Some people would call it an eating disorder but a ghoul has to eat, right?
It’s actually a funny story, how I ended up this way. Why don’t you settle back and I’ll tell you all about it.
Yeah, I wasn’t really asking.
Kick off your October with a ghoulishly fun story in “Eating Disorder.”
I’ve got what you could call an eating disorder. I don’t like talking about it. Hell, I don’t even like thinking about it, but at three in the morning, listening to the sound of ice-coated branches and trees breaking all around me it’s hard not to think about how I ended up here, in Olympia, I guess that’s the capital, right smack in the middle of the worst storm in like fifteen years or something.
See I’m one of those people that no one likes looking at. Not that I’m bad on the eyes. I’m petite but what the guys call stacked. I’ve hacked off my hair, it’s all white, but you couldn’t tell that from the dirt, so it sort of just sticks up in every direction. It used to be black and long and I paid whatever it cost to have it look good.
Not anymore. A ghoul like me can’t afford that sort of thing.
Instead of designer clothes and jewelry I get what I can shoplift from Goodwill. Nothing pretty about that but when you’ve got what I’ve got you learn real quick not to get too attached to your clothes.
Or fingernails. Hell, I’d love to have the beautiful patterned nails like I used to get but instead I’ve got these thick yellow and black nails, not even nails. Let’s tell the truth. These babies are sharp enough to shave with. Not that I bother with shaving anything anymore.
You have a keen sense of smell, don’t you? It must be torture for you being close to me right now. But you’re going to help me with that.
This storm is sure something, isn’t it? A foot of snow overnight, that was bad enough, but then this ice storm on its heels? I usually don’t let things go this far, but the storm really messed up my plans.
See I never stay in one place too long. Too easy for the hunter to become the hunted, but then your type likes staying in one place. Ties to your dirt and all of that sort of thing. It’s usually pretty easy to spot your kind. From the money, the whores and the expensive houses closed up all day, your sort always stands out.
I know, you don’t think that you do, but it’s true. I spotted you right off.
Me? I’m on that. A Trek Marlin 29er, that’s a mountain bike. Big wheels, see. I don’t carry much. What’d be the point? Mostly my sleep-gear backed in that trunk bag.
Ordinarily I’m not one much for the chit-chat. I’m the go straight to the eating sort, if you get it?
Sorry about laughing, but you should have seen your face then. Your sort, how you’ve changed! Used to be among the worst sort of monsters imaginable, the kind of nightmare that made grown men wet their beds. Now you get their women to wet their beds and not the same way.
Now they all want to fuck you.
Talk about your PR campaign!
Oh? You want to know where this place is? I’d think even someone like you would recognize the piss-stink of an overpass. That’s the Woodland trail down there beneath us, street up there, duh.
Yeah, don’t worry about anyone coming by. You hear those cracks and snaps like firecrackers going off? That’s the sound of branches breaking and trees falling. This ice storm is making a mess of everything. Roads up there are awful.
No one’s coming. No one’s going to be using the trail. And I already dumped your car.
You and me, we’ve got time. That’s why I’m so chatty, and I’m not normally that sort of ghoul.
Sorry. Can’t help it. Do you think I like this? Fuck-you-very-much.
I don’t know if this is your lucky night or not. Thanks to that storm I can’t be riding or I’d have already eaten and gotten on my bike and put some miles in before I crashed for the night.
What with the ice storm and all I can’t do that right now and I don’t like sleeping where I eat. So you’re the lucky fuck. I’m going to tell you how I ended up like this. Just so you see it isn’t personal.
Like I said before, I wasn’t always like this. That changed six months ago. Before that I was a mostly normal girl, doing her thing. Oh I still rode the bike, that didn’t change. Give me an epic ride any day. Nothing I liked better getting out and hitting the trails, you know? I could ride all day until I didn’t have any energy left at all and then just crash. If I was back home that was cool but sometimes I’d just crash where ever I was at, stealth camp, you know? I always rode with my full kit so it didn’t really matter. I was always more home on the bike than I was back in my cheap apartment. That was just a place to keep the stuff that didn’t fit on my bike. But everything important fit on my bike.
