Authors: MaryJanice Davidson
All that aside, I couldn't bear to see anyone looking the way I did.
I walked to the end of the hallway, found the stairwell, and started climbing. The funeral home was three stories high—and what they needed the other two stories for I was
going to think about—which should be high enough, since I planned to go headfirst.
At first I thought the door was locked, but with a good hard shove it obligingly opened with a shriek of metal on metal. I stepped outside.
It was a beautiful spring night—all traces of snow from the storm had melted. The air smelled wet and warm, like fertility. I had the oddest feeling that if I were to scatter seeds on the cement rooftop, they would take hold and grow. A night had never, ever smelled so sweetly, not even the day I moved into my own place.
As I stepped onto the ledge, I ignored the not-inconsiderable twinge of apprehension that raced up my spine. This wasn't my last night on earth. That had been a couple of days ago. There was nothing to feel sad about. I had been a good girl in life, and now I was going to my reward, dammit. I was
going to stumble around like a zombie, scaring the hell out of people and pretending I still had a place in the world.
"God," I said, teetering for balance, "I'm coming to see you now."
I dove off the roof and hit the street below, headfirst, exactly as I had planned. What was
in the plan was the smashing, crunching pain in my head when I hit, how I didn't even lose consciousness, much less see my pal God.
Instead I groaned, clutched my head, then finally stood when the pain abated. Only to get creamed by an early morning garbage truck. I looked up in time to see the horror-struck driver mouthing…
Jesus Christ, lady, look out!)
…something, then my forehead made brisk contact with the truck's front grille. I slid down it like road kill and hit the street, ass first.
When I stood, brushing dirt from my cheap skirt, the driver slammed the truck in reverse and got the hell out of Dodge. Not that I could blame him. But who ever heard of a hit and run garbage truck?
I am nothing if not persistent. Flinging myself into the
things to my hair). I drank a bottle of bleach, and the only consequence was a startling case of dry mouth. I shoplifted a butcher knife from the nearby Wal-Mart—the place to shop if you're dead, it's three a.m., and you don't have any credit cards—and stabbed myself in the heart: nothing.
I was walking dispiritedly down
"Please," she said, almost whispered, and I thought the acoustics must be very good, for me to have heard them from almost a block away. "Don't do anything to me in front of my daughter. I'll go with you—I'll do whatever you want, just please, please—"
"Mommy, don't leave me here by myself!" The girl's eyes were light brown, almost whiskey-colored, and when they filled with tears I felt something lurch inside my dead heart. "Just—you go away, bad men! Leave my mommy alone!"
"Shhh, Justine, shhh..." The woman was trying to pry her daughter's fingers free and made a ghastly attempt at a laugh. "She's tired—it's late—I'll go with you—"
," one of the men said, his eyes on the girl. Justine burst into fresh tears, but not before kicking the ground, raining pebbles and grit on the man's feet.
"I'll take you back to my car—the engine's dead but I could—with all of you, just don't—don't—"
"Hey, assholes!" I said cheerfully. The five of them jumped, which surprised me...I wasn't the world's quietest walker. I couldn't believe I was doing this. I wasn't exactly the confrontational type. On the other hand, what did I possibly have to lose? "Er...you three assholes. Not the lady and the kid. Fellas, could you come over here and kill me, please?"
Hugely relieved, Justine smiled at me, revealing the gap where she'd lost one of her baby teeth. Then the men moved forward, and Justine grabbed her mom's hand and started dragging her toward the relative safety of
"Don't you dare," I snapped. "If you mess up my murder, I'll be furious." One of the men had grabbed my arm, was dragging me back toward Justine and her mom. "Just a minute, pal, I've got to—" He poked me, hard, and without thought I shoved.
The rest of it happened awfully fast. Jerkoff #1 hadn't poked me, he'd stabbed me—for all the good it did. And when I shoved, his feet left the ground and he sailed back as if hurricane-force winds had blown him. When he finally touched ground he rolled for a good ten feet before he regained his feet and ran like he'd had one too many chimichangas and needed a bathroom.
While I was staring and making my usual vocalization when I didn't understand ("Wha...?"), the other two moved in. I reached up and grabbed them by the backs of their necks, then banged their heads together. There was a sickening crunch, and I heard—yech!—their skulls cave in. It was the sound I'd heard at my cousin's wedding when her groom stomped on the glass. The bad guys dropped to the ground, deader than disco. Their faces were frozen in eternal expressions of pissed-off.
I nearly threw up into their staring faces. "Oh,
"Thank you thank you thank you!" Justine's mom was in my arms, reeking of fear and
perfume. She was clutching me with not-inconsiderable strength and babbling into my hair. I wriggled, trying to extricate myself without hurting her. "Ohmygod I thought they were going to rape me kill me hurt Justine kill Justine thank you thank you thank you!"
"Err...that's fine, Miss—uh, miss. Leggo now, there's a nice hysteric."
