Prey for Me
This story is the first in what I hope will be a series of short stories that are tied together by the source of the inspiration. As part of a personal challenge, I chose to write a story inspired by the lyrics of songs from a single album. Since it was what I was listening to when I had the idea, I chose to use Korn's "Paradigm Shift" as the source. The source could be from title, a chorus, even a single line, depending on my interpretation. The hope is that the story will be enjoyable, whether you're a fan of the song or not. So here's hoping you enjoy the experiment.
"Somehow you bring the violence out in me
I'm just a shell of what I used to be
Passion is sometimes a fucked up thing for me"
Ethan Young strode through Garfield Park in Tacoma as the sun set on the Metroplex. Moving away from the playground and baseball diamond, he stepped onto one of the paved trails and made his way toward Puget Sound. The wind was pleasantly broken up by the surrounding trees and he moved at a leisurely pace.
His eyes scanned the path as he moved northward. His eyes settled on a jogger who was stopped to check her commlink. She reviewed her biomonitor for her heart rate and changed up her playlist to something more up-tempo. He could tell she was athletic and took care of herself. His eyes lingered on her ass and a smile tugged at his lips. She glanced back over her shoulder and saw him walking casually up the path, paying him no mind. He was just another guy working a crappy nine to five. During the time she looked back, he drank in her features. She was young... definitely under 20. Perfect.
As she took off at a jog, he increased his pace to ensure she stayed in his field of view. He knew this path extremely well. He knew of a few places he could close the gap unseen until he reached a short cut, where he could get ahead of her. Then he would just need to wait...
Ethan moved up when he could, enjoying the view of the girl's gravity-defying curves bouncing as she moved. His anticipation had nearly peaked when he saw his mark on a tree that told him he had arrived at his short cut. The girl was a good runner, so he would need to travel at a good pace to stay ahead of her.
His mind raced with the thoughts of what he could do with an exquisite specimen like the one he would soon have. He travelled his route on instinct, knowing where each marker was out of the sheer number of times he had been here. This was his hunting grounds.
He came to the maintenance road that ran through this part of the woods. He was half way there and the clear path would allow him to make up for lost time.
As Ethan moved down the weathered pavement, the overhead lamp that lit the road suddenly cut out, plunging the area into near pitch blackness. His eyes tried to adjust to the sudden loss of light, but in that instant, he knew something was wrong.
There was a nearby crack and a white hot pain in his right shin. The bone there splintered as a bullet slammed through it. Unable to carry his weight, he collapsed onto the pavement letting out a cry of agony as he fell. Disoriented, he tried to pull himself out from the middle of the road and brought up his commlink. The display lit up only for two words to appear: No signal.
Despite his ragged breathing, he made out the sound of movement in the brush on the far side of the road. He reached for his inside jacket pocket, but saw a red light appear from the darkness and centre on his chest.
"I wouldn't do that, if I were you, Mr. Young."
The voice was steady and cold. Confident and angry. Ethan's hand froze.
"Take your weapon out slowly, grabbing the butt of the gun with your index finger and thumb and toss it away."
Ethan really didn't want to leave himself defenceless, but he saw no alternative. He moved at a glacial pace, removing the weapon and tossing it into the brush at the side of the road.
"What do you want with me? Do you know who you're messing with?" Ethan said, mustering as much bravado as he could through clenched teeth.
"I have a very good idea who you are Mr. Young. How else would I know where to find you? You keep meticulous notes and buried them pretty deep. Deep enough to fool the cops... but not me."
"I have no idea what you're talking about..." the laser sight was still trained on his chest, but Ethan's eyes were starting to adjust to the darkness again. He made out a silhouette standing on the far side of the road, not moving at all.
"Oh I'm sure you do. Accountant to the wealthy, Mafia stooge, rapist and murderer... quite the reputation."
"That was all hearsay. They threw all that out of court... maybe you should watch the news."
"Yes. Yes they did... but what's the saying? Justice is blind? Cops can be bought. I cannot. I did a little rummaging... found these nice little nuggets..."
