| The Price Discovery
By Denise Johnson
The recent news of fossils found during the building of a new warehouse in Surrey County excited Sir
Alexander Price. A prominent British zoologist who lived nearby the worksite, he was certain he’d be
called in to review the discovery. To ensure this, he paid a visit to the inspection office. After a bit of small
talk and several quid later, he whistled his way out of the government building.
A month later in November, Price was finally given access to the site to excavate the bones with the aid
of a couple of lab assistants. Though the temperature was quite chilly, he recognized it was nowhere near
as frigid as during the Little Ice Age years which had only ended a decade or so earlier. He felt giddy at
the thought that he might have the opportunity to sideline the ongoing Bone Wars between Cope and
Marsh, once esteemed American colleagues whose actions to one up one another he found thoroughly
After allowing ample time to thaw, Price began to study the bones in his laboratory, brushing dirt off one
large bone fragment. He relished his time studying ancient artifacts, something his uncle, a wealthy fossil
hunter, had taught him. Gazing upon the painting of his uncle that hung above a large wooden desk, he
was interrupted by a loud buzz. Holding still, his eyes moved about the lab. Finally, Price located the
source resting on the edge of a microscope. A mosquito. An odd sighting to be sure, given that it was
nearly winter. With a swipe, he brushed the irksome bug away and continued his research late into the
evening. During a much-needed break, the wall clock struck midnight. It was at this point, Price decided
that rather than go home, he would sleep on a cot he kept in the lab. Furnished with some old linen, a
pillow and wool blanket, what it lacked in comfort it served in purpose since he often labored into the night
when he thought a new discovery imminent.
The next morning, he attributed the restless night’s sleep to excitement surrounding the promising new
species discovery. While standing over the wash basin, contemplating what he might name the new
dinosaur, the razor gliding carefully down his face nicked his cheek. As Price reached for a towel to blot
the bright red bubble beginning to form, the annoying sound could once again be heard. He’d hoped that
a toss of the hand towel over his shoulder would be enough to thwart the persistent insect. But while lifting
the straight razor to continue, he found the mosquito had anchored to his neck. A solid slap later, Price
flicked the dead bug away and sought to go about his day.
Rather than make the lengthy walk back home for breakfast, Price popped next door to the Bennett
lodging house. He was welcome there anytime the owner once told him, mainly because he provided
interesting conversation amid the commercial lodgers, typically male, who were only in town for a day or
two on business. Instead of the table near the window he usually favored, Price chose one closer to the
kitchen. A servant presented his usual breakfast, two slices of dry toast and a boiled egg, but something
about it tasted off. So, he pushed it aside and returned to the lab where he stayed until nightfall. Often, a
missed meal meant he’d be famished, but that was not the case this particular evening. No matter, he’d
go home where Sarah, his wife, would have dinner waiting for him. Perhaps, meatloaf and potatoes.
“Ah, yes, that would be good,” he muttered.
On the short walk home, Price noticed his hearing seemed more finely tuned than usual. Though he
passed by old brownstones with doors and windows closed to prevent the cold from seeping in, he heard
private conversations emanating from within. He’d thought it odd but had heard even a day of fasting
could play tricks with one’s mind.
Once inside, he expected the fragrant smell of a meal would be enticing, but instead there was a stench
that made him want to wretch. A look of concern quickly replaced Sarah’s smile as she approached her
husband in the foyer. She suggested he lie down.
“You look pale,” she said. As she drew near to offer a peck on his cheek, Price inhaled something so
sweet he could nearly taste its metallic flavor. Mesmerized by the undulating vein in her neck, his tongue
ran over his lips.
“Are you wearing a new perfume?” he asked.
Sarah proffered no response, just a puzzled glance his way.
She remained in the foyer as he began to climb the ornate spiral staircase. On his ascent, he
encountered Eliza, their live-in nanny, a twenty-five-year-old woman who’d been with them for several
years. Encountering the same sweet scent, he suddenly stopped and drew her close. She melted in his
hands, much like she’d done in the past, during their clandestine trysts in the library downstairs. But this
time, he was not interested in what was under her bustle, but rather something deeper. Price’s razor-
sharp teeth sunk into her flesh like a newly sharpened knife, and he lapped up the sweet red syrup much
like a kitten drinking milk for the first time.
Sarah, upon hearing Eliza’s scream, rushed up the stairs two at a time. She stood frozen as she
watched Price bent over Eliza’s body; her blood stained his lips.
“What have you done?”
No longer did he feel the weakness in his legs that had plagued him for so many years. He raced
towards Sarah, pausing just long enough to apologize before draining her, too.
Blood pulsed through Price’s body as though it were adrenalin. He continued up the stairs to the master
suite, glancing at a mirror in the hall. He’d wanted to take in what was happening, see the physical effects
yet his reflection was faint, fading before his very eyes. He sat, no it seemed more than that. He floated
his body down upon the velvet chaise in what was once his and Sarah’s bedroom, trying to slow the flood
of thoughts that coursed through his mind to the same tempo of the blood that beat throughout his body.
Briefly overcome with emotion, he struggled with what was happening. A shudder coursed through his
body when Price considered he might be a cannibal. With a silent scolding, his researcher’s mind quickly
availed him of any guilt. He had not eaten Sarah and Eliza. So, then, what was he? He glanced down at
his trembling hands, turning them inward and out. His nails had grown long and dagger like overnight.
Gliding his tongue along the bottom of his upper jaw, he felt the pointed sharpness of his canine teeth. He
recalled recent meals; ones uneaten as well as what was now so enticing - the blood of the living. There
was much lore surrounding such creatures during his time.
Light began to seep through the bedroom curtains, when Price realized he’d been up all night. Unable
to rest, he paced nervously through the halls of the second floor. The children would be up soon. Standing
outside the door to the attic, a place he once deemed too drafty and dark to ever set foot in again, it now
seemed the perfect place to rest. Floating up the stairs, he sank upon the first soft spot he found, a pile of
threadbare old linens that lay upon the floor. Dust clouds swirled while a group of mice sprang out from
Price slumbered until nightfall and upon waking, became aware of several things. Policemen were
downstairs; more importantly though, his lineage had been revealed. He was the son of Prince
Vrykolakas, who’d lived during the time of dinosaurs. The Prince and his brethren were the true reason
dinosaurs became extinct. An overpopulation of his kind led to a famine that all but destroyed them. To
avoid the same fate, a prophet instructed the Prince to find a similar bloodsucking creature to act as a
vessel, holding its contents until such time as the Earth repopulated.
With a lick of his lips, Price knew he had much work to do.
|About Denise Johnson
An Arizona-based writer,
I'm the author of several
mystery, horror and
science fiction short
stories. My short stories
have been published by
Kings River Life and
appeared in anthologies,
Hearts: A Frankenstein
Anthology; Black Buttons
Vol. 3: A Family Affair; and
|To read other short stories,
click one of the titles below.