Alan and Oroitz
(Tuesday, 4:00 am)
My phone rang while I was busy soldering. I sighed and put down the iron before picking up my phone. “Hello?” I asked, swivelling my chair away from the pile of computer parts that covered my desk.
“Alan? It’s Oroitz. Can I come over? I need you to help me consult on something.” He sounded pretty lucid, so I guessed he hadn’t been casting too many spells by that point.
“You sure?” I said as I started digging in the bag of cheetoes. “My line of work and yours don’t really cross paths too often. I’m all about the internet creepy crawlies, you’re about the Lovecraft stuff.”
“Christ, I have to get some new friends.”
“Look, there’s an entity that’s moving through the internet and I need your help to track it down.”
“Yeah, yeah,” I said. I picked up the soldering iron again. “Go ahead and come over.”
Oroitz was at my apartment a half hour later, picking his way around the various piles that I tend to accumulate. He looked like he wanted to comment on it but I’ve seen his house and it’s about ninety percent notebooks. Glass houses and stones.
Instead he pointed at the parts on the table “What’s all that?”
“New laptop,” I said while sitting in my chair and rolling it in front of my computer. “My old one blew up, remember?”
“Sort of,” Oroitz looked over my shoulder at the screen. “Are you going to help me?”
“Yeah,” I said, spinning my chair around to face the screen. I opened up a search engine. “Most of the time with things spreading through the internet they’ll leave some sort of trail. Do you know what this thing calls itself?”
“It doesn’t really have a name for itself. I have come across some old texts that refer to it as ‘the Man of the Willows’.”
I kind of wish I’d been drinking something at the time. It would have been the perfect time for a spit take. “Do you mean the Willow Man?”
Oroitz shrugged, “It could be translated that way I suppose. Why, have you heard of it?”
I typed “the Willow Man” into Google and pressed enter. Then I pointed to the number that came up. It said, “About 69,000,000 results.”
“Yeah,” I said, “it might have come up once or twice.”
Eyes widening, Oroitz leaned forwards and looked at the screen. “What is all of this?”
I gestured to the screen like a Price is Right presenter. “It’s the Willow Man Mythos.”
“Your monster is an internet celebrity.” I clicked open a few links in tabs. “I thought for a while that there might be something to all of this, but there’s just so much stuff on it out there and I know that most of it is just people writing ghost stories… It’s a needle and haystack scenario.”
“Well you’re about to meet a couple of needles. Two kids that are on the run from this thing contacted me. You’re going to help me talk to them.”
“Uh, are you sure that they aren’t just messing with you? I get that all the time.”
He shook his head, “I checked. Did a basic psychic read on them. They’re definitely being followed by something very big.”
“Alright…” I said as I looked back at the tabs I had opened up on the screen. “I guess I could come along but I don’t know how much good I can do. It’s not like there’s a lot of information on this… What is it anyways? Just about every account I’ve ever read of it has contradicted every other account. All these stories out there and none of them seem to agree with each other.”
Oroitz shrugged and started towards the door. “You’re on the same page as me then. The section on this thing in the Book is even harder to translate than usual. It might be a god, a vengeful spirit that got juiced up somehow, or even something from outside of our dimension of existence.”
“Ok,” I said, getting up from the chair and grabbing my phone off of my desk. “So if we don’t know anything how are we supposed to help these people?”
“We’ll try our best. What else can we do?”
We met the two kids at a Denny’s which was thankfully free of the drunken college kids that usually fill it up around five am. There was a young man and a young woman. They kept glancing at each other and out of the windows. Oroitz had let the two of them order whatever they wanted so they were pigging out on a few lumberjack slams. They’d introduced themselves as John and Jamie, who knows if those were their real names.
I knew that they were telling the truth as soon as I saw them. The pale skin, the dark, hollow eyes that could only come with repeated sleepless nights. All coupled with the sheer sense of desperation that was printed over their features.
“So,” said Oroitz, “you called saying that you need my help?”
John glanced out the window. “Who’s he?” he asked, looking in my direction.
“I’m Alan,” I said. “Oroitz tells me that you’ve had an… encounter with the Willow Man.”
John slumped in his chair, “It’s sounds stupid when you say it out loud. It’s supposed to be some stupid internet meme…”
“Yeah, welcome to my world.”
Jamie started staring at me. “Alan…” she said.
“I swear I’ve seen you somewhere before.”
I suddenly took an extreme interest in my eggs. “I don’t think so.”
“You’re not Alan Wieckowski, are you? Doctor Alan Wieckowski?”
Oroitz stared at me, “Doctor?”
“Another life,” I said, wiping my mouth.
