A tale of a coffin - chapter OneDisclaimer: Kailey is mine; everyone else belongs to CBS or Joss Whedon and Co.
“So, how is it going on, Oz?”
Oz the werewolf just looked at Kailey and shook his head: the case of the cemetery-stalking gloaming was going nowhere, and was actually beginning to test the beginnings of Oz’s patience.
That was actually because Oz was doing his own cemetery stalking – stalking for the gloaming for the third night in a row, but so far, the gloaming was not making any appearances, even with Kailey playing back-up.
As Oz passed past Kailey into her apartment, he felt an acute pang of self-disappointment stab at his ego. The gloaming hadn’t killed anyone, but not for the lack of trying: its vampire-like feedings tended to leave the victims half-dead from blood loss. It was useless to keep an ordinary watch out for it: the gloaming could exhale, apparently, some sort of a potent sleeping gas that tended to knock out everyone in the vicinity for a long enough time for the gloaming to pick the victim at its leisure... except for cats. It actually seemed to shy away from them for some reason of its own.
In the last, particular case, the bastard’s choice came upon a pair of young lovers, who chose a secluded spot to avoid their parents’ criticisms...and ended up with a lot more than what they bargained for; at least their parents’ scathing comments and criticisms had been aimed at the police and CSI people who arrived alongside the ambulance to pick the poor couple up.
“It gives no quarter to either living or dead,” Kailey continued to re-read the gloaming’s profile. Oz half-ignored her, having read the profile himself several times. “It tends to uncover the deceased within three days of the burial, going mainly for their brains. Using garlic and similar means of deterrent is counter-productive: the gloaming actually seems to consider garlic to be a tasty appetizer or a nutritious supplement to its’ diet. Seriously, maybe we should try using rat poison next? Pity that no burial is scheduled any time soon, ‘cause then we could’ve surprised the gloaming with-“
“Wait,” Oz spoke-up suddenly. “You gave me an idea.”* * *
Oz’s funeral has attracted the entire neighbourhood. Cheery little boys and loud-mouthed mutts ran in front of the funeral procession. A little girl was walking in front of it as well, with a basket full of dandelions and similar flowers that she threw beneath the feet of the procession. Most of the grown-ups were walking alongside it, gossiping and giggling about something or other. The hired mourners joined in on the gossip, ate sunflower seeds and on occasion would begin to mourn, completely off-key. The number of those who wanted to see Oz off into his last journey increased as the cemetery grew closer – something that had a detrimental effect on the procession’s quality.
“Smell an onion, everybody!” Kailey hissed from time to time. “I’ve seen wedding processions with less joy and merriment!”
Sadly, this caused an opposite effect: Oz’s coffin began to shake, its’ bearers could barely stifle their giggles, and Kailey decided that if they dropped Oz’s damn coffin, she would bury all of them in it instead.
Oz, actually, was looking pretty good in it. He had chosen his best suit (not that there was a lot of options to choose from, actually), went to the barbershop last evening, and had a bouquet of forget-me-nots in his grasp. However, he was also lying on his trusty sword (the gloaming was the wrong sort of creature to be staked, vampire method of feeding regardless), and Kailey, who was near the procession’s end, was preparing her mystic spells for this evening.
The cemetery was located on and around a hill, the path leading to it was quite steep, and Oz had to employ his elbows from falling out of it. Gloomy tops of birches passed him by, rooks croaked as they circled around him, and one of them managed to relieve itself – and almost hit Oz’s suit. In addition, a drizzling rain began to fall, denting even Oz’s normally stoic mood.
By the time when the coffin-bearers have finished bearing the coffin and deposited it down on the ground, Kailey, for one, was ready to bury someone else on Oz’s behalf. Fortunately, the others have sensed her mood for now, and instead of tempting fate, by delaying the inevitable, they lowered Oz’s coffin into the freshly-dug grave and began to bury it – within a reasonable extent.
Finally, after some noise and confusion – but Kailey’s now-glowering presence had sobered the mood somewhat – the coffin was buried, a eulogy was said, and everyone present departed for the nearest pub, except of Kailey, who went off in a different direction, to wait for the complete sunset.
And Oz settled down to catch a bit of sleep.* * *
Oz awoke because of a quiet scratching on the coffin’s lid. This didn’t sound like Kailey, so he sprung into action. To better ambush the gloaming, the lid wasn’t even nailed down, so Oz flung it away, and faced not with Kailey – as Oz had expected – nor the gloaming – as he did not. Rather, he found himself face to shocked face with a semi-familiar, bespectacled and slightly bearded man, who was only slightly older than Oz.
