Letter from William, A Vampire
My name is William Cuyler Thorne, lately of Savannah. Once, a very, very long time ago, I was a husband...a father. A mortal who lived and loved without thought of the evil creatures abroad in the world.
Now I am one of those evil beings. A blood drinker.
Just recently, after these many centuries, Iíve been required to make good on my lifeís promise of revenge. ĎPut up or shut upí as my offspring Jack would say. Presented with the opportunity to kill my villainous sire, Reedrek, once and for all and end my immortal existence in the bargain, I embraced the chance. In our world, however, like the mortal version, things donít always go as planned. Just as in my dash to annihilation I approached the finish line only to be pulled back to the unliving by Jackís inscrutable logic.
He needed me.
Now, I have discovered a name in an ancient book. A name etched into my overfull memory like a ragged scar. A name that will forever conjure love in my unbeating heart, existing next to the hatred there for the monster who took her from me.
The book is a genealogy of Strigoriof vampires.
The name is Diana, England, 1528.
My wifeís imageDianaís lovely facefills my thoughts and for a moment I feel the tiniest hope that I might find her again. Iíve set Olivia to the task of tracking this undead Diana. Yet the thought of Reedrek making my guiltless love into a bereft creature like myself twists my gut. He would have had to mate her to complete the transformation. The very possibility brings a surge of nausea to my otherwise cast-iron constitution. I would have torn her tormentor limb from limb before allowing him to ravage her soul. It had been hard enough to watch him kill her.
It could not be so. By God, Reedrek couldnít have so complete a victory over me and mine.
Of course, if it were true, God had nothing whatsoever to do with it.
Letter from Jack, a Vampire
My name is Jack McShane and Iím a master mechanic, a ladiesí man, a NASCAR fan, and a vampirenot necessarily in that order. Show me a car and I can fix it. Show me a woman, and I can seduce her. Show me a creature, human or not, that threatens my existence or the safety of my loved ones, and I will make sure it never leaves Savannah in one piece, at least not without that piece being chewed up and spit out. Literally.
They say you canít teach an old dog new tricks, but this dogís been kicking since the Civil War and Iíve learned more about myself and my kind in the last few weeks than I ever knew since I was made immortal. For example, all vampires are not created equal. Not all are peaceloving types like me and my sire, William Thorne. Mind you, Iíd seenand killedmy share of roving, rogue vampires here and there, just to keep the peace. But Iíd no idea there were whole packs of evil ones in Europe, and that some of them would be coming for us one day.
But it all came out in the wash, as they say, and my sire no longer tries to keep me in the dark about such matters to protect me. He canít afford to. He needs me armed with the truth and ready to fight at his side if need be.
And because of that, William wants me to get all super-charged. See, I just got transfused with the blood of a powerful voodoo mambo, and William says I might now have powers I never dreamed of. Melaphia gave me some prayers and a whole laundry list of offerings for some voodoo deity so that heíll make me all the vampire I can be. She says I should be careful, though, because the voodoo gods are powerful, easily pissed off, and prone to retribution. Yeah, yeah, whatever. Voodoo shmoodoo. Iíll light the candles and incense, say my spiel, and see what happens.
What could possibly go wrong?
Eleanor whimpered from pleasurenot painas I tore away the leather laces of her corset. The smooth black material was warm from her skin. I unlaced the front and watched as tight leather opened before me like a ripe pomegranate spilling her breasts into my nimble hands. Any other night I would have suckled them, rolling the nipples with my tongue and nipping with my unnaturally sharp teeth. I would have followed the sinuous curve of the snake tattoo from breasts to belly with my thirsty mouth, then quenched my lust between her thighs. But on this night rather than the sweet nectar of sex, I will be sucking blood. All her blood.
Tonight Eleanor would become a vampire, or die in the trying.
Ghostly voices whispered around us, alternately urging me on and begging me to stop. I could not stop. Iíd given my word. Humans thought little enough of honor. The ability to follow through on promises or threats meant more to a vampire. At least it did to me. Broken promises had a tenacious way of following one around. Centuries ago, Iíd been educated in the art of swearing without the intention or the means to follow through by my treacherous sire. Of course, becoming a blood drinker left little I could not do. Except perhaps defend the ones I loved.
