In the second installment of “In a Few Words,” we have the premiere tale in my first short story collection, Unquiet Slumbers for the Sleepers, that I self-published in 2011, “Blood is the Life.” It’s a short piece that has a lot going on. I’ve also included the notes about the story at the bottom. This is one of my earliest pieces of writing.
Blood is the Life
The boy had not eaten in days. His skin was pale, an indication of his sickness; his eyes were sunken into deep hollows, his cheekbones clearly visible beneath his stretched skin. His hair was thick and black, matted with clumps of dirt. His mouth was practically non-existent, just a thin line scythed into his face. He was just over five feet eight inches tall, though his frame was hunched over, due to his weakness. Each step he took resulted in a streak of white pain that coursed through his body like a bolt of lightning, as he dragged his frail form along. His mind no longer functioned properly, hallucinations appearing before him everywhere: one minute the street was congested with fat, sweaty people, noisy and uncouth; the next, it was entirely deserted, except for the rats that crawled along the gutters, searching for scraps of food.
Then the boy saw the Tall Man, dressed all in black, with a top hat, approaching him. The Man held a cane in hand, swinging by his side, its handle of shiny gold, which reflected the blanched light of the dim streetlights. He slowed down as he came closer to the boy. The boy looked up at the Man’s face and saw him staring right back at him. He was an old man, somewhere in his seventies; there were deep lines etched into his haggard face, but amongst all this tired and used flesh there was anger. The Man’s lips were drawn tight, dimpling his white cheeks in an evil way. The boy looked into the Man’s eyes and gasped at the viciousness within them. They were of no enchanting color, just a cold heartless black, absent of happiness, unable to conceive of compassion or love.
As the Man came closer, he began slowly lifting the cane above his head, his arm quivering because of his crippling arthritis. The air was icy-cool, steam permeating between the Man’s lips as he prepared himself for the beating. Now the boy became scared . . . he hadn’t done anything wrong.
“I d-did nothing w-wrong . . . it wasn’t m-me,” the boy cried, shivering with fright and cold; he wore only rags.
“You know it was all your fault, you retched troll!” the Man answered in a low, quiet-but clear voice that pierced the goose-pimpled skin of the boy like hot needles.
The boy began crying, tears streaming down his face, creating canals through the dirt on his cheeks; they never reached his dry mouth, but froze onto his cold flesh. The Man stopped just three feet from the boy. The cane was now high above his head. The boy watched as the Man moved his arm in the first strike.
Just as the cane was about to crunch onto the boy’s head and split his skull open, he screamed.
The apparition disappeared.
The boy looked up . . . the Man was gone. It had all been a hallucination.
The boy continued towing his body along the street. Then he heard the smash of a bottle in the alley to the left of him. He turned and hauled himself into the alleyway. There was an unidentifiable lump on the floor. It grunted at the boy kicked it; it was a useless bum. The boy looked up the alley to the right of him, it was a dead-end; to the left him, from where he’d come, it was silent, gloomy and devoid of life. The boy looked down at the dirty thing. His small hands reached out: one seized the man’s dirty greasy hair, getting a tight grip on the chunks of grime; with his other hand he seized the drunkard’s shoulder, clinging, like an eagle’s sharp talons, digging into the flesh. He pulled the shoulder and head in opposite directions, exposing the supple white throat.
The man began grunting and groaning, wondering what was happening. The boy bent down towards the hobo’s throat; he opened his mouth, brandishing two long sharp pearly-white fangs. The teeth sunk smoothly into the soft pliable flesh; blood dribbled from the two incisions. The boy began sucking noisily, his craving for blood increasing by the second, his sickness being cured, his hunger satiated, his strength regained.
Warm began returning to his body.
When the boy had finished, he let the body slip to the floor, dead; he stood tall and strong, replenished. A trail of blood dripped from the corner of his mouth, and a long lascivious tongue slithered out and licked it up before it could drip to the floor.
Notes on “Blood is the Life”
This is one of the earliest pieces I’ve written, way back in 1995 I think. I knew it was going to be a short piece, but I was looking to pack it and fill it with as much sensory detail as possible to convey a lot in a short piece of writing. I was very happy with how it turned out and continue to enjoy it as one of my earliest pieces of writing.