Thursday, March 25, 2010

Short Story: Racing to the Beat the Night

My car will not go over 94 miles an hour. And that’s a damn shame because the fog of bloodsuckers is flying close enough to my tail to rip the bumper off.

“C’mon. C’mon!” I urge the speedometer. “Sure, you promise 120 but when it comes down to it, you just don’t have the guts.” Which Costa had assured me it did before allowing me to take the car out on a supply run.

See, here’s the thing. We live in a dome, the few humans who don’t have a death wish, or worship immortality. The problem is such living conditions tend to cut you off from the rest of the world, including sources of food and medication. So, every now and then one of us has to just suck it up, go for it, and hope to God that we make it back before dark when the fog rolls in. And by fog, I mean a herd of vamps very much like the one currently crawling up my tailpipe.

That’s how they travel, you know. They go all misty and join together into this gigantic cloud. And they are fast! I’m talking Go! Speed Racer! Go! Unfortunately, my car does not understand the current need for speed because the back window is now shrouded in fog and little starburst cracks are appearing in the glass.

Tap. Tap. Tap. Little girl, little girl, let us in.

I slam my foot down on the accelerator thinking if I can break it through the floorboards, maybe I can get another 5 mph out of this thing. That’s all I really need. The dome is so close. I can see the rounded top lifting up out of the horizon.

You’re probably wondering how I got myself into such a fine mess, out after dark in a race against evil incarnate. Well, let me tell you if there had been any choice in the matter, I would be sweet dreaming in my bunk right now. But I’m the best runner they got, and I wasn’t about to let any of those little ones die if I could help it.

See, a few years ago, we noticed some of the vamps getting sick, and not with your run of the mill cold either. I’m talking eating away at your flesh from both the in and outside sick.

Fortunately, humans seemed immune to it. At least at first. But then our little ones started getting sick. Not the teenagers or adults, no. Just the little ones. As if there weren’t enough reasons for hating the bloodsuckers.

Anyway, a couple of days ago, one of the under fives started showing the symptoms. We thought she would make it til the next supply run, but this afternoon she took a turn for the worst. She needed antibiotics, and she needed them yesterday.

So with one hour left before sunset, I went to Costa, and had him prep me a car.

“Hey,” he said right before I took off. “I don’t wanna have to come rescue you.”

I raised an eyebrow at him. “When have you ever had to come rescue me?”

He shrugged. “There’s always a first time.”

I laughed, and stomped on the gas.

My first stop was the field where we grow anything that doesn’t fit in the dome. The vamps even help us maintain it. That’s a smart move on their part, if you think about it. It’s sort of like fattening the cow before the slaughter.

I filled the backseat to overflowing, and sped off to my next stop, The Wastelands. Maybe it once passed as a trailer park, but now it was a glorified dump whose inhabitants played both sides of the field, vamp and human. It was the only place in a 500-mile radius where you could buy necessary things; you know gas, medicinal supplies, and bags of blood for those nights when you just can’t catch enough humans.

With twenty minutes remaining, I bagged every bit of food from the back seat, and hauled it over to the Hospital Quarter, really just a couple of Airstreams filled with supplies. I dropped my bags in their “donation” pile, and received one small vial of antibiotics in return.

Then, I turned and made my way back through the towering piles of junk. That’s when I felt it, that inky, oh crap feeling that tells you a vamp is near. But I comforted myself with the knowledge that I still had five minutes of sunlight left, and my car wasn’t that far away.

Of course there were shadows, long ones. I guess I should have been more careful, but I had never seen a vamp desperate enough to rise before sunset. I didn’t even know shadow walking was possible until he materialized right in front of me, only a bite away.

Disease raked his throat as he whispered, “You have something I want.”

I clutched the tiny vile to my chest like it contained the elixir of life, which in a way, it did.

“Little girl,” he rasped. “Please don’t be difficult. I only want the one thing. Then you can be on your way, safe as sunlight.”

Why didn’t I bring a stake? I chided myself. First rule of survival -- always bring a stake.

I pocketed the medicine and said, “Eat wood.”

His scarred face contorted into a sad sort of grimace. “It’s a shame you said that. It didn’t have to be this way.”

My heart hammered in my throat, but I held my ground. Against a healthy vamp, I wouldn’t stand a chance unarmed, but against a sick one…maybe. I balled up my fists, and waited. Scarface was just your typical vamp, right? I was pretty sure I could guess his next move.

And I was right. Fast as lightening, his hand flew to my pocket.

I took the only shot I knew I’d get, and punched him smack across the jaw, tearing his face in the ragged fashion typical of a reanimated corpse.

And I ran.

Oh God, did I run. Scarface had wasted four of my precious minutes and I still had to make it to the car. When I was only feet away, the last rays of sun dropped in to the night. I dove into the driver’s seat, and slammed the door, tearing the inside handle off in the process.

With the sun gone, the mist of a dozen vamps formed in the distance and headed toward me. I had no idea if Scarface was one of them, but I didn’t care. I shoved the keys in the ignition, and tore out of there as if hell itself was bearing down on me.

Because it was.

And that’s how I got in this predicament, with the mist still gaining ground, and both sides of the car shrouded in that crap. Any second now, they’ll be creeping in through the vents.

That can’t happen.

The dome is so near. The gate’s closed, but I got my remote. The problem is, I can’t go in there with my little hitchhikers hanging on. See, the rule that says “vamps can’t come in without an invitation” only applies to individuals trying to break in. If they come in attached to me or my car, well that’s as good as inviting them over for tea. So, I’ve got to figure out how to lose them.

Only one thing comes to mind, and yeah it’s crazy, but it’s all I got. I stick the remote in my teeth, slam the brakes, and yank the steering wheel hard enough to send my car skidding sideways, lifting up on one side and teetering over to the next. It flips again and again while high-pitched, shriek-y, wail-y, screams fill the night, and the parasites are trashed into oblivion.

When the car finally comes to a rest down in the ravine running parallel to the road, I climb out the best available window and stumble to the dome, stabbing the entry code into the remote along the way. It’s not far, but due to the glass embedded in my skin and what I’m sure are multiple fractures, I can’t go very fast.

Which is why, just before I stagger through the threshold, a freshly materialized Scarface is able to grab onto my neck and cross through with me, sending me crashing to the ground, with him landing on top of me.

And that’s a damn shame, because I’m not in a position to do anything about it. I just close my eyes, and wait for the bite.

But it doesn’t come. Instead, I feel his tense body turn into dead weight and I risk a peek.

Costa is standing there with a stake in his hand, and a grin on his face. “What was that about you never needing to be rescued?” he asks.

I push Scarface’s body off me, sit up, and shrug. “There’s always a first time.”

He laughs, and helps me up, so he can accompany both my precious vial and me to the infirmary.


Jen said...

Thank you for visiting my blog!!! I love yours! The picture of the stars is fantastic! I love to have newbies on my blog :)

Thanks for joining in the contest! Good Luck! Thank you for the birthday wishes!

This short story is fantastic! I look forward to more!

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