Talkin’ ’Bout My Girl
by By D.A. Madigan
part 1 of 2
She was no longer in the apartment, but she’d been there. I could smell her. Well... no, not smell, precisely; vampires have no scent. But it felt like I could smell her. She’d been there, and then left.
“She’s not here,” I said aloud, hearing the words echo in the empty living space. I got no reply but angry silence. The wrathful, bitter stillness of someone who has had their life taken from them untimely, by another whom they foolishly trusted. Everywhere I go this last week, it seems like the air pulsates with that specific flavor of rage.
I suppose she has a right to hate me; this isn’t at all what she planned.
There was a body here, though, somewhere, and having walked through three of these scenes in the past twelve days or so, I had a good idea where it would be. I went down the long hallway that the front door had opened into and stepped into a living room furnished in Late 20th Century Yuppie Male: good electronics scattered around the perimeter like the Stations of the Cross (PC and cabled up PC accessories to my left as I came in, entertainment center with its black and chrome modules stacked up on shelves one atop the other like some weird Bauhaus chest of drawers directly in front of me on the opposite wall, big screen TV to my right against the far wall with a large metal open fronted display case of DVDs standing at attention to its side), sterile looking, mid range modern furniture, ostensibly matched because he’d obviously bought it as a set, clumped around the center of the floor. The big couch was at a slight angle in front of the TV, on a rectangle of faux Arabian Knights carpet; a glass-topped coffee table could be seen jutting out past the right corner of the couch when I looked in that direction.
I wondered what she’d thought, when she came home with him, or any of the other men she’d come home with. I wondered how old she was. I wondered if she could discourse lucidly on the differences between bachelor flats in America over the last several decades... or centuries. I thought about her a lot, actually, even when I wasn’t getting flashes from her that told me where she was at the moment, and what she was doing.
In the other three places that I’d been drawn to by her flashes of imagery, I’d found the bodies in a chair in front of the TV, on the rug in front of the TV, and in one case, out in the back yard, under the starry night sky, lying in a chaise lounge next to an empty, tarp covered in-ground pool. This was a second floor apartment; I was betting on the TV. I turned and walked towards it.
Behind the TV was a large bow window, shades undrawn, looking out over North Salina Street. Putting the TV in the window would block access, but on the other hand, it was the one place in the room where you could have the curtains open in the daytime and not get glare on the TV screen... something very important to us Modern American Males who watch a lot of sports on weekends.
I wondered if she watched TV. Did vampires have favorite shows?
I stepped around the couch and found him, sprawled out there on the cheap dacron carpet, still half clothed. I didn’t have to look, but as always, I did, taking his chin between thumb and forefinger. He was clean-shaven, although he looked like the type who would have had a silly little goatee a year or so ago, when they were stylish. Now I only felt the faintest rasp of stubble against my inner palm.
I turned his head this way and that, studying the pallid column of his neck. There were no marks; for all anyone could tell, it was as if there had never been any. The old mythology is correct; the twin puncture wounds show only on the living and vanish once the victims die.
I didn’t understand that, but there was a lot I didn’t understand.
The TV had been playing as I came into the room and I’d paid little attention. Now music came up and I glanced over at the screen; Amber Benson was beginning to serenade Alyson Hannigan in a sequence I recognized from a recent, ratings gimmick episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I shook my head and sighed without making a sound. Any Buffy fan should have known not to invite strange women home with him, especially gorgeous ones.
Benson has a voice that was probably the pride and joy of her college musical theater program, and the song she was doing, “I’m Under Your Spell,” is one of the better ones in that episode. Perhaps because of that, the TV clicked off abruptly. People can be spiteful.
I got a flash of image, exactly like the one that had brought me here too late: an old fashioned merry go round, spinning slowly, mostly empty other than a few kids and couple of obvious parents, a small crowd milling around. It was in an indoor court; to its right I could see the neon blue frontage of a theme restaurant called Malarkey’s. She was watching the carousel and I got no hunger; but hell, she’d just fed. If she stuck to her pattern, she was good for another three days now, without a kill. Maybe she was just shopping. Do vampire women like to shop?
