11.

I don’t know why Sam is telling me to get out of the car, but I’m not getting out of the fucking car.  Not with a horde of fucking zombie dogs right the fuck outside.  Those things will tear my face off the instant I get out there.  Apparently zombies have become more interested in vampires than they used to be – not that they want to be, I think Jason is making them attack us – but that means zombie dogs will want to attack me too, and I don’t want to deal with their stench and their vile, bloody saliva coated teeth and their beady eyes … eugh.

Ahead, through the cloud of spittle and blood coming out of this dog that is standing on the hood barking at us, is some kind of cybernetic zombie man.  I think he’s the one who threw those two cars.  Sam looks as petrified of him as I am of these damn dogs.

“Why don’t we keep driving?” I ask.

Sam shakes his head.  “Not worth it.  We need to get inside a building, somewhere where we can hide.”
At this point, Army helicopters have begun surveying the scene above us, and various flashes of spotlights occasionally blind me.  Spotlights are bad for vampires.

“I don’t want to get out,” I say.

“Fine,” he says, “then stay here while I take care of the dogs.”

He unbuckles his belt and I reflexively grab his arm, releasing it just as fast as a wealth of memories wash over me.  Junior year, that trip to Lucky Peak...

“You’ll be killed,” I say.

“Wouldn’t count on it,” he says, and in an instant he is outside of the vehicle.

Moving with a skill I only remember from his high school football and fencing days, Sam whips around the pack of dogs, simultaneously backing up away from the car, which lets me breathe easier – even though I don’t have to breathe.  He readies his rapier, unhooking it from the loop on his belt, raising it to the eye level of the dogs, flicking it back and forth to keep them at bay.

The dog on the hood hops down, and beyond the disgustingly flecked windshield I see the weird zombie with metallic implants just staring at us, a good hundred feet or so down the street.  I watch it for a moment, trying to determine what its motivations are.  But it’s just standing for now.  Even from far away I can tell it’s larger than most humans, with enormous cybernetic arms that look like something molded from the Hulk.  This guy means business.

Returning my attention to Sam, I notice he has unclasped something on his belt – a flask.  I’ve never seen Sam touch a drop of alcohol in high school; he despised the stuff.  Said it nearly killed his father, and, by extension, his mother.  So what is he doing with a flask?

He unscrews the top, takes a swig for himself, then douses the dogs with the rest of it.  The dogs don’t give a shit.  Then, another pouch on the other end of his belt.  A matchbox.  He slides the matchbox open, produces one wooden match – all with one hand, by the way, the other is fending off the dogs with the rapier – and lights it, tossing it on the nearest dog.

Instantly, they are all aflame.  Sam leaps back; zombies don’t really care when they’re on fire.  They continue to chase you.  But eventually the flame boils their muscles away and they can’t move.  Sam deftly skirts around the dogs, continuing to use his rapier to keep them back, slicing and jabbing, poking out eyes and slicing off ears, until he turns around – and is sacked full on by the cyborg zombie.  The sudden entrance of the zombie startles me, and I jump out of my seat, smacking my head against the roof of the car.  Sam and the zombie are on the ground, wrestling.  I have to do something, I can’t just sit here like a coward.

Tumbling out of the car, I unsheathe the longsword on my back.  The dogs recognize my entrance into the outside and turn their backs on Sam, lurching toward me.  A couple have already fallen from the flames, but others, less doused, stumble on.  My hands trembling, I still manage to kill them all quickly and efficiently, utilizing my training to keep me from dying at the hands of my irrational fear.  Maybe this is my first step towards loving dogs again.  Probably not.

Sam is still grappling with the zombie.  I run around the car and stab the zombie in the shoulderblade.  A machine on his back, complete with lights and a fan, suddenly starts making a loud crunching noise.  The zombie turns and looks up at me, grinning in a wicked way.  He reaches out, grabs my ankle, and pulls with such force that I slam into the ground, the back of my head hitting the concrete hard.  My eyes go out of focus and I’m groaning.