She let go of me, still babbling, staggered a few feet away, knelt, and started picking up the items that had fallen from her purse. I instantly wanted to grab her back. Something about her—the blood, the—she had scraped herself, or one of the men had cut her, and she was bleeding, the blood was flowing beneath her shirt, on the inside of her upper arm, and it trickled steadily and suddenly I was so thirsty I couldn't breathe.
Justine was staring up at me. Her tears had dried, making her cheeks shine in the moonlight. She looked very, very thoughtful. And about five years older than she'd looked five minutes ago. She pointed. "Doesn't that hurt like crazy?"
I looked down, then jerked the knife out of my side. Very little blood. "No. Thanks. Uh...don't be scared. Anymore, I mean."
"Why'd you ask them to kill you?"
Normally I wouldn't share unpleasant confidences with a strange child, but what could I say? It had been one of those nights. Plus, she
pointed out the knife sticking out of my ribs; I felt obliged to give her an honest answer. "I'm a zombie," I explained, except I was having trouble talking, all of a sudden. "I'm trying to thtay dead."
"You're not a zombie." She pointed at my mouth. "You're a vampire. A good one, so that's all right," she added.
My hand came up so quickly I actually bit myself. I felt the sharp tips of new fangs, fangs that had come out when I'd smelled her mother's blood, fangs that seemed to be taking up half my mouth.
"A vampire? How ith that pothible? I died in a car ackthident, for God'th thake! Aw, thon of a bith!"
"Are you going to suck our blood?" Justine asked curiously.
"Blood maketh me throw up. Even the thight of it—ugh."
"Not anymore, I bet," she said. This was the most level-headed first-grader I'd ever met. I was tempted to make her my evil sidekick. "It's okay. You can if you want to. You saved us. My mom," she said, her tone dropping; it was low, confidential, "was really scared."
She's not the only one, sugar...and by the way, I bet you'd taste like electricity, all that youth and energy coursing through your bloodstream.
I clapped both hands over my mouth and started backing away. "Run," I said, but I didn't have to bother; Justine's mama had finished gathering up her things, taken one look at my new dentition, picked up her daughter, and run in the opposite direction.
"There'th a gath thtathion at the end of this block!" I yelled after her. "You can call triple A!" I stuck my fingers in my mouth. My lisp was going away, and so were my fangs. "And what were you thinking, having your daughter out at four o'clock in the morning?" I shouted after her, freshly annoyed. "Dope!"
People think because Minneapolis was in the Midwest, rapes and murders and burglaries didn't happen there. They do, just not as often as, say, in Washington
Well, the mystery was solved. I was a vampire. How, I had no idea. Car accident victims did not rise from the dead. So I'd always thought, anyway.
Unless...could it have something to do with my attack a few months ago? The attackers had been savage, snarling, barely human. Until tonight, it had been the most surreal thing to happen to me, and that included the tax audit and my folks' divorce. Could the attackers have infected me?
And why was I still me? Now that I was a ravenous member of the undead, I should be sucking little girls dry and then lunching on their mamas. The men in the alley had been asshole predators, but I was still horrified when I accidentally killed two of them. I'd let Justine and her mom go—had
them to go. I was thirstier than I'd ever been in my—uh—life, but it wasn't ruling me. I wasn't an animal. I was still me, Betsy, desperately in love with fine footwear and ready to give my eyeteeth (or my new fangs) for Russell Crowe's autograph.
was someone who'd make a delightful snack.
"Father," I said, "you have to help me."
"I'll be glad to, but I'm not a priest."
"I'm going to Hell, and I didn't do a damned thing to deserve being damned. Except for that whole double homicide thing. But it was an accident! Plus, I should get points for saving Justine and her mom."
"I'm not a priest, miss. I'm the janitor. And this isn't a Catholic church—we're Presbyterians."
"Can you burn me up with holy water?" I had the man by the shirt, was pulling him up on his toes—he was about three inches shorter than me. "Poke me to death with your crucifix?"
He gifted me with a sweet, loopy grin. "You're pretty."
Surprised, I let go of him. He did a shocking thing, then—flung his arms around me and kissed me. Hard. Really very hard, and he put a lot into it, too; his tongue was poking into my mouth and something hard and firm was pressing against my lower belly. He tasted like Wheaties.
I gently pushed him away, but even so he flew over the pew and landed with a jarring thud near the pulpit. The grin didn't waver and neither, unfortunately, did his erection; I could see the small tent in his chinos. "Do it again," he sighed.
"Oh, for—just—sleep it off!" I snapped and, to my surprise, his head dropped onto his shoulder and he started to snore. Drunk, then...sure. I should have smelled it on him.
I took another look and cursed myself—of course he was the janitor; he was dressed in blue jeans and a t-shirt that read "D&E Cleaning: We'll Get Your Mess!" In my keyed-up panic, I'd grabbed the first person I had seen. He'd grabbed me back, but that was only fair.