What To Do Next
Copyright © 2013 by Michael Litzky
KerriAnne. Sally almost cried from the weary guilt she felt around her sister.
She felt a solid hand on her shoulder, let Lavinia pull her close.
“Babe, you’re really upset about that, huh?” Lavinia thought she was still thinking of the nasty note left by that family with the little girl.
Sally shook her head furiously but not in denial. Pushing away the mass of guilt about her sister, she pretended she had still been thinking about the note. “I know I’ve got to let go of it. We’ll face a lot worse in the time ahead.” She thought about the huge task of fixing the world. They would face twenty conflicting opinions with every step they took. One reason she’d always been a loner was that she hated the morass of conflicting beliefs, some misguided and some downright evil.
At least thinking about tackling the whole world made one bit of injustice easier to bear. She’d think about KerriAnne and those dozens of calls and texts from her later. It was too much now.
She sat up and took another bite of chili, nibbled a saltine. “We’ve got to think about our first steps,” she said. “We’ve got important new information which somehow nobody else has discovered in five years.”
It sounded impossible when she said it out loud. “You know, it must have happened before. It must have. Five years, billions of people affected, there must be other vampires who have become, whatever you’ve become.”
Lavinia looked uncomfortable. “Whatever the fuck that is.”
Sally reached out a hand and stroked one of her bare feet, dislodging a few granules of sand. Lavinia seemed to need the contact in that moment. Sally said, “If being loved is what does it, some of the billions who’ve been killed must have been loved. If it’s just sunlight that does it, well I, shoot, I know it’s happened to at least one other vampire. That one I killed.” She shuddered involuntarily. “I saw him come to life and become human in the sunlight and then I saw him actually die. There wasn’t anything special about him, so it must be that if you can get any vampire into the sun –
“But that makes this even harder to understand! I just thought of this: when I walked away from that stupid rally in the morning, I think I talked to some news cameras but I didn’t even think about the piles of vampire corpses. Some of them must have shown some signs of humanity in the morning sun. And it’s impossible that nobody noticed. Some city sanitation worker if nobody else.”
“I don’t think so,” Lavinia said. Again that look like a drug addict remembering things done under the influence. “If you stopped looking at the vampires, and I don’t blame you, well you wouldn’t have seen what we did. But as soon as there was no chance of getting in to the plaza, we tore into those piles of bodies like rats. I got a little piece of one… Shit, I don’t want to talk about it. But believe you me, they were all gone long before sunrise.”
Sally’s lip curled involuntarily. Lavinia looked like she was kicking herself, so Sally stroked her foot again. “You’re getting sand on our bed, you slob,” she chided playfully, and Lavinia looked happier.
“Okay,” Sally came back to her point. “So sunlight probably does this wonderful thing to any vampire, but nobody knows because any downed vampire is eaten before they ever see the sun and any “live” vampire hides from the sun automatically. I still can’t quite believe that not one god damned vampire in five years has been accidentally caught by the sun, but there does seem to be some force at work keeping vampires vampires.” She thought again about the nightmare from which she’d rescued Lavinia. She felt she’d seen some crucial image which held a key to what was happening, but it wouldn’t come.
She kept talking, wondering if she’d see that key. “That vampire somehow lived through the night with his throat torn out. I guess they can be killed only by wood through the heart. Do you know? Is it only wood? And is it any specific kind of wood? Oak, ash, cherry, redwood, mahogany? And is it only through the heart? What happens if a vampire gets a brain injury from wood? What happens if you get a splinter?”
Lavinia’s smile was now her Madonna smile. “I don’t know nothing, I just work here. But, hey, let’s try this. Let me hold one of your stakes for a minute.”
Wordlessly, Sally pulled a stake out of her belt loop and handed it to Lavinia. Although you could spend hundreds of dollars on specialty vampire stakes, nicely turned and varnished until they gleamed, Sally couldn’t afford any of those. She bought nice simple ash stakes at the lumber yard (every hardware store and lumber yard in the world stocked them, of course). This one was solid in the hand and had a point sharp enough that Sally had once made herself bleed when she’d been careless.
Lavinia took the stake like she might have taken a loaded gun. She stroked it cautiously while a tense Sally watched. Lavinia looked puzzled. She lifted the stake, sniffed it, hefted it in her hand. Finally she handed it back to Sally, still with an uncertain frown.
