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September 25, 2023

The Building 11

By Lydia Manx

A loud splash distracted the vampire, currently known as Jerry Cooper, from his remembrance of Celina Holston -- his former tormentor. The newscast that he'd just watched an hour or so ago had brought back memories of his unexpected incarceration in Detroit by the vampire council's goons. She'd been caught on camera for a brief moment confirming for Jerry that she really did exist in Florida.

In the canal behind his home he watched an ugly Muscovy duck bob under the murky liquid in search of one of the many fish lingering underneath the surface of the waters. Florida's Muscovy duck population seriously needed to be thinned, as they were horribly infected birds that carried more diseases than the average bird. Jerry thought that they had a rather unattractive call and looked like a diseased fowl with the molted hue and patchy feathers of a bird that had been in some tragic accident and barely survived. Give him an elegant white egret any day or night. Sitting in the dark he watched a slice of the edge of rocks peel away slowly and methodically towards the ignorant duck. As if being rewarded for his silent observation there was a flash of teeth and snap of jaws and the alligator rolled the bird below to the bottom of the channel. Jerry appreciated the ancient predator's culling of the weak.

Alligator and egrets were often found on the same bodies of water side by side -- beasties in the water and birdies in flight -- the marsh birds were elegant beauties that seem to float effortlessly in the sky. Yet the prehistoric predator -- the alligator -- would often lie on the bottom of the lake or pond waiting to snap and roll a meal. Every now and then Jerry felt compelled to leave tidbits out for the cold reptiles on the edge of the canal. He enjoyed watching the tough creatures from the side of the waters. He was happy to see that one of the Muscovy ducks got it, not one of the pretty white egrets.

The flash of teeth also reminded him of how stupid he'd been to trust the pretty little vampire back in Detroit. She'd teased him close then slammed him with some unknown technology that clouded his mind and separated him from his family. Once he was immobilized she'd tossed him into the cargo area of a van and eventually shut him inside a casket lined with blessed silver objects. After a sadistically bouncy ride down the winter-worn Detroit streets, they'd ended up somewhere outside the city, with the scents of the grass and dirt coming into the van and him without enough blood to fight.

Inside the coffin with the small Plexiglas cutout window, used, he'd imagined, for the last lingering glimpse of the deceased, he had no view other than the one of the white metal roof of the cargo van. And the metal in the roof wasn't in the least riveting, just dull and useless. The silver face of a Saint Christopher medal gleamed back at him inches from his throbbing nose. The irony of that medal didn't escape Jerry. He knew that the saint's medal was usually placed in vehicles to protect the driver on long journeys, not to mention revered for patronage for a holy death -- which told him that whoever had lined the coffin had a sense of the macabre he'd really have admired had he not been stuffed inside the box. An ache had run through his soul, as there a roar of pain came from the exterior of the vehicle. The unseen vampire had screamed in agony and then he felt the connection between him and Celina snipped with a metal hatchet. Ripped from her mind with her vague wispy thoughts. It was still harsh and disturbing to Jerry.

He was a Master Vampire. He shouldn't have been triumphed over by any other vampire but another one of his level and the vampires outside hadn't been that high up in the vampire world to have enough power to be even considered his equal much less his superior. He'd known inside his very soul that something was wrong.

Thrashing around from the psychic pain had cost him something and he'd known whoever had been talking with her on her cell phone was now standing just outside the van with its still ticking engine. Jerry also instinctively had known that the shadow figure was somehow connected to the vampire council, and most decidedly to Celina Holston. There was a hesitation then a thrust of power coming at him from outside. He slammed back with a tidbit of power that he'd gotten from the little blood he'd sipped from her veins.

Inside the coffin, he'd heard the sliding sound of the cargo van door being opened. He'd automatically stiffened while bracing himself for the lid to be thrown back on the casket and then the sight of a blade coming to separate his head from his body. But he had been denied the opportunity. Instead his ears heard the distinctive metal snapping sounds of locks being fastened onto the coffin, sealing him in place.

There had been sounds of grunting then his eyes saw the moon high in the evening sky. Little had he known at the time that would be the last glimpse he'd have of the moon for months. Once inside the house, moonlight would follow the blistering sunlight but the actual moon's face meeting his wouldn't be visible until he'd been freed. But at the time he hadn't known his fate and was bumped and thumped inside the abandoned house in the suburban hell of Detroit.

Celina Holston had looked into the coffin peering curiously at Jerry's face. His fangs were still out and he snarled uselessly back while she whispered mockingly, "So now what're you going to do, Master?"

The vampires carrying the large coffin deliberately had bumped the casket up and down the stairs into the house. They hadn't exactly dropped him, but rather did a swaying motion that made his sides thump into the blessed pieces of silver. He couldn't find a way to avoid touching the painfully enshrined icons. He'd softly hissed his discomfort through his fangs and didn't answer the council's hand picked puppet.

Once inside the threshold, one of the vampires easily carrying the casket said, "Ben, where'd you want this creature again?" No longer pretending to struggle, thus proving to Jerry that they hadn't needed to fumble around earlier bumping and rocking him into the sides of the torture chamber of a casket.

