Morien Jones



The Decennial

by  Cyril Lewis Jones


"The forthcoming end of the world will be hastened by the construction of underground railways
burrowing into infernal regions, there-by disturbing the Devil.
- Dr. Cumming, 1860

carter's fingers drummed idly on the keyboard of his PC. What with late lectures, preparation and marking, free time was mostly after 10 p.m. and weekends. Forty-five and unmarried some would say it suited him.

By his students he was considered witty, occasionally brilliant and always effective; his colleagues found him polite, preoccupied, unambitious - almost reclusive. He'd been a Scale 1 lecturer in Physics since he'd joined the Institute of Higher Education in 1976.

He was tired but it was May 29th 1996. The bitch would be rising tomorrow. A twenty year sentence was enough. He couldn't afford to get it wrong again. Next time he'd be fifty-five. No, there'd be no next time. In the darkness of tomorrow night he'd kill her.

With the mouse he clicked on file Decennial.

The text appeared..........

Decennials - Thirteenth Order Vampyri . . .

Decennials possess an affinity with earth and are capable of moving through it at immense speed. When dormant they appear to hover in the small crypts or sarcophagi that are created when they choose their place of rest.

As the name suggests decennials are active only at ten year intervals when they rise and seek their victims.

Historical references to decennials are scant, the most impressive being the Journal of John Teddington (1801 - 1861). Teddington was Chief Surveyor for the Great Western Railway Company and supervised the laying of new track from Gloucester to the coal port at Cardiff. In 1848 the Great Cutting at Black Stag Rise had carved half its way through the hill. The workforce, over two thousand navigators working in shifts, was largely Irish with significant numbers of western and mid-Europeans who had been displaced by the revolutions in Europe.

Teddington's Journal 29th April 1848.

If the navigators were as idle as they are drunken and credulous we would yet be but a mile from Gloucester. Shortly after midnight I was called from my rest to quell a great and violent disturbance in the cutting. A group of navigators had discovered what they claimed was an "earth maiden sleeping in her chamber". All testified to her great beauty and were furious at her destruction. One of their number, an Hungarian, had declared her to be a 'vampyri' and had driven a wooden rail-tie through her heart. When I inquired after the body all agreed she had instantly withered to dust after emitting the most frightful cry. As for the perpetrator of the deed, he had been beaten soundly and was a pitiful sight.

It is a tale born of gin and ignorance. Yet the strange smooth chamber was real enough, the surface having a marbled almost oiled appearance that emitted a sharp feline odour. Real enough too was the fine black dust and the fear in the eyes of the men. The foreman, a taciturn Wesleyan of sober habits, claimed to have seen nothing but, when pressed, spoke of hearing the scream of "a soul from Hell".

The sooner universal education is enforced by law the better for this country for it is fast sinking beneath the twin curses of drink and foolishness.

The men work with renewed zeal in hope of finding more "earth maidens" to keep as concubines or else as exhibits in a travelling circus!

Carter scrolled the text. It was over 30,000 words and contained historical references, case notes, cross references and twenty years of his life. He ceased scrolling. He knew it all. He"d written it; lived it. He knew the pattern of unsolved murders in the area of Stag Hill ever since police records had been kept. The earlier police records were often more helpful, more open in their recognition of the cause of death: "strange blood loss", "pallor of the victim", "look of horror". So too were the newspaper accounts of the early Victorian period. The lurid gothic descriptions of strange deaths read like fiction and had been dismissed by most readers as the purple prose of an age too much given to melodrama. But, for Carter, there had been the vital clues from which he had painstakingly built the accurate picture of Decennials. Summer holidays had been spent in major libraries reading newsprint not looked at for a hundred and fifty years. He had opened mottled boxes bound with ribbons by hands that had died before he was born. For twenty years he had moved with microfiche through the forgotten oceans of ephemeral print.

Called by love and driven by hate there was one more file he must see.

Click on Carter, K.

