Chapter 6: White Cross
The cross was as primitive as a cross could be.
It was simply part of the stonework of the building: five or six of the stones must have been deliberately chosen because they were white as salt and they made a crude upright and a set of wavy arms above the stone doorway. There was nothing else, no dark form emerging from that rectangular black mouth, no hooded shadow regarding them.
Sally turned back to the panting Lavinia. “Is it the cross, babe? I thought they had no power over you?”
A confused anger came over Sally: as an atheist, what did she do if it turned out Christianity was right? Would she have to kneel and pray to a God who she still saw as her father towering over her, belt in hand to punish her, a God in whose name the Inquisition had tortured and burned, in whose name the Nazis had made their inhuman cities of death? She’d actually been relieved when the crucifix in Rainbow’s shop had no power over Lavinia.
“I dunno,” Lavinia said, voice rasping. Her eyes squinted as if she were looking at a harsh light. “Something about this place just fucking…” She shook her head. “Let’s get out of here while we can.”
Sally shivered. “I’d just been thinking this was a good place, some kind of ancient church or monastery.” She felt like crying. She was sure this had been a religious community and it frightened her that Lavinia experienced it as an evil place. “Are you sure it’s not just the, some kind of the home magic?” Suddenly determined to pull Lavinia out of her fear, she said, “Let me just crawl inside one of those huts and then I’ll invite you in.”
“Are you fuckin’ out of your…” Lavinia seemed furious. Sally faced her, waiting for the storm. What would happen if I declared this place my home and ordered her out? Again that thought! She didn’t want that power to have a temper tantrum and lose Lavinia forever!
But Lavinia calmed herself and became still as stone. “Awright,” she said in a deathly quiet voice. “Go ahead.”
Sally tried to see into Lavinia’s eyes, but it was now too dark. “Babe?” she began.
“Fuckin do it, do it now.” The words came out like a line of rocks, a stone wall against the buffeting of the wind and waves. A ghost from Sally’s past rose for an instant: she’d said those same words to urge on the first man she’d slept with, who had panicked at the sight of blood (because Sally, who had only slept with women until then, still had her “virginity” intact).
Sally turned sharply, walked up to the old building wishing she could see better. With a mental snap of the fingers she remembered they had a flashlight. She dug it out of the duffel and snapped it on.
Directly beside the square black entryway was a modern sign which said, “Please do not enter the buildings unattended.” Information slid into place: she realized this place was a museum of sorts, that people came here on tours.
But she and Lavinia needed shelter; she’d be careful and respectful, damn it.
She crouched and walked into the old church, if that was what it was. Inside she could stand. The interior was rectangular, a very primitive, snug little house. She shone her light around: just stone walls. They had probably been chinked tight long ago but now the wind found little fingerlings and cracks to dance through. Stone pegs projected from the walls, just the thing on which to hang a cloak or a satchel of possessions at the end of a long working day.
Sally muttered “I hope it’s okay for me to be in here.” But out loud she said firmly, “This is my home for tonight and I invite my beloved Lavinia to be welcome in my home!”
Then a strange thing happened. Lavinia entered alright, but not as a welcome visitor. She bumped and stumbled in, cracking her head on the lintel, as if pushed from the outside. From the floor she glared up at Sally, eyes glinting in the flashlight beam. “Jesus fuck,” she said weakly.
Sally knelt beside her. “What happened, love, what happened?”
Lavinia turned her head from Sally’s face. “Fuckheads who lived here, monks or whatever they were, they woulda hated something like me. I mean, they probably would’ve thrown both of us down the hill anyway, me for a Jew and you for a heathen Chinee. But vampire me, they would’ve burned alive.”
Sally didn’t know what to do. “Were you pushed in here? It looked like it.”
“Yeah, soon’s you welcomed me, this was like the only place in this whole dead place that I could be.” She turned her angry face back to Sally. “I’m here on your sufferance, babe. Be extra careful what you say in here. One angry word from you and I’ll probably be swept into the ocean a thousand feet down.”
The words stung Sally to the core. She turned the flashlight off, preferring the dark. “Do you want to go somewhere else?” she said into the night. “We can keep exploring, maybe there’s something else on this island. It’s set up as a museum, maybe there’s a museum keeper’s house somewhere.”
“No, we’re here, it’s dark, let’s get some rest.” Sally felt Lavinia curl away from her. When Sally touched her, all her radiant heat was gone. She was as cold as ice.
Angrily, Sally said, “Babe? Don’t do this. We’re in this together, whatever it is. We’ve been through too much for you to just turn away from me like this…”
Lavinia’s dim form turned back towards her, ominous somehow, and the words died on Sally’ lips. Gingerly she turned the light back on. Fear was stamped across Lavinia’s stony, hollow glare. “It’s slippin’ away from me, tiger,” she whispered. Her icy form grew still, empty. Her eyes became the dead, hungry eyes of a vampire.
A thrill of fear went through Sally Yan. “Baby,” she quavered. “It’s me, your Sally, your wife. You’re Lavinia, your mom lives in Florida, your family name was…”
Lavinia’s mouth went for Sally’s throat!
The flashlight skittered from her hand and she wrestled in dreadful darkness with a cold-blooded, writhing snake.