“Well?” Sally said. “C’mon, what?”
“I’m not sure,” she said finally. “I got this weird energy off it. Something was, I dunno, I guess “wrong,” but that’s not quite it. Don’t stick me with it, that’s for sure.”
Sally just gave her a look that said, “Are you crazy?” The “key” image still wouldn’t come to her, so she moved on to her last point.
“You are still a vampire. I guess I’d been hoping that the sunlight would cure you all the way, make you human again. Now, I don’t know what to hope for. But you’re definitely not human again, are you?”
“Probably not, unless it’s happened in the last few minutes. But I’m still not hungry for people food, I still got the fucking teeth, don’t gotta shit or piss, and I’m betting if I stepped out into the sun, I’d start sounding like Courtney Trouble again.”
Sally nodded. “Then tonight, once again, our home has to be open to vampires.” Eying Lavinia with a sudden rush of excitement, she added, “It sure will be interesting to see what you’re like in the night now.”
“Yeah, who knows, maybe I’ll glow. Maybe I’ll fly in the moonlight, that’s reflected sunlight after all. Maybe fucking starlight’ll do it. Stars are other suns.”
Sally finished her last bite of soup, put the bowl aside and flung herself into Lavinia’s arms.
“So where do we go from here?” she asked, happy and comfortable, even though she was aware that night was coming. Lavinia was warm, she wasn’t doing anything weird like flying. In fact, except for that faint otherworldly smell, Lavinia felt like she used to feel against Sally’s body. What a lot we’ve been through in just two days.
Lavinia said, “Well, what do you think we should do, tiger?”
That’s right, I’m supposed to be leading us all to salvation. But maybe, now that Lavinia wasn’t so helpless, she could take the lead again? Amazingly, though, Lavinia let two whole minutes go by without adding to what she’d said, something the old Lavinia wouldn’t have done for twenty seconds. Sally made herself think about what they should do.
As she always did, she ticked points off on her fingers. “We know some important things. We have to start telling people. But there’s lots of gaps in what we know. We need to find some more things out. Do we try and build a complete picture and then start telling people or do we start telling people?”
As she’d hoped, Lavinia couldn’t resist jumping in with an opinion. “Either one of us could get whacked any time. We gotta start telling people. Fucking how, though?”
Sally brooded for a moment, feeling reluctant to share their glorious secret with anyone and hating to have to admit to people how much they didn’t know. “Maybe we should try a few more experiments first?” She saw a beautiful image of the two of them holding hands and walking into the night.
“Like what?” Lavinia could put a lot of New York huff into a simple word like “what.” “Babe, if we try something and get killed, then nobody knows what we’ve learned. This is too important, we have to get the word out. Somehow. Dead people don’t talk. Except vampires, sure.”
It came to Sally in a flash, that key image she’d been trying to remember. In her nightmare vision, she’d seen one thing which seemed totally out of place with everything else, and at the same time, had seemed to be at the heart of everything. A dead hiker, a young man lying under dark trees by an old stone wall in a forest.
Dead people don’t talk. But somehow, that dead man is talking to us, to all of us. She knew it, she was certain of it. Where he lay, exactly what he had to do with everything, she did not yet know. But he was at the heart of what was happening to the world. She could almost feel the waves of despair and misery ghosting out from his mind.
She was about to tell Lavinia, when she felt something crinkle beneath her ear in Lavinia’s breast. She remembered the card in Lavinia’s pocket with the San Francisco address and the image from her dreams of the little fairy in the attic welcoming the vampires in.
It fit in somehow, she was sure. How, though, how? What could tie together vampires who turn into flying sex goddesses in the sun, a flittering cat-sized fairy in a nighttime attic, a dead hiker by a wall in a black forest and an old leather maker with one eye and a penchant for Norse gods?
But she at least realized where they should go next and, thinking about her beautiful image, what they should do.
Sitting up, she told it to Lavinia, wishing she didn’t blush so easily. Lavinia was arching her eyes in that way she had. “It would answer several questions at once,” she added quickly, “what you’re like at night now, whether we can have a home together – we can tell people how to be safe from vampires all the time!”
Listen to me, I sound like I’m asking her if that’s okay. I have to be certain, I’m supposed to be leading.
“That,” she said firmly, “is what I think we should do.”
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