Staring at myself in that lonely mirror, turning on every light that I could a hold of to get the best view possible, I tried to somehow 'fix' the appearance of the mark on my neck. I had taken some tweezers and a mild adhesive, trying to see if I could get it to look natural again. I had a swab of alcohol, hoping to keep it from drying out so fast. But the fucking thing only got WORSE the more I messed with it. It peeled even faster, the color of it turning dead and brown, flakes of it falling down on my shoulder. No matter what I did to it...it simply couldn't be repaired. It would never look real enough to fool them into thinking it was new again. And the pattern was to intricate for me to draw or tattoo it back on. Not even with HELP!CERTAINLY not by myself...backwards, in the reflection of a mirror. It was a plan that was destined to fail. And eventually I had to come to terms with the fact that I was wasting my time even trying.
"Screw this!" I said to myself, tossing the tweezers into the sink and stepping away from the mirror. I'm not gonna sit here and wait for those undead brats to come looking for me. I'm getting OUT of this apartment, and finding myself a safe place to lay low until this shit storm passes over and I get an extension. End of story.
I grabbed a travel bag out of the closet and filled it with my shaver, some cologne, and a few needed toiletries, and took some of my cleanly pressed suits and slung them over my shoulder. Grabbed my keys, my wallet, an overcoat, and I locked up the condo, heading towards the elevator.
I traveled nineteen floors down to the lobby, and was going to let the doorman know not to let anyone in under any circumstances. I wouldn't be home. However, when I got downstairs the lobby was empty. In fact...it was dark. No security cameras, no lights....nothing. I looked behind the desk briefly, but saw no signs of him. "Clark?" I called out, hoping the doorman had just left to go to the bathroom and would be back in a second or two. But I got no answer.
I didn't have time for this. I looked at my watch, and just decided I'd call the security company when I got to a hotel and have them deliver the message. I needed to go. NOW!
I walked outside and headed towards the parking lot. It was eerily silent out there in the darkness. So silent, in fact, that it was distracting. Not a squirrel, not a bird, not even a cricket chirp. I know it was late October, but I was sure that SOME form of animal life would be scurrying around at this time of night. Something else that I became aware of was the fact that all of the lights were off in the parking lot. Like...ALL of them. Don't they know how much crime there is in this city? They wouldn't allow the lights to stay off. Not for any length of time.
I stopped dead in my tracks, my ears listening to the night to see if I could hear anything out of the ordinary...but I got nothing. Just a cold shiver that went up my spine, and my survival instincts kicking in and telling me to make it quick. Just get the hell out of there! Just in case the fuckers show up early.
The quickly paced 'clip clop' of my expensive shoes on the pavement seemed to literally echo throughout the entire parking lot. But when I finally got to my car, and pressed the button on my keychain to unlock it from a few steps away...I noticed something. Usually the lights flash when I unlock the doors. But this time...they didn't.
My pace audibly slowed down as I got closer to the car. And what I saw...caused those awful butterflies to come right back to me, full force.
Both of the back lights on my car had been completely smashed, as well as the headlights. And not only that, but as I looked closer and came to a complete stop, I noticed that all four tires had been punctured with pieces of rusty junkyard metal. Angrily, in fact...and multiple times. I stared at my vehicle for a moment in disbelief, and then was SHOCKED as I heard the sound of a lone skateboard rolling across the concrete in the distance.
I spun around, pressing my back up against the battered car. My eyes were WIDE with fright, and I scanned the whole area as best as I could...seeing nothing but darkness. Did I imagine it? Was it just one of the other kids from the condo? Or was it 'them'?
I held my breath, and continued to search. I could hardly see ANYTHING in this darkness! But if it was 'them'...I was sure that they could see me just fine!
"Hehehehe..." Came a childish laugh from out of the shadows. I gasped, covering my mouth with my hand as my heartbeat sped up, pounding so hard in my chest that it made it hard to breathe. "Hehehe...hahaha!" The boyish giggles continued, now coming from more than one direction. Then one of them whispered. "Midnight. Hehehe...midnight is coming!" I heard the wheels of a skateboard slowly coming closer to me, as well as the footsteps of tiny, sneaker-clad, feet approaching from many different directions at once. "Midnight! Midnight! Hehehhe!" The children began to chant...over and over and over again. "Midnight, midnight, midnight, midnight..." The voices getting louder, and closer with every step. The second I saw a few silhouettes walking in my direction, I dropped my suits on the ground, and made a mad DASH for the front lobby again!
