The Horror Zine
Jagjiwan Sohal

The April Selected Story is by Jagjiwan Sohal

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Jagjiwan Sohal

by Jagjiwan Sohal

The vampire stood on the edge of the rooftop, his thin hands lightly grasping the rusted and flimsy metal railing.

It was nighttime and a gentle, almost negligible autumn breeze accompanied the slight chill of the evening. This was pleasing to the vampire. It was far more comfortable than the infamous scorching heat of the Indian subcontinent during the day, or the lesser-known cold of the winter months. Of course, the climate did not bother him as much as it bothered others. After all, he was barely human.

The vampire was atop a building he owned, a three-storey beachside hotel that catered to American and European tourists. The rooms were simple and inexpensive and because of this, business was steady. All three floors were usually rented by nightfall and the vampire kept the cellar floor, a rarity in Indian buildings, for himself. He needed a place to rest when the sun was high.

The vampire sniffed the air. A pleasant aromatic mix of incense, masala spices and, on this special evening, gunpowder smoke filled his nostrils. This was the first night of Diwali, or “The Festival of Lights,” and when the vampire had awoken from his daily slumber, he swiftly made his way to his rooftop to watch the festivities.

Just fifty or sixty yards away was a popular beach and dozens of Indian families had set up little stations of campfires and lawn chairs where they would eat syrupy sweets, dance in celebration and most importantly, light the wicks of patakas which were fireworks. This would continue on for at least five more days and nights. It was noisy and exuberant but the vampire did not mind. He actually enjoyed the excitement of the events.

He believed he was the only one of his kind to live in South Asia. Most night creatures gravitated to western metropolises teeming what they deemed to be a more social infrastructure, conducive to blood-drinkers.

After an hour or so of watching a steady cacophony of fireworks and listening to fevered drumbeats, he became a bit bored. His hunger was still at a manageable level, but being a pragmatist, he wanted to plan ahead to his next meal.

He scanned the beach with his augmented vision, looking for a victim that could satiate him. He quickly eliminated the children, for a missing child might bring unwanted attention to his hotel. The elderly were also ignored. He found their bland taste revolting.

The vampire finally decided upon a sullen-looking young Indian. The teenager was sitting with his plump, sari-wearing mother, his turbaned father and the little sister who toddled around while chasing the waves of the sea. Even from his rooftop perch, the vampire could hear the jingle of the little girl’s silver anklets.

The vampire had chosen this young man as his prey for one simple reason: he didn’t like the look of the kid. The lad had a sardonic expression on his face, which the vampire ascertained was the result of being dragged to Diwali festivities with his family instead of going out to celebrate with his own circle of friends.

The boy’s apparently disdainful attitude irritated the vampire, especially when he saw the teenager sneer at his loving parents and push away his little sister who wanted get a closer look at the fireworks display. This impudence infuriated the vampire. He did not like to see such rude manners.

So he studied his quarry intently for a while, trying to determine what would be the best course of action. It would be a difficult task to kill him, especially since his prey was out in the open and there were many witnesses. The one advantage the vampire had going for him was that it was night and the darkness was his ally.

He hoped the frustrated teenager would somehow break away from his family and go off on his own. And then he would pounce. Judging by the boy’s insolent scowl, it was just a matter of time.

But then the vampire heard an odd sound. A low, almost whisper-like rumble reverberated. The wind seemed to shift and the vampire’s grip on the railing went from loose to superhumanly tight, which bent the metal between his fingers.  He quickly began to scrutinize the area with his otherworldly eyesight.

“Earthquake?” the vampire asked out loud.

He knew that this region had seen a history of mild-to-moderate tremors in the last ten years. The vampire finished his survey of the neighborhood but could not see any sign of disturbance.

Suddenly there was a chorus of terrified screams and the pounding of panicked footsteps running up the beach. And then the vampire’s eyes went to the sea.

The Indian Ocean roared, pushing forth towering and nightmarish waves of blue-black upon the beach. The campfires were instantly snuffed out, leaving only the moon and stars as sources of illumination.

The water rushed to the seaside village, causing the entire town to go black. Dozens of beach-dwellers shrieked in horror as they were shoved along by the violent current. The vampire watched in shock as the helpless and sputtering people, both brown and white, were carried away, trying desperately to keep afloat or hold on to loved ones.

Motor-scooters, rickshaws and even dogs and cats were included in the crush. The animals cried out in fright, bumping into desperate Indians trying in vain to cling onto the storefront signs or parked trucks. Some of the people were smashed by a fusillade of sharp or blunt debris, killing them instantly. Others were washed along, tumbling head-over-heels with the waves.