The man's commlink lit up, showing damning footage of Ethan with teenage girls, financial transactions showing him purchasing sedatives in bulk and eye witness testimony. Ethan used the light from the commlink to try and see the man he was dealing with. He was tall and gaunt, almost skeletal in stature. The light was positioned poorly though and he still couldn't make out his shooter's face.
"If all that was real, why didn't they use that in court?" Ethan said. The pain in his leg was a steady fire, save for the point of entry, where things felt cold. He could tell he was bleeding pretty badly, but he couldn't see anything and didn't dare move for fear of being shot a second time.
"These didn't surface thanks to these," the man said, bringing up financial records showing bribes being handed to key Knight Errant officers, as well as transcripts of threats being issued, citing death if they brought the evidence to light. "The Mafia must really want to keep you out of jail... how deep are you into it with them? How would they feel if they knew you were out hunting girls again?"
Ethan knew the answer to that, but refused to answer. "Hey, I'm a businessman and they protect the men who protect their interests. What's it to you?"
"What's it to me?" the man said, with a chuckle that sounded like a low rattle. "My daughter was Meagan Forrester."
Ethan felt the blood drain from his face. "She was the girl that..."
"That you killed? Yes."
"It was an accident! The drugs weren't supposed to kill her! Just make her more...compliant..."
The gunshot happened a split second after his last word. It only registered a short time later that the man had quickly tipped the barrel away and shot just past him.
"You raped and killed my little girl."
"I did my homework... there was no father in her life and her Mom worked so hard to support her that she was practically an orphan. If you ditched her when she was alive, why avenge her in death?"
The silence conveyed a rage that Ethan wouldn't have thought possible. "I left because I loved her."
"How does that work, exactly?"
There was a long silence before the figure spoke again. "I suppose I will have to show you." He tapped his commlink and the light over the path that had gone out earlier lit up again, highlighting the road. It took a moment for Ethan's eyes to readjust to the light, but when his eyes focused on his assailant, he recoiled.
The man standing over him bore a striking resemblance to girl he had abducted a month before. His features were pale, like white skin barely stretched over bone. His fingers were long and clawed and his eyes milky white with thick cataracts. The ghoul looming over him grinned, revealing a row of sharp, jagged teeth.
"Perhaps now you understand why I left?"
Ethan nodded vigorously that he did. His eyes darted toward the direction he had tossed his gun, but made no effort to move toward it. "H-how did...?"
"How did this happen? Went to Touristville in Redmond for a night of slumming... got mugged in alley and was scratched in the scuffle. Apparently, my mugger was a carrier."
"I thought ghouls were just mindless killers..." Ethan said, dragging himself away as subtly as he could.
"Oh many are... but I was 'fortunate' enough to keep myself sane during the change. It's a mixed blessing, really. On one hand, I got to keep who I was. Still good with a computer and I still remember my wife and little girl..."
The ghoul took a big step forward , keeping his gun trained on the Mafioso who was bleeding all over the road. "On the other, I have to rationalize with myself every time I eat, that I'm not a monster. I try to feed on the dead or dying..."
The ghoul inhaled and sighed, as his stomach audibly growled. "Do you know how hard it is smelling your blood, hearing your panicked heartbeat pounding in my ears and remain composed?"
"P-please... I can change..." Ethan pleaded.
"Says the man who dodged the court charges and is stalking new victims in a week's time? I hate what I am. Despite every fibre of my being being ecstatic when human flesh passes my lips, I loathe what I have to do to survive. Yet today, I believe I will enjoy what I have to do. I live to see another week and I'm leaving the city a little safer..."
"Oh God... please... show mercy..."
The ghoul smiled as his white eyes fixed on Ethan's brown ones. "I'm not without some compassion..." From a back pocket, the ghoul drew a long knife and clutched it in a taloned hand. "I will spare you my fate. I will make sure you don't live long enough to become the monster I am."
Ethan screamed briefly as Stephen Forrester lunged forward and claimed his vengeance, savouring the taste of the Mafioso and embracing at last what he had become.