The Watchers: Short Story, Part Six
Will stood with Val and Bernard in the gravel parking lot between the church and the cemetery.
“Have all of our people arrived?” said Val.
“We have a force of one hundred south of the clearing in the trees above the lake.” Bernard, like all the vampires, wore a black t-shirt and black pants.
“Likely, they will not be needed. We will simply dispatch the hybrid that is released, Marley will be convinced and the cemetery will remain where it is for a very long time.”
“The shaman has arrived.” Delia wore her dark hair in a long braid. The broadsword she carried seemed it would be far too heavy for her, but a few practice swings showed that she could handle it with ease and with skill.
“I wondered if the old man would make an appearance,” said Val. “Bernard, I want you to stay near him for as long as possible. Let me know if he does anything other than watch.”
George Marley and six men carrying shovels walked from their pickup trucks. Will wasn’t surprised to see Curly among them. Val, Bernard and Delia, along with Will, Joseph and Little Feather joined Marley and his men.
“I have a few suggestions before we proceed,” said Val. “Men, when you are digging, work quickly until you reach about four feet, then work slowly and carefully until the entire coffin is exposed. If you hear any noise coming from the coffin, get out immediately.”
The men nodded in agreement. They walked among the gravestones and chose one at random. A team of three rested while the other worked. These were strong men, used to physical labor, so the work went quickly. They found the coffin, exposed it entirely and climbed out of the hole. There hadn’t been a sound from the wood box.
Marley laughed, long and loud. He picked up a crowbar from a pile of tools and handed it to one of the workers. “Go down and pry that box open. Bring back a skull to show these idiots they have nothing to fear.”
“No!” Val stepped forward, but it was too late. Curly had already jumped into the grave. The shrieking sound of rusty nails being jerked from their century and a half bed of wood, pierced the silent night.
Something flew out of the hole. It hit the ground and rolled to George Marley’s feet. Curly’s eyes were still wide with surprise and fright, his mouth open to form a scream. But the scream came from Marley. “What have you done? What’s down there? He backed away from Curly's severed head, turned and ran with his men in close pursuit.
“Val.” Bernard pointed to the shaman who stood with his feet apart, his arms raised, speaking softly.
In the open grave, boards splintered, and a short, huffing roar preceded the head of the beast rising above the ground. Val’s sword was swift and the creature’s freedom, short. Decapitation did appear to kill the hybrids.
Val signaled Bernard by mimicking slashing his own throat.
Bernard attacked, but the shaman, without turning, pointed a single finger at the vampire. Energy shot out and struck Bernard in the chest, sending him backward ten feet where he landed on his back.
Val tried a different approach. “Little Feather, don’t do this. The old days are gone. This will not bring them back.”
“But the old days and the old ways can return. The beasts will attack everyone except natives. Their number will grow exponentially until native men and women are free to roam the continent without fear.” The shaman turned toward the graves.
Val shouted to Delia. “Call for our forces."
The shaman raised his arms again, chanting, calling forth the beasts beneath he ground.
The vampire force was present in an instant. Moonlight glinted off one hundred broadswords. Val motioned for them to surround the cemetery. The ground rumbled. The earth quaked beneath their feet. Dirt exploded into the air. Forty-one hybrids roared as one. The battle for humanity and for the race of vampires had begun.
“Attack!” Val’s battle cry produced two reactions. The vampires broke into groups of two or three, which focused on a single hybrid. The wolf-men created a tight circle with their backs to the center. Each fur covered beast stood about eight feet tall and moved around on two legs. Feet and hands resembled those of a man with the addition of long claws designed to rip flesh. The heads were large with long, broad snouts, the hybrid’s ultimate weapon. With a lightning fast lunge a hybrid could rip off an opponent’s head and fling it aside. But the reactions of the vampires were quicker. Time and again, powerful jaws slammed shut on empty air. Several vampires levitated above the beasts and came down within the circle to attack from the rear. The hybrids countered by dispatching an equal number of wolf-men to do battle within the tight enclosure which proved to be conducive to lunging and biting, but not to swinging a broadsword.