The water just kept on coming with no end in sight. It was now almost at the level of the vampire’s building but fortunately, or miraculously, it had not risen any higher. Even so, the vampire was stunned, almost in a state of shock. He had never before witnessed such an occurrence, a tsunami triggered by a powerful earthquake in the ocean.

He felt an emotion that he had not experienced for years: fear.

He had always considered himself as one of the world’s most powerful beings, but for all his superhuman abilities and enhanced senses, they paled in comparison to the raw, elemental force of nature.

So the vampire remained on his rooftop, watching desperate Indians struggle for their lives before they drowned or were carried away. He made no move to rescue anyone. He found that he was so petrified that he could barely move a muscle in the midst of such destruction and chaos.

Then the torrential waves became slightly calmer, but the water remained at the height of the vampire’s hotel. The beach village was now deathly quiet with the only sounds that of the still-rushing waves in the submerged township.

The sudden quietness shook the vampire out of his stupor and his stomach lurched. The now-expanded sea was full of bodies of deceased men, women and children lying face down and floating in the blue-black. And although he was a callous individual who had brought nightly death and misery to humans for over ninety years, the vampire could not help but feel sickened by the watery graveyard around him.

He began to survey the damage to the village, noticing that the only still-standing structures were his hotel and the few other buildings located across the street. The vampire realized that he would have to escape somehow. There was a good chance that aftershocks could still strike, causing even more flooding.

He knew he would have to find some way to make it to the other side of the street. The buildings located there were closer together and by leaping from rooftop to rooftop, perhaps he could find a way into the city and hopefully, dry land.

Although the vampire had not fed that night, he still felt he had enough energy to propel himself by a running leap to the building closest to his hotel. So he backed up a few steps and dove through the air…only to be violently shoved back to his rooftop by an invisible force.

What? The vampire groaned in pain as he got back to his feet. And then a grim reminder of his few weaknesses hit him: a vampire cannot cross running water. They can only be carried over it.

“I won’t be stopped!” the vampire cried, glaring up at the dark sky. He hurried around his rooftop, checking each side to see if there was a way to circumvent what he had always thought was a laughable part of his curse. He hadn’t thought the legend to be true…until now.

The square-shaped roof had rushing waves on all sides and he roared in fear and frustration. He was trapped.

He became frantic. He could not go back inside his hotel, because it was full of sea water. He could not wait for rescue, either. The only way out was to make it to the building rooftop across the street. But how?

The vampire stared at the building across the street, trying to devise a scheme to make it to the other side. He sighed helplessly. There didn’t seem to be any answer.

Suddenly he saw the slender fingers of a brown hand grasp onto his rooftop railing. After a gasp of surprise, he rushed to lift the soaked Indian out of the water and onto the rooftop. The vampire’s eyes widened in recognition. It was the teenager he had wanted for his evening meal just a little while before.

“Are you okay, brother?” the vampire asked in perfect Hindi. The young man was retching violently and ignored the question. The vampire then tried other languages, like Urdu, English and some regional dialects. Finally, Punjabi seemed to do the trick.

“I’m fine, I’m fine,” the young man replied in Punjabi, still coughing out water. He then looked around the rooftop with a palpable fear in his eyes. “Where is my family? Have you seen my family?”

The vampire stayed silent as the now-whimpering teenager stood up and peered over the rooftop to look into the water for his parents and younger sibling. “My family!” the young man cried. “Help me find my family!”

“All right, I will help you,” the vampire said in his most comforting tone while employing an Indian inflection. He put a reassuring hand on the boy’s shoulder. “What is your name?”

“Ajay Purewal. Please help me.”

“Ajay. Do not worry. I will help you find your family. I am rich and that means I have many resources to assist us in our search.”

The teenager nodded at this and the vampire allowed himself a smile. I have him, he thought, pleased that the boy was easy to manipulate. He’ll do anything for me now.

“Ajay, we have to make it to the other building over there,” the vampire continued, pointing to the rooftop across the street. “From there, I can go and call for help.”

“Okay,” Ajay replied quickly, doing a chin-wag of agreement. The boy looked down at the rushing water and seemed to judge the distance across the rushing water. “It is not far. We can swim.”

The vampire clenched his jaw. He hated to show weakness in front of humans but for his ploy to work, he had no choice.

“That’s the problem, Ajay,” he said, holding his hands out in an exaggerated show of helplessness. “I can’t swim. You will have to carry me somehow.”

“Carry you?” the teenager said incredulously. He looked the vampire up and down and shook his head. “You are too big to carry on my shoulders.”

“Then find something to float me to the other side.”

