"Wilson is a dark force to be reckoned with."--Trent Zelazny, author of Destination Unknown and Fractal Despondency
What Happens in Vegas... is a free fast-paced short story set in the Empire of Blood series.
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WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS...
An Empire of Blood short story
by Robert S. Wilson
Jackie didn't really think they would hurt innocent little girls. She had only meant to scare Karen, to have a little fun. But now her sister lay dead in the passenger seat and they would soon get Jackie, too.
The girls took off on Highway 15 South with the money Mom and Dad left for food while they went on their stupid little "second honeymoon." There was already plenty of food in the house they could take with them. She could use the food money for gas and they could go out for the night of their lives. But she couldn't tell Karen where they were going, no way. If Jackie had told her, she wouldn't have come along.
So, that morning, they packed up the car with the big cooler and headed southwest. Karen was just tall enough to see over the dashboard, but she mostly read on road trips. Jackie had always wanted to see the city, especially after Robby Shelton told her about all that was left behind. Las Vegas was a huge, wealthy city in its time. She thought about all the money that was just left to rot. Just one U.S. dollar in "acceptable" shape was worth fifty bucks these days.
"Now, if Mom or Dad call, remember, we're just in town getting something to eat."
"What if they call late at night and we're still out?"
"You let me handle that, kid."
"Hey, you're not much older than me, so shut it."
Jackie gave her sister the angry face and Karen quickly stuck her nose back into her book. Jackie turned her hungry eyes back to the road. Living in Cedar City, Utah, it was only about a three hour drive to the old city. And so long as they got out of there before dark, they would be just fine. They would even get home in time for Karen's bedtime and all would be right with the world.
When they crossed the state line into Nevada, Karen watched as the sign flew by, the golden rims of her glasses reflecting the bright sun in Jackie's eyes. Most of the drive was boring. Just more and more desert. Jackie was lucky enough that Karen's face stayed buried in her book when they passed the crossed-out sign that read Las Vegas 58 miles.
It was common knowledge that the closer to the city you came, the less people you found. And nobody kept you from driving right on in.
Jackie hadn't counted on just how big of a tourist attraction the city had been. As they came up to the large sign, still mostly intact, that welcomed anybody and everybody to "Fabulous" Las Vegas, she couldn't help but gasp at what had been done to it. Karen looked up from her book and her complexion turned several shades paler.
Splotches of dried blood randomly adorned the sign and the word Necropolis seemed to be painted in dry blood right over "Las Vegas." The real thing was a far cry from the horror stories they had been told when they were younger. It was always the first thing out of Dad's mouth when they got in trouble. "Lying is a sin, Jackie. You don't wanna grow up and get sent to Necropolis, do you?" Or, "You know what the monsters in Necropolis do to people, don't you? They drink all their blood until they die. If you keep up this nasty behavior, that's where you'll go."
It took some time to calm Karen, but inevitably Jackie had to just be the boss and make her come along knowing that Karen was too scared to run away. Besides, there was all that desert out there and nobody for miles.
Jackie's friend Lori's older cousin had been sent to Necropolis. He had been caught kissing another boy and both of them were charged as homos. When Lori's aunt found out, she refused to talk to the boy anymore. It was hard for Jackie to believe that before the city had been taken, there were some states who actually allowed the homos to marry. A mix of guilt and anger waved over her at that thought.
"We're just gonna look around and try to find some cool things to bring back with us. It'll be awesome, trust me," Jackie said.
Karen didn't reply. Her book sat at her side as she stared all around at the tall, empty buildings and strange landmarks. Other than the engine and its echo off the buildings, the place was dead quiet. They drove by several huge buildings alongside a big green statue of a lady in a toga holding a torch above her head. It looked vaguely familiar to Jackie. She thought it might be something from history class.
After a while, they came to a huge replica of the Sphinx with a large dark pyramid sitting behind it. Jackie knew this was one of the places she should probably look. If there were treasures to be found, some of them would be here.
Jackie got out of the car and stood there just looking up at the huge thing. Most of the Sphinx's features were covered in sand from years of storms. A few spots of flat black could be seen through the dust covering the pyramid. If someone were to replace the other buildings with sand, the place would've looked just like Egypt.
"Come and look at this, Karen. It's so awesome," Jackie said.
