The People in the Crowd
Copyright © 2014 by Michael Litzky
Murmurs and gasps whispered through the excited crowd as Lavinia rose higher, sunlight gleaming on her olive skin. Nobody else seemed to hear the scream of ancient horror which surged to a knife edge and cut off like a breath held inhaled.
Sally, heart hammering, looked at face after face. The older cop with the bluff red face who looked like a Greyhound driver who had once been rude to Sally licked his lips. The younger cop with the neat brown moustache looked awed and happy. The rainbow hippy had tears in her eyes. The mother was holding her little boy up and pointing, whispering in his ear. The TV camera people looked like they couldn’t decide whether they were getting the footage of the century or being set up to look like idiots.
Sally nervously eyed Jeremy: he looked like movies she’d seen of gunmen getting ready to shoot as his eyes followed Lavinia through the skies. Had that moan of horror come from him? But Jeremy was too far away for it to have been so loud.
And there had been something hauntingly familiar about it too, which had nothing to do with Jeremy. Where had she heard it before?
She continued scanning faces, waiting for disaster to strike.
Charity Claire, brimming with tenderness, held her little vampire boy in her arms. He was watching everything with huge eyes. His pudgy arms around her neck (he was long past being paralyzed in the daytime) made her heart ache in a painfully sweet way and whenever he nestled his cheek against her breastbone she stroked his neatly combed hair and planted a kiss on his crown. He’d told her his name was Thomas but she suspected that was a fantasy based on his obvious love for Thomas the Train.
Her first impulse when Lavinia disrobed had been to cover the boy’s eyes. But she trusted the people on stage. Whatever they were doing, the boy must be allowed to see. Anyway, she had slept with two men and heard them making love behind her. Why be prudish about a little public nudity just because her mother would embarrass the life out of her prancing around naked with her gaudy purple nails and a different man for each night of the week?
Still, she was shocked at the raw passion with which Lavinia undulated and was relieved to see that Tommy was giggling. She heard the silver-haired woman with the rainbow cap murmuring “Right on, sister,” and wished her own face wasn’t burning red like this. But when Lavinia flew, she gasped with everyone else and watched with her mouth hanging open. “Dat wady fwying, Aunt Chatty,” Tommy squealed, pointing. “Totawwy awesome!”
She had told him to call her Aunt Charity because she honorably intended to help him find his birth family as soon as he could remember enough to tell her their names or where they lived; still, each time he called her that it was a sad reminder that she only had him for a little while. But this time the rush of excitement overrode everything else. “Yes, my little man, she is,” she whispered in his ear. “And you’re like her; I bet you can fly too!”
He considered that for a minute. Then he said brightly, “Can I fwy wight now?”
Face flaming crimson again, she thought of him naked, with a pencil-sized erection, moving in that flagrant way. Oh dear God, what do I do now?
“Not right now, dear,” she temporized. “It’s her turn. Another time it will be your turn.”
He accepted that and turned his face to the sky again. Thank goodness.
Jeremy Paxton had been numb for weeks.
He’d thought he understood his purpose in life: to get the vampires off the earth. He’d thought he had a path marked out to that goal: convince the world to say all at once, “Vampires, you’re not welcome in our home.”
He had desperately loved Sister Amanda and leaned on her help and her motherly presence more than he’d imagined. Their small group would have grown, they would have persuaded first a city, then a country and then the whole world.
But then a vampire had appeared who was like him, like that vampire who had started the other vampires calling out, “Send him out to us and we will let you live.” He still remembered that crafty well-fed pale face that had smiled at him and given him a thumbs up when he had maybe pushed his little brother out the front door.
And the new vampire’s own sister had indicated to him that he should kill her. Couldn’t she see that he wanted permission to let her live so he could use her? But Mr. Donald had made the decision for him and he had seen her laying there, the one vampire who might have helped him find that vampire, lying there on her back with a slimy wooden stake erupting from her chest and Sister Amanda closing her eyes, smoothing her face. The wave of white fury which had shaken him had nearly blasted his mind open and he could barely remember what he had done next.
Now he watched with helpless outrage as the crowd applauded for a vampire who could fly. He had told everyone about wanting his brother to die. But it had been safe to say so when Sister Amanda was present to tell him and everyone that his feelings were understandable. If she was on the side of the monsters, if this crowd were applauding a vampire…!! He knew without thinking that if people approved of vampires, then he was the one outside, homeless in the dark.
Lonely, horny, certain no woman would ever want him, crimson fantasies of what two lesbians did together surging just below the surface of his thoughts, he watched Lavinia gasping in midair, flashing dripping pink between her olive thighs. For all that Sister Amanda was tolerant of cuss words, he was sure she wouldn’t think much of this if she were here.
He’d been too embarrassed to seek her out or to answer her calls for weeks, knowing that she wouldn’t approve if he told her all he’d done. But maybe after this, she’d come back to his side?
Tensely, Sally watched Lavinia start down. Weeks ago Lavinia had mastered the mental switch which let her surrender to gravity (with some effort) while still in ecstasy. When she landed with solid grace, Sally walked forward and put the kimono over her shoulders.
The crowd applauded. Sally was happy that they took this so well but something about the quality of the applause made her fear that they were just clapping for a good trick.
Sally turned to Charla. She surprised an approving look on Charla’s face and was annoyed that it warmed her to her core. Cautiously she smiled at Charla. Charla nodded, an oddly speculative look on her face as she took the microphone.
Sally stepped over and took Lavinia’s hand again. Lavinia, breathing deeply and staying in control, stroked Sally’s hand sensually. Charla frowned at them and instantly Sally wanted to kick her. The woman was so exasperating!
But Charla did as they’d planned, wound down the crowd, vouched for Sally and Lavinia, stressed that what they’d seen was no trick and said, “That’s all for now, folks. Chew on that and we’ll have another announcement in a week.”
That would be when they’d tell people about inviting vampires into their homes.
Feeling dangerously exposed as they talked to reporters and people in the crowd, Sally found herself futilely trying to shield Lavinia from every direction at once. “Will you chill out, babe?” Lavinia finally whispered and Charla rolled her eyes so visibly that a couple of reporters exchanged glances.
Sally seethed as Charla moved into the role Sally wanted to fill, cracking jokes to make up for Lavinia’s bluntness or prompting her to fill in some gap. But Lavinia’s hand in hers was warm and solid.
Chilled, she saw Jeremy watching Lavinia with his haunted eyes. He still wore his shirt with the boot kicking a vampire into space and the big red letters that said, “The Earth is our home. Blast off, vampires.”
His fist clenched as though he held a wooden stake.
Like this story? Please vote for “Safe as Houses” at TopWebFiction.com.