H O R R O R

Mmmm...tastes like...chicken!

How Time Flies

by Eric O. Tennyson

 

Bennie Mox was sprawled in a corner staring at the setting sun. His eyes were listless and his lumpy shoulders were rigid. Bennie's rather large mouth was open in the shape of an O, revealing his perfectly capped teeth. A trace of drool had almost dried down his chin.

You see, Bennie Mox was dead. Deader than a doornail, Salem thought. A real friggin' mess. Bennie had passed on. He was ... no more.

Salem grinned to no one as he thought of the old Monty Python dead-parrot sketch. John Cleese had purchased a parrot from a pet store that the owner had nailed to its perch. The parrot just sat there, stiff as a board.

Bennie Mox looked like that bird. The only exception was that this was real. What could never possibly happen had occurred. Mox was dead with a jagged clump of flesh missing from his neck, making that area resemble a crater. He had been cannibalized, eaten ... dinnerized.

Police detective Danny Salem had seen this only once before, a short time ago. He knew that it was only a matter of time before it happened again. It was as if a clock had been set to blare an alarming scream to the world.

The time had come.

That's what Bennie Mox's frigid corpse seemed to say to Salem.

The voice in his head told the detective to act quickly, but his mind was stuck in mud. His brain churned around and around, trying to take in what he believed was happening.

All that Danny Salem could think of was time.

The time of Bennie Mox's untimely demise. How much time had elapsed since then. Salem was at the scene of the crime and possible outbreak earlier than he thought he would be. His wife was late getting home from work, something that he thought would never happen, because she was a very time-oriented person. In fact, his wife was very behind schedule in coming home.

"Probably that damn pediatrician," Salem uttered into the empty alleyway.

Salem's wife worked at County Memorial Hospital as a nurse and had repeatedly told her husband of the growing advances of the residing pediatrician, Dr. Bradley Frazier. Frazier had been slyly trying to feel her up with his hawk-like eyes. The staring later moved to Dr. Brad attempting to caress her shoulders, and then even to having the brass to ask her out.

Salem remembered that when his wife told him this, he had balled up his fists and wanted to give good old Doctor Brad a proctology exam with the Smith & Wesson in his lock box in the upstairs bedroom.

His wife had told him not to get involved, that she would handle it. That was her way of telling Danny that he could end up on the other end of the cell if he decided to pay a "house call" on the good doctor.

He stood at 6 foot 4, and Detective Danny Salem was a man who looked like a bottle of whiskey. Broad shoulders and a muscular frame were due to several hours in the gym, something that Salem was proud he had kept up with even though he was pushing 40. He was known throughout the town as something of a peacemaker and had used force, sometimes excessively and physically, to keep the crime in check. Salem had even started to build up a reputation for it, and recently had been thinking of possibly running for county sheriff. The use of force was the reason that his wife had not wanted him to get involved with Dr. Slick. She had wanted to take care of the matter by herself.

She was a tough cookie too, Salem thought with a smile. He knew that she would be able to take care of the situation.

However, Salem's wife had called him the night before and sounded strange. An odd tremble wracked her voice on the telephone as she told him that Dr. Brad had been acting strange and had seemed very sick.

"He's really pale and is babbling on and on like a loon, Danny-boy," she said. His wife had called him Danny-boy since they first met and became high school sweethearts over 25 years ago. It was just one of the several reasons why he loved her.

She continued with the conversation by saying, "Things here just don't seem right ... they feel out of whack ... strange."

Salem did not like the pauses in her voice. That worried him. They had been married long enough to develop that special "psychic link" that spouses seem to have.

Before he had a chance to ask her what else was going on, she quickly said that she had to go as they were receiving another patient in. The patient seemed to be showing the same symptoms that the good doctor had.

"That makes 20 people we've seen tonight who have been like this," his wife stated. "I have to go now, darling. I'll be home as soon as I can. I love you, Danny-boy," she whispered into his ear, the phone beginning to ring with faint static. Then a dial tone, as the phone had been clanged down rapidly.

That was a lifetime ago. Salem thought to himself that she should have been home a long time ago.

The detective slicked his jet-black hair back, as a shard had dropped into his eyes. His large hands raked across the two-day-old stubble on his face, and he began to stare at the very dead Bennie Mox.

Mox was a waste of living space. A two-bit criminal who thought he was a gangsta and the world was his for the taking. Salem had been keeping an eye on Mox for months, and was tracking his crystal meth sales in preparation for the area's biggest drug bust in years.

