Oubliettes and Grim Predictions

Havermouth, Present Time

Talen drove just out of town, deep into the forest that followed the contours of the hills, turning off the main roads onto dirt roads, and then from those to little winding tracks that were little more than two furrows carved into the undergrowth.

He stopped at a gate and let the Ute idling whilst he went to open it. Aislen could see at the top of a hill a modern house that overlooked the forest. The front windows were mirror glazed, reflecting back the sky.

“Where are we?” She asked Talen as he returned to the car. He left the gate open behind them, following the winding driveway, but turning away from where it rose up to the house.

“Vampire safe house,” he told her. “New house up there, but there’s also the old farmhouse down here, along with a couple of smaller cottages.”

They bounced along the track, and she imagined Chris Arrens being tossed around in the tray with malicious enjoyment. “What the f-k is an oubliette, daddy?”

“It is called the Forgotten Room, as that is it’s purpose,” Talen told her. “It is where you put people you wish to forget. Our friend’s stay will be temporary, however, just long enough for him to well and truly repent his sins. We have a… hmm, collection agency,” he slid a look at her from the corner of his eye. “They clean up things we don’t want to reappear. They will find a use for our friend. One which will keep him from causing further trouble.”

“I don’t think I want to know what type of use,” she worried her bottom lip with her teeth. “Do I?”

“Not particularly,” he agreed.

They passed a couple of cottages hidden amongst the trees, and she saw a woman in a white dress pause and look over at them. “Did you see…?” She asked Talen.

“There are permanent residents of some of the cottages,” he told her. “You do not need to fear them.”

She felt a shiver of cold pass over her skin. “I don’t need to fear them, but they are fearsome?” She clarified.

“Vampires,” he said very carefully. “Can sometimes loose connection to the world. When we become very old we can find that the changes of the human race move too fast for us, or perhaps, we lose the ability to understand modernity. With some, they become confused between what is past and what is present.”

“A vampiric Alzheimer’s?” She wondered.

“Something like that. When a vampire is no longer able to function independently in the world, there are a range of safe houses made available to them. There are permanent caretakers of the safe houses whose duties also include caring for the vampires that retire there,” he slowed down as they went over a cattle grate. “It is safest for all.”

The trees opened up around a large, square farmhouse wrapped with a wide veranda. He went past the house to where there was an old, stacked stone barn topped with a new galvanized iron roof, and parked there. “Here we are.”

It was colder in the tree smothered hills, and Aislen shivered as she stepped out of the car. She scuffed up gravel as she followed the car to the tray of Ute where Talen lifted a limp Chris Arren free.

Talen yanked down the gag.

“Please,” Chris wet his lips. “I need to go to the hospital.”

Talen raised his eyebrows. “You tried to rape the woman that I love,” he replied. “You are lucky that all you have is a broken nose and a few bumps and bruises. I am going to cut your hands free. You should know that trying to run would be very unwise. There are predators in these trees that will not hesitate to devour you.”

“What are you going to do to me?” Chris said as Talen took his pocketknife out and cut through the zip ties. Chris cried out, a pathetic whimper of a sound, as he brought his arms forward. “I can’t feel my hands.”

“Perhaps feeling will return in time,” Talen shrugged, indifferent. “Walk this way,” he gave Chris a shove towards the barn.

The human man took two steps, and then bolted off to the left, running for his life, sucking in air and stumbling as he looked over his shoulder.

Talen raised his eyebrows at Aislen. “I told him not to run.”

“That you did, daddy,” she confirmed.

He sighed and in a blur of inhuman movement, went after him. Chris Arren’s screams were wild with fear as Talen picked him up by the throat. Aislen’s heart raced watching as her vampire effortlessly lifted the man until Chris’s toes kicked aimlessly several inches off the ground, his hands grasping Talen’s wrist, trying to relieve the hold on his neck.

“I am the least of your problems should you try to flee, human,” Talen’s eyes flashed red, and his lip lifted revealing his sharp canine and pre-molar teeth. “You can die now or die later. Make your choice.”