“Anyways…” John said, “you two can help us right?”
“I might be able to,” said Oroitz, “there’s a ritual that we could perform that could confuse… it. I’ll need some time to pick a few things up, do you have some place to stay?” they nodded. “Alan should go with you, just to make sure that things go smoothly.”
The two kids looked a bit wary at that. Probably force of habit, they’d been on the run for too long to start freely giving out information like where they were staying. I had to say that I wasn’t too thrilled either, if only because it increased my chances of having to tangle with something that could very well be a god. And if it was, I wasn’t too certain about that lower case “g”.
“Look,” I said, “if anything goes wrong I’m your best chance.” I honestly didn’t know if that was true, but they seemed to accept it. We paid for our food and left, Oroitz pulling me aside once we were outside.
“Look, if things go bad? Call me and run. Don’t try to fight it, just run.”
“Well running was my plan all along,” I said, “so it’s good to know we’re on the same wavelength.” I paused for a second, thinking. “What are the odds of this ceremony of yours working?”
Oroitz glanced to the side, checking to see if John and Jamie were listening, but they seemed to be having their own private conversation. “About one in fifty, at best.”
My mouth hung open, “Are you telling me we’re risking our lives for a fucking two percent chance of helping these people?”
“It’s a better chance than they had.” Oroitz gave me a sad look and then walked off towards his truck.
I watched him go and then walked back over to John and Jamie. “Right,” I said, “we should go.”
We drove most of the way back to their hotel in silence. John and Jamie were constantly peeking out of the window, looking down the alleys between buildings and into darkened windows. Eventually it got to be too much. “So,” I said, “you want to talk about how all of this started?”
John, who was driving, looked over his shoulder and swallowed. It was Jamie who spoke up. “It was last year. I started reading about it online, you know… about the…”
“About the Willow Man.” I said. John tensed up a bit but Jamie nodded.
“Yeah, the Willow Man.” She took out a pack of cigarettes, “Do you mind?”
I shrugged. With the lifestyle I lead I’ll be able to count myself as lucky if I die from second-hand smoke.
Jamie lit up a cigarette and said. “I was the one that got into it at first. Looking up stories on the internet, watching videos. Then I got John into it, a few months later I started seeing it for real.” She puffed on her cigarette for a second and said, “You’re supposed to be an expert on this right?”
I stopped myself from nodding. “Not on this specifically.”
“But you’ve dealt with these sorts of things, right?”
“What does it want?”
I hesitated. “I can’t answer that, nobody can. Some monsters it’s simple, zombies want flesh, vampires want blood…”
“Wait,” said John, “Vampires?”
I sighed, “Yes, vampires exist. Try to keep up.”
Jamie looked at me like I was insane for a moment and then her face grew serious again. “You were saying?”
“Right, other… creatures are more obtuse. The Willow Man is a good example of that. It just doesn’t have human motivations.”
“So what?” said John. “He’s just plain evil?”
“Again, human standards. You just can’t apply them to it, not if you want to understand it.” I looked out the window. All this talk was getting me worried and I found myself checking the shadows. “Besides, that’s not really what you want to know, is it?”
They were both silent for a second until Jamie said, “Well, yeah. I mean, so many people look at those stories and watch those videos, or hell even make them. So why us?”
I shrugged, “I think it’s just that you noticed it, and it noticed that you noticed it.” The cigarette smoke was driving me crazy and I found myself reaching for a pack that I had thrown away a long time ago. I hated not knowing what I was up against, I really preferred to let Oroitz handle these cases.
We parked the car and got out in front of a cheap motel. I looked around, “You didn’t rent a place in the north side of town did you?”
“Yeah,” John asked, “why?”
“Well you know all those other monsters that you didn’t know about?” I glanced around, the parking lot was a sickly orange under the street lights. “If you stay here long enough you’ll learn about them the hard way.”
John and Jamie looked around for a second and then started hurrying up the stairs and into the hotel. “You could protect us, right?”
I laughed, “Fuck no, I have another friend that deals with all that shit.” I chuckled a bit more to myself before I realised that this probably wasn’t very reassuring. We got to their room and the keys clicked in the lock. “But, you know, I’d try my best.”
They locked the door and did up the security chain the moment we were in the room. John brushed past me and into the bathroom. I looked around and frowned, “Two beds?” I asked Jamie.
“I just thought… two young people… on the run. Well, you know.”
“Yeah, John’s tastes don’t exactly trend towards that direction.”
“Ah,” I said, sitting down on one of the beds. “Still, I think you two could save some money…”
There was a scream from the bathroom. Jamie was up and running before I’d even registered what was going on. She started pounding on the bathroom door, screaming “John! John!”
