Copyright © 2014 by Michael Litzky
Previous Episode — Start Volume V — First Episode
Sally felt a heavy surge that sent the blood rushing to her feet. Heart pounding, she opened her eyes, furious with herself.
Lavinia still headed at that exact 4.8 degree angle north of east, but now she skimmed the highest rooftops, and pulsed upward to avoid smashing into the side of Twin Peaks. A minute later, they were out over the Bay.
“Jesus Christ!” Sally blurted. She would have peed herself if she hadn’t emptied her bladder just before they took off!
Lavinia, ecstatic in the sun, pulled herself together just enough to gasp, “Got it, got it!” Then she looked away from Sally as if there were something she didn’t want to say. She muttered, “Fliegt heim, ihr Raben. Fly away home,” and disappeared into undulating sexuality again.
Sally, heartbeat slowing, was amazed to realize that if Lavinia was keeping something from her, she trusted that she didn’t need to hear it. They were on their way to face the source of the evil (she only now grasped that one of the few comforting barriers had just been removed). KerriAnne had somehow given Lavinia the knowledge of how to do it as a parting gift.
Fly away home. Ladybug, ladybug…
She couldn’t help crying. But whatever had happened to KerriAnne, it was infinitely better than the bleak despair she’d seen at the plaza.
“Thank you, Darling,” she whispered to the little sister who would never call her “Boss” again.
Jesse Casselberger woke from exhausted sleep, still dressed, to find Walter gone. But he heard his husband’s voice from the kitchen, quietly arguing with Malcolm. He hurried out, aware that he’d never fallen asleep in his clothes before. Charla and Tomás sat facing away from each other at the kitchen table, two lonely islands. Walter turned to him with worry on his face. “What’s wrong, Buttercup?” he asked quietly. Jesse shrugged helplessly.
Walter studied him, thinking hard. Then he turned to Malcolm. “Alright, I’ll do it. I’ll be the one to perform for the crowd today. No reason not to.” He looked at Jesse again. “No reason to hide what I am.”
Jesse felt a chill go through his heart. “Attaboy,” Malcolm said.
As she drove the convent’s station wagon up the coast highway a week and a half ago, Sister Amanda Malreaux felt her fear return.
Hers was a complex, intellectual faith. It comforted and sustained her but it did not take away fear. She was wryly aware that the warm presence of God which she occasionally felt was much like the warm presence of her father which she would always carry.
“Are you really, really sure?” the Minister Provincial had asked her. Sister Margaret looked like the grandmother everyone wished they had had but didn’t scold if a sister occasionally said the eff-word. Amanda had nodded. She was sure. But it didn’t mean she wasn’t afraid.
The sun was low as she took the turn-off for Bear Valley in Point Reyes National Park. She had chosen that place because her scholar parents, transplanted to Stanford from her mother’s native Nigeria and her father’s Algiers, had brought her here so many times. Later she’d come here with the young man she had been sure she was going to marry. The place felt like a home.
Her intention had been simply to walk up the wide main trail, step off into the trees somewhere and wait until dark. She pulled into the parking lot, stepped out, and found herself facing a ranger.
“Ma’am? Oh, ‘scuse me. Sister. I’m just closing the lot now. There’s no time for a hike, sun sets in a half hour. But please come back another day.”
She had worn a habit today, though she usually went about in ordinary street clothes. She felt almost pretentious, “dressed up” as a nun, but she wanted everything to remind her that God was in her heart and that she was at home.
She faced the tall, skinny young ranger who could have been her own son. “Young man, I am going out there to speak to those night creatures. I will be perfectly safe. Believe me.” At six feet one inch, she was an imposing figure. She radiated moral certainty.
The ranger twisted his mouth, let out a breath. “How can you ask me…?”
But he believed in her. Looking at the ground, he motioned with his left hand that she should go. “Thank you, young man,” she said quietly, and walked through the gate and up the fire road toward the first stand of trees.
She reached a huge oak at a junction where the narrow Sky Trail set off up the hill. There she stood and looked back at the parking lot. There were only a couple of other vehicles and they quickly crunched off over the dusty gravel. The young ranger had disappeared, as though he didn’t want to know what might happen. The sun was already behind the hills and even in her robes she was cold.
She stood alone under the tree at the junction, a tall figure in black and white with a handsome face as dark black as that of her Nigerian mother. Her watch showed that she had another half hour to wait. She bowed her head and prayed.
She was still frightened but the encounter with the ranger had somehow made her certain again. She’d always been that way: the more people believed in her, the stronger she became, if not for her own sake then for theirs. That man had risked his conscience, perhaps his soul, because she had made him believe in her.
Deep in prayer, she waited the last minutes. She had never been one of those lucky ones who talk to God and hear a reply. For her, religion was a conscious act of faith.
She felt the moment of sunset as though she heard a marble door grate open. For a breathless moment, nothing happened. Then a dozen pale forms stepped out of the surrounding woods and one or two rose up from tall grass in a field where there must have been something to hide beneath.
Amanda Malreaux would scarcely believe later how her fear had vanished. It happened just as it had in the plaza. She knew that she was at home with her Beloved. The certainty came as a gift.
The vampires drifted up to her, formed a ring around the tree where she stood. Like mist off of ice, their evil pushed against the boundary of the home where she stood. One by one she met their red eyes, saw the awful emptiness there. They could not approach her but she could not go to them.
One of them looked at her with yearning, as if to be in her home was all his frozen heart could desire.
Aware that she might be surrendering her only safety, she said, “Please, come in and be comforted.”
As the pale man stepped across the boundary and became a heavyset bumbler who looked like Oliver Hardy, Amanda Malreaux called to the others, “You may all come in. Please come in and be seated.”
Like children, they ranged themselves on the ground in a semi-circle around her, looking up with the curiosity of kittens.
Surrounded by persons who believed in her, Amanda Malreaux was strong. Trembling with the cold, she walked to each one and kissed him or her on the forehead, their skin chill against her lips.
Then she talked simply to them about her faith, in the shy way that made everything she said that much sweeter. They looked up at her and adored her, which made her very uncomfortable. Who was she to be standing here, preaching religion to these vampires? However good a life she tried to lead, she was no saint.
But she saw her own doubt ripple through them, a ripple that might ripen into blood hunger, and forced herself to return to certainty.
The night ahead of her was long and cold and she would be sick in the morning, but she must not waiver. These outsiders had been long without love.
End of Volume IV.
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