Alan and Flora
I sat outside of the vampire’s office, leafing through an ancient edition of Time. “You know,” I said, “I can’t see why they would call you of all people.”
Flora was sitting across from me. She was giving me a neutral look, but I could tell that this was bad news. She was still mad at me for the incident with the S.E.A. a month ago, but if Flora was anything she was a professional. She wouldn’t let her feelings get in the way but she was noticeably colder than usual. Granted, for Flora usual was borderline autistic what with the whole no touching, limited eye contact, mumbled speech, glancing at corners, and just generally being Flora. But I’d never gotten the sense that she didn’t like me before. I was sure as hell getting it now.
She twitched her head towards the door that said: “John Thompson, Dept. Head.” She took a deep breath and said, “I don’t know what you mean.”
I glanced around and leaned forwards to whisper, “Are you kidding? The last time I counted you’ve killed like twenty vampires, and those are just the ones I know of.”
She shrugged, still not looking at me. “The vampires I’ve killed have been a liability. If I was able to find them then they reason that law enforcement could find those vampires as well.” Her speech was even faster and more clipped than usual and she ran a hand across the outside of the book bag she had brought. Knowing Flora it probably contained enough firepower to level a city block inside so I had to wonder just what it was about this guy that had Flora of all people worried. “They don’t feel wounded by my actions because the vampires I’ve killed are all easily replaced and above all else, the vampires have authority, not loyalty.”
I raised an eyebrow, “I don’t get it.”
“Hopefully you won’t be here long enough to get a handle on it.”
We sat in silence for a few more minutes before a secretary with a face that looked like it was ninety-five percent post-consumer products and five percent spam came in and said, “Mr. Thompson will see you now.”
Flora flicked a bit of imaginary dust from the skirt suit combo that she was wearing and gave me a bit of a sour look for as long as she could stand to maintain eye contact. I looked down at my t-shirt that said: “Come to the Dark Side. We have cookies.” I also had on an old pair of jeans but those were ok. Everybody know that jeans are clean no matter what.
We went into Mr. “Thompson’s” office and I found myself having to blink to make sure I was seeing correctly. It was an interior office without windows (of course) but the rest of it was completely the opposite of what I had expected.
Most vampires are old world to a fault, generally they look at least fifty years out of date. This one had a smart but reserved haircut and a suit that probably cost more than my car (though you average pack of pencils could also fit that description) and sat leaned back on his desk while chatting on a cell phone. “No, no,” he said into the phone with a smile. “No they’re here right now. Look, just get a contract drawn up for me by three and I’ll have someone look over it and get back to you, alright…? Ok, gotta go, bye.”
He shut off a cell phone that looked newer than mine, and since my phones have a tendency to explode on a fairly regular basis that meant a lot. His fangs weren’t out so his smile was just a collection of ridiculously bright and perfectly shaped teeth. I wondered how Flora justified letting vampires like this walk around.
“Flora!” he said with that refrigerator white smile. He held out a hand and to my surprise Flora took it.
“Timor,” she said, “It’s good to see you.”
“It’s John nowadays sweetie, it’s John.” I blinked, I’d never thought I’d see someone call Flora sweetie and manage to keep their skull inside of their body. He held the hand out to me. “And this must be Alvin.”
I would have liked to grip his hand a little extra hard but despite some poor decisions that I’ve made in the past I have never been quite dumb enough to openly invite a vampire to shatter every bone in my hand. “Alan.”
“Of course, Alan, of course. My bad. Say…” he looked at the both of us, “can I get you anything? Scotch? A soda? Whatever?”
“We’re fine,” said Flora.
“Sure, sure, say… how have things been with you Flora? Life been treating you well?”
She gave one of her Flora shrugs. I tried to hide a smile. She’d thrown me off balance with the handshake. It was good to know that this asshole didn’t get any special privileges.
“Ok,” he said, “ok down to business. I can respect that.” He sat back and smiled even wider, “We have a little situation. I asked you to bring Alvin here because this ‘situation’ is proving a little hard to track down.”
I gritted my teeth but otherwise decided to stay silent. Talking to this guy could just make the conversation go on longer.
“What is it?” Flora asked.
“A new vampire, no idea who turned her or why. But she’s way out in the sticks and nobody can get a hold of her. We do know that she has an internet connection.” His annoying used car salesman smile dimmed to an especially smug smirk, “She’s been blogging.”
