A Scream of Horror
Copyright © 2014 by Michael Litzky
The moan of horror, when it came, was hauntingly familiar.
Sally Yan had turned off the microphone five minutes before to clear her throat nervously.
It was her show. The crowd was waiting. She had to start talking.
At least it was only a small crowd. Twenty minutes ago that had made her angry; now it was a relief.
From the corner of her eye, she saw Malcolm Donald moving as if to take the mike from her hands. Resentful, and still seeing him stabbing her sister dead, she snapped the mike back on and said “Thank you for coming, everybody” too loudly and too quickly, winced along with everyone at the electronic shriek.
Behind her she heard Charla Thorp say “Jeez,” and had to stop herself from wincing. They’d wanted Charla, she’d become a celebrity after posting her viral video where she forced the vampires to back away from her door and windows, but she was a royal pain in the ass. Then Lavinia whispered, “Shuddup” and Sally smiled inside. Lavinia had her back. Lavinia always had her back.
“We’re, um, we’re holding this gathering in the early morning,” she started, wishing her amplified voice wasn’t so shrill, “so there’s no reason to be afraid that things will get out of control. The sun won’t set for hours. This won’t be another debacle like last month.”
Oh shit. The crowd already knew that and now Malcolm, responsible for the rally last month, stiffened beside her. Could she possibly have started worse?
“Right, okay, um, so you’ve seen the TV interviews and our online videos and you know we’ve got a vampire among us who isn’t an inhuman killer, who is in fact a decent person, and who can be in the sunlight. You may not have believed it, but we’re here today to prove it.”
The last several weeks had, in fact, been nonstop harassment by the media. The showdown at the plaza had been videoed from office and hotel windows and, amazingly, by a camera crew that had shown up in a helicopter: some news service, it turned out, had built a completely enclosed walkway to the helicopter pad on the roof of their building. None of them had seen the details of KerriAnne’s death but they had seen vampires crawling in midair on the invisible dome of magic over Malcolm’s plaza “home.”
They had also clearly seen the end of the incident where four people (a shaken Jesse comforted by his husband Walter and a nearly catatonic Sally with a fiercely protective Lavinia) walked away, out of doors and unmolested by vampires, got into a bright red 1950s car with big fins and drove away. To Sally, there had only been a confusion of voices and noise. Malcolm saying tiredly, “There was nothing else to do, nothing else.” The voice of the nun they called Sister Amanda speaking meaningless comfort in a soft stream. The kid Jeremy whispering intently behind her back something which had made as much and as little sense as everything else: “You’ll help me find him. You better help me find him.”
She had walked away from all their need. Lavinia later told her that the nightmare glare and wild thrum which had filled her mind all the way back to Jesse and Walter’s house had been the helicopter trailing them.
Five minutes after they got inside (about the time it would take an efficient geek at a central office to run an address through a database search), Jesse and Walter’s landline and mobile phones had started to ring. They had turned all ringers off and set Sally and Lavinia up in the guest room, where Sally wept against Lavinia with passionate guilt until she finally fell asleep. In her miserable dreams she saw KerriAnne’s face twisted with sadness and pain, felt herself again give the little nod which made the irrevocable decision that her vampire sister should die. She woke to see Lavinia’s sad, patient face and cried some more.
As soon as the sun rose, reporters were at their door and they had to face them and decide what to say. “Don’t tell them what Walter is,” Jesse begged as the doorbell rang in their ears. “I’m not ready for that.” With no time to think, they agreed.
They discovered that the reporters already knew some things. Malcolm and Sister Amanda had already spoken to the press. So Sally went ahead and gave the interview which Charity had seen in which she defiantly told the newspeople that Lavinia was her lover and also a vampire. Lavinia had walked into the sunshine and the newspeople had been unimpressed. The only thing vampiric about Lavinia anymore was her teeth and they frankly looked fake.
So Sally had invited the reporters to film them that very evening as they declared “Our home is wherever we’re together” and walked into a crowd of vampires. That had been more impressive, though nobody seemed to believe that Lavnia herself was a vampire. Their email started to fill up with thank-you messages from people around the country, though far too many comments had been variations of “you fucking dykes, God will punish you, but meanwhile come sit on my face.” (Lavinia had once said her first hours as a vampire had been like getting a special dispensation from the pope to be an animal; the anonymity of the internet seemed to let people feel that same lack of human restraint.)
