by Chris Creagh
The following, type writer produced, short story is reproduced with permission of the author, Stephen Dedman. Said permission was accompanied by the remark “It has kind of a cheesy ending.” So, if you are an early career aspiring writer, take heart, things do get better.
26-2-78 by Stephen Dedman
There are some people you should never trust, and Gods, apparently, are among them. This is as appropriate to Dungeons and Dragons as to religion, and Bob Ogden has a sadistic inguenity which makes Vlad the Impaler look like a trainee teacher. So when, in the middle of a rather run-of-the-mill dungeon, we ran into a forest, we should have expected Ents bent on the destruction of Isengard. What we actually found was the army of Malcolm disguised as Birnham Wood.
Two of our fighters – fifth level, with plate armour, broadswords and strictly negligible intelligence – fought, while the rest of us ran. The fighters became tinned hamburger, we continued running, and the army gave chase. I was slaughtered, and Sue nearly ran out of daggers. (If Bob Ogden thinks there are too many in your group, look out.)
When the game was finished – the rest of the party having met an electrum dragon – I, bent on revenge, turned to Bob, and asked, “Do you remember the vampires we met last week? The ones with Dextrodardia?” He nodded. “I met a relative of theirs Tuesday night.”
There was silence unprecedented in a D&D game – you could’ve heard an orichalcum dart drop.
“You ran into some vampires Tuesday night?”
“Wednesday morning, actually. And I never said vampires – I said they were relatives of vampires, or one of them was. And if you think vampires are nasty, you should encounter seven Haits bent on revenge.”
“Haits – H.A.I.T.S. I don’t know how you’d classify them – malignant spirits with acquired forms, I suppose. These were about seven feet tall, and made of graveyard clay, and mould. As I said, one was related to the vampire I killed last week, and he was pretty cut up about it.” “Hold on a minute,” protested Bob. “The vampire you killed last week didn’t actually exist.”
“How do you know? How do you know that somewhere there isn’t a vampire who lives up to that description? And if suggestion works in Voodoo and bone-pointing, why not in killing vampires, which is heavily reliant on assorted superstitions and symbols?”
“Okay, okay. Continue.”
“Well, it was early morning by the time the Haits arrived – half past three or thereabouts. They came in through the flywire and venetian blinds – well, vampires can do it – and three of them came in.
Luckily, hanging before my window are wind chimes, and no way can a seven foot Hait materialize into my room without bumping his head on them. I woke up, and did the natural thing – reached over, and switched on my bed-lamp.
Haits don’t like bright light – except that of full moon, of course – and these stepped back, almost tripping over my stereo in the process. A fourth materialized into my window, and blocked that egress, or ingress, for several minutes. And then it started to rain again.
Haits, of course, don’t like flowing water, and this would seem to include rain. One promptly dissolved, while the other two crowded beneath the eaves. The three fully inside my room were trapped, for I picked up the silver cross on my desk and held it out to them.”
“What silver cross?” asked Paul. “Why would you have a silver cross on your desk?”
I pulled the silver cross out of my T-shirt and showed it to everybody.” I always wear this around my neck – a friend of mine turns into a wolf at night. Now, will you let me go on?”
Temporarily quelled, they did.
“Neither the light nor the mirrors were serious deterrents – no, Bob, I could NOT see them in the mirror; that’s why I reached for my cross. But the rain outside was – that is why they’d arrived so late; it’d been raining all night. And the cross was.
We stayed like that for some time – until sunrise, in fact. Then when I saw that the sunrise seemed not to harm them – neither the two outside, or the four – there WERE four now – inside, I more or less panicked. I reached for Blish’s “A Case Of Concience”, to recite an exorcism at them. It had stopped raining, and the two outside left before I’d noticed them. One-handed, I turned to the correct page – page 199, in the edition with the Foss cover, if you don’t believe me – and make the horrible mistake of taking my eye off them. One of them picked up my cassette corder and threw it at me. It hit me on the wrist and knocked the cross from my hand.
Then the light went out – one of the two outside must have turned off the power – and the boss Hait leapt at me. The room was dim, and all I could see was him, and these two red glimmers that were his eyes. I reached for the bedlamp and hit him on the head with it.”
I paused to take a sip of Coke. My throat had gone dry.
“His head caved in with the blow. As I said, it was just that much mould and clay and dust. I tried grabbing him, but it stang my hand.
He was still at my throat, so I hit him again with the lamp, and then amidships with the cassette corder. The first fragmented his head, the second split him in half. What was left withered away.
The second Hait came at me, and with skill born of practice – at Damian’s flat on Wednesday nights – I clobbered him with my pillow, and decapitated him. He too disintegrated.
I polished off the other two with my desk chair, then grabbed a torch from my wardrobe, found my cross, and went outside looking for the other two. And on the road, I saw a perfectly horrible sight.”
“What?” gasped Sally.
“Well, told you how the Haits were temporarily paralysed by bright light? And how they lost their regenerative powers in daylight? Well they were on the road just as a car came around the corner.”
“Weren’t they deterred by streetlights?” asked Ian sceptically.
“We don’t have any in Stoneville. No, they blundered straight onto the road and straight in front of a car. The driver got out, looked around, found no bodies, and sensibly returned to his car, muttering about drinking too much at a party. I turned the power back on, and returned to bed.
It wasn’t until much later that it occurred to me that I had been saved by stupidity of the Hait itself. Because there is an old saying, which tells you how to extract yourself from that sort of predicament. I couldn’t have thought of it at four in the morning, but I did when I was a little more alert.”
Once again, there was a great silence. “And what,” asked Paul, with as much resignation as curiosity, “is that saying?”
I took another sip of Coke and grinned, “Haven’t you heard it? Mace Haits while the sun shines?”