I heard the sound of two skateboards hitting the pavement hard this time, and with a few kicks and pushes, they began to chase right behind me! I heard the footsteps of what sounded like an entire BUSLOAD of kids running behind me! Laughing the whole way! I ran faster, nearly tripping over my own feet, as their laughter got louder! And louder! And louder still! I didn't DARE to look back over my shoulder! They could outrun me easily if they wanted to. But this was a GAME to them. Just a stupid, goddamn, GAME!
"Hahahaha!!! MIDNIGHT!!! MIDNIGHT!!! MIDNIGHT!!!!" They cheered, their voices sounding more like 100 kids now instead of what I initially thought their numbers were!
I was almost out of breath, my legs burning with fatigue as they begged for me to stop pushing them so hard. But my attackers were right behind me! Keeping me boxed in! Herding me towards a prison where I was going to have to wait to meet my own demise. And soon, I just tossed my bag into the bushes and ran top speed, both of my fists balled up and helping to pump me up and run even faster! And then...I got back to the lobby and charged in through the glass doors!
"CLARK!!! CLARK, GODDAMMIT!!!" I shouted, looking all around for him in that dark lobby. Then went behind the desk to the small bathroom that was just off to the side, and I kicked the door open in anger.
But what I found...was not a lazy security guard on duty.
What I found was a corpse...with several bite marks in his throat and chest, slumped down and leaning up against the bathroom sink in a pool of gore. And on the mirror, drenched in his blood, was the message...
Along with a bloody smiley face drawn next to it. I was almost SICK at this point. And when I backed out of that bathroom, trembling at the site of the carnage before me, I saw what looked like an entire army of teenagers outside the glass doors of the condo lobby. Some of the younger ones pressing their noses and cheeks against the glass to make faces at me...and others...not looking very 'playful' at all. One boy, in particular, looked to be about 8 years old at the most, with longish dark brown hair and glowing red eyes. He was pointing a finger directly at me. And once he saw that he had my attention, he gave me a demonic smirk, pulled his index finger back, raised his boyish chin slightly. Slowly...silently...dragging the finger across the front of his neck. As if to let me know, without a doubt...that my time was almost up.
The image of it creeped me out so much, that I panicked and used my key card to get back behind another wall of glass. As though it offered me any further protection at all. I hurried towards the elevator, and pushed a bench back towards the front door, hoping to brace it. The children seemed almost amused. As they should have been. What was a bench behind a wall of glass going to do against these things? Nothing! I've seen these creatures climb walls, move objects with their mind, hell...I've even seem one or two of them FLY! But...something in my heart needed to move that bench. Somehow, I needed to fool myself into believing that I had a fighting chance.
I heard the 'ding' as the elevator arrived, and dashed inside. I caught my breath as I traveled back up to the nineteenth floor, and then briskly walked down the hall to my apartment door. But before I could even get my key in the lock, my cell phone rang.
"Hello???" I asked, hoping that it was either the bank or one of the Elders calling to fix this situation. Instead, all I got was breathing. "HELLO???"
And it was then that a very young boy's voice sang sweetly into the phone, just above a whisper...
"Bubblegum, bubblegum, in a dish. How many pieces do you wish?" He said. "Tell me...how many pieces do YOU wish to be torn into, Mr. Kincaid? Hehehehe..." And just as he started to laugh at me, I slammed the phone shut, leaned back against the door to my apartment...and cried.
They weren't going to let me go anywhere.
Some time had passed, and I drank a little more alcohol to calm my nerves so that I might be able to think clearly. The bourbon bottle was empty, but I still had some old scotch left. Should do the trick.
I called the police two or three times, and they did drive by, I could see it from my window. But before they could get anywhere near my place...the vampires downstairs would slowly begin to scatter. Blending back into the shadows, becoming ghosts to everyone else but me. And then...once the cop car left the parking lot, I would see those monsters gently creep back into the light again, looking up at my windows with a smile that chilled me to the bone.
The police stopped taking me seriously after the second call. Figured it was an early Halloween prank or something. Besides...'teenagers in the parking lot' is not their idea of an adult emergency.
I drank some more, trying time and time again to get in touch with Juliano. Father Juliano was a priest, and an Elder. Already 148 years old, running his operation out of an underground church with his partner Serazzi. Also a priest. I was loyal to them. SO obedient. I did everything they wanted me to do, and my money alone helped them to run this part of the city flawlessly for the last three years. They NEED me! They're not going to turn their backs on me now. Not now!
