Vamplayers, p.1

Vamplayers, page 1

 

Vamplayers
 


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Vamplayers


  Table of Contents

  Prologue

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  Chapter 28

  Chapter 29

  Chapter 30

  Chapter 31

  Chapter 32

  Chapter 33

  Chapter 34

  Chapter 35

  Chapter 36

  Chapter 37

  Epilogue

  I take a deep breath (not that my lungs work, but old habits die hard) and enter the dining room, a wooden stake tip-down in each hand as I’ve been trained.

  I edge the perimeter of the table, passing the first chair, the second.

  So far so good.

  The third.

  Thwack!

  As if attached to a cable, it shoves out and hits me square on the hip. (That’s gonna leave a mark!)

  The hooded figure arises from beneath the table.

  I react immediately, shoving my stake dead center into its chest and recoiling as the hissing, burning, smoking robotic figure quakes before my very eyes.

  I yank on my stake, desperate to get it back, but no luck. It’s stuck for good.

  That’s the price you pay in Simulation House: stick a bloodsucker, lose your stake.

  Published 2012 by Medallion Press, Inc.

  The MEDALLION PRESS LOGO

  is a registered trademark of Medallion Press, Inc.

  If you purchase this book without a cover, you should be aware that this book is stolen property. It was reported as “unsold and destroyed” to the publisher, and neither the author nor the publisher has received any payment for this “stripped book.”

  Copyright © 2012 by Rusty Fischer

  Cover design by James Tampa

  Edited by Emily Steele

  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission of the publisher, except where permitted by law.

  Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictionally. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

  Typeset in Adobe Garamond Pro

  Printed in the United States of America

  ISBN 978-1605424-49-1

  10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

  First Edition

  To Rhett, the ultimate Vamplayer (minus the V-A-M)!

  PROLOGUE

  Fall 1981

  It’s daytime

  Why are they out in the daytime?

  Rick Springfield is singing “Jessie’s Girl,” my favorite song of the moment.

  I’m crooning into my hairbrush, kissing Rick’s paper lips on his rockin’ new poster hung crookedly on my peach-painted wall.

  I pass my bedroom window, putting on a show for my imaginary audience of screaming, adoring fans outside when movement catches my eye. Lots of it.

  People are on the front lawn outside my bedroom window, shadowy people with yellow eyes and long claws … and fangs?

  But it’s daytime.

  How are they out in the daytime?

  I should shut off my stereo, but it’s my favorite part of the song. Besides, this must be a prank, right? The electricity goes out, cutting off the tune for me. I wish that I had Jessie’s gir—

  The figures are gone from the front lawn. See, some joke, huh?

  My mom is in the kitchen whipping us up a quick midday snack, railing at the blender for cutting off midsmoothie. I see her standing there, still in her nurse’s uniform and fresh from work, a run in her stockings. She gazes at the soupy mess in the blender, all red and pink and white and blotchy, then at me with those big green eyes. “Do you care if banana chunks are still in it?”

  It’s the last thing she’ll ever say to me.

  From the kitchen door a shadow passes across her. Only it’s not a shadow; it’s a man.

  A Shadow Man.

  Tall, lean, dressed all in black. Blood on his lips, on his dark-stubbled chin.

  Bloodlust in his eyes.

  He snags Mom’s neck with long, white fangs and slides them into her jugular like a warm knife through butter.

  She never screams. Not once. It seems she was more upset when Dad left us than when this guy uses her throat like a toothpick.

  I shriek at the first drop of blood on her starched white lapel and run back to my room, slamming the door, locking it tight, hunting for hiding places.

  I ignore the space under my bed. Too obvious.

  The closet? Even more obvious.

  I open my hamper, a kind of wicker trash can, in the corner beside my desk.

  It reeks of my cheerleading uniform from two days ago and that wet red towel I’ve been meaning to wash all week but never have. (Because I don’t want my white panties to turn pink in case, you know, I let Randy Jenkins get to second base this weekend—or is it third? I dunno. I mean, which base involves panties?)

  I stifle a gag, bury myself in warm, humid stank, and yank down the round lid, weak light filtering through.

  I hear what must be Mom’s body slumping to the hardwood kitchen floor, the blender shattering, Mom’s almost rapturous sigh as the Shadow Man bites deep.

  Eeww, Mom, gross.

  There is a pause, a scraping, a gasp and now footsteps outside my room.

  We have three doors in the hallway: Mom’s bedroom; a spare room where she keeps her sewing machine to mend my cheer uniform, chorus gown, or last year’s vampire Halloween costume (ironic much?); then there’s my room.

  I’m guessing that’s Mom’s door I hear exploding in a burst of wood and doorknob, clattering to the floor in a loud, scratchy heap. I cringe and burrow into the hamper, finding that gingham scarf I’ve been searching for since last week.

  Metal hangers, apparently in Mom’s walk-in closet, grate. A massive piece of furniture that must be her dresser crashes.

  Footsteps in the hall again. Louder this time, getting closer, and I think it’s more than one pair.

