Immortal Remains 2 - 30 Days of Night, page 21
The experts, AJ had heard on TV, claimed that torture didn’t really work. Or rarely. People being tortured tend to give false information, to tell their torturers whatever they think those professionals want to hear, regardless of truth, just to make the pain stop.
Maybe there’s something to that, AJ thought.
Getting the pain to stop would be a good thing. His feet had been cut, some of the flesh peeled off his soles with a little sharp knife, so that standing was excruciating. He had been hit repeatedly in the genitals with a club, so that his genitals felt broken and bruised, like a balloon filled with loose, disconnected objects. The result was that sitting wasn’t any better than standing.
He sat anyway. No choice. His hands were strapped to the table and he was strapped to the chair, feet on the floor, little flames of agony starting there and working up his legs, breaking into a full-on conflagration at his balls, then tapering off a little up the trunk, flaring up again between his shoulders (not tortured there, just in pain from being forced to sit with his hands out for so long) and at the ends of his arms. And of course his head. Everything above the neck was broken. Show me a mirror, he thought. Maybe I’ll talk then.
He didn’t say that, though. Instead, he spat—the gob didn’t even clear his lap, landing wetly on his pants—and said weakly, “Vampires aren’t real.”
“That’s what your parents told you, right?” his torturer replied. “They lied to you about that, too. They lied about pretty much everything, I guess. They told you they were your parents, but look at you. You were bred in a trailer park. Probably to a brother and sister. Probably to a brother and sister whose parents had also been brother and sister. If you weren’t an inbred moron, you’d have told me what I need to know by now and saved yourself a considerable amount of pain.
“And for what? What are you protecting? A monster who kills to live? Who drinks the blood of young girls to keep up his own horrible strength? You’re a regular person like me, taking the worst beating of your life to protect a monster. What’s up with that?”
AJ tried to speak, but launched into a coughing fit. He spat again.
“What?” the guy asked. “What’d you say?”
“I said I’m nothing like you.”
“Sure you are. We’re both guys. We’re both American. We love our country, we respect women. We like a beer now and then. Beer’d taste good right about now, wouldn’t it?”
“Sure,” AJ managed. “Maybe a football game on TV, too. You like football, right?”
“You sailed that one right over my head, partner,” the guy said. “If that was a joke, I didn’t get it. Why don’t you save your breath for the important stuff? Like…where the vampire is.”
“Why don’t you blow me?”
The guy’s hand moved faster than AJ could track, swatting him across the face. AJ blinked, bit down on his ruined lower lip to keep from screaming. But the guy wasn’t done. He jabbed his sharp whatever it was, needle or pin or skinny blade, into the tip of AJ’s left thumb, just beneath the nail, gave it a little twist, then pulled it out.
AJ did scream then. A long, loud one that made his head throb.
“You might as well let me go,” he gasped when he could talk again. His throat felt like he’d been gargling with thumbtacks. “I can’t help you. Don’t you think I would have…already if I could? I don’t believe in…vampires and I don’t know who you’re talking…about.”
He didn’t know where the courage to resist had come from. He didn’t think of himself as particularly brave. He’d never seen combat, although he’d put in one tour in the army, stationed in Mannheim, Germany. He hadn’t been trained at resisting torture. He’d been a grunt, too low on the totem pole to know anything worth torturing for. If someone had asked him a couple of weeks ago if he would endure the worst agony of his life to protect some virtual strangers, he would have laughed at them. Absolutely not. Hell no.
Yet here he was. Why? He couldn’t begin to guess.
“Look, let’s just start over at the beginning. I can see this is hurting you a whole lot. That’s not really what I wanted. It’s just that you know things that I need to know, and time is of the essence, as they say. If I had more time I’d be your friend, buy you meals and drinks, listen to your problems, and eventually you’d trust me. Just now, I don’t have time to win your trust. But we can get past this, make things easier all the way around. My name’s Dan, okay? What’s yours?”
“Brent Masters. Brent John Masters.”
