Copyright © 2013 by Michael Litzky
For a moment which stretched into an hour, it seemed that nothing would happen.
Then the thing under the bed spoke, a hollow, sad sound, weak as a child on its death bed. “Most of ‘em? Not evil. Not most of ‘em. Just so … hahh … so fuck’n hungry. And outside. Know what that does? Always outside. And so … so hungry.”
Tears streamed down Sally’s face as the hope blossomed into a fabulous orange red rose that smelled like apples and honey. Would a soulless vampire be able to talk so like her beloved? Fully aware of the risk she was taking, she reached out a trembling hand. The eyes kept watching her. Lavinia didn’t move as Sally touched her hand.
Lavinia had always had such warm hands, just like her big warm heart. Those powerful, capable and warm hands on her naked skin had been one of the delights of their relationship. Her own hands got cold so easily and Lavinia would warm them between her own. Now it hurt her newly beating heart to feel Lavinia’s rough hand so icy cold. Like her father’s on that morning when she had been the one to find him dead. The hand quivered, but didn’t try to snatch hers.
Sally held Lavinia’s cold hand in her cold hands. “You’re a vampire,” she said to the hand. She looked up at the eyes watching her from the shadows. “But somehow you’re still you? And you’re weak as a kitten. Why? From … hunger?” She shuddered.
“Dunno,” the thin voice whispered. “I’m hungry. Yeah. But my money … ‘s on daytime.”
It took Sally a moment to parse Lavinia’s labored speech. “You mean the daylight makes you weak?”
But Lavinia interrupted her, words pouring out in a thin anguished cry. “Oh baby, aw God fuck it, I hate this.” The hand Sally held finally moved, the fingertips stroking her palm. “I remember it. What we had. I know I loved you so fuckin’ much. But all I feel is hungry.”
“That’s not true!” Sally shouted. “I hear the passion in your voice, you’re not cut off from that.”
But the one burst seemed to have used all the energy Lavinia had. She subsided again and in a hopeless voice said, “‘f you say.” The eyes watched her carefully. “So whatcha gonna do?” Sally realized that Lavinia had not hidden herself beneath the bed in some vague attempt to get underground. She’d been hiding from Sally.
What was she going to do? She was talking to Lavinia again, beyond all hope. But she felt the grain of the wood in her palm. Wouldn’t it be the kindest thing to kill Lavinia quickly?
“I can’t kill you,” she said, looking down again, working out what she thought as she spoke. “I don’t know if you want … I don’t know what you want. Maybe if you, if you want me to kill you, you should attack me. I can do it if you … I don’t know.” She shook her head and tears dripped off.
With no clear end in mind, she asked, “Do you have to stay under there?”
“No f’kin’ clue. But I c’n barely move. Ever since the day came. This’s like…” A bitter memory stirred in her face.
Sally held out her arms. “Let me get you out of there. At least come sit on the bed with me.”
A cold weak laugh. “Sure, prop me up, wedge me in the corner, I’ll be fine.”
Sally reached into the small space. She put her arms around the cold body, hand still clutching the stake. If she attacks, I think I can kill her. But Lavinia was as limp as a rag. Sally had to drag her out and the angle was awkward. It took more work than she’d thought to finally get Lavinia stretched out on the bed. She cried again as she saw the pale skin and the haunted face in which the deep purple eyes were set like gems. But she knew now what she was going to do.
She took the limp hand. “Baby,” she said carefully. “I don’t want to lose you, not if I can help it.” She’d been offered a second chance. The walls had stopped closing in. “As long as there’s some you in there, I’m with you. If you got sick, I’d have taken care of you. If you were in a wheelchair, I’d push you around. You’re sick now, deathly sick. And I’ll take care of you.” Wasn’t that what love was supposed to be about, after the passion wore off? In a way she’d wanted to offer this level of devotion to everyone she’d ever been with.
Lavinia’s eyes closed and Sally hoped she saw something other than numb despair. Behind her, the morning sun crept into the cab of the camper and started to feel towards the curtains Sally had torn in her haste. For the moment, the sun faded behind a bank of clouds.
Lavinia started to talk with her eyes still closed. “I had a cousin once, long time ago. Good guy, salt of the earth blah blah. Got ALS.” Sally had heard the acronym somewhere but didn’t want to stop Lavinia to ask what it meant. “One year, fine. Next time I visit him, can barely walk. Next time, barely move. Eyes can blink, fingertips twitch, that’s it. Had some computer jimmy, could twitch out letters, that was the only way he could communicate.”
Her face had a look which Sally recognized from long years of seeing it in the mirror: crying would be sweet release but no tears would come. “I dunno what I’m saying. That’s what this right now feels like but that’s just since the sun came up, I could move, Jesus fuck, just fine in the dark.” She lay still with her face blank. “After Ryan died, I didn’t believe so much in God. Not that I –”
Suddenly her eyes opened and the blank misery had been replaced with intellectual curiosity, which made Sally’s heart glad. “Hey baby. Make the sign of the cross. I always wondered.” Her voice wasn’t so heavy either.
Happy for anything that let Lavinia be her old self, Sally crossed her index fingers and held them where Lavinia could see. She stared intently. “Huh. Nothin’. That’s good. Glad I’m not a walking advertisement for the old bastard.”
Sally laughed. Lavinia rolled her eyes. “She’s laughin’. I’m a funny vampire.” The enormity of what she’d just said smoothed out Lavinia’s face again like a steamroller. Desperate to keep Lavinia in an interested frame of mind, Sally said, “What about a Star of David?”
It worked. Lavinia laughed weakly. “You can make a Magen David with your fingers?”
“That’s a Star of David?”
“Yeah, you helpless goy. Oy, what my mother would say, me dating a shiksa.” She laughed again. They were laughing together. Sally thought her heart was going to burst. She wanted to lean forward and kiss Lavinia but she pictured Lavinia suddenly snarling and going vampire on her and the moment slipped away and that was when the sun came out from behind clouds and shone between tall buildings through the front windshield and the broken curtains and directly onto Lavinia’s maggot-white forehead.
Lavinia screamed, a thin ragged sound that made Sally scream too and lunge to grab the broken curtain rod. She was struggling with the slanting mess when she decided she must have gone mad. Lavinia’s screams didn’t sound like agony. It sounded like she was making Sally’s favorite sound in the world, her orgasm sound.
Stunned, she dropped the curtains and turned to look.