I called, and I called, and I called! Letting the phone ring until I got a very 'human' sounding voicemail. But I just kept going, one phone call after another. They have to let me in. They have to.
I still got no answer, and looking back out of my window, the vampires looked to almost be having a small 'party' downstairs...waiting for midnight so that they can come and feed on me without consequence.
I called the local airport to see if I could book a plane out of the city. I asked them to send a shuttle bus for me as well. ANYTHING to smuggle me out of here. The man asked where I wanted to go, and I said, "ANYWHERE! Just far away from here. Some place warm. California! I don't care! But I need to leave tonight, you understand? As soon as possible. Money is no object!" There WAS a plane leaving in the next 30 minutes to Los Angeles, and I was sure that I could make it, and have the shuttle here to give me some added protection on the way to the airport. They wouldn't just knock me off in a heavily public, well lit, place, would they? They can't. They needed to stay secret. Hidden. Right?
Just then, after hearing the man type on his keyboard over the phone, he said, "Hmmm...I'm sorry, sir. Your credit card was declined."
"Listen to me, alright...I'm having aminor issue with my accounts right now, due to a clerical error. But I guarantee you that I'm good for it! Just get me a shuttle here as quickly as possible, get me on a plane, and I SWEAR on my life that I'll..."
"I'm sorry, sir. But I can't certify any transactions until the fees have been taken of."
I swallowed my rage, and told him, "I...I understand that. But this is an emergency. It's a GODDAMNED EMERGENCY!!!" I couldn't control my voice anymore. Tears of terror rolled out of my eyes as I shouted into the phone. "GET ME OUTTA HERE!!! You've GOT to get me on a plane! Right now! Jesus Christ...just send the shuttle! You're wasting time!" That's when I heard a 'click' on the other end of the line. "Hello? HELLO?!?!?!" I angrily slammed the phone against a nearby wall, nearly breaking it in half. "YOU BASTARD!!!"
I looked back outside the window...and I knew it was pointless to even argue. None of my credit cards would work. They made sure that I was as far away from my money as huanly possible. I couldn't even afford a cab ride. I watched...as they taunted me with impish grins and evil laughter.
What else could I do...but wait for the Elders to respond?
I began pacing back and forth, almost wetting my pants at the thought of my time running out so quickly. My mind was spinning...trying to come up with another idea! But I was too panicked to do anything more than drink. Now gulping scotch right out of the bottle, as the time on my watch ticked away.
The vampires outside had almost doubled in number now, and every time I peeked out of that window...their shadowed forms and glowing eyes were looking right back at me. Anxiously waiting for their time to strike.
I called some of my political friends to help me out, but they all thought I was plum crazy. I made the mistake of mentioning the idea of vampires to one of them, and all they asked was how much I had been drinking and telling me that I should sleep it off. Tried to call my ex...see if maybe she could give me the number to her credit card instead. Give me a loan. Ha! It must have been the alcohol that made me think THAT conversation was going to go well. Cheating on your wife with a 19 year old boy musician is NOT a good idea. Especially if you get caught in the act while she's supposed to be out of town on a business trip.
My ex-wife's last words to me tonight, when I tried to explain the vampire thing?
"GOOD! I hope they ARE real! And I hope they bite you right on the ASS, you goddamn adulterous DRUNK!!!"
I'll take that as a 'no' to the loan.
I looked down at the bottle in my hand, finished what was in it...and then opened up another one. Heh...15 minutes. That's what my life has been narrowed down to. A lousy 15 minutes.
Ain't it grand?
FINALLY...after hours upon HOURS of trying to get through to the Elders earlier, hearing that voicemail a BILLION times in the last half hour alone, someone picked up the line!!!
"Serazzi!!!! Serazzi, my GOD! You don't know how good it is to hear your voice right now!" I nearly screamed. "Let me talk to Father Juliano! PLEASE! And tell him that it's URGENT!" I said, nearly sobbing openly from the relief in my heart! They'll straighten this shit out for me. They'll send me some protection and get this whole mess cleared up once and for all.
"I'm afraid that Father Juliano is not available at the moment." He said.
"What? What the fuck...? What are you DOING Serazzi? Seriously! I'm not kidding around here! I need to talk to him, RIGHT NOW!!!"
"No, Mr. Kincaid, you don't." Serazzi said calmly. "It appears that our business relationship, as we know it...is officially about to come to an end."
What the...what was he saying? What was he...??? What the FUCK???
"No...no no no, wait! What are you talking about? Serazzi, for the love of GOD, put Elder Juliano on the goddamn phone!!!"
