Sound filters through the earth differently than through the air. It’s obvious that it would, but Ellis hadn’t ever thought about it before being turned, hadn’t thought about it before he figured out it even mattered. It wasn’t in his nature to consider things until they mattered. But then, somewhere on his trip down from Detroit, he figured out he could sink down into the soil to stay out of the sun. And it had been a fucking relief to do it, too. No more hiding in dumpsters hoping that nobody looked in there during the day.
So he could just travel after that, and it made the trip a lot easier, not needing to find a place to hide out. Instinctively, he knew the sun would kill him. Even thinking about being outside when it was up made him anxious and queasy. So yeah, being deep in the protective soil was a huge weight off his shoulders.
But he still needed blood. It didn’t have to be from a human. But if it wasn’t, it tasted like shit, and left him hungry. It was weird how he thought like that now. Humans. Like he wasn’t one of them. He guessed it was either considering himself inhuman or considering himself a cannibal. But thinking about that wasn’t go to help him solve any of his mounting problems, so he put it out of his mind whenever it came up.
Not burning to death in the sun. Check. Getting blood to drink every goddamn night was next. He didn’t need it every night, something he learned by necessity, but it was all he could think about from when he woke up until he got it. So on the nights he didn’t… they were long nights.
But he knew how to trap, and animal blood was drinkable. It wasn’t pleasant, but it also wasn’t murder. And it was a lot easier to get ahold of once he started setting out traps before sinking into the ground for the day. And that also meant he didn’t need to go through any population centers. He could just hoof it through the woods, and through fields, and set traps, wake up in the night to feed from whatever was caught in the day, and keep moving. It wasn’t as fast as stealing a car and driving down, but there were no cops involved. He could navigate by the stars and just keep moving. All in all, it took him about a month.
It wasn’t perfect, but nothing ever is. And his goal was to get home, intact and not draw any attention to himself. And that he accomplished. He still had shit to do. A lot of it. And he had a lot of work to figure out how he was going to do that shit with his new… circumstances.
But the trip was good. It gave him a lot of time to think, and to learn how he was going to get his blood. He got good at his traps, and he found with time, he could hear them go off. The scream of the trapped animal didn’t reach him, but the thud of the deadfall striking the ground did, and once the deer or whatever was pinned to the ground, he could hear its panicked heartbeats sure as anything, throbbing through the soil to his ears. It filtered into his dreams, and he would awaken with the sure knowledge that there was blood awaiting him.
And so this night, Sunday, July 29, 1984, started like several others in the past month, with the thud of a trap above him going off, followed by the startled and panicked beating heart of his prey drumming him up from his slumber. Ellis slipped up to the surface of the soil, emerging silently in the darkness to see and hear that, as it happened, this night would be distinctly unlike any previous.
There were two of them, both in shock. The first was pinned with the meat of his thigh skewered through into the ground with a sharpened wood spike, the weight of the log holding the spike in place. He twisted, and then screamed in pain and collapsed back against the ground. The other was incapacitated with indecision. He vacillated between trying to help his friend lift the log off of him, which would have pulled the spike out of his leg and maybe sent him bleeding to death, and running up the ridge to the highway nearby to try to get whatever help could be had by someone stopping for a lunatic on the side of the road.
The smell of blood was thick in the night air, and Ellis could feel his fangs extending unconsciously, and his mouth watering. He could hear the voice in the back of his head saying to just go and drink from him, to put him out of his misery. He was stupid for having gotten caught in the trap to begin with. And besides, he was probably going to bleed to death either way. And even if he lived, there was no way that didn’t end with police tromping all over the area. He almost gave in. He wanted that blood like he wanted nothing else, but he couldn’t just murder some hiker for wandering into the wrong part of the woods. He was not going to just start killing people. He had enough death on his hands already.
The other hiker seemed to have made up his mind, and started making his way up the ridge to the road. Ellis made up his mind as well, resolving to try to save the trapped one from his friend’s stupidity, and followed, gathering the shadows around him as he went, ghosting up behind the hiker, and in one smooth and swift motion, covering his mouth with one hand while wrapping his other arm around his neck, and squeezing. The blood was cut off from the hiker’s brain as the pressure from Ellis’s bicep pressed on his carotid artery, and the hiker went limp in a matter of seconds. He would wake up soon enough with a headache, and maybe some bruises.
But being this close, arms wrapped around this man, Ellis could feel the warmth of his skin, the rushed pumping of his heart, and before he even understood what he was doing, his fangs were out and plunged into the man’s neck. Ellis drank deeply, savoring the taste of life flowing out of this poor soul and into his open mouth, drinking it down into his endless hunger.
He forced himself to stop. Truth be told, he didn’t know how much he had taken. He had been famished, but he was always famished. And now he wasn’t as hungry, but it wasn’t like he felt full. He hadn’t felt full since the first night.
Ellis forced his fangs to retract. He sealed the bite on the hiker’s neck, and then made himself lay the man down on the side of the highway. He turned and stalked back into the woods. The other hiker was where he had left him, still pinned to the ground, still wailing in misery. Ellis felt a mixture of anger and guilt as he cloaked himself in shadow again, and coldly walked around the prone man, passing right in front of him, but completely invisible to his mortal eyes. If these fuckers had just not come this way, this wouldn’t have happened. And there might have been a deer here for him instead. But now he was going to have to try to save this one from dying, and hopefully he wouldn’t lose his leg. And maybe he killed the other one too. And even if he managed not to kill them both, he was going to have to move.
He stepped around the panicked and bleeding hiker and choked him unconscious as well. After fashioning a tourniquet out of the hiker’s belt, he pulled out the spike, and fireman’s carried the unconscious man up to lay him down by his friend on the side of the road. It was a stroke of luck that Ellis could spot a police car within a few minutes of getting there, and was able to flag it down, and then vanish into the darkness before the cop had time to see more than the two unconscious hikers with their flashlights standing on end next to them as beacons.
Ellis still had somewhere to be tonight, and he was already behind schedule.