Jeff Horn Bio
"Since becoming a victim (or beneficiary) of the economic downturn early this year, Jeff has been pursuing a variety of creative outlets. In addition to writing more fiction, one of these outlets has been to tune up and put to use his long dormant acting chops. He has just finished production on his first feature film, The Instant Messenger, in which he had the title role. The film is now in the post-production phase and is festival bound, in search of a distribution deal. (Translation: very, very low budget.) Jeff has also worked in a number of short films, and has appeared in bit parts on a couple of programs for the Discovery television networks.
He is also in the process of sorting through several years worth of songs he's written, and hopes to record an album later this year."
Listen to Jeff Horn's "I Just Can't Let Her Go" while you read
|It’s the same thing over and over since the day she and I went separate ways;
I pick up most of the pieces and then her name comes up again.
There’s a sadness I find when she crosses my mind,
And that long train of “What ifs” starts to roll.
I Just Can’t Let Her Go, I Just Can’t Let Her Go
Saying goodbye was an angry scene; ugly words we didn’t mean.
How’d the best thing anybody ever had wind up that bad?
‘Cause there were other nights when the lovin’ was just so right,
When she’d squeeze me and call my name soft and low.
I Just Can’t Let Her Go, I Just Can’t Let Her Go
We shared something special I knew that from the start
Time and miles don’t take her from a place inside my heart
Here lately, I do OK. You learn from your mistakes.
It’s true time’ll heal you as it marches on, the hurtin’s mostly gone.
Though every once in a while I’ll remember her smile
And miss her more than she’ll ever know.
I Just Can’t Let Her Go, oh no
I Just Can’t Let Her Go
Population Control, a short story by © Jeff Horn
“He’s gone! Son of a bitch.”
Jerry looked behind the door of the empty room, just to be sure, but there was no one there. The tangle of ropes lying on the floor of the otherwise empty room told the story. Jerry had underestimated the strength, or the resolve of this one, it didn’t matter which. He had slipped the ropes and gotten away before they had been able to stake him. Mike was gonna be pissed, something Jerry tried to avoid at all costs. Mike didn’t exactly go crazy, or even yell, but he took things very seriously and he gave you one of those looks whenever you made a mistake. Those looks were the worst. Jerry owed Mike a lot, everything he had actually, so he tried to stay on Mike’s good side when it came to the business of eliminating the undead.
Well he’d better go break the news so they could just get started looking for the guy. He wasn’t really too concerned that this one would actually get too far away. As weak as he had appeared, Jerry didn’t expect that he’d made much progress, particularly with this weather. He had only undergone final conversion the previous night and had slept through the day. Having been homeless and malnourished to begin with, even though now he belonged to the ranks of the undead, he needed to build up his strength, and that only came from regular feedings of blood. Preferably, human blood. Besides, with the storm that was blowing outside, it would be tough enough for anyone to get anywhere fast on foot, much less an undernourished, half-addled, newly created vampire. They should be able to track him down pretty easily.
“Jerry. Where are you?” Mike’s voice echoed through the house. “Hurry up. We’ve got work to finish. Get him down here.”
Jerry sighed. “Well, might as well get this over with,” he muttered to himself.
As he entered the living room, where Mike was waiting, Jerry sucked up his courage and blurted out, “He’s not there. He got away.”
“What do you mean, he got away?” there was that look, as Mike responded, “Don’t you mean you let him get away?”
“I’m sorry Mike. He ain’t far, that’s for sure.”
“No. You’re right about that. I saw him crawl into the shed. Fool.” Jerry wasn’t sure whether Mike was referring to him or the bum. “I guess with his limited brain capacity he figured we wouldn’t look there. Or else, that was as far as he could get,” he added with a small grin.
“Look Mike he got out of the ropes, and –“
“Because you did a half-assed job tying him! And I know you didn’t use any garlic, did you?”
“But he seemed so weak; I didn’t think that it would matter.”
“Well,” Mike shot “the look” again, “it did matter, didn’t it? Jerry, in this business, when it’s time to stake one of these creatures, we can’t afford to cut corners. You, as much as anyone should know that by now.” Jerry squirmed under that gaze. “Now go drag him back in here before he gets another burst of energy and gets into the woods.”