Carter, Katherine. Born December 25th 1957. Died May 29th 1976, aged 18. The photograph is of a girl with shoulder length hair and a hauntingly happy smile. Her eager eyes are those of someone in love with tomorrow.

Carter looked at his dead sister.

"I've learnt since last time, Kathy. It's not just scientific method now. I know her: the smell of her; the slime of her."

His voice had a level intensity that shocked.

He scrolled the ...........

Coroner's Report.

Cause of death - Heart attack induced by a drug overdose.

It still made him angry after twenty years. The lies; the cover-up. He'd seen it so often since in all the cases he'd studied from all over the country. The older the report the more detailed but since 1950 Rule 451 was increasingly evident. He had learnt of it two years after Kathy's death when having a late drink with a family friend, a retired high-ranking civil servant. "In the public interest to prevent panic and maintain order Home Office Rule 451 may be invoked".

Human nature had been Carter"s greatest ally. Help had always come from the basic decency of people who couldn't see grief without offering the comfort of what truth they knew. This had also been the case with the pathologist. He had been the same age as Carter's father and had a daughter of eighteen. It had been two years after the verdict that he'd called. He was kind and in the face of stubborn refusal to accept the verdict he told us his truth. In the twenty five years he"d served in the area Kathy was the second victim to die in the most terrible way.

"She had no blood, Mr. Carter, no blood at all".

He had wept in grief and guilt. Carter and his father had respected his wishes and maintained Rule 451.

Kathy had been the fourth victim. Carter had records for who had died on the 29th at ten year intervals, but because of the way they were investigated and reported under Rule 451 they remained officially unconnected.

Carter wondered idly how far back the victims went. Fifty years; two hundred and fifty, two thousand ... twenty thousand ...

He wondered also whether some government top-security department had a file like his or even better. Possibly - probably. The usual convulsions of anger stopped him. He knew the truth and that was enough.

He executed a three finger suicide and closed down the system. He'd phone the college tomorrow and say he was ill. He'd check the equipment in the morning and walk up to the Copse in the evening.

The marine flare hand gun wavered in his right hand. He jumped into the spread feet, two handed grip he'd learnt. For the umpteenth time that morning he squeezed the trigger. The phosphorous ball would fly straight for thirty metres in still conditions. In a light wind at that distance it could deviate by nearly a metre.

It struck the saturated chipboard target burning ferociously through the hardwood backing beneath. Carter strolled to the side of the old railway embankment on which he'd set it up. He smothered the flame with some of the sand he'd brought.

No wind. Another perfect hit. Tonight he'd burn the evil heart of her. He piled the gear into the back of the old red Astra estate, threw a sack over it and drove in the direction of the Copse.

He remembered the early years of the hunt: the meticulous research, the scientific cross referencing the time-tabled planning and the agonised theorising where no evidence existed.

Ten years ago on the night of 29th may 1986 he"d waited in the alley where his sister had been killed. Decennials were creatures of habit always killing at the same time and in the same vicinity. But one was never sure of being in the right place. He hadn't been and another girl had died. He remembered driving crazily around the countryside hoping to see the creature before she sank back into the earth.

It was after that Carter began to investigate the previously dismissed possibility of discovering the rising place, and lying in wait.

He had taken to walking the surrounding countryside. He'd created a grid plan on a one inch map and methodically (some might say maniacally) walked it. He had tried to empty his mind completely to receive that minutest tremor of the unease and revulsion that he had felt on the 29th May 1986. She had passed him undetected then but he'd smelt her; felt the aura of shuddering horror.

The research on his computer discs was all valuable information but that finally was its limitation. Information can only become knowledge in a person - what he had gained that night was knowledge. He had been waiting in the car when he saw the dog. It had trotted past the entrance to the alley glancing briefly in his direction. Illuminated by the sodium street lamps it had disgusted Carter. The visual image stirred the olfactory memory: the smell - oily, feline. He'd dismissed it as nausea induced by fear, but afterwards he'd known - it was her.

And so he'd started walking, endlessly walking and waiting for some primordial instinct to record the faintest tremor of revulsion at her presence beneath the earth.