Meanwhile Sam manages to wiggle out of the zombie’s grip as something on the machine churns and squeals.  The zombie is momentarily stuck.  Sam pulls me up, putting a hand on the back of my head.  He pulls the hand back, revealing blood on the tips of his fingers.  He takes me by the arm, pulls me away from the zombie, and soon we’re running through the streets, past random single zombies, past bodies of zombies and vampires and werewolves, past the carnage that has become Central Park.

“Wait, my sword,” I hear myself say, immediately annoyed that I’m more worried about it than my damaged head.   “What’s happening?” My speech is slurring.  I must’ve hit my head harder than I thought.

“That zombie,” says Sam, “his name is Macaroni.  He’s a big bad ass zombie and now apparently he is also a cyborg.”

“What?” I say, stumbling.  I fall onto my knees, woozy.  Sam stops, helps me up.

“You okay?” he says.  I nod, but it’s a woozy nod, so it’s a bit of a betrayal.

Sam looks up and I follow.  The sky is getting lighter.  The sunrise is coming.  Sam leads me to a building to our right, a squat two story with fake Greco-Roman pillars lining the perimeter.  Some kind of business building.  The front doors are glass and are already shattered from some previous entanglement.  Blood is everywhere.

Inside are desks and partitions, making crude and incredibly depressing cubicles.  Paper is scattered everywhere, as are the guts of telephones, cash registers, computers and trash cans.  A couple of bodies lay on the faux-marble floor, all victims of zombies, but too thoroughly eviscerated to become zombies themselves.  These ones were merely food.

We head to a stairwell, climbing up to the second floor.  This floor contains offices which are virtually spotless compared to the carnage below—

A huge BOOM shatters the windows around us, knocking us to the ground.  The boom is followed by a shallow splash.  Then, a roar.  Macaroni the zombie is undead and kicking once again.

“It’s a mortar shell,” Sam explains as we struggle to stand.  “The Army is here.”

This is bad, for both of us.  While werewolves are generally accepted into society, they are still “illegal” creatures, and will be shot dead by any Federal police or military personnel.  Vampires, on the other hand, are not tolerated whatsoever.  In other words, I will certainly be killed, while Sam might be killed if they can prove he’s a werewolf.

“I’m tired,” I say.  I can feel the sunrise sapping my energy.

“I think you have a concussion,” Sam says.  He is leading me through a maze of cubicles.  Everything is neat and tidy, as the employees had plenty of time to pack up and go home before the melee began.

Another BOOM shakes the building to the foundation, and suddenly the Macaroni zombie roars again, his thick, guttural yowl settling in my chest. As we rush past cubicles and desks, I glimpse outside, just in time to see an apache lower itself into view.  Its helicopter blades blow gusts of air into the room.  There’s a man sitting on chair that’s attached to the helicopter but just outside of it. There’s a big fucking machine gun attached to that—

Suddenly I’m on the floor. I feel dizzy.  Sam helps me up.

“You okay?” he says.

“No,” I admit.

And then, without hesitating, he lifts me up into his arms.  Oh, memories.  I’d get sucked into them if it weren’t for the sudden barrage of machine gun fire raining down on the cyborg zombie.

Sam starts running down the hallway and we’re just about to hit the end when I notice behind us an enormous truck flying into the apache copter – and then an explosion, and that’s all I remember.

++

When I wake up, my shoulders hurt from carrying Delia, my back hurts from whatever slammed into me and knocked me out, and my eyes hurt from the intense light beaming down on them.  Everything’s fuzzy, and then when it gets clearer, I notice I’m on a stretcher, and the light is a penlight being flicked back and forth into my eyes by some EMS person.  When he senses I’m alert, he asks me what the year is. I tell him.  Then I ask what is going on.  He says they’re taking me to the hospital to get me checked up.  There’s a ringing in my ears, and when I try to put my hand up to it, I find that I’ve been strapped down.  Do they do that in ambulances?  Or am I about to get killed?