“You don’t have your own people that can get a location?” I asked.
“Alan,” Flora said, shooting a glance my way. “We’ll do it.”
Thompson stood up and reached out to shake Flora’s hand again. “Good, get her to the nearest nest and out of our hair.” Thompson didn’t seem surprised when Flora didn’t take his hand for the second time. He then offered his hand to me. I hadn’t noticed when I first shook his hand but it felt cold and dead, like driftwood.
I tell people that my fascination with magic began at MIT with my roommate and his own obsession. That while I was learning about data structures he was trying to summon and contain minor imps. That we stayed in contact after graduation and then got back together to see if the language of computers could express the power of magic. This is only partially true.
A few hours of work showed me that while I could get a general area for our target I’d need to be close by in order to get an exact location. This meant that Flora and I were going to take a road trip. Yay.
Not that I minded Flora’s company. I like Flora, that was the problem. She still hadn’t forgiven me for my involvement with the S.E.A. and that wasn’t even getting into the fact that I found out she was in a relationship with her succubus neighbour slash tenant. All of this made for one awkward drive.
One thing that I did see was that we were going way out into that mountains, far from any major highways. There was a town there, according to the map I had found, and that looked like a good place to start. But I still groaned audibly about an hour into the trip.
“What?” Flora said. It was the first exchange we had had since we started driving.
“I lost cell phone reception.”
“So? I thought that you had enough magic in that thing to make it work anywhere.”
“Oh, totally.” I said. “This thing could place a call from the moon. But… we’re leaving technology behind.” I glanced into the forest as it rushed by. There was another stretch of silence, only this time it started gnawing at me. I blurted the first thing that popped into my head, “You know bigfoot?”
“Yes,” said Flora. “He seems nice.”
I kept glancing at the trees, “Yeah, he’s cool. But he’s never even heard of wifi.”
We drove the rest of the way to the town in silence.
In truth MIT was where I gained a fascination with studying magic. It’s where I started thinking of magic as something with practical uses. I first became interested in magic as a child when my parents would take me to visit my grandmother.
The town’s main street was empty when we got there. I saw three cars, one red, one black, and one white, parked outside of a diner but otherwise we were the only ones here. The tracking spell that I had put on my cell phone led us to a public library, I groaned. I was hoping it would just take us to her house and that would be the end of things.
Still, I had been reading her blog on the way here. It had been the usual “I’ve just been turned into a vampire,” mopey stuff. What you’d expect from someone with a livejournal page. Not that I wasn’t sympathetic, but honestly if you’ve read that story once you’ve read it a thousand times.
However the one very crucial piece of data that was missing from it was how she had been turned and who had done it. It was possible to turn a human into a vampire without their knowledge, theoretically. A vampire had to ingest someone’s blood, then get that person to ingest some of their blood which would kill the person, and then after a week in the ground that person would wake up as a new vampire. Rinse and repeat.
I supposed that all of this was possible to do without the person that was being turned knowing that a vampire was turning them, in theory.
I thought we would have been able to ask the girl about all of this directly once we found her, but seeing as how she was apparently using the library computer for updating her blog tracking her down just became a bit more difficult.
We went into the library and my phone led me right to the only computer in the place. Flora went to question the librarian, in her own way.
I typed a few basic spells into the computer but didn’t have much luck. It seemed like half the town used this computer and all the internet history that I could dig up showed an amount of pornography that moved from being revolting to being mildly impressive. I sighed and went to find Flora.
She was just heading back from talking to the librarian, a mousy looking twenty something with glasses sitting at a desk behind her. “I’m not going to find anything without performing a summoning,” I said to her. “And you know how I hate having to do summonings.”
Flora shrugged, looking at some of the books next to her. I glanced at the titles: Twentieth Century Arms and Armor, Tanks From WWII to Now, and more in the same vain. The kind of stuff that I would have expected to grab Flora’s attention. “It doesn’t matter,” she said, “I asked the librarian about recent deaths.”
I pinched the bridge of my nose, “Let me guess. You went right up to this woman and asked her if anyone in town had died recently.”
“Yes,” said Flora without a hint of irony. “She started talking about a young girl who’d died unexpectedly two weeks back.”