A sliver of caked blood had nested on Mox's shiny white skin. Salem stared at the man and knew what he would find if an autopsy was done on the man. The same thing that was found in the death of Christopher Benoit, a dried-up husk that Salem had been called out to earlier this evening.

Benoit had been found without life by a rookie cop who quickly had blown his lunch after gazing upon Benoit's torn throat, his head hanging from his neck as if on a thread. No blood was found on the scene or apparently in Benoit's body. It was like someone (or something, Salem thought) had used the ex-city councilman as a Slurpee.

"Hope he was good to the last drop," Salem tittered aloud.

Oh God, he thought, don't lose it now, Danny-boy. There's not enough time.

Benoit's body was also propped against a stop light with his arms straight out in the shape of a cross. No one at the moment could figure that one out. But now, with what seems to be happening, Salem knew that it wouldn't take Sherlock Holmes to figure it out.

They're mocking us.

Salem knew that was a chilling fact. Also, the fact that Benoit had been placed under a traffic light wasn't the only strange item. The real strangeness to it was that someone had switched the traffic control device to constantly keep flashing yellow-orange.

Caution.

Salem believed that what occurred to Christopher Benoit, beloved father of four, was a warning. The time had come.

At first Salem had thought that Benoit's killer was human, maybe someone with an "undead" hang-up. The loss of blood, torn throat and cross ... all could have been done by some kook who had seen too many serial killers or Bela Lugosi flicks.

All that changed on the way to the morgue.

Salem had hopped aboard the meat wagon to ride along with the young ambulance technician on duty. He wanted to see what Coroner Adellman had to say about the dead man.

The ambulance entered the Monroe tunnel, a long, dark and winding piece of roadway that was the quickest way to their destination. The inside of the ambulance began to grow very dark. Salem was sitting with his legs crossed at the side of the body thinking about his wife when he heard the scratching. It was very faint at first, and then gained in volume. The sound was rough and grainy, and when Salem glanced at the white cover that was draped across the dead man, he turned the same color as the cloth.

Something was moving under the cover.

It was very slow at first, but the detective could see what looked like long nails protruding from under Benoit's death shroud. The ambulance technician began to babble with his mouth slanted open. A wet spot crept across his pants.

The stretcher that Benoit had been placed on began to shake violently, clanging against the cold metal of the ambulance. A bony white claw shot out from underneath the sheet and pulled it away.

There, in the middle of the moving and dark ambulance, stood the esteemed city councilman.

And it appeared that he was a vampire. So much for the kook theory, Salem thought in disbelief.

Benoit's face was pale, so translucent that you could see the veins underneath his skin. His head was still attached to his neck, but barely, as the weight made his face tilt to the side. His mouth was open, revealing a set of incisors that seemed to gleam in the cold fluorescent lighting. His black tongue rolled around his cheeks and you could almost see it through the skin. A gnarled hand reached up to his (its) face, and clumsily brushed a piece of gray hair away. And, believe it or not, Benoit's fly was open. Such was Salem's uncanny knack for scoping out details.

The Benoit/monster/thing stopped a few feet in front of Salem and pointed a claw his way.

"Come with me," it rattled in a gravel-filled voice. "Join the new way, brother."

Salem could not comprehend that his body was weighted down like a sack of bricks. He couldn't move at all. Salem was a puppet without strings and was ready to do anything that the elder man wanted. With horror, the detective realized that he was walking towards the outstretched hands ... or rather talons ... of Benoit.

As Danny Salem prepared to meet that big badge in the sky, a funny thing happened. Or, it seemed kind of amusing later.

The ambulance technician, who had seemed to revert to a five-year-old, quickly changed back to an "adult." Instead of screaming at Benoit, the kid fainted dead way. As he was falling face forward, the tech's arm wrapped around an oxygen cannister near the aisle and brought it crashing to the metal floorboard with a resounding CLANG!

The commotion started the Benoit/thing and its tilted head revolved over to the kid -- or what Salem would later think of as "the Entree."

The newly living dead creature hoisted its hanging head in the opposite direction and began to make its way over to the recently fainted. Salem was able to shake the cobwebs out of his head and tried to shoo away the motes that floated in front of his face. It felt as if he had been drugged and was coming out of a stupor.

As the looming shape towered over the kid, Salem suddenly knew what he had to do. He hoped that the numerous scary movies he had watched as a scrawny teenager were true ... or half-true. The monster was up in the ambulance during the daytime, and that did not bode well for vampire lore. However, Salem thought that they must be able to move about in extreme darkness, such as the blackness that surrounded the vehicle during the tunnel ride.