So six months ago. I was out in Canada hitting the Tour Divide.
No? Haven’t heard of it? No reason you would have, heck even most people that get out during daylight hours haven’t heard of the Tour Divide.
Two thousand seven hundred and forty-five miles along the continental divide from Banff, Canada all the way down to a Mexico border crossing at Antelope Wells. Epic. Totally epic, that was the big thing that I’d been building toward hard for two years before that June.
Two years! More than that if you really went back, but two years that I had actually intended to ride the race. I’d even thought about doing it the year before but didn’t figure I was ready. I should have done it then.
The Divide throws everything at you. Climbing up passes, snow, brutal trails in the middle of nowhere. Total shitting in the woods, epic riding all frickin’ day. And the riders, they worry about things like grizzly bears because it totally goes through grizzly bear country.
I wish that’s all I had to worry about.
First day of riding and that night I’m up in the Flathead valley just pushing my bike up this trail that you can’t even hardly see along a mountain side covered in snow. There’s a bit of a moon, but not much. Enough to keep going. Not snow like you see out there right now, there wasn’t the fucking ice for one thing. This was old snow, all rotten and slippery. It used to be deep but now it didn’t even come up to my knee but I couldn’t ride through it, not if I hoped to get across the mountainside without tumbling down the cliff to an early death.
Even that would have been better.
So I’d gotten past the worst of it, so I thought, when I heard a motor. That freaked me out. You’ve got to see it, you’re in the middle of shit-knows-where on this hillside and it’s all quiet. No cars, no sounds except animals and shit. And then there’s this sound of motors. Engines revving. I could hear shit getting kicked up and I’m freaking out. Who the hell is crazy enough to be out here at night except Divide riders?
I didn’t have to wait long to find out.
ATVs. Two of them ripping across the mountain without headlights. Crazy mother-fuckers, to ride those unstable machines across this mountain only by moonlight. Or that’s what I thought at the time. I didn’t know, couldn’t know right then, that they could see in the dark as well as an owl.
I could only see them as dark shapes roaring across the mountain, more shadow than substance. The sound and the size made it clear that they weren’t grizzly bears charging. They were much worse.
Only two ATVs but four riders. The came at me, engines snarling as they spun around in the snow and stopped. I was pissed but also scared. A woman alone in the middle of that God-forsaken country, with a pack of backwoods idiots on ATVs? It sounded like a recipe to get tortured, killed and thrown off the cliff for the animals. By the time anyone found any remains they wouldn’t have a clue what killed me, the animals or the fall.
Yeah, laugh it up. Obviously none of that happened. But that’s what I was afraid of back then. Only I wasn’t about to let these guys know that.
I raised a hand. “Hey, any of you got some Snickers? M&Ms? Really, any kind of chocolate would do.”
They gave me snickers, but not the kind I was looking for. The leader, Raul, I learned that later, got off the ATV first. In the dark moonlight he looked like any other raggedy thin guy you might find at some bar tossing back one or ten beers.
“What’re you doing out here?” He spread his arms. “Does this look like a fucking bicycle trail?”
“Sure as hell does, fuckwad,” I said. “And it’s going to take me all the way to Mexico, so why don’t you get out of my way. I’ve got a lot of riding to do.”
Saved my bacon. Sort of.
Raul, he sort of bent over and let out this hacking laugh. He slapped his legs as he did it and I thought he sounded seriously fucking sick. He hawked and spat into the dirty snow.
“Mexico? You’re a long ways from Mexico.”
“And I’m not getting any closer talking to you.”
He sort of stood up straighter then and an eye-blink later he was right up against me, like pressed up hard enough that I would have gone over and tumbled down the hillside except he had a hand around my waist and was holding me in a grip that felt like a fucking steel band. And the smell!
Well, you know all about that.
That dude smelled like something left dead on the road under a hot sun, even though it was cold. And when I looked into his moonlit face from a kissing-distance away I saw just how sharp and black his teeth were and I was suddenly truly, fucking scared. Far more than I’d been only a moment before. I didn’t understand how he moved like that. Worse, all of his buddies were off the ATVs and around us in a close circle like they were all waiting for a turn.
