The cool night air felt comforting against Peter’s skin as he walked up the door. He savored that sensation, knowing it could be the last day of his so-called life. He paused at the threshold, fighting down the terror. His hands should be sweating, his breath coming short, his heart pounding in his chest. But none of those things happened to him. He just felt the tight knot of unease in the pit of his belly.
He knocked on the door, the sound echoing through the quiet of the rundown neighborhood. A dog barked as if in response, and a distant owner yelled at the dog to be quiet.
The door opened and bright light from within silhouetted the large man standing on the threshold.
“Can I help you?” the man growled. He stank of sweat and stale cigar smoke.
“I’m looking for a friend,” Peter said, his voice sounding fragile to his ears.
“Ain’t no one here but me,” the man replied. He punctuated his answer with a hoarse clearing of his throat and spitting just past Peter’s face.
“He came here last night,” Peter clarified, concern for his friend bolstering his resolve. “He heard you could heal him. His name is Mark. Have you heard of him?”
“Yeah, I remember him,” the man in the doorway said. “I treated his condition. He’s all better now.”
“So you do have a treatment?” Peter asked, torn between hope and fear.
“Ayup. You wanna be treated too?”
Peter nodded, his head feeling light and unstable on his neck.
“Well, come on in.”
Peter accepted the invitation and walked into the small house. Debris cluttered the living room: food wrappers, crushed beer and soda cans, old newspapers and ashtrays filled with half-smoked cigars and ashes. Doors led off into unlit rooms.
The man walked over and picked up an open can of orange soda, knocked back the last of the drink and threw the can onto the floor.
“What sort of treatment is it?” Peter asked. He stayed rooted near the door. Though he had been invited, fear kept him from going further. “Will you pray over me? Or is it an herbal cure.”
“It’s an old fashioned treatment,” the man said with a smirk. Peter didn’t like that smirk. “Some herbs to supplement it, but mostly just the basics.”
“The basics of what?” Peter asked.
“It’s easier to show you than explain,” the man said. “How about you go into that room on the left, turn on the light, and you’ll see what I’m talking about. I’ll be right there after I grab my equipment.”
Peter nodded, then forced his leaden feet forward to the next room. The light came on bright and strong, and Peter had to blink a few times to clear his eyes from the light. As his eyes focused, he gasped and stumbled back.
In the center of the room, headless bodies were piled up with a fresh one on top. Each body had a stake run through it. On a work table nearby were the heads, each with heads of garlic stuffed in their mouths. Most were moldering and rotten, but Mark’s was clearly fresh. There was no smell of decay, no flies. Carrion wouldn’t touch this.
Peter spun around and screamed, “You monster!” as he extended his fangs. He turned just in time to see the man holding a shotgun. The impact of the buckshot knocked Peter into the room onto his back. He forced his blood to the wound, trying to heal it so he could get back up.
The man stepped into his line of sight, a mallet in one and a stake on the other.
“Sorry, pal. There’s only one treatment for what you got.”