Pulling the laces tight on his well-worn running shoes, he glanced out of the patio doors at the reddening sky. Another beautiful summer evening for a long training run. With a nod to his wife, who was curled up on the opposite couch engrossed in a trashy TV soap opera, he slipped out of the front door, closing it quietly behind him so as not to disturb their sleeping children. Nestling his earphones into place, he pressed play on his iPod and set off down the hill at a leisurely pace. No sense in heading off too fast too soon since he had his sights set on at least twelve miles. As the hill began to level off he had a choice – go straight through more houses or take the right fork down a narrow single track road. The sight of a group of kids playing football in the middle of the road ahead made the decision an easy one and he turned off to his right into the immediate shade of the overhanging trees and into a cloud of midgies.
In front of him an elderly woman was walking an equally elderly looking terrier. He regularly ran passed them on his evening training runs and knew the dog wouldn’t give him a second glance, unlike the dog at the house next to the church. It would dearly love to sink its teeth into his tattooed calf! The old woman gave him a smile and a nod as he loped passed her towards the cemetery. Surrounded by crumbling dry stane walls, the village’s crowded cemetery lay a few yards further down the road to his left. At the first sight of the walls, he picked up his pace. Something about that short stretch of road sent icy chills to his very core, despite the warmth of the summer evening.
On the aged stone steps opposite the graveyard, the fallen angel sat hidden by the long evening shadows. She had heard his footsteps the moment he turned down the narrow road and had slipped out from the cool sanctuary of the ruined mausoleum that lay forgotten far back in the trees, to watch for him. For weeks she had observed him as he ran up and down the hill. It was the rich metallic scent of his blood mingled with sweat that had first attracted her. Resisting was becoming more of a challenge each time he was within her range. Once she had followed him as he ran down through the village and along the coast road towards the next town. Soundlessly she had flown just above the tree line until his route had reached the lighthouse. With no trees to shelter her and the risk that the lighthouse’s lamp would expose her, she had reluctantly flown home, tasting his scent in air as she retraced her path.
Tonight the air was perfectly still, no wind to rustle the leaves, and his musk was strong. It had been three days since she had last fed and the mere sight of the ripe veins pulsing in his neck as he ran passed her was almost too much. Licking her lips, she slipped further back into the shadows, deciding to wait for his return journey. She was patient; she could wait….for now.
Two hours later in the last dusky light of the day, he turned off the main street to run back up the hill, safe in the knowledge that a hot shower and a clean bed were waiting at the top. His muscles were screaming at him as he dug deep into the last of his reserves and powered his way passed the church. Loud rock music filled his head, keeping his mind from lingering on the hot pain that had crept into his right foot. Another blister was not what he needed.
The turn off to the single track cemetery road was just up ahead. If he took it the route was shorter but steeper; if he took the longer route he had to make it safely passed that nippy dog. Short and steep won. He turned off and was level with the gates of the cemetery when he spotted the old woman’s little dog sitting at the side of the road. There was no sign of its mistress. He paused to rub its ears, glancing round trying to spot the old woman in the fading light. A rustling from behind the walls of the cemetery suggested to him, in his tired state, that she may be on the far side paying her respects to a long gone loved one. Without a backward glance he picked up his pace once more and headed home.
In the graveyard the angel stood up, spreading her magnificent black purple tinged wings out behind her. Carefully she dabbed at her mouth with her long pale fingers, removing the last traces of blood from her full red lips. She had resisted the temptation of him for now. At her feet lay the drained corpse of the old woman, eyes vacantly staring up into the night sky.