Here’s what we know: The world is so overrun with vampires that they’re worse than dangerous: they’re pests. The night is crawling with them. They pound on doors, they block every window, but they can’t come into any home, not by so much as a nose hair. And in the very first story, Charla Thorpe discovers that as soon as she says, “You’re invading my home with your noise,” the vampires are forced to melt into the background, though if you stepped outside, you would instantly be killed.
Nobody knows where the first vampire came from but the current situation is simple math: one vampire drinks and then there are two. Two vampires drink and then there are four. Then eight, then 16, 32, 64, 128. In just twenty days, there are over a million. In just a month there’d be over a trillion, except that almost no new vampires are made now because the competition for blood is so fierce that anybody caught outside is torn into tiny pieces and devoured; nothing is left to rise and walk.
But Sally Yan and her beloved Lavinia Starr have been finding out new things. Sunlight, far from killing vampires, sends them into orgasmic ecstasy. And vampires crave something else, even more than they crave blood: a home. Given a choice between drinking and being in a home again, they will chose a home.
For a detailed synopsis of all the earlier stories, click here. But the skinny is: Sally and Lavinia have been living in Lavinia’s old camper van (the vampires respect any home as long as a human has the intention of living in it.) Lavinia has been bitten (but not torn into pieces because Sally fought off the attackers) and has become a vampire. By day she is paralyzed and every time she sleeps, some force of bleak despair tries to make her a mindless animal, like all the other vampires. Sally keeps calling her back with a combination of love and sunlight and Lavinia seems to be healing. The two women are deeply in love and have promised to marry, though how they can live together is a big problem.
We’ve also been following Charity Claire, a shy young woman who was raped a year ago by a man who broke in just before the vampires came out, and then stayed all night. She has just asked of Jesse Casselberger and his husband Walter the enormous gift of them holding her all night, like they did for Sally at the rally where she lost Lavinia. They have given Charity that gift and she has some new resolve about what she will do when she gets back to her own apartment that night.
Sally has a sister who goes by the name KerriAnne and she’s a real mess who only shows up in Sally’s life to ask for favors. The last we saw of her, she couldn’t reach Sally to ask her help and, in despair, is thinking of swallowing the pills in her medicine cabinet.
And, in a side story, Raymond and Cindy have just discovered a possible way to rid the earth of vampires once and for all: since the earth is our home (the word ecology comes from two old words meaning the study of the home), then if they can get every human on earth to agree that the vampires are not welcome, they must leave. But the couple knows it will be hard, hard work convincing the whole human race to speak as one.
Now begins Homes: Volume III of Safe as Houses. Sally and Lavinia have just made love but a chance remark of Sally’s lets Lavinia see that Sally has been concealing things that were hurting her. After a bitter discussion where other unspoken things come out, Lavinia, paralyzed by the advent of the day, tells Sally to go use the outhouse and really think about whether she wants to be in the relationship. While emptying their portable toilet into the outhouse, Sally has a major revelation (and is not unaware of the irony of the time and place). She heads back to tell Lavinia but sees that the corpse of a vampire who she thought died during the fight the night before is still alive and moving. In the sunlight, he seems balanced between ecstasy and tears and she sees the man he was. Before she can help him, if help were even possible, he dies.
Back in their home, she emphatically re-declares her love for Lavinia and says “No more nonsense about getting out of this.” She then shares her big revelations: as long as the vampires are outside, they are indistinguishable, white, evil things. But once they come into a home, they begin to get their personhood back, to be recognizable as individuals of different races and genders. And Sally has realized that her mission must be to help the earth not to shut the vampires out but to welcome them in. Lavinia says no, Sally doesn’t have to help. Sally has to lead. Sally explores that shocking concept: she realizes she can do it, though she’ll make a lot of mistakes. In the meantime, she gets Lavinia into sunlight again and holds her hand as she undulates in ecstasy.
Eventually Lavinia falls asleep. As she sleeps, Sally keeps her promise to stay beside her, radiating certainty of who Lavinia is and protecting her against slipping back into emptiness. As she sits watch, two things happen. She finds that she has dozens of calls and texts from her screwed up sister but can’t bring herself to answer them. And she finds a card which seems to have fallen out of Lavinia’s pocket. On it is an image from her recurring dream: a little fairy who guards the home saying to the vampires outside, “Welcome, come in.”
As she ponders these things, Lavinia’s dreams seem to turn frightening. When Sally tries to wake her up, she instead finds herself drawn in. She can’t see Lavinia, though she can feel her in her arms. She plunges into darkness and fights her way through frightening images of death and emptiness until, seeing herself as the tiger that Lavinia calls her, she finds Lavinia and welcomes her back to life. “Your home is with me,” she says. Lavinia understands at that moment what Raymond and Cindy figured out in the interlude: the entire earth is a home and Sally has, in effect, welcomed Lavinia to the entire world.
Lavinia springs awake and erupts from her arms. But she is not hurled to the door this time. Instead, no longer paralyzed (she’s not sure why), she scoops Sally up and says she is carrying her across the threshold to their home together. She leaps out into the dawn with Sally in her arms and throws her into the air in exuberance.
But that’s nothing compared to what happens when Lavinia removes all her clothes and gets the sun on her full body. Riding waves of ecstasy, she actually lifts into the air and flies, taking Sally with her. They make love and it’s beautiful but the energy doesn’t stop for Lavinia and it’s getting colder as they fly higher.
