Copyright © 2013 by Michael Litzky
“I guess I seen hell,” Lavinia started.
“I had this gnawing. Was all I could feel. Couldn’t think. Fuck, I didn’t even think of thinking, wouldn’t have wanted to.” Her eyes sagged shut as she spoke.
“I remember it. Was like I’d got some special dispensation from the Pope to be an animal. I moved, I saw you lucky living assholes and it was like, ‘kid at the window of a candy store.’ I did everything to find a way in.
“Around me? Enemies. Hundreds of enemies. Trying to outsmart me, trying to outsmart everyone else. Jesus fuck, yeah, that’s what hell’s gotta be like.
“So. I had to keep moving, keep trying any trick. But because I was brand new, I couldn’t be near as crafty as the, I dunno what to call ‘em, the seniors, the older ones? On my guard every second not to show any sign of weakness. And all the time hungry. I’ve missed a few meals, my time, fasted by choice for a day or so. But I never felt any ‘hungry’ like that ‘hungry.’“
Sally noticed that Lavinia said “that hungry” instead of “this hungry.” Was the hunger less now? Had the sunlight helped?
“Jesus god,” her sad voice continued, “ah god, what a bleak time. I remember it. Moving, moving, trying this, trying that. All around me, competitors for the food, moving, pushing at the edges, trying anything, calling out, coaxing, teasing.” Lavinia’s eyes opened and her brow wrinkled like she was trying to understand something. The puzzled look stayed as she repeated, “Trying any trick, anything at all. I’d have done anything.”
She gave up on whatever she was trying to figure out and went on. “Well, anyway, a long, fucking long time later, the sky starts to pink up. When it does, you can feel this energy start up. This ‘shit, gotta get underground but let’s have one more try to get someone’ energy. I’m thinking – no, it’s nothing like thinking, I’m feeling just terrible. Like, I’m outside and can never go inside ever again.
“And right then, me comes back to me. I remember full on who I was and I see your face and I feel all that I lost ….” Her face crumpled and Sally pulled her closer. For half a minute, Lavinia’s head was on her shoulder and Lavinia made no move to bite her neck. Sally took the risk deliberately, fairly sure she could fight Lavinia off if she tried, but starting to wonder if she would surrender instead. This is no time to bottom, she told herself sternly. Can’t go there, can’t.
Against her neck, Lavinia said “Put me back, I can’t stand it.” Sally quickly set her back on the pillow. “Can’t stand…?” she asked in a neutral tone.
“Lemme finish my story.” Lavinia looked guilty and Sally suspected what had happened.
“So anyway,” Lavinia continued quickly (didn’t she know how impressed Sally would be that she resisted the urge to drink?), “I think, we had a home, and I put my hand right here.” Lavinia’s hand twitched where it was draped across Sally’s back, and her face showed an instant, quickly suppressed, of panic that she couldn’t move. “Shit! I hate this.”
“Where you put your hand was on the raven emblem,” Sally said quietly. “And you spoke the words from the opera.”
“How did you know that?”
“You did exactly the same stuff when you, first…” Sally couldn’t finish the sentence.
Lavinia looked confused for a moment, then said, “I remember now. That was the last rational thought I had until this morning, it’s like I picked up right there. So, I touched the raven and I remembered that old guy and how I always thought this raven had a little magic in it.
“When we talked about the Wagner (and just by the way I was impressed as fuck that you’d seen it) I don’t know if I really told you about the ravens. So don’t have a hissy if I’m telling you something you know, right?”
Sally smiled. It was one of the few sources of tension in their relationship, that Lavinia (usually) felt compelled to explain anything pre-1990. “I won’t bite,” she said, then wished she’d phrased it another way.
But Lavinia went right on. “Odin’s got these companion birds. Fly out every day and come home at night, tell the god everything they seen. I dunno if this one is Hugin or Munin, those are the damn birds’ names, but you see he’s whispering into Odin’s ear. And there’s the quote on it, from Götterdämerung. “Fliegt heim ihr Raben, fly home, you ravens. I think Brünnhilde sings it when she’s about to die.” Sally nodded. “Fly home. You damn birds.
“Next thing I know, I’m flying through the night. Not flying flying, you know. Running hell-fuck fast. And there’s our home, where we parked it and I got the keys.
“Only a couple other vampires around by now, it’s seconds before the sun’s up. And I want to get in so bad, it’s a hurt even bigger than the hungry. I’m not sure, I think I hear one of the running vamps call out to me to get underground. Maybe not, though, it’s everyone for himself.
“It comes to this. I don’t got time to try the door and to run for shelter. I’m crazy with the hungry and I know the sun’ll kill me. But I see you looking down at me and I think how Brünnhilde sent the damn birds home to burn the damn gods to the ground and then jumped into the fire to be with the one she loved, and I chose this. I still don’t know how.
“And then I was in. And one second after I hide cause I don’t know what you’re gonna do, boom, I can’t move.” Another ripple of panic, sternly suppressed, made Lavinia breathe hard for a moment.
Sally held Lavinia for a long time. Her body wasn’t warm and living but it wasn’t ice either; it was room temperature, so it felt like she was holding a bundle of clothes or a body pillow. And then with a start which jarred her heart, she woke up knowing it was hours later and she’d been asleep with a vampire in her arms the whole time.
Her neck felt strange. Lavinia’s eyes were closed and she was motionless. Cautiously, Sally took her right hand from Lavinia’s back and brought it up to her neck. Smooth skin, no wetness, no healed bumps. Her neck was probably just stiff from sleeping like this. She looked at her watch: a little after 3.
She wasn’t sure she should wake Lavinia up, but she had no hesitation what to do anymore. “Babe? Babe.” She rubbed Lavinia’s back. No response. There was probably some vampire thing where once they went to sleep for the day they couldn’t wake up until sundown. Everything was so damn cutting edge and uncertain. More firmly, she shook Lavinia and said, “Baby? I need you to wake up.”
Lavinia’s eyes snapped open. Relieved, Sally said, “I’ve decided–”
Lavinia slid from Sally’s arms and flew to her feet in a huge electric motion. Sally was so shocked that she floundered helplessly for a crucial second. Huge fists pounded on the rear door of the camper at that same instant. A shriek rent the air as Sally recovered and scrambled into a ready crouch, eyes scanning left, right.
Lavinia was pressed against the rear doors. She screamed a thin horrible scream.