Laughter. "Is hell an option?"

The same voice Jerry'd heard on the phone had answered the unseen vampire.

Jerry now had two names of his tormentors -- Celina Holston and Ben.

Even years later on his sofa in Florida watching the canal's waters calm -- the alligator no longer in sight -- Jerry remembered the surge of excitement he'd had back then knowing their names. Since they hadn't immediately lopped off his head he'd known that there was a chance that he'd be able to use the information down the road. He, like the visually absent gator, had lain low waiting to pounce on his prey. He knew that the time was right and besides he was growing bored playing at humanity.

A knock on the front door brought him rudely to the immediate present and the reality of humanity. The first thought that floated through his mind was that he lived in a gated community and rarely had visitors other than the cleaning service's employees. The second passing thought was that the guard at the front gate hadn't called him. With that in his mind he slowly made his way towards the heavy front door.

The knocking grew a bit harder and naturally there was a human heartbeat on the other side of the oak. He hoped that he would've sensed any supernatural creatures even while distracted. The person's pulse was rapid and the quick exhalations of breath were a bit frantic. Jerry immediately figured from the impatience and scent drifting to him on the humid breeze that it was a neighbor who lived two doors down. She was now thumping on the wood rapidly while softly saying, "Jerry? Jerry? You there? I thought I saw your car." He knew very well that the gated community was damned near a fishbowl at times with everyone watching from behind the curtains, blinds and off-colored sheers for items of interest and potential gossip.

Not bothering to sugar-coat his feelings with even a slight smile, he rapidly closed the distance between the living room and his front door. He pitied the human on the other side because he was in no mood to play games with her. Yanking the door open with a little impatience and a bit of vampiric strength, his abrupt movement had caught the woman mid knock. Staring at her hand aiming for his nose she squeaked and flailed out, missing his face only by mere inches.

"Oh, my!" The bird like biddy fluttered her fist to her scrawny breast and crimsoned with excitement. Jerry didn't try to pop into her mind. He'd made that mistake once and found that over eighty years of walking the earth had filled her mind with flotsam and a spun sugar sticky connection of friends and family that was a morass of cloying webbing in a tight spider-like weave but tighter and even more annoying. The tales of 'could of' 'would have' and 'should have' laced the frightful recollections of her life.

Her hair was like dandelion fluff and slightly askew on her head, also damp around the edges, not her normally perfectly coffered style. She'd taken a second to run a brush half-heartedly over her gray hair but little more. The wrinkled lips were unstained and her makeup nonexistent. It struck Jerry somewhat oddly that she looked younger and more fragile without her heavy-handed use of pricey cosmetics that she always slathered over her age spotted features. Her thick horn-rimmed glasses looked useful not at all like her normal rhinestone bedazzled rims that seemed like simple decoration or casual ornamentation on her face which were never vision aids from the way she squinted and grimaced at times.

Blinking up at him from her four foot something bent frame she swayed.

"Thank God, Jerry, I was able to wake you," her natural curiosity hadn't disappeared, Jerry noticed, as her eyes flickered over him and behind him into his home. Her eyes rapidly fluttered like the shutter on an old fashioned camera storing pictures of whatever struck her fancy.

He was wearing the dark navy workpants and an undershirt often referred to a "wife-beater". He'd put his gun away but hadn't bothered to change, other than taking off his uniform shirt, since he'd been home. It wasn't like he was expecting any company.

"Not a problem, Edna. How can I assist you?" He kept his hand on the open door using his lean strong body to bar her entrance. He was thankful that some of his former body had returned. He still looked older than before he'd been snatched but the blood he'd taken since Detroit had made him begin to regain his younger shape. His arm was steel and his body firmly in the center of the doorway. He'd quickly learned that she'd take a mile if she even thought he'd given an inch. Her fluttering and excitable demeanor obviously let her take liberties nearly unnoticed, by humans. It didn't work with him, but it could be irritating.

Edna eyed his arm and she gave him a wry smile then shook her head dismissively. Normally Jerry knew that she'd seen his barring her from entering as little more than a game, a challenge to her wiles. He was concerned at her giving in so easily. Despite his attitude of benign neglect towards the general neighborhood, and the humans dwelling so alarmingly and temptingly close, he instinctively sensed that something was wrong and he found that he wanted to know what. If nothing else it gave him something to focus on other than his past and how he was going to get Celina. That council-owned bitch was a dish he wanted to savor; when supping the devil it was best to use a long spoon.

"Jerry, my dog, Mister Peaches, is missing!" Edna exclaimed.

Mister Peaches was an annoying apricot toy poodle, and Jerry automatically glanced back over his shoulder through his home towards his property line and the glistening surface of the channel. He could easily venture a guess to where Mister Peaches was currently residing. The yapping dog was well past its prime and wasn't quick enough to scamper from a hungry reptile. It didn't necessarily have to have been a gator that got the pooch. There were plenty of iguanas that easily could have snapped the little dog's neck.

Something of what he was thinking got through to the old woman and she said, "No, he was in the house all day! I had the doggy door shut because there were too many lizards creeping inside in this humid weather."

Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2011-04-11
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