  The sewing room is next, and they make quick work of it. I say they because it sounds like more than just the Shadow Man out there now.

  I’m right. My door is next. After one or both of them kick it open, I hear four feet tromping across my floor.

  I chew on my damp cheer sleeve to keep from wailing. My heart is pounding; my palms are clammy; my legs are cramping from the awkward position I’m scrunched up in.

  I hear the mattress get dragged off the frame and onto the floor, my closet doors tossed open. The sounds are violent, angry, powerful.

  Boom!

  Smash!

  Crash!

  The stomps advance, closer now. Drawers are jerked out of my desk before it topples over.

  The hamper shakes, the top comes loose, but it’s rolling on the floor toward the creamy peach wall, apparently unnoticed.

  The heavy footsteps move toward my doorway, and I spill out, still covered in dirty clothes and non-pink panties.

  I see the Shadow Man leading my mom (Mom!) out my d
oor.

  I stay perfectly still.

  Mom stops, sniffs, pivots.

  But it’s not Mom I see. It’s Monster Mom.

  Vampire Mom.

  Her neck is bloody. Her nursing uniform is splashed with red down the top left side. Her hair is askew, and her eyes are yellow and filled with a wild, hungry rage that seems to blot me out, paint a target on my throat, and draw her near. She spots me here beneath my brown and orange cheer skirt, a greedy smile slithering to her face. Light reflects off the drool streaming from the sharp, spiny tips.

  Of.

  My.

  Mom’s.

  Fangs!

  She doesn’t say anything to the Shadow Man, only hisses him back with a gruff, almost animal language. The noise shatters the otherwise peaceful house, shakes the glass in my window.

  The Shadow Man comes running, his footsteps pounding on the hollow wood floor.

  I scramble to get up, the red towel, moist and moldy, wrapping around my legs, tripping me. I land with a thud on my bare wooden bed frame. It cracks; my arm smacks; the pain shoots through my elbow.

  Mom sails across the room to me. Her fingernails, like claws, gouge at my skin.

  “Mom. Mom! It’s me, Lily, your daughter!”

  She doesn’t care, doesn’t hear. Her mouth is a gaping maw of black and blood. With those awful, glistening fangs, she tears at my skin.

  The Shadow Man leans on the doorframe, laughing, licking his lips, letting Mom do the dirty work.

  And it’s so sunny out, the rays streaming through the windows. How is this happening now?

  I pull back once, twice, straining my neck, yelping, my shoulders and arms growing slick with blood as Mom continues to scrape and scratch, seeking a hold on my neck.

  We wrestle and grunt, the floor covered with gore. The last thing I see before Mom bites me is Rick Springfield staring down at me, black hair feathery, kind eyes sympathetic, shoulder muscles rippling just for me.

  Now the ceiling shatters into a million pieces.

  Men and women burst through and land on the floor.

  I am spent, high and bleary like when my blood sugar gets too low and I’m about to pass out in fourth period before lunch.

  A woman in a red leather jumpsuit aims a small crossbow at my mother’s heart.

  I want to warn the woman not to miss, not to screw it up.

  She pulls the trigger.

  Vampire Mom howls, shudders, sinks to the floor.

  I join her, gurgling on my own blood, my head coming to rest on the stank red towel. I can feel the blood pumping from my jugular onto it, onto the floor, onto the bed frame.

  Several red jumpsuits tackle the Shadow Man and fill him with short wooden stakes until his rib cage looks like a porcupine’s backside.

  The woman kneels at my side, her blonde hair in a simple ponytail, her blue eyes kind, her hands gentle. She presses gauze to my neck to stem the bleeding. Her full lips are moving. I strain to hear her and catch the end: “… old are you?”

  “Seventeen.” I cough up blood and start to pass out. The sunlight streams in, and Rick gazes at me, not quite smiling, not quite frowning, all kinds of sexy in his white tank top.

  “Good,” I hear her saying, or at least I think I do, as my eyes shut. “We need another Sister.”

  All is black, no more sunlight, no more Vampire Mom, no more Springfield.

  My last words are, “I don’t have any sisters.”

  A voice, close enough to stir my long black hair, says softly, “You do now.”

  Chapter 1

  I enter the house on cat’s feet. No, scratch that. Rewind. Cats don’t have feet, do they? Paws, right? So I enter the house on cat’s paws. No, that’s not right either, because I’m kind of just on my toes, not my whole feet, and who walks on their toes? Okay, I enter the house on ballerina’s feet (there, that’s better!) and quietly shut the door.

  The home is silent and dim, but I don’t reach for the lights. I don’t have to. My vampire vision illuminates the scene in that old familiar yellow glow, as if candles flicker all around. They don’t.

  I take my time in the foyer getting my bearings, though I’ve been here literally hundreds of times before. Still, every time is different. The Academy makes sure of that.

  The foyer is easy to inspect. It’s about the size of a closet, no windows, just the front door and a neat little end table featuring a potted plant and glazed ceramic bowl with a house key inside.

  I check it off mentally and move forward, creeping into the living room on my ballerina toes.

