• Published 29th May 2019
  • 9,311 Views, 408 Comments

And when the darkness comes around - Cackling Moron



Local human encounters nocturnal pony, provides sustenance

  • ...
14
 408
 9,311

3 Inches of Blood

Author's Note:

Of course, the balancing act is always a question of drawing out the cluelessness enough for sufficient, delicious tension to mount without overextending it into horrible, thumping agony.

A tough sell, made tougher still by the fact the game is rigged from the start being as how everyone reading has a different level of tolerance. But that's stories for you, isn't it?

Anyway, melancholic backstory incoming - hopefully it wasn't too hammy! Hah!

The ‘practise dancing’ went about as well as could be expected. Which is to say it was a clumsy mess, but it was a clumsy mess that they both thoroughly enjoyed.

Space was not an issue. With all the furniture pushed to the walls Eric’s lounge provided more than enough of that. The issue was twofold - first, relative size. Second, completely ignorance of anything to do with dancing. Combined, these were significant obstacles.

Fortunately, Eric was enthusiastic enough to overcome these obstacles, not to mention enthusiastic enough to carry Lamia with him, so to speak.

“Alright, so, footwork first I think, yes? Let’s just see how we go.”

“Um, okay,” said Lamia, who might have been starting to have second thoughts at the start, what with having Eric looming over her so.

Having him sitting down with her sat on his lap was one thing. HIm standing up? Quite another.

Little late to be backing out now though.

He’d been fiddling with a gramaphone, too. A very quaint device, and one he was very fond of. Especially as it gave all of his records from back home - well, technically records handed down, so his now - a new lease of life. This meant that practise would not be conducted in silence.

“Now I’m not saying we should move with the music,” he said. “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I’m just saying they it be kind of like guidelines. Now let’s see…”

What followed could not even charitably be called dancing, but on the plus side Eric did not step on Lamia, so there was that. And, more positively, Lamia very quickly realised that the main point of the thing was to have fun. Which she did.

That it was just the two of them in their home - or what she thought of as home now, at least, so basically the same thing - helped immensely. Difficult to worry when she thought about it like that.

“I think you’re picking this up faster than I am, you know,” Eric said once the first track had finished, signalling a good point to have a little break. Lamia giggled - actually giggled! It was a wonderful sound.

“You were good too!” She said, brightly.

“Ah, but not as good as you! Let’s keep going, eh? Next track, next track…”

He pawed through his singles and swapped them around. Lamia had never heard human music before, but then she hadn’t really ever heard any music before last night, or at least not clearly and not for a while, so she didn’t have much of a frame of reference.

Once Eric had got the next record spinning he moved back to her.

“Right! Again!”

Again, not dancing. Again, not really the point.

“Alright!” Eric said once the new track wound down, just the tiniest bit breathless now. “Think we had a little rhythm going there, don’t you?”

“Yes!” Lamia said, hopping in place, warmed up. She even bumped a hoof against Eric’s fist when he extended it out to her, it just came naturally.

“See! Improvement! Go us!” He said, pushing his hair back and blowing out a breath.

“Whew. Back in a sec, Lamia,” he said, heading for the kitchen. In his absence Lamia went through a few of the quote-unquote ‘steps’ they done, prancing in place and smiling happily to herself.

Eric returned shortly with a glass of water, which he draine

“You need anything? Need a drink?” He asked, holding the empty glass to his forehead, for the cools.

Mention of this did put a little bit of a dent in Lamia’s exceptionally good mood, especially as she actually did, it having been a good few days now since her last meal. She chewed briefly on her lip before making a decision, then nodding.

“Hop up,” Eric said, taking a knee and sticking out his neck.

Reasoning that doing it quickly would give her less time to think about it - and thus feel bad about it, for reasons she had difficulty fully defining - Lamia scrambled and flapped her way up his body and clamped onto his neck.

“Ah, almost forgot how that felt…” Eric said, moving an arm around to help support her, and on this arm she settled.

A quiet minute or so two of slurping followed before Lamia detached herself, though it was an effort of will to do so. He really did taste quite uniquely delicious. Though that might have been bias on her part. Not that she cared.

“Phew, need a little sit down now,” Eric said, pushing back onto his feet and moving over to where he’d pushed his sofa, flopping onto it. Lamia followed closely, jumping up beside him.

“Are you okay?” She asked, instantly concerned. He waved her off.

“Yes, plenty fine. Just tired anyway, then that. It’s been a while now, hasn’t it?”