I ran up beside her and tried to force the door open. The knob turned like the door wasn’t locked, but something on the other side was stopping me. I reached for my cell phone, hoping that maybe I could throw some kind of magic at this problem, when the door opened all on its own.
John was gone, what stood there was… If you’d seen the pictures online you might have thought you were ready. I wasn’t.
It was a too tall too thin parody of the human form. Cold, dead, and perfectly black eyes that stared at me out of an otherwise featureless face, arms that ended with too many fingers that were twisted like tree roots. I turned and ran, grabbing Jamie by the arm and sprinting to the door.
I unlocked the door and tried to open it, only for it to catch on the security chain. I swore and looked behind me. The Willow Man was standing in the doorway to the bathroom, not moving, just watching.
Jamie had started to scream something but I couldn’t hear, there was a faint buzzing in my ear that seemed to be drowning out all other noise. I finally managed to undo the security chain and rushed outside, dragging Jamie behind me. We raced down the steps of the motel and to Jamie and John’s car.
It wasn’t until I got to the car that I realised the John had had the keys. I looked up, the Willow man was standing on the balcony above us, looking down. Jamie started running the instant before I did.
We stopped I don’t know how many blocks later, doubled over and panting. I looked up at Jamie, her eyes staring into the distance, unblinking. “He took him,” she said, “after all these months of running he just took him. Why? Was it because we contacted you?”
There was no accusation in her voice, just a plea for understanding. I wished I could help her. I looked down to my hand and realised that I had been carrying my phone this entire time. I punched in Oroitz’s number and listened to it ring.
“Hello?” he answered.
“Oroitz… you still remember what’s going on?”
“Yeah, yeah I’ve been keeping track.”
I stayed quiet for a moment. “Oroitz, it got John.”
“What? Alan what are you talking about.”
“The Willow Man Oroitz, the fucking Willow Man. It turned up in their motel room and it just… took him.” I leaned back against one of the nearby buildings.
There was a long stretch of silence from Oroitz, “Where are you now?”
I sighed, “I don’t know. Here,” I pressed a few buttons on my phone, “I just sent you a spell that should lead you right to my phone.”
“Hm,” said Oroitz, “neat.”
“Yeah,” I said. “We’re going to find somewhere to hole up. Do you have what you need for the ritual?”
“Yes… I’ll get there as fast as I can. Do you think I should call Flora and Miranda?”
“What the hell are they going to do, shoot it? No, they’re better off not knowing.”
I thought for a moment, spying what looked like a warehouse. “I’m going to hole up. Get here as fast as you can.” I hung up and grabbed Jamie by the wrist. “Come on.”
She yanked her hand back. “Shut up,” she said, “just shut up and give me a moment.”
I looked around, I didn’t like being this exposed. Especially not in the north side, and that was when I didn’t have eldritch abominations nipping at my heels. I grabbed Jamie’s shoulders, “Look I know… I know that this is some seriously fucked up shit. I get that, but you need to come with me.”
“I just lost a friend, I knew John forever. I just… Do you know how that feels?”
“Yes,” I said, forgetting where I was for a second. “I know, I know how that feels but we have to keep moving.”
She looked at me for a second and then gave a small nod. We jogged across the street to the warehouse, it was padlocked but rusted enough that a bit of work with a rock was enough to get us in.
It was dark inside so I turned the flashlight on my phone on. We checked the warehouse to make sure that it was empty and then settled down near the door.
Jamie looked away from me after a bit. I pretended not to notice that she was crying. After a while she said, “It’s all pointless.”
“Oh hey,” I said, sliding across the floor towards her. “Don’t talk like that.”
“Well it is isn’t it?” She sniffed, not bothering to hide that she was crying again. “I’m running from this thing and now I know that its not even the only monster out there. If I survive this thing then what? I just try to hide from the next monster and the next?”
“No, look,” I said. “It’s not like that. There’s a whole network of people like me. We deal with this stuff every day.”
“And where were you for the past six months? You can’t be everywhere Alan.” She was quiet for a long time. After a while though she said, “These monsters, all this magic and stuff, is that why you left MIT?”
“I don’t talk about why I left MIT.” I reached for the pack of cigarettes that still wasn’t there. Frustrated, I pulled out my phone and called Oroitz again. It rang once, and then the signal grew garbled and choppy. I looked at the screen and frowned at the lost call display. My phone doesn’t even use a cell phone network. I could call someone from the moon with it.
“Alan,” Jamie said, drawing my attention to the shadows at the back of the warehouse. I saw it there. Too tall, too thin.
