P D Dennison – Candy Cane Park

Profile P D Dennison LE P&W Mag August 2019

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Candy Cane Park, a short story by P D Dennison

P.D. Dennison is a speculative fiction writer from Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. He spent years working in marketing and promotions. Before that he was a fine dining chef working in the best restaurants and hotels the little city of Regina has to offer. He is an avid outdoorsmen and enjoys hiking, fishing, camping, archery, snow shoeing, barbequing and gardening. He is a lifelong lover of epic fantasy, high adventure, sci-fi and horror. His first love is writing epic fantasy tales. The seeds of his love for fantasy were planted at an early age by playing role playing games with his older brother and friends. His first book Legends from the Land of Shaarn Book One: Awakening a dark, epic fantasy novel will be released September 30, 2019 through Dragon Soul Press. Visit him online at landofshaarn.com, on Facebook at P.D. Dennison, on Instagram @pddennison and on Twitter @pddennison.

A young man sits on a park bench next to his captor. He’s petrified with fear, taken from his bed in the dead of night, flown through the air across town and into the park. He remembers his father pushing him on the swings next to the cement, candy cane painted trees. The small playground is called Candy Cane Park. It lies inside of a larger park Called Wascana. They sit facing a small manmade lake. It’s dark on this side of the park. Globe shaped lights line the street behind them, but that’s behind them. It’s dark on the bench. The kind of dark that doesn’t let a person make out the features on someone’s face when they’re sitting right next to them. The captor lights a cigarette and the young man can see the outline of his face for the first time and then it’s dark again except for the red cherry of the cigaratte. The young man tries to get up to run but the captor whips his hand across his chest slamming him back down into the bench so fast and so hard the young man gets the wind knocked out of him.

His captor speaks;

“It’s late, round about three in the morning. The streets are quiet, it’s the time when good honest folk are usually asleep, kids are tucked in safe and sound but not you. It’s my favorite time of night and I’m hungry.”

The young man tries to scream, but his captor’s hand moves up and over his mouth with blinding speed and strength.

“Scream like that again and I’ll snap your neck before I drain you, meat puppet!”

“Tonight I find myself in the sleepy little city of Regina once again. It’s really just a farm town, but there’s enough people living here to call it a city. The cops out in the sticks in places like this, they only keep a skeleton staff on duty at this time of night. It’s why I like to feed here, low exposure to the pigs and to the media. I don’t want you squealing, jabbering slack jaws exposing me and my good works! Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-haaa!”

“I’ve stalked the streets of this city for the last ten years and oddly enough the missing person reports have gone up two-hundred percent in that time, go figure. Fat donut eating small town piggies can’t put their finger on why so many teenagers keep going missing. Can’t figure out where all the bodies go to. Can’t seem to find any evidence or any leads. They say it’s like the kids just get up from their safe little beddy-bies in the middle of the night when only evil lurks about and they just walk right out their front doors never to be seen or heard from again. Now how the hell is that even possible? I mean come on! If they dragged the damn lake once in a while they’d find a mountain of bodies. It’s been dry the last few years and the water level is lower than usual. Damn lake’s not very deep! I hope they aren’t piled up too high. You might just see an arm or a leg sticking up, no place else around here to hide the bodies either. I’d have to move on.”

“I get a kick out of everyone’s idea of what’s, what. Local color says its alien abductions, small town rags like the QC, and the Leader Post. These papers struggle to find any news at all in this boring little dust bowl. Imagine if they knew I was in town. Just imagine! Network TV has done some reports on Regina because of the missing kids. I watch during the day when I can’t go outside. It’s always the same. They flash the faces of the kids I’ve killed across the TV screen, everyone watches in horror and ten minutes later they’re back to Seinfeld reruns and stuffing themselves, no memory of the poor, poor kiddies.”

“Young blood gives me that lustrous glow of youth, keeps folks from staring for too long if they happen to catch a glimpse of a fang when I smile. Sometimes I forget to retract them; after all I was only human.”

