Gavin's Watch: A short short paranormal fantasy story
DRIVE-BY STORIES #12
The inside of the Kia smelled like old tacos had crawled into the vents to die. Discarded fast food bags rustled beneath Gaven's feet in the passenger seat well like snake skins. "Come on," he said, "roll down the windows. I can't keep breathing this crap."
That gained him a snort from the corpulent man squeezed behind the wheel on the driver's side. His partner, curse his bad luck, Lucas Rodriquez. A longterm member of the force, pushing toward fifty and pushing the scale to its limits. Gaven had seen Lucas lifting in the gym—there were muscles beneath the insulating layers that pressed sausage-like under the uniform. Hair buzzed on the sides, loose on the top, Lucas's hair was silvery in the moonlight streaming through the windows. He had a face like a boxer, a nose broken countless times, eyes sunk into folds. Gaven had no doubt he could learn a lot from Lucas, but keeping things clean and in order wouldn't be one of them.
"Can't," Lucas said. He pressed on the buttons built into the car's armrests. "Power windows. Don't work with the car off."
"Then turn it on—you don't even have to start the motor. Just for a second to roll down the windows."
Lucas's thick head swung back and forth. "No can do, amigo. We do that and lights come on, the windows move. Suddenly anyone out there—" Lucas pointed out the window. "—spots us. We can't draw attention to ourselves."
"Out there? Who's going to be out there? Why are we even watching a graveyard?" The black iron gate was closed. It hung from stone posts beneath an iron archway with the name of the cemetery, Pioneer Cemetery, over the arch. To either side the tall fence—easily six-feet or more—with its iron spikes marched away parallel to the empty street. The nearest streetlight on the cemetery's side was and dead and dark as the cemetery itself. Moonlight gave the grass a faint shine, the world rendered in dark shadows and faint gleaming headstones, lines sharp and dark with shadows. The ground rose up away from the road, graves marching up the swell like ships riding over a wave, everything frozen in the moment.
It was creepy. And what was the point? Lucas hadn't explained why they had to check out an unmarked car and watch the place. Only that it was time that Gaven "popped his cherry," a phrase Gaven despised. He was twenty-eight, not a kid anymore, not by a longshot. It didn't matter. To the oldtimers like Lucas, he was the rookie. The greenhorn. The guy most likely to fuck up and get everyone killed.
It had to be some sort of initiation. It was the only thing that made sense. He kicked aside paper bags and looked out the window at the graveyard. "You going to tell me what we're watching for? Did you get a tip about something going down here?"
Lucas shifted his bulk in his seat with a sound like air escaping from a tire. The stale taco air mixed with something worse. Gaven coughed and reached for the door. "I've got to get some air—"
Thick fingers seized his bicep with a bone-bruising grip. "Don't. It's some fucking gas. If that's the worst thing you smell before the night is over—count yourself lucky."
Gaven dropped his hand and jerked his left arm free. Tried to jerk it free. Lucas's grip was like a clamp and unyielding. "Shit! Let go."
"You're going to sit there and watch," Lucas hissed. "Shut up and be quiet. This isn't time to fuck around."
"Okay," Gaven said, just wanting Lucas to let-the-fuck go.
The older man released him. The seat groaned as Lucas settled back. Gaven's bicep throbbed painfully. Damn if Lucas didn't have a grip. Any softness there was only a disguise, something Lucas wore, not who he was.
Watching the cemetery, though, why? Gaven looked out through the windows, through the iron bars of the fence with moonlight catching the edges of the spikes on top. Close together. Not easy to get a hand or foot in between the spikes. It still wouldn't keep anyone out that really wanted in, but the spikes and the height of the fence would keep out casual trespassers.
A shape ran, low, darting from one headstone to another. A faint patch of darkness against the moonlit grass. Maybe he'd imagined—
Another shape followed the first, hesitating as it crossed between headstones. The head turned in their direction. Cold, silvery light glinted from eyes in the shadowed shape. It scurried on, remaining crouched, but it ran on two legs. Like a person.
"What was that?"
Lucas grunted. "What?"
"There, someone, I think. Running crouched over between headstones."
Lucas grinned, white teeth briefly showing beneath thick lips drawn back. "Did you see their eyes?"
Glowing eyes? "Yes."
Lucas snapped a sharp slap into Gaven's arm. "Let's go, partner."
No explanation, no chance to ask for one, Lucas already had opened his door and the car rocked as he heaved his bulk from the seat. Shit. Cool air blew some of the stink from the car.
