Authors: Robert S. Wilson
That was the last thing Jack saw before his vision faded to one big dark blur.
* * *
The fire trucks hadn’t been used in over a decade and
had never imagined they’d be used for such an ironic purpose, but as he rode shotgun alongside Simon in the lead of seven other trucks, he couldn’t help but laugh.
Simon looked over at him with an excited smirk. “Yes, we really are doing this.”
“I know, I know, it’s just so absurd.”
“It was a hell of an idea and I think it will work. I’m glad you came up with it.”
smiled in reply and laughed.
When they reached the exit for
Las Vegas Boulevard
, several of the other trucks followed them off the highway and the rest continued on, their engines trailing by with that Doppler zoom. Once Simon turned the big noisy thing onto the road,
looked in the huge rearview mirror. The other two trucks turned off onto separate streets headed for their assigned destinations. Simon and
were headed for the strip.
Off in the distance, smoke began to rise from far off in the city. It was time. They
doing this. Simon brought the truck to a halt in front of the Sahara Hotel. The building’s tall tan structure, dotted with a multitude of windows and a huge gash in its upper top left corner, towered over them, daring them to somehow bring it down. Simon laughed as he peered up and out the window at it. He put the truck in reverse and pulled backward aligning the front end of the truck with the hotel.
climbed out of the passenger side window and up onto the roof of the fire truck. The huge nozzle of the once-water-now-fire cannon that he had engineered stared down at the hood of the truck as he sat down behind it. He lifted it by the handles and aimed it in the general direction of the building. He turned on the pre-ignition switch and the sound of gas being released hissed from inside the cannon. He leaned over and hollered down to Simon, “You ready?”
Simon whooped with laughter.
unable to peel away the huge grin stretching out his face.
“Fire in the hole!”
hit the ignition trigger and a huge torrent of flame shot forward from the nozzle of the cannon. Within seconds the lower half of the
was popping and smoking. He let out a good long cheer of his own with the sight of it. They were finally taking back their freedom. The excitement and the fear of what would come next fueled through
veins and he
was actually loving
the thrill of it. He couldn’t wait to see how the Empire reacted to this.
Before long, Simon started the engine back up and began moving the truck forward.
kept the cannon going, firing flames into each building as they passed. After an hour or so the entire strip was alight with huge orange, yellow, and black flames. Several of the buildings including the
had small explosions burst out from within. They had done their job and now it was time to get out before there was nowhere to run.
They left the fire truck there, its cannon still containing enough fuel to blow up another city block, and ran the full speed their undead legs were capable of, blasting out from the flames like rockets headed for the stars.
* * *
When they arrived at the rendezvous point at the Southeastern corner of town, a legion of gray semi trucks—each brandishing a long rectangular emblem that said “
Industries” along the broad sides of its trailer—were parked in single file, engines running and waiting to take the citizens of Necropolis away from the burning cinders of the city’s remains. Simon looked on at them in awe, wondering just who would be driving these big trucks as the first blue tint of dawn reached over the horizon.
“Toby, are you all right?”
Toby stood in a daze, staring down at the vampire who had nearly killed them. The question had come from the man in black leather
was now facing the two of them.
I’m fine.” Toby sighed. It was Dustin who asked the question that Toby couldn’t concentrate hard enough to even put into words.
“Who the hell are you and how do you know Toby’s name?”
The man gave a lopsided smile and reached out his hand for Dustin to shake. “Name’s Jonathan
,” the two shook hands, “and I know
of your names, Dustin. I’ve been assigned to make sure you get to safety.”
The two of them just stood staring at the man unsure as to what to say next.
Jonathan looked at Toby then, “I was sent by a friend of your father’s. This one here…” he kicked the vampire’s limp body, “…he won’t be the last,
guarantee it. You two come with me and I’ll get you out of here in one piece. But we have to move quickly.”
Dustin looked at Toby, his face asking the same question that was on Toby’s tongue.
“Should we trust this guy?” Toby asked.
Dustin looked the man over. “What proof do we have that you are who you say you are and all that jazz?”
“Not shit, man. But I’d like to think the stake I just put through that fucker right there would be one hell of a sign of good faith.”
Dustin nodded with a snicker and Toby laughed.