Within three years he felt sure it was the Copse. At first it had seemed no different from anywhere else. It was a pretty wood, mostly oak and ash, set on a hill surrounded by meadow or worked fields. He remembered the sunny November afternoon he'd first felt it. The chequered sunlight had flickered through black branches and in the instants of darkness in the reflex blinks he"d felt the fear. Each time he visited the fear grew so that it had finally become an act of will to visit. But in the four long years he had walked there Carter could never establish the place of rising and could only speculate as to the depth of the crypt. There was one spot - a grassy clearing on the southern side of the rise that was unusual - but he suspected the consciousness of the choice: it was a decision he"d made not felt.

Carter shuddered. He would wait until midnight. If she hadn't risen by then he'd drive back to the alley where his sister had been found. The night was dry but cool. The moon was full and the clearing was fully visible from the shadow of the oak in which he stood.

He checked the safety catch was off and raised the flare gun to firing position to ease the tension in his back. The fear was bounding in his head; his hands were clammy; his breathing rapid and shallow. His confidence ebbed with every passing minute. The meticulous research, the confident planning seemed no more than a species of paranoia precipitated by grief. He clung to his present fear and the terror of ten years earlier as to a lifebelt.

Her eyelids trembled and then sprung wide. Dilated hungry pupils devoured the darkness of earth that pressed within centimetres of her vibrant fresh and suddenly sentient mind. The lips curled and one savage sibilant exhalation passed the parted pointed fangs.

With the swift, powerful kick of a turning swimmer she commenced her rise. The hunger of the trysting time impelled her upwards with increasing speed. Shales and calcites parted centimetres before her outstretched finger tips and streamed over her moving body in a tantalising cool stream that excited her oil glands. A second hiss: longer, deeper, both reptilian and feline.

Shales become sands, become clays, become warm earth ... roots and grasses and ... an ecstatic hiss through parted teeth marks her rising.

Ten years for the Decennial have passed like so many seconds but the ancient hunger of her waking is keen. As she walks down to the western edge of the Copse there is time to breathe the darkness of the night; time to feel the dark silk shift ride languorously over her thighs and upper arms; time to thrill to the lusting of the tryst.

She stops: her face rises to the moonlight as she searches the upper branches of a large elm tree. The rooks roost in silent rows. Her eyes focus on one. The black silken shift seems a swirl of darkness that lifts upwards to the rook.

The still night is torn with cawing and the sudden flap of wings as the rooks burst through leaves and twigs. The close mingled stench of cat and snake had caused panic. Only one bird remained. It stretched its wings experimentally, then almost languidly commenced its flight towards the town.

The sounds from the west side of the Copse panicked Carter. He'd missed her! The fear made him shake and the stumbling run through the wood and back to the lane brought a semblance of normality. He wrenched open the car door and fired the engine.

It was seven minutes through the lanes to the outskirts of the small provincial town. In another three he was parking in the alley. It was twelve thirty five. In twenty five minutes she would kill again.

A rook flapped out of the night and perched on a cornice of the night club. It had full view of the street below. People were leaving: a couple; three girls; six boys who argue with a taxi driver, finally get in and are driven off.

From inside the sound of a techno beat is clearly audible: "It's nice to be important but it's better to be nice".

Fifty yards away in the lane alongside the disco Carter listened to the Scooter number and tightened his grip on the flare gun. The tension was unbearable: stay in the alley or try and patrol the vicinity? Ritzys would be closed in ten minutes. When Kath died it was called The Moonraker. Ten years earlier it had been The Embassy, before that The Tivoli and the Adelphi Theatre. What tunes had the Decennial heard in her times? How far back did she go? Carter thought of the old town with its Victorian hall; Regency square; Tudor Merchant"s House; Mediaeval Gate; Roman Bath and ancient standing stones. How far back did she go?

The rook perched on a waste paper bin and watched the doorman stroll around the entrance. He was in his late twenties; well over six feet; heavily muscled.