It had been, for Eric at least. His neck had looked practically spotless!

He yawned and when he finished yawning he found Lamia still sitting beside him, looking worried. Chuckling, he gave her mane a ruffle and she tried ineffectually to fend him off.

“You’re a worrier, you. I ever told you that?” He asked.

Only about you.”

“Hmm?”

“Nothing.”

“...if you say so. Anyway! Dance practise! Capital idea that was, Lamia, well done you. I think we really tore the place up. And on our first go, no less.”

“I had fun,” Lamia said, smiling now, less worried.

“As did I! Definitely knackered now though, definitely bedtime - you tuckered me out, Lamia!”

“Bedtime?” She asked, less sadly, more resigned. Eric nodded.

“Bedtime,” he said.

Lamia promptly leapt on him to get one last cuddle in, something at which he could only laugh.

“I’m only going upstairs,” he said once it came time to pry her off. She whined a little, but couldn’t really argue with that. He rose, popped her down on the sofa - which he figured he could move back tomorrow, if he cared enough to do so - waved goodnight, and plodded upstairs to quickly shower and then fall into bed.

And in the darkness of his bedroom, in the comfiness of his sheets, thoughts that had been burbling away harmless at the borders of his brain came creeping in towards the central portions, causing trouble as they went. Things that he’d been able to ignore in the sunshine, when ‘dancing’, when having a laugh.

They stayed vague and shapeless because he deliberately avoided paying too much attention to them, but the effort he needed to ignore them was enough for him to be aware that they were there at all.

Like being aware of something because you can notice its absence, as it were.

Eric’s optimism was the natural outgrowth of an inherently sunny disposition, but its careful maintenance the result of years of careful practise, and these sorts of mental gymnastics were one of the results. An unavoidable byproduct. Normally, nowhere near an issue. Now? Suddenly? Out of nowhere? Now they seemed to want to be an issue.

And the issue was something like this:

Lamia was a lovely girl, wasn’t she?

Everyone in Ponyville was nice, obviously - nice and lovely. To a fault! This Eric knew. But Lamia especially, yes? Fast friends, him and her, and under what were quite unusual circumstances by anyone’s standards.

But that in itself wasn’t unusual, was it? He had lots of friends! Lots of lovely friends. Most of which he’d made fairly quickly in his own inimitable way.

But none quite so inseparable, and none who looked quite so excited to see him and so sad to see him go, day after day.

He’d put it down to having helped her out, at first, having provided a meal. But he didn’t do that as much now, and she still lit up whenever he was around. So then what?

It meant something, it was pointing to something! And he knew what it was! He also just knew it couldn’t be that, so it clearly had to be something else. Just his brain false-firing and going in the wrong directions. It did that sometimes. Didn’t everyone’s?

“My imagination must be getting the better of me,” he said to himself, shaking his head, grinning at the flat-out absurdity of what sort of thoughts were suggesting themselves, all of which he dismissed out of hand. Absurd!

Then he paused, thought a little more, frowned. Maybe not that absurd?

Then it passed, and the grin came back. Or most of it, at least.

“No, no, definitely my imagination. Ah, these late-night thoughts. We’re all good friends, yes. That’s it. Yes.”

Didn’t sound quite as sure the second time, though.

Took him a while to get to sleep, too.

-

The next day, on his way home from finishing up the ceiling of the chap who’d wanted stars - that job had turned out very well indeed, by Eric’s estimation - he picked up some stuff with which to knit, having it in his head that socks surely couldn’t be that hard to make.

And why would he be wanting to make socks? Why, as a present for Lamia, of course.

This seemed obvious to him. That singular sock of his she’d put on had certainly suited her, in his opinion, so a full set made to actually fit her could only be a massive improvement. And what better way of expressing one-hundred percent uncomplicated Platonic friendship than by giving a surprise gift of socks?

Eric could think of no better way.

Eric also wondered why he’d had to be so exact about the nature of their relationship.

Tsch, his imaginating again. Honestly.

Additionally, of course, the slightly selfish desire to see how she looked in all socks, as Eric assumed - with what he thought was fairly good reason - that it would be the most adorable thing he would have seen in his life up to that point. But that was a secret reason and no-one would ever know it.

The decision to make them himself had been an idle one. How hard could it be, really, he’d thought to himself. Answer? Harder than he’d expected.

Knitting was not something he was at all familiar with, a fact which made itself abundantly clear the more he read his beginners guide to knitting.

