Immortal Remains 2 - 30 Days of Night, page 12
Finally, he went to the house where his brother lived with his wife and two children. Dane had adored visiting them, enjoyed the role of beloved uncle, and his heart broke over his two nephews as much as it did for his own parents, mourning the lives they would now never share. As at Vanessa’s house, though, the windows were dark.
By the time he got back to Marlow’s lair, the sky was turning gray in the east. The night had been a waste, Dane decided, filling him with sorrow but offering nothing to ease his suffering. He didn’t know then, but learned in bitterness later on, that he would always feel those losses.
Nothing he could ever experience as a vampire could even hope to replace the loved ones he knew when he was once alive.
Despite the beatings and abuse, the misinformation and outright lies, the fact that Marlow only explained what he wanted to and that his motivations were frequently obscure, self-interest his only driving goal, Dane found himself growing close to him over the years they spent together.
Usually others were around, too—the group Marlow had gathered—but sometimes everyone went their own separate ways. Other times it was just Dane and Marlow, or Dane and one of the others.
One evening he, Marlow, and five others were in Washington, DC, for a reason Dane couldn’t remember. They had been observing a candlelight vigil against the Vietnam War (yet another opportunity for the mosquitoes to gorge themselves, Dane silently mused). This was in 1965; the antiwar movement wouldn’t reach its zenith for years yet, and the vigil was small and sparsely attended, mostly by unkempt souls in black turtlenecks and blue jeans, the women in tights and skirts.
After the vigil they walked around the neighborhood. Flowering trees were in bloom, the night scented with spring.
“Reminds me of the night we met,” Marlow remarked to Dane. “Do you remember? You had been watching a protest that night as well.”
“I remember,” Dane said.
“They never learn,” Marlow had said. “War is one of the only constants their race knows.”
“That doesn’t mean it’s a good idea,” Dane replied. “I don’t understand what we’re doing in Vietnam, either.”
Marlow’s reaction when Dane identified himself with Americans, or with any other group of humans, was swift and brutal. He backhanded Dane. “Idiot!” he seethed. “They’re killing each other, that’s all we need to know. It’s a good thing. Never forget that.”
Some of the others echoed Marlow’s sentiments. Dane rubbed his jaw as Marlow turned his back to him, looking up at the steeple of the cathedral they were passing, where the vigil had begun. “Do you suppose becoming a vampire is just God’s punishment for my sins?”
Marlow stopped dead, and the rest of the group glared at Dane in stunned disbelief. “What did you say?”
Dane didn’t bother to repeat himself. Vampires could hear the blood flowing in someone’s veins from a block away—Marlow had heard him just fine.
Marlow didn’t carry a cane anymore, but he threw two punches before Dane could react. “God? Did you say God?”
“Yes,” Dane said, putting his fists up to block. Because Marlow had made him, Dane defended himself against attacks, but he didn’t fight back.
“Come here.” Grabbing Dane by the ear and twisting it hard, Marlow led Dane up the steps and through the cathedral’s front door. With a glance and a wave of his hand, Marlow let the others know to wait outside.
Inside the cathedral, quiet reigned. A few candles flickered. One old woman knelt in a pew, praying silently. At the sight of Marlow and Dane, she gasped, crossed herself, and ran away.
Dane cringed from all the crosses. Marlow had told him that crucifixes had no effect on vampires—but on another occasion, he had told Dane that to touch one meant instant, painful destruction by fire. Dane hadn’t wanted to test it.
“Do you see God in here?” Marlow asked, raging, dragging Dane up the main aisle toward the altar. “Do you hear God? Do you smell him, Dane?”
“I smell candles,” Dane said. “That’s all.”
“Exactly. That’s all there is. Idiot,” Marlow said. “God is dead, Dane. If he ever lived at all, he died long ago. If he was alive, he wouldn’t let us walk here, would he?”
“I don’t…know….” Dane’s ear felt like Marlow had driven a hot poker into it. Marlow didn’t let up the pressure.
“How many people around the world die of hunger every day, Dane? How many babies never reach their first birthday because of preventable diseases? What is it about the world that makes you think there’s a God who gives a shit about any of it, much less about you?”
As if to illustrate the point, Marlow used Dane’s ear as a handle to hurl Dane the rest of the way down the aisle. Dane tumbled and rolled and finally came to rest at the base of the altar, his face jammed against the feet of a statue of Jesus.
Dane jerked his head away, afraid of what the contact might mean.
But his skin wasn’t burned. He reached out, cautiously, and touched the statue. Nothing. Cool marble.
Marlow had told him that would be the case—but then again, he had also told him the opposite. As with most things, the only way to know for sure what was true and what wasn’t would be to test it for himself.
Dane looked down the aisle at Marlow, who approached slowly, casually. Still holding on to the statue, he rose to his feet to meet his maker. “I guess I know now,” he said. “All the garbage you’ve told me about keeping away from crosses and religious icons…”
Marlow just kept coming. Dane released the statue, not liking the determined set of Marlow’s face. He held up a hand as Marlow neared, but Marlow batted it away and bent toward Dane, his breath hot and putrid. Dane tried to put his hand up again but Marlow struck too fast, like a snake, and suddenly his fangs had clamped onto Dane’s neck.