The guy who called himself Dan flicked a finger against AJ’s puffy cheek. A jolt of pain shot through his head.
“Oh please. What is it really? The boat you were on is registered to Albert Jerome Roddy. Are you Al Roddy?”
He had never gone by Al. “No.”
Another finger flick, this time on the ruptured ear.
“You trying to steal a boat, then? Should I turn you over to the cops?”
“Ha-ha, fat chance. Come on, Roddy. Be straight with me. Let’s clear this up so we can all go home.”
AJ kept his mouth shut.
The damage had been done over the course of many hours. Days, maybe. Every time he fell asleep, someone came in and woke him. Usually this guy, but sometimes others. Men and women, white, dressed in shirtsleeves and ties or conservative business dresses. AJ was inordinately proud that he had bled all over Dan’s white shirt.
The room was concrete block walled, tile floored. No windows. Just the one door. A table and two chairs. Pools of his blood stained the black and brown and white linoleum tiles.
“Okay, whatever,” Dan said. “You can stew in it for a while longer. If you have to use the toilet or something, too bad. Unless you’re ready to talk to us.” He pointed toward the ceiling, in the corner. AJ had to twist his neck around, look over his left shoulder. A camera was mounted there. AJ hadn’t noticed it before. “If you’re ready to talk, then just say so, to that camera. I’ll come right in. Otherwise you can sit here and hurt for a while. And think about how much more it’s going to hurt when I get serious.”
He walked out, slammed the door. Locks clicked.
AJ was left alone with only the persistent buzz in his ear for company.
That and the pain.
“I never even liked killing them,” Sarah was saying as she led them down the stairs to the next level. “Because you have to, you know, touch them? Put your mouth on them? I mean, when you were mortal did you want to bite right off a cow’s carcass? Or did you want to go to the grocery store and buy steaks all wrapped up in plastic? On that little Styrofoam tray. I liked those.”
“And here you don’t have to see them,” Dane observed.
“You don’t have to. You can, if you want. There are a couple of levels down there—well, you’ll see. But up here, on the higher levels, it’s all brought up in barrels, or piped up. Except—well, you’ll see that too.”
They arrived on the second level down. Here there were no kerosene lanterns at all, just a few thick, greasy candles popping as they burned. Dane had wondered upstairs what they were made of, and now it came to him.
More vampires congregated in secluded alcoves, drinking and talking and laughing. Conversations were held in low tones and in various languages. As Sarah had noted, Dane didn’t hear much English. Lots of Europeans, he noted, and some Asian and African tongues as well.
“This really was well thought out,” she said, almost as if she had read his thoughts. “After that messed-up attack on Barrow, in Alaska—you heard about that, right?”
“We heard,” Eben said. He sounded uneasy, but she didn’t notice.
“After that, things got different, and someone figured he could do things his own way.”
“I’m surprised it took anyone so long,” Dane said.
“Yeah, me too. But at least someone finally did it, right? Of course, this is just part
“Do you know what the rest of it is?”
“It’s not like it’s a huge secret. That’s why I came here in the first place. Well, that and not having to, you know, act ‘normal’ anymore. They call this a ‘model community.’ The United States of the Undead, like. If we’re all of a similar mindset, we can finally be in a position to force the humans to accept their proper role.”
“Livestock, for our needs,” Dane said.
“Yeah, basically. We can build places like this everywhere, keep them, breed them, feed ourselves. Time for us to come out of the shadows and drive them in. I mean, not really out of the shadows, because the sun, you know? But I guess figuratively or something.”
“Figuratively,” Eben echoed. “We’re going to overturn the way things have always been and live like this.”
“Awesome, huh?” The idea sparked joy in Sarah’s tone. “Genius.”
Sarah led them between the booths and bars, across the vast, dark room. Some of the vampires greeted her, and Dane and Eben. Others ignored them. A few trailed along behind, as if some spectacle were about to take place and they didn’t want to miss out. Dane could make out a doorway at the far end of the room, and beyond it a space with a warm, reddish glow that spilled out into the main room. “That’s where we’re going,” Sarah said, pointing to it. “In there.”