“Oh! Where are my manners, please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Longinus and I’ve been alive for 2,051 years. I was the centurion who drove the spear through Christ’s side as he hung on the cross dying. I did it out of pity for Christ’s sake, pardon the pun. The poor bastard was choking to death. Have you ever seen a crucifixion victim? It’s awful they hang there with all their guts, and ribs pushing up into their lungs, their arms hang at unnatural angles and they can’t keep their heads up. It makes their throats close up; they can barely gulp down a breath after an hour. Well this poor son of a bitch, they hung him with nails through the wrist and feet. I’d never seen such a horror in all my days in the legion. They made him carry that monstrous cross for miles and then up the hill at Golgotha by himself. That was after they whipped him for a good hour. They put a crown of Euphorbia Thorns on his head. My god, those thorns are half an inch long a piece. His scalp was almost off by the time he got up the hill. They made one of his followers help him up the hill and made the guy watch as they hammered in the nails. Jesus screamed and shook the whole time.”

“I saw none of that, only heard it. You see I was blind back in those days I was a Roman Centurion, I’d been blinded in a battle. They let me keep my spear and placed me in charge of public executions. So, I stood by and listened to his hard breathing, to his slobbering and sobbing as they hoisted him up onto the cross and tied the ropes tight on his wrists. I was surprised he didn’t even yelp at that point. I guess the whipping and the thorns had already beaten most of that out of him. The ropes would’ve felt like silk by then. I heard them hammer the first nail, into his feet. That sure made him scream! I’ve never heard a sound like that come out of a man and I swear I could hear the devil laughing in the crowd. He was there too, but we’ll get to that.”

“Jesus let out a monstrous cry as they hammered in each nail. You could hear this sickly crunching sound as the nails hit bone but only if you were right beside him like I was, the screams were so terrible that it would have drown out the hammer twenty feet away. If anyone ever wondered if Christ took it like a man, well he sure took it. I don’t know how manly he was about it but I know this much, I would have screamed just as loud if someone was hammering nails that size through my wrists and feet.”

“So he’s up there now and the screaming dies down to a low moan, and he just keeps up with it like that for a few hours, gulping down a breath every now and then, choking on his own tears in between. It was really ugly to hear, but I’ve got no choice but to listen right, because I can’t see a damn thing! It’s, like work for me, so there I stand, right beside this poor bastard while he chokes on his own lungs.”

“There were a couple of other guys being hung too, a couple of thieves. But they were only tied to their crosses. One of them actually had the nerve to speak to Jesus. He asks the guy for forgiveness of all things like Jesus has any to give while he hangs there beside him. But get this, Jesus had the class to offer the man the forgiveness of God, like it was his to give, while he’s up there nailed to a damn’ cross! Like who has the presence of mind to offer forgiveness to anyone, let alone some thief, while they’re nailed to a cross?”

“They said he was running around the countryside telling everyone he was the son of God and too repent and well, you know the deal, he’s really famous now. I don’t know if he was the son of god or not, I’ll let you decide for yourself but he was definitely no ordinary man, and here’s why I say that.”

“My eyes had been burned out by a catapult full of flaming debris sent into my battalion during the battle of Gassus Por. It’s not a well known battle; some bandits who’d formed up ranks and become more of a mercenary for hire army got stiffed by the local gentry on a gig to protect some gold being shipped into Jerusalem. They didn’t take too kindly to that as you can well imagine, can’t really blame them. Folks were a little more desperate and a little feistier back then. So, they puff up and come back a week later with two catapults, a battering ram and decide they’re hard enough cunts by that point to try and take the whole damn city! Needless to say it didn’t go well for them, except they got a few of me and my boys that night. I don’t know what was in that catapult exactly but that crap hit my right in the face, red hot chunks of flaming awful is what it was. Burned my left eye right out of the socket and burned my right eyelid shut, knocked me right off my feet. I could still see the sunlight through my right eye lid the next morning but I couldn’t see out of it at all. It got infected, they said it was bad, all pussy and stuff. They didn’t have modern medicine back then so they burns both eyes with a red hot blade to ward off the infection, bandaged me up and put me on execution duty.  I didn’t mind. It’s not like they had disability back in those days, and if they wouldn’t have given me execution duty, I’d have surely starved to death or died a beggar. That’s just how things were back then.”

