Immortal remains 2 30.., p.26

Immortal Remains 2 - 30 Days of Night, page 26

 

Immortal Remains 2 - 30 Days of Night
 


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  So far, he wasn’t at all impressed with the construction job done here. It looked sturdy but it didn’t hold up.

  He hoped the same went for the vampire who had built it.

  37

  EBEN AND ENOK battled furiously, raging on for what seemed like an hour, but probably wasn’t more than fifteen or twenty minutes.

  The longer it went on, the more destructive they both were.

  Eben ripped planks from the walls and used them to batter Enok. In turn, Enok threw Eben through the floor, down to the level below, and jumped through after him. Eben rolled away just in time and Enok, landing hard, crashed into the floor and opened another hole. While jagged floorboards pinned Enok’s ankles, Eben tore down a support column and used it as a battering ram.

  Again and again, he smashed it into Enok. The ancient vampire reeled under the steady pounding. After a few minutes of it, he was able to free his legs and snatch the post from Eben. He hurled it away, as if it was a stray tree branch that had inconvenienced him, and it slammed through a wall. Eben noted that where the wall sagged, the ceiling was starting to fall through.

  Then he didn’t pay attention to building construction anymore. Enok lunged at him. Eben dodged, but Enok’s hand dealt him a glancing blow that sent Eben spinning into a steel tank from which pipes spread like spider legs. Liquid sloshed inside the tank. Eben caught a vague whiff of blood.

  As Enok charged him again, he grabbed hold of one of the pipes in both hands, pressed one foot against the tank for leverage, and pulled for all he was worth. Just before Enok reached him, the pipe gave way and a jet of blood blasted out. Eben directed the spray at Enok, who slipped in the sticky fluid. Eben darted behind the big tank and kicked it over, rupturing its steel skin. An ocean of blood washed toward Enok as he tried to regain his footing.

  Since keeping out of Enok’s reach seemed like the best path to survival, Eben raced through a doorway into another room, this one full of tanks and pipes and huge copper vats. A section of loose pipe lay on the floor; he picked it up and speared one of the vats with it. Blood gushed out, flowing toward the room Eben had just left. He kicked over two more tanks. Pipes released and blood ran everywhere. Such a waste, Eben thought. He didn’t want to drink it—he couldn’t help regretting the humans who had lost their lives for the pleasure and convenience of Enok’s followers.

  He had almost cleared another doorway when Enok burst into the room—through the wall, not a door—snarling, furious. Debris rained down from the ceiling. Enok charged straight for Eben, who snatched up a piece of sheet metal he had torn from one of the tanks and held it up as a shield. Enok’s hands bashed against the metal and he pawed at it, trying to tear it from Eben’s’ grip. Instead of letting go, Eben turned it sideways and slashed at Enok as if with a big, unwieldy sword. The sharp-edged steel sliced Enok’s face, chin to cheekbone.

  Enok froze, startled.

  Eben realized for the first time that they weren’t alone here—an audience of vampires watched, rapt, from the shadows of the dimly lit floor.

  “I meant to do a lot more than that,” Eben said, wishing he had cut the vampire’s head off.

  Enok broke his paralysis, lifting a hand to his cheek and pulling it away, seeing his own blood on his fingers to go along with the blood that had drenched nearly every inch of his body. He fixed Eben with a glare of perfect hatred.

  “The pig. Is mine.” Enok stalked toward Eben, and something had changed in his posture. He walked with the tension of a coiled spring. Eben got the idea—a distressing one, really—that Enok had been playing with him before, maybe happy to have a sparring partner with some skills but otherwise simply amusing himself before the kill.

  That part had arrived, Eben believed. If Enok got his hands on Eben again, the kill would follow.

  The other vampires cut off his escape route. He could go through them, but not fast enough to keep Enok from catching him. Enok came steadily, not fast, but with a grim determination that Eben didn’t like. The older vampire was definitely stronger than him, by a wide margin.

  Stella, he thought. I’m sorry about everything. And I’m sorry I don’t get to see you again. I love you. I have always loved you.

