— Posted in Always into Darkness, The Master Race, Vampire Noir

The Master Race, Chapter 04

Further Affiant Sayeth Naught

The attacker lurches to his feet, and Fisher steps forward to run him through with her sword. The man dodges aside at the last moment and grabs Fisher’s extended arm. She groans aloud as his gingers crush her arm, grinding the muscles against the bone. Her sword falls from her numb fingers. She claws at his hand, and can’t move it. He is strong, impossibly strong, and she can’t free herself …

He flings her away from him. She slams against the far wall and slides dazedly to the floor. Hawk starts forward, axe in hand, and then stops dead as he finally sees who his attacker is.

“Trask …” Hawk gaps at the nondescript, middle aged man standing grinning before him. The councilor is little more than medium height and painfully thin, but his eyes burn in his gaunt face.

“She was your daughter, you bastard!” Hawk exclaims. “Your own daughter …”

“She will live forever,” boasts Trask, his voice horridly calm and reasonable.  “And … So will I. My master The Master has promised me this. My daughter was afraid, at first; she didn’t understand. But she will. We will never grow old and ugly and die and lie forever in the cold earth. We will be strong and powerful and everyone will fear us. All I have to do is protect The Master from fools like you.”

He darts forward, and Hawk meets him with his axe. He swings it double-handed with all his strength, and the wide metal blade punches clean through Trask’s ribs.

The councilor screams, as much with rage as with pain, and staggers back against the bed. Hawk pulls his axe free and gets ready to hit him again if necessary. Trask looks down at his ribs, and sees the blood flow from the gaping wound in his side. He dips his fingers into the blood, lifts them to his mouth, and licks them clean.

Hawk lifts his axe and Trask goes for his throat. Hawk fights for breath as Trask’s bony fingers close around his throat and tighten. He tries to swing his axe, but he can’t use it at close quarters. He drops it, and grabs Trask’s wrists, but the councilor is too strong. Hawk’s gaze begins to dim. He can hear his blood pounding in his ears.

Fisher steps in beside them and hacks into Trask’s right arm with her sword. The gleaming, razor-sharp blade slices through the muscle like a hot knife through butter, and Trask’s arm goes limp. Hawk gathers the last of his strength and pushes Trask way from him. Trask lashes out at Fisher with his undamaged arm. She ducks under the blow and runs her sword through his heart with a single thrust. Trask stands very still, looking down at the gleaming steel blade protruding from his chest. Fisher jerks it out, and Trask collapses, as though only the sword was holding him up. He lies on his back on the floor, blood pooling around his body, and glares silently up at Hawk and Fisher. Then the light goes out in his eyes, and his breathing stops.

Hawk leans back against the wall and feels gingerly at his bruised throat. Fisher stirs Trask’s body with her boot, and when he doesn’t react, kneels down beside him and feels cautiously for a pulse. There isn’t one. Fisher nods, satisfied, and gets to her feet again.

“He’s gone, Hawk. The bastard’s dead.”

“Good,” says Hawk. He frowns at how rough his voice sounds. He wouldn’t mind, but it feels even worse than it sounds. “You all right, lass?”

“I’ve felt worse. Was Trask a Nosferatu, you know … had he been turned, do you think?”

“No,” says Hawk. “He didn’t have the teeth for it. Besides, we saw him at the briefing yesterday morning, remember?”

“Yeah, right. Trask was just the Judas Goat. But I think that we’d better stake him anyway. Just to be sure.”

“Let’s see to the girl, first.”

“Sure.”

Hawk pounds a stake into her heart. It’s hard work. He’ll let Fisher stake Trask, while he cuts off the girl’s head as cleanly as her can. When he beheads the girl there is no blood, and that somehow makes it worse. Cutting off Trask’s is no problem at all. When it’s finished, Hawk and Fisher leave the room and shut the door quietly behind them. Hawk thought that the air would smell fresher on the landing, but it doesn’t. He holds up the oil lamp he’d brought with him from the room, and studies the next door in its flickering light.

“She has to be in there somewhere,” Fisher says quietly.

“Hawk nods slowly. He looks at her, and then frowns as he sees her holding a wooden stake in her left hand. “How many of those did you bring?”

“Three,” Fisher answers calmly. “I used two on Trask and his daughter. So … If there’s more than one Nosferatu here, we’re in big trouble.”

Hawk smiles in spite of himself. “You always did have a gift for understatement.”

He opens the door a crack, steps back a pace, and then kicks in the door. It flies back to slam against the inner wall, and the sound is very loud on the quiet. The echoes take a long time to die away. Hawk steps cautiously into the room, his axe in one hand and the lamp in the other.