“What’s in there?”
“The Lilith Room,” she said. Her bright eyes sparkled as if with life, which was unlikely, or madness, which was less so. “It’s kind of an initiation ritual for newbies, I guess. And it’s kind of fun, too. I think you’ll love it.”
The Lilith Room.
Dane tried to comprehend what that could possibly mean, but he couldn’t. He only knew the one Lilith, and Stella had destroyed her in Los Angeles. Was it some kind of shrine to her memory? Lit by candles, so the vampires could come in and worship her?
Sarah Cavalier hurried ahead of them, almost skipping toward the lighted entryway. She reached the doorway and clung to the jamb like a drowning person, one foot raised off the floor, peering back over her shoulder toward them.
“She’s excited,” Eben observed.
“I’m not sure it takes a lot.”
“You know what this Lilith Room is?”
“Not a clue.”
The vampires who had been following started to crowd in around them when they got to the Lilith Room’s door. Whatever was in there, apparently everybody wanted to see the reaction of the newbies when they saw it. Dane tried to brace for anything.
The sight that met them couldn’t be prepared for.
It was Lilith. Lilith herself. Not destroyed at Stella’s hands, after all.
Undead, she writhed on a kind of altar, in obvious pain. Her arms and legs had been torn off, violently, spurs of bone still showing in the sockets. Those wounds and dozens more—chunks had been ripped out all over her naked torso—oozed blood. Her skin ran with it, and Dane couldn’t tell if it was all hers or if blood had been poured over her to salve the wounds. Probably both. Fat white maggots writhed in some of the older wounds. Lilith’s dark hair was matted, her eyes wild with emotion. With terror.
A vampire rose from a squat in the corner as they entered. This one, a male, was twisted like a pretzel and at least half mad, but he spoke English, perhaps out of deference to Sarah. “Two more new ones for you, Lilith,” he said in a singsong tone. “Two more to feast on your flesh. Aren’t you happy? Aren’t you glad to serve your fellows?” He lifted a metal pitcher and poured some blood on her, splashing it over her breasts and privates, then emptying the last on her face. She smacked at it greedily, licking it off her lips, her cheeks.
Burning on the wall above her, written in little flickering tongues of mystic flame—the source of the reddish light Dane had noticed—were the words: THE OLD WAYS HAVE PROVEN WEAK. NOW IS THE TIME OF THE VAMPIRE.
Sarah noticed Dane staring at the legend. “The words of Enok,” she said. “Is there any other way to live?”
EBEN WAS ALMOST through the door when someone grabbed his arm. He spun, startled, to see a group of vampires speaking what he guessed was Norwegian, laughing hysterically, like drunks in a bar. There were six of them, all male, and it was obvious that five were leading the sixth into the place that Sarah Cavalier called the Lilith Room. The one who had snagged his arm drew him aside in order to push their friend past, and Eben was glad to let them go.
Maybe this kind of scene was commonplace to Dane, but it wasn’t to Eben. He hadn’t thought he would ever see anything more horrific than the bodies of the dead in Barrow, vampires slavering over them like starving rats. Images from that long winter, a winter of blood and death and terror (drained bodies stacked like cordwood against a corrugated steel wall, a headless child in the snow, still clutching her mother’s severed hand, a vampire licking an icicle that had been sprayed with blood, like a kid with a popsicle) had been seared into his brain, surviving even his death, his destruction by sunlight, and his resurrection—back to a state of undeath, if not life itself—at the hands of his wife.
This might have been worse, though. And it was just getting started.
“He’s new, too,” Sarah said. “Do you mind if he goes first?”
Eben didn’t know what was expected of him here, so he was happy for the chance to find out before he had to take part. “That’s fine,” he said, standing back to let the other group go.