  Enok took another step toward him. Eben braced himself for what would certainly be the end. But before Enok could close the space between them, the floor—soaked through with blood from the vats and tanks Eben had ruptured—gave a huge creaking groan, then wood snapped, the sound like fireworks at ground level, and the whole thing collapsed, floor and tanks and vats and pipes and vampires alike dropping through.

  The huge vats punched through the floor of the next level, and kept going, floor by floor. Blood and debris plummeted like a cloudburst. Eben twisted and spun in the air. Things slammed into him—pipes and bloodsuckers and planks—and he hit the floor and kept falling as each successive floor was taken out by the massive amounts of rubble.

  Eben wound up on the bottom floor, his left leg under a fallen beam, like an insect pinned to a display board in some eighth-grade science project.

  Through veils of dust and debris, he saw Enok—hurt, shaken, but not immobilized—scouring the room, presumably looking for him. Enok’s gaze landed on Eben, locked there. He started toward the trapped sheriff.

  Eben tried to shove the beam off. Flat on his back, he couldn’t get any leverage on the thing, couldn’t lift it. Something else had landed on top of the beam and held it in place. As strong as he was, Eben couldn’t move it an inch.

  Enok found a length of iron pipe in the rubble, about two feet long, or a few inches over that. Testing it against his palm, he shot Eben a wicked grin, apparently satisfied with its capability. Trapped here, Eben knew, he would only be able to defend himself for so long. Enok could shatter the bones in his arms and then go to work on his skull, pounding his brain into the floor. From the mad glint in Enok’s eyes, it seemed apparent the same thought had occurred to him. Or, of course, he could have simply lifted it from Eben’s mind.

  Eben strained against the beam, splinters pressing into his hands, to no avail. Then Enok stood over him, slapping the pipe against his palm as if to savor the sound it made. “Are you ready for this?” he asked.

  Eben dropped back against the floor, muscles aching from the effort. “Do your worst, bloodsucker,” he said. With a loud rumble, the entire structure seemed to shudder. “Maybe you can beat me, but you’ll never defeat the human world. At least I can die knowing that.”

  “Whatever gives you comfort,” Enok said with a casually dismissive shrug.

  Another rumble sounded from overhead, like nearby thunder—or an earthquake, but coming from above instead of below. A new wave of debris rained down amid blood and dust. Eben saw an arm flop onto the ground not far away, and a chair hit and bounced right behind Enok. “You’re pretty easygoing for a guy whose whole world is crumbling around him,” Eben said.

  “I know that in the end, it will not be my world that will fall.” Standing just out of reach, Enok raised the pipe over his head, holding it in both hands. Eben wondered if his arms would even withstand the first blow. A regular human could crush him with it, trapped as he was. Enok, with his unnatural strength, could do much worse. He tried to hold a picture of Stella (in her hooded parka, furry hood surrounding her face, mouth issuing steam in the Arctic cold) in his head as he waited for the end.

  And then the pipe was whistling through the air and the rumbling got worse, louder, the whole inverted building beginning to implode, falling in toward where he and Enok had weakened it, and he meant to raise his arms to block it but why, really, it would just hurt a hell of a lot while it delayed the inevitable, and he didn’t want that pain in his head, clouding his judgment, he wanted that image of Stella to be his last thought, so he left his arms at his sides.

  A shape, dark, blurred, swooped in, knocking the vampire off-balance, the length of pipe meant for Eben gouging the floor near him. Enok whirled on the intruder, instinctively defending himself from this s
udden attack. Brutally connecting the pipe with the lightning-fast shape.

  A cry of pain. Eben thought he recognized the voice.

  The shape collapsed against Eben’s chest. Rose, with difficulty. Dane gave him a stunned, weak grin, but the pipe had caught the back of his head. Blood flowed from his scalp like water from a tap.

  Startled, Enok took a couple of steps back, raising the pipe as if Dane might charge him.

  Dane was beyond charging. His arms almost gave out again, then, shaking, Dane pushed himself off Eben.

  Dane whirled on Enok—blood flying from the gaping wound at the base of his skull—and snatched the pipe from the elder’s hands before Enok knew he was coming. He swung it once, one-handed, nailing Enok in the temple and sending him staggering to the floor. Then he hurled the pipe into the dust-shrouded distance and dropped next to Eben.