Diana, my heart. If there had been some way to save you...
Oliviaís book of names had aroused my guilt and obsession. One very familiar name: Diana, England, 1528. A coincidence hard to explain. Iíd set a task for Olivia, Algerís precocious offspring, to further investigate the womanthe vampirelisted in her ancient book. Olivia had sworn on her honor she would not fail.
She had not failed. Not the one you seek...I swear it.
I could seen no reason Olivia would lie about something so important to me. So, Iíd put away the horror and the hope that somehow as Reedrek had claimed, my wife lived still, in a manner of speaking, as one of the undead. As one of us. Oliviaís pronouncement set me back into reality. Lovely Diana had died centuries ago and I had avenged her death. It was time to stop thinking about her and concentrate on Eleanor.
And just now...Eleanor needed saving from me, although she thought not. In this vampire making business, all my beautiful consort needed to hear was that she would live forever and be bound to me for the next two hundred yearsbound to her teacher, her lover, her maker. Not a marriage, or even a Ďrelationshipí in the human sense. Either of us could choose to have others. But she would always be part of my blood kin, could call on me in need, would defer to my wishes. Sheíd listened to little else, including warnings from Jack, Melaphia, or even myself. She had her own plans for the future and I had promised...
We were set to begin. Melaphia had prepared Eleanor, removing her street clothes, taking a sample of her untainted blood, cutting a lock of her long black hair.
I rested my cool hand over Eleanorís living, beating heart. She arched her back and sighed holding my gaze with her own.
"Are you sure?" I asked one final time.
I took up one of her hands, kissed it, then slid a loop made from the leather laces over her wrist. She sucked in a breath as I tied her right hand above her head. After capturing her left and repeating the process, I doubled the laces and secured her ankles. Determined to do as little physical damage as possible, I did not want her thrashing about.
I drew in the smell of her excitement. She didnít know enough yet to be afraid. Weíd played these kinds of games before, never going beyond symbolic blood-letting and a good furious fucking. Thinking of those times I lowered my hand between her spread thighs and teased her open. She was slick with wanting.
I was hard with bad intention.
I would give her what she wanted but first she had to see me, truly see me for what I was and what she would become. Closing my eyes, I allowed my hunger to rise. Blood lust tightened my jaw, made my hands tremble. The invisible voices around us gathered and babbled louder as I felt savage teeth extend. I needed every thread of control to open my eyes and smile.
Eleanor gasped, her dark gypsy eyes going wide at the sight of me.
"Do you see your killer angel now?" I rasped in a voice I barely recognized.
Her "yes" came out on a puff of warm breath. Her voice shook. "Save me or kill me. I donít care."
At that point, neither did I.
Oh, how my sire Reedrek would have loved this. I could almost hear the echo of laughter from his silent, earthbound tomb. His self-righteous offspring doing the abominable to an innocent human, out of love. On some level Reedrek would feel the change caused by the making of Eleanor, the tweak of his power. But he was buried too deep to enjoy the new source. It would give his maggoty mind something delicious to contemplate. Weíd determined that rotting in hell was too good for my notorious sire. Better to have him completely powerless and alone in the constant darkexactly what heíd planned for Alger before being forced to kill him instead. Reedrek would remain awake but dead to this world. Buried under a constant supply of uncoerced bloodthe new state-of-the-art blood bank weíd built with charitable contributions. Just thinking of his impotence sent a warm feeling through my otherwise hate-frozen heart.
And now, here was my Eleanor to think of, she-who-must-be-obeyed. It took a special kind of person to know what they wanted, and then, to go about getting it. Eleanor wanted me. She also wanted absolute power over the men sheíd had to please through the years. And, she was willing to face death for the opportunity to have both. My honor rested on not disappointing her.
"Close your eyes," I whispered, knowing somewhere in my blood crazed mind that she would never forget this moment. Better to have merely pain to remember, rather than betrayal by one she loved.
As though we were already connected, she did as I asked but answered my whisper with her own. "I love you."
I sang a silent, dulcet song to her mind, calming, arousing, mesmerizing, as I lowered my face to within millimeters of her skin to draw in a long breath of her. She smelled of all things human; sun, heat, blood. I would miss those parts of her, but there were other things I would gain. My cool lips touched her fragrant skin in a farewell kiss. Then I bit down, hard, like a lion taking down a gazelle.
