The Creek

He stays indoors during the day; hiding from the sunbeams that peek through the blinds. The light stings like insect bites where it touches him and it hurts his eyes. It makes him snarl, but it is the sickly snarl of a dog that’s lost its bite.

Each day he descends into the basement, securing several locks and treading down the stairs three at a time. It’s better down here, amongst the cool bricks. He has fashioned a nest where he gathers blankets about himself like a child, burrowing into the farthest corner of the basement, hiding from the sun and the reality beyond the front door.

He sleeps. He wakes. He stares at the walls and listens to the minutiae of sounds issuing from the house above. It is an old house, barely holding together. He hears the creaking of its joints and the sound of the wind between the cracks in its walls.

Sunset greets him bloodily as he emerges from the basement. He checks for mail at the doorstep and searches for any signs of any intrusion.

For a while he stands in the kitchen and stares at the teapot, although he couldn’t possibly conceive of making a cup of tea. There’s no milk. And besides; he doesn’t drink tea.

He senses the daylight slipping away and he starts to feel stronger. He treads into the study and past his bookshelves. Most of the books are about vampires. But there are also books about bats, mammalian biology, psychology, self-help, phobias. There are medical encyclopaedias and a desk covered in papers, fountain pens and envelopes stuffed with unsent letters.

On the back porch, he stretches. Once the sunlight has faded completely he steps down onto the grass. There is moisture about, he is vaguely aware of the sense of dampness on his pants below the knee.

The moon stands out in the sky, a mighty face gazing down on him like a father; or an old friend. Beneath it, he makes his way towards the trees that rise out of the darkness to meet him like the shapes of a child’s pop-up book. He walks between them like some unlikely Red Riding Hood.

The journey is automatic. He does it every night. He feels his hunger in the heartbeat of rabbits that dash ahead of him and he lets it run away with them.

He can hear the babble of the creek and it sounds a lot like laughter. And he can see it now, through the trees wherever the moonlight burnishes the peaks of the water in silver. There is a log beside the creek that he dragged there himself, and a centipede making its way across it.

He flicks the centipede away and watches it scuttle between the leaves. The trees he feels some kinship with. He touches the bark and senses the moisture stored away behind its rough folds. He can feel the age of the trees. He thinks of their roots—puncturing the earth like fangs—drawing their sustenance from the soil around them.

He sits on the log and looks down at his feet, which appear alabaster in the moonlight. He rests his soles on the dirt, ignoring the heartbeats of the night creatures that drum at the periphery of his senses.

He sits and he thinks about crossing the creek and stepping into the forest on the other side. It is no more than two or three steps through shallow water. His muscles quiver, his lips twitch. He snarls again, a tiny sound, the sound of defeat.

“Do it,” he whispers to himself. His is the only voice that he has heard in some time and the sudden, jarring sound of it in the forest startles him. He stands up and takes a few steps towards the water.

Instinctively, his toes curl up. He feels as though the centipede he flicked away has returned and is now scuttling down his spine. “Do it,” he repeats to himself.

There is a tightness in his chest. A tightness in the skin on his face. If somebody was to chance upon him now, in this state of half-transformation, there would be no doubt as to his monstrous nature. But he is all alone here in the forest. Alone except for the trees and the moon and the tiny heartbeats of nature on all sides of him, the rhythm of insignificant lives.

He takes a step and the water encircles his ankle like a shackle.