came to me. I licked my fangs, thinking I could turn him, like I was turned so many years ago. I got to my knees and opened my mouth and lowered myself to sink my fangs into the man’s neck.

Then the spell was broken by my would-be victim.

"No!" he screamed.

I stopped, reeled back as he squirmed away from me.

"Don't you want to live?” I pleaded.

"I'd rather die of frost than become one of your types.”

I stood there, perplexed unaware that I lost control of the beast deep within me. Anger surged within.

"Go then!" I hissed. .

The man didn't hesitate, he gathered his strength and fled as fast as he could, heading somewhere unknown. I knew he wasn't heading to town where he wasn't welcome. He'd rather head into the dead of a chilly night and face death rather than be cursed.

I couldn't blame him. I stood there for a moment. The air was cold, the snow was thick. I came to realize it was going to be a long winter. My winters will always be long: forever long.

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© 2014 Dean Traylor

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    • profile image

      Carrie. Lee . Night 19 months ago

      Great detailed and well written story! Thank you for sharing.

    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 3 years ago from Riga, Latvia

      Voted up and interesting. I don't know I guess it depends on how much faith the old man has because being a vampire is a whole other thing entirely. Well done. Passing this on.

    • Becky Katz profile image

      Becky Katz 3 years ago from Hereford, AZ

      This is not really my type of story, but this was very well written. I enjoyed the battle between good and evil in this.