The sound of her gurgling scream echoed through the room, accompanied by pitying voices of lost spirits. She was closer to them now, than to me. Her spirit blinking in the dark, while her body writhed in my deadly embrace. As her hot, heart blood rushed into my mouth I began to lose focus. It had been so long since I had been filled. In one last act of love I shoved my hand down between her thighs and felt her body buck in orgasm. Pleasure for the pain. For my sweet, Eleanor...whose valiant heart beat grew fainter, slower, until it stopped altogether.
I kissed her pale cool lips before picking up a gold knife and cutting a vein in my wrist, using my ownour mingledblood to make the sign of the four winds.
Dear one, come back to me...now.
After an interminable few moments, she made a fearful, mewling sound. Something I would wager she had not done in waking life since childhood. I fought off a choking assault of guilt. She wanted this, had begged for this...
Wake up Eleanor. You are mine now. Come back.
With a shudder, her body rose from the table levitating upward then floated before me. I grasped a handful of her dark fall of hair as it swung free and brought it to my face.
Eleanor, sweet. Wake up.
She moaned, my name on her lips. I pressed her downward until her back touched the table, then replaced her sigh of surprise with my bloody wrist.
She opened her eyes wide, then smiled before licking at the blood. Her lips and mouth knew what to do. The oh-so-familiar sound of her sucking sent waves of greedy hunger under my skin transporting me back to other nights, other...pleasures. My cock stiffened to rock hard attention and in another moment I was locked into my own unexpected, jaw-clenching orgasm. The sucking continued along with the pleasure as I worked to remain standing. We were both gasping by the time I managed to pull away before sliding to the floor.
Here are the printouts you wanted," Werm said. He had a sheaf of papers in one hand and some kind of sticks in the other. "And the incense you asked for, from Spencerís at the mall."
All conversation among the irregulars had stopped as Otis, Rufus, Jerry, and Rennie took in the spectacle that was Lamar Nathan Von Werm. His silvery-white hair was gummed up into little icicle spikes all over his head. His black leather jacket was too big and boxy and his matching pants too tight. If that wasnít enough to get his ass kicked in most of the dives the irregulars hung out at when they werenít loitering in my garage, the eyeliner and black nail polish surely were.
"Boys, this hereís Werm," I said.
Rufus and Jerry sniffed the air, making Werm for a vampire immediately. Shapeshifters and vampires can always spot each other, or smell each other. Rennie, who was human, wouldnít have been able to tell that Werm was undead if I hadnít already warned him. Otis, who wasnít a shifter but wasnít completely human either, was looking at Werm like he was from the planet What-in-the-Sam-Hill-Are-You? Whether that was because he could tell Werm was a vampire, or because of the get-up, I had no idea.
I introduced the irregulars, who grunted their acknowledgments of Wermís presence but didnít offer to shake. I couldnít say as I blamed them. I hoped Werm grew out of his Goth phase pretty soon. Goths made excellent dinner guests, when they were the dinner so to speak. It was damned embarrassing to be seen with one on a regular basis though.
We were all standing around the card table where the boys had brought the items Iíd assigned them to pick up for me. Shopping is not easy for vampires. I donít always have time to get out to the all-night Walmart and besides, the flourescent lighting makes my skin look like I just stepped out of a wax museum. Makes the Wally-world Ďassociatesí a trifle nervous.
"Whatís that rusted out grill for, Otis?" I asked.
Otis had rolled in a waist-high charcoal grill, the old, round kind painted in black enamel. "Itís your altar," he said proudly. "You said you wanted something you could set up outside. You can burn your candles and incense in here without starting any brush fires."
"Youíre nothing if not practical," I said. "And if I get hungry I can always roast some wieners."
"Or some wiener dogs," Jerry suggested. He shrugged when nobody laughed. Nobody mentioned the "V" word at the garage, not even Rennie, whoíd known me longer than any human besides Mel. Jerry referred to my nature indirectly from time to time and Iíd let him live. So far. He placed on the table a pack of tea lights from Dollar Tree. "Nothing but the best for you, hoss."