Karen just sat in the car, looking pekid.
"Fine then," Jackie said as she came around to the passenger side of the car. She opened the door, grabbed Karen's arms, and pulled her from the car. "Come on. You shouldn't sit in here by yourself. I'm going inside, and like it or not, you're coming with me."
Karen let out a strange groan. Jackie couldn't believe how much her little sister was sweating. After a short struggle, Karen had no other choice but to come along.
Jackie flipped on the flashlight and tried one of the glass double doors. It was unlocked. The smell of rotting meat inside was nearly strong enough to gag Jackie, but she pulled her shirt up over her mouth and nose so she could breathe. Karen, however, didn't move fast enough and got hit hard enough to make her throw up.
"Oh god, can we please go back outside, Jackie? This is terrible."
"Just do what I'm doing and it's not so bad." Jackie laughed at Karen, who was leaned over, a long line of drool hanging from her mouth. She shined the flashlight all around the room as she waited for Karen. There were graying card tables, rusty slot machines, and large blank TV screens everywhere. It was all covered in cobwebs and a layer of dust thicker than Jackie had ever seen. But there was something else. She kept seeing other shapes in the shadows cast by the flashlight. They were so random she couldn't make them out. She started to walk toward one of them to get a closer look when a hand grabbed hold of her wrist. She jumped and let out a small scream. Karen screamed back at her.
"Don't go without me, I'm scared."
Jackie stood there a moment panting, wanting to beat her little sister over the head with her flashlight. When she caught her breath, she gripped Karen's hand too tight on purpose.
"You want a guide, you got one." The two girls glared at each other and then Jackie headed back toward the shadow she had seen. Though Jackie had loosened her grip, their hands were still locked tight. God, her sister was such a scaredy-cat. She pointed the flashlight back to the card table she had seen the shape behind and headed toward it.
As she came closer, it seemed more and more to be a thicker layer of dust accumulated in a strange shape until she noticed the outline of the bony hand. Finally close enough, she shined the light full on the shape and the rest of the gray withered body, crumpled over the edge of the table, became clear. Underneath the bony hand were five cards and a thick coagulated pool of dried blood spreading out from the body's neck.
The sound that next came from Karen could have shattered a whole set of fine glasses. Jackie couldn't even find the good humor to laugh at her sister. The thought never occurred to her that they might find any bodies. Her own body started to shake without her consent. Just find where they kept the cash and then we can get the hell out of here, she told herself. She made up her mind before they even hit the road that she wasn't leaving this place without something to show for it.
Jackie backed away from the table, Karen hugging her arm. The flashlight cast more and more rising shadows everywhere she pointed it. The more they backed away, the more bodies became visible. Jackie turned to run, forgetting all about her little sister, when she tripped over something that felt like tree limbs against her legs. The flashlight flipped through the air, its randomly spinning beam resembling a disco ball. Then it landed with a thin crack and went dead, leaving the room in utter darkness. Karen screamed. Both girls were hyperventilating.
"I'm down here." Before Jackie could stop her, Karen moved toward her and fell forward in a rush on top of Jackie, knocking the wind out of her.
"Jackie, what was that?" Karen cried.
"I don't know, maybe some kind of bench?"
"Benches don't wear clothes." Both girls struggled away from the clothed "bench." Jackie thought about reaching around on the ground blindly to find the flashlight and quickly decided against it. Her eyes were still filled with the phantom glow of the flashlight, but she could remember the general direction they came in. She grabbed Karen's hand and pulled her along that way.
It didn't take long before they saw the small patch of light. It grew as they got closer, eventually revealing the glass doors it came through. Without hesitation, Jackie pushed through the door without stopping, dragging Karen along with her. Jackie turned and kicked the door, realizing she didn't get a single dollar bill from inside. I'll just go back with the flashlight and--Shit, the flashlight.
"Damn it!" she screamed, kicking the door over and over. Karen's bewildered expression, reflected in the bright glass of the door, snapped Jackie out of her fury and turned it to shame. She took a deep breath, sighed heavily, then flopped down Indian style and let her shoulders slump. How would she see to find some cash in any of these places without her flashlight? After seeing those bodies, there was no way she was going to try without it.
"Okay, let's go find somewhere else then," she said, smiling at Karen.
