“Monsters” by Linda M. Crate

Judy breathed in heavily. She hated that the council had decided she was the one to do this. When she had become a monster slayer, she never imagined that she would ever have to do anything this difficult.

How did she know that her father would be bitten and turned by a vampire, and become one of the most vicious and dangerous villains in the whole of their village? She remembered the last time she had seen him as a human. He had told her that he would always love her, that she could always count on him, that everything was going to be all right.

The first person he had killed was the vampire that turned him. Her tortured face looked up at Judy from the snow, even still. The contorted features, the eyes forever staring in the heavens in horror.

How a fledgling could kill his master was beyond her. Most fledglings weren’t that strong. She must have been a powerful vampire, and underestimated the strength of the one she had turned.

The second person he had killed had been her mother. She couldn’t imagine the terror her mother must’ve felt when the man she loved turned out to be a brutal murderer who cared more about his blood lust than anyone else he had once known.

He hadn’t even tried to fight it as some vampires did. Some of them banished themselves from their own families in an attempt to save them, but not her father. He had embraced and accepted the blood sucking demon and become intimately involved with him.

Judy knew he deserved to die for all the harm he had done. But why did she have to do it?

Why did the council need her to prove her loyalty to them this way? She had already killed hundreds of monsters: vampires, werewolves, harpies, banshees, dark elves, dark fae, gorgons, evil dragons, and countless others.  She was very good at what she did.

But they insisted that her thousandth kill had to be Bernie.  The man whose hazel eyes were her own, the man who taught her how to walk and how to hold a spoon, the man who had first taught her to use magic, the man who had always been her safe harbor. She had always been a daddy’s girl. She had loved her mother…but they had never been close the way she and her father had.

How hadn’t he fought the beast he had become? How dare he just succumb so easily to the darkness?!

Judy breathed in sharply again, and more importantly, just how was she supposed to do this? Judy thought she might have a mental breakdown then and there, had there not been a louder voice inside of her insisting that she had to prove herself worthy of the council so she could finally have more independence. If she managed this then she wouldn’t have to work with any of the fledgling slayers, anymore, she could work with someone more advanced and learn whatever magic they were willing to teach her.

The young witch sucked in another breath. Her mother had been a healer, but she was a slayer. Perhaps, she and her father had been monsters all along and his vampirism just exacerbated what he was always capable of becoming.

She felt torn. She knew the village needed protected from these monsters, and yet she felt guilty.She wasn’t so sure this was the right choice, and yet she told herself she couldn’t be weak. The council wouldn’t have put her on this task if they hadn’t believed Judy was strong. And so she sucked in another deep breath and looked at the weapons in her cloak: a stake, a potion that immediately turned to flames when the glass broke, and blades that were made by stringing sunlight and magic together with metal which would slow a vampire but wouldn’t completely kill them unless one hit them in the heart.

Judy didn’t bother bringing garlic. She knew that if he smelled garlic that he wouldn’t come.

She wasn’t so sure that he would come to begin with, but Judy had sent a letter out with a carrying pigeon. The pigeon hadn’t returned.

“Hello, Sparrow.”

Judy felt her heart leap in her throat. She had just barely arrived at the place she had asked her father to come. She saw her shocked face leap up at her in the glass window of the bakery, and her feet nearly lost their footing on the cobble stone street as if there were ice on the ground. There wasn’t, as it was mid-summer, but she was really surprised he had come.

“Didn’t mean to scare you, Sparrow.”

Her father had been calling her Sparrow since she were a child, she always fought back insisting she were more fierce a bird. But that old nickname was a ploy, she was certain, to make her lose her guard. She wouldn’t. She was aware of the monster he was.

Judy glared at him. “Hello, father.”

“You’ve come to kill me,” Bernie said, with a dark smile. “Go on, then.”

Judy looked around her at the deserted street. Using magic she closed off the sector they stood upon. She pulled out her weapons. “Any preference?”

Bernie snorted. “Do you always ask those whom you kill how they want to die?”

“Don’t make me sound like a monster, you’re the monster.”

“We’re both monsters, darling, even if we don’t share the same fangs.”

Judy threw the potion where Bernie had been standing, the vampire jumped out of the way but not before the flames grabbed onto his cloak and it was a fast moving fire that consumed him. “The council’s using you just like they used your mother. One day, Sparrow, you’ll see the truth.” And then he was gone.

Judy scattered the ashes before she flung herself at the ground, sobbing. She had killed her father, but at what price? She watched the wind scatter his ashes.

Linda M. Crate, author.

Linda M. Crate’s works have been published in numerous magazines and anthologies both online and in print. She is the author of six poetry chapbooks, the latest of which is: More Than Bone Music (Clare Songbirds Publishing House, March 2019). She’s also the author of the novel Phoenix Tears (Czykmate Books, June 2018) and two micro-poetry collections. Recently she has published two full-length poetry collections Vampire Daughter (Dark Gatekeeper Gaming, February 2020) and The Sweetest Blood (Cyberwit, February 2020).