Aphelion Issue 218, Volume 21
June 2017
 
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Needs

by J.E. Deegan





361 days a year Rudy Phillips was a normal young man with normal drives, interests and ambitions. Tall and ruggedly handsome with dark eyes, bright smile, and a swarthy complexion inherited from his Italian mother, he had used these biological bequests to full advantage on a rapid climb up life's social and professional ladders. At twenty-seven, he had everything a normal young man could want - including virtually any woman he fancied, and for the most part, Rudy was attracted to women for the same reasons other young, good-looking men were, but there were occasions when he fancied them for reasons that would horrify normal young men.

Like this occasion...one of four days each year, one per quarter, when the rapacious need endowed by his father took unconditional control of him. At such times Rudy coveted women for their blood, which fed an exquisitely demanding hunger that swept aside the need for anything else.

To not feed before midnight on a night when he altered meant death. Within seconds after the new day, he would curl up like a cheap shade and dissolve to dust. No one had told Rudy that fact. He simply knew it, as surely as a man knows that stepping in the path of a speeding train meant being splattered all over the tracks.

Rudy's father, now deceased, had been a full vampire - one mutated by bite not birth. After some 400 years of being, he had been damned to a lifeless eternity by a drunken derelict who with a wild, mindless lunge had driven a splintered two-by-four through his heart as the vampire, negligently reckless that night, sought the man's throat with his sharp hollow teeth. Only eleven at the time, Rudy witnessed this hapless incident while standing guard at the mouth of this same alley while his father went to feed.

Rudy learned a valuable lesson about imprudence that night, and vowed that when puberty awakened his own need, he would take care to never be negligent or reckless when hunting.

Rudy was a Eulick, a hybrid male vampire begot by fruitful coitus between a full vampire and an ordinary human. Had he been female, he would have been a Eulieux, a hybrid capable of consuming any type blood - male, female, even animal. An Eulick, however, required female blood. Nothing else could drown the hunger. Nothing else could save him from dust.

Yet Eulicks and Eulieux did share one extremely propitious characteristic. Neither carried the genetic defect that robbed full vampires of unequivocal immortality. Daylight and wooden stakes were lethal to full vampires, but they inspired no more fear in half-breeds than did lightning, venomous snakes, or falling off tall buildings. To live forever, all an Eulick or Eulieux need do was appease the need for blood four times a year.

When the need arrived, Rudy sought his prey in Limboland. He was wise enough to spread his hunting around this filthy, sordid sector of the city, but his preferred spot was the alley where his father had met his end. Narrow, deep in the shadows between the streetlights, it offered an unobstructed view of pedestrian traffic at the intersection of Fenneman Avenue and White Rock Road. Fenneman was one of a number of crossing veins that fed Limboland's corrupt heart. White Rock, a major artery, ran the length of the city and for five blocks formed the western boundary of Limboland. As such, White Rock was for the city's chaste souls a barrier between hope and hopelessness, decency and depravity, and deliverance and damnation. Limboland's side of White Rock overflowed with crumbling warehouses and rubble-strewn vacant lots where the lost and demented sought shelter from the elements. On the other side began a buffer zone of sorts, a less seedy district which gradually brightened into more appealing neighborhoods. A lone female crossing Rudy's view along White Rock would live to endure another day. One moving toward him on Fenneman would die, her blood his nourishment for another three months.

More often than not, Rudy fed upon prostitutes. Slick with make-up and perfume, they used Fenneman en route to Limboland's street corners and dingy bars where they sold themselves for next week's rent.

Not always though. Over the years Rudy had taken respectable women who for one reason or another had strayed from the relative safety of their customary paths.

The type of woman didn't matter to Rudy. Only her blood was important, and in that respect, all were the same. Before long, one type or another would come his way.

One always did.


* * *

It was well past five when Linda Matthews gathered her fifth-grade students' papers and dropped them in the top drawer of her desk. Tuesday's History test was finally graded; the scores recorded in the grade book now locked away with the papers.

