Out in the dark, a trio of killers celebrate Halloween in the vampire tradition. To them, Trick or Treating involves naming costumes, refereeing valid targets, and verifying kills. The vampires in my Void City books do not sparkle, and Eric is anything but a classic hero. Nevertheless, he might just rise to the occasion in this fun short story... You'll have to read to find out, but don't start here. In the spirit of trick or treating and going from house to house for candy, I've decided (on the spur of the moment, really) to serialize a Halloween tale, posting different sections (as I write them) on various blogs. How many parts will there be? I have no idea, but I do promise this: The story will be done and all the sections posted by Halloween Night.
Part 1 can be found over at Paranormal Haven (along with a contest that runs through 10/27/2010 at 11:59 pm cst)
Part 2 is located at Pocket After Dark (where you can also read STAKED, the first Void City novel, online for free for the next week or so... as well as the first few chapters of ReVAMPED, and the short story “For Want of Chocolate”.)
A Void City Halloween - Part 3
©J. F. Lewis
My silver space boots are made for walking (at best), but I'm running. Running toward the sound of a child’s scream. It's not the sound of a kid who dropped his ice cream, it’s the sound of absolute terror, terror beyond an adult’s comprehension. If I had to guess, I'd say it belongs to a boy, maybe eight or nine years old.
My conscience is like an old bone worried by toothless dog. It takes a lot to make an impression, but there’s just no way I can ignore this feeling. There’s sharp pang of anxiety high and tight in my chest, but also low and thrumming in my gut. I guess human men might call what I'm feeling The Daddy Switch, but whatever it's called, I hate it.
It’s time to give Void City a refresher course in Don’t-Annoy-Eric-ology. I’m angry, ornery, and damn hard to kill… and that means I get to make my own rules, at least about some things. Everybody in Void City is supposed to know to stay away from me, away from my home, away from my business… and on Halloween, they’re supposed to make sure the kids stay safe. I don’t care how many adult humans die. Kids stay safe. It’s all a part of my non-aggression pact with this god forsaken town.
I glimpse it on my right as the world blurs around me from the vampirically enhanced rate of speed I'm traveling. My powers can be finicky, but they seem to work better with Fang nearby. He's my memento mori. Normally, I can kind of explain what that means a little, but not now. Now, I'm busy and not thinking straight.
I feel the flame before I see it. A long jet of fire engulfs me and all I can think is: Did a fricking pumpkin just breathe fire on me?
Tendrils of lovely bright flame wash over my face, torching my hair and setting the red cloth of my costume alight. It stings like a bitch and the way it grabs my skin and clings spells magic. It's supposed to stop me, make me stop-drop-and-roll. Instead, I pop my claws and lunge blindly at the source of the flames, bulling onward. My eyes cook in their sockets and I go blind, but in my head, the screams of the anonymous little boy have begun to sound like Greta's screams, the night terror kind that I'd hear in the night for years after I rescued her from her foster dad. They'd send me running down the hall to her bedroom where I'd rock her back to sleep. It's like I'm in that hallway again, only I haven't killed this monster yet.
My claws pass through something cold and immaterial, almost like a ghost, but not quite... and I know what ghosts feel like. All Emperor level vampires like me have technically risen as two kinds of undead at once… it takes massive amounts of weirdness like curses, magic, bad luck, and murder combined to make that happen. I rose as a revenant - an angry ghost, after being murdered by my best friend- while a family curse simultaneously turned me into a vampire. It's a weird death I'm living.
I swing two more times, feinting low then high. The boy isn't screaming anymore, but I think I hear his heartbeat. Then it stops. And I roar, striking out wildly. I smell meat and blood and burnt flesh, then my claws connect with something cold and wet, but warm on inside. There's a dull hollow sound as I give it a glancing blow, then the liquid rip of a shredded gourd as I get in a solid claw. A scent like rotten fruit suddenly overpowers the scent of fear. My hands are wet and cool. It feels like I've smashed a rotten pumpkin.
The fire loses its hold and in minutes I'm whole again, staring down through regenerated eyes at a fist full of black and orange pumpkin innards, the stringy light orange strands hanging down from my claws. On the ground, the smoking remains of a pair of kid's tennis shoes seem to glare up at me from the sidewalk alongside a green candle. I feel like Brad Pitt at the end of Se7en shouting, "What's in the box?” but I know. I'm too late.
