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Valentine

Darkpine Valley

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The engine of the Pontiac GTO muscle car roared with bubbling menace as it glided through the winding roads framed by nationally-protected forest on either side. The enormous pine trees glistened off the ruby red, well-maintained body of the vintage car. A voice wailed from inside the car, the radio playing 'Immigrant Song' by Led Zeppelin. A pale hand tapped on the driver's wheel, their nails almost like claws, filed to a point and painted with black nail polish. She leant back in her chair and shoved her boot up against the wheel, holding it steady. Reaching into her black jean pocket, she pulled out a black lipstick and re-applied then took the wheel once more. Her amber-coloured eyes glanced at her road map. The town of Darkpine was only another mile into the heart of the national forest.

Up until the 1980's, Darkpine had been a mining and logging town. When the surrounding forest became protected land, all industry stopped and Darkpine became focused on conservation, education, and wildlife protection, which brought in tourists and all kinds, but it kept the town afloat. So said the flyer, at least. She wasn't coming to Darkpine for the conservation though, unless that is, it was her own. 

Her name was Alice, and she had seen a few things. A few things that most people would scarcely believe, even if they saw for themselves. She brushed her medium-length scruffy raven hair out of her face and refocused on the road. She saw a sign approaching but her keen eyes quickly noticed it was so worn that it was illegible. There was a gas station coming up, and from there, several roads going in every which way. She'd have to stop and ask for directions. Alice pulled into the gas station and killed the engine. The music continued to wail until she hit pause and got out of the car. As she did so, two men stepped out of the gas station shop and approached with a wave.
"Evenin' miss!" The man called out, "Hang on--" He leaned over and pressed a button, the gas station lit up with an assortment of lights. "Sorry, I know it's already pretty dark but we're savin' energy, gotta be mindful o' the environment, y'know?" 
Alice smirked, canines gleaming, "Sure." She looked the man up and down. He was tall, balding, wearing denims. Alice glanced behind him and her eyes were met by the second man. This man, she did not like. She recognised in something she knew all too familiar. He was quiet. He was meticulous. He was a predator. When her eyes caught his, he looked away sharp.

"So," She turned back to the man in denim, "Which way to Darkpine?" 
"Darkpine!?" Denim repeated, blinking in surprise, "What'd ya wanna go there for, Miss--?" 
"Alice. Do people need reasons t'go places these days? What's it to you?" Alice asked, putting a hand on her hip, her tone accusatory.
"Oh no, nothing. Just bein' curious is all, sorry, Miss. Take the road to the left there, you'll be on Darkpine in no time."
"Thank ye." She nodded to him, then jerked her head at his colleague who was now walking back to the pumps, "What's up with him?"
"Oh, don't mind him, Tom's a good kid, wouldn't hurt a fly." He brushed her off, "Name's Jack. I'm the only gas station for miles, well..." He paused, irritably. 
"Well?" Alice asked, her brow raising.
"Besides that one in Darkpine, lord knows how they got the contract to that town when i'm stuck out here on Route 14, but--" Jack took a deep breath and shook his head, "That family's old as this wood, so what's a guy t'do?" He laughed and started back towards the pumps. "Bathrooms over yonder," Jack nodded in their direction, "If you want something to eat, or fuel up or anything just come in the shop, we'll sort you out." And with that, he left. Alice whipped the keys around on her finger a few times, considering her options. Throwing the keys into the air, she snatched them and shoved them into her pocket. 

The gas station door jingled as it opened. Jack's eyes lit up and he nodded to her, "What'd ya need?" 
"Wanna fill up the tank for me?" Alice asked, flashing a wad of notes. She paid for the gas upfront and walked outside as both Jack and Tom rushed to service the car. Jack grabbed the gas and started filling it up, while Tom was hoovering the inside. Alice tapped her short-cut leather jacket. She felt the pack of cigarettes inside and reached in, pulling one out and lighting it. She took a deep drag, savouring the flavour for a moment, then exhaled it from her nose like a dragon and wandered into the women's bathroom.

To her great surprise, the bathroom was incredibly clean. She figured they didn't get many visitors. She crossed the bathroom and entered the furthest stall. She had time enough to close the door, when she heard the bathroom door open, and a second person walked in. To the average person, it could have been anyone. But Alice knew who it was. She recognised his smell. She felt the weight of his footsteps. And he favoured his right leg. His heart was also beating out of his chest, just as it had been when he first saw her pull up. The old work boots stomped across the slightly damp tiled floor. She heard him pause at the first stall.

Alice walked to the back of her stall, put the seat of the toilet down, and sat upon it. A few more steps. The door to the second stall was knocked open. A moment's silence. Then more footsteps. She looked to the bottom of the stall, and saw a shadow cast from the other side. She could feel the heat of his body. Then it happened.
Tom kicked the stall door open with a single attempt and took one step towards her. He didn't speak, he didn't even really acknowledge her. He let out a long-held breath, and advanced.

 


 

"Aww for Christ sake, would you look at all o' this..." Police Chief Andy Marchand growled in disgust. He had just arrived after poor Jack, the owner of the gas station on route 14 had reported an animal attack. Whatever it was had gotten Tom. There was nothing to be done. When Andy stepped under the yellow police tape and walked into the bathroom, he had to steel himself or lose the contents of his stomach. It was bad. Real bad. 