“Probably should have done the reading before buying all the gear,” he said to himself, turning a page and seeing that things did not get any less complicated for him. “Mother always made this look so easy…”

So engrossed was he in his reading that he failed to hear Lamia coming down the stairs, only noticing when she came padding softly into view, blanket still halfway wrapped around her and trailing behind. Not until she touched him on the knee did he snap back to the moment.

“Hmm? Oh! Oh, Lamia, another nightmare?”

He could tell just by looking, the look on her face. Lamia nodded, wordlessly climbing into his lap, Eric bundling her up in the blanket.

Not a duvet. His spare duvet had proved excessive, given her fluff, and so had been swapped out for something lighter. This had worked much better.

This would be the third or fourth time this had happened, by Eric’s less-than-reliable count, and what happened each time was basically the same: cuddles and moral support. Eric felt he was capable of providing these.

“There there, it’s alright, I’ve got you,” he said, giving her just a little bit of a rock, making sure the blanket-bundle was done up right.

He still had no idea what it was she had nightmares about, but that wasn’t really important. That she had them all was what was important. Details were for her, he was just there to make her feel better again afterwards.

That was his opinion at least. Lamia was coming from another direction.

She gave a sniff. She’d thought about the next bit.

“E-Eric?” She said.

“Hmm?”

“Can I tell you what my nightmare was about?”

“Of course you can, but don’t feel you have to,” he said.

“I w-want to tell you.”

“Okay then,” he said, smiling and propping her up a smidgen better on his lap in her little bundle. She wiggled around to free her forelegs from the blanket and took a moment to order her thoughts and compose herself.

Briefly, Eric wondered whether Luna had stepped into the breach on Lamia’s nightmares at any point. He’d heard that it was something she did, though he had no experience of it himself. Then again, he reasoned, she couldn’t be everywhere with everyone every night. Or maybe she could?

He didn’t know, and he was okay with that. So he just kept his mouth shut and listened to Lamia.

“It was the same. Usually they’re the same. They’re about - about where I lived before I came here.”

Not strictly true. The nightmares themselves were, in the way of nightmares, jumbling collections of imagery that made sense only while asleep combined with a blanketing feeling that got its message across directly. But she knew what it related to, and that was what she was talking about.

“Oh, okay,” Eric said, not having expected that. Then again, he wasn’t sure what he had expected anyway. Falling? Wouldn’t make much sense.

“I never learned what it was called,” Lamia sniffled. “But it was far from here. Quiet.”

Sounded alright to Eric. So far.

“Everything was fine, everything was normal. I’d go out and I’d try and sometimes ponies would say yes and it would be fine. There was a foal, too.”

Unusual detail.

“Oh?”

Lamia nodded.

“Sometimes they’d stay up late, even though they shouldn’t. Reading books. I saw them through their window sometimes. They waved at me. They were nice.”

Eric had the impression that this story wasn’t going to have a happy ending. He didn’t like stories without happy endings, though he grudgingly admitted that they did exist. Even here, apparently.

“But then one day everypony just stopped saying yes. I don’t know why. First it was a week, then two. No-one came out at night anymore. I was so hungry.”

Eric wondered - briefly, idly, as was his custom - whether Lamia was capable of taking blood from anything other than ponies and humans, but felt it might be insensitive to ask. If she could, she would have, surely? She was the expert, after all.

Besides, he was mostly too busy feeling bad for her to ask, and so just held her more tightly.

“Then one night I was out a-and I saw the foal. Outside. They’d come out because they’d seen me and could tell I was hungry. S-said they wanted to help.”

Eric could kind of see where this was going.

“And they said t-they’d read about b-batponies and that it was fine and that I c-could have a little bit. I tried to tell them no! But they said t-they didn’t think it was fair I was hungry…”

Sounded like a good kid in Eric’s books. Good head on their shoulders.

“A-and I didn’t want to b-but I was so hungry! And - and…”

Plainly this was not a memory Lamia enjoyed revisiting.

“I didn’t hurt them,” she said, emphatically, in case Eric had been concerned about it. He hadn’t, the thought not even having crossed his mind. But still. Lamia continued: “I only had a little, a tiny bit. I was thankful. But it was afterwards…”

Eric had the impression that there were layers of context here that he, as someone who did not suck the blood directly out of people's’ necks, was missing. He could imagine that doing so from a child would leave a bad taste in anyone’s mouth - to speak - but maybe he was wrong? Or maybe it was just Lamia? Poor, unfairly guilt-ridden Lamia.