“So now that you know a little more about how I came to be at Christ’s side while he choked on his last few breaths, how’s about we get to the good part, shall we?”

“So there I am standing beside Christ’s cross listening to him die. I find myself gripping my spear tighter than usual, digging the butt end into the ground to take my mind off this poor sod’s suffering, but at the same time I also find myself holding my breath just to really hear him suffer, I couldn’t not listen. I’d never heard anything like it. All I wanted to do was drive that spear into his guts to shut him up but until then I had to hear it. Looking back his suffering was truly exquisite, it’s sounds like that, the sound of a human begging and pleading for their lives, or the sound of them choking on their last breath of air, those sounds are the only thing that matter to me now. I’ve seen, and been the cause of, so much death that those are the only moments I cherish now. It’s strange how the rest of the world just melts away and it’s just you and them. People make promises they aim to keep in those situations, but I never give them the chance to make good.”

“I don’t know what time it was, we didn’t have watches or cell phones back then, but I’d say it was round about five in the afternoon when they asked me to finish him.”

“He’s hanging on my left, I can hear his breathing get harder, faster, I hear him gulping on dry desert air, he wriggles a mite and one of the bones in his feet breaks where the nail enters next to the bone, I hear the snap plain as day. He grunts some and cries. I sidle up real close to him and feel him there, he shies away as much as a man who’s bound hand and foot to a fifteen foot wooden cross can and he’s whimpering now. I can feel him shaking as I run my hand up his torso and find his ribs. He’s really freaking out now, he knows its coming. I lower my spear to his side and he cries out;”

“My father! My Father! Why have you forsaken me!?”

“You’ve never heard anything like it. It made your skin crawl; you could hear it echoing through the hills over his cries, over the crowd, who fell oddly silent when he screamed. I took my hand off him for a second it gave me such a fright. I almost felt like I was doing something wrong, but what do I know. At the time we all thought he was just some nut job and what else are we supposed think? Some guy claiming to be the son of God running around the countryside, with hookers and lepers, claiming to heal the sick and feed the poor. I mean he had nothing. He had these guys, who followed him around, but they didn’t have anything either, no priests among them, not a penny to their names, but we’re supposed to believe he’s come to save us all from an eternity of damnation. I mean come on, right?”

“Anyways, I slide my hand back up his side and he’s really wriggling now, he knows this is it this time. I find his seventh rib, that’s how I’d been doing in these poor sods they hung on these crosses, I’d find their seventh rib and that’s where the heart is and then I’d pierce their lung and their heart in one go so they’d bleed out quick. I didn’t like to hear them die so I wanted to do it quick like with as little fuss as possible. Don’t get me wrong I’ve never been squeamish about death. Not even back then. I mean, I was a Centurion. I’d killed hundreds of men, right up close and personal smiling at them as I stuck my spear into their guts, but they were my enemies, or at least enemies of the state I served and it felt different. After I’d lost my sight I could only hear them. When you close your eyes and listen to a man dying, I mean really listen, it’s ugly. Its dark, it’s the worst thing you can put your ears through. It’s worse than seeing it in battle, you don’t have to see the aftermath in battle you stick em’ they might make a face but you move on so you don’t get stuck yourself. This God damn execution gig, I had to stand there and make sure they were good and dead and then wait for them to be untied and I’d help load them into a cart.  Even the sound of the wheels squeaking as they took the bodies away was awful, I still remember it, and I can still hear it in my mind. But I’m off on a tangent again so I digress.”

