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Pale Trash - the first of Pique's tormented tales

Pique staff have penned three spooky stories for you this year. Curl up in front of the fire and read them by candlelight, or read them out loud to the kids. We hope you have a spooktacular night.

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"I've done it," he said, "loads of times. But I ain't proud of it. First time was when I was wounded by my shitheel brother in a battle, he cut me near in half with that two-handed sword of his and I needed a lot of blood. We had a few prisoners, Order of the Dragon guys, and a few Templars, and they was as good as tortured to death anyway. What I did for them was a mercy."

"How did two brothers wind up on opposite sides of the battle?"

"Ha! My father was an idiot. He lost a huge battle and both Vlad and I were sent to the Sultan as hostages. I converted to Islam a little later and ended up fighting for the Sultan while my brother went home to daddy. Hell, I was the original Cat Stevens, and why not? All the cross ever did for me was burn off a layer of skin. Vlad stayed with the pope, but he used to wear this other kind of cross to be safe, like four triangles pointing at each other, because a regular silver cross would set him on fire. And I told you how he liked them silk shirts of his!

"But, like I said, I'm a people person. I've borrowed a bit of blood here and there, mostly from ladies I've been friendly with, but I've never used the venom on 'em. Never infected anybody. Truthfully, I've never found someone whose company I'd like to share forever and ever."

I felt that wasn't the whole truth, and recalled the way his eyes got a little wider when I asked him if he'd ever eaten anyone. But he hadn't tried to eat me yet, and hadn't eaten anyone else at Pine Grove that I knew of. I even went down to the police station and did some research, and it turned out that there hadn't been an unsolved murder or missing person in this part of the world in a dozen years. Before Brad arrived, anyway.

How does one spend eternity, I wondered.

"I'll get restless and I'll go out into the world for a few decades," he answered. "Then I get tired and find a place like this to hole up for a spell. I watch Nascar. There are worse ways to live your life."

He takes a sip of his rye and ginger, and shudders.

"Much worse," he says quietly. "Much, much worse."

I ask Brad if he's feeling restless. I've noticed that he's gone more nights than he's home, that his usually dirty home was even dirtier than usual. I wondered if he was planning to leave.

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