How Like a Man, Part Three
Copyright © 2013 by Michael Litzky
The door handle was slippery in his hands. He could feel them coming up from the sewers, from under the ground, from a hundred, a thousand places.
He wrenched open the door, leaped like a diver into the sanctuary, feeling a ghostly whiff of air at his heel like a hand which missed by inches. He scrunched into a panicked ball to be sure that no inch of him was outside the car.
Seconds passed. The door hung open but that was alright as long as he was inside. The crunch of feet was all around, whispers came from every side, words became audible. “So sweeeet, so tasty, come to us little man, come out, you are a coward.”
Safe, he was safe! If they could have, they would have grabbed his exposed heel, pulled him out, torn him to pieces. They only spoke when they could do nothing else. Slowly he uncurled, sat carefully in the driver’s seat, gasped when the sleeve of the jacket tied around his waist almost flopped out of the open door. He let himself look at them.
Like an evil frost, a death blizzard, pale faces filled every inch of space. A voice was screaming thinly from somewhere. Dark bodies pressed against the car, crawled on the hood, deadly faces flattened against the windshield.
He turned his head slowly to the door beside him. Four of them knelt peering in, separated from him by nothing at all. He screamed without meaning to. Their hands, their claws were inches from his sleeve.
“Baby, are you alright, oh god, speak to me,” came the thin screaming voice and he realized Cindy was yelling at him through the phone.
He started to reach to close the car door, stopped cold. Their grasping hands were between him and the handle. He was going to have to leave the door open all night. They couldn’t come in but he couldn’t shut them out.
Gasping with the horror and suddenly wanting to vomit, he picked up the phone with trembling hands. Thank god he hadn’t dropped it outside! “I’m okay,” he managed to say. “Can’t you see–”
But looking up he realized that she couldn’t see. The vampires pressed against every centimeter of the windshield. He could see nothing around them. Even the slender gaps between their faces were filled by hungry faces behind.
Her voice crackled through the small speaker. “I can’t see you, honey, but you’re safe, you’re safe, shit that was close, I should have let you get in with me, oh, I wish you were here, I’m sorry.”
Forcing calm into his voice, he said, “It’s fine. I’m here where I want to be. I wish I could see you.”
Suddenly her voice was calmer. “Enjoying the sanctity of our home means having our view too,” she said quietly.
Charla Thorp’s words, from her famous viral video!
And a moment later, Cindy said, “They’re pulling back from my car, they have to. You tell them too, baby, they’re still pressed like moths all over yours.”
“I want the sanctity of my home too, you bloodsucking bastards!” he said joyously.
Their faces lifted off the glass, leaving lip marks. He wanted to yell, clean up your mess! But he was too happy just seeing them fade into the shadows.
And there was Cindy, waving at him, blowing him kisses, looking at him with deep gratitude and love. He smiled, kissed the air back. Then, riding high on the confidence, he called boldly, “The sanctity of my home extends out to the door and I get to shut my own door if I want.”
“What are you, oh golly your door is open!” came Cindy’s voice. But he was already sticking his hand into the night air. The darkness hissed, but he grasped the handle and pulled the door firmly shut, chunk!
The door light went out. Good. The battery wouldn’t drain. His headlights were still on. He shut them off but turned on the dome light so she could see his face more clearly.
“We’ll have to shut off the lights soon,” he said, then realized that she had no lights even now. Her alternator must have crapped out and the battery was completely drained. But he was sitting facing her, he could see her eyes gleam in the light from her phone. He loved her in that moment, more than he’d ever let himself, and dreamed of sharing a home with her.
And just like that, it came to him. The conversation with his mother which the dream had served up. They’d been sitting at the kitchen table with the red and white checked cloth, eating cold supper by candlelight because the power had gone out and he’d been thirteen. Margaret Fleck’s gold-green eyes had gleamed in the candlelight as she spoke of the talk she’d gone to that evening.
“He spoke of Spaceship Earth,” she’d said, considering her wine goblet in the golden light. “How like a man. The earth is not a spaceship. The earth…”
He had even rolled his eyes because at the time he’d known exactly what she was going to say next. How could he have forgotten it until now? She had lectured him more than once on the derivation of the word “ecology.” “M’ boy, the word was coined in 1866 by a German scientist, Ernst Haeckel was his name.” (Heckle and Jeckle indeed. Good God, this brain of his!) “He cobbled it out of two Greek words. Oikos means home and logia means the study of. So Ökologie originally meant “the study of the home.”