"Thanks," I said. Jerry was tall and muscular, unlike Otis and Rufus, who were lanky and wiry. I could probably count on him in a fight, but Iíd never had to call on him to watch my back. I hoped I never had to, since for all I knew he might owe more allegiance to a pack leader somewhere than he did to me. He was big and strong but I doubted he was alpha.
Rufus said, "What is all this stuff for again?" Rufus was a shapeshifter too, although I had a feeling he was a different variety than Jerry. His ears werenít as pointy as Jerryís, but he never came around when the moon was full.
"Some voodoo ritual Williamís housekeeper wants me to do. Itís supposed to make me stronger or something."
"Iíve got to do one, too," Werm said proudly, "to develop my own natural strengths."
"Yeah, well, you look like you need all the help you can get, sissy boy," Jerry observed.
Werm reddened with anger, but he kept his mouth shut. I was sorry for the little whelp. He thought that becoming a vampire would make him an instant bad-ass. No such luck. Poor little bastard was probably still getting sand kicked in his face down at the beach of a night. Iíd made him swear not to bite humans, so he complained of being a vampire in name only. Still, it was better than him winding up in the city lockup with sunshine streaming through the windows until he was no-pink-on-the-inside, well done.
Werm put the incense on the card table with the items that the others had helped me gather up, in what amounted to a messed-up redneck scavenger hunt. Rennie got the list Melaphia gave me and ticked off each item with a pencil. White rum, cigars, cedar sprigs, the white candles, incense.
"Whoís got the food offering?" Rennie said and looked at the others over his coke-bottle-thick glasses.
Otis stepped forward with a small bag. "Itís a chicken leg from KFC," he said. "Extra Crispy."
"Iím an Original Recipe man myself," Rufus observed.
"Me too," Rennie agreed solemnly and handed the list over to me.
Jerry weighed in with an observation on the secret herbs and spices, and a debate broke out on the merits of pressure cooking versus slow roasting. While they were busy with their discussion, Werm sidled around the table and handed me the papers.
"And they think Iím a pussy," he muttered sullenly.
"Watch yourself," I said, folding the sheet Rennie handed me and stuffing it into the breast pocket of my chambray shirt to keep it separate from the other papers. "Three of them could probably eat you in a couple of bites and pick their teeth with your bones."
Werm must have thought I was speaking metaphorically because he only shrugged. "Why do guys like that always pick on me?"
I took the papers from him and began to scan them. "Have you looked in the mirror? Maybe itís the ear bobs."
"Why do they smell funny? And why did my fangs tingle when I got within smelling range?"
"Theyíre shapeshifters," I said. "Two of them anyway. I donít know about the other one. Thatís one of the things Iíve got to teach youhow to recognize other non-humans. Remind me." I glanced at the papers before folding them and sticking them into my back pocket.
"Shapeshifters?" Werm asked. "Youíre shitting me, right? I mean, like, werewolves?"
"Yeah. Like werewolves. Donít have a cow."
Werm stared at the irregulars with alarm. "Oh, man. How many other kinds ofof non-humans are there out there?"
"Lots. Listen, you chose this existence, remember? Your nice little sheltered human life is over. Youíre a creature of the night now, and youíve only traded one set of guys who can kick your ass for a whole different set of guys who can kick your ass. Only this time, theyíre not going to have baseball bats. Theyíre going to have long, pointy teeth. And youíre going to have to learn to deal or die. Welcome to the dark side, pal."
Werm let this sink in, nodded, and drew himself up. Despite his appearance, the kid had heart. And brains. If he kept his nose clean, I actually thought he had a chance to survive. For a while at least.
Changing the subject, Werm asked, "Why did you want to know about Mayans?"
"Never you mind." Iíd asked Werm to run an Internet search on the Loa Legba who Mel had directed me to pray to, and a separate one for anything Werm could find out about Mayan goddesses. Right now I needed the voodoo lowdown to come up with my own spirit ceremony. The stuff on Connie Iíd go over later in private.
"You run on along and pray to that herb god or whatever it is that Melaphia told you about."
He brightened a little. "The god of really secret herbs and spices. Iíve got some pretty good weed I can burn as an offering, maybe even get a good contact high. But first let me see how you do your ritual. Then Iíll know more how to do my own."