“She’s at Carousel Mall,” I said aloud again, once more expecting no response and getting none, except, again, that palpable sense of silent anger. I spread my hands in an exasperated gesture, and looked down at the corpse. My quiet fellow; in a way, my brother in stillness. “I’ll get her for you, buddy,” I said, and I knew it wasn’t true; I’d get her for myself.
The drive over to Carousel was quiet, of course. I could have snapped the radio on but I preferred to fill the noise musing out loud. “That’s three of her death scenes I’ve been at,” I said, and might as well have been talking to myself. “And there’s something about all three of them... I can’t figure it out, though. Maybe you could give me a clue?” There was no response, of course. She’s always with me, but she won’t talk to me. She’s too angry.
It doesn’t matter. She’ll get over it.
I got to Carousel and parked near the food court entrance, which is where the actual carousel is. I’d had no more flashes on the way over, but this close, I had a strong feeling of connection. I’d find her. I flipped open the glove compartment, took out the two sharpened chairlegs from my old apartment I’d prepared, looked at them... then made a decision, and kept one for myself.
I didn’t know anything for certain, but so far the old mythology had held up. The bite marks vanishing. Her modus operandi strongly indicated that she had to be invited in. And of course, I knew the bit about the victims of a vampire becoming vampires themselves was true. That had always bothered me when I was just a fan of nosferatu fiction, because any 6th grader can tell you that if you posit one vampire, who has to kill every, say, three days, and their victims all become vampires, within a very short period, geometric progression will have the planet ass-deep in starving vampires and no living humans to feed off.
Modern vamp fiction writers from Hambly to Whedon have posited ways around this... the standard one is that to ‘turn’ a victim, a vamp has first to drink your blood, then you have to drink theirs, which is basically just your blood back again, but now contaminated with some kind of infecting agent. However, I knew that wasn’t true from direct experience; someone killed by a vampire will become a vampire themselves in the natural course of events... Well, natural may not be the right word there. Still, I knew it was true, and it bothered me. It made no sense.
There was something I was missing. Something about those three death scenes, and what I knew from my own experience... but I wasn’t putting it together. Annoying.
Well, maybe I’d ask her before I staked her. In person she might be more forthcoming.
I made a few arrangements and then moved towards the mall. My sense of connection pulled me in that direction; I assumed it would strengthen as I got closer and I’d know when I was right on top of her.
Well, you know what they say about assumptions.
I felt an impulse to stop, hold still, and be quiet. I can’t say I heard a command, because it didn’t come to me as a voice in my head, but it may as well. I stopped, held still, and was quiet.
She stepped out from behind a car, and she was glorious in the sodium-lit night.
She didn’t look the same as last time I saw her, she looked deader. Her body had a stillness to it. She had no extraneous movements, no nervous twitches, no real body language at all. You don’t realize someone isn’t breathing unless you’re looking for it, but your eyes and your brain and maybe your soul, I don’t know, notice it anyway. Not that that last would matter for me any more. She was pale. Her hair was limp, a little straggled and matted. Her mouth and chin were stained in a layered pattern, with what I could smell was fresh blood smeared over what were probably generations of ancient blood slicks, all but tattooed into the Undead cells of her flesh. She was naked, and skinny to the point of emaciation. I realized analytically that vampires must, as a matter of fact, cast glamours on the living, since when I’d seen her, she’d been much more alive seeming, with perfect hair, a stylish skirt and sleeveless blouse combination, muted gold jewelry, a clean, smiling, fashion model’s face.
All this I noted, but I really could only see her eyes, which were just the way you’d think they would be from reading vampire stories... blank, and black, and shot through with changing streaks and swirls of red.
And still, she was glorious; the center of my world and the entire focus of my attention. My reason for living. So to speak.
She had a stake of her own in her hand.
Copyright © 2005 by D. A. Madigan