Karen just stared at her blankly.
"Oh, come on, don't be such a pussy, Karen."
Karen turned swiftly and stomped more than walked back to the car, got in, and slammed the door. Jackie laughed as she got up from the concrete and brushed off the back of her shorts.
They drove around for a long time. Some of the roads were completely blocked with anywhere from dozens to hundreds of cars. If they drove close enough, they could see the stiff, gray flesh of the bodies still inside. The ones with their throats torn out were the worst.
They saw their first one on North Main St. in a red Mustang convertible. He was wearing a blue camo hat that once tied around the throat. Now, both strings hung from the hat, threads hanging and blowing in the wind, framing the gaping blood-black hole where the man's adam’s apple had been. Jackie almost lurched, but managed to keep herself composed as Karen frantically sobbed about wanting to go home. When she looked back at her for an answer, Jackie made herself smile as she dug her fingernails into the steering wheel as casually as she could manage.
"Everything is fine. Stop whining. This'll be fun."
Karen's sobs died down some, but they didn't stop.
She’d been driving around in circles for the better part of an hour trying to figure out which building they should go in next. Then, the obvious choice stuck out like a sore thumb in her peripheral vision. She turned to look at the tall, white, scepter-looking building off in the distant northern sky. Jackpot. Had to be. She swerved the car northward at the next intersection.
Karen held tight to the door and seat as the car swung around. "What are you doing?"
"I just picked our next destination, sister, and you better perk up for this one, it looks awesome!"
"Where are we going now, Jackie, I told you I just want to go home, can't we just go home?" Her voice had taken on that whining tone again. The one that tore into Jackie's brain like nails on a chalkboard.
"Oh, shut up you little baby, we’re going to that one right there!" She pointed to the tall white needle-shaped building. It stood over the rest of the skyline looking like a giant bishop on a chess board.
Karen started to chew on her fingernails as Jackie slammed on the gas and swerved to miss the occasional abandoned car. Jackie noted the paleness of Karen's skin as they went along. Her first split second thought was that she looked like she belonged in the city. She almost felt guilty for the thought but instead shrugged it off and focused on the task at hand.
The large white building towered over them as they drove up the block. It had looked tall from afar, but now it looked even taller. And Karen was really beginning to be a drag, too. She had started shaking lightly and whimpering under her breath every now and then. What a big baby, Jackie thought. I can't believe how much Mom and Dad gawk over you, you little brat.
You could really see the damage to the buildings in this area. As they got closer and closer to the White Bishop, as Jackie had started calling it in her head, they saw large open spaces in some of the buildings and several appeared to have more gone than intact. Jackie was so busy looking at these tombs of decay that she didn't even notice all the debris in the road.
The ride got really bumpy all of a sudden, and before Jackie could even look at the road in front of her, there was a loud pop and the car seemed to jerk away from her. Karen seemed to convulse as the car spun out of control, and then with inertia still pulling at them, came to an abrupt stop facing away from the tower.
Jackie couldn't help but wonder if it was some kind of a sign, but she was already in too deep. She'd risked this much so far, why stop now.
Karen sobbed into her lap. Jackie looked her over. She seemed fine. Jackie felt a slight jarring pain in her neck but not enough to keep her from moving. She sighed and then got out of the car to investigate. The left front tire looked more like the remains of an exploded black cloth than a tire. It draped several large chunks of steel and concrete that mirrored hundreds of others Jackie was now noticing to be scattered all over the road.
Without thinking, she kicked one of the pieces and the shock of pain that tore into her foot almost sent her writhing on the ground.
"Fuuuuck!" she screamed. Her voice echoed back at her several times as the realization of just how fucked she and her sister were clicked in her head. No wonder Karen was so upset now. They were stranded in deep in Necropolis, their car broken down, and the sun would be gone in just over an hour or so. Jackie swallowed what felt like part of her throat as the words formed in her head.
We're dead, I've just killed us.
As the echoes of Jackie's scream faded, Karen's weeping was the only sound in that desolate place. Jackie looked dumbly at the car as if she were trying to think it back to working condition. She turned and looked down the long road that had brought them there. Broken buildings and abandoned cars littered the view. Cars. Maybe we can take one of the cars. She ran around to the passenger side of her car that would now take them nowhere.
