Photo by nrd on Unsplash

Cold Blood

Five faces turned to her, their bloodshot eyes and snowlike skin shined through the bleak lighting.

Sheriff Hayes stood in a sticky pool of someone else’s blood, staring blankly at the bathroom mirror. She was done with the mourning, the sobbing, the bargaining with God — all she had left was the hate in her heart and a 30–30, lever-action rifle. The cannibals had devoured her first and last love, Jacob, and nearly the entire Bandera community in the last few hours; nothing else really mattered anymore. She barely recognized the person staring back at her. The blue eyes and red hair were that won her the Bandera beauty pageant years ago were by a tired expression and the marks of father time. She lifted the butt of her rifle and smashed the mirror. The shards formed into a reflective mosaic as the blood below flowed between the jagged pieces. She was ready to end this.

Looking through the back window of the Sheriff’s office, Hayes watched as the last of the townsfolk drove off towards San Antonio. Their trucks spat dirt and smog as they disappeared into the darkness. Hayes checked her phone again, it still read no service in the top-left corner. She looked at the time before stuffing it back into her pocket.

4:37 am

She tip-toed to the front of the office, taking a quick peak through the doors marked: Bandera Sheriff’s Department. The main drag was littered with hundreds of eviscerated bodies. They covered the streets, hung out of windows, and balanced precariously on the rooftops above. Blood and darkness were all that was left, all except for a lit-up building at the end of the road, with a sign reading: The Silver Dollar Saloon. Hayes pulled a ring of keys out from her cargo pocket and turned the insides of the padlock before removing the chain from the front door. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, knowing that it could very well be her last.

Her first steps outside echoed liked tossed bricks falling on asphalt. She held her rifle in a ready position as she inched toward the inevitable violence, lurking behind the doors of the Silver Dollar. She had spotted three cannibals terrorizing the town a few hours ago, but now there was no one in sight. The wide-eyed faces of the dead continued to keep her company in the silence.

The shutters of the local BBQ joint slammed open, causing Hayes to direct her weapon at the sound. There was nothing. A violent gust of wind pushed tumbleweeds across her path, nearly blowing her hat away in the process. She pushed down the crease of her rancher hat and redirect her attention towards the Silver Dollar.

The saloon was now less than 30 yards away. Hayes could hear music slithering out from beneath the front doors. The modern Jukebox inside had pretty much every song in existence on it, but the tune that played sent a rush of cold sweat down her spine. She had heard the song when she was young. It was classical, Mozart or Beethoven, maybe. All Hayes knew was that no one in Bandera had ever played a song like that. She was heading the right way.

Hayes stood in front of the saloon’s front doors, her hands shaking wildly. She could feel death on the other side. She paused as tears ran down her face, and the heat of anger filled her lungs. Hayes had lost everything she had ever loved, and she knew that the killers were just on the other side of the double doors in front of her. Her thoughts stopped and her mind focused as she swung down the lever of her rifle, loading a round into the chamber. The cannibals inside heard the rifle, and the music stopped. Hayes firmly thrusted her boot into the doors, splintering the wood and swinging them wide open.

Five faces turned to her, their bloodshot eyes and snowlike skin shined through the bleak lighting. Hayes glanced down from their collective gaze and noticed a pool of dark blood beneath the closest face. She locked eyes with the pale man as he grinned, revealing a mouth full of meat and fangs. He spoke as blood dribbled down his chin.

“Hi Sheriff. Want to hear something funny? Did you know that moments before death, my victims often tell me that having their blood sucked is incredibly intoxicating. It’s not all that bad if you keep an open mind and don’t mind a little blood,” he laughed. “Care to find out what it feels like? I promise I’ll be real gentle with you.”

“Fuck you,” Hayes replied.

She snapped her rifle to eye-level and placed the man’s head at the center of her sights. Before he could react, she squeezed the trigger, sending the spiraling bullet through his skull. Brains and blood painted the wall behind him. His body crashed against the floor like a bowling ball as Hayes racked in the next round. She turned to another cannibal and attempted to line up a shot, but the four white bodies skittered up the walls and around the bar’s corners like insects. A voice crept from the darkness in the rafters above.

