Chapter 14 – Retaliation

Terror and excitement shot through us all. I heard several clicks as safeties came off and excited whispers as everyone sighted the monster. The vampire was walking swiftly across the field, occasionally bending over to inspect drops of blood we had left. It broke into a steady lope about 50 feet away from us, sensing its prey was close. I exhaled slowly, staring through my sights monocular at the approaching monster.

About 10 yards away from our position at the edge of the trees, the vampire stopped. Through my monocular, I saw it crouch down and lick its lips savagely. It had stopped at our last deposit of blood, almost a puddle of it on the grass. The rain had diluted it, but enough was there to keep the bloodsucker interested. It lowered its head to the grass, sniffing the damp grass.

“Come here, you,” I heard Tony breathe. I don’t think he even knew he was saying anything. “Come here, you little sucker . . . little closer, little closer.”

I dared to rotate my head carefully to my right. Tony and Phil had their rifles trained on the monster, and Ryan was aiming his crossbow, his finger barely touching the trigger. I moved my head slowly back, and my monocular bumped the stock of my shotgun. The tiny click it made seemed deafeningly loud.  

The vampire froze, and then slowly stood up. It was so close that I could almost make out facial features as it surveyed our position. Its lips curled back in either a smile or a snarl, and it moved forward.

“NOW!” I screamed, and the area exploded.

My shotgun on semi auto, I fired as fast as I could pull the trigger, and then frantically reloaded, my hands shaking, and repeated the process. Next to me, Tony was only halfway through his first magazine, the odd tracer leaping from his rifle along with the silver bullets. He’d told me earlier that he loaded one tracer for every ten rounds. Hot brass sprayed from the side of his gun, bouncing off the sandbags and trees.

Phil was firing as well, his G3 going in five or ten round bursts. Brass was piling up around him as well. His first magazine ran dry and he threw the rifle down and drew his pistol. At a range of less than ten yards, the vampire was impossible to miss, and Phil fired repeatedly, his precise double taps sending silver into the undead beast’s skull.

Up in the tree, Ryan was the only one not firing. He was still staring through the sights on his crossbow, watching the beast stumble and jerk as hundreds of rounds poured into it. It collapsed to its knees, its arms by its sides under the onslaught, screeching as our silver burned it. Ryan made his move. With a loud twang!, the bolt erupted off his crossbow and shot straight towards the vampire. It hit with a loud thunk, almost as if it had struck wood. It had dug itself deep into the vampire’s stomach, and the beast gave an inhuman screech as the silver burned his insides.

My shotgun ran dry again. Mimicking Phil, I drew my Kimber and locked onto the vampire, sending rounds of silver .45 into its X-ring. It wouldn’t collapse, though; it was still weaving drunkenly on its knees, unable to rise under our hail of fire.

Finally, Tony’s seemingly bottomless magazine emptied, and the bolt on his gun locked back. “Phil! Go!” he yelled as he dropped the magazine and reached for another. “Get him!”

Phil complied. Shoving his Glock back into his holster, he snatched the flamethrower nozzle up and leaped over the barricade, running straight for the downed vampire. Without the steady hail of silver, it seemed to be recovering. It bounced to its feet and rotated to face Phil with surprising speed, its shattered body already healing.

Then it shocked us all.

“You think you can hurt me, pathetic humans?” it hissed in a voice from beyond the grave, laughing evilly as it spoke. Phil ground to a halt about five yards from the beast, stunned. “No,” the vampire continued, “Your pathetic weapons cannot hope to damage me . . . I will tear your throats out one by one and bathe in your blood.”

Phil’s face contorted with fear as the beast stalked towards him, but he still seemed unable to move. I tried to get a bead on the vampire, but I couldn’t risk hitting Phil. I prepared to jump over the barrier to get into a better position, but someone else already was.

BANG, BANG, BANG! Ryan had a bead on the creature. He sent three rounds of silver .308 into its head, and it staggered. This seemed to bring Phil back to his senses. He raised the nozzle of the flamethrower and pointed it at the vampire, which was now only a yard or two away. He squeezed both triggers and let loose.