A thick, painful feeling gripped her chest as she looked down at her blubbering sister. Her face wrinkled in worry as she reached for the door handle. She took a deep, quiet breath and pulled the door open. Leaning down next to her sister she spoke in a soft voice trying to hold back her own broken dam of emotion.
"Oh my god, Kare-Bear, I'm so sorry."
Karen's sobs increased. She put a hand out to push her sister away. Jackie cradled Karen's hand with both of hers and said, "I promise I'll get us out of this. I won't let anything happen to you."
Karen shook with another wave of weeping, pulled her sister closer, and the girls embraced for a long moment.
Jackie whispered in Karen's ear, "Let's go, maybe we can get one of these cars to start and get the hell out of here before it's too late." With that her sister stiffened. "What's the matter, Karen?" But even though her sister didn't answer, she knew what it was.
A strong wave of nausea came over Jackie as the image of that first dead man came back into her mind and refused to go away. That gaping hole for a throat and the bloated gray shell that had once been skin covering his body. She looked at her sister and that same tight stubbornness inside her,the one that had gotten them stuck in the first place, took over and she gripped Karen's hand and pulled.
"No, we're getting the hell out of here before we can't!"
Karen tried to fight her hand away from Jackie, but it was no use. Karen had never been an active child and now Jackie was thankful for it. It was more than that. She was thankful for everything about her sister. She had never known until that moment just how much she really did love her. She knew now, though. She loved her enough to drag her kicking and screaming all the way to the city limits if she had to.
Karen eventually gave up and begrudgingly came of her own will. They smelled the driver of the first car long before they were close enough to make out its license plate. The smell was pungent in a way that Jackie had never expected. The intense, thick muskiness of it made Jackie's head hurt more and more the closer they came to the huge blue Lincoln. The sun had since been swallowed by the horizon, leaving behind an eerie dusk.
If someone had told Jackie what was left of the woman would look even worse than the man they first saw, she would have thought they were shitting her. But they wouldn't have been. It was obvious from the multiple gaping wounds she had been torn to shreds by multiple attackers. Her head hung sideways over her right shoulder and her collarbone showed through what was left of the flesh that had been ripped out of her shoulder. A quick look under the steering wheel revealed a medium-sized keychain of keys hanging from the ignition.
Jackie had been too shocked by the view to hide it from her sister in time and Karen let out a wailing scream that sent the coldest shiver down Jackie's spine like ice. Jackie held firm to what they had to do, though. What she had to do. She took Karen over to the sidewalk and sat her down against the wall of the tan granite-walled building and left her there curled into a ball. She walked back over to the driver side of the car and took a long look at the woman and made herself imagine her little sister sitting there.
As tears streamed down her face she pulled open the door and reached out for the body. Underneath the coarse fabric of the woman's suit, Jackie could feel the stiff limbs of her arms. As she picked up the body, it felt as though it were made of a slightly heavier form of hardened Styrofoam. She fought back the lurching in her throat and put all of her strength into tossing the body aside into the road. It landed with a series of cracks as both legs and one of the arms tore free from the lifeless torso.
"Uggghh!" Jackie swung her arms up and down in disgust and for the first time was taken off guard by the immense fear and emotion inside of her. Her body convulsed for a minute as she stood there with nothing to grab hold of; she looked as though her hands gripped the invisible handle of a dynamite detonating box as she wept.
It wasn't immediate, but eventually she took hold of herself and went back to where her sister lay staring off into space, dry tears staining her face.
"Okay, kiddo, get in the car and let's get this show on the road."
Karen looked up at her like a lost puppy. She drug herself up and the two of them got in the car, both with sour faces. Jackie took a deep breath and turned the key in the ignition. It didn't start but it made enough noise to give the impression it might if it were given enough motivation. She tried again. The car seemed to try a little bit harder but still couldn't quite make it.
She tried again, this time pushing gently down on the gas and the car tried ever harder to come to life but still could not. She let a cry of anger that made little sense in the English language as she beat on the steering wheel with the bottom of her fist.
"Why won't it start, Jackie?"
"Do I look like I know jack shit about cars, Karen?"
Karen started to cry again and there was that heavy lump in Jackie's chest again. She swallowed and took a deep breath.