Tabitha and Greta are at my side.
"Did you see it?" I ask.
"I saw something," Tabitha offers, "like a flaming Jack-o-lantern, but-"
Another scream. A new one. A little girl scream. Then Talbot's at my side too.
"I take it we object to whatever is killing the children?" Talbot looks at me, intently trying to make sure I understand that he really wants an answer.
I show him my fangs.
"I'll take that as a 'yes'."
"Greta," I point past the frue-frue of an upscale restaurant that used to be an Original Pancake House, toward the source of one of the new screams, "Evil Fire-breathing Pumpkin thing. Find it. Kill it. Do not eat the kid."
She's off like a shot without a pause or any questions, a smile on her face and afraid of nothing. That's my girl.
"Tabitha," I point back the way we came, toward Morne Park, "Same deal. Take Fang if you want."
"Why can't I take Talbot?" she asks.
"Because I need Talbot. Call your sister and tell her and Magbidion to get their magical asses down here in case we can't kill these damn things with brute force."
"Fine." She trudges off. I shake my head.
Talbot is smiling at me like I just turned into Santa Claus for kitty cats. Then, I hear the little girl scream again. The revelers around us don't appear to hear her. Several of them are staring at me, making comments about what drugs I'm on and how drunk I must be. I wonder what the Veil of Scrythax is actually letting them see.
"You go ask Captain Stacey, 'What the hell?'"
"Exactly that?" Talbot chuckles.
"Yes, exactly that."
He doesn't move. "Mork calling Orson," I say, "Come in Orson. What are you frick'n waiting on, man." I’m sure it's the remains of the costume I'm wearing that has the phrase in my head, and I know I look and sound silly, because Talbot's smile broadens so much I'm afraid the skin will tear.
"That," he says as he turns and heads for Stacey's squad car.
I start to run toward the scream I've assigned myself, but suddenly my speed won't kick in. I give up on it and let myself begin to change. If I can't go super-speed, then I'll just have to wing it. Vampires can change shape. Some of us can only do animals. Some, like Winter and Lord Phillip, can turn into mist. I'm the only vampire I know who can go uber vamp, though I’ve been told that any Emperor can.
Black wings rip out of my back as my body grows in height and girth. A color wave of coal blackness washes over me. My clothes go away and my fangs and claws extend. Once upon a time, changing into the uber vamp made feel bloated, like a balloon filled with too much water, but now it feels normal. When I'm finished, I bear a striking resemblance to Chernabog, the massive demon from the "Night on Bald Mountain" sequence of Disney's Fantasia only my eyes glow purple, and I'm way more detailed, and... anatomically correct.
The crowd applauds. They think it's a frick'n costume. Their heartbeats ring in my ears more loudly than the applause and I remember that I haven't fed. It would be so easy to unleash my frustration on the crowd and drink my fill, but I hear the girl again and push the thoughts of blood away. It can wait a little longer. I mean the little girl's got have a grown up with her to be out so late. Maybe her guardian’s wearing a Sexy Big Bird costume.
What? I said I don't hurt kids. I didn't say anything about not making orphans out of them.
When I spread my wings and fly, the applause almost drowns out the little girl I'm trying to save. In the distance, the "Airwolf Theme" plays on Fang's radio as I take to the air. The view from higher up isn't what I'd hoped. I see the little girl. She's got to be thirteen. Maybe that's what's kept her alive long enough for multiple screams. She's dressed in a costume I don't recognize, but I'd bet it's from an anime. It's some sort of Japanese school girl outfit and she has orange ribbons in her hair.
The thing chasing her is orange too, a Jack-o-lantern with a jagged fire-filled maw, sitting atop a body that looks as if it might be made of equal parts smoke and shadows. Worst of all, as I continue to gain altitude, I spot Greta's monster, Tabitha's and more besides. There aren't just three of these things. It looks more like a dozen. I could go home, go to another part of town to Trick or Treat… forget all about these kids. Thirteen is really a teenager and not a kid. I should walk away, but I can't. Greta looked like a teen when she was nine.
Okay, I really can’t. Why the hell can't the evil pumpkins things be hunting college kids?