Talkin’ ’Bout My Girl
by D. A. Madigan
Table of Contents|
Part 1 appears
in this issue.
Now she did speak; her lips moving and everything, although I couldn’t swear she actually made an audible sound, and since vampires don’t breathe (this I do know), she most likely didn’t. “Worthless,” she nearly hissed, “do you know how much trouble I could get in if anyone saw you?”
I couldn’t answer, no more could I move. But she was in my head and had been, of course, and I tried hard not to think of anything but my questions. “Of course you were a mistake,” she all but spat at me, moving closer. She tapped the sharpened point of the stake on my chest, and even through my shirt I felt a hot stab of pain. “I’m not even supposed to kill as often as I do, but it’s suffered as long as I don’t call attention to myself. But now I’ve inspired a thrall without permission.” Her eyes didn’t widen, but I felt terror lazily intertwine itself through her rage. “It’s a chaining offense.”
The image I received was of another figure like herself, far more emaciated... I knew that was what a vampire looked like, if they chose not to feed for a week or more, or weren’t allowed to... its flesh both pale and dark at the same time, somehow, as if it had been a black person when it was alive... hanging from what looked like a gallows, feet off the ground, wrists above its head in fetters.
The air was full of light; the sun was less than a minute below the horizon. She was watching from a shelter, like a baseball dugout, surrounded by some other young vampires, their masters... no, masters wasn’t right, they called themselves Muses, those who had inspired the younger ones... in the deeper darkness behind them. This was an example...
The sun came up, and the figure in chains simply went to pieces... skin sloughing off in a huge drift of flakes, muscle tissue underneath melting like wax, bones crisping and blackening; the whole thing happening so fast that the rain of skin flakes, rush of melted fat, and scattering of charcoaled bone all hit the ground beneath the scaffold in a seconds long, whispering, clattering shower.
And it all made some sort of sense to me, abruptly. Sunlight...!
“Yes,” she said, tapping my chest pointedly (heh) with the stake, making pain shoot through me in bolts. “We don’t like silver much, and silver-backed mirrors will reflect our true appearance, so we avoid them, but it’s really sunlight that kills us. Against our flesh, if we’re stupid enough to be caught outside by daylight, or caught breaking covenants... or concentrated by photosynthesis into a stake and pounded through our centers...” She smiled, and I heard an awful cruel laughter in my head as she jabbed the stake at me teasingly through my shirt, making me feel like I’d been shot with a crossbow. “Hurts, does it not? You stupid worthless thing.” She paused, and looked me over. “I barely remember you... three or four kills back, weren’t you? Tell me how it was you were not bathed in sunlight before the change occurred.”
That was the thing I hadn’t gotten before, about all three death scenes, and what I knew of my own. She arranged the bodies so they’d be bathed in sunlight... apparently, whatever infects a vampire victim and forces the change needs darkness to work in, or at least, is killed by sunlight. Maybe it was a supernatural curse, or maybe just a photosensitive bacteria...
“My girlfriend came home early,” I found myself telling her. “Amy. She was supposed to be coming back the next day, but she caught a red-eye. She liked saving money...” I tried not to think about Amy. Tried hard. She wasn’t something I wanted to think about right then; she wasn’t something I wanted this bitch to have in her head.
I could tell she was going through that in her mind. Amy finding my body arranged in front of a window, like the others, calling 911, the ambulance taking me somewhere... eventually, to the medical examiners. I’d lain on a shelf in the wall long enough, obviously. I remembered waking up in that box, battering at the cold metal walls, knocking the heavy door off its hinges. I remembered that poor idiot of a security guard on night duty; he hadn’t even had a gun, and had been so terrified when I’d crawled out of the rectangular opening in the long chrome handled wall, he hadn’t even been able to run, or struggle...
I remembered realizing I must be a vampire, after I’d let that poor idiot’s blood-drained corpse slump to the ground... and knowing that the hot blonde I’d gotten lucky with... the last thing I remembered previous to that... must have been one too.
“Decades,” she said, and I could feel how angry she was. “I’ve been doing this for decades and never had any problem, and...”
“Well,” I said, since she hadn’t told me to be quiet again yet, “you were due.” I still couldn’t move. “So you’re going to kill me now?”
“Of course,” she said. “I can’t let anyone know I made a mistake...” She looked upset... well, not looked, but she seemed upset. “I’ll have to go back to burning them now... but the cattle will investigate a chain of arsons... I’ll have to space out my kills more... DAMN you!” she finished, sounding petulant. “I look terrible when I don’t feed often enough.”
“But,” I said, “I mean, you don’t need to kill me, you seem to have me under your control...” And I’d kind of thought she would, too. But the more she told me before this was over, the better. There were apparently a lot of rules.
“Of course,” she said, “I’m your Muse, but you’re illegitimate. They consider me too young to Inspire.” She sounded petulant at that. “Anyway, I’d have to feed you, and there isn’t enough for me as it is.” She sighed silently and raised the stake. “May as well...”
“So we don’t need to feed?” I asked her, quickly. “I mean, you feed every three days, I know from following you around, but it can be less often?”
She rolled her eyes, the first visible body language I’d seen from her... probably one of her last living mannerisms, not quite eroded away yet by decades of walking death. “Don’t be an idiot. Vampires are dead. We don’t need anything but darkness... but we crave life, and without blood, we’re little but animated mummies.” I could feel her disgust. “Vampires are supposed to feed, not sit around in the dark studying and... and... being clerks!” I got a flash of a windowless room full of Undead, sitting at computer consoles and desks, doing something I vaguely felt had to do with banking and the stock market. This sounded like an old grievance. Apparently, there was some whole vampire organization out there that sat around... investing and doing real estate transactions and... lobbying? Well, I suppose it made sense.
“And keeping track of lineages,” she said. “If you ever meet one of them, the first thing they will ask is who your Muse is, and they can check instantly as soon as they get to a computer. It’s all online now. They’d have you hanging from a sun-tree and an inquisitor hunting for me in an instant.” I felt her smile. “But you won’t, of course.”
“You called me here,” I said. “It wasn’t just a connection between us... you’ve been calling me.”
“Of course, shit for brains,” she said, and tossed the stake up in the air, flipping it to change her grip so she could bring it down overhanded and slam it into my chest. A living human would need a hammer; Undead flesh is tough. But a vampire can do it with one hand.
I felt a question in my mind, and I knew she’d feel it too... and that was probably all I’d get out of her anyway. So I said yes, and willed it to happen.
There was a dry thunking sound, and a stake protruded from between her small, shriveled breasts. There was a splatter of brackish blood; she had just fed, after all.
“No,” she whispered in my head. When she dissolved, it was from the center of her chest outward, with her skin shattering into a storm of flakes and settling onto the quickly evaporating puddle where she’d been standing.
Amy stood behind her, glaring at me, that same silent rage I’d been feeling from her for the last week or so pulsing in the night air between us. She was holding the stake that had killed my Muse. Her eyes were black, shot through with red. We were young vampires, and I hadn’t known about the glamour, so we were both clothed.
She spoke for the first time since I’d turned her. “I hate you,” she said.
I shrugged. “You’ll get over it,” I told her. I smiled and took her hand and of course, she let me. I was her Muse. Nice word for it.
“Let’s go get something to eat,” I said.
Copyright © 2005 by D. A. Madigan