“Uh-hu. Did she want to know why you wanted to know this?”
Flora shook her head and said, “She said that the family had an old cabin, she mentioned it because her boyfriend used to go up there with them during the summer.” She turned away from the books and started out back towards the car. I looked back at the librarian and she quickly looked down and focused on her desk. I grinned and followed Flora outside. No matter how this trip turned out I could say that I finally met someone with worse social skills than Flora.
My grandmother was a plump old woman who had managed to smuggle my father out of the Soviet Union when he was just a baby. I never did learn how she did it. My parents would leave me there with her on a few evenings and on a few days when they needed a baby sitter. Grandma’s house didn’t have a TV but I never minded because what my grandmother had were stories. More than enough stories to fill a thousand evenings. She told me about Koshchey the deathless, and about Vila and Rusalka. There was one figure however that stuck with me even in my teenage years when most of the stories had faded from my memory.
Flora stopped the car on the side of the road outside of town and started to get out. “Whoa wait, where are you going?” I said, unbuckling my seatbelt to follow her.
“Stay in the car,” she said. “This is a trap.”
Flora gave me a look with one eyebrow raised. “You were the first one that noticed it.”
“Flora, I had no idea there was a trap.”
“Back in Timor’s office. You pointed out that he could have his own people track down this girl just as easily.” She walked around to the back of the car. It was cloudy enough out that she could manage with some SPF 50 sunscreen.
She opened the trunk and grabbed a duffel bag out of it. Judging by the way she handled the weight and the fact that it was Flora’s the bag was probably full of guns. One of these days I was going to have to ask her where she got all of this firepower. “And he gives you just enough information to reach the one building in town with someone who is all too willing to give us exactly the information that we’ve been looking for, leading us to a secluded area outside of town.”
I thought about it. “Well when you put it that way why are we still here? If this is all a sham-”
“It’s not all a sham, there is a young vampire here and she does need our help.”
“Ok,” I said, “where?”
Flora pulled a Kevlar vest from her bag and gave me a look while she strapped it on. “You didn’t notice?”
I sighed, “Let’s pretend that I haven’t spent most of my life either being raised by or studying vampires.”
“The librarian. That library doesn’t have a single window and something has her scared out of her wits.” She finally pulled some kind of assault riffle out of the back of her car and then the gas mask that she usually wore into a fight. “Plus I could tell that she was a new vampire.”
“Nothing I could put my finger on, but she was moving around like the world was made of fine china. That and a few other things, she’s a new vampire. I just know it.”
“Ok, so what should I do?”
“Her part in the plan is finished and the last thing vampires want is another mouth to feed. They’ll try and kill her once the sun is down, just like they’ve killed everyone else in the town.”
“What!? Flora, you have to start pointing these things out to me.”
She shrugged, “Call it revenge.”
I swallowed, “For the S.E.A. thing?”
“Yes,” she shut the trunk and slipped her gas mask back on before getting back into the car to talk to me. “If they were sending us to the cabin during the day that means that they have human forces waiting to ambush us. You take care of the girl, I’ll take care of them. Meet me back here before sundown.” She glanced at the sky, “In say… five hours.”
“Right,” I said and slid over to the driver’s seat as Flora got out. “I know I’ve said it before Flora, but I’m sorry.”
“I know.” She shut the door and marched off the side of the road and into the woods without another word.
I watched her go and then turned the car around and started heading back towards the town.
I remember the stories, the chicken leg house and the mortar and pestle, the iron teeth and the invisible servants, counting spoons and stealing children, it all stuck with me. It frightened my brother until he was old enough to pretend that they were just kid stories but I loved them until an age that I probably should be embarrassed by. My grandmother didn’t mind though, she listened to my questions about the stories and had answers for every one.
Really, Flora had a pretty good plan. If it hadn’t been for one little thing I think we would have gotten out of there without a hitch. Unfortunately, there was one little thing. The vampires had sent a team to follow us.
I barely had time to register the black SUV that was heading towards me when they started shooting at me. Fortunately this was Flora’s car and the bullets left dents in the bulletproof windshield instead of holes in me. Unfortunately I was not Flora and my immediate reaction to being shot at was to try and swerve away from the bullets. In my current situation however, that meant into the trees. I slammed forwards, hitting the airbags and biting down on my tongue as the seatbelt dug into my shoulder.