A huge blast of flame erupted from the nozzle. The vampire screamed and fell to its knees as Phil melted the flesh from its bones, the wet grass shriveling under the blast of heat. The vampire crumpled on the ground as the burning napalm tore into it. Phil advanced slowly until he was mere feet from the creature, and the nozzle only a foot or two away from the creature’s head. I had to look away, my left eye almost completely blinded by the light amplified through the monocular. The white hot flames ate away at the vampire’s body, making the remnants of its flesh sizzle . . . and then the flamethrower died.

White steam and gases sprayed from the nozzle for several seconds, a hollow, whooshing hiss accompanying them. Phil didn’t waste a minute. Back pedaling rapidly, he dropped the nozzle and drew his Glock, firing rounds into the blackened, twisted skeleton on the ground. He then turned around and sprinted to his barrier, unstrapping the flamethrower from his as he went.

Tony stood up, his AK reloaded, and resumed his barrage at the skeleton. Ryan and I joined in, our bullets and buckshot destroying the blackened bones. Chips flew off as Phil snatched up his rifle and began firing as well.

My slide locked back and I dropped the magazine, slamming a new one home. Phil did the same, reloading his G3. The beast didn’t move. The twisted, scorched skeleton remained on the grass, looking as dead as can be. Nervous, I holstered my 1911 and picked up my shotgun, making sure it was topped off.

No one moved for a moment. “Think it’s dead?” Ryan called, his rifle still leveled at the skeleton.

“Don’t know,” Phil replied, strapping the second flamethrower onto his back, “Sure looks that way.”

“Hey,” Tony said sarcastically, his third drum loaded onto his AK, “Why don’t we go check?”

“Bad idea,” I replied nervously, “Remember when we ran over the last one and then it got up again? He’s probably healing right now.”

“What do we do, then?” Ryan asked, “Just wait for it to get up again?”

“No,” I replied, my mind racing, “We don’t. Ryan?”

“Yeah?”

“If we give it another barrage, slow down it’s healing, can you get close enough to bolt it right through the heart?”

“Dude, there’s no heart left!” Phil said loudly, never once taking his eyes off the downed vampire.

There was a low moan. I jerked my head back and lowered my monocular to stare at the vampire. It was slowly moving, ash crumbling off its bones. Flesh seemed to well up from nowhere to cover it.

“Think you’ll find you’re wrong there, friend,” Tony giggled nervously.

“Okay! I’ll do it!” Ryan scrambled down the tree. “Hose him!”

We complied. All of us opened up again. Tony stood up, pressing his rifle down against the sandbag barrier in front of him as hard he could. This kept the muzzle from rising, and every one of his rounds struck the regenerating vampire. I put my shotgun on pump, making every shot count. I fired at a leg until it shattered and dropped away, and then I shifted my focus to the skull and fired two more rounds, and then my gun clicked empty. Not bothering to reload, I threw it down and began firing with my handgun. On the other side of Tony, Phil was firing a whole magazine in a single burst, throwing it to the ground, and repeating the process. “Three mags left!” he shouted, barely audible over Tony’s continuing gunfire.

BANGBANGBANG-Click. Tony was empty. “Go, dude, go!” he shouted, waving his arm at Ryan, and Ryan sprinted out into the field.

The vampire had collapsed onto his back under our withering blast of gunfire, and was still again. Ryan approached it cautiously, his crossbow locked back and ready. Phil accompanied him, jumping over his barrier and running out. He gave the vampire several brief blasts of flame, scorching the regenerating flesh. “Now!” he shouted, and Ryan jumped forward, going for the trigger on his crossbow.

But it was already too late. With superhuman speed, the vampire flew to its feet and leaped at Phil. Ryan fired his bolt, but missed the creature’s heart, sending the silver-tipped bolt into its thigh instead. Phil tried to raise the flamethrower’s nozzle but was too slow. The creature was on him in a heartbeat. It picked him up and threw him to the ground, pinning the flamethrower nozzle underneath him. Phil groped for it, but couldn’t reach it under the awkward tanks beneath him. The creature dove for his throat, canines extending horribly. Tony and I yelled in horror, jumping our barricades and sprinting for the creature, unable to shoot from cover for fear of hitting Phil or Ryan.

BANG, BANG, BANG, BANG! Ryan, unable to reload the crossbow fast enough, had taken matters back into his own hands. He was emptying the magazine of his G19 into the vampire’s back as fast as he could pull the trigger. The vampire screeched in pain as the silver burned him and he rolled off Phil. Phil scrambled away, snatched up the freed nozzle, and lit it up.