I glance over and notice a black body bag next to me. Oh Christ.

“What time is it?” I ask the guy.

“It’s about noon,” he says. “We found you two an hour ago.”

My mind is still fuzzy but noon? Last I remember it was an hour or so before dawn. I glance over at the bag again. Is that Delia? Did she get caught in the sunlight and burn up?

“Who’s this?” I ask.

He hesitates, clears his throat a little. “The … woman you were with. We found her dead when we arrived.”

“Are you sure?” I ask.

“Yes. No pulse, no breathing. Skin was cold—“

“She’s a vampire,” I say, spitting it out with a fervor I didn’t even expect. Sure, she was my girlfriend in high school, but she’s a vampire now. I really shouldn’t get caught up in my past.

The guy clears his throat again.  “She’s a vampire?”

“Yes,” I say.  “Unzip the bag.” I start to get up, but am quickly reminded that I am strapped down. “And get me out of these goddamn straps!”

“I can’t do that, sir, you sustained major injuries—“

“So what?!”

“—you may have head and neck trauma—“

“UNZIP THE BAG!”

I start to push and stretch to try and free myself from the restraints. The guy starts to say calming bullshit while he reaches into this first aid kit and produces a syringe, already loaded with whatever he’s about to knock me out with.  I’m nearly shaking the stretcher, making a huge racket, before he injects me in the neck.  While the stuff starts to knock me out, I watch as he talks to someone on the radio attached to his uniform.  He glances at me as my eyes start to get wobbly.  Then, a grin. Is he grinning?

Does he … have vampire teeth?

++

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve woken up in a morgue.

This is how most vampires die, ironically: they get trapped in a hospital morgue, freak out, claw at the walls, and die of starvation. It’s like being buried alive, except we’re undead.

I’ve got a massive headache.  And I’m naked. Great. At least they haven’t performed an autopsy, that would really ruin my figure. I can tell it’s cold in here cause my nipples are rock hard. Sometimes I really don’t get this vampire business – can’t feel cold, can’t feel heat, but my body still responds to it. I see goosebumps on my skin. Why the lack of sensation? Is it nerve damage? I can feel when someone kisses me. I can feel internal, ahem, sensation. So why no cold or heat? Or pain, really. I feel pain but not nearly to the degree humans do. It’s so strange…

Most body doors have those clamping handles that make it impossible for me to push myself out. So I’m resigned to wait here until someone pulls me out for inspection.  Which could be weeks from now.  I probably have a day or two before my body gives up from lack of blood.

I’ve been in three morgues before this one. All dealt with my job, all happened because I passed out at sunrise, and every time I managed to escape. The best was the necrophiliac. But that’s another story for another time.

So, what the fuck just happened. I saw that Macaroni guy fling a truck into the apache and then an explosion and I blacked out. I guess that was it, and we were picked up by some people who decided not to kill us on the spot. Very nice of them to do that. I suppose we were sent to the hospital, and before Sam had a chance to explain to them that I am not dead, but undead, I was sent off to the cold box and he to … wherever.
I’m sure he’ll come for me. He has to. He’s not a dick. Well, he’s kind of a dick, but he saved me from zombie dogs and from a concussion, and from Macaroni. So he’ll save me from the morgue, right?

Whatever. I shouldn’t even deal with him. I’ve got more important things to think about. Like what I’m going to do to Misha when I get home.

++

The second time I wake up, I’m in some kind of dungeon. At least it looks like a dungeon. I’m chained to the wall. Being chained to a wall is certainly a case for being in a dungeon. The floors are slick and wet, the walls made up of uneven stone blocks, and a large wooden door in front of me, reinforced with big flat slabs of iron and enormous rivets, the kind that you’d see on steel beams. I feel like I was sent back in time, to the 15th century, a man wearing some kind of BDSM leather clothing waiting outside the door, ready to chop my head off with a dull axe while hundreds of people watch.