Inarticulate moaning dribbled out between my lips as some unconscious part of my brain started reaching for my seatbelt. My mind blanked out for a few seconds because suddenly I was running through the woods to the sound of scattered gunfire.
I had to run back the way that I came, back towards Flora. This was really her area.
Honestly. This was just another example of why I should never leave my apartment.
It only took a few seconds of running blindly through the forest to tell that this wasn’t going to work. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to go through the forest without following a trail but believe me, it’s easy to get turned around.
I was running through the underbrush as fast as I could, still able to hear the shouted orders that indicated that my pursuers were still behind me. My sneakers, old jeans, and t-shirt weren’t exactly the best things I could have chosen to wear for running through the woods and I soon had long scratches along my arms and legs while my lungs started to burn in my chest.
I tripped over something and hit the ground hard. The breath was knocked from my lungs and I tried to find my feet only to find that my foot had become entangled in a tree root. I panicked, knowing that the men who had been shooting at me had to be just behind me, and started tearing at the root and my pant leg. It felt like an eternity before I managed to find my feet. I took half a second to catch my breath when I listened.
Silence, wherever the men who had been chasing me were, they weren’t behind me. I swallowed, looking in all directions for some sign of them but finding nothing. I realised that I had somehow lost them in the forest. I almost felt like laughing for how good it felt. Now all I had to do was head back towards the highway and try to find Flora, maybe I could even take their car.
Unfortunately I had no idea which way the road was but I wasn’t too worried, I had a map on my phone. I pulled my phone out and looked at it. I didn’t have a signal.
I blinked. It wasn’t just the regular signal that was missing, I couldn’t use magic to contact anyone either. With shaking hands I punched in a spell to try and break through any magical interference but either there wasn’t any and I was just going crazy and/or losing my magic, or (more alarmingly) whoever was blocking my magic was far too powerful for me to even put a dent in.
I tried to catch my breath but it felt like I was in the warehouse again. I could practically see the Willow Man standing in the shadows. I looked up and there he was, standing in between the trees and looking down at me with those cold black eyes of his.
I might have screamed, I might have tried to run. Unfortunately this wasn’t the first time this had happened to me since that night. So instead of running I screwed my eyes shut and started repeating to myself, “It’s not real. He can’t find you, it’s not real.”
Slowly I opened my eyes and sure enough there was nothing standing where the Willow Man had been.
I let out a shuddering sigh and looked up. The sky had gone pink. How long had I been running through these woods? Too long. I had to get moving, even without a phone I had to give my best guess as to which way I had come from and press off in that direction.
There was a vampire librarian counting on me and I couldn’t let my hallucinations of a suit and tie wearing elder god distract me from saving her.
Christ, my life is weird.
I moved through the woods trying not to make noise but feeling like I was just making more of it. I became so focused on looking at where I was placing my feet that I almost ran right into the fence.
It stood about six feet high and was really more of a line of iron spikes forced into the ground close enough together to stop anyone from slipping through. The spikes weren’t what grabbed my attention though, it was the skulls.
Dozens of them. All impaled on the spikes at irregular heights and intervals. Some had become yellow with age while others still had scraps of meat on them. I shuddered as I slipped through the gap in the fence and passed near two of them.
My heart froze as I realised just what the hell I was doing. Frantically, I tried to push my way back though the gap I had just come though only to find that the spikes were now far too close together. I reached up, trying to climb over the fence but my hands slipped from the bars like they were coated with Teflon. I even tried using one of the skulls for leverage, but it only slid further down the pole.
I backed away from the fence, trying to remain rational. Whoever had done this had to be a being of immense magical power. They’d messed with my head without me realising it and then changed the local environment. That meant that if they’d wanted me dead I would probably already be dead. Unless they wanted to mess with me first.
With that comforting thought I turned away from the fence and started further into the woods. After less than a minute of walking I heard a noise. After a second I could place it as a shovel scraping against stones as someone used it to dig a hole.
I paused, then tried to creep forwards and look for the source of the noise. It grew louder and louder as I pressed into the bush, too loud. Several times I was certain that whoever was using the shovel had to be right around the corner only for the noise to continually grow louder. It soon became deafening, a constant scraping noise that I found myself having to hold my ears shut against.