"I'm sorry, Kare-Bear. I thought it would work and we could get out of here and I'm just so scared."
Karen reached across the middle console and grabbed Jackie's hand and gripped it tightly. A high pitched screeching came from somewhere far away like the scream of some demonic bird. The sound ricocheted off of the buildings and echoed in multiple pitches as it went.
Both Jackie and Karen's hands clasped together went cold and wet as their grips tightened slickly. The hair on the back of Jackie's neck seemed to rise and she knew instantly what the sound had been.
She felt dizzy and surreal as she opened the car door and drug her sister with her. Karen was whimpering and it was all Jackie could do to get her to shut up. She finally had to stop and shake Karen to get her to snap out of it. Street lights and the remaining neon signs started coming to life as the two girls ran for the next car up the road, a lavender SUV.
The front end of the it was buried into what had been a glass store front for some type of electronics store. Large crooked splinters of glass hung like monstrous teeth from the top of the wide window sill. Hues of red, blue, and gold reflected off the shattered glass strung along the sidewalk and the edge of the road around the SUV.
Jackie lead the way carefully as they stepped over the glass, onto the sidewalk, and into the store.
"Stay here while I get--"
"But look Jackie, there's no one inside." Karen pointed into the windshield of the big lavendar truck which was dimly lit from behind with red neon light.
Jackie walked up to get a closer look and sure enough it seemed empty. She put her hand out to Karen just in case and went around to the driver side door and looked down into the floorboard. No body, nothing at all. She opened the door and looked under the steering wheel. No keys. Her pulse quickened, but she kept as calm as she could and hopped into the car, going for the visor. She pulled it down and dust fell into her face, causing her to cough violently. But there were no keys. She tried the other visor and found it also lacking of keys.
She knew it was a long shot but she reached across the seat and opened the glove compartment. Only random papers and junk seemed to fill it. She was just about get out of the car when she felt something under her foot on the driver’s side floorboard. She reached down and felt with her hand. It certainly felt like keys. She picked them up and they jingled filling her with hope. When the light reflected off the keychain she nearly hollered with excitement. Instead, she reached her hand out of the open door and motioned for Karen to get in.
A weight much heavier than the vehicle she sat in fell away from Jackie's chest when she turned the ignition and the engine started with a loud roar. The girls shared a look of excitement and then Jackie checked the mirrors. Nothing. She pushed on the gas and the beast roared some more.
"Yeah! We're getting out of here in style," she said.
Karen giggled then for the first time since they'd arrived in the old city. Jackie put the SUV in reverse and hit the gas. It flung itself out of the open building at an angle and then they were facing the empty street ahead.
Jackie took a deep breath and then floored it. The truck followed her commands instantly and before long they were several blocks up the street. Jackie smiled, almost snarled with delight as the lavender monster tore up the road and the buildings zipped by on each side.
Karen let out a gasp and before Jackie could look over and ask what was wrong, she saw them.
There must have been at least a dozen of them. Black dots swishing through the sky right in their direction, getting bigger the closer they came. A few seconds later and she could make out the closest of them. They looked sort of like people soaring through the air. But she knew they weren't people. They were dressed in what looked like black rags. Their skin was pale and their eyes were the most inhuman part of all their features. They were yellow and cat-like, watching, clearly able to see the girls from even that long of a distance.
When the first ones hit, Jackie wasn't prepared for what would happen next. They slammed into the SUV like it was made of cardboard and its front end flipped up off of the ground. She could see Karen rising up in her seat, only the seatbelt holding her back from the ceiling as Jackie's stomach rose in whatever direction was now up.
Then, the vehicle landed on its top with a loud crunch from above. Her left shoulder had pulled out of socket from the jerk of the seatbelt.
"Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god," Karen was chanting in between hyperventilating. What was now the top of the SUV but had originally been the bottom began to shake. Jackie squeezed her eyes shut, waiting for it all to end.
When the truck finally became still, silence filled the inside of the cab. The deafening stillness seemed to go on forever until it was interrupted by a high-pitched screeching that sent a painful chill down Jackie's spine. Then they started to thrash against the vehicle. It was as if a herd of rhinoceros had run full on into the sides of the thing. With each collision, Jackie could hear her sister let out a muffled moan as if holding back a scream with all of her might.
