Copyright © 2012 By Michael Litzky
As the cold hand dragged her to the ground she glimpsed, reflected in the glass door, what was happening. A white arm had reached in through the few inches of space above the camper and was feeling around like a blind worm while four vampires had crawled under the camper. It was one of the four which had grabbed her from the ground.
Then her head smacked the tiles. Pain stabbed through her ankle as razor teeth scraped, cold lips sucked. She kicked, felt her boot connect with a nose and crunch it. You sweet scum, you trash, you shall bleed and bleeeeeeeed, the voices chanted their endless threats.
“Hey suckbuckets!!” Lavinia’s voice bellowed behind her. “Look!” Sally couldn’t see what Lavinia was doing but suddenly there was only one vampire on her. She kicked it again, rolled over, whipped out the stake and brought it down in a vicious arc. It was a bad blow; it hit the vampire just below the neck. The creature thrashed and screamed.
The other vampires were returning and more were crawling under the van. Lavinia yelled, “Lookie lookie, here I am again!” She was sticking just a finger (her middle finger, of course) out of the camper window, then pulling it back as the vampires mashed themselves up to the invisible barrier. The wounded vampire was still fixated on the blood trickling from Sally’s ankle, which suddenly hurt like hell, and it ignored Lavinia. She kicked it in the face again.
Quickly she reached for the doorknob. It was locked. It shouldn’t have been locked; Runners had to be able to get in. But the door was just glass, no bars. She stood to kick her way through the glass, then hesitated. Surely there’d be no burglar alarm too?
An idea came to her. She stooped and picked up the cursing vampire. Ghastly whitish fluid leaked from its neck. The vampire was light enough that if she’d had the space she could have whirled it round and through the door. As it was, she used its head as a battering ram. It smashed through the glass (and no burglar alarm went off) and she dropped it to sever its neck on a horrible gleaming shard.
But its head suddenly crushed inward as if it had hit an invisible wall harder than steel. Of course! It had not been invited in and she had pushed it against whatever that magic barrier was. The feet drummed against the tiles and then it lay still, an ordinary corpse.
Shaken, Sally reached through the jagged hole in the glass and unlocked the door.
“Oh shit!” came a roar from behind her. She looked back. The blindly groping hand had grabbed Lavinia’s fingertip and squeezed it with sharp nails. The other vampires flung themselves at her like moths. Sally reached for her vial of blood but Lavinia wrenched her hand back. Blood squirted from the lacerated fingertip but the vampire had not been able to nip it off or to pull her out; individual vampires are no stronger than the humans they once were. The fickle mob was turning back to Sally. She quickly opened the door, hearing Lavinia’s voice shouting “Will you get the fuck in there? Owwww, goddammit that hurts!” She jumped inside.
And there she was. Her breathing slowed as she took in the fact that she had made it. She was here and Bunt was not. Nobody else had made it either. She was the first person to ever beat Bunt at his nasty game.
The counter was to her left, stacks of comics labeled “Free Comics Day” on one end. Right and left in the cramped space going to the back of the store were racks of comics, from the most muscle-bound adolescent trash with big-boobed girls, souped up cars and space wars to the most sophisticated visual storytelling, all jumbled messily together. Whoever the owner was, and he probably lived upstairs to make this a home, he was sure a disorderly slob. The exact kind of person Bunt would have a deal with. A stack of something called “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” was prominently displayed, which made sense because a slayer of vampires would be a popular thing right now. Since Sally had never read comics or any vampire fiction, she had no way of knowing how good it was. Her eye was caught by another title: “Dykes to Watch Out For.” She smiled.
The thrill of being here faded. Her ankle hurt, but a quick look told her it was just a gash and the bleeding was already slowing, the blood clotting. She paid it no more mind.
She still had work to do. She had to prove to anyone who cared that she was here first, in case Bunt tried to lie. And she had to face him down when he arrived. She had won his game but Lavinia had voiced her secret doubt: Bunt would cheat and would not give her what he had promised. And Lavinia was parked right in front; she’d have to move so that Bunt could get in when he did arrive.
First, establish her arrival. She pulled out her phone and checked in at Fantasy Life Comix. Nobody could now dispute that she was here. Now Lavinia, that strange, amazing woman who had exploded into her life. She walked to the open door. The vampires were pressed two or more deep against the invisible barrier. As always, they were talking: teasing, cajoling, threatening, pleading.
“Lavinia!” she shouted through the melee. She was relieved to hear a muffled, “What, kid?”
“You have to move! Bunt has to be able to get in.” The vampires talked louder now, but she managed to make out, “Kay, will do!” Through the display windows, she watched the van back up until the doorway was clear, then stop, still inches from the building so that no vampires could squeeze between. Lavinia’s intense eyes were blazing at her through the glass. Her finger was wrapped in several napkins which she must have found in the glove compartment.
“I’m goin’ no further; I’m your witness, kid,” the magnificent face said. Sally felt warm throughout her body, in spite of all her misgivings. She gave Lavinia a thumbs up. Her words had given Sally an idea. She had no way to act on it but Bunt might not know that. She set up one final just-in-case weapon to look as good as possible, and then stood facing the door as poised and relaxed as she could be.
She saw the ripples from Bunt’s approach long before she saw him. Vampire heads swiveled slowly, a susurrant “Aaaahhhh” spread through the crowd. The bodies cleared the doorway, moved into a ring around one moving point. It was like watching a truck loom out of the fog, or like watching a snake move into a field of mice. Droplets of red which glistened in the streetlights flew through the air and the vampires thronged around the still-invisible central point, bowing and fawning, their mouths open wide.
It was just what they’d done when Sally opened the door of the restaurant. She realized they’d seen the vial of blood in her hand and Bunt in the corner behind her. Suddenly she grasped the full horror of Bunt’s secret method for winning the Home Runs.
Her eyes blazed as the crowd parted like the Red Sea at the doorway and she saw the man himself. Bunt walked slowly, scattering droplets of blood like a priest bestowing blessings. Vampires clearly in his service had flitted up to press themselves against windows all along the block so that nobody could look out and see what he was doing. His face was blank, expressionless and he still walked stiffly. He looked like more vampire-like than the vampires did. Once more the ghostly teasing memory flitted: a pale stiffly moving Chinese man in the garb of a hundred years ago, moving by hopping. This time at last she locked it in: Bunt looked like a Jiang Shi, a Chinese zombie vampire, in a movie on one of the Chinese channels her parents had watched. Why did that image feel important?
She tried to parse the thought out as he walked the last few steps to the door, still not seeing her. The Jiang Shi were resentful corpses long dead and so stiff they could only move by hopping (but Bunt was not actually hopping, just stiff). They weren’t really vampires, more like zombies, but lots of cheap movies and music videos had been made about them. There were ways of stopping them involving sticky rice and putting on their foreheads a talisman made of yellow paper with a spell written on it. She had watched the dumb movies with the enjoyment of a kid but didn’t really know about them. She had no idea why the thought of them kept nagging at her now.
Bunt reached the broken door and froze. Adoring vampires were arranged behind him like a chorus of dancing girls as he sucked his upper teeth. He didn’t seem to be aware of the camper to his right: maybe he hadn’t seen it as he walked up in all his glory and now the vampires were clustered around him blocking his view left and right. But she saw the moment when his eyes picked her out in the dim light: strict, severe, tight and harsh, a true Yan, waiting for him like a vengeful demon.
She smiled coldly at him, hoping her worry didn’t show.