A tiny vole scuttled around in the damp leaf mould in the icy cold, dark mausoleum. Sniffing the air cautiously, it ventured out from the safety of the edge of the tomb and moved slowly across the stone floor. It’s tiny paws barely made a sound as they pattered across the room. Pausing momentarily, the vole sniffed the air again. Something sour tickled its twitching whiskers. More cautiously, it proceeded across the open space. Just before it reached the sanctuary of the far side and the tiny crack in the stone that would lead to freedom, it’s paws touched something coarse and ridged. Feathers! Realising what it was, the vole accelerated to safety, reaching the escape route just as the dark angel began to stir.
For forty long days and nights she had lain on the floor suffering an agony that she had never felt before. The excruciating pain had begun in her throat as she had flown back to the mausoleum on mid-summer’s night. It had burned like fire down through her chest as she had flown the few short miles. Her strength had also been waning as she had landed clumsily in front of the stone doorway. The last strands of her energy had been drained as she had pulled the door closed behind her. It was then that the full force of the pain consumed her. Agony exploded inside her, searing into her stomach. With a howl of pain, she had collapsed on the floor, dipping in and out of consciousness for the next forty days.
The vole scampering across the tips of her wings had roused her.
As she lay in the darkness, weakened and virtually lifeless, the dark angel deduced that she had been poisoned. Something she had consumed on mid-summer’s night had been tainted.
Slowly, she pushed herself up into a sitting position, the world around her spinning as she did so. A sharp pain shot through her mouth, causing her to gasp. Toothache? Disbelievingly, she ran her parched tongue over her teeth. The tip of one of her fangs was missing. With her energy reserves so depleted, the dark angel knew she would need to feed before she could regenerate the tip.
Glancing in the mirror, he put his left hand up to the wound at his neck. Almost six weeks had passed since he’d suffered the mystery puncture wound and still it refused to fully heal. A dark purplish circle about the size of a five pence piece marked the spot. The wound had never scabbed over but, instead, there was an almost blister-like covering to it. Occasionally, it throbbed deep inside his neck.
As his fingertips brushed the delicate blister, it burst and oozed fresh blood once more.
“Bugger,” he muttered to himself. “Not again.”
Despite both his wife and his running buddy’s nagging, he’d refused to see a doctor about the mystery wound. It was clean. There was no obvious infection and he wasn’t suffering any ill effects from it. In fact, if anything he had felt more invigorated and full of energy over the past few weeks. He had argued with both of them that it would heal in its own good time.
“I’ll be back in an hour,” he called out to his wife. “Maybe a bit more.”
Closing the door behind him, he settled his earphones into his ears, cranked up the volume on his iPod and loped off down the hill. A few short minutes later the hill evened out a little and he was faced with three choices- left took him up into the countryside and the trails, straight ahead took him through the housing estate and meant he’d have to run past the yappy dog’s house or right would take him down past the graveyard. He still avoided that road where possible after the strange encounter on it last Halloween. He didn’t feel keen to explore the trails without his buddy by his side. However, he had no desire to tempt that damn dog to take a bite out of calf. The graveyard road seemed the lesser of the three evils.
Midgies swarmed round him in clouds as he ran down the tree-lined road. The mild, damp weather had brought them out in droves. Much as he loved the warmth of late summer evenings, those tiny flying devils certainly took the edge off the enjoyment. Halfway down the narrow road, a sharp pain shot through his mouth. Toothache? With a groan, he kept running, silently cursing the thought of a visit to the dentist.
As he reached the village’s main street, the pain vanished as quickly as it had appeared.
With a sigh a relief, he headed for the coast road, looking forward to stretching his legs for a few miles. Ever since the incident with the two dead deer, he’d been training hard, finding a new turn of speed and extra stamina. On their twice weekly trail runs, his buddy had been struggling to keep pace with him, causing him to temper things when he was out with him. Now, on his own, he was free to set his own rhythm.
Almost an hour later, he was back at main street, still feeling fresh, despite having run around eight miles to the ferry terminal and back, and was faced with his usual dilemma – straight ahead up the hill past the yappy dog or left up past the graveyard? He didn’t fancy being a late evening snack for the dog so, again, he opted for the shorter, steeper graveyard road, praying silently that the light breeze had dispersed the midgies.
Wearily, the dark angel sat on the marble bench seat that ran round three sides of the tomb. She had scanned the immediate area for wildlife, hoping to track down an easy meal to rejuvenate her enough to fix her fang. The pain from it was an incessant throbbing. A mortal pain that she had long since forgotten. Trying to block it out, she trained her attention to the area outside the mausoleum, listening to the sounds of anything that could serve as a meal. Forty days without blood had taken its toll on her as well as the effects of the poison. Thinking back to mid-summer’s night, the dark angel fathomed that one of the deer must have been poisoned. She would need to be more careful in future. With a smile, she remembered meeting the runner again, albeit too briefly for her liking. With a sigh, she recalled how she’d almost been allowed to dine on his rich, exotic, ferrous blood. A divine meal yet to be savoured.
The rhythmic thud of feet approaching up the road caught her attention. Her mind was immediately filled with a vision of him powering his way up the hill towards her lair. In her vision, the dark angel could see the vein pulsing in his neck, the skin covered by a sheen of sweet sweat. Ever acute, her senses picked up on the puncture wound on his neck.
A sharp pain stabbed through her damaged fang as a cold realisation struck her.
Outside on the road, oblivious to the ancient mausoleum that was hidden by the trees, the runner felt the toothache return. Same canine tooth as before, only this time the pain stabbed right up into his cheek bone. He also became aware that the wound on his neck was throbbing. Casually, he rubbed his hand across his neck. His fingertips came away covered in fresh blood. Not for the first time, he wondered whether there was something in the wound. There was a definite pressing, pulsating feeling deep in his neck. Perhaps his wife and buddy were right. Perhaps he should get the wound looked at. He vowed to make an appointment with the doctor, after he’d seen the dentist about his toothache.
As his footsteps receded, the angel set staring down at her feet, not fully believing what she had just uncovered. Could it be true? How could it even be possible Carefully, she ran her tongue over her broken fang, certain now that it’s missing tip was lodged in the runner’s neck. With equal certainty, she now knew what had poisoned her. It had been those few delicious drops of his blood…but why?