The vampires retreated to a safe distance. Bernard stepped forward, focused on a single opponent and used his blinding speed to attack. He appeared before the hybrid with sword in motion. The beast’s head fell to the ground followed by it’s massive body. Other vampires followed Bernard’s example, and the hybrid force was cut by ten.
The hybrids didn’t wait for another such attack, but abandoned their defensive posture and attacked the gathered vampires in a line which bent around and encircled them. Once again, the cramped quarters were to the wolf-men’s advantage. Vampires fell, not to decapitation, but to horrible lacerations by teeth and claws. Val watched the fallen ones. Would they rise up as hybrids? Seconds ticked away until he was satisfied that there would be no transformation. The vampires were immune to the mutative power of the hybrids’ bites.
As one, the vampires launched up and out of the entanglement. They attacked from above, an angle which made them less vulnerable to the swift lunging tactic of the hybrids. More wolf-men fell.
Val left Bernard in charge of the battle. He and Will went in search of the shaman. Little Feather stood at the highest point of the bluff. On one side, the waves of Lake Michigan broke with a steady rhythm on the wide, sandy beach. On the other, the vampires used their speed and agility to decimate the remaining wolf-men.
The vampire-shaman sat cross legged on the ground. Val and Will did the same.
“I am a shaman, not a warrior nor a leader of warriors. My years have stretched from my childhood when I hunted these bluffs for the rabbit, the squirrel, the deer, the bear. Soon all of this will be forever lost to paved parking lots, buildings and golf courses. Why do men consider such things to be progress?” The old man waved a hand in the direction of the cemetery. “The spell has been lifted from the beasts, something I could not do those many years ago.”
Out on the battlefield, wherever a hybrid had fallen, the body of a settler appeared as if he had died only moments before. The vampires gathered the corpses and placed them in the coffins which they rebuilt. By the time they were ready to fill the holes, only skeletons remained.
Conclusion of The Watchers
Early the next morning, Will and Val looked out over the bluff from the bell tower of the church.
“For the first time in a century and a half, the cemetery needs no watchers,” said the vampire.
“What will you do?”
“After observing the Passage from a distance all these years, I’m thinking it may be a good place to learn to sail. In the early years, I watched schooners navigate the treacherous waters. Occasionally one would have its hull ripped open on the shoals. Much later, boats in the annual Chicago to Mackinac race passed by. Who knows, maybe someday I’ll sail my own craft in that classic event.”
They heard cars driving along the road leading to the bluff and called for Bernard and Delia to join them. State policemen and sheriff’s deputies got out of the cars and walked to the cemetery. George Marley was among them. He pointed this way and that, obviously describing what he had seen the night before. Two officers began shoveling dirt from one of the freshly covered graves.
“It took him most of the night to finally call the police?” said Will.
“Think about it,” said Bernard. “Monsters and vampires battling on the bluff? I’m actually surprised he made the call at all.”
“What happened to Curly’s body? I lost track of it in all the activity after the battle,” said Will.
“Two of our people left it outside the ER. Gruesome, but necessary for his family,” said Val.
The officers finished digging, and one held up a skull. Marley was livid when the police and deputies couldn’t restrain themselves from laughing. They filled in the grave and drove away.
Delia walked across the bell tower and took Will’s hand.
“What are your plans for the day?” said Val.
“I think we’ll climb down the bluff and walk along the beach.” Delia tried to lead Will toward the stairway.
“Don’t do anything you’ll be sorry for.” Val put his hand on Will’s Shoulder.
“Do you have regrets?”
“Immortality can be wearisome at times, my friend.”
“And what can be said of mortality? Except that it can be a distressingly brief time to fit in everything a person wants to do.” He squeezed Delia’s hand, and they set out to experience whatever that day held for them.