For a moment, Dane didn’t know what to do. The bite was agonizing—he had never heard of a vampire biting a vampire, didn’t know what the result of such a thing might be. Marlow held it for a few moments, then released Dane, shoving him away with a look of pure contempt. “You’ve turned almost human, Dane,” he said. “Maybe now you’ll remember what you really are.”
Dane clapped his right hand over the wound, but not before blood had spurted onto the white marble Jesus. “What the hell…?”
“Something had to be done,” Marlow said. “You were making me sick.”
Dane wiped his blood off the statue. As he did, a strange feeling passed through him. He had never believed in miracles, and didn’t think this was one—there was, no doubt, a perfectly reasonable scientific explanation for the sensation, which he could only compare to holding on to a live electrical wire. But instead of throwing him to the ground or paralyzing him, it infused him with new energy.
Dane felt stronger, suddenly, than ever before. Vampires were plenty strong, and he could hardly remember how weak he’d been in his human days. This, though…this was different. A new level of strength, a difference he could feel without even testing.
There is one way you can test it.
He looked at Marlow, who watched him with a curious expression, as if he could tell something was going on but didn’t know what. He was maybe a little afraid of Dane. Not without reason.
Dane could tell without checking that the blood had stopped flowing from his neck. He was pretty sure the wound had already closed.
“Dane…” Marlow said.
Dane didn’t let him finish. He lunged forward, grabbed Marlow by the lapels, and hoisted him off the ground. “Dane! Son!” Marlow shrieked.
Dane spun around like a carnival ride, whirling his maker at shoulder height. Terror blazed in Marlow’s eyes, and a sudden feeling of satisfaction, of limitless power, coursed through Dane. He wheeled Marlow ever faster, then released him.
Marlow took off as if he had the power of flight.
He sailed above the pews, on an upward trajectory. Instead of plowing into a wall, he crashed through a huge, ornate stained-glass window and kept on
Finally, other people in the cathedral knew about the intruders. Dane heard voices raised in alarm, coming his way. He hurried toward the door, not wanting to have to explain the damage done.
Outside, Marlow was unhurt. He had just been helped to his feet by the five other vampires.
Seeing Dane emerge, Marlow thrust an arm in his direction. As one, the others turned and fixed Dane with angry gazes. Marlow said something to them, and they released his arms and started toward Dane.
By throwing Marlow through the window, he had broken with the group. He had turned traitor, and this would not be taken lightly.
But the energy still buzzed around in him as if he had swallowed a rattlesnake. He raced to meet them.
Just before they clashed, he heard Marlow shout, “Destroy him!” Dane didn’t mind—it told him just what the stakes were. This wasn’t about merely punishing his infraction.
He responded in kind. When the battle was joined, it was for keeps.
Years later, Dane heard that one of the priests who had watched the struggle from the cathedral’s doorway had been turned himself. That priest had described the battle to every vampire he met, and the story eventually filtered back to Dane.
The onlooker described the combat as “epic.”
Alone, obviously filled with some kind of mystic fire, Dane had torn into the five others like the very spirit of vengeance. His opponents had been powerful, but Dane had been beyond that, tearing through the others like a threshing machine through a wheat field.
Marlow witnessed the entire affair, making no moves to interfere. When it was all over—when Dane stood, weary but unbowed, among the remains of the others—Marlow met his gaze and gave him a look that was almost like pride, as if Dane had met all his expectations.
And then Dane simply walked away, leaving Marlow with what was left of his entourage.
Dane had been born again—ironically, inside a church. The bite hadn’t had the effect Marlow had hoped for, but it hadn’t been pointless. Somehow, it had imbued him with new strength, maybe double what he’d had before. He was faster, with sharper reflexes and more acute senses. He eventually even stumbled upon the possibility that, with a lot of practice and not a little effort, he could dabble with hypnosis, temporarily retract his fangs and warm his skin to appear human. Marlow always said that science was for humans, that vampires were meant to be feared, not understood, so Dane didn’t even know how to begin to figure out what exactly had happened.
In the end, the how didn’t matter. It had happened.
And even better, his new power didn’t fade with time, as he feared it might.
Dane’s reputation among vampires grew.
Like a gunfighter out of the Old West, and because of his notoriety, challengers came out of the woodwork after him—some friends and followers of Marlow, others simply vampires looking to boost their own reputations by taking on Dane. He wound up hiding, trying to let the stories burn themselves out. He found other vampires who felt the way he did about things, who appreciated the necessity of keeping low profiles, of staying in the dark and letting humans continue to believe the nosferatu were myth.
Ferrando Merrin, who stood beside Ananu’s bed, was one of these.