She stepped from her classroom into a dark corridor. The floor was a strip of scarred, polished wood patched with fuzzy blotches of brightness cast by the school's nightlights. Walking quickly, her heels clacked crisply and echoed along the hallway like cracks from a cap pistol. She headed for the faculty lounge where she kept her coat. Nearing it, the stream of light from the opened doorway advised her that some other teacher had remained after school this day.

Not Sandra Dobson...please, she thought during a hitch in her step. Though a pleasant sort, Sandra could talk the ear off a tin monkey, and Linda wanted to but grab her coat and hurry home from Lucketts Elementary.

It was while approaching the lounge that Linda felt the nearly imperceptible shift deep in her chest...the all-but-undetectable modulation of heartbeat and respiration that years of regular recurrence had sensitized her to. Next came a gradually escalating exhilaration followed by the familiar warm flush spreading with her blood to every nook of her body. Her time, which she knew was near, had arrived. The first stage of the inexorable need that both excited and horrified her had been activated.

She was altering.

Sandra Dobson was in the lounge, stuffing messages and memorandums into the teachers' pigeonholes on the back wall above the coffeepot. Her broad beaming smile as Linda entered heralded conversation as surely as lightning heralds thunder. Forcing a smile, Linda stepped into Sandra's verbal web.

Ten minutes later, she was fighting an overpowering urge to take this incredibly long-winded woman while she talked, but it wouldn't be wise to engulf the school in needless notoriety which might jeopardize her position there. She had learned ages ago to honor the adage: Don't get your meat where you get your bread.

It took her nearly a half-hour to escape Sandra Dobson, but there was plenty of time to satisfy the need.


* * *

Shoulders hunched, hands wedged deep into the pockets of her threadbare overcoat, Clarise Paul plodded steadfastly through the gathering darkness. Cold November air soughed down the street, swirling a steady drizzle that was rapidly turning to sleet. She was homeward bound from Pennyworth's Department Store where she worked as a File Clerk, a job she detested and considered demeaning. Not that she was an educated woman driven by ill fortune into employment beneath her abilities - but she did hold the conviction that a woman who had single-handedly raised two ailing children to adulthood had certainly acquired credentials worthy of more than a $8.25-an-hour job moving papers from one file cabinet to another.

Clarise was angry, but she was always angry. Angry at her parents for letting her drop out of school after the eighth grade; angry at the captivating but enigmatic man who fathered her twin daughters - now in their twenties but still dependent on her; and angry at a wretched existence she could not change and could barely control.

On most nights, she walked the twelve blocks between Pennyworth's and the dreary two-bedroom flat. The half-hour trek each way afforded the only time during the day that she had totally to herself - time needed to brace herself for fresh assaults from a pitiless world that didn't give a sedulous, hard-working woman a moment's peace or hope.

Moreover, she seldom could afford bus fare.

Still eight blocks from home, Clarise realized that she couldn't endure the full journey this night. The temperature was falling by the minute, and the swirling drizzle had strengthened to an icy rain, each drop a plummeting lead pellet. A hungry chill was worming through her coat and would soon devour the little warmth that had retreated from her flesh to her bones.

She stopped at the corner of Fenneman Avenue and Bluemound Road to consider her options. She could backtrack the four blocks to Pennyworth's and the adjacent bus stop; labor along her regular route and hope her legs didn't give out; or, she could take a shortcut through Limboland, which would clip the distance to home in half.

The thought of Limboland made her shiver.

If Hell existed on Earth, Clarise believed its fires burned unchecked within those five square blocks of sin and depravity. Limboland, a steaming cauldron of iniquity where blatant murder, deviant sex, drugs, and every other form of perversion known to man proliferated like poisoned weeds in a contaminated field. More than most, Clarise knew of Limboland's salacious seductions. She felt certain that her daughters' father had fallen prey to them, and she long ago had conceded the girls to them as well. When they were born, she vowed she would spit in Satan's face before she again entered the maze of misery and malevolence that was Limboland.

