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August 01, 2022

Strange Bedfellows 60

By Lydia Manx

Renee steadfastly stared at Miguel, who was still speaking through a slowly wilting Jasmine, and didn't immediately answer him about the owner of the Confederate sword she'd given me in Kentucky. Harry's sword was still in the car because we weren't sure how he'd react to the sight of Cynthia. The spell her witches had cast on both Harry and Simon had made her their temporary master and Jasmine had countered the spell with some strong magic that resulted in the chaos we now were all dealing with in our own ways. I wasn't pleased that she'd force my fangs into my mouth without my consent and wasn't anywhere near sure of what she did between me and my Master. Simon and I had lost our connection and that was oddly freeing.

The medium had frozen between the dying rogue vamp, Cynthia, and the rest of us. Renee's challenging stare didn't do much for Miguel, but his 'host' Jasmine wasn't completely clueless. She wasn't equipped to deal with four vampires and two fully furred werewolves. Hell, she'd called up our base natures, so it was her own damned fault as far as I was concerned. And since I'd offered to remove her hands at her wrists if she kept moving them, a 'promise' not a threat, she had taken me seriously and stopped with the fluid motions I knew led to her casting spells. I wasn't left with much choice, as there was more than enough magic crackling around and through us. I saw no need to add any more to the mix.

Miguel looked at me again and asked, "Well, Natasha, isn't it?" Like he didn't know my name. His deliberate attempt at cordial manners fell flat with me since he'd already declared that he'd challenge Simon for control of me if the opportunity arose. Not something I had on my bucket list to do any time soon. I was content enough with Simon as my Master and never would consider being the fledgling of a vampire ghost. Pretty much what he was -- he was speaking through Jasmine but had no body as far as I knew. Not that it mattered -- it was not an option in my world. Miguel continued, "So Natasha, who's sword is it?"

Renee said, "Don't we have more important things to discuss than her sword?"

Looking at Cynthia barely alive on the ground Jasmine's foot nudged at the vampire at Miguel's direction. Jasmine wasn't looking like she was getting her body back anytime soon.

"She'll be gone soon. But you are right. From the sounds coming from the Zoo we should head out." Miguel's voice was deeper in Jasmine's throat and it was obvious that he was used to being in control -- there was no doubt in my mind that Jasmine was going to have trouble getting her body back.

The sounds were growing louder and more ferocious. I could hear and smell the newly freed animals picking up the pace and running towards the Botanical Building. I wasn't sure why the various predators weren't heading further up into the finger canyons that ran around the area, but it wasn't like I wanted to stay around and find out. From the rumbling sounds coming from Marcus' chest he wasn't in any hurry to depart. The werewolf liked fights and the idea of lions, tigers and bears heading his way seemed to thrill him. He and Carlos were still crouched on either side of Renee on all four paws. I saw that Marcus' muscles were still rippling and twitching as he stayed close to Renee.

That we had stayed in Balboa Park too long became suddenly clear to us as four large escapees from the San Diego Zoo rushed from the chaparral on the edges of the pathways and leapt onto Cynthia. The large cats simply tore her apart. Ironically, all of us were frozen at the sight and didn't lift a finger or claw to stop the carnage. One cat was black as night, a jaguar or panther I think and it was huge. A female tiger casually clawed up the vampire's chest with an easy swipe of her large paw. The cheetah had begun to work on Cynthia's throat quickly decapitating the vampire. The fourth cat was much smaller than the other three and looked to be from the cougar family, light brown and golden in coloring, quickly covered in gore.

We were stunned at seeing four different kinds of cats working as a team to dismantle the body, Cynthia had expired at some point and without her head attached properly, it was highly doubtful she'd been rising anytime soon. Her throat was incapable of uttering a sound and watching the tiger then tear off her right arm at the shoulder joint I knew that she wouldn't be up to the challenge of grabbing any of us for a last bite.

A wave of sheer ferocity radiated out from the dead vampire with all the hate and fear she'd supped on when draining her minions and humans. The intensity of what broke free washed over us all. It was delicious and death scented; I could see the cats fluffing up as they, too, seemed to taste what we did.

The panther tipped back its head and let loose a loud savage roar, triumphant and defiant. The other three cats purred and made growling happy sounds, ignoring the posturing of the panther, intent on their disposal of Cynthia. It was completely unnatural and more than a bit unusual. The cats didn't take more than five or six minutes to tear most of the larger parts free from her corpse.

The tiger took her arm a few paces away and flopped down while crunching hard on the end of the shoulder. The snapping and brittle sounds of bones fragmenting in her jaws shot through me hitting me at my core. The sight of them devouring the rogue vampire was oddly hypnotic.

