Copyright © 2014 by Michael Litzky
The final blocks were steep. At some intersections, the cross streets simply gave up and became grass-choked cliffs.
“Almost there, sweetie,” KerriAnne said. Her face was as tense and worried as it had been for the whole week that he’d known her. She’d only looked completely happy as she left him that first morning.
After they’d had sex that amazing third time, they’d lain in the dark whispering to each other. That had been almost as sweet as the lovemaking.
“Why are you different?” he’d asked. He remembered asking that question in the plaza but this time there was only curiosity, no layers of rancor. All that hate, so lovingly cherished for years, swept away in this avalanche of feelings.
“I don’t know,” she whispered back. Then her face shifted, became eager. “There’s another vampire like me, you said you wanted to find him! I don’t know anything about him but I’ll help you if I can, I promise.”
It was what Jeremy had craved for five years and he found that he hardly cared. But he should care, even if he no longer wanted revenge. It was important. All vampires were mindless zombies except for KerriAnne, Lavinia (he didn’t know about Walter), and that one, that fiend. As he played back the days of torment before Alec’s death, his rage flowed back.
He rolled and faced KerriAnne. She started to wrap her arms around him but became cautious when she saw the look on his face. He wasn’t angry at her; he wished she wouldn’t act so scared around him. “He killed my little brother,” he said, ashamed of the half-truth. “He could think and he looked different from the others. Like you did. Do.”
“I would never kill your little brother, I promise,” she protested, loosing track of past and future in her new fervor.
“I know, fer Christ – will you just listen?” KerriAnne wilted. She’s so delicate, Jeremy thought, flushing out his irritation on a wave of new love. “I know you’re not like that anymore,” he soothed, kissing her. “You’ve changed. I’m mad at him, not you, okay?” She nodded her little girl nod against his chest.
“I’m guessing he chose to become a vampire, like, um, well, did you choose, like, in any kind of, well, you know?” Guessing that accusing her of choosing to become a vampire would set her off again, he made it a question instead.
She shook her head furiously but then gasped and seemed unable to let air out. “Yes,” she finally said in a small, breathless voice. “I did. Oh, oh, I did!” A new wave of grief seemed about to drown her, but she pulled herself together, as if worried that he’d yell at her again.
Pulling herself tighter against his body, her chest expanding against his, she said, “You know what, I bet? I bet he was móguǐ even when he was alive.” Excited and pleased, she spoke from childhood the first Chinese she’d allowed to cross her lips for seven years.
“Morgul?” Jeremy asked dubiously.
“Oh, sorry, monster, monster, he was probably a monster even when he was alive,” she said quickly, embarrassed. “Like how, me, I, I guess I’ve always been a vampire.” She clung to him more tightly as she dared to say Sally’s words out loud and to hear how they rang, how they cut. Jeremy felt the intoxication of being her prince and her savior, stroked her hair tenderly as she trembled.
Jeremy was curious about the word she’d used and curious about how exactly KerriAnne had become a vampire without being bitten. But he was even more eager to talk about the vampire he hated so much. “That makes total sense,” he said. “I never saw him again but he’s got to still be out there. The one vampire who truly is a monster.”
“I’ll help you find him! I’ll find him for you!” KerriAnne spoke with passionate fervor. “I’ll scour the city until I find him. I’ll ask every one of the mindless idiots out there. A vampire like that, one of the zombies will know. And then I’ll bring him to you.”
After five years, could it really be that easy? But he eagerly told her what the vampire had looked like, even drew her a picture (he was a decent artist).
Dawn was coming. She rose to go, flung herself on him and covered his face with kisses. He almost suggested that she stay in his room during the day. But she would have had to sleep under the bed so his parents wouldn’t see her and he’d read a newspaper story years ago which had both excited and horrified him about a married couple who had kidnapped a poor young girl and kept her as a sex slave handcuffed under their bed for years. He couldn’t suggest that.
So he let her go, and she flitted out into the last vestiges of night, an unreservedly happy look on her face. Jeremy passed into a dazed, happy sleep, broken all too soon by his parents’ aggressively cheerful bustling around getting breakfast together.
“Jeremy, honey, did you unlock the front door?” his mother’s voice called.
“No,” he called back. Then, boldly, he added, “Oh, maybe I did.” Still naked, he stuck his head out and smiled at her. “It doesn’t matter, you know. You still have to invite them in.”
Roseanne Paxton pursed her lips and shook her concerned head, as if she were aware that a weight of guilt and misery had fallen away from her son and was not sure how she felt about that.
KerriAnne came to him every night for the next week but she never looked so innocently joyous again. She seemed to be brooding about something. For a whole week Jeremy nobly told himself that he didn’t own her and that she could have her secrets. Then in the space of five seconds he found himself accusing her of reverting to her old ways and demanding that she tell him what she was hiding.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry sweetie,” she gushed. She looked down at the bed where she sat, still clothed. Pinching up a corner of the solid blue sheets which Jeremy now insisted on, she told him.