Ajay frowned and turned to the water. He purposefully kept his eyes away from the drifting corpses, which were now moving away from the hotel and towards the center of the village. The gulf between the vampire’s hotel and the targeted building became free of bodies, with only small remnants of seaweed-covered debris remaining.

“I cannot find anything,” the teenager said, gesturing for the vampire to come over to him. “I will have to swim with you. I’ll hold onto you.”

“That won’t work!” the vampire flared in anger. He felt his rage build and the alarmed boy stepped back, which forced the vampire to control himself. “There must be something we can use…”

He looked around and to his dismay, found that the boy was right. There was nothing but singular planks of wood and small bits of plastic in the water. None of these, no matter how they might be fashioned, would be enough to carry a fully-grown vampire.

“It’s hopeless,” the vampire said, turning his attention to Ajay, who had ventured to another side of the rooftop. He stared at the boy’s back and felt his frustration slowly giving way to his hunger. He began to stalk Ajay from behind, already imagining the taste of the young man’s flesh. If I must go this way, the vampire thought. I will go with my hunger satisfied.

“Wait! I see something!” the young man suddenly shouted. He pointed to a street grocer’s stand in the water, which had been turned upside down with all the produce now gone. For some reason, the wood pushcart was floating and was possibly sturdy enough to support the vampire’s two-hundred-pound frame.

“Good work, Ajay!” the vampire cried excitedly. “Now you just need to bring it over to where—”

Before the vampire could finish his sentence, Ajay had enthusiastically jumped into the water. The boy swam like a fish and easily grabbed hold of the cart. He then maneuvered himself behind it and pushed the cart to the watery lane between the vampire’s hotel and the building across the street.

“Ouch!” Ajay screeched. A piece of floating driftwood had slashed his arm. “I’m hurt!”

“It’s just a scratch,” the vampire called to him. Despite Ajay’s help and earnestness, the vampire’s first assessment of him was still spot-on. The boy was a brat. “There’s not even any blood.”

This brusque statement seemed to comfort the teenager and after he set the cart up for the vampire to step onto, he swam behind so he could propel it over to the rooftop across the street.

“Now you get on,” Ajay said, waiting for the vampire to make his move. The vampire was reluctant but when he put a foot on the cart and felt no invisible force pushing him away, his confidence grew. He then sat down on the makeshift palanquin, waiting for Ajay to launch him across the flowing water.

“I must go slow,” the boy said as he kicked his legs and the cart moved across the watery chasm between buildings. “You may fall off if I go fast.”

“That’s fine, Ajay,” the vampire said with a smile. “Take your time.”

“And then you will help me find my family?”

“That’s what I said. I promise.”

The lie seemed to give Ajay joy and the vampire watched as grateful tears filled the boy’s eyes. Of course, once he was safely across to the other side, he would shred the young man to pieces. Their brief partnership had not filled him with one iota of pity for Ajay’s situation.

He studied the young man’s thin but sinewy frame and felt his clawing hunger return. Blood was beginning to seep from the boy’s arm wound, and watching the rich crimson slide down Ajay’s brown skin snapped the vampire’s fangs to attention.

He did his best to conceal his sharp, flesh-tearing teeth. He wanted to control his innate nature until he arrived at his destination.

Ajay was able to steer the upturned cart to the opposite building. The vampire was safe!

He stepped off onto the rooftop. He offered a hand to Ajay to lift him onto the stone platform, not noticing that the blood from the boy’s cut had been leaking into the water for some time. It drew other creatures besides vampires.

As he reached for the teenager, the water swirled into an angry boil, and suddenly a shark burst from the dark depths to flash the upper half of its body up from the sea.

The predator struck, grabbing the boy and pulling him back into the water. It latched onto the boy’s legs with its terrible jaws and bit down with immeasurable strength, forcing its rows of deep into the thigh and into the bone. Ajay screamed in fear and agony.

The vampire grabbed Ajay’s flailing hand but was no match for the shark. He tugged with his super-human strength but his grip on the boy’s hand was wet and slippery. He was losing his hold, and the boy was sliding into the water. The vampire could see the puddles of red arising from the boy’s gnawed-off legs.

Stricken, the vampire let go of the young man’s hand and watched as the shark dragged the boy down below.

He stepped back, his heart pounding. Usually, the sight of blood in any form, even in water, would be enough to spark his hunger. But instead, the vampire felt empty and tired. His fangs pulled back up and retracted into his mouth, again hidden.

In his mind, he knew he was no different than the beast that had just savaged the teenager. The only difference was that the shark had gotten its prey first.


Born and raised near Toronto, Canada, Jagjiwan Sohal works in the Canadian film and TV industry as an up-and-coming screenwriter and producer. His short stories have been published by Scribal Tales and he is currently shopping his first horror novel.