This wasn’t natural, which could only mean that it was bad news. I turned around and went back towards the fence. There had to be a way around it, I just had to work at it.
The moment that I took a step in the other direction I heard the sound of the shovel grow louder. I started running while holding my hands over my ears and gritting my teeth against the noise. Somewhere along the line it crossed the pain threshold and I could barely stand up, let alone keep walking.
And then it stopped. I broke through the trees and into a clearing and the noise dropped to its regular level. I looked around the clearing. I blinked and looked around it again.
“No fucking way,” I said.
In front of me was a house that looked like a typical old world style cottage, with a thatched roof and two big windows that looked out at me like pair of eyes. The big difference between this cottage and most others, however, is that this one was a dozen feet off of the ground and supported by four gigantic chicken legs. In the garden beneath it was an incredibly old and incredibly thin woman. She was digging in her garden with a small trowel, I just had the time to see a flash of white bone disappear as she scooped soil over it.
“No fucking way…” I repeated. All those stories that my grandmother had told me came rushing back. I couldn’t deny what I was seeing, I was standing in the Baba Yaga’s front yard.
“Language,” The Baba Yaga said. Her voice was heavily accented and sharp enough to cut a diamond on. As she spoke I caught sight of the iron teeth that were behind her lips.
My magical skills are poor at best, the only reason I’ve ever been able to make a dent is because I use them in an unconventional way, i.e. computers. As such my magical senses are rarely able to pick up more than the occasional chill down my spine, but the Baba Yaga? She felt like I was standing near a power line. A constant humming at the edge of my senses. I could only imagine what being near her would mean to a more magically attuned creature like Miranda. “You… brought me here?” I asked.
She shrugged, “I repaid an old debt. Saved you from the men that were following you.”
I swallowed and looked at the loose soil where she had just buried… I didn’t even want to know. “Oh,” I said, “well… uh… thank you?”
“It was also time that we were meeting. Past time, for your grandmother.” She still hadn’t looked at me since the conversation started, she was too focused on her garden.
“You… knew my grandmother?” I knew that magic could run along family lines but I’d never suspected… “How did you know her?”
The Baba Yaga’s eyes snapped up, they were yellowed and jaundiced in the center of a face that looked like a rotten apple. I flinched back as if her glare had a physical impact. Hell, with the amount of power that she wielded it very well might have. “If she never told you then you were not meant to know. It would be wise, Alan Wieckowski, to not be asking me too many questions.”
“Right,” I said a bit too loud and too fast, “well that’s good. So… your debt, whatever that was, is repaid…” My shirt was damp with sweat and not just from running thought the woods. If the Baba Yaga had killed those men then she wasn’t bound by that treaty that Miranda was always going on about, that or she didn’t care. Either way, if she wanted to kill me there was precisely squat I could do about it.
“I did not say it was time for you to leave.” She narrowed her eyes at me and smiled an iron toothed smile. “I said that it was time for us to talk.” Behind her, her chicken leg house lowered itself to the ground and the front door opened of its own accord. “You have battled demons, you escaped the Man of the Willows.”
I looked down at that, suppressing a shudder. “That was luck.”
“Of course it was. But many men could not survive with all the luck in the world. No, we must talk.” Her iron toothed smile became all the more wide and sick. “Won’t you come in for tea?”
As far back as I can remember, I have always had at worst an uneasy truce with the vampires. Most of the time I would have even counted them among my allies. I didn’t let Alan know it, but I’m worried. Not about these vampires, about the next ones.
The mercenaries that were surrounding the cabin are easy to deal with, but all of them are human. This has to be a set-up by the vampires, so where are they? I even check inside the cabin that they were sending me to and I don’t find anybody, even in the darkest room.
I head outside and check the mercenaries. I was able to take then down without killing any, thankfully, but just to be safe I’ve zip-cuffed all of them in a circle. One of them has a cell-phone but its password protected. I sigh. If I had brought Alan he would have been able to get through this in a second.
One squad of mercenaries, either the vampires were underestimating me or this was a diversion. I shake my head and mentally chide myself. Of course this isn’t a diversion. Nobody sets up an ambush as an elaborate double bluff like this. It would be easier to just try and kill me there. Timor had just underestimated me because for most intents and purposes I am human. He would hardly be the first. I started walking back, I could only hope that things were going nearly as well for Alan.
