Previous Installment: Through the Eyes of a Child
The Battle Joined
Don’t try to start your bike until you talk to me. And be careful not to turn on the headlight and stand in front of it. That would be REAL bad…if everything works right. It should work right. I thought I could finish it in one day but I bought the .8 mm wire instead of the .75 mm wire so I can’t finish until tomorrow.
He touched my bike. The little brat touched…no… altered…my bike.
I’m going to have to kill him now.
I storm back into the club and head for Martin’s room. I unlock the door to find his coffin replaced with an iron maiden. It’s coated in rust and still has dirt packed on it. There’s a small pool of blood at the foot of the thing. I kneel down and coat my fingertips in it. I get lightheaded at the smell.
I really need to feed more often.
I quickly wipe my hand on my jeans and try to open the iron maiden. He’s go it locked from the inside. I knock.
A minute later I hear a faint moan, then the sound of locks opening. I open the lid to see Martin full of spike holes. The smell of his blood forces itself up my nostrils and crawls down my spine. My knees start to give and I have to brace myself against a nightstand.
Martin pulls himself out of the iron maiden and steps toward me. “You o.k.?”
“I’m fine,” I lie. The beast deep in the back of my mind whispers “He’s weak. You could take him easily.” I tell myself to shut up.
“What’s up?” Martin shrugs and his wounds start to heal up.
“Ralph did something to my bike.”
Martin freezes for a second. He rubs his hand through his hair.
“Did you tell him it was my birthday?”
Martin looks down at his feet. “Whatever do you…”
“You told him.”
“Hey, you’ve been a vampire three years. Considering that your own sire wants to kill you and the Sabbat has a price on your head, that’s quite an accomplishment.”
“What did he do to my bike?”
“How should I know? He’s your kid.”
“He’s not my kid. He just stalks me. Besides, I though you two were buddies after he rigged up that new rack for you.”
“Alex, I have NO CLUE what the little monster did to your Harley. But isn’t it nice that somebody thought to do something nice for you for your birthday?”
“It’s not my birthday. My birthday’s not for two months.”
“You’re a vampire. Your birthday is today. You were reborn three years ago today. Your human birthday means nothing.”
“I hate you.”
“No you don’t. You love me.”
I leave the club and take another look at my bike. I’m gonna have to walk.
I get four blocks from the club and my cell phone rings.
“Hi, Alex,” says Ralph. He sounds WAY too happy.
“What have you done now?”
“You didn’t start your bike, right?”
“No. I’ll deal with the bike later. What are you getting into now?”
“How far are you from 19th Street?”
“About ten minutes. Why?”
“Well, I saw this guy walk by this electronics store and you know how they have the little cameras pointed at the street and show you yourself on their TV’s? Well, he stood in front of one of the cameras and he didn’t show up on the TV and…”
“Jesus, tell me you didn’t follow him.”
“Just as far as the warehouse.”
“Ralph, get out of there now!”
“I didn’t go inside! A whole bunch of people have been going in there. I’m across the street. Nothing to…”
So I grab the next taxi and I get to 19th Street. There are actually four warehouses on the street, but I catch of whiff of blood in the air. I know which one to go to.
Good news is, they won’t kill him right away because he’s a kid and they’ll want to play with him first. Bad news is, they won’t kill him right away because he’s a kid and they’ll want to play with him first.
There are two ghouls watching the front entrance. They’re trying to act cool like they’re just hanging out having a cigarette. But they’ve got a nervous two-step going like a horse that smells a pack of wolves.
I get closer. If I fire, it will make too much noise and then I lose surprise. So instead I call up the shadows. The ghouls don’t notice at first. The shadows snake around their feet, then swirl upward toward their mouths. Black tentacles force themselves into their mouths and wrap around their throats. Before they completely suffocate, I lurk into the shadow and finally get a good meal in. I drag the bodies behind a dumpster and crack open the door.
It’s a small pack of nine. I don’t recognize any of them. They’ve got three still twitching bodies hanging from meat hooks. Then I see Ralph. Four of the pack members are around him. He apparently was able to get his shield up, because I see the faint glimmer around him. The pack members are alternating between laughter and frustration. They’re taking turns firing at the shield. The glimmer gets weaker. The shield is breaking down.
“How about firing at a larger target?” I scream. I get off two surprise shots before they can even react. Two go down for good with phosphorous burns to the brain.
The next thing I know a Rabble is on top of me with eyes glazed over and fangs exposed. I fall backwards from the impact. I drop a gun as a claw tears into my left shoulder. I shove the other gun into his mouth and pull the trigger. The smell of brains and blood splatters up into my nose. I run my tongue over my own now extended fangs. I can feel the beast trying to pull its way out of my gut. I swallow and force it back down.