His face went long with dismay.
They crossed an intersection marked by one of San Francisco’s eerie fairy circles of red bricks pressed into the asphalt and turned onto a steep final street. This was it. Jeremy’s heart pounded so that he could barely hear. His legs were trembling.
KerriAnne pointed to a house, put a hand on his shoulder to stop him. She put her finger to her lips. Cautiously, she took two or three steps up the hill to where she could just make out faces in the bay window. Jeremy couldn’t bring himself to look yet.
A shrill, anguished voice screamed KerriAnne’s name!
She leaped back in panic, slammed into him. They both fell; the hard pavement thumped his elbow painfully. Vampires materialized from the night, pressed close around them. From the house came the sound of raised voices and feet pounding down the stairs. They scrambled to their feet, KerriAnne hissing at the other vampires, her breath ragged with fear.
The front door opened. KerriAnne broke and fled wildly down the hill. Jeremy ran with her, not sure why they were both running, nearly tumbling head over heels on the steep street.
But the vampires who surrounded them suddenly whisked away. Snarls and shouts erupted. KerriAnne stopped. Jeremy, blindly obedient in his turmoil, stopped when she did. They turned.
A hurricane of white skin whirled around an eye partway up the hill. All of the vampires who had arrived with them and all the vampires who lurked in every shadow on this street were clustered around a kicking, punching, shouting center.
KerriAnne ran back, screaming “Let her go! I command you! I’m your Queen, I command you to let her go!” But either she had lost any power she had over them or they were too blood crazed to pay attention. Jeremy couldn’t see who they were attacking; he guessed it was the sister, Sally. He followed her back.
In another moment, all his thoughts were blasted away. In the doorway of the house appeared a short, red-haired man, the one they’d called Jesse at the plaza. He was a gay man and had been with his lover but Jeremy had never seen the other man; he’d always somehow been standing behind someone else when Jeremy looked at them.
But he saw him now. In the doorway next to Jesse appeared an older man with a plump, roundish face and a white moustache.
Jeremy felt the blood drain from his face, felt his hands go ice cold as he stared. The face had not changed in nearly five years except that now it wore a mask of caring concern instead of the naked craft and gloating Jeremy had seen on that awful night.
Instantly, Jeremy was twelve years old, feeling the chill crawl through his skin as the older vampire whispered in a thin cold voice, “Open the window and push him out to us.” “What did he say?” Alec had laughed as Jeremy ran from the room. He lived again the nights of solitary anguish, the miserable moment when he twitched against Alec as he mooned the vampires through the open door, the spray of blood as they devoured him. And he saw once more the older vampire giving him a wink and a thumbs up, welcoming him into a world of evil.
The older vampire put his arms around Jesse. Then he saw Jeremy watching him.
For a heart-freezing instant, their eyes locked.
The vampire vanished from the doorway. Alone, his husband mechanically continued to call the vampires home and away from Sally.
As the last vampires departed KerriAnne’s hand touched his and his arm went automatically around her waist. He couldn’t stop staring at the doorway as the sister, Sally, approached. But at last he turned to KerriAnne. Her face asked the question. Unable to speak, he nodded. She murmured something comforting. Then she turned and walked up to her sister.
Jeremy knew how KerriAnne worshipped her sister, how much she had wanted to show Sally what a good person she had finally become, how she had longed for Sally’s praise. Night before last when he had pressured her, she had told him in a tiny voice, “I think I found your vampire.” When he had said, stunned, “Why would you hide that from me?” she had lifted her eyes and told him the worst. She had recognized him from the picture Jeremy had drawn, had found his house without too much trouble and had looked in all the windows to make sure, full of joy that she was going to give her new love exactly what he longed for.
And she had seen her own sister inside.
That was why she had brooded for a week before telling him, why she insisted that they go together to look and be sure. Now it was confirmed. There was no doubt. The beloved sister and her girlfriend and all these other “good” people were working side by side with the unspeakably evil.
Jeremy knew he shouldn’t be happy as KerriAnne slapped the face of her only sister, called her “bitch,” renounced her and all her friends. But it comforted him to see how KerriAnne stood up for him.
When she came back to him and took his hand, he walked away with her without looking back, without trying to get another glimpse of the older vampire. And without trying to kill him. It would have been impossible anyway, now that he was warned (though he must have been warned weeks ago when he first saw Jeremy at the plaza and kept so carefully out of sight and then refused to join in at any of the interviews and demonstrations that Sally had given with her vampire wife).
Through his storm of confusion, he made one resolve: to be worthy of KerriAnne, who was weeping silently as they walked arm in arm. He knew how hungry she must be getting as she went day after day without feeding. He’d convince her to get into the sunlight if it was the last thing he ever did. And then they might find the right way to hurt those wicked people.
They got home to his darkened house, undressed, went hungrily to bed together and made love, whitish fluid from her wounded heart seeping onto his pale chest.
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