The kid had regained consciousness just as Benoit grabbed him. That was a very bad thing. Salem wished the guy was still passed out, especially when the screaming began again.

Benoit's teeth (they were actually fangs, Salem noted) sank into the kid's neck with a crunchy sound, tearing back bone and popping up blood in an arc. The kid began to thrash about in a high-pitched scream full of terror and pain. Afterwards, it almost sounded like contentment. His eyes were wide, knowing what would be his fate.

The worst part of the entire scenario -- besides Benoit's fly being open, of course -- was the creature's jagged smile as the blood came into its mouth and was slurped down with a hungry frenzy.

As Salem fully came out of his haze, Benoit had grabbed the kid and lifted him with ease at least three feet off of the floor and was now basically TIPPING him upside down like a baby's bottle, trying to drain more life out of him.

Salem yanked loose the emergency ax that was hanging on the side of the vehicle. With a mighty motion, he cracked the wooden handle in two pieces, creating one shard that came to a semi-point.

Praying that the works of Stoker and King were on the level, Salem ran to the back of the ambulance where Benoit had the dead emergency worker hoisted up.

"Nighty-night, Drac," Salem screamed, and then jammed the ax handle piece through the back of the beast.

A soft squishing noise could be heard before Benoit bellowed in rage and pain. The handle appeared through the chest and the tattered remains of the blue pinstriped suit that Benoit's wife, Harriet, had purchased two weeks earlier at Sears. The suit then caught on fire after the wooden handle had pierced the heart of what was standing there.

Wooden object + pierced heart = one dead vampire.

The thing that had been Benoit was now screaming. No, in fact, it was howling ... loudly. The veins that could be seen through its skin earlier, pumping out the lifeblood of the emergency technician, were now rupturing. Crimson and gore spewed over the walls of the ambulance. A blue-tinted flame engulfed Benoit, and then with a flash Benoit was gone. One second Benoit was there in undead glory; the next second there was nothing.

Salem blinked his eyes slowly, trying to take in all that had transpired in a matter of minutes.

Again, it was all about time.

The ambulance came to a halt then as it reached the county morgue right out of the tunnel. The ambulance driver flipped open the back door and stared dumbfounded into the inside of the vehicle and its blood -soaked walls and single occupant.

"Did I miss something?" the driver asked, and then vomited onto the pavement.

All Salem could do was stare at the man's watch and wonder how much time was left before more of this started to happen.

* * *

The detective turned his head back to the dead Benny Mox and checked his own gold watch.

6:35 p.m. Ten minutes until sundown.

Ten minutes to wait and see if Mox would cross over from the realm of the dead to the land of the living.

After the Benoit "situation," Salem had just enough time to change clothes at his empty house before he received the phone call from his department about Mox being found dead in a back alleyway behind the local pool hall. Salem still wanted to know about his wife and why she was not home yet, but things were beginning to liven up in the town and were getting quite freaky. Salem reluctantly got in his car and took off to find out about Mox and how his scheduled drug bust would never happen if the hood was in fact dead.

On the way to the scene, Salem heard quite a bit of police dispatch traffic about several dead bodies mysteriously popping up around town. The entire department was now out handling calls relating to the sudden and violent deaths of Mayor Robert Harden, old Mrs. Stitworth, Frank Holloway, Darin Casper, Dominick Fontana ... the list kept growing by the minute and Salem had a pretty good idea what caused their demise. He had to be sure first, though. Didn't want everyone to think he was losing his sanity.

My God, Salem thought, how did they get to us so quickly? Did they come in the dead of the night in packs to take us away? Did they come with the moon high in the sky to thieve our souls? Why would they do this? So many questions, Salem believed.

Not enough time for answers.

They seem to use the stealth of darkness and the power of disbelief to get us. If he had to stake each and every one of them, he would do so. With a smile and with excessive force.

6:38 p.m.

The sun was almost a dim bulb in the horizon now. The alley had grown darker and was being overtaken by the shadows.

Salem was about to take out the fence post from home that he had quickly sharpened to use as a weapon against the creatures that had invaded his town when he heard a faint voice.

"Danny," the voice whispered like faraway bells.

Salem spun around, stake in hand, to glance down the alleyway. He squinted and yelled out, "Who's there ... identify yourself NOW!"

There was nothing in reply. Deafening silence.

6:40 p.m. Five minutes before Bennie Mox would join the ranks of the undead.

Salem turned back to the drug dealer and was ready to dismiss the voice as his imagination, when he heard it again ... this time closer.

