By Dejan Sklizović
The enemy had been among us for a long time, but we could not trace him. There was literally nothing we had not tried in our attempts to catch the monster. Countless attempts, always without success. From the most modern technology of our time, all the way to occult incantations from forgotten eons, attempts from modern scientists and priests of the past were equally fruitless. The damned thing would always smell fresh blood from miles away. Like a shark, he would unfailingly circle his victims, unprotected bastards in the dirty streets of the city. That’s why people named him Blood Follower. It was kind of convenient, and quite accurately described the vile nature of the beast. However, that was his profane name, for the water bags with some meat on their bones. To me, he was a Starman from the very beginning, and even that wasn’t a name that could come close to explaining his profound cosmic nature.
Drenched from the freezing rain on the outside, I was soaking wet on the inside as I flooded my organs in the only formalin suitable for a hopeless case like me. The whisky was going to kill me sooner rather than later. I didn’t even dilute it, but only consumed the pure liquid at body temperature so I could feel every molecule gnawing in me before it was lost in the bloodstream and began to soak my synapses. My cursed memory depended on the alcohol, as it kept coming back in monstrous clusters, clouding my consciousness. It was important for me to remember, because it was the only way to catch the Blood Follower and avenge her death.
And there it is again: the meaning of my life comes after more hooch. The only problem is that this meaning is nothing but pure and consuming pain that rips my whole being apart at the seams and burns in its fire of inconsolation. I live to remember it, and when I do, it hurts like a hundred inquisitions.
“Honey pie, isn’t it a little too fuggy in the room? I’ll open the window to let the air in while you take a shower.” Her words echoed again in our small apartment in the middle of a quiet neighborhood inhabited by peaceful families. Our little paradise, which was disturbed only by the occasional banter of many neighborhood children during the day.
“Sure, just don’t wait too long, it’s going to rain,” I retorted while a wisp of unusually hazy air crept under my shirt. I shook myself and went into the bathroom.
My horrible habit of listening to pulpy podcasts on my favorite YouTube channel has cost me my happiness in life. It cost her even more than that. While I was steaming with hot water, I listened on my phone to a charlatan who was talking about the mechanics of the occult universe, claiming that it was possible to explain that world on the basis of his speculative physics. Of course there were no references, but it was very interesting to listen to the guy trying to answer the unpleasant questions from the lively host. He spoke of unknown creatures so horrible that no human imagination could shape them into a functional form. He claimed that they fed on human energy, consciousness, but also on bodily secretions, and that, like a predator that tastes human flesh for the first time, they ground themselves and stay for a long time feasting in our zone of existence, as he called it. How do they get to us? Who knew? came the reply. One thing was certain, the minds of crazy, dangerously mentally-disturbed people were the real catalyst for such creatures.
“What do you mean? Minds of madmen? Sort of like serial killers? Is he attracted to such types?” the presenter tried to keep the conversation level interesting.
“Serial killers are quite a harmless phenomena compared to just one of those creatures I’m talking about.” The guest’s voice deepened slightly, accenting each slowly spoken word.
“So we’re dealing with monsters, not humans?”
“With both. The creature needs a good carrier to nest. Otherwise, every person, including most psychopaths, would go completely insane and become catatonic from the very touch of such a thing.“
“So we’re looking for a super-psychopath? Someone who loves blood more than anything?’
“That can be said, although it is not exactly the most precise definition. In symbiosis with the unimaginable horrors of negative existence, it is no longer human. I believe that such a person would display unusual physical level of functioning even on standard medical examinations. He would probably turn out to be perfectly healthy, in the sense that all his somatic traits are far above the average, or some unknown and illogical abnormality or anomaly would appear. Who knows?”
“Are you alluding to Blood Follower when you talk about the symbiosis of a man and a being from, as you say, negative existence?“
“For pity’s sake, don’t say his name! What, do you think he doesn’t hear when you mention him? Don’t forget that he can follow certain vibrations, like a beast when it smells the blood of a wounded victim.”
“How do we know it’s male? Maybe a woman is taking revenge on other women. That has happened before.”
“I want to leave the studio. This is a joke to you, and maybe your days and hours are numbered.“
The dude demonstratively left the studio, and in the short break that followed the commercials, I heard an unusual sound and again felt that icy wind twisting around my wet body and making me shiver. Moreover, I was now sure that even during the shower I could hear the same gurgling and bubbling at times, but I did not attach importance to it. The opened bathroom door let the icy air in. In any other case, I wouldn’t pay much attention to such a thing, but a temperature this low was unusual. Especially for the middle of August.