He almost tripped on something as the front of his foot got caught. He looked down to see a clutched hand and stumbled back, "Aww Christ, geezus!!" He croaked, but he hadn't even seen the worst of it. Blood everywhere. On the walls. On the ceiling, still dripping down onto them like it was raining indoors. The body was in several pieces, and it had lost most of the blood. That much was obvious, from the copious amounts splattered on everything in the bathroom, and the grey, wrinkled body.
"Fuck." Andy cursed, clenching his fists. "FUCK!!" His yell echoed across the bathroom. A flash brought him back to his senses and he saw a woman taking photographs of the fallout. Another flash from her camera. "Hey!" He called out to her, "You got a sec?" Andy asked.
"Sure." She let the camera fall limp around her neck and carefully crossed the room, missing the worst of the blood pools. "What's up, Chief?"
"Is this the only body?" He queried.
"Yep. Jack said there was a girl came through here not long before the attack, but luckily she left before whatever it was took out poor Tom over there... and there... and there." She pointed at the dismembered arm.
"Well i'd like to speak to her, maybe she saw something before she left, or maybe she left quick because it was already there when she left..." Andy rubbed his face, running his hand through his thick moustache as he often did when he found himself thinking. "Did you get a name?!" He yelled out to Jack, who refused to come back inside the bathroom.

 


 

"WoooOO!" Alice hooted, "Now we're cookin' wit' gas!" Her playful drawl was unmistakably from New Orleans. The Pontiac sped past a sign saying 'Welcome to Darkpine!', as Alice used her long tongue, to lap up the last streaks of blood on her lips. Darkpine was a small town, population of a few thousand. Most everybody knew everybody. Facebook made that all too clear. Alice threw her phone onto the passenger seat and then glanced up in the rearview mirror. "Dang it!" She pursed her lips as she reached back for her lipstick again. She found it and looked at the road ahead. She was coming up on the other side of the town, almost home. One last road, pub on the left. Not a car or person in sight.

Alice glanced up, quickly grabbing her lipstick. She rolled it across her lips, pursed and rolled her lips so that it re-applied. Her eyes caught movement in her periphery but by the time she looked, it was too late. A drunk, stumbled out into the middle of the round, and she had been speeding. There was nothing Alice could do. An instant later, she hit the man, her windshield cracked and he flew out ahead of her as she brought her car to a screeching halt. The man hit the concrete, she heard a terrible 'crack' and he tumbled and finally hit a tree on the other side of the street. Alice hesitated behind the wheel. Alice felt the need to bail on this situation looming. Self-preservation. She was very good at that. But now she wasn't sure. Alice hesitated. But then she saw a couple walking towards the body. "Aw SHIT!!" Alice leapt out of her car and sprinted towards the couple, "Sir! Ma'am!!" She yelled out.

"Hey is that man--" The man squinted in the darkness, the nearest street lamp was too far away.
Alice caught up to them, "Sorry folks, sorry! Don't mind my friend, he's had one too many."
"He looks hurt!" The woman gasped.
"Hurt?!" Alice whipped her head back to look at the man. He looked, well... he looked dead. His limbs were splayed in all directions and his neck was definitely snapped. But then she realised. It was as though it hadn't registered at first. This man, the one she had hit with her car, was not dead. Well, he was dead. But only as much as she was. Alice looked him up and down, "Well... maybe a little more dead..." She thought aloud.
"What--?!" The man yelled in surprise, "Did I hear that right?!" 
"Bed... BED!!" Alice clicked her fingers at them and laughed, "Sorry. Bed. Maybe he needs a little more bed, y'know. Time to sleep." She ran over to him and picked him up, "See he's fine look, he's helping me carry his weight look, i'm five foot nothin' and half his weight, for sure." The man looked to the woman and she shook her head insistently and the pair darted off.
"Right then..." Alice muttered, turning and hoisting the corpse of the man onto her shoulder effortlessly. "Come on, then, best get you home..." 

 


 

With the Pontiac parked, Alice got out of the car and pulled the stranger's corpse with her, shutting the door behind them and locked it. "Welcome to ma maison!" She cooed as she walked up the drive to a modern-looking house with lots of glass - though it was all deeply tinted, nothing could be seen of the house inside. "Just like the estate agent said--" She pulled the house keys from inside the soil of the potted plant beside the door. Opening the door, she pulled the corpse inside and shut the front door behind her and locked it.
"Best get ya some fresh clothes or somethin'..." He was mangled. Alice frowned and went into the kitchen and came back with two glasses and three bags of blood. The first bag, she pierced with one of her nails and then emptied the contents down the corpse's throat. Then she stood over him, grabbed his head and with incredible precision - perhaps as though she had done this a great many times before - she snapped his neck back into place. Then she sat back down, and pierced the other two bags and emptied them into the glasses. By the time they were full, she heard moaning. She brought one to her lips and took a sip, then offered the other to the man who still had several bad injuries that required healing.
"So..." Alice held the glass out to him, "You're a vampire? Like me, then." She smirked, her canines hanging over her bottom lip.

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