Gaven threw his door open. He stepped out. Lucas closed his door quietly. Gaven copied him, making as little noise as possible. Then Lucas came around the front and headed straight for the cemetery gates. Gaven kept by his side. He dropped his hand beneath his coat, touching the service pistol.
A hand thwapped against his arm. "Not that." Lucas held out his hand, a long dagger lay across his palm. "Take it."
Automatically obeying, Gaven reached out and took the dagger's hilt into his hand. The weapon fit comfortably. Its blade was long, with sharp edges catching the light. He dropped his arm, holding the blade up along his forearm so his arm and sleeve blocked the dagger from view.
They reached the gate. Lucas produced a key. Unlocked the gate and opened it enough to squeeze through. That left plenty of space for Gaven to pass between the gates.
"Stay close. Do what I say," Lucas said. "Don't freak out and you'll be fine."
A paved road wound through the graveyard but Lucas left it, heading up the slope to the left in the direction where Gaven had seen the shapes. Had Lucas seen them too? Must have, he seemed like he knew where he was going. The bigger man moved quickly, quietly over the damp, close-cut grass. Gaven smelled flowers as they passed a bouquet layed at the base of a headstone. A statuary angel reached beeschingly to Gaven, giving him shivers.
Then he heard a sound like claws scrabbling against earth. It sounded like a dog, or dogs, digging a hole. Lucas motioned and moved into the shadows of a set of three large headstones. The dark marble gleamed with the moonlight, but the shadows were dark. Lucas crouched.
Gaven joined him, crouching behind the headstone to Lucas's right. The bigger man nodded his head at the gap between the headstones. Gaven leaned and looked. They reached the top of the slope. It descended slowly in a long stretch of grass and graves away from this spot. At the next row down, at the base of a headstone, two dark shapes dug eagerly on all fours at loose earth. They clawed and scrabbled, sending fistfuls of earth scattering back between their legs. Their breathing was frantic and slobbery, filled with gasps and coughs. They acted like animals, but they're bodies were shaped like people. Thin, bones showing through dirty gray skin almost the color of some of the headstones. Scraps of clothes covered their nakedness, rags of a similar gray-black color. The horror of these two digging at the grave almost sent Gaven running back to the car to call backup.
Almost. This whole thing was a test, he knew. Lucas hadn't said anything, watching him instead of the two digging at the graves with their fingers.
Gaven lifted the dagger. The night's chill had caused tiny droplets to condense on the metal. "We're not arresting them."
It wasn't meant as a question. "Right," Lucas said. "Get the heart."
Then the big man stood, pivoting to swing his legs over he concealing headstone. His coat flared out around him. Gaven followed in an instant, stepping around the headstone to join the charge.
In the stillness that followed the clash, the rotten stink of the things, they both lay on the grass with pools of darkness spreading out over the grass in the moonlight. Both bodies had large chest wounds that still steamed, sending up tendrils of pale smoke into the air. If they'd been human, they'd changed, Gavin saw now in the quiet. Blackened lips failed to cover the long thorn-like spikes of their teeth, far more than a human mouth held. Pale dead eyes still gleamed with a silvery light from the moon. Their bare hands and feet ended in long digits with thick knobby joints and long black claws on each digit, the one on the thumb exceptionally large and hooked like a bird of prey's claw.
Lucas leaned against the headstone of the violated grave, using a cloth to clean his own dagger. He had tossed another to Gaven. "Good job, rookie. Now you know something that civilians can't know. Don't want to know."
"What—" Gaven's throat tightened. He coughed, clearing it. "What are they?"
"Dead-eaters. Ghouls. You've got a lot to learn, rookie, but you did good for your first stakeout."
"Stakeout," Lucas said with emphasis. "A real stakeout. We call it that, whether or not vampires are involved."
"Vampires." Gaven felt as if the world had turned upside down or inside out.
Lucas laughed. He stuck out his hand, snapping his fingers, pointing to the dagger in Gaven's hand. "Give me that, if you aren't going to clean it right. You need to learn how to take care of your weapons."
Handing it over, Gaven looked down at the bodies. "Shit."
"What?" Lucas's head came up and he looked around.
Gaven gestured at the bodies. "How much paperwork does this take?"
Lucas laughed harder, Gaven joined him and their laughter floated out over the graves.
Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed it!
This is a new challenge. I’m writing short short stories, under 2,000 words, many under 1,000 words. I’m sharing them to my Instagram stories. They’ll drop off that, but premium READINARY subscribers can read the full archive of stories here. When I have 100 stories, I’ll publish a collection of them all.
Best wishes, always — Ryan
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