The tea was made by what appeared to be someone who was invisible. The kettle hovered over towards me and filled my cup before settling down on the table near us. The house was cramped and old, looking like something from the middle ages. Which, I had to remind myself, it was.
I don’t know if there actually was an invisible person making the tea or if the Baba Yaga was just doing it with her powers, but my grandmother had told me that if you asked the Baba Yaga about her invisible servants she would kill you on the spot so I just sipped my tea. It was extremely bitter and left a gritty film in my mouth, but I didn’t dream of asking for milk or sugar. I just wanted the hell out of here.
The Baba Yaga didn’t seem to care one way or the other however. Instead she just looked at me with those jaundiced eyes and sipped her tea. The silence stretched out, becoming more and more taut with each and every sip of tea that we took. Just before I reached the breaking point and felt I had to say something no matter how stupid, the Baba Yaga said: “Armageddon is coming.”
That sat pretty heavily in the air for a few moments. Eventually I formulated and eloquent response. “Oh,” I said.
“Things shall change,” she took a sip of her tea and then set it aside. “I am rather fond of this world, I would not want to see it die. I have been too long away from Russia, I would like to return someday.”
“Why can’t you?”
She continued on as if I hadn’t spoken, “All of you will have a part to play and a price to pay. Even if you survive, even if the world survives, it will not be as you know it. But you have the option to endure. The half breed, the living library, the rusalka,” (I think she meant Miranda by this, even though she didn’t technically meet the definition.) “and you, the number prophet. When the world ends all of you will be there.”
“No chance that you’re going to tell me how the world is going to end is there?” I sat my own tea down and looked at her.
“I don’t know. I never know, I just know that it is coming.” Her jaundiced eyes turned towards me, “You will face him again.”
I froze, “Who?” I asked.
“You know who.” She leered at me for a moment. “It is time for you to be going.”
I glanced out the window and went pale. It was night, well past sunset by now. The doors opened on their own and I sprinted outside, tripping over something. As I hit the ground it occurred to my that my behaviour could be construed as extremely rude and the insane, panicking part of my brain made me turn around to apologize to the Baba Yaga. She was gone, along with her chicken leg house.
I wanted to be surprised but I just couldn’t manage it. This kind of horse-shit makes up about fifty percent of my life. I idly reached underneath me and pulled out a garden spade.
It’s blade was black and corroded but somehow managed to reflect the moonlight above me. I picked myself up and dusted myself off, thinking about how much harder it would be to find my bearings now that it was night, when a scream grabbed my attention. It was an odd scream, full of fear but at the same time it came from nothing human. I stuck the trowel in my back pocket on a whim and started running towards the noise.
I broke through the woods suddenly and had to blink a few times as I realised that I was back in town. The library was just across the street from me and Flora was right, there wasn’t a light on in the town, the place was deserted.
Not completely deserted though, I heard the sound of breaking glass from the direction of the library. I had no idea what I intended to do as I ran in. Flora could handle this, but the best case for Flora right now was that she was stranded up the road.
The front doors to the library had been smashed to toothpicks. I heard the scream again and rushed through to the back of the library. The place had been trashed, shelves had been toppled and the books were everywhere. I couldn’t see the librarian but I did see several piles of dust on the floor, I could only pray than none of them were her.
Something barrelled out of the back room and landed in a pile of books. Her jaw was horribly stretched out by her fangs and her hands had twisted into long taloned claws but I could tell that it was the mousy librarian from before. She was unconscious.
A noise like someone clearing their throat drew my attention to the door. Thompson was standing there.
“Well now, Alvin, isn’t this a surprise.” He didn’t have his fangs or claws out, just a shit eating grin. I backed up and reached behind me for the only weapon I could find: the trowel I had picked up from the Baba Yaga’s garden. I held my grip on it but didn’t bring it out. Who knows, maybe it was magical, able to release some deadly power that could demolish this vampire where he stood. Or maybe it was just a freaking trowel.
Thompson gave a chuckle and stepped over the debris his fight had caused. “I have to say, she gave as good as she got. Took out three of the grunts they sent with me. But she’s a loose end, the only person that knew what we did in this town. So she’s gotta die, along with you, Alvin.”
“Why?” I said. “You slaughtered an entire town just to lay a trap for Flora? She knows the leaders of your nests. When this gets back to them-”
“They are the ones that approved this little project and believe me, killing Flora was just a side note.”