And they were, right then. All waiting for Raul to take his piece. He sniffed me real close. He knew before then, but he was making a show of it. He did a little pout.
“She’s muggle, every bit. Nothing special about her.”
I brought my hands up and pushed against his chest but I might as well have tried to push the mountain aside. “Whatever. I’m sure you find lots of women riding a mountain bike from Canada to Mexico.”
More snickers all around. Raul tilted his head. “We’re in Canada now?”
“Yes, don’t you know where you’re at?”
Raul stared at me. I couldn’t figure out what was going on with the guy, how he moved that fast, why his teeth looked like they did or why he smelled so bad. The rest stank too and I was starting to feel sick from it.
“I told you, I’m riding the tour divide from Canada to Mexico, so it sounds like we’re going opposite ways. Why don’t you get the hell out of my way and we’ll call it good.”
“Why?” Raul asked softly.
“Why should we let you go?” The others all snickered more. “We could have fun with you.”
“Thanks, I’ll pass. Now let me go.”
Raul leaned in closer. I didn’t know what he meant to do but he was fucking freaking me out. So I did the one thing I could do. I lifted my can of bear spray that I had right there in my hand, on my bike and gave him a shot right in the eyes and mouth from inches away.
He howled! The sound split the night, and he flew back away from me. In the process that fucker scratched my back. I felt it tear, four long scratches that cut right through my jersey but I didn’t stop to worry about it. I was on that bike and I took off riding.
Snow flew from my tires and I got going. I was flying along that mountain side as if it was nothing but a smooth paved multi-use trail like that Woodland trail right down there. Or at least it seemed like that for a few minutes.
Then there was a tree down across the trail ahead of me. Not the first, or the last. I barely saw it in the dark and sort of braked and slid down the side of the mountain. I actually slid underneath the tree like I was going to slide under and pop back up on the other side. That would have been cool but that didn’t happen. I didn’t make it all the way. My head hit the tree and I was going so fast that it snapped my neck in an instant. I didn’t even know I was dead yet when I slid out the other side with my legs twitching on the pedals like I was still riding.
Being undead sucks. Being an undead ghoul really bites.
Yeah, very funny.
Raul and his buds thought my accident was hilarious. I don’t know about you vamps, but the change for ghouls happens pretty fast. You rot. I mean there I am, newly dead, and my skin bloats, the stink comes out and I started looking as nasty as something lying dead on the hillside for a week. My neck bones reset themselves at least.
See that’s the thing about us ghouls. We’re tough. We look and smell like shit, but there’s not much that can take us down.
Raul showed me that right off. Tore my jersey to shreds along with the skin underneath just to prove a fucking point.
But you know what happened then? He made the mistake. He told me that my only hope to look normal was to eat other supernatural critters. Humans might help for an hour, but there were other things out there that would make me look alive and human for days at a time. Maybe even weeks, but those sort of targets were dangerous.
Or I could hang out with them and just pick off anyone unfortunate to cross their paths.
I had another idea.
I thought I’d be squeamish about it, but it’s instinct. I went for Raul first. Ghouls are tough but I wasn’t just any old ghoul. They hadn’t considered that. Idiots.
Some might call that cannibalism. I called it justice. Maybe I’m deluded, but it felt that way at the time. I packed away extra nibbles and had myself enough to finish the whole Tour Divide race all the way down to Mexico. What I found there is a whole other, and much longer story.
Now, now. Don’t even think about trying to get away.
This story is the 33rd weekly short story release, finished in January 2012.
Eventually I’ll do a new e-book and print releases when I am satisfied that I can create the cover art that I want for the stories. In the meantime I’m enjoying these weekly releases. Stories will remain until I get up the new e-book and print versions and at that point I’ll take the story down.
If you’re interested in longer works, feel free to check out my novels through the links in the sidebar or on the Books page. I’m also serializing novels now on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Check back next Monday for another story. For October I thought I’d focus on scary stories, and next up is Tortures Small Animals, Seeks Same.