  But show me the ballerina who skulks around in thick-soled black sneakers with matching socks, yoga pants, and hoodie, and I’ll show you a dancer starring in a really, really off-Broadway Black Belt Swan.

  The living room is straight out of the seventies with ugly boxy leather sofas the color of week-old peas and an orange recliner featuring a mushroom throw pillow that’s seen better days. The detail is pretty amazing, down to the cheesy cork coasters and outdated, dusty LIFE magazines on the kidney-shaped coffee table.

  But I’m not here for the nickel tour.

  I’m here to do one thing and one thing only: survive.

  The house is still, no signs of ferocious bloodsuckers. Yet.

  The living room is bigger, more corners to search, more nooks and crannies to hide in, and of course more potential for bloody booby traps.

  I tiptoe, alert for sudden movement or anything out of the ordinary. You know, like roving bands of the undead wearing sideburns and dressed in seventies seersucker suits. All the while my toes feel for tiny pressure changes on the orange shag carpeted floor, which would mean I’ve tripped a trigger and a shiny, stainless steel stake is now headed for my heart.

  Nothing behind the couch, the love seat, or the curtains covering windows shuttered against the fake sun. I clear the living room without incident. That is, if you consider a pounding stress headache crushing my cranium a nonincident.

  I stand at the threshold of the dining room. Now, if the living room is a playground of dangerous nooks and crannies designed to trip me up, then the dining room is an obstacle course of potentially deadly booby traps designed to bring me down: big, long dinner table, six straight-back chairs, framed clown art on the walls (now that’s spooky), more fake windows, more dense, dangling drapes.

  You could spend hours in here searching every hidey-hole and cranny-nook, but I have only twenty minutes to clear the entire house, and there are still three rooms plus one particularly nasty staircase left if I’m to complete my assignment on time.

  Cue the Mission: Impossible theme.

  I take a deep breath (not that my lungs work, but old habits die hard) and enter the dining room, a wooden stake tip-down in each hand as I’ve been trained.

  I edge the perimeter of the table, passing the first chair, the second.

  So far so good.

  The third.

  Thwack!

  As if attached to a cable, it shoves out and hits me square on the hip. (That’s gonna leave a mark!)

  The hooded figure arises from beneath the table.

  I react immediately, shoving my stake dead center into its chest and recoiling as the hissing, burning, smoking robotic figure quakes before my very eyes.

  I yank on my stake, desperate to get it back, but no luck. It’s stuck for good.

  That’s the price you pay in Simulation House: stick a bloodsucker, lose your stake.

  Oh well, best to move along.

  The close call only makes me more alert. I clear the dining room quickly, decisively, managing to avoid any more surprises or tripped booby traps along the way.

  Out in the hall, staring up the fourteen steps to the second story, I sigh and take each one slowly.

  They are wood, and each one creaks. I’m halfway up when the first pressure point hisses.

  I duck immediately, just missing being impaled by the stake that flies past my raven ponytail.

  There’s nothing left
to do but run straight up, taking the steps two at a time. The stakes shoot out so fast, so often that they create a steady breeze between my legs as they slam into the opposite wall with a pistonlike thump-thwack-splat, spreading drywall chunks and asbestos dust through the air.

  I make it to the landing at the top of the stairs, but there’s still no relief. I’ve wasted ten minutes downstairs and still have three rooms to clear up here.

  And now it gets really tricky.

  First up is the bathroom, another simple room with only one place for the bad, if fake, vampires to hide: behind the powder-blue vinyl shower curtain. But every tile on the way there is a potential stake in my foot. Not quite deadly, but it wouldn’t exactly tickle either.

  Instead of taking another step inside the room, I carefully open the cabinet under the sink, pull out a plunger (I told you the attention to detail in this place is incredible!), and toss it at the shower curtain.

  I duck immediately, and it’s a good thing.

  One, two, three stakes puff out through the tattered curtain, piercing the wall above and slightly to the left of my head.

  I have to waste two precious minutes freeing my ponytail from one of the skewers. (Hey, just because I’m a bloodsucker doesn’t mean I don’t care about my hair.)

  I turn from the room, clear the guest bedroom in less than a minute, and step tentatively toward the next obstacle.

  Ah, the master bedroom, where I lose it every.

  Single.

  Time.

  The door is already open, and I stride through purposefully. The big digital clock over the gold lamé curtains tells me I have only three minutes and forty-six seconds to complete my mission.

  I shake my head, putting sneakers to the turquoise shag rug, and quickly secure the bed, over and under, even the closet with twelve hangers full of dusty Goodwill suits nobody will ever wear again.

  I pivot and realize I never cleared the front door.

  A simple hiss kills me in my tracks.

  The stake hits the thin black titanium breastplate covering my chest, bouncing off harmlessly but triggering a hidden sensor that instantly floods the bedroom in light, sets off a blinking, rotating siren on the bedroom ceiling (the kind you used to see on old cop cars), and quickly ends my quest to become Afterlife Academy’s next Savior.

 
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