A shudder went through my body. I was more than a bit mesmerized by the cats and their lustful enjoyment of the rather nasty vampire. But reality was drifting through the others and me as it slowly dawned on us that those hungry cats might be finished with Cynthia and looking for more active prey. The cougar saw the vampire we'd slain earlier and pounced on the one named Bradford and began gnawing energetically on his fox-like sharp face. Marcus had torn open his throat so it was easy access to the snap and crunch of tasty bits and pieces. The cheetah seized the one of the ones I called Dumb, Dumber and Dumbest -- they were all pretty much interchangeable to me then and even more so now. The cat was slowly ripping strips of flesh off his corpse. Once the panther and tiger finished off Cynthia they went and helped dispose of the remaining dead vampires.

Harry shook himself and said, "This site won't take much to clean up." He smiled at the idea of nature taking care of our unnatural forms -- usually he had to call one of his clean up crews to do the heavy lifting. From the way the cats were ripping and tearing apart the vamps I doubted there'd be anything left in an hour.

Simon agreed and said, "I think it's time to head out while the beasts are still distracted." He swept his hand towards the cats still busily chomping and crunching their way through the dead.

It was nice sound advice, but too late. I turned to head back to the car and heard a rumbling growl from Marcus. Marcus didn't sound overly upset but somewhat happy at what he'd spotted. Instantly I was alerted to where he was facing so I spun to see a rapid movement out of the corner of my eye.

My sword was up and I was cleaving an orangutan in half before the thought had even fully processed in my mind. The onslaught of freed animals had begun. It seemed there had been little thought to running for the escaped San Diego Zoo predators and once I saw what was heading our way -- there really wasn't anywhere to safely go I quickly determined -- we were forced to slay the animals.

Fur and claws flew on both sides. I preferred to use the blade because this wasn't blood combat for food or fun but a slaughtering due to Jasmine's damned spells. These creatures should have fled from humans, not attacked and challenged us. I felt bad for the animals as they came at us since they didn't stand a chance. Too many years of being fed every day at the appointed time while lounging around in their naturally fake environment had made them softer than their wild counterparts. They hadn't had any danger in their worlds for years, if not since birth. That made them lose their predatory edge; for us vampires and werewolves -- we lived in danger and it was an uneven battle.

As I whirled and spun around meeting the various animals with the edge of the sharp sword I was soon covered in spatter and sprayed bits of blood and tissue. Not to mention all the fur and raw hides flying in the dark with chunks of bones and muscle. It was a blood bath. The werewolves were still in their fur state and from the sounds Marcus was making it was pure pleasure to match wits with the Zoo's offerings. The spell that Jasmine had cast had freed everyone's true nature and it wasn't an even match.

I was growing weary of slaughtering the animals when I noticed that the sword was glowing in the moonlight. It was an unnatural silver-blue warm shade and my hands could feel that heat throughout my body like a fire. There wasn't anything in my history to prepare me for the sheer force of power running cross my frame. Something of what I was feeling radiated outwards because I watched all of my companions sway and stumble for a minute.

The number of animals coming at us was starting to dwindle but they still were vicious. I swung the blade out and took off the head of a real wolf. Marcus yipped at me and I turned to see he had a grin on his muzzle. He approved of my kill and snapped down on the nape of the neck of the young lion that had come for him. The king of the jungle was no match for the werewolf and the lion's cry was more of a whimper. Taking the lion in his jaws he swung his head and tossed the dead beast to a rapidly growing pile of his kills. Marcus was more than a bit excited by the evening. Even the momentary distraction from the energy launched from the sword hadn't slowed him too much.

I saw that both Simon and Harry were busy defending their space. They were fighting back-to-back and using lightning quick moves with their fangs and fists. It was poetry in motion. Both of the vampires were trained in a variety of martial arts and fighting techniques, so I enjoyed watching them even if it was at the cost of innocent predators. I had no idea how we were going to clean up the bodies and figured that the fires that had been burning out of control in the East County would be jumping a few streets to some how end up torching them. A flamethrower or three was my bet but anyways it would have to be done quickly, because there definitely were some humans heading this way and the mess we'd made wasn't going to be easily erased from their mind.

Jasmine wasn't fighting in any conventional style but she'd made a circle with her foot and was muttering under her breath. She didn't wave her hands but I knew she was casting spells from the Latin she was saying. The animals hit the invisible line and backed away shaking their heads like they'd been zapped with a taser.

Laughing, I looked to see Renee was busy tearing the head off a hyena. Nice to see that creature killed. It was one of the necessary evils in nature but I really found those beasts creepy. She caught my eye and screamed, "Natasha!"

I didn't know why she screamed and then I felt odd. Like I was being pulled backwards into a hole far away. Simon met my eyes and I saw a single tear fall down his face. Harry was saying something but I couldn't make it out because I wasn't in Balboa Park. I was lost.

Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2010-10-25
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