  “Dane! You…”

  “I’m okay,” Dane said. His voice was weaker than it had been, just moments before. The blood flow had slowed, which Eben didn’t take as a good sign.

  “You’re not.”

  “Okay, you’re right.” Dane crawled to the beam, rose to his knees, and hooked his hands around it. “Get ready to pull your leg out.”

  “I’m ready,” Eben said. “But do you think you should—”

  “This is what I should do.” Dane hoisted—an inch or so, and his back and shoulders were knotted with trembling muscle, the blood at the back of his head red and glistening, and Eben pulled his leg free, ecstatic to find it only bruised, hurt but not broken.

  “Dane!” he cried. “I’m out!”

  Dane dropped the beam and collapsed over it. Eben rushed to him, put his arms around Dane’s shoulders. “Dane, come on. Let’s get the fuck out of here.”

  “Hold on. One…more thing,” Dane said. He could barely speak now. His skin looked ashen, even for a vampire. Before he turned to face him, Eben saw brain matter leaking out the wound along with the blood. “Come…closer,” Dane whispered.

  Eben put his ear close to Dane’s mouth, so he could hear.

  Dane sank his teeth into Eben’s neck. Drinking. Exchanging.

  Images filled Eben’s head as he screamed in pain.

  “It’ll help,” Dane said when he finally released Eben. “You…you go. Go and take care of Stella.”

  Dane dropped to the floor again. The ceiling swayed overhead, and the rumble was almost constant now, like a long, passing train. Eben knew a few things he hadn’t known, moments before, and he attributed this knowledge—like his newfound strength—to Dane’s bite.

  The first thing was that Dane was right. It was too late for him.

  But what had Dane done by biting him? What would help?

  The entire compound was about to come down on their heads, once and for all. Without a glance back, a hand pressed against his bleeding neck, Eben ran for the stairs, reaching them just as the building gave a long, loud screech and began its ultimate collapse. Walls fell in, support posts snapping like twigs. The staircase swayed and buckled. Eben took the steps four and five at a time, shoving his way past panicked vampires, hurling them over the side or down behind him as he climbed.

  The dust was so thick that he couldn’t tell how high he had gone, how many levels he’d cleared. All around him were dust and screams and vampires falling—people, too, who had escaped their captors but were too weak to keep up—and body parts severed by the destruction that surrounded him.

  He heard—felt, like a nagging half memory that won’t come clear—Lilith’s voice in his head. There one second, then gone again. He couldn’t tell what she said. But she didn’t sound unhappy.

  The staircase gave a huge lurch, pulling away from the wall and spinning dizzily out over what was now a gaping chasm. It creaked and popped like gunshots and Eben knew it was the end, those stairs were going no place but down, and he leapt for…for what, he didn’t know, couldn’t see it through the haze…and his hands caught something solid and he pulled himself up, shoulders and chest clearing a surface of some kind, where he could breathe and where the gray light of dawn almost burned his eyes, so adapted were they to the darkness below, in Enok’s underground paradise.

  Through the overwhelming pain, Dane could feel himself quickly slipping away. Far worse than the last time, four years ago, when Paul Norris put a round into Dane’s head at point-blank range. Somehow, Dane had managed to survive that incident. He wasn’t too confident it would turn out the same this time around.

  As the blackness in his head grew, Dane took comfort in reliving the memory of the first time he ever saw Stella Olemaun, the most fascinating and terrifying woman he had ever met, at a UCLA book tour reading (despite that the event quickly degenerated into a nightmare).

  It wouldn’t be long now.

  Eben was outside.

  Others ran around him, fearfully calling Enok’s name or crying for help. Eben knew why. They were among the few who would survive the collapse of the structure, but any minute now the sun would climb over the surrounding hills and they were in a bare valley, their only shelter the death trap they had just escaped. Some ran for the parking lot, but it had caved in as well, the upside-down building having tunneled beneath it.

  Eben ran too, but not in panic. He just wanted some distance between himself and Enok’s failed utopia. His legs felt powerful, as if he had been training for months and was just beginning a marathon.