Intuition was whispering to my body to calm down and be careful, and my adrenal glands were working so hard I thought I could hear the sound of the adrenal pumps. The paralyzing fear subsided just enough that I managed to open the door slowly and step into the dark hallway. The lights off and the sound of the widely-opened clapping window were not good signs. I shyly stared into the darkness, trying to recognize the shapes and familiar contours of the room, but I couldn’t, and the coldness gripped me even harder, so much so that the drops of hot water on my body were already turning into frost. Then I heard it again, the sound of hundreds of tiny bubbles bubbling uncontrollably in the middle of a pot, somehow boiling at sub-zero temperature. Such a contrast completely took away my consciousness, and then, guided by some kind of inertia, I stepped into the darkness and found my foot on the still warm and very sticky liquid. I slipped and hit the back of my head on the floor. It was getting dark before my eyes, while the overwhelming iron-like smell of the fumes from the floor made me vomit. However, what was happening above my head, coming from the ceiling, blocked all my attempts to rationalize the position I found myself in.
The darkness in the corridor was not of equal density in all places, and a mass of ameboid shape, something pulsating from the supposed center of eerie existence, encompassed most of my vision. It radiated coldness, and yet, as it approached, I felt a still-warm liquid seething within the body itself, rippling in the digestive system, vainly seeking a way out.
Several flashing apparitions displayed above me, like dozens of eyes connected by carefully woven threads of light, looking at me and sizing me up. It was like a cosmos full of constellations, only in my corridor, somewhere on the ceiling and now it was slowly pouring down. The misty cloud thickened and took on a humanoid form, although it changed forms incessantly and alternately, like nightmarish representations of all possible apparitions that the human imagination has ever imagined. Only the network of tiny stars in his body shone like a ghostly Christmas tree, probably trying to communicate with me. In the end, he was standing above me, somewhat warmer than a moment ago, and through the transparent dark skin you could see the blood that had just been drunk, which had now completely calmed down, merged with the host. She even stopped gurgling and moved into the calm streams of the beast’s bloodstream. A Starman full of human blood: that bizarre thought was the last thing that crossed my mind.
Darkness brought a lot with it, and oblivion was the only blessing. For a long time I was falling into the depths of the unfathomable abyss of some hostile cosmos and experienced things there that I’m not sure I want to ever remember.
A quaint pub with a rotting wooden bar. The rotting was not visible from the outside. It’d been varnished regularly, but the flakes of varnish layers keep appearing again and again and revealing the poor condition inside. Who knows how many worms were already eating that wood, and maybe they were the descendants of the worms that ate my darling many years ago. Who knows? Leaning on precarious footing, I ordered another double whisky from the bartender.
There were two characters at the table right behind me talking about things they had no idea about. It diverted my mind for a moment from the scene that I experienced on a daily basis, each time with greater intensity. It was easier to listen to two drunken fools than to be in a pool of blood again in the middle of a dark corridor with that creature over my head. In the pool of her blood, which had my blood in it.
“Do you know what that beast really is? I’m going to tell you, but don’t laugh, okay? It’s a werewolf, I swear, the real deal! Don’t look at me like that, think for a moment. He attacks only menstruating women, drinks half of their blood on the spot, while the rest leaks out, and takes their bodies to who knows where, to devour them there. Like when you slaughter a pig, or a calf, you let the blood out first, understand?” the first of the two explained his theory.
“A werewolf, and a butcher too, is it?! And what will we do with the men he killed. That doesn’t count, huh?” the other continued.
“We don’t know if that’s him. He didn’t take a single male with him, it was someone else! This is some werewolf who hates women, like Jack the Ripper.“
“So the Ripper was a werewolf?”
“Oh, no, you fool! The Ripper was a psychopath and a freemason, haven’t you seen the movie? That doctor, Gall, as it was said, killed women in satanic rituals, but the royal family covered everything up because they are also freemasons.“
“Do not push it. Firstly, werewolves are the romantic inventions of drunken peasants and horny teenagers. Blood Follower is something else. What is he taking? Blood, blood, blood. He’s some kind of a vampire. Not quite like Bela Lugosi, or that Klaus Kinski guy. More like Max Schreck, something otherworldly.“
“You mean that my werewolf theory is ridiculous, and in return you offer – a vampire?”