I blinked, “They… they wanted to kill Flora? Why?”
Thompson’s face and hands started to stretch, fangs and claws ripping through. “Because Alan, the apocalypse is coming. Things are changing.” He stepped forwards, not running, he didn’t need to. “That’s why Flora had to die.”
I backed up a bit, gripping the trowel even tighter. “You sure about that?”
“Unless she can survive an ambush set up by some of the finest special forces in the world I wouldn’t hold my breath.” He lunged forwards and I stabbed out with the trowel. Just before his fangs reached my throat I felt the trowel sink in and he flinched back from me as the wound bled a foul smelling smoke. Unfortunately I had hit him in the stomach.
He fell back from me, clawing at a wound that was clearly painful but not life threatening. After half a second of fumbling he managed to get a grip on the handle and yank it out. Suddenly he had a hand around my throat, the talons slowly sinking into my flesh. “Oh Alvin, I was going to just rip out your throat and snap your neck, but now? Now you are going to see the wrong side of me.”
In the doorway behind Thompson a voice said, “His name is Alan.”
Several gunshots rang out and Thompson flinched with each one. His grip relaxed enough for me to escape and I skittered across the broken shelving and away from Thompson. I found myself next to the librarian, looking up at Flora.
I tried to slow down breathing that I hadn’t even realised had been reduced to panicky gasps. Flora stepped over the fallen shelves and stood next to me, keeping her gun trained on Thompson. “How did you get here?” I asked her.
“I took the men who ran you off the road’s car. How did you get here?”
“I hitched a ride in the Baba Yaga’s chicken leg house.” There was a moment of silence as Flora and Thompson stared at me. “What?” I said. “Like that even makes the top ten of weirdest things that have happened to any of us.”
Flora made a bit of a motion to draw attention back to the assault riffle that she was carrying. “Why did you try to kill me Timor?”
He laughed a bit and then coughed, it looked like one of those bullets had pierced his lungs. Nothing that would kill a vampire but he was going to be sore for a little while. “Like I told this one,” he nodded towards me, “Armageddon is coming. The days when vampires will have to hide in the shadows and follow human laws are coming to an end, and when that end comes the last thing we need is some half-breed albino dyke out there making-” I couldn’t hear the rest of what he said because Flora shot him in the face five times.
She ran across the room before he could recover, one of those weird stake grenades of hers in her hand. She slammed it into his chest and held the pin between thumb and forefinger. “Well, you’ve got one,” she said and pulled the pin. There was a crack like a gunshot and then Thompson crumbled into dust.
The librarian (her name was Jessica) woke up shortly after that. All told she had done pretty well for herself, taking out three of the vamps that had been set after her. Flora had to walk her through how to retract her fangs and claws though. A few hours later we were driving away from the town in the mercenaries’ car. We didn’t bother looking for the bodies of the other people that had been in the town, none of us wanted to see that.
“Sorry for crashing your car.” I said to Flora.
She was quiet for a few seconds. “It’s the least of my problems.”
I nodded and then glanced back at Jessica who was asleep in the back seat, “What are we going to do with her?”
“I have no idea. I was just going to dump her at a friendly nest but I don’t know if any of those exist for me anymore. What Timor said about the apocalypse coming…”
“Yeah, the Baba Yaga said the same thing.”
Flora gave me a look, “You really met the Baba Yaga?”
“We had tea and I stole her trowel. I also should look into some family history, see where my grandmother got all of those stories.”
“Well Armageddon or not, something has the vampires convinced that they don’t have to play by the rules anymore. That’s going to mean trouble for all of us.”
“Well my house is pretty heavily warded against Vampires, what about you?”
“I can handle it…” She glanced in the rear-view mirror. “And I think I know what to do with her.”
I smiled, what tension that there was between us seemed to have evaporated. Nothing like a life or death struggle to put things in perspective.
My smile faded as I looked out the window, watching the dark woods roll past. An entire town… and the Baba Yaga was right. Things were changing, I could feel it at the edges of my perception. It felt like I was standing at the edge of a cliff, with a great and unknown depth in front of me. Things were going to change. I looked over at Flora. I was hardly a force to be reckoned with, but maybe with my friends we could figure something out.