Since they still didn’t know who had attacked them outside the warehouse, they couldn’t go back to AJ’s house or Mitch’s apartment. Dane had called Merrin, who had pulled some strings and rounded up a safe house in the country between Savannah and Statesboro, on the Ogeechee River. The place was much bigger than AJ’s tiny cottage had been. Merrin agreed to stay with Ananu and had arranged new identities, in Florida, for Mitch and AJ.
Dane and Merrin had been telling Ananu stories all week, trying to convince her that vampires were real and that Dane was one, and that neither fact meant that she was in any danger from Dane, Merrin, or—now that he had been dispatched—Bork Dela.
Which didn’t mean she was out of the woods. Somehow Plan B had failed to stop the pregnancy, and both Dane and Merrin increasingly believed that no traditional abortion method could stop it either. The unborn fetus was Dela’s final curse on the world, and its birth could not be prevented.
Not only that, but Ananu’s pregnancy advanced at a remarkable rate. Her stomach looked to Dane—and Mitch, who had been through it—like a fourth-or fifth-month stomach, after only a week. The whole business worried Dane, although having Merrin around tempered those concerns a little.
The birth of a child created by vampire and human could be a miraculous event—or an apocalyptic one. Dane didn’t know. Neither did anyone else, because no one they knew had witnessed it.
Dane didn’t know if he’d get the opportunity himself, because something else Dela had said—about something going on “up north” that would make the attack on Barrow look like small potatoes—demanded his attention as well.
He had taken Dela out, which Dane believed made it his responsibility to follow up on whatever the killer had been talking about. The inevitable argument ensued between Dane and Merrin about the logic behind this, but in the end, what could Merrin do? Prevent Dane from leaving, take his car keys away like he was some errant teenager?
The worry lines on Merrin’s face seemed to grow deeper as the days passed.
Over the last week, Dane had worked to settle Ananu comfortably into the safe house, getting her accustomed to Merrin, helping Mitch and AJ adjust to the dangerous new reality they faced.
Dane itched to make his next move, however. He just had to find out what Dela had meant, if it all had something to do with all the people he had stolen from their homes in Savannah.
“Up north” was impossibly vague. Dane only knew one place he could begin his search, though, and where else?
Could he actually ever go back there? God, there were so many reasons never to step foot in that frozen shithole again. Barrow wasn’t the same place it was before the first attack. These days it was tough, gritty, ready for anything, and from what he’d heard, vampires were killed off on a pretty regular basis up there. Any vampires stupid enough to try to enter town, at least.
Of course. He was letting his own mind play games with him. He actually wanted a reason to go back to Barrow.
Not for any noble cause as he would like to think, but because deep in his heart…
But what if she wasn’t there?
And what if “up north” meant some other place?
Dane didn’t trust his instincts on this one and he had no one he wanted to discuss it with—certainly not with Merrin again.
To retell the entire story, to truly understand what happened? Dane had no desire to relive everything—his wild scheme to use Eben’s ashes as a lure to kill both Stella and her sheriff husband once and for all for murdering his former master…not to mention the added bonus of shutting down Stella’s very public crusade of dragging the entire vampire community kicking and screaming into the sunlight, literally, and worse, figuratively.
Even that seemed so strange now. The driving force behind the desire to avenge Marlow was always unspoken, but Dane supposed he was like so many abused children and spouses. Somewhere within the pain was also a twisted allegiance to the abuser. Dane, with all of his undead experience, was no different.
And to admit that he’d had an albeit brief affair, a sexual liaison with a human woman? Not many vampires he knew would be very understanding about that.
But he couldn’t get around it. I need information…and allies. If she’s still in Barrow, then maybe. Eben Olemaun was another matter altogether. Was he truly back from the dead as whispered…had Stella managed to prove a vampire myth as truth? And if so, did Eben know about what happened between Dane and Stella?
Things were already plenty complicated, but Dane had a feeling that it was only just the beginning.
Dane’s self-inflicted mind games play
And history, painful experience had taught him, also had a bad habit of sneaking around and biting people on the ass.
THE INUPIAT had originally called Barrow Ukpiagvik, which meant “place where owls are hunted,” and as far as Dane was concerned, any owls around could have it back.
Barrow was once a bustling little burg of just under four thousand people, most of whom were either trying to catch flights out before the sun went down to stay or were preparing for the long, cold winter. Most of those who had stayed wished they hadn’t, if they had a chance to wish anything at all.
The last time Dane was here, in 2003, had almost cost him everything.
This time, getting to Barrow had been no easy task. Dane had taken a night flight from Macon to Denver, where he spent the day in a hotel room with the drapes drawn tight. From Denver he repeated the process, passing a day in Seattle. The next night took him to Anchorage, and the one after that to Fairbanks.
From there, he had to travel over land, since he didn’t trust flying into Barrow’s closely watched airport. The sun hadn’t set between May and early August. It moved across the sky, dropping low on the horizon but never disappearing completely. Even now, in late September, the nights were not as long as Dane would have preferred, although they were getting longer all the time. In late November, the sun would set until January. Perfect for his kind…which was how the whole trouble started in the first place.