“Afterwards their parents and some others came to where I was living...” Lamia said, rubbing a foreleg nervously at the mere memory.

“Oh,” Eric said, really not liking where this was going now.

“They thought I’d t-trick the foal, or forced them...they were angry at me…wanted me to leave...”

Eric did not like where this had gone.

“I tried to tell them I didn’t hurt them but they didn’t listen. They just kept shouting...”

Eric frowned. What a shameful breakdown in communication.

“Didn’t they ask the kid?” He asked.

“They did, but they didn’t listen…”

Unhelpful.

There was no bathos in this story at all. Eric was at a loss. Normally he’d expect at least something to take the edge off. Someone farting, maybe? If one of the ponies involved had been wearing trousers having them suddenly fall down?

But no, nothing. Nothing for him to work with. The story was just a stupid mess. Not in that it in itself was stupid - it was plainly something that had cut Lamia deep - more than the events in it were boneheaded and easily avoidable, but had happened anyway. Such was life.

“So you left?”

“I had to. Nopony ever said yes after that. Sometimes they threw things…”

Eric did not like this story. He had trouble believing it could even have happened here! What rank foolishness had gripped these ponies? How had they so utterly failed to see Lamia meant no harm at all? Why had their singularly failed to actually listen to what answers this lovely child had provided?

Tsch. Lots of tsch. Eric was not a happy boy.

“You poor girl. No-one deserves that,” he said, cuddling Lamia even more tightly than before.
Unable to really think of anything else he could say right then to express his support Eric instead bent down a little and planted what he thought of as a nice, friendly, chaste and thoroughly innocent peck just on Lamia’s head.

Lamia did not receive it as nice, friendly, chaste or thoroughly innocent, and at once had almost entirely forgotten about the nightmare and, indeed, the whole sordid anecdote behind it.

It was only after he’d done it that Eric had second thoughts, and by then it was too late. He just hoped that Lamia didn’t read too much into what he’d done, or that he himself read too much into what he’d done. Too late, again, and too late on both counts.

Neither of them said anything about it though, of course, and both just outwardly pretended nothing had happened. Eventually, enough time had passed to allow them to pretend this enough to someway believe it. This meant they could talk again.

Thank you,” she said.

“It’s okay,” Eric said. He hadn’t heard her, he just gave what he hoped was a reply that would fit. It did, and Lamia nuzzled into him for a moment before trying - and failing - to disentangle herself from the blanket wrapped around her.

“Want to go back to bed?” Eric asked. She nodded.

“Want, uh, want to sleep in mine again?” He offered, remembering how that had apparently helped. Hadn’t seemed as inexplicably odd to him the first time. Foreign thoughts were intruding, nibbling. It was confusing.

Lamia thought about his offer, but shook her head.

“Alright. Okay. I’ll carry you up.”

“You don’t-”

“I know, I know, but you’re already all wrapped up. It’s fine. Come on.”

And so Eric carried her upstairs into his box room - now far more of a fully-finished spare bedroom than it had been not even two months ago - and put her back into bed, unrolling the blanket and tucking her in.

Once that was done he wasn’t sure how best to conclude things and just sort of loomed awkwardly over her.

“Um,” he said. “Sweeter dreams, Lamia?”

He was not sure why he’d phrased this as a question.

Lamia just smiled, nodded, closed her eyes and Eric took this as his cue to leave. He was stopped by the door though, on hearing:

“Eric?”

“Hmm?”

A pause, Lamia choosing her words.

“...thank you,” she said, at length. Not what she’d been wanting to say, but she hadn’t know what she’d been wanting to say so it was really her only option.

“Could have sworn you already said that,” Eric said, resting on the doorframe with one arm.

“Thank you again, then,” she, sticking out her tongue at him. First time she’d done that. Worked, too, in helping Eric not think too much about excessive thanks.

“Heh, it’s alright. You’re alright. Anything you need, I’ll be around, okay?”

“Okay,” Lamia said, rolling over and pulling the blanket up around her.

After that Eric went back downstairs and made himself a particularly strong cup of tea for himself before resuming reading his book about knitting. Aggressively.

Lamia did not go back to sleep. Partly this was nerves, partly this was plan she was rapidly hatching. If she stayed awake now she would be tired enough to sleep through the night, which would mean she could wake up with at least some energy for the day.

Daytime was a time when she could do something. Because she had to do something.

This was unsustainable, what was happening. It was making parts of her ache in ways she could not adequately explain, ways she had no experience of. And it was only getting worse.

She had to do something about it.