Jamie stood up and took a step towards it. “What are you doing?” I said, trying to will myself to stand. My legs felt like they were made of lead.
She looked back at me with empty eyes. “I’m tired of running Alan, and I can’t do it without John.”
“No!” I yelled, finally finding my feet and starting towards her. Suddenly my knees buckled under me and I started coughing. Big, shaking coughs that shook my whole body and brought the taste of blood to my mouth.
I managed to pick myself up and look ahead just in time to see…
God damn it. Look, I don’t want to tell this part of the story alright? The Willow Man reached out and… she had to have died.
She had to have died.
I ran after that. I ran out of the warehouse and down the street, constantly seeing that thing out of the corner of my eye. I don’t know how far or for how long I ran, just blind panic and terror carrying me through a night where it was starting to lightly snow. I remember that I finally stopped when I was racing down an alley, I slipped on something and just didn’t have the strength to get back up.
I looked up and saw two dark eyes above me, reflecting light. I felt something angry bubble up in me, “Oh… just do it you ignorant sack of puss.” I leaned over to the side and spat, “I hope you choke on me.”
To my utter bafflement and joy the black eyes retreated from me in shock as the Willow Man straightened. Then I suddenly heard a familiar voice say, “Alan?”
The black eyes that I had thought were the Willow Man’s moved as Flora lifted her gas mask off of her head. I started laughing before I fainted.
I woke up on a sofa somewhere. I knew I couldn’t be in my apartment because my couch had long since become a combination hamper and workbench.
I looked around and saw the piles upon piles of notebooks that filled the place and realised that I had to be in Oroitz’s house. There was a clinking of dishes and I sat up to see Oroitz approaching with two mugs of something steaming.
He gave a slight acknowledgement that I’d woken up and then handed me one of the mugs. “Coffee,” he said, “black.”
I slurped it greedily, not caring that it scalded my tongue. “What happened?”
Oroitz looked at me for a long time before saying, “Flora found you, she also found the Willow Man.”
“Oh God, is she all right? Is she…”
“She’s fine, fortunately she knew to run and call me.” He sipped his coffee. “I was able to perform the cleansing ritual on you, it worked. The Willow Man will not be bothering you any more.”
Something started burning behind my eyes. “I couldn’t save them Oroitz. That thing just brushed by me and took them apart and it was all I could do to survive.”
“I know.” Oroitz put a hand on my shoulder.
I sat my coffee down on the table and stood up. “I need to go,” I said. “I need to go and get to work.”
“Alan,” Oroitz said, “don’t blame yourself for this.”
“I know, I don’t. But I want to be able to save the next ones.”
Oroitz looked at me over his coffee. “Don’t let this consume you Alan. There’s nothing you could have done. There are some things that you need to learn to let go.”
I shook my head, “Not this, never this.” I walked out of Oroitz’s house and started home. Like I’d said, I had work to do.
Miranda and Flora
(Wednesday 7:00 pm)
I’m looking in the mirror, my arms crossed across my chest. “I’m calling Miranda,” I say, “I’m telling her she’s on her own on this.”
Calla chuckles a bit from the loveseat behind me. “Really.”
“There’s probably nothing to worry about. Just some rich guy getting paranoid.”
Standing up, Calla puts her hands on my shoulders. “You look fine,” she says.
I let my arms relax and evaluate myself in the mirror. The black, strapless dress hangs on me like a sack of potatoes, despite what Calla says. I take a few experimental steps and sigh, “I won’t be able to fight in this. I’ll barely be able to run.”
Calla turns me around and kisses me. “It’s fine Flora. Like you said, this is probably nothing so the worst that can happen is that you spend an evening at some rich guy’s Hallowe’en party.”
“Halloween,” I say, “people today like to pronounce it Halloween.”
“And I still have to check myself to not say All-Hallow’s-Eve. The point is that you don’t do this kind of thing often enough. So go out with your friend, have some fun, and keep your eyes open.”
She kisses me again and I rest my head on her shoulder. “Alright,” I say, “I’ll go and try to make nice with the rich people.”
Calla scoffs, “I wasn’t asking for a miracle.”
Whoever Miranda’s client is, he’s rented out a whole club for Halloween. I’ve stored a whole assortment of weapons and equipment in the trunk of my car, if Miranda is right I won’t need them, but paranoia is something that I personally consider a job requirement.
I walk up to a large doorman that looks uncomfortable in the evening cold. He has on a large jacket that will restrict his movements, but in my strapless dress I’m starting to envy him. “Name?” he asks.