The thrashing returned and worsened until a single slam sent the upturned truck into what had to have been a spin. Whatever it was, it was causing Karen to lose her lunch again, the contents of her stomach slopping on the roof of the cab. They were moving so fast that the air was pulling on Jackie's flesh. Then, with a painful crash, it stopped.
Jackie looked over at Karen. She hung loosely from the seatbelt her hair surrounding her face. She wasn't moving.
"Karen?" Jackie whispered between sobs. "Karen, are you okay?"
"Karen?" her voice sounding horse.
Another long moment of horrible silence filled the air. Without notice, the world turned upside down again and the SUV slammed back down on its tires. That terrible screeching started again, only this time it sounded as though it were circling around them. Jackie looked over at Karen. Her head was hunched over her right shoulder so Jackie couldn't see her face. She still wasn't moving. It took Jackie several minutes before she even realized she might have the power to move now. She was still very dizzy and her ribs and shoulder hurt bad from where the seatbelt pulled on them but she thought she might be able to move.
All the while that terrible screeching went on and on. She unfastened her seatbelt and reached over for Karen. When she pulled on Karen's immobile body, it slumped back with too much ease and her face became visible. Her eyes stared off into nothingness, looking unnaturally frozen. Jackie's breath caught in her throat and the world seemed to stop.
The screeching took on an underwater impression even though she knew it was getting louder. She reached out and shook her little sister as if she could shake life into her. Nothing. Her limp body only shook and nothing more than that. Jackie began screaming uncontrollably. Her hands shook before her and a sense of hopelessness enveloped her.
Her screaming might have continued had they not started slamming into the truck again. The first hit sent it leftward into a 90 degree angle. The second threw it almost back to the exact spot it had been. The third nearly turned it all the way around. Another moment of silence came and something clicked in Jackie. She reached forward and turned the key. The engine revved up, sounding more like grinding metal than it probably should.
She hit the gas and the grinding increased but the SUV moved forward as though it were on the most bumpy road ever. She knew from her experience earlier that night that the tires must have blown, but she continued pushing on the gas anyway. Something bright caught her eyes in the side mirror. She looked and saw sparks flying up from underneath the rims of the wheels. Behind them she could see the creatures gaining behind her.
Jackie didn't really think they would hurt innocent little girls. She had only meant to scare Karen, to have a little fun. But now her sister lay dead in the passenger seat and they would soon get Jackie, too. She punched on the gas with anger.
"I'll kill you motherfuckers!" But she knew she was really only angry with herself.
Something scraped across the roof. As it came closer to the cab, she panicked and swerved to the left. The SUV toppled and flipped several times over, flinging her into the steering wheel and the window each time. Glass spilled from all of the windows and flung around the cab like violent glitter. The screeching was now louder than life itself. When the truck finally landed and was still, it lay on the driver’s side. Karen's dead fingertips grazed the side of Jackie's face and she began to weep, her face a mess of moisture.
Let me die, please, God, let me die, she thought. There was a slam against the passenger door and the screeching was so loud now it seemed to be in Jackie's head. Before she could even think of moving as she lay crunched against the driver’s side door, Jackie watched in terror as Karen's body and the passenger door were both plucked from the vehicle. She couldn't even see them. A scream like no other erupted from Jackie.
As if to spite her lurching screams, one of those pale faces appeared where the passenger door had been. Its catlike eyes reflected an array of neon colors and its yellow and green rotted teeth caught her eyes. Particularly the two long canines that seemed to be pointing out at her with a longing. Her scream broke into a series of whimpers. The thing started crawling slowly toward her as if gravity didn't exist. A strange snarl hung in the back of its throat.
Jackie shifted in her fright and felt several sharp penetrating pains in her left shoulder. She knew then it was broken. The creature looked at her mindlessly as it crawled ever closer. It was now within reaching distance. Jackie squeezed her eyes shut, waiting for it to rip her throat out, unable to get rid of the image of that first man they had seen.
Cold, clammy hands like solid, fleshy ice gripped her by the collar of her shirt and in an instant they were in the open air and the pain in Jackie's side and arm was almost enough to make her pass out. But she hung on, determined that if she would die she would not fade away, but instead be aware of every last second.