I started to tell him to shove off, but I already felt guilty for not having the time to teach him any more vampire stuff than I had. Heíd just gotten a rude introduction to shapeshifters because I hadnít taken the time to prepare him for other creatures that went bump in the night.
"Follow me." I swept the items on the table into the grill, replaced the cover and rolled the whole thing right past the fast-food argument and out the back door of the garage. I settled the grill onto a nice flat spot
"First things first," I said. "I screwed the top off the bottle of rum and threw it aside. "Hereís to the Loa Legba," I announced and passed the bottle to Werm.
He sniffed it in a prissy fashion and said, "Donít you want me to get us some Coke to drink this with?"
"Son, that would be the ruination of two good drinks. Youíre a vampire now, a tough guy. Drink like one."
Werm glanced at me doubtfully and took a snip. He busted into a prolonged coughing fit and handed the bottle back to me, glad to get rid of it.
Werm opened the package of candles while I bit the end off the cigar Jerry had brought and spat it into the dirt. I lit it off one of the candles and drew on it until I got it going real good. Then, while Werm was lighting all the candles, I tried to remember what Melaphia had told me to do. The first thing that came back to me when I thought about the meeting was the look on Williamís face when heíd kissed Eleanorís hand.
Hell-fire and damnation. I took another long swig of the rum, feeling the burn all the way down into my guts. I had completely chickened out of telling William about Oliviaís discovery of Dianaís existence. But how could I tell him? In the days since Eleanorís making, heíd been a different man, er, vampire. His mood was more up-beat than Iíd ever seen it. Heíd even been patient with Werm at the meeting. If that didnít signal a sea change in Williamís attitude toward the universe I didnít know what did.
He was. . . happy.
I marveled at the thought. "William" and "happy" didnít belong in the same sentence, but it was right there in his eyes. How could I tell him something that was going to make his world fall apart? But I had toto save myself. What was the rush, though? Diana and William had been separated for hundreds of years. What would another few daysí difference make? If I thought about it long enough a solution would come to me, surely. I took at long draw on the bottle as if the answer to my problem was at the bottom.
I drew the papers out of my pocket and handed them to Werm, who began to read about the Loa Legba by the light of the candles. "It says here that he is the great phallic deity."
"Iíll drink to that," I said. "Thatís what the gals down at Eleanorís used to call me, not in so many words, you understand." I raised the bottle high in salute and took still another drink. "To Loa Legba! My man! He can throw it over his shoulder like a continental soldier." In my rapidly inebriated state, the words "shoulder" and "soldier" turned into a mouthful of slurred mush, making Werm giggle.
"Have you fed tonight?" Werm asked, taking the bottle from me.
Werm screwed up his face, took a drink, and screwed up his face again. "No." Werm swayed a little as he handed the bottle back to me and peered at the papers again. "The words are trying to swim away from my eyeballs. Hey, I didnít know vampires could get drunk."
"You bet your ass we can." I took another drink. "Over the fangs and through the gums."
Werm looked up at me in wonder. "Coooool," he slurred. He stared at the words as if he was trying to interpret hieroglyphics. "It says that the Loa Legba appears as an old man with a cane and a sack, and that heís the guardian of the gateway."
"What gateway is that?"
"The one from one world to another." Thatís all it says. My inkjet cartridge ran out. He shrugged. "Sorry."
"Thatís okay. Iíve got the prayer Melaphia wrote down for me right here." I took the paper with the list on it out of my shirt pocket and turned it over to the back side. Melaphiaís neat handwriting looked like gibberish. Some of the words were foreign and even though sheíd spelled them out phonetically, I still could only make sense of a few of them here and there. I was going to have to wing it. What could go wrong?
"Okay, gramps. This oneís from the heart," I said. I handed the bottle to Werm, who took another drink, nodded approvingly and handed it back. I raised the bottle and sprinkled a healthy shot or so over the altar.
"Uh, I salute you. I honor you. And I ask you to" I stared at the paper again. "Open the gateway. Yeah, thatís right, and I guess Iím supposed to ask you to make my natural vampire powers even stronger."
"I think thatís the key," Werm said sagely. "Thatís what Willyum and MelaMelaphMel said."