When he turned he saw her. She stood barefooted and was in a black silk shift. She was slim, beautiful and utterly terrifying. As she walked towards him, he retreated before her. She was some two metres from him when she prepared to attack. Her spread legs flexed; her arms drew back. He watched her lips open in a snarl to reveal her fangs. Her odour dilated his nostrils and made him flinch. The violent hiss as she launched herself toward him was the last thing he heard.

She hit him at chest height lifting him upwards and backwards; hurling and holding him against the side of a Transit van. Her mouth fastened on his jugular; her belly pumped up against him; her black shift rode up over her naked thighs that held him tight.

Carter left the alley and walked up the road to the entrance of the nightclub. His eyes scanned the empty street. He stepped between two parked vehicles and onto the pavement. He saw the couple up against the transit some fifteen feet to his left.

He leapt into the aiming position and fired. As he did so the Decennial whirled hurling the body toward him. The empty staring white face of the man was level with his and then Carter was on the floor, stunned and struggling to sit up and fire again.

She spun to the right and seemed to hurl herself into the dark bird that scrabbled mindlessly at the base of the nightclub wall.

The bright phosphorus flare missed the rook by inches and burnt intensely on the pavement. There was time for just one more despairing shot as the bird flapped into the night.

Carter ignored the one way system as he drove through the medieval gatehouse and out into the country. He would be at the copse in under eight minutes. If he were right she"d risen on the western edge near the rookery where he usually parked.

He ran up through the lower slopes of the wood. The smell told him he was close. Then he saw it, some six metres to his right was the rising place. The curious, marbled, lava-like earth at the lip was unmistakable. He'd got there first. He slipped into the shadow of a tree.

She came walking upright in the moonlight, arms loose and heavy at her sides. She seemed sated, incapable of swift movement. Carter remembered the poor, drained white face of the young man. Her serenity repulsed and infuriated him.

He stepped into the moonlight screaming his defiance ... and fired. With terrifying speed she leaned and leapt. The flare caught her right hand. She became intense white light that illuminated the rising place. Her screams of pain and rage filled the Copse. She clutched at her right wrist with her left hand and that too ignited. She fell back screaming anger at her flailing handless arms.

She became still. With both hands held aloft, flaring hideously, she now looked at Carter. Her eyes held a depth of hatred that made him shake.

She gave a hiss of rage and the ground beneath her feet seemed to undulate, liquefy and she sank to her waist in the grassy clearing. The burning stubs of her wrists were suddenly extinguished in the earth and she was gone.

Darkness. Silence. Moonlight.

Carter's sense of failure was absolute. She was gone - sunk ten years deep in her filthy crypt. His hands fell to his side; his head was bowed in defeat. Utter tiredness held him.

The Decennial rose screaming through the earth at his feet. Her open hissing mouth was level with his. The stench of her breath and body enveloped him; her handless arms embraced and held. The fangs moved towards his neck.

Carter raised his right hand and fired again. This time the flare gun was against her chest. The phosphorus flared, burnt deep. He scrambled from her as she fell back.

The Decennial became an incandescent pillar that screamed its eternal hate and then collapsed inward extinguishing itself.

The place was swamped by an inrush of darkness.


Moonlight slowly returned.

Carter looked down at the fine black dust. The anger that had possessed him for twenty years had gone. In its place was grief. Grief unbearable in its simplicity, reassuring in its humanity.

Before he reached the car he knew what he had to do. Tomorrow he would resign from his post. He would move to Exmouth: there was a rising on the 18th September. There was another at Llandovery on the 13th January 1998. His records had identified these two as certainties. In his preliminary visits he had noted strange hills near both sites. Was this to be the common factor? Then there were the four probable cases and twenty three possible cases that had to be investigated.

He had grown in "The Knowledge."
The Decennials were not the only creatures with an affinity for earth. He could sense the maidens sleeping, and would be there for their awakening.

Oh, he had a lot of walking left to do, a lot of walking.



Copyright Morien Wyn Jones 2008. All rights reserved.

A short story by Cyril Lewis Jones first published in Tomb Magazine in 1996.




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