Out of the corner of my eye I see a blur of blue flame. I hear the frenzied cry of a vampire as it’s sent to final death. I lunge at the vampire in front of me…a sewer rat with a tattoo of Marilyn Monroe on his bald and deformed head. Behind me the swish of flame and the cries of death come closer.
I punch into the chest of the sewer rat with every ounce of my soul. I feel bone fragments scratch my fist as my hand comes out his back. With my other hand I fire into his face. He drops at my feet.
I hear movement behind me and reel around to see a petite blonde with the most heavenly blue eyes and glowing blue hands to match. My gun is about one foot from her face. I stare into her eyes and see not fear, but a fierce dedication that sends a shiver up my spine.
“I got no quarrel with you, friend,” I say. I take a step back and quickly survey the carnage.
“You’re one of them,” she says softly.
“That depends on your definition of THEM.”
“Well, under that broad definition, OK.” I haven’t lowered by gun, and her hands haven’t stopped glowing. She’s starting to creep my out.
“Alex! This one’s still alive!” I hear Ralph. Out of the corner of my eye I see him pointing to one of the twitching bodies.
“Can we continue this discussion AFTER we get that poor sap down?” I ask. She lowers her hands to her sides and they stop glowing. They seem so SMALL to have done so much damage. I walk over to Ralph.
“You OK., brat?” I asked as I try to determine the dangling body’s chance of surviving. I break off the point of the meat hook and carefully slide him off.
“I’m fine. Oh, what are you doing here, Heather?”
“You guys know each other?” I ask as I lay the man down on the floor. He’s loosing blood quickly and he’s going into shock. I bite down on my own wrist and start to feed him. Heather grabs my arm and throws me back five feet.
“You think I’m gonna stand here and let you turn him into a vampire?” She screams at me with a voice full of the wrath of God.
“Are you outta your mind? He’s not completely drained of blood yet, but he will be if you don’t knock it off and let me save him!”
“I’ll save him.”
She bends down over him and places one hand on his head and another on the wound in his stomach. Her whole body seems to glow with a pale white light. I hear a stable breathing come from the man. The wound in his stomach seals up.
“That was SO cool! Beauty and superhero powers too!” exclaims Ralph, apparently oblivious to the fact that he could have been the one on the hook.
“What are you doing with it, Ralph?” Heather nods toward me.
“It? I know I’m not exactly a beauty queen but I never thought my GENDER was in question.”
“Alex is a friend.” Ralph turns to me. “Heather is in my Calculus class.”
“And who teaches that class, the wolfman?”
“Dr. Friedman isn’t a werewolf. George would have told me.”
“George?” Heather and I sound like a stereo.
“He’s another friend of mine.”
Heather and I look at each other, then back at Ralph. I just shake my head. I don’t wanna know.
“Will you at least let me wipe his memory of tonight, or do you want him to go insane from the nightmares?” I ask Heather. She steps away from the man. I star into his eyes and cradle his head in my hands.
“Listen, you went to the movies and saw Resident Evil. Then you went bar hopping and had too much to drink. By the time you got home, you were already throwing up. You collapsed on your bed and had a really bad nightmare that you were in the video game and the monsters almost killed you. But you managed to get free and kill them all and escape. Now go to sleep.”
The man goes to sleep. I look up at Heather and ask her if she can take the man home. She nods. I stand and motion for Ralph to follow me. Heather grabs my arm.
“Why do you hunt them?” she asks.
“I’d tell you, but I only have four hours until sunrise.”
Heather lets go of my arm. Her eyes fill up with sadness. No tears. Just the sadness. I almost want to give her a hug and tell her it would all be o.k. But then I remember the glowing blue hands and I think better of it.
“My name’s Alex Austin. I’m a vampire, but I’m not your enemy. I want the same thing you want. I want people to be safe from things like me. I want people to be protected from becoming things like me. I feel the same weight, the same responsibility. I don’t know why you do what you do or how, but I understand the obligation. If you ever need my help, you’ll get it.”
“How’d you know that?”
“You use to date a FBI field agent named Roger?”
“Roger Morgan, yeah. How’d you know that?”
Heather’s eyes become confused. They look down at the ground and they dart back and forth looking for the missing words. “He was my uncle.”
I sit down on a crate and put my head in my hands. Roger had been an early casualty of my “recruitment”. My sire had killed him and several of my friends in Chicago to cut off my human attachments. I didn’t know that when I was first embraced, but I figured it out soon after. I want to make a thousand apologies to Heather, but somehow she already knows what happened. To verbalize it would be trite.
“When Uncle Roger died, I started having nightmares. I’d see shadows turning into monsters. I saw monsters everywhere. Bus drivers looked like creatures out of Salem’s Lot. Security guards looked like they were part animal. Then I learned to understand the images. Let them guide me. That’s how I ended up here tonight. They wanted me to come here. I guess they wanted me to finally meet you.”
Heather shrugged. The voices in her head are real. They know about me. They know…