The cold air stung her skin as she felt the fangs puncture into her neck. That horrendous scream exploded from her lungs and she swung her good elbow back into the creatures solid, rock-like face. The pain in her elbow was almost enough to take away from her arm and neck.
She felt a quiver through the creature then. An intense sting and pressure and then open air upon the wound in her neck told her the vampire had removed its fangs. It screamed out in that screeching tone and she could hear what sounded to her like a trace of bitterness in it. Then, the air stung even more and the sense of movement was more than she could consciously take. She slipped away into darkness.
When she woke, she was lying on solid, uncomfortable ground. The creatures were in the sky again, circling above her and in the corner of her eye she could see movement.
A male, only slightly pale, with long black hair wearing what Jackie was sure couldn't possibly be a business suit knelt down beside her. That's when she noticed the color of his eyes. As her father would say, they were as red as the Devil's jumpsuit. He looked at her with a sort of pity and sorrow. She'd heard they were deceptive creatures, though. And she knew any minute he would bury his face into her neck and take away what little life was left within her.
He opened his mouth to speak and the fangs became all she could see.
"Why would you do something so completely stupid?" His voice had an accent she couldn't quite place. He reached a hand out to her then and she didn't know why, but she felt she had no other choice but to take it. He pulled her up to a sitting position and she saw a body lying still behind him. It was Karen.
"Yes. You have some sense of what you've done after all, haven't you?"
She nodded hesitantly, tears sliding down both sides of her face. Why did he seem to be examining her moral choices? Was this some sort of test. A slight grin took over his face.
"You are wondering why you are still alive, aren't you? Why you live to hear me speak at all, am I right?"
She nodded again, unable to use her voice.
"It's true, you will die. But I will not be the one who takes your life. I'm afraid I can do nothing to stop this. If her blood was not on your hands, it might be different, however."
Jackie began to sob. She wanted to die, wanted to die more because it was true. She had killed her. It was her fault that Karen lay dead in the street.
The man turned and walked toward Karen's body and Jackie tried to get up on her feet, a scream escaping her and echoing off of the surrounding buildings. "No!"
But he kept on walking and that screeching returned as strange shadows on the road grew until the creatures were there and biting into her body. The last thing she saw was the man leaning over Karen's body, his hands hovering over her belly and a look of concentration upon his face.
The pain flowed through her every vein. It was like ice, fire, and liquid all at once. Then something changed and a metallic pressure gripped her all over like electricity. Her body spasmed and she realized then that the creatures were gone. Her skin hardened and her vision blurred and then cleared. Cleared more than she could understand. She heard coughing and spitting that seemed loud enough to make her head burst. And she knew it was Karen. It was Karen. But before she could try and understand, another electric jolt went through her body and she died.
Karen's sobs snapped her awake. Karen stood over her body curled into as much of a ball as she could while still standing. She was alive. And staring at Jackie with a horrified expression. He was blurry with Karen so close, but Jackie could see the man standing behind her. He patted Karen's shoulder and then spoke.
"It's time to say goodbye, Karen. The bloodlust will come soon and you won't be safe."
What was he talking about? Jackie knew she had changed, knew the horrible truth but she wasn't really sure what it really was just yet. She only knew she would never do anything to hurt her little sister. Not now. Not ever again.
But then, he pulled her away. And she knew now why she was so angry. It wasn't that sense of protectiveness that had come when the tires had blown. It wasn't that sense of love that overcame her when they tried to take that first car. It was a hunger unlike anything she'd ever experienced before.
She could smell it. The blood that was so important now. So alluring and yet more compelling than she knew anything could ever be. She reached out greedily for her sister as the man--the vampire--shielded Karen from Jackie.
A car pulled up then. A strange black car with tinted windows. The vampire opened the back driver’s side door and Karen got in. He closed the door and Jackie watched furiously as the car sped off. She swiveled her body to run after it and before she even knew what hit her, she was on the ground, pain erupting in her chest. The car disappeared around a corner and she looked up to see the vampire standing over her.
"Let her go. The weekly drop off will be here tomorrow. You will have to endure a special kind of hell in the meantime. Then, you will find yourself plenty of blood to quench the thirst now within you." A strange look overtook him as, for the second time, he reached a hand out to her and with deep bitterness, spoke.
"My name is Ishan. Welcome to Necropolis."