She took a deep breath, in and out. Damn it, she could almost feel Charla thinking, “She shouldn’t be showing the crowd she’s so nervous.” Charla grated on her and the feeling seemed to be mutual. Thrusting her doubts aside, she said, “We want to show you today something that you really have to see in person to believe. You have to see it live to know it’s not a trick of the camera.” (“Anybody can’t handle it, fuck ‘em,” Lavinia had characteristically said.)
Scanning the crowd (Jeremy with his haunted eyes, a straight couple with their arms around each other, a bearded black man with granny glasses, a mother and son), Sally suddenly recognized Jesse and Walter’s neighbor, the white-haired hippie in the rainbow knit cap, looking delighted and excited. When Sally’s eye rested on her, she flashed Sally a peace sign.
“This is Lavinia,” Sally said, warmed. “She’s a good person, a very good and thoughtful and caring person and she is also a vampire. She’s standing in the sun but we will show you that she is a vampire in a way that will take your breath away.”
Lavinia stepped forward, staring at the crowd with quiet dignity. Take me or leave me. She was wearing a kimono which brushed the ground. (The crowd had no way of knowing how unheard-of this was or how Lavinia had glared at Sally as she dressed her with glee.)
Sally had one skill a leader must have: the ability to feel a crowd. They were with her, they were interested, they were studying Lavinia.
“I know she doesn’t look like one,” Sally said. Her words came at just the right moment to speak their doubts aloud but not so quickly that she seemed desperate for them to believe. (She had done well for the first time as a leader, but she wasn’t aware of it.)
Lavinia was breathing deeply, feeling the power of the sun on her face and hands. She didn’t look nervous. Lavinia had the gift of making herself at home wherever she was.
Acting on a suggestion from Walter, Sally said in a high innocent voice, “I’ve never heard of a beautiful vampire before,” then followed with a reasonable Glinda imitation, “Ehnly bed vempiahs ah egly.” He’d been right. A small wave of laughter washed through the crowd and they were slightly more on her side.
“Well,” she continued, “she was bitten and turned and she’s fought her way back to humanity.” With my help and love, she thought, then decided defiantly to say it. “With my help and deep, deep love.”
A snort of disgust from behind her made her lips tighten. Charla had known she would mess up and was letting the crowd see it. But Lavinia turned those violet eyes on her and took her hand. And she’d been right, she could feel it. The crowd was happy for them. For the moment, the Charla fans in the crowd were ignoring Charla.
It was time. “You’re going to see what sunlight really does to a vampire. Get your cameras rolling and be ready to be shocked.”
She dropped Lavinia’s hand and nodded to her. She had convinced a glowering Lavinia that fumbling with boots and socks, hopping around getting jeans and panties off, would make her look silly and take too long; hence the kimono.
Lavinia undid it and let it slide to the stage. She was gloriously naked underneath. Sally, too nervous to be aroused, felt for the reaction of the crowd. Interested. Titillated, though Lavinia was not young or gorgeous.
Three cops at the rear of the crowd watched with stone faces. Sally had thought Lavinia should just wear a really skimpy bikini; they’d established that she still flew as long as the sun touched most of her body. But Lavinia had said, “No, naked is better. Trust me on this.” Malcolm, Jesse and Walter had quietly agreed and Charla had shrugged. (Walter had been willing to participate but Jesse had again demurred, Sally remembered with annoyance. With that fleeting sad look, gone the next second, he had joked “If Walter gets in the sunlight, we’ll have a high clean-up bill from the city sanitation department. The sun doesn’t just juice him up with blood, I’m afraid.”)
Lavinia started to undulate, huge movements, lost in ecstasy. The crowed was fascinated and unnerved. A disturbing moan, a cold ancient sound, frighteningly familiar, seemed to swell underneath their noise. For a second Sally wished she had let Lavinia fumble and look dumb as she stripped. It would have made her more human. And as Lavinia stayed on the ground, she worried in the other direction, tight-lipped.
But Lavinia flew. With a melodic peal of sound, she surged twenty feet. The crowd gasped. Sunlight gleamed off of suddenly tilting lenses.
The ancient moan surged into a scream of horror!
Sally, eyes snapping like a mouse in a snakepit, searched desperately to see from which direction the danger would come.
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