“There I am spear in hand, all lined up and I THRUST! The spear goes clean through the first lung through the heart, and into the other lung, It’s a good solid strike this one’s going to bleed out quick and it’s a good thing because I can barely stand all the whimpering and slobbering that’s going on. He slobbered right on me. It was awful. I give the spear a quick twist and yank er’ back out. See, that’s me doing him a big solid. It speeds the bleeding along nicely. He’s only got seconds to live at this point, but here’s the kicker.”

“As the spear comes back out, a geyser of blood comes with, and it hits me right in the face, right in the eyes! I feel the hot blood hit my scarred eyelids and run down my face. But it’s not just hot it’s searing hot. I start to scream, I drop my spear, fall to my knees and I’m on the ground wailing beside Jesus who’s blood is pouring out on the ground right beside me. I’m rubbing my eyes because the blood actually hurt, it burned me and as I’m rubbing the weirdest sensation takes hold of me, I can start to see light through my eye lids again. I keep rubbing and carrying on not knowing what’s going on. One of the other guards comes over and wipes the blood off my face for me and when he does, I open my eyes for the first time in over a year and I see the entire scene before me. I’m on the hill at Golgotha, just outside Jerusalem and there’s Jesus’ blood pouring from his side and even his mouth now, it really was a good strike, right through the chest, almost completely. He’s gurgling and sputtering and then it all stops. The crowd goes quiet; they’re watching to see if he’s dead now because he’s not moving. I stand up and give him a poke with my spear and sure enough he’s gone to meet his maker. No one is any the wiser about my sight. Can you believe that? They didn’t even notice. With all the commotion surrounding Jesus, no one even realized a blind man regained his sight that day from the blood of Christ. Just as I turn around to announce to the crowd that he’s dead, in shock myself at the fact I can see, there’s this brilliant swirling flash of fire from the ground and the sand begins to bubble like molten lava.”

“A fissure opens up, hot wind and flames come swirling up from the earth, I stepped back and tightened my grip on my spear, I had no idea of what was about to happen. Out of the flames steps a demon! A God, damned demon! He walks right up to me and says his name is Baphomet. Says he wants to thank me for doing what he wasn’t able to. He says that demons have no power over the son of God on Earth, that it was his dominion while he lived here. That’s right he said the son of God. Says he wants to give me a gift for my service to the dark lord, as he calls him and he grabs my spear and pulls me in toward him nice and close. Grabs my shoulder with his other hand and pulls me right up to his face. I’m crapping a brick at this point like what the hell, right? He’s all hot and stinking and breathing the nastiest most indescribable breath on me and says that I’ll live on to tell this tale for all eternity and he chomps into my neck before I even know what’s going on. I’ve still got the scar to prove it. He lets me go and lets out this horrendous howl, he’s got my blood running down his chest and he’s screaming into the sky. I mean think about it,  this is the first thing I’d seen in over a year and I see Christ breathe his last, return my sight to me, then a demon appears before me and takes a bite out of my throat, So, at this point I’m completely buggered backwards and forwards. I’m screaming,”

“My neck! My neck!”

“And looking up at this goat legged muscle bound beast before me with my blood running down his chin and chest and he just laughs. He laughs so loud the ground shakes, people are screaming and running off now, it’s just me and the demon. He grabs hold of me again and picks me up to my feet. My legs are jello he’s got to hold me up; I can’t even stand by this point. Like, I’m surprised I didn’t crap myself. He grabs me by the shoulders and tells me that I’m now a creature of the night, that I’ll live forever,  that I’m called a vampire. The first vampire, he says. He tells me that I have to feed on the blood and flesh of the living to survive now. He calls me his son; he actually has the audacity to hug me. I was dumbfounded. I couldn’t believe I wasn’t bleeding out after that bite he took out of my throat, but I wasn’t even bleeding anymore. Finally he lets me go and I’m back on my own two feet.”