“All right then. Where are we headed?”
“For now we’re headed out of here. I’ll tell you more when we’re far enough away from Bloodthirsty McGee over here.”
“Fair enough,” Dustin said.
Jonathan led them to a hidden path through the forest and they walked off into the woods.
* * *
Hank sat bundled up against the corner inside one of the
trailers as the truck shook and bounced along the highway. His human vision was still only darkness and his hearing was faint at best, but his new sense of vision was growing more aware by the hour. He could sense exactly how many people were in the room without counting. He could tell their sexes, the outline of their likenesses, and their rough ages all from this strange new sense of sight. It was like an internal sight and sound working together almost.
There was no way to be sure. But it was also more than that. He could see things along a strange track that he knew to be the future. It was sketchy down that path.
Dark and hazy.
But through the fog he could make out the impressions of things to come.
* * *
An old and rusty green Chevy pickup truck sat waiting when they reached the end of the woods. The stars were fading into the dark blue sky as Jonathan unlocked the passenger door and motioned for Dustin and Toby to get in. Dustin pulled himself up into the truck and sat in the middle of the seat and Toby followed suit, sitting in the passenger side. Jonathan got in the driver side and started the engine. It coughed into life like an elderly man who’d been smoking for decades. Jonathan pushed the gas and the truck roared out onto the road.
“Sorry about the silent treatment back there. Unfortunately that stake most likely won’t kill that greasy fucker. It’ll only drain so much blood. I didn’t want to tip him off if he happened to get away before the sun came up. Personally I’m rooting for the sun,” Jonathan said looking at Dustin and Toby and laughing. There was a moment of awkward silence and then Jonathan continued.
“So, first we’re
stop by Uncle Willy’s place which is just about 30 miles from here.”
“Who’s Uncle Willy?” Dustin asked.
. Uncle Willy is a place. It’s a long story. But we’ll have plenty of
ahead to talk about it later. Anyway, after that we’ll be heading for the Queen’s hive down South in
“What about Necropolis? Dad told us to meet him there,” Toby said.
“Little buddy, Necropolis is gone. Last I heard everybody hightailed it
Left the whole city in smoke.
And I bet you anything they’re headed the same place we are.
So just sit tight and I’ll get you to your dad as quick as I can.
But keep a lookout in the mirror for Imperial cops. We get stopped and we’ll be
Toby nodded and sat back in his seat. They were all quiet for a long while. Toby watched as tall grass, wheat fields, and distant smoke plumes passed in the window. He wondered if he would see his father when they reached
. He hoped so. He wanted nothing more in the world than to see him again, hug him, and
for all the hell he had put him through.
* * *
It was the first ray of sunshine lighting fire to Jack’s hand that woke him from a deep dark sleep. He half howled, half screamed with the pain of it. It motivated him beyond anything he’d ever encountered before. Weak as he was, he pulled the stake free from his chest and the ground beneath him and tossed it aside splattering blood onto the ground and the leaves and branches of a nearby tree. Probably the same tree whose shade was saving his life.
His eyes were black with bloodlust from his nearly drained condition, but he knew that what he needed now more than ever was shelter. To get away from the sun’s smoldering UV rays before it was too late. Then he could rest still alive to wake up and feed later. He dug and clawed at the ground, tearing out huge chunks of leaves, dirt, clay, and tree roots. When he had made a hole big enough to fit his upper body he dove in and began to dig even deeper. Once he was deep enough that his feet were underground he kicked at the soil, breaking it loose and causing it to fall over him. Before long he was deeper in the ground and enough soil was loose that it began to avalanche until he was fully buried within. Rage filled his every cell as he lay there in the wormy filth like his ancestors. He hated it.
Hated the boy for being so elusive.
But most of all he loved him.
Wanted him even more.
He didn’t care one lick or fuck about the Emperor and his deal anymore. He would find the boy and drink him. And nothing would stand in his way.
* * *
A short while later the big green Chevy
pulled onto an old gravel road that looked like it had been originally built for horses and carriages. Brownish white dust-smoke rose up in clouds around all sides of the truck as it raced along the bumpy road crunching gravel underneath. Beyond the dust, barren fields the color of dead leaves, dotted with old dilapidated barns and houses,
each side of the road stretching downhill as far as the eye could see.
