Prey Of Lore

Vampires exist in the lore of many cultures. They are historically known for being cruel, but elegant. They are the powerful keepers of the night that feed on the river of life, blood. They are the fear that looms in the back of our minds like fog and pulls gently at the hairs on the nape of your neck.

For a brief moment, in my life, I felt this fear. I stood in horror as my subcortical emotional system went into overdrive. There wasn’t a moment of mere suspension of disbelief, but an eradication of what I knew as reality, and for just a moment I believed. I was terrified.

When I was in middle school my parents decided to rent a farmhouse at what used to be the famous Lester Raines’ Petting Zoo. After the owner had died the land was split amongst brothers and the main house was put up for rent. Everywhere there were signs of what once was a small zoo. There were old ostrich eggs, bird bones and even a few guinea hens who had apparently decided to stick around.

We were allowed to explore and play around the farm as long as we left things alone. There were four or so fields and a little paved road that ran past the house and up through the barns.

Part of the rental agreement was that our landlord’s brother-in-law, Sam, could keep animals up there. He kept chickens and a rooster in one of the barns. In a large, caged area he and I both had dwarf rabbits. Sam sometimes paid me to check on and feed his animals when he went out of town. I didn’t need the incentive though. I spent most of my free time up there, thinking and watching the rabbits crawl and skitter around me.

I have few creditable memories from my time at the Lester Raines farm. This is because while living there, and for years after, I often had colorful and surreal dreams about what really laid beyond the fences and inside the barns. These dreams clouded around my real memories and make me question a lot. I can vividly remember one day though. A surreal moment in my life I will never forget.

It was a crisp Saturday morning. I was walking up the road to the barns to check on the ducks and spend time in the rabbit’ pen. The world was that unsettling tone of white that is both bleak and luminescent. Everything seemed sharp, frozen from the chill. The snow hadn’t come yet, but the leaves on the road were crunchy and dead.

A month or so before this, Sam had brought ducks up to one of the larger barns. Back then they were all tufty and yellow, but by this day they had already become fully grown, with white feathers and necks stiff with pride. He was keeping them in the large white building at the tip of the hill. It had a door cut out of one side that led to a fenced area so the ducks could go in and out at their leisure.

It was so quiet. When the ducks were babies I would come into their fenced section and follow them around as they squeaked and ran about. I followed them and they followed me. I called “heyheyhey” as we ran through the grass. On this day though there was no quacking or squeaking or even shuffles through the grass. I assumed because it was so cold they were inside the building, but for some reason I still walked over to that fence.

The rigid grass was littered with limp white mounds. All of them laid there, still and hard. I wrapped my tiny fingers around the cold metal bar at the top of the fence. Who knows how long they had been dead. I unlocked the fence gate and went inside. I didn’t touch them, but I could see that the ducks had these small holes in their necks. The holes were red, a startling color against the white, even in such small amounts. They weren’t mutilated or frozen. They were still bundles of stunning white feathers, just limp without life.

I began to panic. I had never seen anything like this. I knew that animals, like foxes, sometimes attacked livestock, especially birds. I had seen death, but I had never seen something so unsettling. The only thing I knew that did this, that drained creatures of their crimson life force and left them to turn pale and cold, was vampires.

Saying I thought vampires had slaughtered my ducks obviously sounds ridiculous, but in that moment I didn’t know what else to believe. I was a 13 year old girl, with a wild imagination, discovering ducks who had been sucked dry.

I do not remember what happened immediately after my discovery because I was in shock, but I do remember how this all ended. My parents called Sam. The ducks were taken care of, me out of sight. Sam, just as heartbroken as myself, explained to me that it was not some horrific monster of the night. That it was in fact most likely raccoons that had killed our ducks.

Raccoons will suck the blood out of birds, often leaving little damage to their carcass. I find it unsettling to know that a creature I deem mostly harmless and somewhat cute aesthetically shares habits with such a dark, dominating creature of lore. However, I do not hold this day against the raccoon. It is simply a day I will never forget.