“You know, we were just going to eat you, but now we’re going to see how slowly we can eat you while you’re still alive,” the voice said.

Before Hayes could respond, all four cannibals shot out from their hiding spots in a coordinated attack.

Gunshots rattled through Hayes’ rifle as white skulls exploded and liquor bottles crashed in the background. Three of the cannibals were dead, but the leader got a hold of Hayes’ weapon and split it in half with one swipe of his fingernails. He grabbed Hayes by the throat and threw her violently through the swinging doors of the Saloon’s kitchen. Hayes quickly rose to her feet and grabbed a butcher knife off the nearby counter. The squeaking of the swinging doors were the only noise she could hear over her panicked breathing. As she backed into the corner of the kitchen floor, she heard the switching of a circuit breaker before all of the lights shut off. She could only see an arm’s length in front of her. A brief moment of silence ensued until she heard a hand grab one of the swinging doors. She then heard the hand slowly push it open.

Hayes’ eyes desperately scanned the room as footsteps crept closer. She began to move along the side of the wall and inch her way to the back exit. Her free hand felt blindly behind her, searching for the door. The footsteps became louder, sounding no more than ten feet away. The leader’s voice was so close to Hayes’ face that she could feel smell the stench of his breath.

“Do you know that I can see you perfectly right now? My kind thrives in the darkness,” he said.

“Your kind?” Hayes asked. “You mean psychopathic fuck faces?” She blindly swung the butcher’s knife at the air in front of her.

“Hmm, we’ve have been given a lot of names over the years, but that’s a new one,” he replied.

“I can hear your heart pounding within your chest. I wonder how long a human can sit in the face of death before it explodes. That would be a sight.”

Hayes ignored his remarks and moved faster towards the exit. She could finally feel the long, bar of the back door against her left hand. Right before pushing against it, she felt an ice-cold hand wrap around her wrist.

“Not so fast,” the voice whispered.

She quickly swung the knife but was halted by another death-like appendage. The leader picked her up by her wrists and pulled them wide like an impromptu crucifixion. Hayes’ had now only realized that this man was well over seven feet tall.

“I think I’m going to slowly pull you apart before I feast on your body. I hate to admit it, but I really enjoy playing with my food.”

Hayes felt her arms stretch, the muscles and tendons burned like never before. She screamed in agonizing pain as her arms reluctantly stretched beyond their normal limits. The man’s red eyes rolled in the back of his head out of pure ecstasy. Hayes could feel the light in her quickly fading out.

In a last-ditch effort, she lifted her boots as high as she could and violently shot them into the man’s face. The unexpected pain caused him to shriek and throw Hayes to the ground. She quickly stood up and barreled through the back door, sending orange rays of light into the kitchen. The man’s eyes widened with fear and he began to liquefy right before her eyes.

Hayes stood still, arms hanging loose, not exactly sure what was happening. The man had was shrinking into a steaming puddle of flesh and blood, his pained voice left Hayes with one final remark.

“My family…they will come for you,” he murmured before completely melting into a pile of slush.

Hayes didn’t have to wait long for the San Antonio PD, the FBI, and the news trucks to show up. Unsurprisingly, no one believed her account of the previous night’s events. When she warned federal investigators of her “run in with the vampire race,” they stripped her of her badge and told her to find a new line of work. Outside of conspiracy theorists, most were comfortable with calling the Bandera massacre “one big meth-trip gone wrong.”

After the bodies were collected and reports were punched in, no one stayed in the small Texas town, no one except Kelley Hayes. She decided to take the FBI’s advice and get started on a new job. More vampires would visit soon and Haye’s would show them her definition of “southern hospitality.”

She spent the next few days collecting guns and ammo from local shops and building traps all around the main drag. Two weeks later, as she sat in the Silver Dollar Saloon, next to a line of molotov cocktails, she heard a familiar shriek in the distance. She threw back a shot of whiskey and stepped outside, rifle in hand, ready to greet Bandera’s newest visitors.

Daytime copywriter, fiction enthusiast.

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