Short STory

The stranger

 

I met him during a walk back from my shift at the bar. It had been a long and uneventful one. A few people came for fun times, others came to drown their sorrows. But neither were exciting. For eight long hours I served and I mixed drinks, and now walking home I thought it was just another day and I’d awaken for the next one to repeat.

For the sake of some excitement in my night, I chose to walk through some bush along a path I used to jog on when I was in TAFE. Thanks to my old classmate, Genna, I knew the paths well and felt safe traveling along the fairly lit path.

But then I saw the man dressed in Victorian attire, cane and all, and beside him were two dead bodies.

He was looking down at them, nudging one with his cane and clicking his tongue in clear unamusement. I was frozen where I stood, unable to scream, gasp or even grab my phone and call the police or an ambulance. As I stood there like an idiot the man turned to me and smiled. My stomach flipped itself inside out, spilling out my fear and anxieties. Was he going to kill me? I thought as he began walking toward me, barely leaning on that cane of his.

“Evening miss,” he greeted. His accent wasn’t too shocking to me. It was, as the clothes would dictate, a formal form of British. Not cockney or any other form. Just…formal.

I did not respond to him. I just stared at the bodies and him, counting every second I may have had left. He tilted his head and then turned back to look at the carnage behind him. Then he chuckled softly and drummed his gloved fingers along his cane. “Ah yes that, I imagine that would be rather disheartening to see. But do not be alarmed, miss, it is not what it seems like to you.”

“Did you…kill them?” I managed to say. I tried to sound brave, but my voice betrayed me.

The man leaned on his cane and hummed. “Well…yes. Yes I did kill these poor sods. However, I was within reason. You see, these fellows were vampires and I am a hunter. Had they not been killed tonight they may have attacked a poor bystander such as yourself.”

My fear, at the drop of a hat, became confusion. Vampires? Hunter? Was this man mad? We are in Australia, how on earth would a vampire survive here? Clearly my confusion amused him because he chuckled and shook his head, then offered his arm.

“You seem quite confused my dear, and I can understand that. I will tell you but first we must depart from this area. I believe that speaking amongst the dead- or the dead undead, in this case- is a bad omen. I do believe I saw a restaurant nearby that is still open. Perhaps we could talk there?”

My instincts were screaming at me, loud enough to burst my eardrums if they could indeed speak like a sentient person. But in my stupidity, I took his arm and let him lead me away from the bodies which, before my very eyes, had begun to turn to ashes and bone. I wanted to talk about it, but instead I followed silently and clung to the stranger’s arm.

We walked for a bit along the path, which now felt alien to me, until we got to the main cement walkway by the road. As we walked down the path by the road I looked over at cars and wondered what would happen if I ran from his grasp and hailed a driver. But still I walked at his side, now feeling an odd sense of comfort.

Then we made it to the restaurant. It was a McDonalds.

We went in, ordered food, sat at the first table we saw (him pulling my chair out for me which I will admit made me feel like a princess) and talked. I sat there, sipping my large diet coke, and listened to him as he explained everything.

“My name is Garth Nethercote, and I am one hundred and eighty-eight years old. I am a nephalem from England during the early 19th century and I have been given the rather dreadful task of hunting and killing vampires and other nasty ghouls. I am…not supposed to be seen by mortals but appears that you had stumbled upon me in the wrong place at the wrong time. But thankfully you didn’t come a minute earlier. I may not have been able to protect you.”

I could only nod. It all sounded…insane…but I had seen two bodies turn to ash and bones like vampires did in movies. Maybe this man was crazy, but I felt I could not deny what I saw. But I had to know more. There had to be more. But just as I swallowed my mouthful of soft drink he stood up and grabbed his cane.

“I ought to be off. Midnight is nigh and I mustn’t be late for bed. Sleep is vital for one such as myself.”

He turned to leave but I shot to my feet, almost knocking my drink over. “Wait!” I called. He turned to look back at me with grace and poise. “I…I have so many questions and I still do not know if I believe you yet!”

He paused and then smiled before placing something down on the table. It was small and rectangular. “You’ll find me,” was all he said and then he left like a fading memory.

I stood there, stunned, until I mustered up the courage to look at what it was he placed down. It was a card with only an address on it. I stared at it and took a breath. I may know nothing now, but I will find him and learn more. I need to know more.

© Olivia Masterfield                                                                     March 2022

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