Tormentas de Sangre
Water’s importance in the creation of life is only matched by the vastness of its destructive potential: Dispassionate betrayals that can take strange and shocking forms.
The raindrops touch the skin, clean and clear, then bloom in crimson. Blood is drawn out through unbroken flesh and unharmed skin, flooding into droplets which swell like livid, writhing leeches. There is no pain to warn someone that they are being drained - of the danger they are in - only a prickle of warmth as the blood blunts the chill but toothless bite of the rain. Most caught in one of these potentially deadly downpours, especially if they are alone, will first realise that something is wrong when they see the deep plumes of red blossoming through the fabric of their clothes. Even then, even if it is not already too late, most will never know what they have fallen victim to.
Striking as isolated and localised pockets of heavy rainfall hidden within larger storms, these bloodthirsty torrents are generally known as the Tormentas de Sangre - Storms of Blood in their less-elegant translation to English. Though they are exceedingly rare, they are one of the most ancient phenomena of which written mention can be found. Such storms have appeared almost all over the world - limited only by the necessity that rain must already fall naturally in a given area - but seem to be most common in the wilds of nature; on moors and plains away from towns and cities or any other similarly human presence that might offer shelter or protection from the predatory downpours.
Historically, the victims of a Tormenta de Sangre tended to be travellers and merchants (or those taking their flocks or herds to graze), caught unawares on lonely roads far from witnesses or any hope of rescue. Whilst this has somewhat shifted more recently - to hikers and campers, for instance - these storms seem to have no particular qualms or reservations about killing anyone who happens to stray into their path. Efforts to compile a comprehensive list of sites where the Tormentas de Sangre are known to have raged, while interesting, have yielded very little which is particularly useful or informative in terms of either predicting their appearances or understanding how they came to be.
Disorientated first by confusion and then by disbelief - the absence of any wounds confounding the expectations caused by sight of blood - many of those caught in a Tormenta de Sangre start to strip away layers of their clothing in a panicked search for the source of the bleeding. These lost seconds, time wasted when they should be desperately seeking shelter, can be fatal. Victims, often leaving a trail of their discarded clothing in their wake, can be rendered unconscious by the blood loss in a matter of minutes, with death following only a few later. The exsanguination continues post-mortem, either until the rains stop or until there is nothing left for them to take.
The bodies the storms leave behind are drained almost entirely, often to degrees unmatched by the most diligent and methodical workings of undertakers and morticians, but otherwise show very little indication of trauma. Modern medical examinations have confirmed the obvious and assumed cause of death, but have also found some evidence that the rains in a Tormenta de Sangre also destroy fibrinogen (a glycoprotein in blood that causes clotting). It seems an unnecessary twist of the knife, given the storms’ efficient work in bleeding out their victims, and is perhaps intended to imperil the lives of those who attempt to escape. If they are injured while they flee, a lack of fibrinogen might cause even relatively superficial wounds to be fatal.
Despite this (admittedly slight) suggestion of potential malice, there is almost no folklore or mythology suggesting how these rains came to be. They have not, to the best interpretations of our research, been visited upon humanity as a punishment from wrathful gods, nor inflicted upon us as curse. Instead they remain unknowable, terrifying and unpredictable. The storms have been called many things besides the Tormentas de Sangre - perhaps in part as attempts to demystify them by assigning a motive to their violence - including various names with allusions to vampires and vampirism. Still, all of these ignore a central and essential question: To sate whose hunger, to feed what infernal appetite, is the blood being harvested?
Unless it is otherwise trapped or impeded, the blooded rainwater seeps down into the dirt. With roughly ten pints of blood per person drained, less that which has stained their clothes, all that remains is a gory mire of sodden mud. Several of these sites have been thoroughly examined, even excavated in the wake of deaths, the ground thoroughly tilled and sifted for any evidence of creatures taking advantage of the sudden infusion of nutrients. Whilst these investigations have been somewhat inconsistent (a result of each having been carried out separately and independently from the others), they have found neither types nor degrees of fauna or flora atypical for the affected region and climate.
It seems then that the exsanguinations are an end in and of themselves (rather than merely the means of providing sustenance for something else). This understanding still does not bring us any closer to knowing who or what is responsible for the creation of these storms though, nor their reasons. In fact, a meaningful comprehension of what differentiates their rains from normal water seems entirely elusive: On those occasions when they have been successfully sampled and analysed, culled from puddles or pooled which haven’t spilt or been evaporated, they have no properties apart from or different to those one would find in any other rainfall - apparently being rendered somehow inert, or made safe, after they have fallen.
Even where the rains being studied are still mixed and intermingled with the blood that they have taken, they act only as water otherwise would. The secrets of how they siphon off their sanguine prize, whether through some unknown science or something far more arcane, are either lost or deliberately obscured. The infrequency and irregularity of Tormentas de Sangre has made consideration of any ongoing, dedicated studies into them unfeasible, particularly when weighed against the relatively low number of deaths they cause. Ambitious plans to this end have been put forward nonetheless, but they are met with the indifference that assumes such a fate is deeply unlikely to befall anyone with sufficient means to properly invest in its study.