Yes, he’d known exactly how she was going to finish her assessment of Buckminster Fuller. “The earth is not a spaceship. The earth is a home.”
The earth is a home.
The earth is our home. And if the entire earth is our home…
Barely daring to breathe, he let the thought come. If the entire earth is our home, then we can kick the vampires off.
By the same magic that pushed them away from his car window just now, if every single human declared the earth a home, wouldn’t the vampires have to go? Somehow?
He had a crazy picture of them being lifted up into space en masse.
It staggered his mind. He couldn’t hold onto the idea, it was so big. “You are not welcome here in my home,” he tried to think but knew without a doubt that the thought would have to come from everyone, not just himself.
But how could he convince everybody? What about criminals, murderers, sick twisted minds that welcomed evil? Just two weeks ago there’d been that horrible headline about that guy who instead of grabbing a gun and shooting his family, had simply opened the front door and said quietly, “Welcome. Come in.”
How could he, how could anyone, convince the whole human race to say “leave?”
“Baby? They didn’t … hurt you while you were shutting the door, did they?” He realized that he’d been staring into the night for a long time.
Slowly he said, “I want to tell you about an idea I just had.” It barely sounded believable as he explained his thought process to her. “The earth is a home,” he finished, defensively. “The word ecology means study of the home.”
“I know,” came her voice over the phone. “From the Greek oikos, home, and logia, study of.”
“Damn, you’re good.” Why hadn’t he noticed this stuff about her before? He hadn’t once, all day, thought of asking her or anyone else for help figuring this out.
How like a man.
Well, he’d change that. “So help me figure out, how do we get everyone to believe it?”
The ideas they tossed back and forth were futile but it felt good to share them. The night looked so peaceful that it was hard to believe he would be consumed to the last atom if he stepped out into it.
“Baby?” she finally said. “I should probably hang up. “My phone’ll last for a while but not all night.”
“Right. We should try to get some sleep. We can’t do a thing more until morning.” He suddenly felt a rush of passion, thought of suggesting phone sex, didn’t know if she’d like that or not. They waved to each other, and hung up.
They both had small cars with bucket seats in front. The back was the only place where you could conceivably stretch out. He made himself as comfortable as he could, but the night was long. Whenever he sat up and saw her shadowy form moving, he called her and they talked more. But at last he fell asleep.
At three in the morning the phone woke him out of fitful dreams. Heart pounding, he fumbled with the phone. “Is everything okay??”
“Tee shirts,” she said.
For a crazed second, he wondered if she was initiating a “wet tee shirt” phone sex conversation (and he waited for his mother’s voice to say “how like a man” again).
But she was talking with intense seriousness. “Make a web site and sell joke tee shirts. Don’t try to make people take it seriously at first. Make tee shirts which say “The world is our home. Out into space, vamps!” We’ll come up with something better. But we make it a big joke. Let people on their own get around to saying hey, this could really work!”
He sat up straight. “That could be the trick!” She was nodding excitedly.
“But we’d have to have them in every language on earth,” he went on. “And it couldn’t be just tee shirts either, because it has to be everybody in the world and there are cultures that don’t wear them. I think. We’d have to bring people in who know other cultures, ask them, what would be the equivalent of a joke tee shirt in, say, oh, I don’t know, the jungles of Africa or with the Eskimos.”
He trailed off, embarrassed. He was pretty sure the word “Eskimo” wasn’t politically correct anymore and he remembered being in a crowd of guilty white liberals as an African American performer thundered “Africa is not a country, it’s a continent.” He realized that he knew only the vaguest things about other cultures, except for France and England. Well, he’d rectify that! If the earth was his home, it was time to treat it like a home.
Cindy’s eyes were gleaming in the glow of her phone’s screen. “I love you,” he said without realizing he was going to say it. She started to say it back, and her phone died.
He stared dejectedly at the “call dropped” message, feeling slapped in the face by God.
But he heard her voice faintly. He looked up: she was pressed against the windshield shouting, “Symbolism of dying phone rejected! I love you too!” She blew him a huge kiss, dramatic, extravagant. He gave her two thumbs up and mimed a kiss back.
When he lay back down several minutes later, he took out his phone again. “Joke tee shirts Eskimo Africa,” he thumbed.
End of Interlude. Read the first chapter of Safe as Houses, Volume III: Homes.