“Something like a vampire-alien, not quite a vampire. I don’t think he’s running away from garlic and probably the hawthorn stake isn’t helping.’
“An alien? Seriously? Darling, give me two more Bloody Marys, but no vodka for him, just put a squeeze of lemon in his tomato juice!“
It was cute listening to two drunken nerds exchanging rants about things they didn’t understand at all. If they saw and felt a fraction of what I am, they wouldn’t dare to speak a word about it ever again. They would probably be in a madhouse howling at every full moon or slightly heavier rain.
“Friends, is this free?” I pulled a chair, without waiting for an answer, to which the sober one protested.
“Wait a minute, who are you? If you’ve heard this fool talking about vampires and aliens, it’s because he can handle booze like a demon can handle church bells.”
“No, I’m actually inclined to believe his theory is closer to the truth. I guess because he’s drunker than you. Certainly the story of the werewolf does not fit well. Well, it wasn’t always a full moon at the time of the murders!” I replied and ordered another round.
“I was kidding, he’s dead serious. And how do you know he’s right? What are you, a cop?” he said curtly. My icy gaze without blinking made him take a defensive position. Now fear was already present in his eyes.
“Don’t worry, I’m not a typical cop. Maybe I’m some kind of inspector, or better yet, a monster hunter.” Disbelief took hold of him and I could feel blood boiling in his veins. Warm, drunken blood.
“Who are you, my friend who claims to know so much? Some modern-day Van Helsing?’
“Van Helsing was a cunt. This one looks like a really fucked up guy.” The other, now slightly soberer, chimed in.
“You can say something like Van Helsing, but not a cunt, you’re right. You both got me. I just wanted to tell you not to say that name. It usually showes up after that. Somehow the damn thing always hears when it’s called.” I calmly explained.
I’m not sure how long the conversation with the two unfortunates lasted. I only know that before dawn I found myself soaked and splattered with blood next to their corpses. Another black out and again my bloody hands on the beast’s new victim. Ever since she left, it’s been happening all the time, with every victim, and I could swear that I dreamed of the deep spaces of the unknown cosmos where I used to wake up next to the previous victims. In the blood of some of them I even swam eons far back, when time ceases to lose its meaning, and the past and the future merge. The beast always managed to escape, only the trace of its elusiveness and heinous crimes remained, after which I bathed in many pools of blood. There is no reincarnation. I don’t think I have lived many lives, I live this one all the time, while my consciousness stretches and curves through numerous vectors of space-time corridors and ravines. Only her death really brought me back to this existence, enough to make me aware that, as a human race, we are being hunted all the time. I don’t even know how long it’s been since her death, maybe only a couple of dozen years. Only the devil himself might know. I just know that my old dilapidated building was replaced by a modern one, which will end up demolished, just like the whole bastard of a city. Over time he became a city egregor, and I am his shadow that follows him closely, while the cursed otherness of metaphysical evil from who knows what galaxy keeps escaping.
Memory returns from the pocket of repressed phobias. I never wanted to relive waking up after falling into the abyss, where for a small eternity I dreamed a cosmic dream in which I followed the red thread of my own existence, my own blood and seed mixed in the black womb of the universe. I woke up in the middle of a horror that, from the point of timelesness, seems ridiculous, but then it completely broke me and caused a deeply hidden nature to come out of me. Blood was all around me, and I was violently separated from a place where no earthly cares mattered, thrown straight back into the world of base emotions like love and hate, to suffer for the only person I’d ever felt a shred of humanity for. The seed planted in the place of my temporary residence germinated within me, still fragile and uncertain, shyly making its way through the layers of humanity that hurt. How it hurts to be a man among men in a world of suffering. And all that sticky blood of a dear being from which I grew as if reborn, randomly selected by something I will never understand and which I recognize only by the coldness with which everything that pulses with life freezes, as it sifts for food among very special individuals.
“Boy, I’m asking you for the last time, make it easy for us all. What happened to your fiancee? Did you kill her and hide her body? If you did, I kind of admire you, you’ve done it masterfully.” The head pig was addressing me, using the classic procedure for guys like me. At least he believed that I was one of them.
“Are you also impressed by the technique?” I retorted with half-feigned enthusiasm, which I could hardly hide, apparently. His tiny eyes lit up like a hog’s. I had him, but I played his game.
“Of course, I’m delighted in a way. And, you know what else?” he theatrically turned to the camera in the corner of the ceiling, strutting like a peacock, ready to deliver the final blow and gain recognition in front of everyone. He didn’t care about my late sweetheart, unlike me who still felt the same way, just with a little less cohesion.