After about half an hour filled with more and more of nearly the same exact scenery Jonathan finally slowed the truck and swerved into one of the long gravel driveways leading up to one of the run down barns. It wasn't the largest one Toby had noticed along the way but it was pretty close. The wide structure towered crookedly into the sky, the right side of its triangle-sloped roof caved in with broken boards and pieces hanging loose like a man whose teeth have just been punched out. The color must have once been a dark brown but had since faded to a dull gray with occasional hints of its original hue in the form of random chips of paint still barely hanging on.
As the truck dragged its way up the bumpy driveway that was made more of potholes than gravel, Jonathan pulled out a small walkie-talkie and spoke into it.
"Cougar 1-4, Cougar 1-4, over?"
Static filled the cab of the truck for a moment then was replaced by a high-pitched screech followed by a thick southern accent nearly drowned in distortion. "Affirmative, Cougar, open sesame." Jonathan put the walkie-talkie away without another word and slowed the truck as they came close to the barn's entrance. A moment later, the large door opened and a tall man in thick brown overalls with rustled black hair and a face that looked like it hadn't been washed in decades followed behind it, pushing it open then bracing it with a large rock. He rubbed his hands together and then waved, a huge grin wrapping around his face.
Toby was the only one to wave back. Jonathan just sighed and put the truck in gear and Dustin gave Toby a cautious glance of scrunched up eyebrows and wrinkled nose. When the truck was all the way in the barn, the tall man closed the big wooden door and latched it into place.
Inside, the place was mostly dark with bright rays of sunshine stretching inward from the collapsed ceiling and illuminating patches of ground covered in yellow hay and dried mud. Jonathan killed the engine and leaned over to Dustin and Toby.
"Well… here we are.
Hang on right
I'll only be a minute." He winked and got out of the truck, walked over to the tall man, and spoke in a hushed voice.
Dustin turned to Toby, "I'm not digging this place. It kind of gives me the creeps." Toby nodded and looked back at Jonathan and the man in overalls and attempted to read something of what they were saying on their lips. They were both facing the truck and Jonathan was pointing at the cab. When he was finished speaking, the tall man jumped up in the air like a child who's just won a prize.
—can I, can I—please, please?"
Jonathan quickly hushed the man putting his hand flat against his chest just above the overalls. The tall man deflated and looked down at the ground with an exaggerated frown and drooped shoulders. He kicked at some dried mud as he muttered something inaudible back at Jonathan who in turn rolled his eyes and tapped the man's chest with the back of his hand and gestured toward the back of the barn. Once he had the man's attention, the two of them walked over to the far corner disappearing just beyond the brilliant beams of sunlight.
Dustin let out a heavy sigh as he sat nervously stroking his beard. "I'm really not digging this."
Toby didn't answer. Instead he took the moment to study what little detail he could in this old place. A moment later there was a loud thud that made both Dustin and Toby jump. Jonathan seemed to poof into view in the bright sunlight causing Dustin to put an arm against Toby's chest in some sort of strange reactive move to protect him. Jonathan's expression was one of annoyance and exhaustion. He waved for them to get out of the truck. "Come on. I thought we'd be able to just stop for a minute but the whole goddamn clan apparently wants to meet you two.
A moment later nearly a dozen men and women appeared from behind the blinding beams of light with big smiles on genuinely friendly faces. Toby put his hand on Dustin's arm that was still pressed against his chest.
"They look like nice people, D. Let's just go say 'hi.'" Dustin seemed to waver while he looked them over more. Toby took advantage of that moment to open the truck door and get out before Dustin could stop him.
," Dustin said as he struggled to climb out of the truck after Toby.
The small crowd of men and women led them beyond the sunbeams where in the shadows a single trap door sat partially covered with hay. Several of the men walked up and kicked the straw out of the way and one of them pulled open the door. Single file, they led the way down the narrow stairway into a well-lit gray concrete room below. Each one of them wore a different casual country outfit, everything from the tall man's overalls to country western long sleeve shirts with fake jeweled silver buttons, blue jeans with huge belt buckles, loose hanging T-shirts, and long dresses that looked like they'd last been worn at the state fair's square-dancing contest.