Some vows, however, simply cannot be kept.

This bitter night, Clarise turned south on Fenneman Avenue, estimating that by angling across Limboland's northwest corner she could be home in ten minutes. Breathing rapidly, her heart pounding, she walked quickly and tried to concentrate on the warm salted bath she would enjoy after attending to her daughters.


* * *

Pressed into the shadows of the alley, Rudy Phillips waited. The need was growing steadily, nipping at his gut like a school of impatient fish. It was a persistent but pleasant sensation, the savory ache of appetite waiting to be appeased.


* * *

Despite its reputation, Linda Matthews had no fear of Limboland. It was, after all, her hunting ground, the place where she sated the need for blood when it arose. Quarry abounded there, scores of useless, nameless people she could feast upon without commotion. Death visited Limboland often and in many forms, and the authorities routinely disposed of the dead without investigation.

Even when the blood-need was not upon her, Linda at times would prowl the streets of Limboland to pacify another craving which now and then consumed her. There were occasions when a bewitching attraction to Limboland's tumbledown ambiance, gaudy lights, and blazoned aberrations overpowered her; times when she was drawn into its infected heart by a wicked yet captivating allure that tightened her skin and quickened her blood. There were times when the vile underside of her mind swiveled into consciousness with a host of lusts and longings that only this evil hellhole could satisfy.

At such times, Linda particularly reveled in eavesdropping on the street-corner hookers as they bartered themselves. She envied their skillful haggling, their talent for squeezing every possible dollar from their tricks before sealing the contract with a quick nod of their heads. Listening, watching, she imagined herself painted and perfumed and negotiating the terms of prurient pleasure. The bargaining, its wickedly luscious promise, the sweet temptation of potential menace made her skin crawl and tingle with another frightening yet tantalizing need.

In her deviant dreams, she was one of them.

Tonight, after feeding, that need too would be filled.


* * *

Shivering, Clarise Paul huddled around herself as the wind's bitter breath bit through her worn coat to rake at her chest. Though no stronger than earlier, the wind had turned colder and was noticeably soured with the odious bouquet that drifted outward from Limboland's core like perdition's breath. Tucking her nose into her scarf, she trudged on and issued a silent prayer that her aching legs would not crumble beneath her like icicles loosed from a roof.


* * *

At the mouth of the alley, Rudy Phillips anxiously sniffed the air. It was there. The lovely, musky redolence of flesh. Rich, greasy, blood-filled female flesh. Still some distance away, but moving toward him. The scent had him shivering. His blood began to warm, his skin stretched, muscles rolled and bulged. He felt his pupils swell and he looked raptly around with eyes now able to find light even in the deepest shadow. He pulled his hand to his face and saw the purple blush beneath his fingernails deepen to black. His tongue shrank back, allowing room for his lengthening incisors. The tip of his tongue danced eagerly about the sharp hollow ends of those fangs. His mouth watered.


* * *

Linda Matthews caught Clarise's scent before she saw her. Her nostrils flared with the thick sweet scent of human meat. Juicy, blood-filled female meat. Her keen eyes swung left toward Fenneman Avenue, the dark shaft that ran perpendicular to White Rock Road. Her sharpened teeth found her tongue. She tasted her own blood and felt her stomach turn with anticipation. It took her full reservoir of willpower to restrain further physical alteration until she had trapped her prey.


* * *

They met at the corner; Clarise Paul with a startled intake of breath; Linda Matthews with an anxious glint in her eyes and a brief, careful smile that did not expose her teeth. Clarise stepped back, a hand at her throat, her face crowding with misgiving. Linda, with enormous effort, was able to stand her ground. Her limbs trembled ravinly, ever-warming blood sprinted through her to soak every cell with the familiar demanding need, but she forced herself to wait, and then to speak, warmly and cordially. She asked Clarise if they might walk together, implanting an appropriate measure of concern for their individual well-being in such a nefarious neighborhood.