“What?” I said back.
“You managed to destroy another young life. Her family is shrouded in black, they will never recover. The younger brother experienced a trauma from which he will not recover for the rest of his life, and the parents are unable to connect two meaningful sentences. The neighborhood kids won’t be playing in the yard anymore because they’re walking past a window that reminds them of your crime. Most will move away, if they’re lucky enough to own some property, or sell everything and add their life savings just to move from the place you’ve desecrated forever. Do you think someone admires you? No, my friend, you’re irrelevant and miserable and everyone is looking to forget you as soon as possible, you understand?” he could hardly wait to finish his triumphant tirade, having badly acted the transition from a sincere fan to a harsh critic. Now, lulled in the hormones of happiness, he was waiting for my reaction. I just kept silent and looked him straight in the eyes, with an expression of complete disinterest.
“So what do you have to say in your defense? This is the last chance for some sort of settlement until the prosecution puts you in a meat grinder.” I still stood motionless, and he was the one who started to show signs of a boiling volcano of anger, just what he expected from me.
“Dear inspector. Between the two of us, I’m not the one who is overly sensitive to criticism, nor do I have a grandiose idea of myself.” Almost, in the blink of an eye, he started strangling me, grunting and burping on me, while I calmly let him torture me.
Soon the inspector was removed from my case, and as I heard, the unit for behavioral analysis was temporarily ceased. The second inspector came the very next day, he was much calmer and did not use aggressive interrogation methods. At least he didn’t do it in a stupid way like his predecessor.
“I can’t let you go, all the evidence is against you. Even if you didn’t kill your fiancee, at least you were a witness. I can’t tell how much you’ve seen. I’d like your cooperation. Unlike my colleagues, I think you’re lethargic and disinterested due to severe PTSD, not because you have one of those nasty personality disorders.” Yes, PTSD, he was right. But, in a cosmic way, not this human one, that keeps emotions trapped in torture chambers. Mine releases them and tries to rush those vermin as far away from my being as possible. We don’t have a name for such a condition.
“I wish I could help you. I wish I could help everyone. But I can’t…” And I don’t care, with that last thought being too much to add. I would have crushed the hope of this nice man who thought I wasn’t a psychopath, just a deeply traumatized guy. Technically, I wasn’t constrained by self-images or triggers that would set off uncontrollable rage in me. I was over it. Just a little more and I’d be completely free from that plague.
“Was Stella on her period?” he confused me with this, but it soon became clear to me. In a moment, I realized another piece of truth. Too small for what I was just starting to go through, but as big as the universe for me.
“No, sir. She was pregnant. The third month. The others were also pregnant. I bet the next one will be too.” As if shot out of a cannon. Yes, it all had something to do with the fetus in Stella’s womb, the joint effort in which we invested hours of wild sex.
“You… you sure she was pregnant? How do you know about the others? That makes you first on the suspect list, if it turns out to be true. In two cases out of five, it was not confirmed, but it was not even requested, until now…” he expected me to cooperate, and I did not want to refuse that nice man, so much obsessed with irrelevant things.
“I’m quite sure, but I don’t know why that is. I guess the beast sniffs out the fertile womb. I have no other explanation.”
“What beast, sir? We’re talking about dead women and a serial killer, worse than all of them put together so far. Please don’t mention that about the beast to anyone again, if you want to get out of this. I’ll let you have a headstart and slow down the work of the prosecution for a couple of weeks. Especially since I myself believe that we are not done with the murders yet. If you’re not a murderer, that means you’re either innocent or part of a larger network of murderers, which is also an option.”
“Yes, the network, that’s how it works. It’s impossible for one to do everything alone, right? Body parts remain, spilled intestines, removed organs, sometimes only traces of blood, as in my case. Entire bodies disappeared. Tell me, have all the girls been in relationships with bullies? If they didn’t, did they conceive a child with people who have a proven history of violence. Or are they con artists, maybe even murderers?” It suddenly dawned on me.
“Where did that come from now? We have checked you thoroughly, you have no history of violent behavior, we do not know that anyone has made a serious complaint about you. A couple of pub fights when you were a teenager, but nothing alarming. On the other hand, we checked the others, although we did not look for a connection in that. Now I see that there is, because they were all problematic in some way, and most of them beat women. No one is a suspect, except you, and now I’m not even sure about that. See you soon, watch out for your next statement. Maybe I’m going to sound unprofessional, but pray to God that another murder happens soon. Honestly, that’s the only thing that can get you out after this statement.” Before the last sentence, he turned off the camera.