“I don’t know if I’m on the list but it’s Flora Biancardi. I was supposed to help with security.” I pat my handbag nervously. It has a baretta 9mm, two grenades, and a TASER in it. If things go wrong I hope it will be enough to keep me alive until I can reach the rest of my arsenal in my car.
The doorman flips to the last page in his list. “Ah,” he says, “alright. Mr. Harman wanted to see you as soon as you arrived. If you go right to the back of the club to the VIP area, he should be waiting for you.
I nod and he opens the door for me to come through. I enter a hallway that I can hear the club’s music pounding through. There’s a door at the end of the hallway that I can see coloured lights come from underneath, the moment I open the door I’m assaulted by a world of colour and sound. People wildly dance in the center of the club while smaller groups clump together at the fringes. I try to weave around these and find the VIP area. This place is a security nightmare, a million places to hide and constant deafening noise.
A few idiots from the crowd complement me on my costume, it takes me until the third to realise that they are talking about my skin tone. After that I stop acknowledging them. After hopelessly searching around for what has to be five minutes I hear someone calling my name. The crowd seems to part as Miranda steps through. She’s wearing what looks like a bra made out of seashells and a pair of pants that look like they’re covered in scales with flaring fin-like protrusions at the ankles. I blink, “You came dressed as a mermaid?” I ask.
She laughs, “Well, I couldn’t resist. You, of course, didn’t dress up as anything.”
I shrug, “I’m already wearing a dress and that makes me feel like a cross dresser.”
Miranda laughs again and starts forwards to guide me through the crowd, she knows better than to take my hand. A few people bump up against me in the crowd and I grit my teeth and try to ignore it. Miranda looks a lot more comfortable in this situation, I get the impression that unlike me she might do this sort of thing for fun.
Eventually we make it through the club and I see a group of people sitting on a raised platform. “How did you find me in that mess?” I ask Miranda.
“What? Was I going to mistake you for the other albino in that crowd?” She smirks at me and then walks up to the guard in front of the VIP area. Everything from his stance to how bored he looks tells me that he’s not actually trained for this job, he waves Miranda and I through without a second glance. I pick out Miranda’s client in a second. His hair is slicked back and his suit could probably pay a years rent in one of my apartments.
This is why I don’t let people know exactly how much money I have. It seems that nobody believes that you have any money if you refuse to make a spectacle of yourself. He waves us over, most likely unaware that I could buy and sell him a dozen times over and says, “This is your friend?” to Miranda.
I look at him, “What do you need us for?”
Miranda puts her head in her hand and tries to hide a smirk. Her client frowns, “You know, most people don’t talk to me like that.”
“Most people don’t need my help.”
He grumbles a bit but hands me a folded piece of paper. Miranda steps forwards, giving one of her distracting smiles. It occurs to me that I’ve never actually seen someone bat their eyes before, but Miranda manages to pull it off and Mr. Hawthorn or Hacksaw or whatever his name was seems to forget about how rude I am.
I read the paper that he handed me and then reread it. “Are you sure that your ex-girlfriend isn’t simply insane?”
He looks at me like something that he’s scraped off of his shoe. I don’t really care. “Isn’t this what you two deal with?”
“Yes,” Miranda says, sitting next to Hammond. “But most people with your ex-girlfriend’s… condition tend to subsist mainly on donors.”
“If she even is a vampire.” I say, Miranda shoots me a look. Apparently Herman doesn’t like the V word being thrown around in front of his friends. But again, I don’t care. “Most vampires that I’ve ever met like to be dramatic about these things. It’s not common to see one say, ‘I’m a vampire now, me and my friends are coming to kill you on Halloween.” A few of the guests are giving me weird looks. I still don’t care.
“Look,” says Herbert, “I just need you here as some added security. Just mingle with my guests in case she tries anything.”
I shrug and start away from the VIP area. Miranda takes a few quick steps to catch up with me. “You know, there’s this thing called employee client relations that you might want to look up.” I give her a look, and then look away.
“Sorry, I know you have to make nice with your clients.”
She waves me off. “It’s alright, I probably won’t be getting any recommendations from this guy anyways. He spent most of our first meeting looking at my chest.”
I grunt a bit of sympathy. I’ve never had that happen to me personally, but I bet it’s horrible.
Hours pass and I try to block out the party and look for threats. It’s not as easy as it sounds, about half an hour in a few exotic dancers take up position on the raised platforms around the dance floor. They’re… lithe, but I manage to keep myself on task.
It has to be around nine o’clock when I spot something. I don’t even register it as a vampire at first, but his posture looks like he’s about to attack someone. Unfortunately the only person that’s standing near him is Miranda.