"Yeah," I said. I set the bottle down and made a sweeping gesture toward the other items on the grill. "All this stuff here is for you. The candles, the cedar, the incense, the chicken. So open that old gateway of yours and let the sun shine in." I snickered. Maman Lalee help me, but I did.
"We didnít know if you liked Original Recipe or Extra Crispy," Werm said and busted into a giggling fit.
I let the papers fall and grabbed onto Wermís shoulder for support, but we both collapsed, braying with laughter like a couple of jackasses. "Hey," Werm said. "Maybe you should see if you can fly now."
"Fly, hell, I can barely stand up." I snorted with laughter again and Werm shrieked with it.
We were laughing so hard we didnít feel the change in the atmosphere until the candles began to flicker. The wind had shifted but there was something more. Something unnatural was in the air. Something unwholesome and thick with decay. Iíve said it before and Iíll say it again. When a vampire gets creeped out, well, letís just say itís messed up. Seriously messed up.
Werm felt it too. We stopped laughing at the same instant. We had both been doubled over, and at that level our vision had been clouded by the smoke from the burning incense and flickering candles. We straightened up slowly, and when we did, we had a clear view of the relatively fresh earth a few feet away from us, and it was shifting. My super-sensitive hearing picked up a scrabbling noise underground
We were both silent for a moment, and then Werm said, "Jack, whatís that? Itís coming from that bare patch of dirt over there." Heíd heard it too.
My boozy brain was trying to clear itself. "You mean that patch of dirt about the size of a Chevy Corsica?"
Werm just looked at me, not understanding. I didnít want to understand either, but I was beginning to all the same.
"Werm, help me think. What did we just ask that voodoo spirit for? What did we ask him for exactly?"
"Wewe asked him to make your vampire powers even stronger. Why? What was wrong with that?"
Werm was still staring at me, so he didnít see the mottled hand burst out of the ground, grasping at the chill night air in the Savannah moonlight.
A little while back, my evil grand-sire, Reedrek, made a big show of murdering my friend and employee, Huey. The poor little simple-minded fellow had the misfortune of being at the wrong place at the wrong time, and, long story short, kind of got gutted like a trout. Since we didnít want to get the police involved and since Huey didnít have any family, we decided to bury him behind the wheel of his beloved Chevy with a beer in his hand.
Now as Iíve explained before, I have what youíd call an affinity for the dead, even beyond the fact that I are one, as the old joke goes. I can barely walk through a cemetery without the passed-on wanting to get all chatty. In short, ghosts love me. In fact, Huey had visited me once after he died, here in the garage, just to let me know that he was doing well in the afterworld. Then he went about his business. That was fine and dandy.
What stood before Werm and me was not a ghost. It was a zombie. It was a full-bore Night-of-the-Living-Dead walking corpse. It was Huey in the flesh, you might say. The mottled, rotting, putrid, flesh.
Werm walked stiffly to a clump of bushes and retched quietly.
It didnít take a rocket scientist to figure out what had happened. My powers where the dead were concernedthose that were previously limited mostly to communicationhad blossomed into full-fledged corpse-raising re-animation. Yes, indeed. Thanks to a well-hung voodoo deity, I was now the proud owner of a bouncing baby zombie. Ask and ye shall receive.
Huey raised his hand, one of the ones heíd clawed his way out of the earth with. "Hey, Jack."
Werm appeared at my side. "Thatís Huey?"
"Thatís him. Huey, this is Werm."
"Hey, Huey," Werm said wanly. "Jack, I think I know what mustíve"
"Yeah, me too."
Werm and I walked back into the garage, Huey shuffling along behind us. The regulars were playing cards now, like they did most nights. Jerry, whoíd brought the cigars for the ritual, had evidently come with enough for everybody, because there they sat, puffing away and sipping their beers as pretty as you please. Because Werm and I had come in ahead of him, they didnít notice Huey until he sat down at his regular place at the table.
What little action there was at the table froze solid, as if, ironically, the living men had gone into suspended animation and only the dead man showed any signs of life. The only movement they displayed was the downward trajectory of their cigars as they hung limply from the corners of their mouths.
For a moment I was reminded of that famous old painting of the dogs playing poker. Thatís how still they were, as still as the dogs in the painting, until Huey grinned, showing a mouthful of greenish teeth and rotting gums.
"Deal me in, boys," he said.
© Raven Hart