Blood Suckers

by E. Markham

In the warm, close darkness of the summer night, Karl watched his prey swat at the mosquitoes and sip cool beer. That at least was like the snow covered forests of home. The promise of feeding on blood infused with the malty tones of hops eased his homesickness momentarily.

Australian prey had been so disappointing. They sweated so much that their blood was under-flavoured from a lack of minerals. Since the first time he’d sunk his fangs into lobster-red sunburnt flesh, he’d regretted leaving home for this southern adventure.

A possum rustled through the leaves of the tree Karl was perched in, and his prey looked up. The next moment a beer can hurtled through the air and hit the tree trunk exactly where his head would have been if he hadn’t moved.

Startled more by his preternatural speed than the beer can, the possum fled, bouncing over to a neighbouring tree. He watched it go without regret. Marsupials were very bad drinking. As he’d discovered.

“You threw a can at that possum again didn’t you?” a young woman said from behind the fly-screen door.

“Just discouraging it from settling,” Karl’s prey replied.

The woman tut-tutted and turned back to whatever she’d been doing in the bright kitchen. She looked tastier than the man lounging outside, but some potent chemical wafted up from her like a pall of smoke. It made Karl gag.

A hiss-click indicated a fresh beer had been opened and Karl frowned. Alcohol was hard to take in this heat, and his prey was quickly marinating.

He found it hard enough to fly with the blanket of sonic interference that rose from the choir of cicadas, without other impairments. Time to feed.

Without warning an enormous moth smacked into his forehead, causing him to hiss a very old Slavic curse under his breath. The moth flapped lethargically around him for a moment before it landed on his arm and resisted vigorous attempts to shake it off. Wondering why coming to the antipodes had ever seemed like a good idea, he gave up fighting the moth and settled back to hunting.

The man had closed his eyes and seemed to be slipping into sleep. Now was the time.

In a second Karl was at his victim’s side. He had his drinking-teeth right on the surface of the skin, when the same terrible chemical smell engulfed him. This time though it was a cloud of scorching spray that stung everywhere it touched him.

He screamed and fell to the ground writhing.

“You cut that close,” the man said.

“Did he bite you? No. So stop sooking.” The woman stood over Karl and peered down at him. “Baltic region, or I’m no judge.”

“Cheeky bastard, emigrating without a permit.”

“Better call it in then.” The woman shoved a spray can at the man. “Put some of this on if you’re so worried about getting bitten.”

The fly-screen door slammed as she returned to the house, and the man stood up and sprayed more of the foul, burning substance into the air. Seeing Karl watching him, he smiled and held out the can. “Mosquito repellent. Turned out it works on all kinds of blood suckers.”

The End