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    The worst of woes that wait on age

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    Tariq
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    Join date : 2012-05-13

    The worst of woes that wait on age

    Post  Tariq on Wed Jul 11, 2012 1:05 am

    There was no one who could suspect the bat of any ill intent. His blindness was obvious, emphasized by the gentle thud of the gnarled length of twisted wood between his fingers as it struck the packed earth and the subtle tilt of his skull that allowed sightless eyes to gaze into nothingness, and the wings that hung limply from his shoulders were not so different from the tattered rags and ragged cloaks of other paupers. His presence was unsettling, perhaps. It was something in his height, in the length of his claws and the glimmer of his bone-white teeth when he spoke – not excluding the chilling blackness of his eyes – that made certain the rocks thrown by the local children were never directed at him, that the guards never harassed him the way they did the beggars and lepers. But he was certainly harmless, just another traveling pilgrim visiting the monastery.

    It was this innocuous façade that allowed Tariq to move freely about the reeking streets at night while others slept. Any wandering eyes moved over him without pause. Grizzled men draining the dregs from their bottles of foul-smelling liquor hardly glanced at him before continuing their raucous conversations. He was inconsequential. Harmless.

    The vampire never questioned why he crossed the same threshold every night. He never wondered what drew him into the malodourous gloom of the thatched-roof house at the end of town, never paused to ponder what it was that made him nudge the unlocked door aside and cloak himself in shadows that were not his own in a room hardly large enough to accommodate the length of his wings. He had ceased to question his own motives long ago. Instinct, cunning, and vicious hunger drove him without fail.

    The woman was old. The word’s meaning had been bleached of any meaning in the maceration of a timeless mind. Old and young were only two distinct flavours of vulnerability. However, the bat could still sense her age in the papery thinness of her skin, in the soft snorts and gasps of her pained sleep, in the wrinkles that collected at the corner of her eyes, her lips. Her blood was rich with a lifetime of experience, dusted with a generation of joys and anguish like the faded pages of an old novel.  She lived alone, now, in this meager cottage protected by an unlocked door. There was no need for locks in her old age (who would harm a poor, old woman with nothing to take?) and no one who could glimpse Tariq’s nighttime visitations.

    Each night that he knelt at her bedside like a grim spectre of death, the tips of his gnarled fingers brushing gently through her whitened hair and his mouth tensed against the sweet pulse that taunted him like the swell of a ripe berry against his lips, he fancied ripping her throat out. He envisioned sinking the hardness of his teeth through her soft, loose flesh and into her windpipe, feeling her tense and strike out against him as her whistling last breath became a hacking gurgle before fading entirely. And each night, the prick of his fangs was met with a faint sigh, a thin line of discontent furrowing her brow and drawing her mouth into a frown before sleep wore them smooth once again, Tariq’s lips and serpentine tongue tender as they pressed against the offering of her severed veins.

    The vampire drank well. The woman began to complain of dizziness in the mornings, plagued by fatigue and a rapid heartbeat that made her chest feel like a chaos of sparrows. Her neighbours were fretful but, after numerous examinations yielded only a scattering of bruises nestled against the hollow of her throat like inky fingerprints, they began lowering their eyes when she approached. Talk began in murmured voices of burial sites and next of kin. Time, they sighed, was soon to claim another of their own.

    The bat’s visits persisted. His victim’s rising anemia forced her deeper into the thick blackness of sickened sleep and he grew lazy. One evening he lingered beside her bed for haunting hours, drinking in the sound of her whispery breaths and the soothing pulse of her fluttery heart trapped in its cage of bone. He contemplated the exposure of human throats, the vulnerability of bare skin guarded only by sweat and the day’s dust, the complex machinery of arteries and muscles near enough to thin flesh to taste on his tongue. He took his fill just as the sun began its languid rise. It was only when he eased himself out the door and she whispered in a hoarse voice as cracked as desert clay for him to come back did he realize she was awake.

    Tariq’s shadow failed to darken her doorstep for days afterward. He immersed himself with a manic fervor in his own plots, resisting the pull of the stale air in that lonely house. However, it was with the inevitability of fate that he found himself standing once more before her door on a night as black as blindness, the weight of his canines tangible in his ravenous mouth.

    He noted with a faint tinge of wonder that her door was still not barred against him. He crept inside on silent feet, hungry-eyed and bristling with bestial impatience.

    The creaking door had not even come to a full rest behind him before he knew she was dead. There was nothing alive in the gloom; none of the human reverberations that marked the ceaseless machinations of a living body.  Already the air was sweetened with the fragrance of ripe decay.

    He crossed the threshold in a single long step to allow his fingers to inspect the corpse that blighted eyes could not, his touch as delicate as it had been to her in life. Gently, he lifted her lifeless wrist to his lips as though seeking a pulse.

    Death had taken her in her bed. It had arrived on footsteps more silent, had come more swiftly and struck with more certainty than the vampire had managed. Her blood pooled sluggishly in her heavy limbs, useless and bitter. Her lips were parted and, for a brief moment, Tariq imagined she had squandered her last breath calling out for him.

    For many seconds, he was still. Silence reigned in the house of death. A shudder of impotent wrath that his prey had been taken from him rattled through his old bones, trembling out the tips of his tattered wings. The point of his claws raked the thin skin of her wrist as he allowed it to fall to the bed with a sound like splitting wood, the sliced veins that were unable to yield their crimson bloom a further insult to the seething predator.

    Wearing his resentful silence as a mourner wears black, the bat slipped from the tight confines of the makeshift crypt.  When a neighbor finally thought to check on her the next day the only sign of his company was the grinning slash that disfigured her slender neck from ear to ear, her head thrown back as if in the throes of pleasure clinging to her spine by a single skein of skin.

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