“Kailey,” Oz called-out calmly. “We’ve got visitors!”
“I can see that,” Kailey replied grumpily from some distance away as she stared down a blonde. “I think this is the cousin of one of the Vampire Slayers you introduced me too, remember?”
“Hmm. Yes. Courtney’s cousin – Lindsay, I believe. Kind of like that other blonde – you remember, the tourist on some sort of a world tour?” Judging from Oz’s talkative attitude – by his standards, at any rate – he was rather annoyed by this development. “You’re her boyfriend, I suppose,” he turned to the other man. “What’re you doing here?”
“We’re with the CSI,” Dan spoke up haughtily, “we’re investigating the series of the blood-letting attacks on people-“
“Oh. The gloaming. We’re hunting it too.”
There was a pause as the two CSIs looked at each other. “Monster hunters,” Lindsay finally groaned. “My cousin’s friends’ friends are monster hunters! When you think that you’ve seen all of New York’s nuts a new variety makes an appearance!” She turned to Kailey. “I remember you! You were there, at the museum, when the giant lizard attacked! Were you hunting that monster as well?”
Kailey just shook her head and reached into her bag. “Want a sandwich?” she asked Oz instead. “I made them with smoked sausages.”
“Sure,” Oz nodded, effortlessly catching one even as Kailey threw it. “What?” he turned to Dan instead. “I’m hungry.”
“You’ve done things like this before,” Dan spoke-up suddenly. “This, this doesn’t make sense-“
“What doesn’t make sense?” Lindsay asked, worried. “Dan-“ Suddenly, she found herself grasped by Kailey – hard.
“Oz,” the daemon-blooded mystic spoke suddenly. “Look at the trees!”
Oz looked. Something was moving through the moonlit shadows (the crescent moon was growing, but it wasn’t anywhere near full-size, fortunately) of wind-swept branches, something black and bony, and rather monkey-like.
“What is that thing?” Lindsay asked in a horrified fascination as she looked at newcomer. “It looks like a baby monkey, ill with rickets.”
“The gloaming – the one behind the attacks,” Kailey explained helpfully as the gloaming approached Oz and Dan. “Oz, this is the reason for your sleepless nights? I don’t even know if you need to use the sword?”
And then the gloaming took a whiff of Oz’s werewolf scent. Its misshapen muzzled wrinkled from disgust, its eyes flared green with hate, and abruptly it was as big as a man.
“Yup,” Oz replied nonchalantly and swung his sword. The gloaming’s maw, full of long, needle-sharp teeth snapped shut, and suddenly Oz held onto half a blade. “Oh dear.”
In one fluid movement (all of the practices in the Tibetan monastery had to pay off) Oz pushed Dan into the open grave, dodged low the gloaming’s swing himself, picked-up the coffin’s lid and swung it at the gloaming’s jackal-like head. Regrettably, the old, ramshackle boards of the coffin’s lid gave-in first and the gloaming began to resemble its own portrait in a too-wide frame.
Oz tried to press-on his success with the mourning wreathe that hang at a nearby tombstone.
Now the gloaming’s portrait could be freely put onto the board of honour. Regrettably, the latter didn’t appreciate the efforts: effortlessly, it broke the lid in two and flung the halves at Oz, fol-lowed by the wreathe – then by the gun and spade dropped by Dan, then by a nearby tombstone, then by a dead and partially decomposed rook... As the gloaming pelted Oz with impromptu mis-siles of varied size, it pushed him closer and closer to the fence, preventing the werewolf from defending himself.
That, however, was okay, that was the plan. As the gloaming came closer and closer, and Oz felt the low cemetery fence start to press into his back (it was tipped with rather sharp, arrowhead-shaped points), he yelled to Kailey: “Now!”
And then he leapt. Before the gloaming could recover itself, Kailey hit it low with a force wave. The gloaming stumbled and fell, chest-first, onto the three of the points at once.
The guttural roar made the ground shake and the trees to drop their leaves. However, the arrow-heads were as hard to get rid off as fishhooks of appropriate size – even for a gloaming. It shud-dered, emitted a deep, guttural yowl, and fell silent.
“And now,” Kailey grunted despondently to Oz, “we have to wait till sunrise to prevent any embarrassing second chances for the gloaming, right?”
Oz just nodded and began to pull Dan out of the now-empty grave. Overhead, the drizzling rain continued to come down in a full force. It was going to be a long night.To be continued...