  When the sky began to lighten from gray to a pale blue, with the first hints of yellow showing at the crests of the eastern hills, Eben found a particularly deep snowdrift, up against a massive rock outcropping. Casting one glance back toward Enok’s, he saw a black cloud erupt from inside, and then the sun’s rays swept across the valley, and vampires, screaming in agony, began to burst into flames.

  He tunneled into the drift, going as deep as he could. He would be wet and uncomfortable, but he could stay until the sun went down again.

  Then he could work on getting home. Hah. For all he knew, anyone or anything could be waiting for him back at the hotel.

  He had to find a way to get back to Stella, tell her and the others about everything, the coming war on humanity—Enok may have been a general in that war, but it would be foolish to think he was the only one.

  And what of Dane? Who gave up everything? Apparently presenting Eben with a frightening gift barely understood, imparted over the years of his undeath. Ironically, he now knew the other recipients had been human beings, the tribe that cast him out, that would never have accepted what he had become.

  Eben’s mind reeled as he picked over the events of the past several hours.

  Right now, he wanted nothing more than to be home again, comforted by Stella, safe and sound once more. God only knew when that would happen.

  He sighed in frustration, momentarily overcome by the sudden certainty of darker days ahead.

  38

  ANANU HAD AWAKENED, during the birth process, as if she had never been gone.

  “Hi,” Stella said from between Ananu’s legs. “Glad you’re with us. You can push now.”

  “It’s really coming?” Ananu said, her tone full of expectant hope.

  “Looks that way.”

  Merrin wiped the girl’s forehead with a towel, as he had been doing even while she was unconscious. “It’s all fine, Ana,” he cooed at her. “You’re doing wonderfully.”

  “Thanks, Ferrando.” Ananu held up her hands, with their transparent skin, muscle, and veins and bones showing through them. “God, I…I look like hell. How long has this been…?”

  Andy stood to one side, and Ananu grabbed his hand in a death grip as a contraction washed over her. “I’m…I’m Andy,” he said, a little dumbfounded, when it had passed and she could focus again.

  “Thank you. Thank you for being here,” Ananu said, gasping as another wave of pain overcame her.

  “Push, Ana!” Stella shouted.

  Ananu gripped Andy and Merrin’s hands like oars and bore down.

 
Keep pushing!”

  Ananu pushed.

  And a minute later Stella made noises of encouragement and Andy went around her and the vampire cradled a newborn in her arms, all pink and blue and covered in slime. A fleshy tube connected the infant to its mother.

  Stella nodded toward a pair of sharp scissors Merrin had brought in. “Cut it, Andy,” Stella said. “Cut the cord.”

  “Jesus. Are you sure?”

  “It’s not going to cut itself, and my hands are a little full.”

  Andy snatched up the scissors before he could think about it too much and reached in and snipped through the tube, from which a little fluid leaked out, right where Stella indicated, about an inch from the baby’s belly.

  “Ana, you have a baby boy,” Stella announced. She held the newborn up so his mother could see him, but Ananu’s head lolled on her left shoulder, mouth open, a thin stream of bloody bile running from it.

  “Ana…?”

  “We…lost her,” Merrin said. “Just now. When you cut the umbilical, I believe. She just…shut down. Like a machine that’s no longer needed.”

  Merrin’s face filled with a sudden and crushing sadness. “The poor thing…” he murmured, more to himself.

  After they cleaned the infant and fed him some formula—mixed with a few drops of Merrin’s bottled blood for good measure—Stella had been rocking him, swathed in blankets that Andy had gathered (and she was staring at the baby rather strangely, Andy had to tensely admit) when the telephone rang. Merrin answered it, listened for a moment, then hung up.

  “Mitch says we should turn on the television,” he said, doing exactly that as he spoke the words.

  A cable news anchor Andy didn’t know came on the screen, and superimposed in the upper left corner, in a box, was a picture of a man in his sixties, solid, with white hair and a tanned face, with a name at the bottom of the box. Albert J. Roddy, the screen said. “…have identified the tortured body found yesterday as Pooler, Georgia, resident Albert Roddy, a taxi—” the anchor said, until Merrin interrupted her.

 
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