“There will be more, inspector.” There will be much more.” I don’t know if I was more affected by his inner upset, which he so clearly radiated at that moment, or by the childish trust in my words, which he took for granted without a hint of criticism in his attitude and look.
That’s how years and decades passed, like the fastest filage that would only sometimes stop if I focused my attention on some triviality. I started drinking again. I don’t know how much time passed, I only know that my love for her held me together for a while, until the last atom of that base passion was completely drained from me. And then something completely unexpected happened. A new obsession with Stella appeared, this time magnified many times over. It reached unimaginable proportions, clearing my way into the depths of the dark cosmos and illuminating the blackest nights in which I wandered dimly lit streets and got drunk in cheap bars. The drink helped me to ascend to the magnificent palaces of my mind, whose newly discovered powers delighted me more and more at every moment. My interest was now of a sublime nature, I wanted to find out what had happened, as well as to collect all the scattered pieces of memory, left somewhere in the black holes where the creature I was following had eternally eluded me. I wanted its speed and power to bend timelines, its strength of thousands of protuberances of the brightest stars, and its flexibility that only the shadows and dense mixtures of the larvae of negative existence could boast. Every now and then I would hear the gurgling of his blood and I followed that sound, as closely as I could. I longed for power and nothing helped anymore. No amount of drunkenness could calm me down, nor quench my thirst for pure cosmic gnosis.
And then it dawned on me, during one of my long night walks, just when I was within reach of the place where it all began. What didn’t change about the new building was that it was still residential, and the light on the second floor was on. The male and female shadows merged with each other, I could clearly hear what they were whispering, it was completely normal to me, just as the fact that I had not aged a second for several decades, and that my body was full of vitality. My body began to slowly dissolve (I have no other explanation) when the young man told his girlfriend to leave the window open while he went to take a bath.
I’m not sure if my memory recovered due to similarity of that situation to my own. Or maybe it was the beginning of a new life for the girl from the window, who timidly hid her pregnancy from her lover, who got drunk too often and allowed himself all kinds of nasty things. All in all, he didn’t matter, unlike me in a similar situation. For the first time I met a woman whose blood was similar to mine… And now I have to follow the trail of that blood, let the life in the embryo develop only this time with the gentle intervention of genetics that is not quite human. Officially, they say that she suffered a miscarriage when she found her fiancé, stiff with shock, drowned in the hot water of a large bathtub. The autopsy was not done, fortunately for her, because they would have discovered that the unfortunate man had an enemy in his blood, implanted by the person he loved and who almost gave birth to his son. If only that strange carousel game of cosmic fate had not forced her to rent an apartment in that very place. Not the same one, but quite similar, with an almost copied layout of the rooms.
After that I could finally calm down. I felt that my task was accomplished. Our son was growing incredibly fast and was showing some remarkable abilities that kids his age couldn’t possibly have. He started practicing martial arts almost as soon as he could walk, and I took him to the shooting range the first time he found the hidden key and broke into my gun collection. Since he then saw a set of knives, too, I took him hunting and allowed him to kill his first trophy and then skin it. He aimed in such a way that the poor deer remained alive and conscious, so that he had to endure a large part of his skin being torn alive, but that’s why the little one enjoyed it. We gave the skin to his mother as a present, and we made hair ornaments from the horns, which could also be used as daggers if necessary.
The blood whose gurgling I feel within my son is the same as the one’s whose call I’ve been feeling all along. The same blood I followed and whose purpose was revealed to me when I met Astra and thus strengthened our ancient lineage, of which I became a member when I first saw the Starman, the one that will lead to great changes in the world. Until then, we watch our child grow and prepare for what lies ahead.
This Serbian author has devoted all of his free time to studying and writing speculative fiction, narrowly specializing in cosmic terror/horror and noir genres. He is volunteering as an editor of the horror section of the AVKF, a Serbian portal dedicated to all forms of fiction, where he publishes movie and literary reviews, as well as horror and noir fiction. The inspiration for his prose comes from movies, comic books, and horror and occult literature. His prose is highly influenced by authors such are T.E.D. Klein, Thomas Ligotti, Algernon Blackwood, H.P. Lovecraft, Poppy Z. Brite, Clark Ashton Smith, Robert Eickman, Rudyard Kipling, and others.