The vampire disappeared in a wall of flame. At this time, Tony and I were directly in the line of fire, and the flame was shooting straight towards us like a hungry mouth. I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t even move.

Tony saved us both. He tackled me and shoved my face into the wet grass as the flames roared over our heads. I pulled away and we both wriggled on our bellies away from the torrent of fire.

What we saw next appalled us both.

The vampire, this time not weakened by a hundred rounds of silver beforehand, seemed to shrug off the fire. It leaped out of the stream straight into the air, still burning. It landed in the grass, mere feet away from Phil. Phil yelled and jumped away, directing the stream towards the vampire again, but it didn’t work. With its characteristic whooshing hiss, the flamethrower ran empty again.

The blackened vampire arose, the flames extinguished, and pounced. It landed on top of Phil, knocking him to the ground and kneeling on his chest. Phil tried to shove it off with one hand, going for his Glock, but he wasn’t strong or fast enough. The vampire dove for his throat and bit.

“NO!” We all yelled in horror, The vision of Josh’s death flashing through all our minds. Not Phil too . . . Oh, heck, not Phil too . . .  

“YOU!” Ryan screamed, sprinting towards the vampire, “YOU LITTLE CRAP-SACK, I’LL KILL YOU FOR THAT!” He seized it by the back of the neck, driven by his fury, and yanked it off Phil’s body. Blood spurted from the gaping wound in Phil’s neck as Ryan lifted the vampire over his head and threw it, tearing after it with his crossbow up before it even hit the ground a few feet away.

The vampire leaped up, delivering an uppercut to the crossbow and knocking up and away from Ryan’s grip. It then seized Ryan, lifting him in the air and going for his throat as well.

“OH NO YOU DON’T!” Tony roared, dropping his drum magazine and slamming a stick home. He opened fire on the creature, the bullets hitting it in the neck and back. Thirty 7.62 hollowpoint rounds tore its flesh to pieces, and it dropped Ryan, who began scrambling towards his crossbow, almost thirty feet away. The vampire spun to face us. I noticed that the gaping holes made by the hollowpoints were healing slower . . . in fact, they were barely healing at all.

“It’s not healing as fast!” I yelled, shooting five slugs into its neck before I ran out again. “It’s not healing! It’s dying!” I dropped my shotgun and pulled my Kimber.  

“Damn straight!” Ryan screamed. I looked at him. The look on his face was frightening. He was holding the crossbow again and had it leveled at the vampire. “Damn straight! You are dying and I mean to keep it that way!” he screamed at the vampire.

Somehow knowing that the most immediate threat to it was the deranged man with the medieval-era weapon, the vampire sprinted towards Ryan. It was too late.

Twang!

The bolt flew from the bow . . . the flights kept it on a straight course . . . it flew true through the cold autumn air . . .

And struck the vampire in the heart.

There was a hideous scream as the vampire skidded to a halt, grasping the bolt as if to pull it out.

“Die!” Ryan screamed, “Go to hell!” He threw the crossbow down and drew his handgun. He emptied the magazine and went for a fresh one. Tony shoved his final drum into his AK and giving the vampire a twenty round burst.

I yanked my Ka-Bar knife and ran forward. I seized its head and yanked it backwards. I shoved my knife into its neck, sawing viciously. Somehow I knew that if the head was gone, this demon would die. The vampire jerked feebly in my grip, paralyzed by the bolt in its heart. I hit the spine with the blade, pulled the knife out, and hacked as hard as I could. With a sickening crack, the neck broke. The head came off in my grasp and I hurled it from me.

There was a sudden silence.

The headless corpse collapsed at my feet, the flesh melting away. Tony and Ryan dropped their weapons and nearly fell to the grass.

I searched for words. “It’s over,” I finally managed to say, “It’s over.”

“Yeah,” Ryan croaked, “Done.”

We remained for several moments, staring at the twisted skeleton in front of us. Suddenly, a low moan split the silence and we spun around. “Help,” a voice groaned.

“Phil!” we shouted. Jumping to our feet, we sprinted back to our friend.

“Phil, are you-” Ryan stopped at the sight of all the blood coming from Phil’s wound. Phil coughed and tried to smile.

“I think . . . I need a doctor,” he gasped.

“Okay,” I said, trying to remain calm, “We’ll get you to a doctor. Just hang on.”

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