“In a swirling flash of fire and smoke the ground bubbles up like lava, opens up again and he disappears down into the molten muck, never to be seen again. Like to this day, he’s never made an appearance again, even when I’ve called for him.”

“So that’s it, that’s how I became a vampire, the first vampire. All the other vampires out there were created by my children, the first that I created. But I’ll get to the other vampires in a bit.”

“So there I am on the hill at Golgotha, Christ’s body hanging there lifeless beside me. You’d think regaining my sight from the blood of Christ, and being chomped on by a demon who tells me I’m the first vampire and that it’s somehow his gift to me for killing the son of God would be the end of the weirdness for the day, but it got a little weirder for me still. Up till that point in the day the sky had been overcast and there was even a little drizzle now and again. But now, the sky clears off and I can see the sun setting on the horizon. My eyes start to burn like hell and my skin is on fire! I think good God, am I going blind again, so I’m rubbing my eyes and freaking out, but the burning on my skin just gets worse and worse until another cloud passes in front of the sun and I realize it’s the sunlight causing the burning. Whatever the demon had ‘gifted’ me with, left me allergic to the damn sun! So I go running back into town and straight to my house, I didn’t even go back to work that night, I was too messed up. Besides, everyone saw a demon trying to eat me so for all they knew I’d been devoured and was long gone by that point in time.”

“I run inside the house and shutter the window. I fill a bowl of water to see my reflection but nothing. I move the bowl around carefully to catch the right angle but I can’t see myself. For the first time in a year I could see but my reflection somehow escaped me. I couldn’t believe it! The blood of Christ healed my sight but the bite of Baphomet took my reflection from me. Never again would I see my own face.”

“The sun was going down and it was past supper time. I was getting hungry. I had some stew in the pot from the previous night so I decided to heat it up and have a bite. I remember it tasting off. Not quite sure how else to describe it, just off like it had gone bad or something. I only ate a couple of bites and threw up. It was rank, I couldn’t even make it outside, I threw up inside the house all over the door and the floor. Then, I remember, Baphomet told me I had to feed on the blood and flesh of the living now that I was a vampire. I get a little freaked out at this point. I’m hungry, like really hungry. So hungry I can’t even describe what I would have done to get something to eat. It was worst that first night.”

“I go over to the wash basin to start cleaning the blood and vomit off myself and clean up the floor and I get all that done. I’m wiping the blood away from my neck where the demon bit me and I’m running my fingers over the scar and I notice something really screwed up. I don’t feel any pulse. I feel for it. I mean this was between thirty and thirty-six AD. We didn’t have the common knowledge of medicine that even a high school graduate has today but we knew where to check for a pulse and mine wasn’t there. I checked both wrists and both sides of my throat. I checked and checked again. I was getting really freaked. There was nothing. Thing that was so upsetting was that I was standing and walking around the house, and checking myself over, how could that be without a pulse?”

“It hit me all at once like a sack of wet hammers. I really was a creature of the night. I was hungering for something I didn’t even know the taste of. I had no pulse but I was still standing and the sun had burned my eyes and flesh. I finished cleaning myself up, got dressed in some clean clothes and decided to go out for a bite.”

“The sun was just down and the twilight lit the evening up in a brilliant myriad of oranges and pinks. It had been so long since I’d seen the sky at sunset. The streets were shadowy and dark already but I could see clear as day. I walked for about twenty minutes to get myself good and far away from my house and let the sun go down completely.  It was dark now. About eight o’clock. Most folks were in for the night, but the hookers were out in full force. I decided that my first victim would a whore. No one would miss a whore, and no one cared about them enough to go looking even if they did notice one missing.”