His hands stretch and his fingernails extend into long claws. He slashes them across Miranda’s back and she falls to her knees at the sudden pain. I’m about to leap to her defence when some sixth sense causes me to kick behind me and catch another vampire with her fangs fully extended in the center of her chest. She falls to the ground and I twist away to rush at the vampire that’s standing over Miranda.
The Club is in full panic mode at this point with people rushing for the exits only to find them blocked by yet more vampires. Because of this there isn’t much reaction when I take out my handgun and put two bullets into the vampire above Miranda’s face, stunning him long enough for me to get across the room and sweep his feet out from underneath him.
Miranda gets up and reaches into her bag to pull out a water bottle. She snaps open the lid and pulls the water inside out, letting it hover above her hand for a second before she puts an icicle into the vampire’s heart.
She falls back to her knees as the vampire turns to dust. I grab her shoulder and try to help her back to her feet but she waves me off. “I can heal myself,” she says, “just take care of the rest of these creeps.”
I nod, “Keep safe,” I say and start sprinting towards the nearest fire exit. I push through the crowd that the vampires are already trying to get under control. Three vampires are blocking the exit, laughing whenever someone gets close enough for them to slash at with their claws. I groan and grab one of the grenades from my bag, pull the pin, and toss it at them.
They have enough time to flinch before it starts to belch out a cloud of foul smelling chemicals that perfectly mimic the effect of garlic on vampires and, unfortunately, me. My eyes sting and I start to double over from the stomach cramps but I manage to muscle through it and get to the door. Besides, it isn’t anything compared to what the vampires that are rolling around on the ground are feeling.
People rush out of the club behind me. A few of them have their phones out, calling the police. That puts me on a time limit, either they get one of the dispatchers that isn’t clued in and they send a bunch of uninformed cops to their deaths, or they get one that is clued in and they’ll want to take out the entire night club in order to keep this situation under wraps. The only positive outcome for the people that are still in the club will be if I can destroy each and every vampire in there.
I reach my car and pop open the trunk, pulling out the bag that I’d packed back at my apartment. I pause and look at the people that are still running by before realising that now is not the best time to consider modesty and start to change my clothes.
Rebecca was having the time of her life. Every single person in this club was running from her, terrified at her new abilities. All except the woman in front of her. She crouched down in that stupid costume, hovering three balls of water in front of her. She’d already killed two of the other vampires, but as far as Rebecca could see she didn’t have any more water, and there were far more than three vampires left. Rebecca wouldn’t even be concerned with the… water witch or whatever she was, but she stood between her and Nathaniel.
“Give him up bitch,” Rebecca said, “I don’t have time to deal with you.”
The bitch began glancing around the club. “Mr. Harman, when I say so, run.”
Rebecca let herself have a long laugh at that, running her tongue across her fangs. “Run? And how is he going to get away, huh? We can outrun him, we can smell him.”
“What exactly did he do to you? Seriously, this is not a mature way to handle this situation.”
Rebecca spat, “He hated me. Always talking about me like I was some brainless trophy wife. Calling me stupid behind my back, just cause he had money, because he had power. Well now I have…”
The bitch groaned, “Oh lord beneath shut up! I wish I hadn’t asked now.”
“Why you…” Rebecca fumed. “You need to get it through your head just who you’re dealing with. Your little water balls can’t stand up to us, bitch.”
“Mr. Harman, start running in ten seconds.” The bitch looked at Rebecca with a smile.
“Hello? Have you been listening to a word I’ve been saying? We can track him wherever he goes.”
“Yeah, but it’s not really tracking him that you need to be worried about. It’s who’s going to be tracking you.”
I listen to most of the head vampire’s monologue, taking note of the human bodies on the floor. I sneak up behind the rearmost vampire and stand, watching and waiting for Miranda to give some kind of signal. Tensing my grip on the high calibre handgun that I hold in one hand and the machete that I hold in the other I wait.
Finally Miranda looks at me and gives a nod while saying, “It’s who’s going to be tracking you.”
I pull the pins on my remaining grenade and toss it into the centre of the group. The gas spreads but I’m wearing my gas mask now and protected. They panic, coughing and falling to the ground while swinging around wildly with their clawed hands. I lift my machete, swiping down and severing the nearest vampire’s head and lifting my other hand to fire at the vampires that are still standing after my initial attack.
I’m among them, slashing, shooting, killing. They crumble to dust around me as I wade through them wile delivering killing blows. Time becomes meaningless, it could be seconds or it could be hours before I’ve cut through enough of them to get to Miranda.