But Serazzi never raised his voice. Not even a little bit. "I'm sorry, but that is not possible."
"What the FUCK are you talking about???" I shouted even louder, nearly hyperventilating now. "I've got a vampire safeguard mark that's going to run out in the next FIFTEEN fucking minutes...and I need a new one! NOW!!!"
"I'm afraid we cannot offer you a new safeguard, Mr. Kincaid. That offer is on the table for our 'business' associates only. I doubt you would be able to financially back us for the full amount of a safeguard mark that wasn't given to you as a favor. You were already heavily discounted by Elder Beraad from the very beginning. That is an option that is no longer up for discussion."
"What business associates??? I *AM* a business associate!!! I've been serving you both for three YEARS now, Serazzi!!! THREE FUCKING YEARS!!!!"
"Yes, and in return we provided you with ample protection from the bottom feeders of this city. That was clearly an even trade for services rendered, and it was profitable for all involved...when that situation was beneficial to us both. But that is no longer the case, Mr. Kincaid."
"You're firing me??? You can't FIRE me!!! I've been...I've been LOYAL to you! To your KIND!" I said, trying hard not to 'beg and plead' for my life. They wouldn't respect that. They never have. "You can't DO this to me! After all the money I've earned for you, all the functions I FUNDED for you...you OWE me! I put my ass on the line, risked going to prison for LIFE! A quarter of this whole damn CITY is *MINE*!!!"
"Not any more it isn't." Serazzi told me. "It seems that we are taking your territories and turning them over to a Mr. Fitzgerald from now on. He and his brother Bobby will be handling your business dealings in that part of town from now on, effective immediately as of 12:01 AM. You, on the other hand, are no longer necessary. I hardly see a reason to grant you an extension on your expiration date."
Trying to calm down before he began tuning me out, I held myself steady, and tried to just...breathe. "Listen...Serazzi...as a FRIEND, ok? As a FRIEND...I'm telling you....you have to help me out here."
"Do I, now?" He said, matter-of-factly. Almost in a belittling way.
"You don't...you don't...understand..." I said, my voice trembling as I held back sobs of desperation. "...If I don't renew my mark by midnight tonight....there are vampires outside of my window...right NOW...that are going to KILL me! Do you understand? They are GOING...to KILL me!"
"I know." He said, shocking me even further. "And they paid well to learn of your whereabouts this evening. Seems they've been waiting for this moment for quite some time now."
The horror of the situation sank in, and I nearly wet myself as I began to shake violently from the inside out. "You...set me up...?"
"Let's be honest, Mr. Kincaid, shall we? You don't care about our kind. You never did. You USED us to get what you wanted, exploited our limitations to get rich, and for the last few years we allowed you to live in the lap of extreme luxury while our kind suffered out in the cold and the rain. You kicked back in your well furnished condominium with all of your nifty gadgets, and you watched the rest of us live in poverty and constant misery from your high rise window, never once offering even the change from your pocket to help ease a bit of our pain." Serazzi told me. "You didn't just make money out of thin air, Mr. Kincaid. You literally sold your SOUL to get what you have now. Look around you, at all the fabulous trinkets you've acquired in such a short amount of time. And you didn't share a dime of it with anyone. Not even the church. So now...it is time to face the karma you have willingly brought upon yourself. A level of karma that could have been so much easier on you, had you spent your years giving back, instead of taking away from the community that made you what you are."
"It was YOU that talked me into being a part of this! BOTH of you! I only went along with it because..."
"Because...the evil and corruption in your heart was stronger than your sense of human decency, Mr. Kincaid." He said. "You spend your nights calling us monsters, but those of you who walk in daylight are no less predatory than we are. The only difference is...you've learned to tell yourselves a convincing variety of lies to deny such a thing is true. But you've made your millions, Mr. Kincaid. You have lived the privileged life of a wealthy man, and have experienced through the carefree eyes of a man without conscience. Congratulations." My knees went weak as he continued with, "But...you are no longer dealing with the laws of business. You are dealing with the laws of nature. And your riches don't come into play when it comes to your place on the food chain. Your vapid soul and lack of morality simply don't possess the proper 'currency' needed to pay up when the bill for your heartless actions comes due."
"So what the hell am I supposed to do???"
"I suggest you keep the lights on. For as long as you can."
"You TRAITOR!!!" I screamed.
""Traitors..."" He said. "Aren't we all." I couldn't believe this was fucking happening right now! "Greed...vanity...lust...pride...how long have we preached on these things? How long has humanity turned a blind eye to the scars they leave behind?"