Clarise looked nervously about then agreed, knowing that any coalition with this odd, edgy woman would last but a single block.

They crossed White Rock Road and entered Limboland.

They walked quickly and wordlessly; Clarise focused on the next intersection where she would turn left on the final leg of her journey home; Linda fixed on the narrow alley just ahead. She would take this toothsome catch there. Her skin tightened; the soft muscles of her arms grew taught with burgeoning strength.

A few more steps.


* * *

Rudy Phillips waited, pressed against a wall of the alley and barely able to constrain the ravenous compulsion raging within him.

Just a few more steps.


* * *

Clarise heard the woman's raspy, ragged breathing and simultaneously felt her legs become lead and her feet mortar which anchored themselves to the pavement. Her eyes swung to the woman, to a scowling, powder-white face with lumps of coal for eyes and a pair of dagger-like fangs arcing out from a spit-filled mouth. Terror like molten metal surged through Clarise's chest, squeezing her purely involuntary cry of raw dread to a paltry squeak that barely escaped her mouth. She took a clumsy step backward into the alley. The woman-thing followed, then stopped and stiffened.

Linda Matthews' coal-black eyes shot past Clarise Paul and into the coal-black eyes of Rudy Phillips. Clarise cowered between the seething horrors, her throat, tongue and mouth working feverishly to generate nothing but a series of choked, gagging sounds. She fell to her knees and threw her arms over her head.

Eulick and Eulieux stared at each other. Each watched bewilderment shift to rage as they recognized what the other was. The alley filled with savage howls as each reached for Clarise Paul. There would be no sharing of spoils, no equal division of parts, no divvying up this succulent prize. Each wanted all.

Their struggle became frenzied. Clarise was pulled and tugged upon, jostled and jolted about like a cork in a riotous river. Her shabby coat split at both shoulders and she shrieked at the sick rip of fabric, certain that her arms had been torn from their sockets.

Suddenly she was released, and the two fiends flew at each other, cursing and grunting, scratching and clawing as they tumbled into the depths of the alley. White teeth slashed through the air, arms and legs flailed wildly in a fury of chaotic motion.

Clarise labored to her feet and backed slowly toward the street. Try as she may, she couldn't pull her eyes from the enraged demons that were twisting around each other like copulating snakes. They pounded and pummeled each other with monstrous strength. Each seemed intent on ripping the other to shreds.

The battle ended with no forewarning, and for a moment, the two horrors simply stared wistfully into each other's eyes and smiled their sharp hollow teeth. Then they embraced and gently caressed each other. They even kissed before their teeth found the other's neck and sank in. Eager, sucking, slurping sounds filled the alley.

Clarise stared wide-eyed with wonder then spun gracelessly around and began a mad dash for home.


* * *

When Clarise returned a short time later, the two vampires were still there... just as she hoped they would be. Both had re-altered to human form and were deeply asleep, nestled together like lovers amidst the refuse littering the back of the alley. They were covered with blood, but their contented smiles and steady breathing evinced a plane of pleasure and gratification mere mortals could never attain.

Their need, Clarise saw, had been satisfied.

But others, too, had needs.

Clarise stepped back and motioned her daughters into the alley. The twin Eulieux lurched ahead, jousting selfishly to be the first to sink teeth into such juicy plunder, but there was plenty for both and Clarise knew their spat would be short-lived. She let them squabble and walked to the mouth of the alley to stand sentry.

She never could stand to watch her daughters feed.


THE END


1993, 2017 J.E. Deegan

Bio: Mr. Deegan's work has appeared in various online and print magazines and anthologies, including Aphelion. He has two short story collections in print, Limboland (science fiction, fantasy, and horror) and When I Was A Little Guy (children's stories), both available through Amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com. His last Aphelion appearance was Do Not Read in our December, 2011 issue.

E-mail: J.E. Deegan

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