I know exactly where I am, of course. Captured by Rohrsach vampires, again. They love this kind of stuff. I'm sure if they could get a building permit to build a castle, they would. They gut out old penitentiaries and mental asylums and build elaborate dungeons and mazes in the basements. I'm most likely in one of those, surrounded by the ghosts of those unable to find peace in their lives.  The place smells musty and old and faintly of blood and excrement.  And rubbing alcohol, very, very faintly.

There's a barred window on the wall opposite the door. It's nighttime when I wake up, and I watch as the moon, waxing, slowly lifts itself into the sky. Three days from a full moon.  I can feel it; the hairs on my neck raise up, my fingers ache. I can feel my wolf form gestating inside of me, waiting for that night. It's a glorious feeling, kind of frightening at first but when you learn to control the urges, it gets more and more pleasant. Even the pain of changing is such a pain of ecstasy.

Unfortunately, this feeling is quickly being drowned out by another familiar impulse: I need a drink.  A couple shots of bourbon ought to dull the growing ache in my head and joints. Kacey would kill me if she heard me say that, but what does she know. She's just a human, she doesn't get into situations where she's incarcerated in a friggin vampire dungeon.  She does have Eddie, though, and whatever Eddie is, it's certainly more than human. So maybe she has something to live for, something to keep her from getting bitten by a werewolf.

Bourbon and a cheeseburger. Cooked rare, if at all, with extra pickles. Sharp cheddar cheese, or maybe pepper jack. My stomach growls so loudly it practically reverberates against the bare walls.

I stand up, look around. Try to assess my situation. There's nothing that I can use to pick the lock of this shackle attached to my wrist.  No secret buttons in the shape of rocks in the stone.  Nothing but the kind of dampness only a dungeon can conjure, which makes it feel like mold is growing in my nose.

After an hour or so of mindnumbing silence and monotony, I hear the sound of footsteps, boots, specifically, clomping against the stone floor.  They’re getting closer to me.  Three people, one with a light step, two with heavier steps.  Maybe a fourth?  I can’t tell, it sounds like either another is walking but it also sounds like the echo of the hallway.  Either way, at least listening to someone walk up to my door is better than the excruciating silence that I’ve endured since I woke.

The door opens and in steps an ancient looking vampire, clad in what looks exactly like a World War II Nazi uniform, except without the swastika. Through extensive years of classes on vampire sociology, I immediately recognize him as a Rohrsach elder.  His face is distinctly German, though the features are wearing away.  One of the interesting things about vampires is that the older they get, the more pristine their features become. A young vampire may have all the wrinkles of human aging, but older vampires lose wrinkles, and the elders start to lose human features entirely.  So when I say this guy is "ancient," I mean he's starting to look like a featureless vampire.  In a way he looks younger than young vamps.  Either way, he's still young enough to have the jutting, rigid jaw of a German, complete with a slight underbite and big bushy eyebrows that cover up brown eyes.  I’d guess he’s about six hundred years old. Ancient to me, but relatively young to vampire castes.

Ze Cherman walks in with a weightless gait, another sign of an older vamp. He is followed by two lackeys, probably fresh victims or still humans, even, both holding rifles with silver bullets inside, I'm sure.  The stench of vampire is so unique: a musty smell, like they're covered in mothballs, mixed with fresh dirt and blood, so much blood.  And all kinds of different blood, too. The older shapeshifters swear they can smell each victim on a vamp.  It's creepy.

A fourth, fresh faced boy, probably no older than eighteen, hustles in. He's holding a chair, which he sets just behind the German.  The German then glides over to the chair and sits, placing one leg over the other and folding his hands over his knee.  He just stares at me for a while.  I glance at the kid to get away from his gaze.  This kid is clearly a servant, a vampophile, waiting for his turn to be "sired."  It makes me sick, the idea that this poor kid wants to turn into one of these abominations.

"What are you doing here, kid," I say, my voice gravelly and harsh.  In my head I sound like Wolverine but really I sound like I just got out of bed.  The kid looks at me with surprise, then glances over at the German, discerning whether or not he should respond.  The German doesn't respond either.