"Don't GIVE me that religious bullshit, you son of a bitch! You profited off of this too!!! Your hands are JUST as fucking dirty as mine!"
"And yet...it is not I who have a collection of angry vampires waiting outside my door." He said. "Perhaps you can let this provide you with a valuable lesson, Mr. Kincaid. And if granted another chance at life, you will learn that the next time you are fortunate enough to be put into a position of privilege far above the norm...you can use some of that useless material wealth to create a stronger bridge between you and those who would do you harm in times of utter desperation. For, as I am sure you are about to realize...you really can't take it with you."
Looking back at my watch, seeing the second hand moving at what seemed like the speed of LIGHT to me, I tried to appeal to his higher nature. "You're a priest, Serazzi! You HAVE to help me! You and Juliano are BOTH priests!!!!PLEASE!!!! You HAVE to help me! You HAVE to!!!"
"I'm sorry, my child. But the good book says that God does NOT exist in desperation. And neither does our sense of 'compassion' in these matters." After which he had the nerve to add, "But for what it's worth...I will say a sincere prayer for you tonight, and I wish you luck...in seeing the dawn again."
"*FUCK* YOU!!!! YOU HEAR ME??? *FUCK* YOU!!! I'LL SEE YOU IN *HELL*, SERAZZI!!! I'LL SEE BOTH OF YOU IN FUCKING HELL!!!"
Still...never raising his voice...he replied, "Not for a looooong long time, Mr. Kincaid. Not for a looooong long time." And he hung up the phone. Leaving me all alone...
Believe it or not...I almost felt at peace.
Two minutes to go, and not a care in the world.
I drank as much as I possibly could from behind the bar, stumbling a bit on my way back to the mirror. Might as well not let the 'good stuff' go to waste. I was watery eyed, but not a single tear fell as I stared at my reflection. I had gotten dressed up in my best suit for the event, wore my best set of cufflinks, and a tie that was brand new. Hadn't even worn it to the office yet. Fixed my hair, put on some cologne, and peeled away the rest of that useless safeguard mark from the side of my neck. It won't be doing me any good anymore anyway.
Deep down, I was hoping that I had enough alcohol in my blood to POISON the little fuckers! It won't kill 'em, but if they maintained the tolerance of a teenager for the last dozen years or so, it'll keep them puking in the bushes and suffering a few hangover headaches for the next day or two. I guess that's the only revenge I've got at this point, huh?
I looked around at my condo, and I admired all the things I had gotten for myself. Fuck it...for the last few years, life was good. And they can't take that away from me, no matter how hard they try.
I got in the elevator, and hit the button for the bottom floor.
No regrets, Kincaid. No regrets.
I heard my watch beep as I opened the lobby door and walked back out into the parking lot...bottle of liquor still in hand.
Will it hurt? Yeah, I'm sure it will. They'll make certain of that. But how long am I actually going to have to suffer? They're looking to rip me apart for the things I've done. They won't be waiting around for something as playful and time consuming as 'torture'. Not tonight.
Psh! Kids! Always in a hurry.
They began creeping out of the shadows right away, and as I swayed slightly on my feet, watching the horde approach me...eyes glowing red, fangs spiked down...I took what was left in that bottle, and I turned it up towards the sky. Guzzling the rest of the potent liquid, as I got down on my knees and prepared to bare witness to a monster's fury.
Was I sorry? No, not really. Maybe old fogies like me never learn. But for what it's worth...
These little hell bound fuckers can kiss my ASS!!!
A phone rings...
"Mr. Fitzgerald? This is Father Serazzi. My apologies for the lateness of my call. I wanted to contact you to let you know that our...arrangement has now been put into full effect. Both for you, and your brother Bobby. Congratulations."
"Thank you. Thank you. And tell Elder Juliano that I won't let him down. You have my word."
"I am sure that you word is as good as gold, Mr. Fitzgerald. We're expecting to see a great many things from you over the next three years."
"Yes, sir. You certainly will." Mr. Fitzgerald replied, then asking, "So...this 'thing' on my neck? It's going to keep me SAFE right? I mean...I don't have to worry about...walking the streets at night or anything, do I?"
"Of course not, Mr. Fitzgerald." Serazzi answered calmly. "You needn't worry about that anymore. You're our associate now. Your well being means a lot to us, as well as the rest of our organization." And then...with a very dark smile...Serazzi added...
"You're in good hands, Mr. Fitzgerald. You're working for the highest class of Vampire Elders now...and we ALWAYS take care of our own. Always."
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