Dane touched his shoulder. “I’m going to keep going down,” he whispered. “See what else there is to see. I’ll meet up with you in a little while. Stay sharp.”
Eben nodded his agreement. Splitting up was the best course of action, would allow them to cover more ground, even though at the moment he wished he’d been the one to think of leaving first.
Dane stepped quietly away. Sarah, her gaze fixed on Lilith’s writhing form (Sarah held her pink tongue between her teeth, its tip resting on her lower lip, an expression at once childish and frightening), didn’t even notice that he had gone.
The guys who had barged in quieted, their laughter gone, their mood shifting to something like reverence. They had pushed and cajoled the one they had brought in to a spot just in front of Lilith. Her eyes were wide, her head quaking. She tried to speak, but when her mouth opened he saw that her tongue was gone. Her meaning was clear nonetheless; she begged for mercy.
The newbie who had taken Eben’s place apparently knew what he had come for. He stepped up to Lilith. She tried to wriggle away, but the altar didn’t give her much room to move. Bending closer to her, he opened his mouth. Eben realized what he was about to do just before he did it, wanted to look away, but couldn’t.
The vampire put his mouth on Lilith’s bloody body, finding a fleshy part at the top of her hip, and clamped his sharp teeth together. He shook his head like a dog with a bone, then yanked it away from her. Turning back to his friends, he showed a chunk of meat clenched in his teeth, blood dripping from it onto the floor.
Lilith screamed wordlessly, a guttural, inhuman sound, blood leaking out where the vampire had bitten her.
Eben watched in disgust as the vampire loudly chewed the piece of flesh, swallowing it down. When it was gone his friends clapped him on the back, laughing again, as if he had passed some important rite of initiation.
Which, Eben supposed, he had.
Now it was Eben’s turn.
“Well, go on,” Sarah Cavalier prodded. She blinked, her gaze darting about the room. “Where’s Bob gone?”
“He wanted to look around some more,” Eben said, wishing more than ever that he had gone too.
The whole vampire thing filled him with less revulsion than it once had—you did what you had to do to get by—especially after what he did to Stella, but he didn’t kill for blood, didn’t drink it, still warm, pulsing with the fading beats of a dying heart, like most vampires did.
And this…eating flesh, even if it was the flesh of the worst o
Sarah pulled on his forearm, her eyes insistent. “Everybody gets to, when they’re new,” she said. “Bob will, too, whenever we find him again.” Her tongue flicked across her lips again. “It’s fun.”
Eben glanced back toward the door. The vampires who had followed them in, and the ones who had accompanied the guy who went before him, were all waiting to watch him do it. If he refused, what might happen? An alarm could be raised. He and Dane might find themselves battling for their lives—their unlives—against impossible odds, before they even knew the whole background about how this place was set up.
No, he had to go through with it, if only to keep up appearances.
He took a step toward Lilith. Her eyes locked on his.
I know you.
He stopped short. It was a woman’s voice. Lilith’s voice. But inside his head. No words had been spoken out loud, but he heard her just the same.
I can smell you on her. The human who started all this.
You mean Stella, he thought.
Yessssss. Yes. Stella Olemaun.
So she could hear his thoughts as well. She’s my wife.
I know that. More, I know that you are both nosferatu now. And one further thing I know—you do not want to do this…. It hurts. They know it hurts, and they do not care. It is my punishment, you see, for merely standing in Enok’s way. They want it to hurt, and it does. I try not to show them, but I cannot always help it.
I’m sure it hurts like hell, and I have no interest in hurting you. But I’m worried that if I don’t…He tried to control his thoughts, not knowing how much she could read, or if anyone else listened in.
You are afraid they will know that you are here under false pretenses. Hiding who you really are, and not here to partake of their games. Your mind is open to me, Eben Olemaun. And mine, to you.
He hadn’t realized until just then that she was right, hadn’t wanted to probe, to know her pain and fear and humiliation on such a basic and personal level. But when she said the words, her consciousness lapped over his defensive walls and flooded in.