“Later,” Chris rasped out.

“I will put you down and you will walk where I tell you to go. If you run again, I will not be the one to chase you. Your death will be imminent, but not immediate, should you do so. They will not have mercy, and they will play with your blood as you drown in it.”

Aislen shivered, feeling unseen eyes on her, flicking her gaze at the trees and buildings around them. She had a sense of others drawing closer, of anticipation and eagerness. Bored, ancient vampires, come to witness a new diversion.

As Talen prodded Chris Arrens over to the barn, she stuck to his side. “How tasty am I daddy?” She murmured under her breath as they stepped into the shadows of the barn. “Because I’m feeling like a walking entrée at the moment.”

He touched the collar around her throat. “You are mine, and therefore you are safe.”

She swallowed hard and nodded. “So… Do these old ones sometimes, like, wander off?” She had a suspicion that they did, and that the occasional person who went missing from around the local towns might have encountered a vampire retiree looking for a snack.

“They are not prisoners here,” he confirmed her suspicion. “But the care takers ensure that their every need is met in order to make wandering off less desirable.”

They passed between tractors, old cars, and a horse-drawn carriage, to the back corner of the barn. There were four massive stone circles on the ground. Talen bent over and pushed one, single handed and with impossible strength, to the side. “Ah,” he said, with a faint tone of surprise. “Occupied." He pushed the lid back into place quickly.

Aislen shuddered. “You… ah, vampires I mean, frequently put people down here?”

Chris suddenly realized their intention and took off. Talen caught him by the back of his shirt, twisting the fabric to create a throttlehold on Chris’ throat. “On occasion,” he replied. “It seems that there are times when there is more need than others, and that we are currently in such a time.”

He used his foot to push back another stone lid. “Vacant,” he said with a smile, and used his grip on Chris’ shirt to lift him up and lower him in, indifferent to the man’s shrieks and pleas.

Aislen looked down at Chris’ pale, upturned face, as he scrabbled against the stone walls of the underground cell, trying to climb towards freedom, and found that she did not have a single ounce of compassion for him. “You deserve this,” she told him.

Talen pushed the lid over, cutting off Chris’ scream.

“Heath says that Triquetras happen when there is trouble,” she said to Talen as he straightened. “Though he thinks that I am the trouble.”

“Hmm,” Talen chuckled at that, shaking his head in amusement. “He does not truly believe that. Heath is a man who cares very deeply about those who are important to him, but he does not know how to express that caring in positive ways. As a result, he shows his caring by trying to control what he sees to be dangerous to them. Add in an unhealthy dose of misogyny that is common amongst werewolves and his way of saying I love you to you is very convoluted.”

He put his arm around her and leaned his face into her hair. “I have been alive long enough to recognize the signs of encroaching trouble,” he said to her. “The werewolves are not wrong that we are heading into such a time.”

“What sort of signs, daddy?” She felt as if something crawled over her skin and shivered, pressing tighter to him, taking comfort from his size and strength, from his hard, warm body.

“An… unsettlement in the world,” he replied. “Not just in the people, but in the fabric of the world itself. An increase in natural disasters, the movement of earth, a change in the tides, an increase in rainfall in some areas, and drought in others. Plagues of disease, animal and insect life. Economic crisis and war due to the greed of a minority hoarding more than they can use and starving the many in a world where there is no shortage of food…” He sighed with heavy weariness. “It is a cycle that has been repeated many, many times before.”

“What do we do?” She was alarmed by the matter-of-fact tone of his voice. This wasn’t some distant possibility that he was referring to, but a present reality.

“Keep those that you love safe, and wait it out,” he told her. “Do not be afraid, little demon,” he lifted her suddenly, setting her onto the seat of the horse-drawn carriage so that she faced him, and framed her face with his hands, his eyes gentle, before he stroked down her cheek and throat, straightening the collar on her neck.

“I am yours,” she predicted what he would say. “And therefore, I am safe.”

He smiled, and the expression shifted in his eyes, heating with sensuality. “Yes.”

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