Hepburn is cowering behind her but the three remaining vampires have started to run. My shoulders slump, “I guess you were right about my having to chase them down.” I say to Miranda.
She falls to her knees, wincing. “I need to heal these cuts,” she says and just a glance in her direction shows that she’s right. The blood from her back has already soaked into her leggings. She spreads the water across her back and it solidifies into a sort of jelly that swiftly starts to turn red with blood. Harry is looking at both of us like we’re aliens. Even though he believed in all of this enough to hire the two of us, I’m guessing that this is the first time he’s ever seen any of it up close.
I wipe some stray dust off of my machete and say. “If we let them go they’ll just try this again.”
“Couldn’t we just report them to their nest?” Miranda asks as she sits in one of the VIP lounge chairs. She rubs some of the cocktail salt off of one of the drinks and rubs it on her tongue.
“I don’t think that they have one.” I sheath my machete and re-holster my Desert Eagle. “I think that a rogue turned Harvy’s ex and that she’s made her own little nest.”
“What are you two talking about?” Hillard gets up from the floor and sits next to Miranda.
“Rebecca,” Miranda says, “she’s not going away unless we get rid of her.”
I turn away and start walking to the doors. “Stick with him,” I tell Miranda, “this will all be over by morning.”
The house was drafty and the sound of water dripping was near constant. Rebecca sat on the couch, chewing her nails and looking around at the other two surviving vampires.
“What the hell was that thing?” said Carter, a large muscled and thick jawed man that Rebecca had recruited in exchange for breaking him out of prison. “How was it able to just tear through us like that?”
“Had to be that albino chick from the club, the one that kicked me.” said Nancy. She blinked her small green eyes and rubbed her chin again. Rebecca had found her in a drug induced coma on the street. She hadn’t even wanted to turn her, but Rebecca knew how to make the best of a bad situation.
There was a loud, hollow thump from the next room. The three of them stopped and listened. “Probably just the wind,” said Carter, “or the house settling.” Then there was a long scraping sound, like something metal being dragged across the wood. Carter swallowed.
“We should go check it out,” said Rebecca.
“You mean that you should go check it out.” said Nancy. “I’m staying right here.”
Rebecca looked at her and bared her fangs, “You are… Everything you are is because of me. You’re bound to me, understand?”
“I was, but in case you’re forgetting there used to be twelve of us. I don’t think you understand about how little I care any more.”
“Carter!” Rebecca said. “Go see what that noise was.”
He snorted, “Nah, I’m with Nancy. Go see what it was for yourself.”
The scraping came again. Now it was clear that whatever it was, it was being dragged across the wall of the adjacent room. Rebecca swallowed, this was stupid. She was a vampire, a nosferatu, she wasn’t supposed to be afraid of what was in the next room. What was in the next room was supposed to be afraid of her.
She brought out her fangs and her claws, making her slow way towards the darkened doorway. She could see perfectly well in the dark though, and as she sniffed she could tell that there had to be someone human in the next room. Well, almost human, there was a strangeness to the sent. It was like a human and something else had gone over the exact same trail.
Rebecca took a few slow steps into the room and glanced around. Her eyes let her see perfectly well in the dark and she saw that there were two scratches on the wall, but no sign of who had made them. She followed the scent, it seemed to loop back around and…
There was a scream from the next room, it sounded like Carter and was followed closely by a thud as something pounded into the wood. Rebecca raced back to the room just in time to see Carter’s headless body crumble to dust. His killer stood above him and another pile of dust that had to be Nancy. There was a machete stuck in the wall above them.
The killer wore all black, with a gasmask and a bulletproof vest. It turned and Rebecca caught sight of the light reflecting in the gasmask’s lenses before two red eyes settled on her.
Rebecca stood there, suddenly feeling stupid at having her claws and fangs out. She retracted them and took a step backwards while saying, “Who are you?”
To her surprise, the creature in front of her took its gas mask off and revealed that it was in fact the albino girl from the club. She said: “Believe it or not, I know why you did it.”
“What?” Rebecca sniffed again, trying to place the odd girl’s scent. “What the hell are you?”
“It wasn’t about Howards, or whatever his name was, if you’d been born into a nest you would have learned about all of this.” She shook her head, “You see, vampires don’t just hunger for blood. There’s a need, a psychological need to kill. A nest could have helped you manage that, but you didn’t have anyone to help you. So you latched on to the last person that wronged you, and decided that they needed to die.”
Rebecca took a few more steps backwards and found herself against the wall. “What are you!?” she shrieked.