It was about ten minutes before Jerry hauled his quarry back into the vacant living room. He was soaking wet, and the vagrant was covered in mud, head to toe, from being dragged the fifty yards back to the house. Forcing him rudely down onto the tarp Mike had spread on the floor, Jerry ripped open the tattered rag of a shirt the bum wore and with a heavily gloved hand laid a silver crucifix on his bare chest. The vampire writhed once and lay still as the cross burned into his bare flesh.
Panting a little from the exertion, with water running off him in tiny rivers, Jerry fixed Mike with a look of his own, but turned his eyes away when the older man merely raised an eyebrow and smirked at his partner’s discomfort. Enjoying Jerry’s distress at being soaked to the skin, he added, “Maybe you’ll be more careful next time.”
A clap of thunder pealed, louder than they imagined possible, almost before the lightning flash ended. The lightning had made the dimly lit room as bright as noon for a couple of seconds, shaking the shabby walls and rattling the ill-fitting windows of the old, rundown house. It also sent a deep rumble through the bodies of the two men standing over the squirming, terrified derelict who lay on the floor before them.
“Shit, that one was close,” said Jerry, who had jumped nearly six inches at the sound. His gaze returned to the figure in front of them, “I bet it struck less than a quarter mile away. There’ll be trees down.”
“Who cares,” responded Mike. “It’ll be dawn soon. Let’s get this over with.”
The drifter on the floor, seemingly only half-conscious, began mumbling incoherently. His mutterings grew into a combination ranting/cursing, that Mike brought to a sudden close with the sharp toe of his cowboy boot applied forcefully to the ribcage of the prone protester. A loud grunt exploded from his lungs and he lay silent once again. Jerry replaced the small cross on the homeless man’s bare chest with his gloved hand.
“Don’t you bleed on my pants or I’ll kill you,” Mike joked. Looking at Jerry, they started to chuckle. “Hand me the bag,” he continued, “I’ll do it.”
“I thought you would get the bag while I was outside,” Jerry replied. “Am I just a servant boy now?”
“Don’t even try the superior act with me. You couldn’t qualify as a servant. Servants are responsible and pay attention to details. Just go get the bag, and stop being such a whiner. We need to get this done and we’d be finished by now if you hadn’t been so careless.”
“Well I’ll keep an eye on our guest here, and you go get the stuff. I need to dry off”
Mike shook his head, “Oh no, I’m the one who originally found this fellow for us, and I’m the one who always seems to be doing the heavy lifting for this team. You forgot to bring the tools earlier, not to mention that you’re the one who nearly let this distinguished chap get away. So you can go downstairs and get the damned bag.”
“Awright, awright, I’ll go, but don’t act like you do all the work around here. And he didn’t really even come close to getting away, not even close.”
With that, Jerry turned and left the room. In another second, Mike heard his heavy tread going down the steps to the basement. Returning his gaze to the man on the floor, he smiled a little grin of satisfaction.
Sometimes these creatures proved to be a little above average, playing out the game longer than Mike liked. This fellow had proved to be one such example. Although they had tracked him easily enough in the beginning stages of the hunt and lured him willingly into their web of subterfuge, when it came to the actual confinement for what was about to occur he had caught on early and shown himself to be resourceful, nearly getting away, even in a weakened condition. And despite his protestations, Jerry, clown that he could be, had nearly let this one escape, which would not have been good. A creature like this, loose among a largely unmonitored food source like the homeless population would cause no end of problems for them. Attention like that they didn’t need.
Jerry came back into the room with the large, heavy-looking canvas duffel over his shoulder. They made an unlikely pair: Mike, middle-aged, fashionably dressed, urbane; while Jerry appeared to be a typical mid-twenties slacker. But they were joined by the bond of what they did, which transcended their looks, the books they read or the music they listened to.
“Please, please, don’t kill me. Please,” the hoarse rasp of the man on the floor was barely audible. “I’ll do anything you say.”
“Sorry friend, it just doesn’t work that way. When you made the decision to become the kind of creature…well…that you’ve become, there’s only one way out.” Mike shook his head, a somewhat ironic look on his face, “And now it’s time for you to make your exit.”