"Daaaaaannnnnnyyyyyy. Daaaaaannnnnnnyyyyyyyy-boy," came the hushed, familiar voice again.

This time Salem moved down the alley, trying to see if anyone was there.

Still nothing. Nada. Nil.

His heartbeat was racing and sweat began to pour down his face.

"It has to be my nerves," Salem muttered.

That was right before something dark floated by and knocked the detective to the ground. Salem jumped up and looked around to find empty space again. The alleyway seemed to be closing in, but was void for now except for Bennie Mox, who was dead.

6:42 p.m. In three minutes, Mox would not be dead anymore.

"Daaannnyy-boy," came the silky-smooth whisper from right behind his ear. Salem twirled around to find nothing but air. His heart raced harder, building up to a deafening roar in his head.

He felt a tap at his shoulder and spun back around again.

It was his wife. She was standing right in front of him in the darkened alley, dressed in her white work clothes. She looked stunning, Salem thought. Her skin like ebony, a radiant hue around her curvy body. Her long, blonde hair seemed to flow outward away from her head. She seemed to be able to glide on the air. And her eyes. Oh ... her eyes.

Detective Danny Salem's wife stood in front of him, not late anymore. She was a vampire.

She smiled at Salem and he saw that what at first looked like lipstick was in fact dried blood.

"Come to me Danny," she/it cooed. "Come to me, my sweet. We can always be together. We can be joined as one."

She was so close, but Salem felt as though he was in a faraway place, detached from the rest of the world. Her voice was so sweet, so beautiful, so peaceful.

6:44 p.m. One minute and counting before this would become a tag team effort.

Salem tried to pull himself from the fog. He began to backtrack away from his undead wife.

6:44 p.m. and 15 seconds.

Salem's wife floated towards him, arms outstretched, long teeth shining in the moonlight.

"I want you forever, Danny-boy," she moaned.

Salem didn't want to do what needed to be done. He couldn't do that to her. Hell, he had known her for what seemed like an eternity. She was always there for him when he needed to unload his feelings to her about the grind of being a police officer. She had to deal with the long hours, the nights alone, the days worrying if he was going to come home.

Why did it have to be her, Salem wondered. Why her?

6:44 p.m. and 30 seconds.

Bennie Mox began to shudder and a long, loud belch of air came out of his mouth. His claw-forming hand jutted out and reached toward the crater in his neck where he had been bitten. Mox opened his eyes. They were two beacons of hate and rage and hunger. He turned his gaze to burn into Salem.

The detective knew that he would soon be a vampire sandwich.

6:44 p.m. and 45 seconds.

Salem's wife moved closer to him and licked her bloodstained lips. She was almost upon him, and Salem could hear Mox's bones popping like twigs as he began to rise from his spot in the alley corner.

Salem wanted to drown himself in his wife's eyes. He wanted to join her forever. He did not want to let her go.

"I love you, darling," he whispered and moved to her length-wise arms, noticing that her hands had turned to razor-sharp knives.

She took him in her deadly grasp and rolled her black tongue across her fangs. Her breath stank with rotten meat.

6:44 p.m. and 50 seconds.

Husband and wife embraced. A tear rolled down Salem's face. His wife moved her pointed teeth down on his neck.

He moved his pointed fence post through her chest.

At first, she pursed her lips in a look of surprise. Then she screamed. Very loudly. The sound exploded a plate glass window belonging to Ruby's Hardware two blocks away. Those shrieks would haunt Danny Salem for the rest of his life.

His wife disappeared in a flame of light. She had been with him for over 20 years. Now she was gone forever. He thought that she had a peaceful look on her face as she faded into a memory.

6:45 p.m.

Bennie Mox was now standing and began to stagger to the detective. Salem turned and nonchalantly jabbed the fence post/stake through Mox's front and into the heart.

After having to do in his wife, Mox was easy. No regret, no guilt, no sadness ... no problem.

Mox disappeared in a quick flicker of orange. Gone forever off the face of the planet.

Salem drew in a deep breath of air filled with burnt flesh and stale trash from the alleyway. He moved his wrist up to his eyes and checked out his watch.

6:45 p.m. and 15 seconds.

Salem turned to make his way out of the alley and to his car. He knew that he had a lot of things he had to do. To prepare for. To fight for. To protect.

It was 6:45 p.m. on a dark summer night as the moon flickered through the trees.

Salem had much to do and suddenly had plenty of time to burn.

 

 

Story copyright © 1998 Eric O. Tennyson <annbroadcastingcorp@frs-l.com>

Illustration copyright © 1998 Romeo Esparrago <public@romedome.com>

 


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