Soul Hunter

Celebrating Short Story Week: Story – Clockwork Hunter

A short story of the

Clockwork Vampire Chronicles

by Andy Remic

The canker stood in the shadow of ancient oak woodland on the summit of Hangman’s Hill, a natural chameleon on the outskirts of the desecrated, crumbling monastery. Snow fell, drifting in light diagonal flurries and adding a fuzzy edge to reality. The canker was huge, the size of a lion, but there the similarity – and nobility – ended. Muscles writhed like the coils of a massive serpent beneath waxen white skin, the smooth surface broken occasionally by tufts of grey and white fur, and by open, weeping wounds where tiny cogs and wheels of twisted clockwork edged free, ticking, spinning, minute gears stepping up and down, tiny levers adjusting and clicking neatly into place. Only here, in this canker, in this abnormal vachine, the movements were not so neat – because every aspect of the canker’s clockwork was a deviation, an aberration of flesh and engineering and religion; the canker was outcast. Impure. Unholy.

As evening shifted towards night, the sky cracked open with purple bruises and jagged saw-blades of cloud, so the canker watched two men progress like distant avatars, making their way gradually across a vast snowy plain. The small entourage zig-zagged between stands of lightning-blasted conifers and ancient, pointed stones, one stocky man leading two horses, the second, more slender and well-balanced, master of a heavily laden-donkey. The canker shifted its bulk, aware it was invisible to the men, blending as it did with the ancient tumble of fallen stones and thick woodland of thousand year oaks, and doubly hidden by the haze of wind-whipped snow. It turned, superior clockwork eyes observing the trees, gnarled trunks and branches ripe with protrusions, whorls and nubs of elderly bark.  A product of ancient vegetative inter-breeding, a meshing of woodland technologies – of nature, and soul, and spirit. Like me, thought the canker, and smiled as far as such a bestial, twisted, deviated creation could smile; for its mouth was five times the size of a human mouth, the jaw jacked wide-open, lips pulled high and wrenched upwards over the skull with eyes displaced to the side of its head. Huge fangs, twisted and bent in awkward directions, glistened with saliva and… blood-oil.
Blood-oil. And blood-oil magick…
The basis for Vachine Civilisation.
The nectar of the Machine Vampires.