“I walked over to the tavern in old town where the most hookers hung out waiting for their johns to pick them up. There was no shortage of ladies that’s for sure. They started flirting with me as soon as I rounded the corner.  One came right up to me and grabbed my dick through my pants. I let her play with me. She teased me with promise of a blow job for just a few coins and I thought this was as good as any opportunity I was going to get. I lead her into the alley. A bum was passed out drunk hugging onto his wine bottle tight as a babe and its blankey. I stopped and nudged him with my foot as we passed. He was out cold and wasn’t going to be waking up anytime soon.”

“I let the hooker give me a blow job. She commented on my cold skin, I raised an eyebrow at that. I hadn’t thought about it yet. My skin probably was cold. I had no pulse. No warm blood flowing through my veins any longer. I touched my arm while she sucked. It was cold. Curious I thought to myself.”

 “Just then something took hold of me. The hunger came again. Intense, like an inescapable command from within my mind and without thinking I reached down and grabbed the whore by the hair and pulled her throat up to my mouth snapping her neck in the process. I bit into her throat and sucked the life right out of her. I sucked deeply and for a good long minute until not a drop more would come. She’d shriveled slightly I sucked so hard. How ironic I thought to myself, she was just sucking on me and now I’m sucking on her. Then, I took a big bite and chewed savagely. I dropped her corpse to the ground, finished with my first meal as a child of the night. I kicked her into the trash behind the tavern and walked off.”

“In all actuality I was dead, or rather undead, but I’d never felt as alive in all my life or unlife as I did after that first meal. I felt strong and fast and I was. I ran from the scene at a blinding speed, whizzing past streets and alleyways. I leapt over a dog and flew a good twenty feet before I came down hard rolling and skidding onto the ground. I wasn’t expecting that. Funny thing was that when I checked myself over I didn’t have a scratch on me. Funnier still, my flesh was warm. The whore’s blood warmed my skin. I got to my feet, brushed off the dust of the road and leapt straight up to see how high I was actually able to jump.  I could easily jump fifteen feet vertically from a standstill. Now that I’m a little more in tune with my powers, I know that I can leap twenty-one feet straight up, not a word of a lie.”

“I leapt on top of one of the buildings beside me and sprinted across the roof top, eyes wide, I ran through the night, able to see plain as day, and leapt from that roof top to one across the street with ease. I didn’t even need to roll when I landed atop the next building. I made my way home in this way without being seen, leaping from roof to roof with all the ease of a cat and all the stealth of one too. I was able to perform these acrobatics without making a sound or breaking a sweat.”

“I decided to spend the rest of the night in. I was trying to get my head around what was happening and after feeding I felt calm enough to rest so I went home, drank wine for a couple of hours while I thought about all the crap that had happened that day. Thank God I could still get drunk. I drank the whole bottle and went to sleep.”

“Well, that’s it. That’s how I came to be here, with you tonight. So now the question you’re asking yourself is;

“Am I gonna be vampire food tonight?”

“Well, kid, don’t you worry yourself. I’m not going to eat you. I’m going to turn you.”

The young man tried again to get up and he screamed for help, but it was already too late. Longinus leapt on top of him a sweaty toothed madman, and bit into his throat deeply. It choked the young man’s voice right out of him. He gulped and gasped as the last bit of wind left his lungs and his heart stopped. Longinus stopped just shy of taking the last drop, bit his own tongue and let some of his blood mix with the young man’s.

The body of the young man began to shake and writhe. His legs kicked as the vampire blood entered his pale body. His hands came up to try and push Longinus off of him.

Longinus rose to his feet and wiped the blood away from his mouth, onto his sleeve, chuckling to himself as he watched the boy turn into a child of the night, his child.

For Longinus, it was time to move on, as he always eventually did. But he liked to leave his calling card behind when he left a city. He liked to sire a vampire into the world. Someone to come back to, someone he could count on when he needed something from this city.

The young man rose to his feet, panic in his eyes, clutching at his throat, wiping away the blood.

Longinus put his arm around the young man’s neck and spoke,

“Welcome to the night, my child.”

The End, or is it?

© P.D. Dennison