Sally starts to analyze what’s happening. Lavinia laughs that she’s not ready for a “Four Dick Dialog,” her joke name for their intense intellectual conversations. One time when they discussed Richard Feynman, Richard Wagner, Richard Nixon and Richard III in one conversation, she’d joked “Fuck, that’s a lot of Dicks for a pair of dykes!”
Sally can’t admit that she’s close to panic at being helpless in the middle of the air but Lavinia sees it at last and with a heroic effort, manages to switch gears somehow, so that she pulls them into the embrace of mother earth instead of pushing them higher.
Sally and Lavinia discuss what they know about vampires. Sunlight has filled Lavinia so she doesn’t need blood, looks like a reformed alcoholic just thinking about it, can’t even be sure she really needed it: maybe she was just following mob hysteria. They wonder about the raven emblem on Lavinia’s jacket (which gave her the strength to resist vampire energy and return to her home with Sally) and the old one-eyed German leather maker who sold it to her long ago. Sally remembers (but fails to share with Lavinia) a vision in her nightmare rescue: a dead hiker in a dark forest, from whose mind drifts out all the despair and emptiness at the center of the vampire plague. She also remembers the card with the address in San Francisco and suddenly knows what she and Lavinia have to do next.
Meanwhile, Sally’s sister KerriAnne, who we last saw contemplating suicide, has somehow become a vampire herself and is now riding hidden in the back of a truck towards a destination which she knows is where she needs to be. Walter and Jesse, the couple who comforted Sally on the horrible night when she had lost Lavinia, are settling in to watch Sleeping Beauty which, Jesse comments, is “appropriate.” Malcolm, the leader who almost got a plaza-full of people killed, is settling in to spend his second night calling the plaza his “home.” Charity Claire, transformed by her experience being held by the same Walter and Jesse who comforted Sally, is getting up her courage to say “welcome” in a short while.
And as Sally and Lavinia head toward an address in San Francisco which was on the card Sally found, Sally reluctantly pulls out her phone to learn what has happened to her sister. She finds that KerriAnne has reached a point of despair where she calls Sally “my only light” and says “I can’t live in a world without you. With Lavinia’s help, Sally faces the fact that her relationship with KerriAnne is deeply dysfunctional. Almost passing out with shame, she tells Lavinia that she had sex with her sister one time when Carrie was 13 and she was 15. She expects Lavinia to reject her then, but of course Lavinia still loves her just as deeply.
Meanwhile, Malcolm suddenly finds a group of strangers in his plaza “home.” They wear the tee shirts that Raymond Fleck and Cindy talked of making at the end of “How Like a Man,” tee shirts with the message that the entire earth is our home and the vampires must leave. Sister Amanda Malraux begs Malcolm to listen to Jeremy, a teenager with haunted eyes who intensely wants to kick vampires off the earth. He agrees that they can stay in the plaza with him that night.
Sally and Lavinia drive to a yellow Victorian on a steep hill and step out amongst the vampires as the sun sets. “Wherever we’re together is our home,” Lavinia declares, but Sally, in the grip of whatever energy tried to claim Lavinia that morning, is swept by waves of guilt and horror and can’t back her up. The vampires close in on them as Sally stands paralyzed.
But Lavinia rescues her from the darkness just as she rescued Lavinia. Sally sees her vision of the little fairy and the fairy has Lavinia’s eyes and they see her, completely. Knowing that she is fully accepted, she is able to declare their home together, and the vampires have to stay out. In the garden of the Victorian they find vampires in a half-human trance. Lavinia, who had felt some powerful but “wrong” energy in Sally’s stake, strokes a redwood tree and says if she was pierced with it, she would feel ecstasy. They finally enter the house (Lavinia is not barred from entering) and find Jesse and Walter. Walter stands and is revealed as a vampire himself.
Meanwhile in the plaza, the vampires start to chant “send her out, send her out!” Everyone makes a shield around Sister Amanda to protect her. But Jeremy, revealed as the kid from “Teasing Him Out” who may or may not have pushed his little brother out to the vampires, sinks to his knees as he hears the vampires once again demanding that he send someone out to them. Back then, it was one older vampire who looked different from all the others who started things. Likewise, there now emerges from the crowd a leader. The leader is KerriAnne, and the woman that she wants them to send out is Sally, who she thinks is in the plaza. “Send her out to me or you will all die.”
And Charity Claire welcomes the vampires, specifying that they must respect her beautiful home. They come in and are transformed into persons.
Jesse is very impressed with Sally having brought Lavinia back to personhood in just two days. He says it was months before Walter was so human again. The card Sally found had fallen out of her pocket, not Lavinia’s and had been put there by Jesse as he and Walter comforted her on that awful night on the off-chance that she might find Lavinia and need some help.
Meanwhile, we learn that KerriAnne sees herself as some kind of Queen of the Night and is no longer sad and lonely, is in fact delighted to have an army of “minions.” She gets them all chanting Sally’s name in the hopes that this will bring Sally running. (Sally does hear her name being chanted on a TV news item about the crisis in the plaza.)
Jeremy confronts Kerri: “You didn’t just get bitten and turned, did you? You chose this some-which-way, didn’t you?” Kerri is trying to remember how she became a vampire when Sally arrives with her friends, surrounded by an impregnable shield because she is with Lavinia and Jesse is with Walter. Kerri is pressed between the barrier surrounding Sally and the barrier surrounding the plaza. But Sally is so torn by conflicting feelings that she doesn’t know what to do or say.