The look that passed over the creature’s face held a multitude of emotions: fear, hatred, disgust, defiance all seemed to manifest. “You lied to me. You lied,” the one-day-old vampire croaked as fixed his rheumy eyes on Mike.
“Yeah, well, life’s a bitch.” Jerry opined.
Opening the bag, Mike removed a long wooden stake and a heavy mallet. The stake was made of ash and was about eighteen inches long, tapering from a diameter of about three inches at the top, to a needle-sharp point. It was unfinished but sanded to a high sheen, the grain making lovely patterns. I was also stained with something that had turned it a coppery brown.
“Give him a dousing,” Mike ordered Jerry; “I don’t want him thrashing around while I’m staking him. He’s still got a little too much attitude.”
Taking a small vial from a side pocket of the bag, Jerry examined the contents and remarked, “We’re going to need some more of this soon. Going into that church gives me the creeps,” he added with an involuntary shudder.
“Well right now, let’s just get to business. Sprinkle him.”
Jerry carefully opened the vial of holy water, and looking down at the thing on the floor, sprinkled his head and torso with the mystical liquid. The creature would have roared, if he’d had the strength. Instead, he writhed pathetically, nearly dislodging the crucifix from his chest again and making a combination of grunting and moaning. After a few seconds, this subsided, and his ragged breathing was the only movement he made.
Moving quickly, pulling on his own heavy leather gloves, Mike removed the cross from his intended victim and tossed it into the open bag, Placing the point of the stake against the left side of the creature’s chest, he covered it with a heavy cloth and struck hard with the mallet. Allowing for the inevitable thrashing to subside, (it didn’t take long when the victim was this weak,) he struck twice more, feeling the tip of the stake drive through the vampire’s skinny torso and make contact with the floor beneath the creature. A couple more spasms and the one-time human lay still. His face was a mask of agony, but he was gone.
“They sure do always look ugly, don’t they?” said Jerry.
“That they do. I’ve been thinking about covering their faces lately. But I never remember it until we’re already in the middle of things,” Mike replied. “Let’s get him bagged.”
“Aw come on, it’s nearly dawn, let’s just leave him here for now. I’m getting tired,” Jerry tried, knowing full well what Mike would say. But he was miserable and wanted to get dry and into some fresh clothes. And the creature was dead.
“No, my young friend. We’re not finished yet. Cleaning up is just as important as staking them.” Mike placed a boot on the lifeless body and pulled out the stake, wiping it off and returning the mallet to the bag. “We can do final disposal later, but for now we need to get him downstairs.”
Wrapping the body in the heavy plastic tarp on which he lay and securing it with the same rope the vampire had escaped from earlier took them about fifteen minutes. Practice had taught them the value of doing neat work, so there was almost no blood anywhere but on the victim and plastic sheet. Jerry wiped the stake clean with a wet cloth and after drying it, he rubbed it thoroughly with a rough towel til it shone again. All tools were returned to the bag.
As he hoisted the bundle containing the vampire’s corpse over his shoulder and Mike grabbed the tool bag, Jerry mused, “Would it really be so terrible if one of them got away once in awhile?”
“Probably not. But it would be sloppy and it definitely would be the first step down a slippery slope,” replied Mike. “One would get away and without the benefit of our experience they’d just make pigs of themselves. And that would draw attention, and we’d have to move, and what a pain in the butt that would be, and who needs it?”
As they headed down to the basement, Mike locked the heavy door behind them and continued, “We take what we need to stay healthy, convert one or two a month and then eliminate them before they get a feel for the life. We have all we need, we supplement that with some animal blood, and we have a good life. We don’t need go bringing too many inferiors into our little world. As long as we stay cool, we could keep this up forever.”
“I know, I know,” Jerry responded, “it just seems like a lot of work sometimes.”
“More work than when I found you on the docks in San Francisco a hundred years ago?”
“Well that’s that then. Have a good rest.”
And with that, they stored their respective burdens. Jerry changed into dry clothes and put out the lights in the basement. They climbed into their respective boxes to drift off to a day of the dreamless sleep of the undead, as a sliver of the morning sun appeared over the horizon, through the parting clouds of the abated storm. It was a thing of beauty that they’d never see or appreciate.
But being undead was really living, thought Jerry. It was good Mike was so smart after all. He yawned and closed his eyes.
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