"Go on, say something," I continue. "Explain why you're in league with these batboys. Explain why you just wrote your life off."

With a courage I wasn't expecting, he snaps back.  "Why are you a werewolf?"

"Right place, right time, I guess," I say. "I'm not asking you to be a werewolf, either. I'm not endorsing anything but your choice."

"I choose to be a vampire," he says.

"Why?"

"Because--"

"Enough," says the German, with a deep resonant tone that dips into the pit of my empty stomach.  The kid shrinks back. Even the lackeys look a little frightened.  The German leans forward, so that his face is a few feet from mine.  "What is your name?" he asks.  His accent is thick.  Southern Germany, I believe.

"Sam," I say. No use hiding that.

“Where is the child?” the vamp asks.  I guess he’s not the one for small talk.

“What child?” I reply.

With a strength only a vampire could muster, he reaches back and slaps me across the face. I can feel the bones in my neck crack from the impact.  Suddenly my world is fuzzy and red, the only point of sensation the burning pain in my jaw.  I can’t imagine what it would be like if he had punched me.

“No games,” he says coldly. “Where is the child.”

I slowly turn my head back to him, feeling my neck muscles ache as I do.  I meet his gaze and look at his eyes, his face, his body positioning, anything to help me get a clue as to what this vamp’s all about.  The two lackeys have taken several steps back; they now lean against the back wall.  The younger servant is standing near the corner, eyes wide, taking in everything with the fresh face of ignorance.  I think I’ll turn my attention back to him.

“What do they give you, kid?” I ask.  “What is it about these freaks of nature that makes you want to join them?  Is it immortality? Cause they’re not immortal—“

The German smacks me across the face, harder this time.  My eyes feel like they’re bulging out of my skull.  Where did these guys come from?  I thought the vamp/werewolf fight in Central Park was just for show, for territory. None of us expected zombies, but what a weird time to be captured by Rohrsachs.  Maybe I was out a lot longer than I thought.

I look back to the servant.  “If I wasn’t shackled to this wall I could kill every single one of you without hesitating—“

Another smack. My teeth feel loose.  I lick the blood from my front teeth, smile drunkenly.

“All it takes is a stake to the heart—“

One more smack, this one probably a punch, and I’m out like a light. Again.

++

I wake up when the door opens.  I’m being pulled out – finally, I was getting really bored in there.  The harsh glare of fluorescent lights, the antiseptic stench of hospital morgues.  And another smell – blood. Some human has pulled me out.

I close my eyes, wait for the bag to be zipped open.  When it is, this bloodbag’s smell becomes potent. He’s not a human. He’s a vampire.

There’s a hand across my mouth and I know exactly who it is.

“It’s been a long time since that hand has been on my mouth,” I say, my voice muffled.

“Shut up,” says Everett.  “We don’t have much time.”

My eyes open and I see that Everett is looking away from me.  Still chivalrous after all these years.  He leans over and slices one of the veins on his wrist.  I take his hand in mine and begin to suck on the blood flowing out.  It’s fresh; Everett most likely gorged himself before coming just so he could feed me.  I hope he doesn’t notice how much this turns me on.  I’m practically mewling like a kitten as I suck on his wrist, licking lightly up his palm to catch all the droplets.  Then, as soon as it started, it stops: Everett lifts his hand and wraps it in a cloth.

“You’re such a tease,” I say, lifting myself up and off of the morgue slab. I stand motionless for a second, letting my body adjust to being vertical once again.

“Your clothes are on the table,” Everett says, still looking away from me.  I can’t tell if my sucking his wrist gave him a hard on or not, but I imagine it did.  Fucking tease.

“So how’d you find me, Ev?” I ask, as I slip into glaringly ugly camo pants and a muddy green shirt.  Apparently we’re doing some covert ops tonight.

“It’s a long story,” Everett replies.  “I’ll tell you in the car.”

“Where’re we going?”

“To bust your ex-boyfriend out of jail.”

My wry smile dissipates immediately.