Copyright © 2013 by Michael Litzky
The sky over the east bay hills slowly brightened. The sun hadn’t yet appeared but at any second it would officially be above the “horizon” and the vampires would disappear.
Lavinia was somewhere behind her. Sally wavered, wanting to catch one more glimpse of that loved face, dreading to actually see what she’d become.
At last she stood, still not sure whether she was going to look. But before she decided, her peripheral vision told her that the vampires were gone. And that was that.
She knew vaguely that she should talk to the police, even though technically no crime had been committed. After all, it wasn’t a crime to turn someone into a vampire. Or did it fall under murder? Lavinia was dead, dead, even if she was still moving. So she’d been murdered.
But she drifted away from the plaza with the dispersing crowd, realizing when it was too late that she hadn’t said a thank you or a goodbye to that gay couple who had comforted her.
She avoided the police officers who were trying to pin down details of what had happened in the night, avoided the reporters and the TV people. But she couldn’t avoid being photographed because she was very pretty and camera people naturally included her in pictures. Also, those who had fought beside her knew how good she’d been. A lot more people would be dead now if she hadn’t been there. So she said the minimum amount necessary, praised other fighters, accepted numbly the praise given to her and the kindly intervention of people who had seen her lose Lavinia and understood how she might be feeling.
She came alive again to find herself waiting for Lavinia to pop open the passenger door lock. She stood looking at the old green camper which had been their home. She had walked, without seeing them, the 20 blocks to the side street where they had parked … together … just yesterday.
Lavinia had the keys in her jacket pocket. Sally also knew there was a spare key magnet-attached to the underside of the rear bumper. But her body weighed thousands of pounds and grief flooded fresh with every movement. How many times had she stood at this door as Lavinia leaned over and popped up the ancient little round peg lock? Never ever again.
A flash of early sun on a skyscraper window started her going or she might not have moved for hours. She felt under the bumper until she found the spare key, unlocked the driver’s side door, climbed in and sat in the driver’s seat blinking her eyes, feeling like the walls of the vehicle were going to squeeze in and crush her.
But something wrenched her out of the misery into a tense alertness. Something was wrong. Suddenly she was the old capable Sally Yan who had leaped across an alley between two buildings. She sniffed the air. It wasn’t quite a smell she was sensing, it was a – a presence.
She leapt to an understanding in one simple flash: Lavinia was in that camper, in the living space behind the green curtain. Just behind her head.
You’re still welcome in my home, she’d thought and the invitation had been accepted. I thought you had to say it out loud, she protested, but there was no argument. She knew. Lavinia was back there.
She felt the terror and dread of the supernatural prickling the back of her neck. She had no hope that Lavinia would still be herself, only the grim, heartbreaking realization that she herself, she, Sally Yan, would have to be the one to finally kill her.
She snatched the wooden stake from her belt loop, whirled around onto her knees and wrenched open the old curtain so hard the rod snapped loose from its mount with a metallic schnick!
Lavinia’s snarling undead face inches from her own was not there, she saw nothing.
Heart slamming, she scanned the dim interior. Bed neatly made, cupboards on the back doors closed, wooden covers of oven and stove in place. But there was something; she was sure Lavinia was there.
She could just see the floor with its ancient linoleum and there was something on it which she and Lavinia hadn’t left. A triangle of white. The corner of a piece of paper? For a moment, she felt the impossible hope that it was, somehow, a note from Lavinia.
Carefully she crawled through the opening she’d made, onto the bed. Her emotions were in such a turmoil that they seemed dead again. She crawled to the edge of the bed and looked over at the floor to see what the white thing was.
It was Lavinia’s hand, sticking out from the little storage space under the bed.
An icicle stabbing her guts, she jerked back. She’d been unforgivably careless not to think of that space. Lavinia’s undead body was right beneath her. Her skin crawled.
But she had to know what she faced. Clenching her teeth, she crawled again to the edge of the bed. She’d better come down ready for action, she realized. She turned around, then sprang backward so she landed in a crouch, stake pointing out, and looked with wide eyes at what was under the bed.
It was Lavinia alright, just as she’d known.
In a moment she’d have time to see just how Lavinia had managed to squeeze most of herself into that space. For now, all she could see were the eyes, enormous black pools in the dim light, watching her. She thought she read something in those eyes beyond hunger but she also felt like she was looking into the eyes of a coiled python.
The moment stretched out. Vague fantasies of Lavinia returning and their love continuing tantalized her, claws of hope and longing tore at the outer layers of her skin.
“Are you still … Lavinia?” she whispered. Her world tottered on a pinhead as she waited for an answer.