“So I want you to know that I understand.” She pulled the gasmask back over her face. “But your vampires killed three people at that club, they were your responsibility.” She reached the machete where it was stuck in the wall. With one yank she pulled it free and let it rest at her side. “So I’m going to make this quick.”
I set my equipment down by the door in my apartment and wander over to the couch, lying down and letting out a sigh. I feel like lying there and falling asleep, until my phone rings.
“Hello?” I say without checking the caller ID.
“Flora?” It’s Miranda, “What happened, are you alright?”
“I’m fine, it’s taken care of.”
There was a bit of a pause. “Harman gave me the money for it. I could split the check…”
“That’s fine. I need to get some sleep.” I say and hang up the phone. I don’t think about the terrified look on the vampire’s faces. I’ve seen far too many for theirs to stick out.
I hear a key in my door and look up just in time for Calla to come in. “Hello,” she says. She strides over and sits on the couch next to my head. I smell that cinnamon scent that always seems to linger around her.
“How was your party?” she asks.
“Vampires attacked. I had to kill them.”
Calla nodded, “And?”
I sit up, “I don’t know. They were abandoned, this wasn’t the type of vampire I usually deal with. This wasn’t someone wilfully breaking the law, I don’t even think they knew there was a law.”
“Would they have killed the people at that party?”
She leans down and kisses me. Just a peck on the cheek, more for reassurance than anything.
I sit up and yawn. “Had to be done. No question about it. Just didn’t like having to.”
Calla wraps her arm around me. “Are you going to be ok?” she asks.
I nod and lean in to kiss her. “I’ll be fine. Don’t worry about me.”
She backs off a bit, “You’re sure?”
I nod, “It’s nothing, you’ll see.”
Thursday 1:00 pm.
Alan sat in front of his computer, article after article had passed under his gaze over the past… how long had it been? One day? Two? However long it had been he had spent most of it working.
There had been two minor exorcisms and a dispelling. Nothing that he couldn’t have handled normally. There was no sign of the Willow Man. He’d checked a dozen accounts and turned up a dozen creative writing projects. It seemed that the legitimate victims, wherever they were had been hidden.
There was a knock at the door and he jumped. He grabbed his cell phone and rushed to the door to look out of the peephole. Then he leaned back and gave the door a confused look, Miranda was outside.
He opened the door, slowly, and peeked outside. “Hello?”
Miranda smiled, but it didn’t reach her eyes. “We were meeting for drinks tonight.”
“I, uh…” Alan looked at the sky. “That wasn’t until tonight, wasn’t it?”
“You’re telling me that you remembered?” Miranda gave Alan a flat look.
“Well… I’ve been a bit busy.”
“Can I come in?” Miranda asked, not waiting for an answer and pushing past him and through the door.
“It’s a bit messy,” Alan protested to the spot that Miranda had been standing in.
“It’s always a bit messy.” She said, and Alan had to agree that she made a good point. He turned around to see her standing in the middle of his living room, all traces of a smile vanished and replaced with a worrying expression. “Oroitz told me what happened,” she said.
“Oh,” Alan said, shutting the door and walking past her to sit at his computer.
“There was nothing you could have done.”
“You know,” Alan spun around and looked at her, “Oroitz told me that too. I just have to wonder why you all seem to think that it will make me feel better. What possible part of ‘you were powerless to save those two kids’ sounds comforting to you.”
“Look Alan, I know how you feel. Believe me, more than you know. But cutting yourself off isn’t the answer.”
“And what exactly is going to help me get over it?” Alan said while turning back to the computer.
“If you’re like me, nothing. But you can learn to live with it.”
There was a long pause before Alan said, “What do you mean?”
Miranda sat down on the pile of laundry that seemed to perpetually be on Alan’s couch. “Well… for starters we’re going to find a bar and I am going to buy you a drink, and you’re going to share what’s bothering you.”
“You know what’s bothering me.” Alan said, but it felt like he was just avoiding her at this point.
“That’s true, but it’s more important that you tell it to me.”
Alan rubbed his eyes, “Then what?”
“One thing at a time. First you are going to shower and change your clothes, and then you are going to meet me outside in half an hour.” Miranda took a breath, “Then I’ll tell you my story. Why I left the ocean, it’s like what happened to you and part of how I met Oroitz.”
Alan blinked, “You’re going to tell me that?” he’d known that Miranda had been thrown out of the sea for a reason, but he’d never dreamed that he’d actually get to know what that was.
Miranda nodded, “Outside, half an hour. Get ready to share.” She turned around and walked out of his door, leaving him alone.
Alan rubbed his hand across the stubble from the past two day’s growth. He sighed, he could probably use a shower anyways. He turned off his computer and got ready to make himself presentable.