One Particular House
Copyright © 2013 by Michael Litzky
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“Send her out! Send her out to us! Send her out or we will kill you!” The chaotic voices congealed into a single chant. Malcolm glared at them. “You fuckers can’t come into a home, so shut up!” Then, in an abashed aside, “Pardon my language again, sister.”
But Sister Amanda was kneeling beside Jeremy, who sobbed in her arms, lost in a past nightmare, while the other three young men stood uncertain and uncomfortable. “It’s alright, Jeremy, nobody here is going to be hurt this time. What happened then was not your fault. You were twelve and you were frightened. Please accept that you are loved and forgiven.”
“Send her out to us. Beware, we will get you if you don’t send her out.”
“Sister, I need to know what’s going on,” Malcolm said, kneeling beside her. For an instant, one of the vampires seemed to surge forward into protected space. But it must have been an optical illusion, for the line clearly still held firm.
“Jeremy, may I tell him?” Sister Amanda asked compassionately. He nodded, eyes closed, clearly comforted by the Sister’s gentle touch, clearly still deep in his personal hell.
“There was an accident four years ago, about a year into the current crisis,” she explained. “A vampire with an unusual amount of cunning called to Jeremy though the window, telling him just what these vampires are saying, to push his younger brother out to them and they would then spare him.”
“It was an older vampire, with a, kind of, round face,” Jeremy said, still with his eyes closed, clearly trying to be helpful even through his misery. “You know how the rest of them all look alike? But once he started it, they all took it up.”
Malcolm looked at the vampires like someone waking from a dream. How had he never noticed that they all looked alike? Except for differing heights.
And there again, that odd sensation that the vampires were pushing their way in ever so slightly, like the invisible wall around the plaza were made of rippling plastic slowly melting in white heat.
“Anyway,” Sister Amanda continued, “there was a scuffle at the door, nothing that anyone could have blamed on Jeremy in my opinion, but the brother did get taken by the evil ones and Jeremy blamed himself.”
And so, Malcolm filled in silently, did his parents, which is why they were only too happy to sign a permission form for Jeremy to be out here this night.
“But what have you got to do with it?” Malcolm persisted. “Why are the vampires calling for you in particular?”
The nun shook her head. “I honestly don’t know, Malcolm.”
“Even if,” Jeremy interrupted, still with his eyes tightly closed, “even if I didn’t, like, actually push him, I, I wanted it to be him, not me.”
“Completely understandable, Jeremy, believe me. I’ve made selfish choices in my life too, my dear, and I know our Lord forgives me and accepts me for what I am. He loves you too, I know He does, and I know He forgives you.” The tall young man with the green hair rolled his eyes and Malcolm glared at him.
There was motion in the white wall of bodies. At about the point where the new chant had started it slowly died, silence spreading like white mist. The hundreds of identical vampires roiled as though something were emerging from their midst.
The line parted.
One vampire stepped through. A vampire who looked different from all the rest.
“You’re the leader?” Malcolm said in surprise. Jeremy’s anguished eyes snapped open. Terror-stricken, they searched for a face he had seen only twice in his life.
Hand in hand, Sally and Lavinia walked down the sidewalk. It was finally the way she’d imagined it: they were outside, at night, without fear. Or at least, with only a small amount of fear. Overhead, the most calm and beautiful of evening purples filled the darkening sky and delicate stars gleamed like tiny gems.
I used to love the night, Sally remembered. Even after she had been raped, she had trained herself in martial arts so she would never be helpless again and had still loved how the world became mysterious, the garish city unable to hide the bones of the far and ancient sky.
The undead walked with them in a fluid circle, falling back before them, closing in behind. Their poisonous voices ringed the women like sublimating ice. Sally said quietly, “You’re violating the sanctity of our home with your evil words. Be quiet.” Lavinia’s hand squeezed hers as the noise faded to sweet silence. No roar of cars, only a single airplane passing overhead (night flights were perfectly safe as long as the plane took off before sunset and could stay airborne until dawn).
On the night she Ran for KerriAnne (but it was still better not to think of her right now), the vampires had been a force, fought with effort and with offerings of her own blood. Now they stepped back before her and her beloved.
Suddenly daring, she spoke again. “I don’t want to see your ugly faces polluting our home. Get out of my sight.” As snarls erupted, she was afraid she’d gone too far. But the vampires were pushed away. In moments, they stood on a normal city street under lighted windows.
Faces began to appear, drawn by the sudden silence. Did she and Lavinia want witnesses yet? Thinking again of Charla Thorpe, she realized they could have videoed themselves declaring their home and forcing the vampires out. We have to think, with every single thing we do, of how we could use it.
Above Lavinia, a blond girl knelt on a sofa, solemnly picking her nose. Sally thought of waving. A pair of grown-up faces appeared behind the child, looking troubled, as if they wanted to say, “Come inside, quick!” but were afraid to. When their eyes met Sally’s, they stepped quickly back, pulling the little girl with them.
Sally looked at other windows, trying to sense how people were seeing them. This might be the moment to publicly declare what they knew. Across the street a balding clerical type with the sensual face of a Henry Miller watched them with head tilted quizzically. On their side of the street in a room hung with beautifully decorated masks, a white-haired woman in a rainbow knit wool cap stared at them with excitement as she talked into a large white phone with a prominent plastic antenna. In other windows were a worried young Hindi man with a gleaming round face and a heavy unshaven grouch in a blue bathrobe.
Lavinia looked uneasy and Sally was suddenly angry. Did these people think she and Lavinia had struck a devil’s bargain with the vampires, like Bunt throwing her own sister’s blood for them? She shouted out for anyone to hear, “We’re in love and wherever we’re together is our home! Anyone can keep the vampires away! This world is our home!” Lavinia’s smiled at her, nervous and proud, then glanced quickly around.
The grouch and the young man vanished from their windows, Henry Miller continued to look at them speculatively and the excited woman shook her head and cupped a hand to her ear. Sally sighed, deflated, lacking the heart to yell again. They continued down the steep hill.
Halfway down, they found the address on the card. It was a bright yellow Victorian with blue trim and white gingerbreading gracing it with tracings of snow. They climbed five steps of granite salted with gleaming black specks and stood in an alcove.
Sally looked over at Lavinia. “Well?” she asked. “Can you just walk in?”
Lavinia put her hand on the knob. “Locked. So I still don’t know.” Then she looked up, startled. “No wait, I do know. This here’s not the way. We gotta go around the side.”
“You know that?”
“Yep. I feel it, like a fucking command. That’s the way they set it up for us. I think you were right about that card and what’s here.”
Lavinia didn’t say the words “You were right,” very often. Sally’s eyes crinkled affectionately.
A few steps up the street was a tall wooden gate with a simple latch. Sally waited for Lavinia to try it. Welcome. Come in, the card had said, and had given this address.
But before Lavinia could do anything, a vampire in evening clothes stepped up from behind them, said, “Excuse me,” lifted the latch and disappeared into a wooded garden inside.
Sally’s jaw dropped in delighted astonishment. Lavinia eagerly lifted the latch herself, and they walked in. The gate swung shut behind them with a gentle click.
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