The room is empty, save for a heavy metal bed pushed up against the far wall. Fisher moves slowly around the room, tapping the walls and looking for hidden panels. Hawk stands in the middle of the room and glares about him.

The Nosferatu is here somewhere. She has to be here somewhere.

He moves over to the bed and looks underneath it. Nothing but dust and shadows. He straightens up and looks at Fisher. She shakes her head and looks uneasily about her. Hawk scowls and looks back at the bed. And then he smiles slowly as an idea has come to him.

“Isobel, give me a hand with this.”

Between them they get the bed away from the wall, and Hawk studies the wall paneling carefully in the light from his lamp. He smiles grimly as he makes out the lines of a hidden panel, fits his axe blade into one of the cracks, and applies a slow pressure. The wood creaks and groans loudly, and then a whole section of the wall swings open on concealed hinges. Behind the panel is a hidden compartment, and in that compartment lays a huge coffin. Bones and partially eaten carcasses [human carcasses] litter the floor. A horrible scent assaults the nostrils: The rank, stomach-churning stench of rotting flesh and raw sewage, and the overpowering, game smell of a zoo’s ape house. This underworld is paradise to The Master. Hawk feels his mouth go dry just looking at it.

The coffin is seven feet long and six feet wide, big enough for two, built from dark red wood Hawk doesn’t recognize. Arcane glyphs and runes are craved into the sides and the lid. He doesn’t recognize them either, which is quite understandable, because neither he nor his partner is a practitioner of magic. One of the symbols is repeated many times. It is a swastika.

Hawk looks at Fisher who is standing beside him. Her face is very pale.

“Come on,” he says quietly. “Let’s get it out of there.”

The coffin is much heavier than it looks. They have to drag it into the room, inch by inch. It smells bad. It smells of blood and death and decay, and Hawk has to keep turning his head away in search of fresher air. He and Fisher finally get the coffin out of the hidden compartment and into the room, then he steps back to take a good look at it.

“Big isn’t it?” Fisher asks softly.

“Yeah,” answers Hawk. “Look, as soon as I get the lid open, you get that wooden stake into her. As soon as the stake’s home, I’ll cut off her head. I’m not taking any chances with this one.”

“Got it,” says Fisher. “We’ve been on some dirty jobs in the past, Hawk, but this has got to be the dirtiest.”

“Remember the girl,” Hawk says. “Now, let’s do it.”

They bend over the coffin and the lid flies open, knocking them both backwards. The Master sits up in her coffin and grins at them with large, straight, pointed teeth—serrated teeth—serrated teeth and blood drinking fangs: A razor blade smile. Killer tongue. Layer upon layer of blood paints her mouth, lips, and chin; some of it is fresh, some of it is not. Layer upon layer of blood paints a red boulevard down her front; some of it is fresh, some of it is not. Giblets, the ghoulish leavings of an unlife spent eating as well as drinking the living. Bits of flesh, muscle, bone, nerves, ligaments, fat, sinew … various tissues … tidbits of this and that … embedded in that red carpet of death and decay.

Such a horrific sight as this brings two things to mind. What do the undead care of hygiene? And. She wears what she eats and drinks.

Hawk’s hand tightens around the shaft of his axe till his fingers ache. He thought that he knew what The Master would look like, but he had been wrong.

The creature before him was a very beautiful woman once, every bit as beautiful as his wife Isobel, but she isn’t anymore nor is she a person either. She looks like what she is: a something that has died and been buried, and has dug her undead self out of the grave. Her face is sunken and wrinkled, and there is a bluish tinge to her dead white flesh. Her eyes are dirty yellow, without pupil or retina, as though the eyeballs have rotten in their sockets. Cockroach-infested hair hangs about in limp stringy rattails, draping shoulders and breasts. That shock of filthy blonde rattails, which is liberally streaked with grey and white, erupts from the bony skull. A scraggly bush, that’s just as geriatric and just as infested as her mane, carpets her vile, reeking crotch. Her hands are horribly thin, the fingers are little more than claws. Klaw. Floppy shriveled pendulous breasts with stringbean nipples and hideous stretch marks. Labia, clitoris … female genitalia that’s equally unattractive, unless you’re a nercophiliac, that is. But the real horror lays in much more subtle things. The Master’s black dress is rotting and falling apart. Things grow on her. Things live on her. Things feed on her. Head lice, fleas, and crabs. Graveyard lichens and moss grow here and there on her dead filth-ingrained skin; skin that’s so filthy that it’s ashy-black in places. Her chest doesn’t move, because it no longer needs to breathe. And she smells like rotting meat that has been left to hang too long.